(The following Broadcaster article appeared in the October 2012 edition [adapted for Jan. 2020] and is another reminder that God's grace resets our lives)
A long time ago (at least for me anyway), I really REALLY wanted an Atari 2600. Perhaps I wanted it as a Christmas gift; maybe I desired it for a birthday present. Somehow, some way, I was able to put my hands on the early 80's video game system at a young age. The Atari 2600 represented all the fun a young boy or girl could have with just a joystick and a button. I can barely fathom the technology of video games in today's time much less even know how to use a modern-day controller or learn how to maneuver the characters. Today's video games have gotten extremely detailed and almost life-like. But when I plugged a cartridge into that game set back in the 80's, it was pure, legitimate enjoyment! I played a lot of sports games and of course relished some of the classics like Pitfall, Frogger, Qbert, DigDug, and Asteroids. Though the graphics and the technology are acutely outdated by today's standards, the Atari 2600 video game system gave me moments of great fun and exciting memories with my brother growing up in Roswell, GA.
The Atari 2600 was very simple. You plugged the cartridge into the center of the console and then chose from four options: 1) Power-On, Off; 2) Color/B&W; 3) Game Select; 4) Game Reset. If you could push a cartridge into a fitted opening and flick a small lever to start your game, then you knew how to use an Atari 2600. That's all there was to it! If I turned on the power, chose the color option and selected the game I wanted to play off the cartridge, the only thing I had left to do to revel in my video game utopia was to hit the "Game Reset" lever. This started the game. This small lever was the one thing that got my game going; that little lever was completely responsible for starting my game over from scratch. If I didn't like how I was playing, I could flick the "Game Reset" lever and a new game would appear, just like that! If I wanted to try and beat an old score, I could use the "Game Reset" button to give me that possibility of obtaining my own personal high score. I never gave that "Game Reset" lever much thought back in the early to mid-80s, but as a pastor, I see the relevance it has for me in my walk with Christ and as we all begin a new year together in 2020.
I truly believe the "Game Reset" lever gives you and me a chance to consider how great "turning the corner" is in our lives. There is something about a clean slate, a new start, and a fresh beginning that gives us the strength and the courage to achieve new goals, build new relationships, and make life-altering changes.
How many of you want to hit the "Reset" button on your life? Wouldn't it be great to look back over your 2019, to appreciate the things you learned (the successes and the failures) and to value the wisdom it gives you in preparation for 2020? We all know that each year there are things we wished we'd have done differently.
We would have given more.
We would have worked harder.
We would have spent more time with family.
We would have served more diligently.
We would have surrendered to God's will completely, not halfheartedly.
We would have made some real changes in our lives.
What's beautiful about our relationship with Christ is that God gives us a chance for a "reset" whenever we need it. When we fall down, he picks us up and re-sets us back on track. When we fail to obey him, God re-sets our hearts by coming to him through Christ. When we willingly choose to sin and by grace we are brought back through faith, God flicks that "reset" lever and we start anew. This is great, wonderful, blessed news! Take a look at Isa. 43:18-19:
“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland."
I can personally attest to the feelings of being in a spiritual wilderness. I have been in spiritual exile several times. It is a lonely place when you learn from God the things he longs to teach us. Sometimes the only way we can start afresh is to trust his way in the wilderness and to drink from the streams of his everlasting love. Regardless of the mistakes and the sinful heartaches all of us experienced in 2019 God says we are to forget those things...we are commanded NOT to dwell on the past at all (vs. 18b)! Sometimes I have a tendency to dwell on my past. Do you? I have a feeling virtually all of us suffer from that tendency. We wonder if the "reset" lever is even possible to reach at all!
But look at the scripture: "See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?" God is hitting that "reset" button for you today. He is giving you a fresh chance, not just because 2020 is here and resolutions are rampant, but because it is in God's nature for you to be redeemed, delivered, and refreshed! God yearns to give you the clean slate you are looking for. God can't wait to hear his children say, "God, great Father of my soul, forgive me and cleanse me and give me a brand new start!" He WILL do it! He will re-set your life and let you keep on living your life for Christ.
Don't worry...2020 will be filled with several opportunities for the "reset" lever. Just ask God and he will give you the grace to start over. His dreams for you, his hopes for you, his plans for you are available if you are willing to appreciate his re-setting of your life and live for his glory alone! There is no need to dwell on the past...Satan lives in your past, hoping to haunt you and keep your focus behind you. But God gives you a new beginning and he offers the cleansing power of his Son Jesus Christ so that your life, your family, and your daily relationships will be affected by the "re-setting" that is taking place.
Lastly, do you remember (for those of you who had the privilege of playing with an Atari 2600) that most of the games would give you more than one "life" before your game was over? The only way you could keep playing after those "lives" were used was to flick the "Game Reset" lever. People say, "You only live once." That's not true for the church. The saved people of God live twice: they live for God while on earth and they live again upon death in the flesh. Heaven is second and final "reset" lever that is pulled for eternity by Almighty God.
So let 2020 remind you to "hit the reset button" on your life once again. You have a clean slate. You are about to write the pages of your life by the choices and the decisions you make in the new year. If our church takes this truth seriously, imagine the wonders God will perform in our midst! We can "do all things through Christ who strengthens" us (Phil. 4:13)! So make a choice to receive God's "re-setting" of your heart through repentance and forgiveness of sins. Make choices to love freely, forgive quickly and consider others better than yourselves. Give generously, "...love mercy, act justly and walk humbly with your God" (Micah 6:8b). Then, when others start to view your life, they will want to know how they can get a fresh "reset" lever for their own. You can remind them that only Jesus Christ offers that kind of fresh start, and he will do new things for us daily if we don't dwell on the past and focus on his present and his promised future!
Here's to a year with daily "reset" levers and hopes for God's absolute best in the life of our church and in the life of the greater church around the world. People need to know that Christ alone can change lives...we just have to point people to the "Game Reset" lever!
Seeking to live with a daily appreciation of God's "new thing,"