Pastor’s Ponderings: September 2020

by John Armstrong
 

William Shakespeare wrote the familiar words, “A rose by any other name, would smell as sweet.”  I have often taken that phrase from Romeo and Juliet and changed it from positive to negative.  Saying something like, “A rotten potato by any other name, would smell as bad.”  I guess it is just the Calvinist in me.  We definitely have a tendency to think more highly of ourselves than we ought.  When we are confronted with the truth of the depravity of our own heart, we should give up the folly of our thinking well of ourselves.  One of the real problems that every believer faces is understanding the sinfulness of our sin.  You have probably heard sin called many things such as “rebellion” or “cosmic treason” or just “evil.”  It is certainly all of those things and more.  As disciples of the Lord Jesus, we are supposed to be bothered by our sin, we should find it repugnant and wretched.  Kind of like that rotten potato, but actually much worse.  If you have ever had a rotten potato in your house you know what I’m talking about.  The smell is horrendous and you will not rest until you get rid of it.  That is the way we are to deal with sin.  When we catch that tell-tale stench of sin, we need to immediately run to the Lord and confess that sin and ask for help to put it to death, to root it up and get it out of our life.  We need to realize first and foremost in dealing with sin, that we can’t do it ourselves.  Apart from the work of the Holy Spirit applying Christ to our lives, we’ll never take sin seriously. If, by God’s grace, you are desiring to take sin more seriously, then there is something you should know.  First, you don’t need to study sin, you don’t need to go meditate and contemplate your sin, that will not get you where you need to go.  We start with studying Jesus Christ.  Spend your time meditating and contemplating on the person of Jesus.  Study His deity, His righteousness, His holiness, and His justice.  The more you understand the holiness of God, the more you will be equipped to understand the sinfulness of sin.  A clear vision of God will expose your sin for what it is, you don’t need to go searching for it, it will come to light and by God’s grace you can then take it to the Lord for cleansing.  Maybe you are like me, you hate your sin, but you often go about trying to rid yourself of it in the wrong ways.  We need more of Jesus, not more of trying harder to do better.  We need gospel truths to seep into every part of our lives and fill us up to overflowing with the grace of Christ.  Do you want that?  That is a godly desire that comes from God working in your life.  If it is there, be encouraged.

 

It is September already, where did the time go? This is the time when we start things afresh at church.  I hope you will determine to join us in the various ways we are seeking to grow in our knowledge of Jesus and in our sharing Him with others.  Now is the time to take seriously your sin and pursue more of Christ. 



Pastor’s Ponderings: August 2020

by John Armstrong
 

It is hot outside.  It is hot outside and the air conditioner for the Fellowship Hall needs a new compressor.  It was new back in the 70s, but like so many things that have been around that long, replacement parts are rare or non-existent.  In our case, the technicians can’t find a replacement, so, it is time to replace the whole unit.  That is just part of living in this fallen world, things break and need to be repaired and when they can’t be repaired, they need to be replaced.  We have another unit that serves the middle section of the church and that unit is of the same age as the Fellowship Hall unit.  Therefore, a decision has been made to go ahead and replace that unit as well.  When we do that, “UV Air Scrubbers” will installed throughout our HVAC system in the church.  What does that mean?  It means that all the air being recirculated through the church will pass through an ultra-violet light unit that will purify the air and reduce particles that can irritate allergies and asthma.  As well as, protecting people from dangerous contaminants and pollutants while also protecting heating and cooling systems from dust buildup.  Air conditioner breaking in the middle of a heat wave, bummer.  Being able to afford to replace it and get new purifying technology, Praise the Lord! 

There a couple of reasons I wanted to share this with you.  First, the deacons are doing a good job of overseeing the needs of the physical plant and are working hard to be good stewards of the church’s financial resources.  Second, I want you to be aware of what is going on and to know that steps are being taken to provide a safe and secure facility in which we can worship and gather as the body of Christ.  Thirdly, I want to point out that God is in control of all things.  You are probably saying to yourself, “well, yeah, I know that.”  I’m saying this because we live in a world and in a time, that is rampant with so much bad news and unusual circumstances that it is very easy for us to lose sight of the fact that God is in control.  I sometimes feel as if it were not for bad news, we would have no news at all.  Of course that is not true, but there are those who are seeking to promote that kind of narrative in order to encourage us all to be fearful and dissatisfied.  Our enemy, Satan would have us to live in fear and dissatisfaction.  He wants us to be discontent, he wants us to feel like we are being harried and harassed on every side.  Why?  Go back to what I just said, so that we will tempted to forget that God is in control and that He is working out His holy will in spite of Satan’s best efforts to thwart it.  Our enemy, Satan is a created being.  Is he to be taken for granted, never.  He is a powerful and dangerous enemy, however, he can do nothing apart from God’s design.  So, be encouraged, even in the midst of trials and tribulations, because these things are short lived.  Our God reigns and He sits firmly established on His throne.  He will never be shaken and His people are the apple of His eye and He will deliver them all safely into His presence at the right time. Praise the Lord!  That is my message to you this August in 2020.  Praise the Lord!



