“Do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”  “Joshua 1:9
          During this season, we wish each other a “Happy New Year!” But as you begin a new year, you need something more substantial than a hopeful greeting from the people around you. You need to listen to what God told Joshua about 3,400 years ago. As Joshua was ready to lead God’s people into the Promised Land, he had every reason to be afraid of the powerful Canaanite armies. He had this enormous task ahead of him, and he was well aware of the dangers that he and the people would soon be facing. So he definitely needed God’s encouragement.
The New Year brings lots of challenges and tasks to you. And a new year can raise a lot of questions and fears in your life. Will my health hold? Will our marriage last? Can I find a job? Will I get into the right school?  Will there be an accident or volcanic eruption that will take away my loved ones?  But just as God was there for Joshua, your loving Heavenly Father comes to you and says: “Don’t be afraid, don’t be discouraged.” Whatever happens in this coming year is not left to chance. God is in charge and he promises to stay close: “The Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”
   On March 12, 2005, a young woman named Ashley Smith came home to find Brian Nichols had broken into her apartment. The day before, Brian had escaped from the country courtroom where he had killed the judge, a court reporter, a deputy and a federal agent. He held Ashley hostage for several hours at gunpoint. During that time, she did something extraordinary; she took advantage of the opportunity and witnessed to her captor. She cooked him breakfast, she read from Rick Warren’s book, the Purpose Driven Life, and talked about God’s plan for Brian’s life and her own. Later that day, Brian Nichols gave himself up to the police.  Ashley faced a terrifying experience but she got through it bravely because the Lord was with her throughout the entire event.    
And God is with you throughout this coming New Year. No matter what happens, God promises to never leave you, nor forsake you.” Jesus, the eternal Son of God reaffirmed this promise when he said, “And surely I am with you always” (Matthew 28:20). And it is God’s promise of encouragement that is the perfect greeting for this New Year!    
In Christ’s love,  
Pastor Steve