Category Archives: Our Faith Walk

Recognizing Our Sin

Recognizing Our Sin It wasn’t me!

Chuck Berry, guitarist, singer and one of the pioneers of rock and roll music, recorded a song in the 60’s that has become the automatic response when Ron and I accuse each other of some “mishap in the house.”  These lyrics have been modernized in a television commercial showing a child (hiding under the dining table) joyfully eating a cake obviously confiscated from the dessert buffet.  The lyrics are these: “It wasn’t me, baby!  No, it wasn’t me, baby!  Must have been some other body, uh, uh, baby, it wasn’t me.”

This is often the response we hear when people are confronted with their sin.  Listen to the news this week, this month, this year!  Rather than take responsibility and quickly confessing, we begin to distance ourselves from the sin.  Denial doesn’t remove the sin.  Instead, it allows sin to strengthen in our life.  Our willingness to accept responsibility for our sins is further complicated by living in a postmodern world where truth is relative.  This further numbs us to the presence of sin in our lives.

Because of these factors, it is critical that we take personal responsibility for our sinful actions.  This process begins with our being intentional in identifying sin in our lives (1 John 1:6-8, 10).

Living the Way of Jesus

This year as part of my spiritual development, I am reading Michaele Lavigne’s notable book, Living the Way of Jesus:  Practicing the Christian Calendar One Week at a Time.  The book is organized around the Christian calendar, using scriptural texts that follow the seasons of the Christian Calendar.  While Jewish celebration revolves around the Exodus from Egypt, the Christian Church year focuses on the life and ministry of Jesus.

Lavigne includes weekly practices that invite readers to the rhythms of the Christian calendar and to orient us to God’s reality.

We do not merely ask God to join our lives: instead, we are invited to participate in God’s life. Subtly and explicitly, this way of making time reminds us that we [Believers] are part of a story that is different from the stories we hear all around us.[1]    

This Season of Lent provides us an opportunity to walk with Jesus as He makes His way to the Cross and to gain a whole new understanding of what it means to be Christ’s disciple. This includes how we address sin in our lives—both subtle and obvious.

For Lent, Lavigne has suggested weekly practices that invite us to observe “who we really are and what the world is really like”.  Practices to date have included Silence, Honoring Others’ Requests, and Recognizing our Sin.  It is this last one that I share my personal reflections.  Perhaps you will find it helpful in your journey to becoming more conformed to the image of Christ (Rom. 8:29).

Where do I start?

I was invited to begin with prayer and to consider what Jesus may need to “clean out of me”.  Are there desires, activities, or decisions that are cluttering my life and preventing full worship of Jesus?  I was to write them down and then take them to the One Person who could help me with my “sin problem”.  I was to take them to Jesus.

Jesus alone could clear out and burn away the things that harmed me (John 2:13-22).  Jesus would shine His light of truth on those things that kept me from being in right relationship with God and with others.  I was to listen to anything Jesus might share with me during our time together.  That was the most illuminating part of this practice.   Once I confessed my sins, Jesus faithfully forgave me and cleansed me from my sins (1 John 1:9).

At the end of the week, I was to process what I learned from this practice of recognizing my sin.

What did I learn about myself?   About God?

I learned that there were things that cluttered my life and prevented me from spending quality time with the Lord.  I had allowed busyness to dominate my time.  My schedule was interfering with my time with my First Love (Rev. 2:4).

For me, even ministry work (externally focused) sometimes takes time away from prayer, reading God’s Word, meditation, journaling, and more.  Dedicated time with Jesus provides “sacred space” where He can direct, reproof, instruct, nurture, and correct me.  It is time when I can “d-r-i-n-k” from the fountain of life (Ps. 36:9).  And as I drink, I am being transformed (Rom. 12:2).

