"What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!'"
January 4, 2017
Happy New Year!!
Did you make a New Year resolution? If so, will you truly stick it out for the entire year; or will it last for a few days or possibly weeks, before you forget about it or decide that it's too hard? Did you make the resolution because you truly wanted to better yourself in some way, or because it's tradition to do so?
Long ago, I decided to not make resolutions, because I never stuck with them. Resolution means, "A firm decision to do or not do something." I "thought" at the beginning of each New Year that I would keep my commitments; but never succeeded. After several fail attempts, I decided that it wasn't worth the effort. Perhaps it was because most of my resolutions revolved around weight loss and exercise!
The past couple of years, I have done something a little different. I prayed about what changes I needed to work on, and asked God to show me one area where I needed to improve. I, also, did some internal searching. Granted, there are a lot of things that I need to work on, but each year I chose one particular area that I could make my main focus.
Last year, I chose to work on immediate obedience to God. It is so easy to question and put off and contemplate all the what ifs and make excuses, when feeling led to do something. "What if it's really not God asking me to do this?" "What if I mess up or don't succeed?" "What if I look foolish or if I'm not good at what I try to do?" "I'll wait and see if someone else does it first." "If I still feel like I should do it next week, then I'll give it a try." "If I'm standing out on my back porch and a blue bird comes and alights on my shoulder, turns three circles, then flies to the third fence post on the left side of our yard, I'll know that it's God!" (An exaggeration, but something as equally silly!) It is easy to come up with excuses and reasons why we shouldn't do what we feel impressed to do. When we feel that nudge to do good, it's never going to be Satan! It's God's desire for us to do good works and help and encourage others.
Last year, I intentionally practiced immediate obedience when feeling impressed to do good or to help someone or to give or say a word of encouragement, etc. There were times when I missed opportunities and failed to follow through, but when I did so, I got back up on my feet, more determined to do better the next time. It's a practice that I want to continue doing this coming year. Hopefully, it will become second nature, where I immediately obey, without contemplation or questioning.
This year, what I'm working on is completely different. I handle the finances for our little family of two. Honestly, I could do better at saving and could spend less than I do. God has blessed us with being financially stable, and we've not had to pinch pennies for many years. It's easy to spend a little here and there.... new shoes, a new purse, new shirt for Jon, go out to eat often..... Not that any of those things are necessarily bad; and I don't overspend more than we have in our bank account. I'm not even necessarily frivolous, and going shopping is not something that I particularly enjoy doing, unless I'm needing something specific; and I do shop sales, most times. We're not rich, but we are financially comfortable (not having kids probably helps!), so it's been easy to be lax and buy pretty much whatever we want. But I know that I could do better at managing our finances. That's something that's on my heart for this year -- to be more financially responsible.
Two years ago, our church bought new property. Ever since that time, we've been at a standstill, waiting for permits and city approvals so that we can do remodeling and move forward, as we dream of doing. We've gone through two different architects. It's been one hurdle after another! Now we are on our third architect, and we just heard from them that they will have all of our final paperwork and permits within 4-8 weeks. Hallelujah!! Our wait is coming to an end, and we will be able to do all the work that needs to be done and see our vision for the church come to fulfillment.
For the past couple of years, the prayers of many of us has been along the lines of, "Lord, send us the finances so that we can do the work that needs to be done.... so that the church can get out of debt..... provide the money that is needed and place it upon someone's heart to give...."
On Thursday nights we have prayer, before our mid-week service. Last Thursday night we were praying for the church and that we'd be able to really move forward in this new year. People were taking turns praying. One of the men prayed something that has really struck a chord in some of our hearts. His prayer was different. What he basically said was, "God, show ME how that I can invest or grow my finances so that I can give more to the church and help it get out of debt; that I will be able to help pay for the remodeling and supplies that will be needed. Increase MY finances so that I will be able to give more and bless the church and meet this need." Wow! Instead of praying that God would place it on someone else's heart to give, or provide through another means, he prayed that God would use him!
