Category Archives: Our Faith Walk

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?

 

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?

The ABC’s of Waiting: The Purpose of Waiting

It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD. (Lamentations 3:26, NRS)

What have we learned to date about waiting?  By definition waiting “is the action of staying where one is or delaying action until a particular time or until something happens.”

How do we feel about waiting?

  • We don’t like to wait.
  • Waiting has emotional costs—stress and boredom.
  • Our “waiting tolerance” is often determined by our generational mindset—Baby Boomer, Gen X, Y, Z.
  • Our anxiety (with waiting) is caused by what we do with the “unoccupied time” while waiting.
  • The Christian view of waiting is different than the secular view because God, from whom we derive our meaning and reality, operates “outside of time”—in eternity.
  • Our difficulty in waiting often stems from our “flesh-based” needs—impatience, pride, independence, and stubbornness.

Understanding these realities, it may be helpful at this time to revisit our personal perspective of waiting.   From a Christian perspective, why is it good to wait?  Consider these ABC’s of Waiting.

Waiting helps believers:

Accept the sovereignty of God (Acts 17:28).   God’s sovereignty is defined as His preeminent power and authority, a natural consequence of His omniscience, omnipotence, and omnipresence.  While God has given man “free-will”, it is critical for believers to “choose God”—to trust Him unconditionally.  God will always do what is best for His children including delays in privileges, plans, and purposes. The Prophet Jeremiah asserted that it was good for Israel to wait because God had the best solution for their situation—His salvation.  Waiting embraces God’s sovereignty.

Build strong spiritual muscles (1 Peter 1:13-15).  While we have been delivered from the penalty and power of sin, we still live in sin’s presence and in our “fleshly” bodies.  Believers in Christ must be able to remain faithful during this postmodern era when our tenets of faith are continually under attack.  We must be patient as we listen for God’s instructions on where we are to serve.  Believers must endure hard trials and temptations, as we expand The Kingdom of God and wage spiritual warfare against Satan.  Waiting strengthens our spiritual muscles.

Create godly character and intimacy with the Father (1 John 3:3).  While waiting we draw near to God and listen for His voice through prayer and reading His Word.  As we practice the presence of God, we taste the wonders of His transforming power and His future rewards.  Because of this, believers are willing to accept delays and interruptions rather than demand “instant gratification” based on fleshly lusts and worldly influence.   Waiting transforms our lives.

I end today’s teaching with God’s Word to His people Israel through the Prophet Isaiah—a word to prepare them for their 70-year wait in exile:

“He gives power to the faint, and strengthens the powerless.

Even youths will faint and be weary, and the young will fall exhausted;  but those who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength,

they shall mount up with wings like eagles,

they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.”

Isaiah 40:29-31

There is always purpose in God’s wait—embrace it, let it strengthen you, let it transform your life.

What I Learned in 2018

This people I have formed for Myself; They shall declare My praise.  Isaiah 43:21 (NKJ)

Yes, it’s that time again.  Another year has passed and I find myself asking, “where has the time gone and what did I do with it?”   As I glance over at the grocery store newsstand, I see the various renderings of what 2018 has been about—politics, weddings, and celebrations of life.

As it is with the dropping of the New Year’s ball in Times Square, it is the tradition of In the Word Ministries to mark the start of the New Year by asking, “What did I learn this past year?”  This year, I avoided looking back at 2018 WordBytes or my journal to give me a hint.  Instead I simply asked the Holy Spirit to distill all I had experienced in 2018 into two or three areas I could share with you.  The Holy Spirit (as usual) exceeded my expectations and gave me one word—PURPOSE.  Although one word, my learning about purpose could fill volumes.  I will attempt to be succinct.  See if any of these resonate with you.

