The start of a New Year always allows a moment for us to reflect back and look forward. As you reflect back on the last year, I hope that you can see and appreciate some areas of blessing; God has been with us collectively and individually, so why not take time now to thank Him? There have also been great challenges for some. We grieve the loss of loved ones and the health, employment or other problems that life has thrown at us. But again, God is with you and you can depend upon Him.

As you look forward to the year stretching out before you, I hope that you are confident that He will be very close at hand. “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified … for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Deut 31:6)

But of course we must stay close to Him. Psalm 119 offers many words of encouragement and verse 10 is important: “I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands.” The model of staying deliberately close to the source of love is crucial and one way to aid that comes in the very next verse; “I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.”

At this time of year I try to come up with a ‘Verse of Encouragement’ for us to take into the year, and 2016 will be no different. However, rather than share that now, I simply want to encourage you to take any verses you appreciate from scripture, read them often, try to memorise them or remember them frequently. Hide them in your heart to be used as a special way of keeping close to God all the year through.

And then, in the year ahead open your hearts and your minds to the new opportunities, gifts and fruit which God wants to share with us. Happy New Year!

With much love, Peter