What did I Learned about God?  He never changes!  Hallelujah!  God is loving and patient.  Even in my foolishness and sin, He never gives up on me.  “The Lord will wait that He may be gracious unto me.” (Is. 30:18)

Recognizing My Sin:  The Conclusion

I close with this quote from F.B. Meyers concerning sin.  “We often expose ourselves to more anguish in our effort to retain and to restrain [our sins], than to remove them absolutely and forever.”   Where are you spending your efforts?

It is our responsibility to keep sin at bay in our lives.  While we live in this flesh, we must deal with the presence of sin.  However, we have been delivered from its power in our lives (Rom. 6:6-14).   The intentional practice of recognizing sin can draw us nearer to Jesus and becoming the people our Heavenly Father created us to be.

[1] Living the Way of Jesus:  Practicing the Christian Calendar One Week at a Time

Sin: What do we do with it?

 

What do we do with sin?

What do we do with sin?  John wrote in his epistle that “if we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us   1 John 1:8).  For too long this question has been asked only by theologians and scholars as they “pontificate” over spiritual things.

But the people who should be asking this question are those who are currently stewards of God’s grace, desiring that God’s “kingdom will come”—to our nation, to our churches, and more importantly, to our homes.

Unfortunately, the people of God have allowed the “elephant in the room” (sin in disguise) to go unchallenged. Did we really expect “the  lost” (2 Cor. 4:4) to lodge complaints about sin?  It is time to speak up!

We express concern over the difficulties created by the COVID pandemic and the financial uncertainties we now face.  But what do we do with the sin that is at its root?  Hate,  greed, and selfishness?

As we struggle with the racial and political division in our nation, we demand respect, equality, and justice.  In response to the rise in homelessness and poverty, we advocate for humane responses  for those forced to live marginalized on the fringes of our society.   But what do we do with the sin that is at its core–strife and indifference?

Sin is a subject that is glaringly absent in our discussions concerning the plight of our world especially in our church pulpits.

Many of the issues we face in society are as a result of sin. 

Sin originates from thoughts and feeling that focus on activities that satisfy personal (and usually) selfish desires (James 1:14-15).  These desires are then acted upon by the will (spirit and heart) which has the power to do what is good—or evil.

Social reform and political posturing cannot affect these human dimensions. What then is the remedy for the heart that is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked (Jer. 17:9)?

God has devised His plan of redemption to deal with the issue of sin. 

Redemption is “grace-based”, no longer requiring God’s forbearance (Rom. 3:25), nor demanding redundant, ineffective sacrifices for the sins of men (Heb. 10:11).  God became, through His Son, the just and the Justifier of him which believed in Jesus (Rom. 3:24).

Faith in the Son is the starting point of redemption and the end is a righteous soul (Rom. 5:21)—a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17).  Jesus   replaces the stony heart of man with a new heart of flesh.  He places His Spirit within man that will cause him to “do right” (Ezek. 36:26-27).

So what do we do with sin?

We must first recognize sin in our own life.  We begin by aligning our will with the will and counsel of God (Col. 3:1-3).   This requires that we read His Word, become fervent in prayer, and seek his guidance.

Secondarily, we must boldly speak out against sin in our society.  It includes our witness to God’s expectation that we love one another (1 John 4:7-8) and seek to be “reconciled” (in right relationship) to each other (Eph. 2:14-15).

Finally, we are to advocate for all things (not just what fits our political preference) that glorify and honor God (Gal. 5:22-24).  Sound simple? It is when we place God over our personal needs and agendas (Matt.6:33).

If you personally, are in the midst of sin, first confess and repent quickly.  God is faithful to forgive and cleanse you (1 John 1: 19).  Then reckon yourself dead to sin (Rom. 6:11) and no longer let sin have dominion over you (Rom. 6:14).  That’s what we do with sin!

Rising Above Sin: The Grace Factor Multiples

This month we published a WordBytes entitled,  Sin:  What do we do with it Our intent was to show the relationship between our nation’s current social/economic dilemma and “sin.” In response, our guest writer, Bethany Spilde offers encouraging options to address the “elephant in the room”–SIN.  ENJOY!