  1. It is critical to understand God’s purpose (Acts 17:28). Every New Year a dear friend asks me what I am believing and depending on God for in the upcoming year.  The better question should be, “how can God best use me for His purpose in the upcoming year?” Key to understanding purpose is accepting the sovereignty of God—the “True Source” of our purpose.  As we begin our year fasting and praying, we should seek to understand our purpose as a direct outgrowth of God’s divine plan (Eph. 2:10).
  1. It is important to pursue God’s purpose (Heb. 11:13). Not to follow God’s purpose is willful disobedience that can result in negative consequences.  This year, God challenged me to undertake an area that did not “fit” the core competencies or strategic plan developed for the ministry.  God had spoken this new direction to me in three separate prophetic messages over a four year period.  I knew it was a mistake—mine!  But God was patient.  And yes, God has the authority to “change our direction” and do a “new thing” in our lives (Is. 43:19). I finally accepted the direction although I haven’t a clue as to where God is taking me.  God, however, knows and that’s what is important (Gen.12:1-4).
  1. It is essential to position ourselves for God’s purpose (Heb. 12:1). In Isaiah 43, God shares His future plan to redeem His people, Israel, now living in captivity.  They had historically rejected God’s purpose which was to reflect God goodness and glory to the world ultimately bringing them into His eternal Kingdom.  But Israel pursued its own purpose (Jer. 17:23).  They were not in position to accomplish God’s purpose, therefore they were sent into captivity for 70 years.  Their disobedience and distrust of God deprived them of God’s glorious purpose.

Like the children of Israel, we as believers often miss God’s divine purpose for our lives because of a number of factors.

  • We may operate out of fear. We are afraid of God’s purpose.  We fear we may not have the skills and capability to what God desires.  You may not have what you think you need, but God, through His Holy Spirit within us, will equip us for every assignment He gives.
  • We may lack trust. We’re afraid God won’t give us what we want.  God may not give you what you want but, be assured God will always give you what’s best for you.  Learn more about the nature of God—His goodness and His greatness.
  • We may be bound by sinful habits and relationships that we aren’t willing to release. Even King Solomon in all his wisdom was hindered from fulfilling God’s purpose because of willful disobedience and sinful patterns in his life.  Confess, repent, and lay hold of the extraordinary purpose which God has for you today.  Trade in what you think is “good” for the “best” God has in store for you.

The Westminster Catechism is a series of questions and answers (proof texts), on which Believers, affirm their faith in God.  The first question (out of 107 questions), is this:  “What is the chief end of man?”  In other words, what is man’s purpose?  The answer, “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.

“To glorify God” is realized when we represent His rule and presence on the earth.  Created in God’s image, man can bring into reality the kingdom of God on earth and be in intimate relationship with Him.  With and in Christ, we now can pursue God’s unique purpose for our lives (1 Pet. 2:9).

“To enjoy God forever” has begun with the presence of the Holy Spirit with us—a foretaste of the ultimate glory that we will experience in full when we next meet Jesus—in heaven (upon our death) or in the air (upon Christ’s Second Return) (John 14:3).   The end will be the same—“eternal enjoyment.”

In 2019, I am living to understand, to pursue, and to position myself for God’s purpose.  “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.  For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever. Amen. ” (Matt. 6:10, 13)

What did you learn in 2018?

Sitting in Darkness with the Lord

“Enemy, don’t crow over me.  I’m down, but I’m not out.

I’m sitting in the dark right now but God is my light.”

Micah 7:8 (The Message)

Life is comprised of a myriad of experiences that test both our patience and our faith. The activities of daily living–caretaking for family, practicing our profession, and maintaining a “normal” schedule, often present a challenge for us. Although we may not always admit it, we sometimes feel overwhelmed, despondent, and “down right” depressed. We call this feeling by many names–bluesy, out of sorts or “in the mulligrubs” but the end result is the same. We feel like we are “sitting in darkness.”  What do we know about darkness? Darkness is the absence of light.

Darkness conceals potential dangers and pitfalls that would be evident with the aid of light. In Scripture we are warned about the influence of darkness in our lives and about the Prince of Darkness, Satan.  It is Satan’s desire to keep us in spiritual darkness where he can “kill, steal, and destroy” (John 10:10).

Darkness can refer to the condition of our spirit. The prophet Micah was in great despair as he looked upon the wicked lifestyles of both Israel and Judah. There was great “darkness” as the nation God had chosen to bless the world was mired in idolatry, wickedness, and corruption. Sound familiar?  Though Micah sat in darkness, he found comfort and assurance in the future promise of the Light of the World, Jesus Christ (Matthew 2:5).