That has been my prayer ever since. "God, show me how I can better budget and spend less, so that we will have more money to give to financially be a blessing to our church! Help Jon and me to be more financial responsible and bless our finances, so that we in turn can bless the church and meet their financial needs."
I never want to come to the place where I feel as if I've arrived; where I no longer need to improve or better myself. I desire to continually strive to deepen my relationship with God, to build stronger relationships with others, and to become a better individual. I never want to feel as if I've failed too many times, or that I'm as good as I'm going to get; and stop working on myself spiritually, physically, mentally, personally, and in my relationships with others.
I'm not trying to take scripture out of context, but a verse that came to mind on New Year's Eve night was 2 Corinthians 5:17: "Anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun." The thought that came to mind was, "2016 is gone; a new year has begun! Forget about the mistakes and failures of last year, because God is giving me (and you) a new year!"
It's time for us to stop looking backward, stop wallowing in regrets, and move forward with joy and expectation! When we confess our sins and ask for forgiveness, God wipes our slate clean, so to speak. The old life is gone, and a new life has begun. We no longer have to live in shame. We can hold our head up high, knowing that we are sons and daughters of a Heavenly King!
One of my favorite scriptures is Jeremiah 29:11-13. "'For I know the plans I have for you,' says the Lord. 'They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. In those days when you pray, I will listen. If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me.'"
Working on immediate obedience to God, or working on being more financial responsible, are good things to work on. But there is so much more that God wants to do in my life -- and in your life! God has plans for each and every one of us. Those plans are not to destroy or crush us; but are plans for good. God desires to give us a future and a hope! When we pray, God listens; He hears each word we say. God is never hidden, but when we look for Him, we will always find Him.
What does God want to do in your life in 2017? Maybe there is something specific that has been placed in your heart to work on. Go for it; and it you mess up, don't give up; but get up, dust yourself off, and keep going. Furthermore, what are the plans that God has for you? If you're not sure, then pray and ask. God desires to reveal His plan to you. In 2017, He wants to give you a future and a hope! Open yourself up to Him, make yourself available, and see what He will accomplish in and through you!!
God has ways to use each of us. It isn't always financial, and isn't always what we expect. And it may change from one day to the next. One woman in our church cleans the bathrooms and kitchen in the church. It doesn't cost her anything, and isn't glamorous. But it's a great ministry that we are all thankful for.
So, try to keep an eye out for ways to be used by God. Maybe shovel a sidewalk for an elderly neighbor, or give someone a jump start in a parking lot. Whatever opportunity you see, don't just let it pass by.
Tortellini Crockpot Soup
1 bag of frozen tortellini
1 small bag of fresh spinach
2 cans of Italian style diced tomatoes
4 cups of vegetable or chicken broth
1 block of cream cheese
Sausage or Chicken (optional)
Put all ingredients in crockpot; chunking up the cream cheese. You can cook sausage, drain, then add; if desired. You could also add shredded chicken, if you want. Cook on low for 5-6 hours.
My niece, Jovie, just had her 3rd birthday. She wasn't too sure about getting another year older, but wanted to stay a baby. Jovie is potty-trained and has normal 3 year old behavior, but for some reason, she wasn't ready to get another year older. This past Tuesday morning, I picked her up to babysit her for the day. We were riding back to my house and she told me, "I'll always be Mama's baby." I assured her that no matter how big she was, she'd always be her Mama's baby. "I'll always be Daddy's baby"...... Then she started naming her siblings: "I'll always be Jax's baby..... I'll always be Jaycee's baby...... I'll always be Jemma's baby....." Then she said, "They all love me TOO much! Daddy loves me a little bit too much sometimes!" Her Aunt Retta probably spoils her and loves her a little bit too much sometimes, too!!
This year are you going to face your limitations/fears and believe God's truth;
or will you succumb to the lies of the enemy?
Will you choose fear of the world; or faith in the one who has overcome the world? - Christine Caine
We love you!
Loretta & Jon