Five Important Questions for the New Year

Winter Scene-Michigan USA
Winter Scene-Michigan USA

The year 2014 is upon us. Perhaps, we have already made some goals for the new year.  We may plan to do more exercise or eat less food. Perhaps, we want to travel more, or get out of debt. In light of our goals for 2014, will we take the time to do an inventory of our spiritual lives?

God says in Haggai 1:5: “Now therefore thus saith the Lord of hosts; Consider your ways”. God’s people had returned to their land, but they had neglected to rebuild the temple. They were too busy with their own affairs. to concern themselves with God and His priorities. Today, we often neglect our spiritual lives because we become preoccupied with all the activities that make demands on our time. Like the Israelites, have we neglected to take an inventory of our spiritual life?

The word “consider” means to note thoroughly, to perceive clearly, to think deeply. This word is used sixty-six times in the Bible. Why does God place such a priority on this word? Is it because He knows that we have the habit of keeping busy so that we don’t take the time to consider our walk with Him?  Here are five important questions that will help us to “consider our ways.”

1. How well do I know God?  “That I may know Him.” (Philippians 3:10) These words show Paul’s great desire to know the Lord in a personal way. He didn’t just want to know about God, but he wanted to know God intimately as His Father, Lord and Friend. Intimacy comes by spending time with God in His Word. We will study His Word to learn more about His character, His works, and His promises. Intimacy comes by spending time with God in prayer. Intimacy also comes by spending time meditating upon God. This will cause our love for Him to grow!

2. How well do I know myself?  ”Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts:” (Psalm 139:23) We often find it difficult to allow God to search every aspect of our life. We like to focus on all of our “good points” and we tend to ignore our sins or weaknesses. God gives us His Word to enable us to see areas that we need to change in our lives. When we read the Word of God, do we allow God to convict us of our sins? Do we allow Him to show us areas in our lives in which we need to improve? Do we allow Him to show us our apathy in spiritual matters? Examining our lives may not be pleasant, but it is a great step in moving forward in our spiritual lives in 2014.

3. How well do I use my time?  “Redeeming the time, because the days are evil.” (Ephesians 5:16)  Time is a gift that we often waste on matters that are not very important. We have many tools today to save time; yet we seem to have less time than ever. We allow the urgent to crowd out the important.

Big Ben-London England (Photo in Public Domain)

Big Ben-London England (Photo in Public Domain)

The Apostles Paul understood that his greatest priority in life was to mature in his faith.  “I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:14) His time, efforts and focus were upon his spiritual well-being. We spend a lot of time taking care of our physical bodies, but what about our spiritual life? Time is a gift that we can invest in those things that promote our spiritual well-being.

4. How well do I encourage those around me?  We often focus upon our own lives and we forget the impact that our lives have upon other people. One of my favorite Bible characters is Barnabas. He was a man who was always encouraging others.

  • He encouraged others by his example. He did this with his generous gift to the church (Acts 4:36-37). The Bible also says about Barnabas: “He was a good man, and full of the Holy Ghost and of faith:” (Acts 9:23) If people followed our example what kind of Christian would they be?
  • He encouraged others by his friendship. Barnabas extended the hand of friendship to Paul when nobody else did. (Acts 9:26-27) People need friends, but our culture of isolation has kept us from reaching out to others with the needed hand of friendship.
  • He encouraged others with his words. Barnabas was a leader who encouraged the early church in Antioch with his words (Acts 9:23)  We can use our words to discourage a person or to encourage them.
  • He encouraged others by giving them a second chance. John Mark had failed on the first missionary journey. Paul didn’t want to take the chance to take John Mark on the second journey. Barnabas choose to give John Mark a second chance. This same John Mark would later write the Gospel of Mark. People will fail us, just as we fail others. Will we give them a second chance?

5. How well do I glorify God in all that I do?  The greatest purpose of our life is to bring glory to God. “Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:31)  God wants to be glorified in all that we do. Do we glorify God in our thoughts, attitudes, words and actions? De we glorify God in our family? Do we glorify God at work or school? Do we glorify God with our plans and goals in life?

We have come to another crossroads in our lives. We have a great opportunity before us. What will we do with this opportunity?  We can move forward in our spiritual lives or we can remain stagnant. God desires us to move forward in our spiritual lives.