The question

That 6-word question (What do we do with sin?) splashed color on the elephant (SIN) that had blended into the walls of churches, homes and society.  And, like a carpet stain, it drives us nuts at first because we know it’s not supposed to be there.  Then, life gets busy and distractions come in.  Every day that passes, the stain is tolerated a little more until eventually it “blends in” and is forgotten.  That’s what we refer to as the “slow fade.”

Well, the freshly painted elephant needs our attention.  Take a deep breath and reflect on what is going on in our world. What sins have we accepted, tolerated or become numb to – which are leading families, leaders, communities and nations to ‘death’ (Ephesians 2)?

So, what more could we do with ‘sin’ after we have confessed, repented and are dead to it?

Is there a way to lead our families, communities and nation away from their current direction?   What about the hopeless, ungodly, and captives which the last WordBytes referenced in 1 Peter 4:17-18?

YES!  If you have experienced God’s grace – it’s time to take it up a notch to GLORIFY Him!

Your TESTIMONY has the power to inspire others to faith in Jesus Christ.

By SHARING your personal story of God’s saving grace, He is glorified!   It is our duty and privilege to share who God is and what He has done. We must never lose sight of the reality that God is active among us – it is what sets us apart from the rest of the world and inspires the lost soul to know Him.

In Romans 5, Paul writes: “…He [Jesus] has brought us by faith into this experience of God’s grace, in which we now live.  And so we boast of the hope we have of sharing God’s glory!”

Also, in the tenth chapter Paul states that salvation is for ALL.  “How can people believe if they have not heard the message?  How can they hear if the message isn’t proclaimed? … How wonderful is the coming of messengers who bring good news!”

Indeed, it’s time to get real and relational with the people around us.

Bring the message.  We all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. When we let our walls down and stop judging, we allow God’s love to overflow onto everyone around us.

What would happen to families, churches and society if parents and leaders humbly admitted/shared their personal failures and how their life has changed because of God?  What if there were more “God’s grace stories” in general – at breakfast, lunch and dinner?

Your testimony will encourage and increase faith in fellow believers and lead the lost to Jesus.  Even David took testimonies as a heritage, which rejoiced in his heart (Psalm 119:111).

 What is the most effective way to share?

 Start with God.  Talk about who He is and how He created the world and each of us in his image, with plans to prosper and give us hope.  He knew us before we sinned (example of Adam and Eve) and had a redemption plan in place (Jesus) to save us from a fallen world.

Past sin/struggle. Describe the sin, a little of what life was like living from human nature/fleshly desires of the world, while realizing that God is bigger than any sin.  Note, this is where most people start their testimony (“I was a sinner” i.e. alcoholic, glutton, thief).  It’s important to start with God because He has been and will always be with us.

Jesus.  Next, explain your encounter with Jesus.  God sent His only son to die upon the cross for our sins, while we were still sinners, so that we might have a relationship with Him (Ephesians 2).  God loves you and cares deeply to not leave you where you are at.  He sees you as whole, complete, and His child above all else (Philippians 1:6).  He has specific plans for you, for good.  God’s kindness spurs us to confess and repent, knowing He is quick to forgive and shower us with the depths of His grace (Romans 4:7).

Life.  Share how are you living now after coming to Jesus with your sin and receiving Forgiveness and Grace.  There is no condemnation for those who are in Jesus Christ.  Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.  He has placed a new heart and spirit in us, which inspires us to do what is right and good (Ezekiel 36:26).

It is my hope that you and fellow brothers and sisters in Christ will be bold in rising above the sin through your testifying of His Grace in your life.   I pray boldness and courage…and an increase of faith and revelation for you.  Who will you “say it forward” to for His Glory?

 Bethany Spilde is the founder of Social Buzz Media, a leading social media, relationship marketing and branding firm. She is also an adjunct professor, and recently honored as an Emerging Leader of the Year by eWomen Network.

