Do You Need a Spiritual Check-up?

“Search me, O God, and know my heart; test my thoughts. Point out anything you find in me that makes you sad, and lead me along the path of everlasting life”–Psalm 139:23-24 (TLB).

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From the posts I’ve read on social media and remarks from friends, I’m certain most of us are glad 2016 is behind us.

Although 2016 was a challenge, I held out hope for a promising ending. However, I was confronted with disappointing news several days before the end of the year. It wasn’t just one piece of news—it came in a bundle of three—all on the same day.

I turned to trusted friends, asking for prayer. The next morning while writing in my prayer journal, God’s Holy Spirit revealed an answer to my “Why?” The reply came, “We each have free will.”

Have I fully surrendered to the Holy Spirit?

We can choose to follow God’s leading or we can select our own path. I trust the path others have chosen is the path God has prepared for them. I must walk forward, faithfully, on the path God has prepared for me.

While each day offers an opportunity to examine our spiritual lives, a new year is especially conducive to searching our hearts and our lives to see if they line up with God’s plans. Ask yourself the following questions:

Cling to Jesus and let go of the Past

“But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” –Philippians 3:13-14(NIV).

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Since 2001, I’ve packed my belongings and moved five times. That averages moving every three years. However, I did remain in one house for almost 11 years. If you’ve ever moved, you know the challenge it involves. While looking forward to a new adventure, there is still the logistics of dealing with possessions one has accumulated over the years.

When I prepared to move this last time in April 2016, I realized, once again, how much I had amassed. During the 11 years I’d lived in that residence, I lost my only surviving parent. My mother had passed in 2004, followed by my father in 2007. When my sister and I met to assess their belongings, we each chose things we wanted to keep. Then, we allowed family members to make their selections. Everything that remained was given away.

As the apostle Paul said, we must forget what is behind.

We must cling to Jesus.

As I cleaned out cabinets last April and started packing, I came across some of my mother’s crystal, as well as other decorative and delicate items stored on the top kitchen shelves since September 2007.  Almost nine years later, the keepsakes had remained untouched, except for one beautiful cut-glass vase I’d used many times. Why was I hanging onto things that were not useful to me? Why had I toted them home in the first place? Gathering dust, they had remained hidden from sight.

Living a Life of Giving Thanks

“Though some tongues just love the taste of gossip, those who follow Jesus have better uses for language than that. Don’t talk dirty or silly. That kind of talk doesn’t fit our style. Thanksgiving is our dialect”—Ephesians 5:4 (MSG).

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As I write this, election day is still four days away. I, for one, will be glad when it’s over. I pray that those who have spewed hatred across the airwaves, on social media and through other means of communication will be able to step back and give thanks, whether their candidate won or lost.

True followers of Christ know that we’ve won, no matter who is in the Oval Office. While our country isn’t perfect, I’d rather live here than anywhere else. I’ve visited foreign countries. I’ve seen the oppressed and the poor that make our poorest appear rich in comparison.

Give thanks to the Lord!

 

In 1 Thessalonians 5:18, the Apostle Paul writes, “Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.”

Paul’s reminder is as relevant today as it was when he wrote his epistle to the Thessalonians.

What does it mean to live a life of giving thanks? It’s a life permeated by a grateful heart that overflows to others. It’s a life marked by contentment. Although we seem to have more, we enjoy life less. We work harder to accumulate more, but on the whole we’re not happier. We entertain the notion that we’re entitled to more, which leads to a life of discontent.

Are you wrestling with the past?

“No, dear brothers, I am still not all I should be, but I am bringing all my energies to bear on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead”—Philippians 3:13 (TLB).

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Brown leaves crackled underneath my neighbor’s feet as he shuffled across the lawn to deliver my morning paper. Confined to my house after surgery, I was blessed to have Stan and his wife taking turns retrieving my daily paper as well as my mail.

My lawn, carpeted with oak leaves, still revealed a green coat underneath. Even though November was just around the corner, summer hadn’t completely let go. One hot pink flower still bloomed on the Hydrangea bush near my front door while others exhibited their skeletal remains.

While I’m enjoying the remaining hints of summer, they remind me of our tendency to cling to the past—not just the wonderful memories of days gone by, but also the hurts that can leave us brittle and a skeleton of the whole person Jesus longs to heal. For He is the only one who can bring complete healing from the pain of our past.

Instead of wrestling with the past, we can let go with His help.

 

We’ve all had our fair share of emotional and mental hurt. We’ve suffered at the hands of friends as well as family members. The pain of betrayal can leave us with invisible scars, but scars nevertheless.

However, we have a choice. If we choose to hold on to the bitterness, anger and unforgiveness, these will surely hinder our walk with Christ.