Pastor’s Ponderings: July 2020

by John Armstrong
 

I’m just kind of reeling because it is full on Summer and I’m not sure what happened to Spring.  My tomato plants are about four feet tall and I’m already getting zucchini out of my garden.  As you all know this has been a very strange time in our world, in our nation, and in our communities, including our church community.  The stressors on us all have been much greater than I realized.  I used to think that I had a pretty high ability to absorb stress in my life.  When I was younger I would say stress didn’t really bother me.  I’ve spent almost all of my adult life living on the high side of the Holmes-Rahe Stress Inventory scale.  It took several thousand dollars’ worth of broken teeth and dental crowns for me to realize the stress I was under was being absorbed, but it was doing damage to me physically, and in turn emotionally.

 

In the past several years I’ve become more mindful of my stress levels and have put things in place in my life to help mitigate stress.  For one, I wear a night guard to protect my teeth.  I like my dentist, but I don’t want to give her anymore of my money than is absolutely necessary.  Also, I like going to the gym to work out.  Getting a good night’s sleep is also very important.  There are a number of other things that you can do to help lower your stress levels and I’ll leave you to your own investigation for those things.  However, I would say the best way to deal with stress in your life is to spend time with the Lord in His Word and in prayer.  This week I’ve been reading and reflecting on Psalm 131.  I think it is instructive for us in this time.

 

Psa. 131:0  A SONG OF ASCENTS. OF DAVID.

Psa. 131:1 O LORD, my heart is not lifted up;

                        my eyes are not raised too high;

             I do not occupy myself with things

                        too great and too marvelous for me.

2 But I have calmed and quieted my soul,

                        like a weaned child with its mother;

                        like a weaned child is my soul within me.

Psa. 131:3 O Israel, hope in the LORD

                        from this time forth and forevermore.

 

This is a psalm of humility that speaks to our need to not think more highly of ourselves than we ought.  In the midst of turmoil and uncertainty, none of us is happy, none of us like the times or issues we are confronted with. We want it all to change, and we want it now.  We must remember that we are not in charge.  What we want is not always best.  What we want may be counter to God’s will for our life.  Sometimes, fighting the turmoil and uncertainty to maintain your illusion of control is just so much futility.  In this psalm David is saying, stop striving to be God when you are not.  Get a grip on who you are in relation to God and then you will know peace in the midst of whatever comes.  The weaning process is not an easy one for a child as he or she learns to trust the mother fully to provide in a different way than what he or she has become accustomed.  There is a struggle, but that struggle ends with a child weaned from the breast and still fully dependent and trusting upon the mother.  How is it, that if we know God, that we can continue to struggle and be discontent?  I have made the point before, and I’m sure I’ll be making it for the rest of my life, by God’s grace, that “to know” God is not to just know about God.  To know God means to know Him experientially.  There is an element of knowledge that is information and facts stored up in our brains, but there is also the knowledge that only comes through experiencing God in His mercy and grace.  Seeing how He provides, how He delivers, how He saves, how He forgives, how He frees, how He strengthens, etc., etc., etc…  When we experience these things the head knowledge of God is translated to an experience that affirms and convinces.  Our faith is grown this way as the Holy Spirit moves in our lives and gives us understanding.  That knowledge (factual and experiential) serves to change us at our core, in our heart.  The Holy Spirit changes our hearts so that we become more like Jesus from our hearts outward and that changes who we are in our thinking, and acting.  That full-bodied knowledge of God, by His grace, enables us to trust Him even in the midst of the most difficult times.  Therefore, when we know God we can indeed be as that weaned child with his/her mother.  With that we close with the prayer of David for Israel (the people of God), O Israel, hope in the LORD from this time forth and forevermore.  No matter what we face today, no matter what tomorrow may bring, there is hope in the Lord.