In Search of Truth

In Search of Truth The need for truth in the 21st century is critical.  So much so that, businesses have been created to  “fact check”  and validate the statements of both institutions and individuals.

Truth is often “relaxed” in order to makes people feel good.  We are more concerned with being inclusive and tolerant of what people believe rather than acknowledge the reality at hand.  Unfortunately,  “a lie believed can still be a lie.”

Therefore, we are compelled to continue our search for truth–a validation of the reality we must eventually face.  (Acceptance is another matter.)

Last week we questioned our ability to handle the truth in 2021.  We now expand that discussion to determine where truth can be found.

Why is Truth Important? [1]

Simply because life has consequences for being wrong. Giving the wrong amount of a medication can kill them; having an investment manager make the wrong monetary decisions can impoverish a family; boarding the wrong plane will take you where you don’t wish to go; and dealing with an unfaithful marriage partner can result in the destruction of a family potentially, disease.

As Christian apologist Ravi Zacharias puts it, “The fact is, the truth matters—especially when you’re on the receiving end of a lie.” And nowhere is this more important than in the area of faith and religion. Eternity is an awfully long time to be wrong.

A Warning on Truth

The  Apostle Paul warned the young minister Timothy of the dangers that awaited him as new converts would “turn away their ears from the truth, and be turned unto fables” (2 Timothy 4:4).

Unfortunately today, truth is being re-packaged in many forms. It is being shrouded in speculation and creative editorializing, rather than substantive truth; shouting matches for the minds of men.

Because of this trend, it is important that we have a real-time,  reliable, and trustworthy source to help us ferret out truth in the world.  God has provided that source—the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth.

Truth and Reality

Earlier we defined truth as that which agrees with reality. For the believer today, our reality has been defined by what God has placed in His written Word.  For the disciples in our text, however, there was no written Word as they faced a hostile world without Jesus (John 15:18-20).

It was Jesus’ presence that gave them the courage to challenge the error of the political and social systems; to reject the spiritual tyranny of the religious leaders.

Absent Jesus, the disciples would need God’s truth as they turned their focus to witnessing (Acts 1:8), baptizing, and teaching (Matt. 28:19-20).

The Truth Giver

Jesus promised to send the Spirit of Truth that would abide with His disciples forever (John 14:16-17).  It was the Holy Spirit Who would now come to live within them.

We generally think of the Holy Spirit in terms of gifting or empowering believers to accomplish the purposes and ministries of Christ.  However, the attribute Jesus chose to highlight with His disciples in John’s text focused on “truth”.

It would be the Spirit of Truth that would assist the disciples as they were persecuted for their belief in Jesus Christ.  They would be tempted to denounce and deny Him Whom “the world could not receive, because it neither saw Him nor knew Him” (v. 17).  They would need the Spirit of Truth to call “to remembrance” the life and ministry of Jesus Christ—especially His work of salvation for sinners (John 14:26).

Spirit of Truth versus Spirit of Error

Like the disciples of the first century, we have the assistance of the Spirit of Truth to assist us in exposing the spirit of error.

The spirit of error is seen in the immoral practices and life styles of the world.  It can also lead to social injustice and human inequities as truth is replaced with “what works for right now.”

The spirit of error ultimately leads to deception and disobedience to the purposes of God (Ep. 2:2).  It tempts us to doubt God’s truth and draws us away from the leading of the Holy Spirit (2 Thess. 2:15).

The Spirit of Truth stands ready to silence the lies, the myths and the fables of the 21st century.  Our confidence lies in the promise, power, and presence of the Spirit of Truth.  He is our True Guide as we search for truth.

 

[1] Gotquestions.net/what is truth?

 

A Message for Fearful Times

A Message for Fearful Times

Historical trauma

Last week we witnessed in our Capitol something that has left us breathless.  We’ve seen many horrible events in the tapestry of our nation’s history during the past century—wars, assassinations, and terrorist attacks.  January 6th, 2021 can now be added to that infamous list.

