Wow guys. Just wow. 2018 where did you go? How is it that you are almost over? I liked you 2018; probably more than I liked 2017 or a few of the other recent years. But as a whole, I’m just grateful. Exceedingly grateful and blessed. As Dave Ramsey always says, “I’m doing better than I deserve.” Praise God. Another year in the books. Another trip around the sun. When you step back and look at a year, it’s a great time to just give thanks and be in awe of our Creator God.
I won’t recap this year and I don’t want to get into a ton of vision-casting for next year as we’ll be touching on that more in the following weeks. So this week is kind of that awkward in-between week. The week where it seems not much productive happens…do you feel that way too? I mean it really seems like a “dead week” where we just kind of exist a little bit. I think that’s ok. I think existing is good. (I might be in a weird mood, so bear with me!)
I look at chunk of time like a year and it causes me to reflect. I’m naturally drawn to that pondering, nostalgia-loving part of my brain anyway. So when I think about a year gone by, I start to get a bit sentimental. This seeming acceleration of days, weeks, and months causes me to really consider the brevity of life. Life is so short. And it is such a gift. How am I living it? How am I spending my hours in both faithful diligence to the calling God has given me and constant vigilance to His soon return? Digging in, let’s go there and be a bit “big picture” for the next few minutes. Here are a few questions to consider:
1. Are we seeing what we need to see?
You and I know what is at stake when we think about living for Christ and the accompanying call we live out. We hear it so much, we can basically regurgitate it on command. Sermons every Sunday about being bold. Songs on the radio calling us out into confidence and trust. Books about having massive faith. Devotionals, conferences, study Bibles, TV evangelists, social media posts…we get it from so many angles within modern Christianity. But I think in hearing something too much from too many sources, there can be an inherent trip fall. We can start to avoid “taking our own medicine” and stop practicing what we hear because we get desensitized to it.
A prayer I have prayed more often lately is for the Lord to give me eyes and ears of discernment. To see a bigger picture of what He sees and what He wants me to see. I’ve been led to ask for that because I get very tunnel-visioned and focused on myself. Even in my assumption that I’m doing all of this for the Lord, I start to focus less on His glory and more on my needs and wanting to build my kingdom. So are we seeing what we need to see as we look around? Are we allowing the truths of Scripture to penetrate our hearts and not just going away with this surface-level faith; a faith that can come as we binge on spirituality from multiple sources. I hope my point is clear: as Paul says, I don’t want to be a “resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.” I don’t want to be additional noise. I want to be someone who truly listens to the Lord and seeks His will and His purposes above my own.
2. Are we being salt and light?
You are the salt of the earth…You are the light of the world. Matthew 5:13,14
I read the words of Jesus here in Matthew and realize one thing: if we do not add salt and light to this world, no one else is going to do it. It seems like a no-brainer but I understand there is an inherent charge within this command. Jesus is calling us to stand out. Saltiness gives flavor. If a dish is bland and unpalatable, we add salt to it. That way it tastes better and you actually want to consume it. If a room is dark, we add light so we can see. If we stumble around in the dark, we’ll never find the thing we are looking for or the place we want to go.
Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. Matthew 5:16
This salt-giving and light-bearing responsibility has a purpose: it brings glory to God and allows people to see Him. As I finish 2018 and reflect on a year that is almost gone, I consider what kind of Christian I have been. Have I pointed anyone to the Father? Have I displayed His light to my wife and my kids? To my co-workers? To those I labor in ministry beside and before? Those questions are worth asking from time-to-time and definitely worth a full consideration before we enter a new year.
3. Are we redeeming the time?
Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. Ephesians 5:15-17
Time seems to accelerate like a snowball rolling down a hill. It grows bigger and moves faster the further it goes. It seems the longer I live, the faster the years go by. I can imagine it will feel like a snap of the finger and I’ll be here again next December typing out another “year end blog” with a similar sentiment.
So what are we to do when we know life is short and the days are evil?
I keep coming back to the focus of this past November’s HOMEFIRES series: we have to re-evaluate our priorities, re-center ourselves on Christ, and re-examine what truly matters. If I am doing all of those things, I am consciously aware that time has value and I must steward it well. I have to live each day as if it is my last. Paul writes that we must live “not as unwise but as wise.” To be a good steward of time brings a level of wisdom. I’ll readily admit I’m not as wise as I would hope to be. But I’m also wiser than I was. My increasing age brings the realization that I have less and less “trips around the sun” to take. How much more then, the need to “make the most of every opportunity?” No more wasted days and half-hearted efforts. All or nothing, 24/7, 365. Who’s with me?
I’ve loved writing this blog and the journey it has taken us on this year. I could not imagine when I started writing in 2017 that I’d still be doing this. I probably expected to burn out at some point or simply run out of ideas to keep writing. But God keeps planting things and stirring things in me to say. He gives me a drive to keep going. I hope and pray that it’s what you need to hear and brings you encouragement. We fight the good fight of the faith together. No man is an island. We need each other in this race in order to finish strong and finish well. 2018 is almost a memory. Let’s go into 2019 full of expectation and wide-eyed wonder of what our God can and will do!
I love you all! Have a blessed New Year’s!