God’s Review of My Spiritual Performance 2013-2014

JIPC Welcome Center

JIPC Welcome Center

I sit here on vacation, on New Year’s Eve 2013, reviewing the life I have led this past year.

Recently, I put in a request for a review of my work as a Controller of a company of which I have been employed for the past 14 years.  It had been three years since my last performance and salary review.  I put together a summation of some of the important issues that I have handled including expense cuts, employee relations, business deals, and the monetary gains that I have accomplished for them.  I highlighted all the good that I felt I had done and the plans that I have for the future.  Needless to say, I did NOT include anything that I felt was a underachievement or loss experienced by the company due to my performance.

The purpose of a review is usually to give some feedback and to plan for what training one might need, what skill areas to develop further, and how one might be better utilized in the workplace.  It is also to evaluate how one’s relationships with the supervisor/boss and fellow employees are going.

Not only do we expect to be rewarded in our work by salary consideration, but we’ve had reviews and expected rewards throughout our entire lives.  Look back to your education, report cards and graduation achievements as well as sports banquets and trophies.

Yet how often do we review how we’ve performed in the past in our Christian life and what goals we have for the future in our spiritual life?

Jesus stated:  “And I tell you this, you must give an account on judgment day for every idle word you speak”(Matthew 12:36, NLT).

Paul stated: “For we must all stand before Christ to be judged. We will each receive whatever we deserve for the good or evil we have done in this earthly body” (2 Corinthians 5:10, NLT).

And Jeremiah stated: “But I, the Lord, search all hearts and examine secret motives. I give all people their due rewards, according to what their actions deserve” (Jeremiah 17:10, NLT).

So what kind of relationship do I have with THE BOSS?  How am I doing with the plans that God has for me?  Have I met the goals that He has set for me over the past year?  Is there additional training that I need to go through in 2014?  Have I earned any other praise or rewards from God in addition to the free gift of eternal life?

I pretty much deserved what I received in my work performance review this year.  I did receive a raise! But in my Christian life, I believe that I have failed far more than I should have in the work the Lord gave me to do.  I succeeded in my career BECAUSE I put that first over the past six months due to circumstances.  But in so doing, I have put some of God’s work on a back-burner.  I feel like I haven’t put forth enough effort in personal relationships with my fellow parishioners that I normally do.  And I have felt the conviction of the Holy Spirit within me – knowing I have failed in fully utilizing the gift of hospitality, which God has given me.  I have grieved the Holy Spirit; I feel it in my poor soul.

And yet, I have accomplished some things in my 2013 Christian walk.  I have read His Word daily and read the Bible in its entirety.  I have participated in small group Bible study and Christian fellowship.  I have ministered to Earl as my husband and my pastor as well as to those within the church who have had pastoral needs.  I have visited those hospitalized and in hospice.  I have fed the hungry at the Charleston Shelter and volunteered my time at the James Island Outreach Food Bank and remained a board member.  I became the liaison on the Charleston-Atlantic Presbytery Presbyterian Women’s  Team.

Yesterday, I went with Earl to visit a woman named Libba whom we dearly love from our previous church.  Her husband Floyd passed away in recent weeks.  He was one of the members of the pastor nominating committee that brought Earl to that church in 2006.  He was a dear man, full of the Spirit and a determined follower of the Lord.  Our visit with Libba brought tears to both Earl’s and my eyes.  These are the kind of ministries that I know God wants me to do more.  These personal visits with the elderly are what bring a smile to my soul and bring joy deep within me from the Holy Spirit.

Visiting Parishioners

Visiting Parishioners

I have reviewed my Christian performance for 2013, and I have made plans for 2014.  The elderly are my passion.  Spending more time with people and offering them the love of Jesus is my New Year’s resolution.  I believe my relationship with God will grow a little deeper and a lot stronger as I bend my will even more to His will.  And on that glorious judgment day, I pray that I will hear, “Well done, My good and faithful servant.”To each of you –  Happy New Year and may your life be full of the work of the Holy Spirit and the blessings from our God on High!

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Low Man on the Totem Pole and No Problem with That!

Galatians 5:13 “For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love, serve one another.”

In VanCouver Canada 2012

In VanCouver Canada 2012

A lot of people may have a huge problem with the scripture above. Why? Because probably most people want to be served, not to be a servant.

