Reflecting on ’16 While Looking toward ’17

I’ve noticed people posting their “word for 2017″ on Facebook. There are two words that come to my mind that I feel a need to grow in: Faith and Victory.

This past year, I really struggled in those departments. It is so easy to let the cares of life bring one down and yet, when we do that, we are failing to communicate to the world that we serve a magnificent God who is greater than our burdens.

I also want to be more of an encouragement to others this year. This will require focusing on others more than myself but, with God’s help, I want to do that. There are so many hurting, lonely people in the world. I pray that I will do better at pointing others to Jesus, who is the Hope and Life that they need.

I know that I will be tested on these things. Any time God is working, the enemy of our souls is also working to discourage us and keep us from fulfilling God’s plans for our lives.

walking

We never know what a year will bring, but we do know that, if we walk with the Lord, He will walk with us through every storm that we face.

I am blessed with friends who have stuck with me and encouraged me this year when I felt like they should have left me to wallow in my own misery.  That is the sign of a true friend: one who will not be pushed away by negativity but will continue to be there to listen, pray for you, and just “be there” for you. I am so blessed to have people like that in my life.

This reminds me of how much we need the Body of Christ. Don’t take your Brothers and Sisters for granted. If you find that person who knows how to encourage you and is not afraid to challenge you when you need it, treasure them. Friends like that are hard to find and yet sometimes we don’t notice them because we are too busy with our own lives to pay attention.

May this coming year find you drawing ever closer to our Lord and Savior. May we all become more selfless and more God-full. May this be our greatest year yet!

Our Eternal Sabbath is Alive!

It was a long three days, but some time between sundown on the old Sabbath and sunrise, the Lord Jesus Christ rose victorious over death, hell, and the grave! He is now our Eternal Sabbath for all who place their faith in Him alone. Maranatha!

The Importance of Communicating Well

Communication. Everyone knows that this is important in relationships, but many don’t seem to know how to communicate well. Or maybe they just don’t want to take the time to do so. Communication is more than just talking; it’s also important that you weigh your words and deliver them in such a way that the hearer will not only hear, but will also understand what is being said and will receive it with thanksgiving that you had the conversation.

The way you say things can make a person smile, or it can make them defensive and angry. It can let them know you love them, or they may feel like you don’t.

a-good-relationship-starts-with-good-communication-quote-1

Because this can be hard to accomplish, some give up and decide to let a lot slide, regardless of how they feel, but this is not the answer. Instead, you need to ask God to help you to “let your speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt” (Colossians 4:6). Be willing to admit when you are wrong and, if you are confronting someone about something they are doing wrong, do it humbly, realizing that you are not always right either.

I think true humility is one of the hardest things for humans to achieve, including Christians. Everyone wants to be liked and thought well of. When someone tears us down and, in our mind, makes us look bad in front of others, our flesh rises to the surface. This is one reason we must not do this to others.

Maybe you were hurt recently by something someone said or did. Or maybe you see someone making a major mistake and you feel you need to talk to them. Take time to pray until God’s love fills your heart for that other person. This can make all the difference. Without love, you are like a “sounding brass or tinkling cymbal” (1 Corinthians 13:1). In other words, you are easier to ignore.

Relationships are important. They are the only thing we will take to Heaven with us (assuming they are in Christ). Do not take them for granted. Do not let pride cause them to disintegrate. A good friend (or spouse) is hard to find. When you find them, you must fight for (not with) them! The enemy wants to do everything he can to tear God’s people apart but, if you are faithful to fight against his tactics, you will find overcoming victory, and God will perform an even greater work in and through you, as well as give you stronger relationships that will last through the fiercest storms.

Victory Is Ahead

Most of those who know me will be surprised to know that I have dealt with periods of depression the last five years or so like I’ve never felt before. It is a struggle to get out of bed some days and yet I have a work to do which requires me to keep fighting.

The Christian life is not always easy. I’ve seen people who “try Jesus” walk away, never to return. The writer of Hebrews explains why when he says, “For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt” (Hebrews 6:4-6).

Brothers and Sisters, if you name the name of Christ, quitting is not an option. Many quit every day. Hopelessness takes over until some end up taking their own lives. Where is the victory that comes to those who accept Jesus Christ as their Savior?

vcfhome

I think many try Jesus like they try on clothes. If He doesn’t fit their lifestyle, He gets put on the shelf until a crisis occurs. Then He gets blamed for not caring when He doesn’t answer. God does care, but He is not obligated to answer the prayers of those who just want to use Him. James 5:16 says, “The effectual, fervent prayer of a righteous man (or woman) avails much.” Are you righteous, or is there a hidden sin that you’re hoping God will overlook and answer your prayer anyway? Maybe that sin is simply living for self but wanting God on the side. You cannot serve two masters.

I’ve derailed slightly, as I want this to be encouraging to those who are discouraged but, before you can be encouraged, you need to examine your heart as to whether or not you are truly in the faith. Is there any area of your life that you have not surrendered to God? If not, then I want to encourage you to keep pressing on and don’t give up. Your answer will come. If life were too easy, we would not need God. Our depression, discouragement, etc. reminds us of what life is like without Him: hopeless. Don’t give in to those feelings. Praise Him when you don’t feel like it. Intercede for others. Get your mind off of yourself and your problems. Learn to be content wherever God has you. Don’t envy others. God’s plan for you is good and not evil, and He will complete His good work in you if you are diligent to fight the good fight. Be encouraged today, dear friends. There is victory ahead!