There is no need to add to the rhetoric that now fill the airwaves of the world and every corner of cyberspace.  The reality that our nation’s democracy is under siege is evident.  The trauma and fear associated with that day linger on after experiencing the event “real time” on our screens.  I daily ask Jesus to remove those terrifying images from my brain.

But I come today with a message of encouragement and hope from the God who sees and Who is in complete control of what appears to be “out of control.”

Keep Your Eye of God

It is important during these troubling times to keep our eyes on the Lord.  As believers, we are aware that in this world we will have tribulation and trials (John 16:33).  But we are also reminded to take heart because Jesus has overcome the world.  One writer reminded me, “it is the tension between ‘overcome’ and ‘taking heart’ that cause us problems.”

Our trust in the Lord is not the result of positive thinking or some new age approach to stress management.   Brian Morykno with Renovaré encourages believers during fearful times to follow King David’s example of magnification.

Imagine David, with the war cry of enemies rising all around, settled of soul and unafraid.  How was that possible?  It’s not that David was out of touch with reality; he was in touch with it.  David understood magnification.  He knew that what we dwell upon becomes large in our spiritual field of vision.  And David dwelled upon God (Ps. 95:3-5).     

Our reality is this.  God is sovereign and is moving forward with His plan of salvation God is not the cause of riots and rebellions like we experienced last week.  Such events come from “heart issue” of sinful men (James 3:16-18) and the work of Satan (Eph. 6:12; John 10:10).

For where there is envy and selfish ambition, there will also be disorder and wickedness of every kind.   But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy.  And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace for those who make peace.

A Plan for These Times

To help us move through these times, I offer this, three (3) prong approach to help us navigate through these difficult times.

Prayer.  This should be our first response to the troubles we face.  We are told to pray without ceasing (1 Thess. 5:17).  The reason for this mandate is because our prayers connect us directly to God—the Power Source who can resolve our dilemma.  The “only wise God” (Rom. 16:27) is there to guide and direct our steps, comfort our heart, and ease our stress (Phil. 4:6-7).

Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer.  (Romans 12:12)  

Practice the Presence of God   We are never alone regardless of the situation we face.  He alone can make good on His promise that He will “never leave nor forsake us” (Gen. 28:15).  He is ever-present.  Regardless of external appearances, God is with us even amid our trouble.

Where can I go from your spirit? Or where can I flee from your presence? 

If I ascend to heaven, you are there; if I make my bed in Sheol, you are there. (Ps. 139:7-8)

Praise.  Yes, I said praise.  Why?  Because it is the quickest way to experience the presence of God (Ps. 22:3).    Ruth Meyer, author of the book, 31 Days of Praise, offers this insight on the power of praise.

As you praise and pray, you make your circumstances and your life a test tube that demonstrates the existence of a personal God, a God who is present and involved and who controls the natural Universe. It turns your attention to spiritual and eternal values versus the pleasures and success mentality of our age, which resists all pain and discomfort and delay.

A Message for Fearful Times

As we continue our walk of faith, we will be faced with trials.  Although these may be difficult, we have the blessed assurance that we are not in these things alone.  Neither are we powerless.

Political and social upheaval will continue as long as man leans on his own understanding (Prov. 3:5-7).  I don’t know how these tumultuous times will end but I do know that God has the final word (Ps. 119:89-91).  God is and will continue to be the Creator and Sustainer of all things (Col. 1:16).

What I Learned in 2020

To depict the many challenges we faced in 2020What’s Different

In the past, my annual reflections on “what I learned” were typical for believers in Christ.  They were my experiences and observations as I progressed on my spiritual journey.  They included such things as how I experienced God’s goodness and what I would work harder on in the new year.  I always finished the year hoping I had deepened my relationship with Him.