 



Pastor’s Ponderings: June 2020

by John Armstrong
 
What is repentance? How do you measure repentance? There is repentance unto life and then
there is every day repentance. What are you in the process of repenting? Maybe you don’t
really know what repentance is. Repentance and faith are the two vital parts of the Christian
life. Reformed believers are quick to acknowledge that we are sinners saved by grace and then
seem to move on with life without much thought of the change we are called to and
empowered for by the Holy Spirit. Repentance is not something you are going to muster up in
yourself, it is a change of mind wrought in us by God. We see our sin and in repentance we
repudiate that sin and walk in such a way that we put that sin to death. Repentance is seen in
our lives by change over time. This is true for individuals and it is also true for the church, and
for the nation. We must acknowledge that we are sinners and we live among sinful people and
as sinful people living together we are guilty of corporate sins. The sins we tolerate as a people,
whether it be at the national level, or the church level, are sins for which we need to confess,
and ask God for the gift of forgiveness and repentance.
In our current national crisis, the sin of ethnic inequality has again come to the fore and is being
weaponized by various factions for all kinds of purposes depending on to whom you are
speaking. What are we as the church supposed to be doing? Our denomination, The
Presbyterian Church in America is predominantly white, and middle-class. There are very few
ethnic minorities in our denomination. By far, the ethnic minority most represented are
Koreans at 15% with many of those being in Korean language Presbyteries. About 1% of the
Teaching Elders in our denomination are African-American. I point that out just to give some
background about where we are coming from.
The events of the past weeks that highlight ethnic inequality and injustice are grievous to us as
Christians and they should be. As followers of the Lord Jesus, we of all people should be
concerned for life and peace, we should work to end oppression in all of its forms. How do we
do that? Maybe you are uncomfortable with some of this vocabulary, because what does this
word or that word mean? Depending on who you are and your experience, different words
take on different meanings. Therefore, we often talk past one another. That is why I’m pleased
that our denomination through its Committee on Discipleship Ministries (CDM) and Mission to
North America (MNA), are calling for a time of mourning and listening. The month of June was
set apart for 30 days of Gratitude (a time to pray and be grateful) that is now being postponed
as we instead take time to focus on the sin and brokenness around us having to do with ethnic
inequality and injustice. Let me encourage you to make the time to participate with our
denominational response that you can find here:
https://pcacdm.org/a-time-to-listen-a-time-to-mourn/
People are suffering in our midst and that should not be. As a Bible believing Christian, I believe
that every human being is created in the image of God and is worthy of respect simply on that
ground. There is one race, we are the human race, we all have the same blood veins, we all
have the same original sin of our first parents. There is therefore no place for injustice and
oppression. We may not all look the same, but those differences are purely superficial. We are
all sinners in need of a Savior, we are all sinners in need of repentance. One of the best ways
for us to repent is to mourn our brokenness and open our ears to hear those who are suffering.
Then, we will be better equipped to respond with the gospel of Jesus Christ to this hurting and
broken world in which we live.


Pastor’s Ponderings: May 2020

by John Armstrong
 

My wife and I enjoy the sport of scuba diving.  We have been divers since the second year of our marriage, so it has been a while.  If you are going to dive safely, you have to adhere to certain procedures.  Otherwise, you can develop very dangerous conditions in a big hurry because nitrogen begins to build up in your blood stream.  When you are ascending you always rise at a rate slower than your exhaust bubbles, and you always spend the last five minutes of your dive at 15’ below the surface to make sure that your nitrogen levels have an opportunity to return to normal and you can safely exit the water.  Those are just two of the basic rules that help to ensure a safe dive.  Now, I’m not interested in talking about diving particularly, but the illustration serves well in our current situation with the Coronavirus restrictions.

 

As we come into the month of May, some of the restrictions we have been living under will be lifted.  The government is going to try to ease us back to a place of normal routine over an undetermined amount of time.  There is plenty of other stuff being written about that elsewhere so I’ll leave that for now and focus on our situation as a church in particular.  We are anxious to get back together for worship and small group and other activities.  We are going to have to phase into those things as the restrictions are slowly lifted.  It appears that we will be able to return to having folks in worship together in the coming weeks, but that will be limited by numbers.  As we went into this thing, we went from 250 to 50 to 10 very quickly.  I’m guessing we’ll step back up through those same kinds of numbers on the way out.  So, how do we do worship when they say we can have a gathering of 50?  Who gets to come to worship and who stays home?  When will we start back with Sunday school?  Those are all questions the Session needs to address.  Keep in mind too, that as the restart begins and we are allowed to gather in larger numbers, we are still going to have to maintain social distancing.  Given the way our pews are situated, that means we are going to have to work out a plan to spread people out.  Children are a big factor in all of this as well, because they are not terribly proficient at  social distancing, nor are they really apt to understand.  So, there is a whole other layer of concern that needs to be addressed. 

