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Summary: Many who come into a local church think it looks more like a porcupine ball than a tightly knit family.

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42They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. 44All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. 46Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

Acts 2:42-47

Three hundred and sixty five days are spread out before us. We lost some wonderful people; some were well known, like Ronald Reagan, and some were very near to our hearts, like our Senior Adult Pastor Jim Hopkins. Two thousand four was the 4th warmest year in recorded history. The old year is waving good-bye as we look in our rearview mirror. It’s now another chapter in the history books.

Stretching out before me as I sit on my back porch is Saratoga Pass, the inland passage between Camano Island and Whidbey Island. It’s a view of Puget Sound that stretches for miles, and I see endless possibilities. Wind surfers wait for a windy weekend. Boaters wait the opening day of fishing season in a few months. Navy Prowlers (flyers from Whidbey Island Naval Air Station) fly overhead, preparing for trips to Iraq. Their sound is worth stopping and saluting, it is the sound of freedom.

A lot goes on from the Squires’ back porch. Eagles soar above. Deer sneak through the yard at night looking for plants and fruit trees to munch on. Children play below. Apple trees grow (soon). I wonder what 2005 will bring to this view? Sandwiched between January 1 and December 31 are twelve exciting months with endless, unexpected, and unlived possibilities. Mark my word friend; this New Year will require that you stray from the comfort zone of the back porch of your life. It requires that you hold loosely to your expectations. (By the way, the greater the expectations the greater the need.) If you don’t, you will think everyone is trying to block your success and prosperity. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Here are some Words of Wisdom for New Year Travelers

v God desires that you “hold loosely” to your life.

v Give others wiggle room for a few mistakes and imperfections.

v Make a daily choice to be positive and optimistic rather than negative, critical, and resistant.

v Take a risk. Try something new. Be ready for change. As Mark Twain says, “The only person that likes change is a wet baby.”

v Don’t just do it, do it with excellence. Living, as Chuck Swindoll says, “Above the Level of Mediocrity.”

v Don’t just sit there! Get off that deck and move beyond the comfort of island breezes. Just sitting there is not an option!

“It is a wretched taste to be gratified with mediocrity when the excellent lies before us.” Isaac Disraeli, 1834

Two and half decades have passed since I began the journey of ministry from the Washington border town of Bellingham in 1981. It has taken me to Fort Worth, Texas; San Diego/Pasadena, California; and finally back home to Seattle (Marysville), Washington. What has driven me for those 25 years? The answer: A strong desire to be committed to excellence while others are satisfied with settling for mediocrity; to aim high while many others seem to be comfortable with the boredom of aiming low.

Two thousand five takes me a step closer to the return of Jesus Christ. Every year I age (46 now) I am less willing to accept anything less than my best. This year I am more convinced that achieving my fullest potential is a goal worth striving for and a possibility still attainable. Excellence is still worth pursuing at all cost! What if I stumble and fall? At least I will not be guilty of non-effort. Last time I checked it wasn’t a crime to fail.

Five Values of Christian Excellence for 2005

When you understand the Five Values of Christian Excellence, you will know what God expects from you in 2005. This will answer the question we should always be asking: why do I exist and what does God expect from me? This week we will focus on the first, Moving Closer Through Fellowship.

Understanding what God expects from you in 2005 produces several benefits. It builds motivation, establishes priorities and helps keep them focused, attracts cooperation, and offers opportunities for evaluation. Let me first review the values each person and each church should strive to live for in 2005. Rick Warren expounds on each of these purposes in his book, The Purpose-Driven Life. To date, that book has sold over 10 million copies. Each value or purpose found in the book is also found in today’s sermon.

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