So what’s different this year?  Everything is different!  Why?  Because 2020 was very different.  As my pastor said a few weeks ago, “There is no such thing as a ‘new normal’.  There is no normal.  Everything is dynamic.”  Life as we knew it has changed.  We now live in a constant state of change.

What I learned in 2020 requires that I go deeper than I normally would in order to fully express the range of emotions and responses to everything that has been happening around us. It’s been said “life will make you bitter or better”.  With 2020, the jury is still out.

2020 Responses:  We Long for Many Things

Most responses to 2020 have ranged from anger (dumpster burnings of 2020 in effigy) to appreciation for the opportunities presented as a result of the pandemic Stay at Home directives.

The variance in these responses may stem from our ability to accept, absorb, or assimilate the changes that are taking place.

Some people respond by retaliating for what they see as a loss of control or threat to their personal freedom.  Remember the initial responses to the pandemic?  The battle over wearing masks?  We are no longer able to “do what we want to do” without considering the impact of our choices on others.

We now more fully understand “our connectedness” and dependence on each other.  We will need each other to successfully navigate the world as it is in “a state of becoming”.  There is a saying that, “You can’t be a winner in a losing organization.”  That statement is never more true than right now.

A Year of Grieving

2020 has also given us much to grieve over.  The loss of life due to the pandemic is unbelievable.  I pray that we never become comfortable with the rising number of deaths within our nation and the world.  So complacent that we forget that each “number” represents a person, a family, a life no longer present with us.

Let us also continue to pray and support those who serve during these horrific times.  The medical professionals, public employees, and service providers who daily risk their lives for us.

A Year without Relationship

I think we grieve the most over our “disrupted relationships”.  We desperately miss being with our families and friends.   No hugs.  No kisses.  We’re left with Zoom calls, online worship, and elbow bumps, if we’re lucky.

This longing to be with others is evidenced by our nation’s inability to deal effectively with the coronavirus.  We desire to be with one another so much that we are willing to literally die for it (or cause someone else to die).

While we desire to be with family and friends, our relationship with others has suffered in 2020.  We have separated ourselves into tribes based on our political views and class distinctions.  We have set aside the basics we learned in kindergarten–play nice and share.  We are at war with each other!  But why?  Over what?  There will be no winners in the end—-only pain, anger, and resentment.

This is unfortunate especially since we so desperately need each other during these tumultuous times.  It is now that we need “to put on bowels of mercy, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering…and love” (Col. 3:12-14).

So what have I learned?

God is faithful (Deut. 7:9; Heb. 10:23)  and is able to see us through whatever problems we face.  Actually that isn’t something new I’ve learned.  However, 2020 revealed God’s faithfulness in a new context.

That context included a deadly pandemic, social injustice, economic upheaval, and civil unrest.  2020 was like a dystopia movie.  A dystoria is an imagined place or state in which everything is bad, typically a totalitarian or environmentally degraded one.

But God was everything He said He would be.  He was my provider (Phil. 4:19).  He was my  protector (Ps. 46:1-3).  Jesus was my peace–something we still need in 2021.  God’s presence was my comfort and assurance through all the madness of 2020.

You and I are living proof of God’s faithfulness in that we now stand on the other side of 2020.  And how did we get here?  How did we get to the other side?  God brought us through (Is. 43:2).

God’s Plan of Salvation 

There is so much I have learned (and continue to learn from 2020).  But the most important thing I’ve learned is to see life through the reality of God and His plan of salvation.  

God is purposefully executing His plan of salvation for mankind.   Eternal God is sovereignly exercising His purpose in the midst of our history.  Regardless of today’s  current events or who is currently in leadership, they must all defer to the rule and reign of God (Daniel 2:21).

God’s plan for mankind didn’t end with the arrival of Jesus Christ.  God is still manifesting His plan and we are part of that plan right now.  It is our privilege to join God as He manifests His purpose in the world.

So what have you learned in 2020?  I can’t wait to hear from you.

