“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:
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.”
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.
In a recent exchange of emails with a friend who lives in Texas, he confessed he had not attended church for years.
He added, “After being on fire when I discovered the teaching of The Word at Calvary Chapel in a converted strip center, several years down the road I watched us grow and move into a large new building and, to me, the church became a stranger to me…a victim of its success you might say. I know The Lord. I crave The Lord. But I have been absence from audience with Him, deceived I’m sure by The Enemy into thinking that I’m doing just fine by my own self-righteous indignation. Perhaps I am, but that has separated me from The Word as well. Psalm 119 tells us to hide God’s Word in our hearts so as to not sin. The characters have faded because of my absence.”
God will never forsake or abandon His children.
I can relate. I, too, drifted away from my Christian upbringing, which began in Lake Charles, La., where my sister and I grew up walking to a small church just a block away from where we lived. We attended faithfully. After leaving home, my church attendance was sporadic until my sons were born. I wanted them to have the same foundation so I returned only to leave, once again, in my late 30s.
It wasn’t until almost 10 years later that I realized what was missing in my life. It wasn’t just the fellowship of Christian believers but a relationship with my Savior and Lord. So, in 2001, I recommitted my life to Him.
“Yours, O Lord, are the greatness, the power, the glory, the victory, and the majesty; for all that is in the heavens and on the earth is yours; yours is the kingdom, O Lord, and you are exalted as head above all” —1 Chronicles 29:11(NRSV).
More than once I’ve said to friends, “I don’t know how people make it through life without Jesus.”
Since rededicating my life to Him almost 15 years ago, I’ve had my share of trouble. While having Jesus in your life doesn’t exclude you from trials, you can bet He’s by your side when those times come. And they will come in the form of financial, physical, emotional and relational struggles.
Evangelist Billy Graham once said, “Even the securest financial plan and the finest health coverage aren’t enough to hold us steady when the challenges come. We need something more, something deeper and unshakeable, something that will see us through life’s hard times.”
So how is that working for you?
Before I had a personal relationship with my Savior and Lord, trials would send me into a tailspin. I’d rant, and then panic, before trying to find a solution. That’s because I was relying on myself. I thought I had to solve everything on my own. My pride wouldn’t let me admit I couldn’t fix everything and everyone. It just doesn’t work.
“I am with you. I will watch over you everywhere you go”—Genesis 28:15(NIRV).
Almost 11 years ago, I took a giant leap of faith. I left a northeastern Oklahoma community where I’d lived since 1969—except for the times I’d gone away to college—to move to a larger town about 70 miles west. I left behind family and friendships formed over a 36-year period to a place where I knew very few people.
However, during the time I’ve lived in Rogers County, I’ve been blessed with a multitude of friends. Those friends have encouraged me, laughed and cried with me, prayed with and for me and stood by me during times of trouble. Even more importantly, being here has helped my faith grow. Through my church family and the people of faith God has placed in my path, my spiritual eyes have been opened to embrace what God can do in our lives when we place our trust in Him.
What does God ask of us?
I like what best-selling author and minister, Norman Vincent Peale said about faith. “Faith is the most powerful of all forces operating in humanity and when you have it in depth nothing can get you down.”
However, it wasn’t always that way for me. I’d only been in Claremore about a year when I yearned to return home. Prayer and the advice of wise individuals revealed to me I was here for a reason. Soon, I came to call this place home. I had no desire to return.
Jesus said, “You didn’t choose me, but I chose you”—John 15:16 (CEB)
A recent conversation between two of my grandchildren while we were eating supper brought back childhood memories of my own. My youngest grandson, Cash, will be starting school this year. He missed the cut-off date by two days last year, so he’ll probably be one of the older ones in his pre-kindergarten class. I’m guessing he’ll also be one of the tallest as he’s always been big for his age.
As we ate our supper of bacon, eggs, hash browns and biscuits, we began discussing the upcoming school year. Brennan, my oldest grandson who is nine, began to give advice to his younger cousin. The talk turned to bullying when Brennan said, “Cash, if you’re the smallest in your class, people will pick on you.”
My heart went out to him because I knew Brennan spoke from experience. He’s one of the smallest in his class. However, as Brennan began to explain to his cousin how he dealt with bullies, I had to smile. I knew God was working in my grandson’s life because I was seeing evidence of my answered prayers as Brennan spoke. I listened and then said, “Do you know why bullies pick on others, especially smaller people?”