“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).
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:
“I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness” – I Timothy 2:1-2 (NIV).
Unless you have no access to media, you know that the word “divisive” would best describe 2016. Lines were drawn. Anger increased and hate-filled words filled the airwaves and appeared on Internet sites. Christians were not exempt.
I don’t want to dwell on the ugliness, but we, as Christians, need to seek unity, stand firm in our faith, show grace to those who do not and hold our leaders—at all levels—accountable. But even more important, there’s one more thing we must do. We must pray for the wisdom and well-being of our elected leaders.
We can learn from the words found in Ezekiel 22:30. “I looked for someone among them who would build up the wall and stand before me in the gap on behalf of the land so I would not have to destroy it, but I found no one.”
Prayer creates a revolutionary spin on the natural tendency
to resist or resent authority.
We are the ones who must stand in the gap for our leaders. We must lift up our nation with all its faults before the throne of God and pray that He continues to work in our midst.
In “The Battle Plan for Prayer” by Stephen and Alex Kendrick, the authors write: “Since the influence of people in these positions can cause such a ripple effect, and because their various roles are fraught with hard choices and difficulty, the Bible commands us to pray for all those in leadership over us. (See 1 Timothy 2:1-2 above)
“Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God”—John 1:12-13(NIV).
It’s a wonderful time of the year for some of us. Christmas lights and décor, yuletide songs and greetings and the smells associated with this holiday invite us to care, share and rejoice in the coming of the Christ child.
For others, this season can be difficult, a reminder of loved ones lost—both physically and spiritually. It’s a reminder of need and want, doing without and praying for help. Sometimes those prayers are answered through the benevolent hearts of those who have much.
Recently, I checked out our church’s Angel Tree. On its branches were paper angels representing children whose parents are in prison or who are in foster care. On each cut-out angel shape is information about a child in need: the gender, age and child’s request are included.
Before I wrapped the clothing for this unknown child,
I prayed over each outfit.
Browsing through the angels, my first thought was “What could I afford?” One child requested an electronic tablet. Not on my budget. Another wanted a pair of Nikes. Also, not on my budget. Yet another child wanted a bicycle. Not something I could afford.
“When God’s people are in need, be ready to help them. Always be eager to practice hospitality”—Romans 12:13 (NLT).
“Roll it, Carol!”
It was yet another reminder from a friend to follow instructions. The metal walker I have to use after knee replacement surgery is outfitted with wheels for a reason. Rolling instead of lifting the contraption is actually easier and safer. I couldn’t figure out why I was having trouble with this simple task.
Discharge instructions from the hospital required I have someone with me at home 24/7 for at least the first four to five days. Living alone for the past 15 years has led to a very independent lifestyle. Even before then, I lived under the burden of feeling indispensable. I thought I could handle everything that life threw at me. I also felt empowered, thinking others couldn’t make it without me.
Christ has no body now on earth but yours.
However, since Jesus got ahold of me in 2001, I’ve learned some important lessons.
First, I’m not in charge of the universe. I don’t have to carry the weight of the world on my shoulders. Second, I must allow others the pleasure of helping me when I’m in need. I don’t have to pretend I can do it “all by myself,” like a stubborn two-year-old seeking independence from her parents. I’ve learned it is okay, at times, to “roll” instead of lift.
“Now let me remind you, brothers, of what the Gospel really is, for it has not changed—it is the same Good News I preached to you before. You welcomed it then and still do now, for your faith is squarely built upon this wonderful message; and it is this Good News that saves you if you still firmly believe it, unless of course you never really believed it in the first place”—1 Corinthians 15:1-2(TLB).
Tired of the negative news? Me too. You can’t watch television, read a newspaper or peruse social media without being bombarded with bad news. Depressing news. Sad news. News that leaves us wondering why and how our world has become so dark.
Then, good news happens. A story on television, a newspaper article or a post on social media reminds us that there is still light in the world, a light that reflects the goodness still alive and well bringing hope to our weary souls and our heavy hearts.
Trust God where you cannot see Him.
At the heart of the gospel message is hope, hope of better days, a better future and a better life awaiting us once we leave this fallen world. Our hope is in Jesus Christ, not man. That is, if you ever believed it in the first place.
Even if we have believed and placed our hope in Him, our steps falter when we become weary and want to quit because we’re overwhelmed with responsibilities. We take on too much. We’re too busy. We don’t have time to stop and listen for that still, small voice reassuring us, guiding us, speaking to our spirits and inviting us to take refuge in His arms.
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.”
Rain pelted the windshield decreasing visibility. Strong winds forced me to keep both hands on the wheel. It was almost dark, and I was still 20 minutes from home. It’s where I really wanted to be, not returning from setting up my book table for the next day’s women’s event.
In desperation, I cried out to God, “I don’t want to do this anymore. I’m tired. I want to quit.”
What was wrong with me? I love writing, especially using my God-given gifts for His glory. I’ve been at it for over 10 years without a break. When you commit your plans to the Lord and He opens those doors, it’s difficult to walk away, even when the flesh wants to give up.
If you’ve lost your joy, turn to Jesus, the giver of joy.
God knew I needed to be there that Saturday, although I didn’t—until later. My flesh was still rebelling the next morning when I reluctantly climbed out of bed, dragging myself through the routine of making myself presentable.
Arriving at the event venue, I learned the air conditioners weren’t working properly. Oh great, I thought. It was going to climb into the 90s that day. We’d be baked alive inside the metal building.
Five speakers of various ages were on the agenda, along with a day set aside to worship the Lord in music. The conference opened with songs of praise and my heart responded to the joyful presence of the Holy Spirit. As each speaker shared her testimony, I was amazed, once again, to be renewed by the graciousness of our Creator God.