Anxiety Relief: Stressed and Depressed

Anxiety Relief

We need anxiety relief

Stressed?  Depressed? One of the biggest thieves of energy, health and life is anxiety.  Anxiety is described as a feeling of worry typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome.  Our current life experiences with the health pandemic, economic recession, and social unrest, have resulted in heightened anxiety within our families, our cities, and our nation.

In response to the coronavirus, pharmaceutical companies and medical researchers are rushing to develop a  cure for this deadly disease.  With the cries for justice and social reform, people across this nation and around the world, are in search of a cure to racism. But what relief can be offered for the heightened sense of anxiety we live with daily?

Who has the cure for the anxiety?

Where do we find anxiety relief?  What cures are available for the anxiety caused by the aforementioned circumstances and other life events?

Possible cures offered to date include intervention (therapy), meditation,  and physician-prescribed medication.  Unfortunately, we as a nation, have also chosen to self-medicate resulting in destructive and  addictive behaviors.

For this week’s WordBytes, I’d like to share  another source of  anxiety relief offered by one of my favorite writers.  Dr. F.B. Meyer, described as one of the world’s most gifted pastor and expositor, offers sage wisdom to believers as we make this journey of faith, one-day-at-a-time.  Dr. Meyer offers biblical relief for our anxiety.  A prescription that comes directly from the Great Physician (Exodus 15:26).

What I Learned in 2019

 

The door to 2019 has closed marking the end of our first decade in the 21st century.  I didn’t see all the contraptions featured in “The Jetsons” but I did note changes that, centuries earlier, were only described in science fiction.

As a society, are we better off as a result of man’s accomplishments these past ten (10) years?  Only history will determine that.  The Apostle Paul warned the church at Corinth to “judge nothing before the time, until the Lord comes, who will both bring to light the hidden things of darkness and reveal the counsels of the hearts. Then each one’s praise will come from God” (1 Cor. 4:5).  We would do well to follow his advice.  I can, however, share what I learned in 2019.

To learn is defined as “acquiring knowledge or skill by study, instruction, or experience.”  As I prayed over this annual exercise of “things learned”, three (3) areas surfaced which fit within the range of this definition.  The things I learned in 2019 are the practice of gratitude, the power of simplicity, and the privilege of family.

The practice of gratitude taught me to appreciate God and to be thankful for His provision, His protection, and His presence.  Failure to practice this spiritual habit often resulted in envy, jealousy, greed and bitterness—fostering dissatisfaction and discontentment. Practicing gratitude equipped me to live life emotionally confident and spiritually content (2 Pet. 1:2-3).

Also read, “Gratitude

The power of simplicity redirected my attention from the trivial to the important things of life.  Jesus sent out His disciples with the bare necessities to accomplish their extraordinary mission (Luke 9:3; 10:4).  The pursuit of simplicity helped me to eliminate “the extraneous” from my life.  This included both things and relationships that hindered my spiritual journey by keeping me tethered to this world (1 John 2:15-17).

The privilege of family reminded me of the value of memories, tradition, and heritage.  As my family came together to celebrate my 70th birthday, they shared bittersweet stories and family customs with a new generation.  It was within the confines of the family that I witnessed our collective identity and shared values entrusted to us by our parents and other relatives long gone but not forgotten. The privilege of family began at Creation (Gen. 1:28; 2:24) and its importance is still critical as we enter this new decade.

Am I better off as a result of the things I learned?  Absolutely!  With each experience, I have learned to see God with greater clarity—His ways and His works—His goodness and His greatness.  It is with this renewed clarity that I can focus on:  #1 what’s truly important, #2 what’s of eternal value, and #3 what glorifies God.

Now it’s your turn.  What did you learn in 2019?

What’s Your Role on the Stage of Life?

Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.  1 Thessalonians 5:11 (ESV)

It’s been said that the “whole world is a stage and everyone plays a part.”   Within my immediate family, I am the heroine playing many different roles–wife, mother, daughter, sister.