“Dear Heavenly Father, I am entering a new year. I know that I have fewer years ahead of me than behind me. It is critical that I allow you to clearly show me, what I need to do in this coming year. Help me to know you more intimately. Guide me as to the use of my time. Use me to encourage the people you bring into my life. Above all, I want to glorify you in all that I am and do.  Thank you for the blessings of 2013.  Thank you for continuing your work in and through my life. Amen”

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Making the Debates Personal

Photo by: The Washington Post

The first two debates are now history.  The debates have been helpful to hear the candidates and learn their positions.  They have also been helpful to see how the candidates interact with each other. Many people have written about the debates, but no one has asked the question:  “What can we learn about ourselves from the debates?”  Here are several questions that we can ask to help us make these debates personal.

1. What is the most important thing in my life? 

The debates, thus far, have focused a lot upon our economy.  The candidates in their own way are saying that money is the most element for being a happy, contented citizen. Is this correct? God says:  “For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.” (1 Timothy 6:10)

When money becomes the main focus in our life, it keeps us from focusing upon God.  Jesus understood this when He said:  “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” (Matthew 6:33)
The Lord desires our focus to be upon Him, anything else can quickly become an idol in our life.

2. Do I have a fear of man or a fear of God? 

The candidates use the debates to state their positions to please a certain group of people.  The candidates develop a fear of man because they are looking for votes.  We can often be controlled by the fear of man as well.  The Bible says: “The fear of man bringeth a snare: but whoso putteth his trust in the LORD shall be safe.” (Proverbs 29:25) The fear of man keeps us from pleasing God.  It keeps us from serving God fully.

True freedom is found when we have a fear of God instead of a fear of man.  When we fear God, He is the one that we need to please. “Be not wise in thine own eyes: fear the LORD, and depart from evil.” (Proverbs 3:7) Unlike the politicians, the opinion of others should not enslave our thoughts and actions.  We find true freedom in submission to Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

3. Do I build people up or do I tear them down?

The debates have illustrated the great art of tearing down another person to build up one self.  We find this to be great entertainment.  We cheer for “our side” to win.  Is it Biblical to tear down another person?  Is this pleasing to God?  Do we have the habit of running over people?  There are many examples in the Bible of people who made it their goal to tear people down.  Ahab hated Elijah.  Saul was out to get David.  Satan wanted to destroy Jesus’ ministry.

Unlike the candidates, we are to seek to build up others.  The word “discourage” has the idea of taking the heart out of a person.  Encouragement means “to put the heart into a person” Barnabas was a biblical character who encouraged others.  He encouraged the early church by his example. He encouraged Paul by befriending him.  He encouraged the church at Antioch by his teaching.  He encouraged John Mark by helping to restore him after his failure.  Love means to encourage others.  We don’t see a lot of love in the debates, but do we see this love and encouragement in our own lives?

4. Am I self-centered or God-centered?

By listening to the debates, you would think that Americans are the most self-centered people in the world.  Our politicians keep trying to pander to what each of us wants.  They appeal to our selfish nature.  I haven’t heard President Kennedy’s quote: “And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country.

It is easy for a Christian to develop this attitude of self-centeredness in this culture: however Christ has called his disciples to a life of self-denial.  “Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.” (Matthew 16:24).  Our lives are to be centered upon Christ.  Our goal is not to follow our desires, but His will. 

5. Am I more concerned about my physical well-being or my spiritual well-being?

One of the greatest issues of the debates and this campaign is the health care crisis in this nation.  Yes, we do have crisis in America concerning our health care. The physical health of Americans in general is quite poor.  However, the greatest crisis is not the physical well-being of Americans, but our spiritual well-being.

How healthy am I spiritually is a question, that we often neglect.  God is very concerned about our spiritual health.  He has given us His Word as food that will nourish our soul.  Here are some questions to help us evaluate our spiritual health:

  • Do I truly desire to walk with God daily?
  • Do I read the Bible with an open heart and mind?
  • Am I quick to obey the commands of Christ?
  • Do I quickly confess my sins to God?
  • Do I love God with all of my heart?
  • Do I love others as God loves me?

There are two more debates in this election cycle.  However, let’s not just look at President   Obama and Governor Romney in these debates, but also we need to think about our own lives and our relationship with God

“Dear Lord, I am thankful that I live in a nation in which I can worship you freely.  I also thank you for the great salvation that I have in your Son, Jesus Christ.  Help me to view this life from your perspective.  Help me to center my life upon you because it is easy to take my focus from you.  While you are working in my life, please guide the leaders of our nation to make wise decisions. Amen”