Friday, December 31, 2010

What Could Make This a Happy New Year?

A new year is almost upon us. This is the time when I try to set some spiritual goals for the year ahead. I’m not talking about your typical New Year’s resolutions, but setting a goal for what I want God to do in my life—to change me and make me more like Jesus in the coming year.

I figure that if the children in my family didn’t grow from year to year, as expected, I’d be concerned. But often we can go from one year to another without any real visible spiritual growth in our lives. That means we are shrunken Christians, or maybe sick ones. We should be concerned.

I don’t want to go through 2011 without growing in the Lord, and I’m sure you don’t either. So, I’m going to take the challenge to identify one area where I need spiritual growth and pray it into my life. I hope you’ll take this challenge with me.

First I want to ask God to show me what area of my life needs spiritual growth or discipline. Then I should look into his Word for a verse that challenges me in that area. And then I need to pray this verse everyday into my life.

For example, maybe I need to be a better listener and talk less. I might choose James 1:19 which says that “Everyone should be quick to listen and slow to speak.”

Or maybe I need to have a more loving attitude toward a coworker who irritates me. If so, I’d go to 1 Corinthians 16:14 that says, very simply, “Do everything in love.” I’d then take that as my daily prayer, and each day ask God to help me do everything in love. I’d pray for a right attitude toward those who irritate me. I could ask for the ability to see them the way God sees them.

It may be that as you face this new year, you would like to know that you are living in God’s will each day. Well, why not make that your spiritual goal for the year? I encourage you to pray Romans 12:1-2 into your life each day, like this: “Lord, today I offer you my body as a living sacrifice. May it be holy and pleasing to you. May I not be conformed to this world, but transform me by renewing my mind, so that I will be able to test and approve your will for me today.” I can tell you from my own experience that this prayer is life-changing, if you are sincere and intentional about it. This will cause great spiritual growth in your life, as you daily relinquish control of your life to the Lord Jesus.

As we join together to set a spiritual goal and then begin praying it into our lives, it could make 2011 our best year yet. Then at the end of this year, we can look back and see the spiritual growth in our lives. That would be a blessing to us and to many others, as well as a testimony to Jesus Christ. That could make this a truly Happy New Year…all year!

Friday, December 24, 2010

What If This Is An Un-Merry Christmas?

Merry Christmas! I'm bringing you my prayers that your Christmas celebrations will truly be joyous, filled with good times and good memories.

But I'm certain that some people haven't been looking forward to this season and will be glad when it's over. Life’s circumstances can bring us great sorrow. Maybe we can't be with the ones we want to be with. Perhaps miles separate us; or worse, broken relationships have ruined the celebration this year. For whatever reason, this may be an un-merry Christmas for you.

If ”Merry Christmas” is not appropriate for you this year, I simply want to remind you that the One whose birthday we celebrate today has promised never to leave you, never to forsake you. He did not promise that life would always be merry, but He made an ironclad promise that His presence would be with us, when our hearts are merry or when they're heavy.

So, I encourage you to rejoice in His presence with you today. It is no small thing that you can have the guest of honor on this Christmas day right there with you, giving you peace and comfort, even if there is no merriment.

I’m wishing you a Merry Christmas—yes. But if that seems unlikely, then I pray you'll know that Jesus knows how you feel, He understands, He cares, and He's able to bring you peace, with or without the "merry."

Saturday, December 18, 2010

How To Be Merry This Christmas

As I’ve been hearing the Christmas story again during this Christmas season, I’ve seen in a fresh way the kind of woman Mary was—a woman of praise. The Magnificat shows us that she praised God in spite of the problems that lay ahead for her, and they were significant.

Just take a look at Luke 1:46-55. In this brief praise/prayer Mary praised God for his favor toward her. She had a praising heart. I’ve noticed that Mary used Scripture to recite back to the Lord in praise. That's a wonderful way to praise God, by reciting Scripture. I’d like to suggest that we could use this wonderful Magnificat for our own personal praise time this season. The Psalms are also full of praise passages we could refer to.

So often this season I see the negative. People are struggling with joblessness, financial stress, the bitter cold and snow, illness. But I think it’s important to develop a heart of praise. This Christmas season would be a wonderful time to do just that. Maybe the Magnificat can get us started: “My soul glorifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.”

With that thought, I can see this as a truly merry Christmas.

Monday, December 13, 2010

How to Pray for Others

It’s always agreeable to receive encouragement from our followers, but the message below was especially meaningful. Traci identified specific ways she was praying for the ministry and for me personally, and I saw her prayers as a vital ministry in itself. I asked her for permission to share her words with you, because I thought we might all benefit from seeing her approach to prayer. Her practice of prayer can apply to our prayers for anyone else, for our co-workers, for our families, or even for our “enemies” (Matthew 5:44).

“Sometimes I just think about how thankful I am that God sent you to me and how much I have learned from you and The Christian Working Woman. I am thinking what an example you have been – an excellent example. I am thinking of how weak I was when I started working and was blown away by the things that I experienced. In the beginning I just didn’t know how to handle things. I was such a wimp! I am remembering all the days I would take off because I didn’t want to deal with people or situations. Wow. God must have said, “This poor child of mine needs help!” Just as I was moving on to another job, because I had quit one, I was introduced to you and your ministry. Just in time, because the new job would really be something else, and I experienced all kinds of unbelievable things. But thanks to you and God, I did not quit and learned how to handle things and people. Not only have you helped me with my job, but you have helped me with my life. A big part of the reason I have grown so close to the Lord is because of your teaching. Thank you.”

“So anyway, I continue to pray for you personally and for the ministry. I am praying that your personal needs are met. God knows what they are. I pray for the ministry of The Christian Working Woman. I pray that all of your financial needs be met: technical costs, salaries, services, supplies, materials, daily costs. I pray for each of your bills, program costs, travel, equipment....and everything else. I am praying for overflow of finances so that you will be able to continue to be such a blessing to others. What you need, God's got it. He's got everything you need.”

 “I am praying for your continued health, joy and peace. May the Lord tell you what to do, when to do it and what to say. May He encourage you in a very special way so that you know that He sees you and loves you with all of His giant, enormous, world-wide sized heart. May you feel His loving, comforting arms around you and always know that He is with you.”

And reader, that is what I pray for you.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Calling All Singles...With Money

One single woman told me she had never done anything to prepare for retirement, figuring someday she would be married. Well, at 34 she realized it was time she start doing something. She asked how she should begin.

Single people often delay financial planning. I think a lot of singles postpone these financial decisions assuming they will be married at some point. Some singles reason that since they are alone, they should be entitled to live large in compensation. That can lead to an empty bank account later in life. It’s very wise to start a retirement program while you’re young. Being single may be a permanent situation, so waiting to start good financial planning may never end. The time is now.

Proverbs 13:11 teaches us that “he who gathers money little by little makes it grow,” and that’s where you should begin. You might try to designate as large an amount as possible to invest in a savings plan. If your company offers any kind of matching retirement plan, that may be the way to go. Investigate different methods, but most importantly start putting away a definite amount each paycheck. Have it deducted if possible. Whether you marry or not, this is a wise thing to do.

Do you have other suggestions to offer? What advice would you like to pass along?