 

Please understand this, the Session wants nothing more than to return to business as usual in our church function of worship, fellowship, and outreach.  We want to see our nursery and Sunday school classes full of our children and our adults sitting under solid teaching together and talking around the coffee urn, etc..  However, we also want to see that happen as safely as we can so that, to the best of our ability, no one is put in harm’s way.  I say that understanding full well that every breath and heart beat is a gift of God and there is no guarantee that the next one will come.  Our God is a good and sovereign God and His providence is perfect.  We are never completely safe from the ravages of this fallen world, but we are completely safe in Christ.  As Luther so aptly put it in his most famous hymn, “Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also, the body they may kill, God’s truth abideth still, His kingdom is forever!”  What he is saying in his musical adaption of Psalm 46 is that we are citizens of a heavenly kingdom.  We are not to be looking for our safety and reward in this fleeting earthly life, we are to look for it in our eternal life in the New Heavens and the New Earth.  I cannot tell you what tomorrow will bring, but I can say that as God gives us opportunity, we will move forward to return to normal function within our congregation as quickly as possible all the while seeking to be wise in how we do that.  Please stay connected to us through our social media and other communications.  We will try to be as forthcoming with information and instructions as we can.  Please continue praying for safety and health as well as a return to normal function.  I look forward to seeing you all again as soon as the Lord allows.

 



Pastor’s Ponderings: April 2020

by John Armstrong
 

I don’t know about you, but I would like someone to say, “April Fool!” and then we could all get back to our regular routine and this would all be just a strange memory.  However, that is not going to happen.  We find ourselves in the midst of a national crisis the likes of which have not been seen since World War II.  We are in a crisis that has gripped the entire globe and is wreaking havoc upon us in many different ways.  Obviously, there is the specter of the Covid-19 virus itself that is threatening our health and potentially our very lives.  The measures we are taking to prevent the spread of this disease are devastating our economy and we expect to come out on the other side of this in a very different world than what we were experiencing even a month ago.  Whom among us would have thought we would be doing our Sunday morning worship service with YouTube being the primary means of accessing that worship?  A month ago I would have said maybe for some folks who are having to stay home for one reason or another, but I never would have imagined at that point that we wouldn’t be able to gather in groups numbering more than 10.  It is almost overwhelming to take it all in.

 

So, what are we supposed to do with all of this?  We do what the true disciples of Christ have always done.  We turn to the Lord in prayer.  We turn to the Lord in Bible Study and Worship.  We turn to our neighbors and show them the love of Christ.  Who is my neighbor?  My neighbor is my spouse, my children, those living in the same house with me.  My neighbor is the person living next door or down the street or across town or in another state or even another country.  There are two kinds of neighbors, just like there are two kinds of people.  There are those who are trusting by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and there are those that are not.  So as we work to show the love of Christ we follow the injunction of Scripture that says, “9 And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. 10 So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith” (Galatians 6:9-10).

Let us love our brothers and sisters and fathers and mothers in Christ and let us not stop there but let us love those who don’t know Jesus yet.  May God the Holy Spirit work through us to show people the love of Jesus in our actions and in our words.  Do your neighbors see Jesus in you?  My prayer is that the Holy Spirit would indeed make that true in my life as I have opportunity to reach out to others.  I watched a great short video put out by our own Dr. Lloyd Kim, the Director of Mission to the World for the PCA.  He highlighted the fact that we are living in the midst of God doing something big in our own time.  Is this the gateway to revival like we have prayed for?  Let’s continue to pray for revival.  Pray expectantly, pray that God would use you.  Pray that God would use Faith Church.  Pray for strength and wisdom, pray for safety and health, but most of all pray for God’s great revival to come to His people and that we would respond in faith and repentance and that we would rise up and be the church.  All for His glory!  Come Quickly Lord Jesus!


