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Summary: First sermon of the year, outlining a focus on evangelism, compassion, and availability to God.

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Series: “First Steps In the Journey”

Message #1 -- GETTING STARTED.

INTRO> Michael Buffer is known to his momma as her firstborn son, and she’s rightfully proud. But he’s known to others as the man whom the look forward to seeing standing in the middle of a boxing ring. His line will be “tailored” to whatever venue he’s in, but otherwise it’s pretty much the same...If he were to say his line from a venue close by us this morning, it would sound like this: “Ladies and gentlemen, from the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona, for the thousands in attendance and the millions watching around the world, LLLLLET’S GET READY TO RUMBLE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

-->He is, in short, declaring a beginning...It’s TIME TO GET STARTED.

<>Everything has a beginning...whether it’s a boxing match, a novel, a career, a meal...or a new year.

<>On this first Sunday in the new year we’ll examine what’s involved in GETTING STARTED and getting started well.

*I invite you to open a Bible and turn to Matthew, chapter nine.

<>We’ll talk about it many times in the weeks to come, but our theme for 2008 is simple, easy to remember: “OTHERS!”

--It will involve our going, growing, leading and learning, but make no mistake about it...our aim, our intentional focus is on those who are NOT with us on Sundays, those who DON’T know Jesus, who haven’t experienced the salvation, purpose and joy only a relationship with Jesus can bring.

<>It is time for a new beginning.

<>But as we begin, there are TWO TRUTHS WE MUST BE AWARE OF in order for a new beginning to take place:

1) TO ACCOMPLISH A SUCCESSFUL NEW BEGINNING, WE HAVE TO LET GO OF THE PAST.

---Philippians 3:13-14 -- “...forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal...”

-->There needs to be closure, there needs to be an ENDING before we can successfully move forward to a beginning.

---ILL>Over two thousand years ago a Greek artist named Timanthes studied under a respected tutor. After several years the teacher’s efforts seemed to have paid off when Timanthes painted an exquisite work of art. Unfortunately, he became so enraptured with the painting that he spent days gazing at it. One morning when he arrived to admire his work, he was shocked to find it blotted out with paint. Angry, he ran to his teacher, who admitted he had destroyed the painting. “I did it for your own good,” he explained. “That painting was retarding your progress. Start again and see if you can do better.” Timanthes took his teacher’s advice and produced “The Sacrifice of Iphigenia,” which is regarded as one of the finest paintings of all antiquity.

--<>Specifically, we need to be willing to start fresh, take a fresh, new look at everything, re-tool everything if needed, and be willing to take a new direction if that’s what God shows us we need to do.

---ILL>When you attend a college graduation ceremony, that ceremony is called a Commencement...meaning it is both and ENDING of one chapter in the graduates’ lives, but it is primarily a BEGINNING, a commencing of the new chapter. And, you can’t have the new chapter before you close the previous one.

--<>Likewise, today, while remembering the lessons from the past year, ladies and gentlemen, LLLLET’S GET READY TO RUMBLE!!!

2) TO ACCOMPLISH A SUCCESSFUL NEW BEGINNING, WE HAVE TO TAKE THE FIRST STEP.

--Hebrews 6:1,3 -- “...let us press on to maturity...and this we will do, if God permits.”

-->It’s not just “new,” it involves a BEGINNING.

---ILL>Kim Linehan holds the world record in the Women’s 1500 meter swimming freestyle. Kim does endless exercises and swims from seven to twelve miles every day. Kim’s coach relates that often Kim is asked, “What is the hardest part of your regimen?” And, the coach says, she always responds by saying, “The hardest part is GETTING IN THE WATER to begin.”

---QUOTE: Richard Evans has noted well, “The tragedy of life is not that it ends so soon, but that we wait so long to begin it.”

--<>It’s time to start. It’s time to take the first steps in the journey.

TODAY, AS WE BEGIN THE NEW YEAR WITH A NEW COMMITMENT, and A NEW DIRECTION, THERE ARE THREE QUESTIONS TO ANSWER.

And in order to GRASP and UNDERSTAND THE ANSWERS

THERE ARE THREE ACCOMPANYING ACTIONS WE MUST TAKE:

QUESTION #1: WHAT DOES GOD WANT US TO DO?

<>Answering the question requires an action on our part: HEARING HIS COMMAND.

---Matthew 28:18-20 -- “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you...”

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