We are a society that focuses on self and pleasing ourselves, and this is a far cry from the example that Christ gave us to serve others. We are taught in our Christian belief that once we become a Christian, we have a new nature alongside our old nature; we begin to reflect on the very acts and manner of Christ. We can choose between following our old desires and lusts or following the Holy Spirit within us.

Once God calls us and enables us, it’s easy to accept Christ as our Savior and trust Him to save us. The Holy Spirit moves us to do so. But Christians sometimes stop right there. They understand that acceptance of Christ offers forgiveness of sins – past, present and future. But Christians may count on this gift from God to see them through life -regardless of whether they continue to follow their old natures. But the Holy Spirit prompts followers of Jesus to change their focus on self. The Spirit continues to educate and change us into what God intends for us to be in Christ. The freedom we have in following Christ transforms us into wanting to be more like Him – not doing anything our old nature tells us to do and simply receiving forgiveness. This spiritual transformation freely allows us to shed what we once considered important: ourselves, and sense that others are also equally important to Christ. That transformation leads us to not only listen to His voice, but to move us into service to others. The service that He calls us to engage varies greatly. Some are called into the mission fields, others to the pulpit, and to many other less visible positions in the church.

I have to say at this stage in my Christian walk, I am content to simply be a servant of The Lord. And I’m even happier to be called to be engaged in positions that most folks would consider low on the totem pole. Give me the opportunity to meet and greet new people coming into our church. Give me the opportunity to go out into the community and help feed the hungry. Give me the opportunity to visit folks in the hospital or bring a meal to those who are experiencing illness at home. Give me the opportunity to hold the hand of an elderly person or to hug someone who doesn’t get a hug from anyone else, and I am genuinely happy.

I have recently been granted the wonderful opportunity to help our new members become more connected and integrated into our church family. I am helping them to find those small groups, circles, ministries, members, and committees that they feel God may be asking them to serve. God might use me to help them find their God-given gifts to share with others.

I love being with God’s people, doing what God has called me to do. I know that God has given me the gift of hospitality, and I am currently planning a dinner party for these wonderful new members, just so we can get to know them better. These are the people that God has given me to lift up in pray and care, and what a magnificent pleasure to be in Christ’s service even low on the totem pole!

Message of the Beatitudes – Six – Pure in Heart

Jesus said the pure in heart are blessed because they will see God.  Matthew 5:8

Our fellowship with God and knowledge of His ways depends on our purity of heart.  Jesus is saying that to receive the blessing of seeing God, we must become like God.  But how does that happen?

It’s possible to be passionate about God, spend time with Him regularly and still sin.  To become more pure in heart requires a thorough inspection of all of our faults and sinful ways and then asking God to do what is necessary in our lives to cleanse our souls.  No, we cannot cleanse ourselves of our sinful nature, but we can take steps by identifying the problem(s) by His Holy Spirit and then asking God to remove them.

This may be a stretch as an analogy, but when I think about cleansing my soul in order to see God, I keep thinking of what it takes in order to prepare for and endure a colonoscopy.  YUCK!!  Ok, let me tell you how my mind works!  We first acknowledge that we may have a sin problem, we seek the advice of a Doctor (The Great Physician, God), Who then recommends that we go through a procedure of cleansing by His Holy Spirit.  It involves filling us up with His Spiritual presence and allowing Him to purge us.

1)      Sometimes we have trouble acknowledging that we have any problem at all and we continue to feel the results of the imperfections of sins that are affecting our life – not seeking any advice from the Great Physician at all.

2)      Other times we acknowledge that there may be a problem, we seek advice but we don’t like what we hear has to happen in order to cleanse the imperfections from our life, so we leave the doctor’s office and don’t do anything with the advice because it may cause some discomfort in our comfortable lives.

3)      Then there are those that acknowledge the problem, seek advice and regardless of the disruption it causes to cleanse the imperfections out of our lives, we prepare ourselves and do all we can possibly do to remove all the bad behavior from our life.  And when we are finished, we ask the Doctor to do His part to look and see if there is anything left that needs to be removed in order for us to go forward and live a life full of His presence.