Isaiah 43:18-19 tells us to keep no record of wrongs. “But forget all that—it is nothing compared to what I’m going to do! For I’m going to do a brand-new thing. See, I have already begun! Don’t you see it? I will make a road through the wilderness of the world for my people to go home, and create rivers for them in the desert!”

In “Every Day with Jesus,” author Selwyn Hughes writes, “This passage provides a vivid description of a life damaged by past hurts—a life that has become a wasteland, a desert. Dwelling upon a record of wrongs weighs us down and heavily burdens us. But the Lord’s instructions to forget these former things and not dwell on them, comes with a beautiful promise. Letting them go releases streams of living water into our life and enables God to do a new work in us.”

The greatest new work that Christ does in our lives is to bring us to a place where we can forgive those who have hurt us. It is such an important aspect of our daily Christian walk that Jesus even included it as part of the Lord’s Prayer. In Luke 11:4, we read the following: “Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us.”

Instead of wrestling with the past, we can let go with His help. And, when we refocus our energies on the present, we can look forward to what Jesus has in store for our future. Letting go is the answer to healing and a peace-filled life.

I always love hearing from my readers. Please feel free to leave a comment below or email me at carol@carolaround.com.

Don’t Hide your Light!

“Don’t hide your light! Let it shine for all; let your good deeds glow for all to see, so that they will praise your heavenly Father”—Matthew 5:16 (TLB).

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Turn on the television or pick up a newspaper and the headlines scream with the negative, evil and dark happenings in our world today. It can be depressing.

Recently, the author of a daily devotional said, “Sometimes we see the evil in this world and wonder how a loving God could let it go unchecked. Perhaps we should be asking a different question. Aren’t goodness, love, and care evidence of the presence of God in our midst?”

The writer went on to relate the goodness he experienced firsthand while recovering from knee-replacement surgery in a rehab clinic. His recovery team and the staff members he met were from Russia, India, the Philippines, Albania and Romania. He writes, “These caregivers from all over the world were like ministers to me. They all had one purpose in mind: to provide for my recovery needs with compassion. I experienced God’s presence in every caring act.”His words reminded me of a contemporary Christian song titled “Mighty to Save,” sung by Hillsong United. Part of the lyrics follow:

Everyone needs compassion
A love that’s never failing
Let mercy fall on me.
Everyone needs forgiveness
A kindness of a Savior
The hope of nations…

Jesus is our hope in a world filled with darkness. We can lament the evil around us or we can do as He says in the Sermon on the Mount. In Matthew 5:14-16, Jesus tells His disciples, along with the crowds that had gathered: “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”

Is Your Door Open or Closed to Jesus?

“Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me”—Revelation 3:20 (ESV).

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While the final book of the Bible can be challenging to read and study, for those who place their hope in Jesus, it’s an affirmation of an eternal future. For me, one verse in Revelation paints a vivid picture of Jesus’ invitation for each of us.

When I first read Revelation 3:20, I could picture Jesus knocking on my door. I’d already opened the door of my heart to Him. However, when I first viewed English artist’s William Holman Hunt’s painting, “The Light of the World,” this scripture came alive. In the painting, a figure representing Jesus is preparing to knock on an overgrown and long-unopened door.

What does an open, vibrant relationship with our Lord look like?

According to Hunt, “I painted the picture with what I thought, unworthy though I was, to be by Divine command, and not simply as a good subject.”

The door Jesus is preparing to knock on in Hunt’s painting has no handle. It can only be opened from the inside. Explaining the symbolism, Hunt said that this represented “the obstinately shut mind.”

The painting is rife with symbolism. The door’s iron work reveals rust representing a door unused for some time. Hunt’s brush also captured a door overgrown with dead weeds and trailing ivy representing a deserted place. Even if we’ve accepted Jesus as our Savior, our relationship with Him can stagnate, rust and become overgrown with the cares of our earthly life.

What Kind of Inheritance Will You Leave?

“A man in a crowd said to Jesus, ‘Teacher, tell my brother to give me my share of what our father left us when he died.’”—Luke 12:13(CEV).

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Many families have been destroyed after a loved one passes on, leaving a material inheritance behind. A better legacy to leave behind is a spiritual one. While we usually associate the word “inheritance” with material possessions, a spiritual legacy cannot be measured.

A spiritual inheritance is passed on during our lifetime through godly words, actions and prayers. However, as stewards of a spiritual legacy, we have to develop our own spiritual lives first.

If we have a desire for the Lord, it becomes contagious.

As a mother and grandmother, I’m seeing the fruits of my own spiritual growth and prayers. Recently, I drove over four hours one way to experience the joy of my two oldest grandchildren’s decision to follow Christ. Although they received the Christian sacrament of baptism when they were younger, they didn’t fully understand the implication. Cheyenne, 12, and Brennan, 11, chose to celebrate their decision to receive Christ as their Savior and Lord once again by being baptized through full immersion.