What are the light sources God has provided to us?
  • God Himself is our light and “in Him there is no darkness” (1 John 1:5). God is light personified (or deified).  In Him there is no flaws, defects, blemishes or error. He is the source of all knowledge and wisdom.
  • God’s Word is a “light unto our feet and a lamp unto our path” (Psalm 119:105). God’s Word provides the guidance needed to traverse the circumstances we face in our life. His Word contains His promises and His power; He personally oversees His Word to perform it in your life (Jeremiah 1:12).
  • God’s Spirit is “the Spirit of truth” (John 16:13) who guides us into all truth” (John 16:13). He reminds us, that we are the beloved of God and heirs to His throne. Our knowledge of who we are in Christ should dispel any feelings we may have of inadequacy and hopelessness. We can replace these feelings with God’s joy and peace.
Even when we feel as if we are “sitting in darkness”, we can confidently proclaim that the LORD is our light. We are never alone. He is always with us.

Things I Learned in 2016

Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves,  that Jesus Christ is in you? 2 Cor. 13:5 (NKJ)

At the beginning of each year, I take time to reflect on the lessons I have learned during the past year.  Reflection, time given to consideration or serious thought, is a luxury we often deny ourselves.  It has been said that self-reflection is the school of wisdom.  Confucius described self-reflection as the noblest method by which we learn wisdom.  I especially like the Apostle Paul’s directive on self-reflection to the church at Corinth—examine yourself.  So I begin 2017 with this reflection—things I learned in 2016.

As input to this process I reviewed my daily journal, memorization cards, and the 2016 WordBytes topics.   These three sources reflect my spiritual mind and the areas of focus that the Holy Spirit has directed my attention to.  While my final list could expand to the last WordBytes of 2017, I have chosen those which I feel were most impactful to my learning and hopefully, added wisdom.  Here is my “short list”.

God is “much more” than anything I can ever imagine.  “Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us.” (Eph. 3:20) “More” (mallon) when added to verbs or adjectives denotes greater quantity, a larger measure, or a higher degree.  Following are just a few examples of God’s “much more”:

“Moreover the law entered, that the offence might abound. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound.”  (greater quantity)  (Rom. 5:20)

Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him.” (larger measure)  (Rom. 5:9)

“How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?”  (higher degree) (Heb. 9:14)

With the changes in local policies and the upheaval in national politics, I have found God extraordinarily capable of providing me “much more” than I have needed for the circumstance at hand (Ps. 62:5).  In all my situations, as varied as they have been, whether in prayer for special healing or special intervention: in need of provision or protection: in time of praise or in need of His presence, God has shown Himself to be “much more” than I could have ever anticipated.       

Pursuit of God’s kingdom is to be the guarded focus of my life. “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” (Matt. 6:33) The disciples didn’t fully understand what Jesus meant when He taught in the Sermon on the Mount.  Jesus continually reminded them to “keep their eye on the prize” (heaven) and on their “purpose” (preaching the Gospel).  In spite of all our biblical teachings, women’s conferences, and TV evangelists, it is easy to become entangled with the things of this world—“the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life.” (1 John 2:16)  These things promote “self” versus “Christ.”  It is critical that I remember “this is not my home” and I am merely a “time traveler” on a mission until I am called to my eternal home (Heb. 11:13; 1 Pet. 2:11).

Christ-like boldness is needed to address the changes of the 21st century.  “And for me, that utterance may be given to me that I may open my mouth boldly to make known the mystery of the gospel…that in it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.”  (Eph. 6:19-20)  Whether through the ministry or through WordBytes, I must boldly proclaim God as Sovereign Creator and Ruler of all life and Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior upon Whom I await His imminent return.  Pursuit of God’s truth is critical in a postmodern society where there is no absolute truth.  Therefore, denouncement of Scripture and its relevancy is to be expected (2 Tim. 4:3-5).  Let me “be prepared in season and out of season to correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction” (2 Tim. 4:2, NIV).  While we aren’t persecuted like our Christian brothers abroad, Christians in this country are daily being muffled by orchestrated cries of religious bigotry and intolerance.  Christ has given me a voice, I am to use it.

A dear friend and ministry partner asked me this week, “What are you believing and depending on God to do for you in 2017?”  Two powerful words emerged from her question—believing and depending.  First, I believe that God is able to do exceedingly above all I can ask and think.  And secondly, I will continue to depend on God to guide me into His perfect will.  Lastly, I am believing and depending on God to take those things I have learned in 2016 and leverage them into teachings that strengthen women for the journey God has purposed for them in 2017 (Jer. 29:11-13).

Now it’s your turn.  Scroll down to the “Leave a Reply” box and share what you have learned in 2016.  It’s time for you to reflect and develop your “short list.”