So how do we become pure in heart?  Psalm 139:23-24 states: “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.  See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting”.  Because “…the Lord searches every heart and understands every motive behind the thoughts” (1 Chronicles 28:9).

You must do some serious soul searching and ask God to help you discern what it is in your life that is literally offensive to God.  He knows and understands your motives.  If your motives are not God centered, you are offending Him and hence, unclean – impure!

Once you’ve reflected and identified the offense(s), you need to repent (confess to God and turn away or repent from the sin in your life with His strength).  When you are tempted by Satan, do what Jesus did when He was tempted by Satan, reflect on God’s Word.  Filling your mind with the Scriptures helps ensure that you stay strong.  Knowing Scripture, makes you know God and knowing God, makes you become more like Him.

Seeing God –  Be Blessed.

Message of the Beatitudes – Five – Merciful

Matthew 5:7 “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.”

Life is a struggle.  We fear.  Life hurts.  Now we’ve been judged by others.  When life throws us into a pit, and we can’t find a way to climb out, who has shown us mercy and offered us a hand to get out?  Sometimes we only catch a glimpse of judgment on the faces of those who see us suffering – as if they’ve never worn anyone else’s shoes and have never been down-trodden.

But perhaps judgmental reactions are what they received while down in their own pit, and it’s the only reaction they understand.  Perhaps their behavior is due to their unbroken spirits in the Lord. They do not acknowledge that God has shown them mercy, and that they have more power to show mercy once they experience it themselves.  But to experience mercy, we all must acknowledge that we owe God a great debt and that we are unable to repay it and that God has offered to forgive us, undeservedly.  Mercy is a form of grace, which is undeserved favor.  Mercy is undeserved compassion and forgiveness.

So let’s back up for one moment.  What is mercy?  Mercy is an active empathy extended to relieve someone in misery, pain and/or distress, regardless of who it is.  This includes our enemies.    We should be on the lookout for those in distress and not pass by on the other side of the road.  We should have a heart of pity and our deepest desire should be to help no matter who the sufferer is.

Jesus lived a life of mercy.  He spent His time surrounded by those less fortunate; he suffered with the suffering, the addicted, the homeless and the prostitutes.  With whom do we surround ourselves?  What judgmental attitudes block our ability to extend mercy?  God’s desire is to be seen through us.  The Holy Spirit desires to penetrate that which hinders us from being God’s light to a suffering world.  

Have we become an indifferent people?  Are we now a people who lack concern for others?  If we have suffered, we should be the first to show compassion and mercy upon those that are suffering.  For we know that God pulled us up out of our pits when God showed mercy on us.  We should never condemn others.  Yet if someone stumbles, we are not to accept their sin as good, but we are to lend a helping hand and offer them God’s forgiveness.  Even Jesus said to the adulterous woman, who was condemned by the Pharisee’s, “Where are they?  Has no one condemned you?”  When she indicated that nobody had, Jesus then mercifully said, “Then neither do I condemn you.  Go now, and leave your life of sin.”

Suffering is not always for no reason.  Suffering allows us to become better Christians – having compassion for those who are suffering perhaps something we’ve suffered ourselves.  What have we suffered and how can we use that experience to help a fellow brother/sister through the trials or sins in which they find themselves?

For one of the greatest blessings of receiving mercy is to be merciful ourselves.

Message of the Beatitudes – Two – Mourn

Matthew 5:4 – “Blessed are they that mourn; for they shall be comforted

     What comes to your mind when you think of mourning?  To mourn or lament is to express passionate grief from the soul.  How many of us have ever grieved so hard that we couldn’t speak, we couldn’t function, we couldn’t think straight?  Our tears were like rivers overflowing, and we were inconsolable.  Think of this as your soul mourning.  But is there anything that we should mourn? 

  • We should mourn our sins because they have hurt others and grieved God
  • We should mourn those who are out of relationship with God
  • We should mourn the unrepentant
  • We should mourn our poor spiritual condition

After our first beatitude “Blessed are the poor in spirit” where we admitted our need for God and denied self, we must now ask God to cleanse our souls of all unrighteousness.   In Romans 8:26-27 “And in the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groaning’s to deep for words; and He who searches the heart knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because he intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.”

In mourning, we allow the Holy Spirit to cleanse us.  It is in this grief process, that we allow God to take the hurt, sin and renew our poor spiritual condition, forgive us, and allow us to forgive others and at the same time, to restore our souls to what God intended us to be. 