Some roles I “rehearsed for”.  For the role of wife, there were several callbacks and a few rejections.  The other roles, I inherited on the day that I took center stage (my birthday). These roles are challenging, requiring much prayer and patience.

As I reflect on the activities of this week, I considered this thought.  What role did I play in the life of those I came into contact with this week?  How well did I play my part?

  • Was I the villain–the antagonist who is always trying to interrupt the plans of others?
  • Was I a supporting actress–insuring that the lead actor and actress had what they needed to “shine” and deliver the story line?

We have a choice as to how we respond to those God places in our path.  We can either be a help or a hindrance; a bearer of encouragement or the purveyor of strife.

The word encouragement originated in the 15th century from the French word encoragieren which means “cause” and corage that means “courage.”  As I look around our world and yes, our churches too, there is a need for us to “cause courage”.  The role requires minimal rehearsal time and is easy to play–a kind word, a smile, a soft touch on the shoulder.  Let God’s Word begin to frame your role.

  • Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. Ephesians 4:29
  • And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. Hebrews 10:24-25

The Apostle Paul spoke often about encouragement.  When his plans to visit the church at Thessalonica fell through, he sent in his place Timothy to establish and encourage them in their faith.  Timothy played the supporting role of “brother, minister of God, and fellow laborer in the gospel of Christ” (1 Thess. 3:1-2).

Everyday we are to go forth in the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ to play a critical role in this fallen world.  Jesus’ message to His disciples in the 1st century hold true for believers today:

“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you.” (Matt 28:19-20)

How well are you playing your part on the stage of life?

What is Your Eternal Net Worth?

One of my favorite Bible teachers and minister, Alstair Begg, recently chastised us for being more concerned with our IRAs (Individual Retirement Accounts) than our IEAs (Individual Eternity Accounts).  That brought to mind a WordBytes teaching I had written a few years ago.  It still has relevancy for those who have “an ear to hear.”  I hope you enjoy it.

“If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man’s work.  If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward.  If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames.” 1 Cor. 3:12-15 (NIV)

Net worth is a financial term used to describe the total value of all possessions minus all outstanding debt.  It reflects what is earned for personal benefit.  If we apply this financial term to spiritual things, eternal net worth is the value of one’s works that will be accounted to the believer for reward at the Judgment Seat of Christ.  How comfortable are you with your eternal net worth?  Here are some factors for consideration as you answer this question.

The Day will bring it to light.   The Day refers to the time of the Judgment Seat of Christ or the Bema Seat (1 Cor. 3:13) where each believer may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done whether good or bad. (2 Cor. 5:10). It is appointed to man once to die and then the judgment. (Heb. 9:27)  We will not be judge for our previous sins since Jesus Christ paid that price on Calvary.  It is here where believers will receive their eternal rewards.

Fire will test the quality of each man’s work.  At the Bema Seat, before issuance of eternal rewards there will be a “testing” of the worth of the believer’s completed works. The quality of the work is judged on its eternal value. Works of eternal value result in expansion and extension of God’s kingdom on earth. (Isaiah 61:1- 3)

If what he has built survives, there is reward.  One of God’s moral qualities is justice.  It is here where He will fairly evaluate not only the end result of the believer’s works but also the motives and the attitudes behind them. (Rom. 2:16)  To receive reward, the believer’s work must pass the holy scrutiny of God’s evaluation.  (1 Cor. 3:14)

If what he has built is burned, there is loss. The salvation of the believer will not be loss but how sad it will be for them to see their worthless works burn in the holy fire of God.  They will leave God’s throne with no rewards.  They will have no crowns to cast at the Savior’s feet. (Rev. 4:10)

Faith and action work together; faith without deeds is dead. (James 2:22-26) While our works are not redemptive in nature they do reflect our obedience and submission to God’s plan and purpose for our life. For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field. (1 Cor. 3:9)  What is your eternal net worth?