As we age, we naturally tend to become more jaded, hard-hearted, and less compassionate.  We tend to have a “what-ever” attitude.  It takes a lot for us to grieve others’ misfortunes.  We tend to think; if only they made better choices, pulled up their bootstraps, worked a little harder…etc.  We lose sight of the most telling attributes of Christ: His love and His compassion. 

So this means mourning all those who may not be in the right spirit with God.  So as not to sound judgmental, let me tell you about my grandfather.  Many years ago, in my Baptist life, I must have brought the subject of Jesus up with my grandfather one too many times.  Finally, he had had enough of the debates, and he informed me that he was an atheist and if he came from dust, then to the dust he’d go back.  He had no desire to determine if there was a God or even if there was an afterlife.  And then he told me that if I brought the subject up again, he would have nothing more to do with me.  I was stunned.  I was hurt.  I was so very sad.  My soul grieved for my grandfather’s soul, and I prayed for years that he would have a change of heart. 

When we don’t truly grieve our poor souls and the poor souls of others, we are not emulating Christ.  Jesus gave voice to the anguish in His soul.  He grieved over Jerusalem, He grieved somewhat His imminent death, He grieved abandonment, and He grieved those who persecuted Him.  He was in prayer with the Father always for Himself and for others.  Receive the blessing of being comforted by having God who cleanses our souls of all unrighteousness and who grieves the souls of others.

One of the most comforting verses I know comes from Psalm 55:22, “Cast your burden upon the Lord, and he will sustain you; he will never allow the righteous to be shaken”.

God Breathed….LIFE

Recently I was studying a Sunday school lesson, and I was in the book of Luke Chapter 24. At the same time I was working on another study for my women’s circle that concerned the soul.  I was researching the 7th Beatitude “Blessed are the peacemakers…”  As I was surfing the internet, I came upon a site that suggested that the body was the soul of human beings.  This was the first time I had ever heard of such an idea, and it apparently is something many people are considering.

Each morning I listen to the music on my alarm clock and the station programmed is that of the local Christian radio station.  A song was playing, and God spoke to me when the lyrics said “God Breathed”.  Between the research and the song, I wanted to enjoy a moment reflecting on the essence of life and share it with you.

Genesis 2:7 “Then the LORD God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.”

It seems to me that our bodies were created separately from our souls. It wasn’t until God breathed into man’s flesh that we became a living being.  Our bodies couldn’t function without God’s breath.  Our souls are the very living breath of God.

Then I looked at Psalm 39:11 “….Surely every man is a mere breath.”  Man is nothing without the breath of God.  How awesome is that, that our souls came alive by the mere breath of God.

Look at Ezekiel 37:9, “thus says the Lord GOD, “come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe on these slain, that they come to life.” Ezekiel 37:10 “…and the breath came into them, and they came to life.”  Ezekiel 37:14 “And I will put My Spirit within you, and you will come to life…declares the Lord.”  Our souls are a reflection of God’s eternal existence.

Without the breath of God, we cannot exist.  But God did not breathe life into us for the purpose of giving ourselves pleasure.  He breathed us into life to give Him pleasure and to serve Him.  For He commanded man to fill the earth, and to rule over all the living things on the earth. It is only our selfish attitudes that keep us from aspiring to the good that God has seen in us from the beginning.  It is only our selfish attitudes that keep us from serving God with the gifts that He has given us to use for His Kingdom’s sake, and we selfishly serve ourselves instead.

So what are we doing that brings God joy and pleasure?  What service are we performing for His glory?  As a Christian leader, it should be our pleasure to be in His service and to help bring our Christian brothers and sisters into service as well.  For what did Jesus speak to the disciples upon His resurrection when He showed Himself to them in the locked upper room?  John 20:21 “Jesus therefore said to them again, ‘Peace be with you; as the Father has sent Me, I also send you.’  And when he had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.’”  Our spirits are made in the image of the Spirit of God.  For He said, “Let us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness;” Genesis 1:26 

 Jesus came to breathe the Holy Spirit into His disciples so that they could go out – be sent – in service to Him.  And by believing in Him you may have true LIFE in His name everlasting.

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