Pastor’s Ponderings: March 2020

by John Armstrong

 

An important part of the job of any leader is thinking.  I know, some of you are saying to yourselves, “Wow, that is a real PhD statement there.”  Bear with me a moment as I state the obvious.  Sometimes the speed of life is such that I go from one thing to the next without much thought of anything else.  There is always one more thing waiting to be done.  There is this meeting and that meeting and this person or that person that needs to be seen.  The schedule gets full and the demands are such that not much thinking takes place.  What do I mean by thinking?  I’m referring to time to consider where I am in life, what is going on around me, what is the best course of action, where do I want to go, how do I get there, how do I bring others along with me, and why am I going this way?  I’m guessing this is an experience that many of you share. 

 

Busyness is a fairly common topic in this Pastor’s Pondering section of our monthly newsletter.  I come back to it often, because I recognize it is something I need to not just fight against, it is something I need wage war against.  Busyness is the enemy of good leadership.  It sneaks in and saps our strength by causing us to spend our best efforts on “good” things.  Reread that last sentence, I wrote it that way purposefully.  We need to spend our best efforts doing that which is best, not just doing that which is good.  How do you discern the difference between what is best and what is good?  I’ll tell you how I go about it.  I pray for the Lord to guide me into that which is best and to guard me from getting caught up in doing good to the point that I never get to what is best.  Satan would have us get really busy doing all kinds of “good” things so that we are exhausted and unable to that which is best.  Think about that.  The next time you are feeling tired and spent at the end of the day, ask yourself this question: “Did I do what is best today, or did I fill the time with just what was ‘good’?”  I hope you can see that which is “good”, when it gets in the way of what is “best”, is no longer good.

 

One of the things the elders on the Session are wrestling with is how do we do a better job of leading and shepherding the flock here at Faith Church.   One of our big challenges is getting people to join in the work of the ministry.  Many of the elders serve on multiple committees and are not as fruitful overall because they are spread too thin.  I include myself in that number.  I think we are going to be working over the coming months to try and change that.  What we are saying is we are going to try and change the 80/20 rule in the church.  The 80/20 rule says 80% of the work is done by 20% of the people.  That means we need to have a cultural shift in our church to recognize that 80/20 environment as not healthy.  Immediately, we need to see this as an impossible task apart from the Lord’s working in our midst.  We need to be diligent in prayer for this to change.  After that, this means more participation on the part of the laity and a different focus of effort on the part of the elders and deacons.  What are your gifts?  Where are you working?  Are you bearing fruit for the kingdom at Faith Church?  If not, why not?  Will you be a part of shifting the 80/20 culture in our church to change the rule to 100% of the work being done by at least 80% of the people?  When we get there, we’ll still need to be thoughtful about doing that which is best over that which is merely “good.”  However, we’ll be getting there together and that will be a fruitful enterprise.

 


Pastor’s Ponderings: February 2020

by John Armstrong
 

Growing pains, I know some people who have gone through them and it was not pleasant.  I don’t remember ever having growing pains while I was younger.  All the growing pains I’ve ever experienced have been from growing older and breaking down.  So, why would I be talking about growing pains?  Well, I’m sitting here waiting for a group to gather with an architect so we can get a bid on what it would cost to do a facilities review of our building and grounds.  We have come to a place as a church body, that we need to see how we might better use the space we have and find out if there is anything we can do beyond our current footprint in order to give us more space to grow. 

Growing is a good thing.  Healthy things grow.  If our kids don’t grow we become immediately concerned and do whatever we can to make sure they are experiencing healthy growth.  Why would that be any different when we are talking about the church?  The church needs to grow and by God’s grace, it is growing.  Again, healthy things grow.  So, growth is a sign of health (it is not the only sign, and certainly our growth must be measured in fruit being borne of faithful gospel ministry).  If we are rightly preaching the Gospel, then people should be growing individually as disciples of Christ and the church should be growing in number as people hear the gospel and are converted. 

Most of our growth has come from one of two ways.  First, we are certainly growing through childbirth which is a great praise and it is concerning our children where we are going to be feeling the growing pains most acutely.  Secondly, we have had a lot of what is typically called, “transfer” growth.  That is not a bad thing if people come to our church and find a place they can call home and get plugged in.  I’m not interested in “stealing sheep” from other churches so we don’t go around seeking to recruit people to transfer in, but if God brings them here, then praise the Lord!  The kind of growth the leadership would like to see and I think we can all agree is that of conversion growth.  We would love to see people coming and hearing the gospel and making professions of faith in Jesus Christ.  That means we need to pray for non-believers to come and then we need to be looking for non-believers to invite in.

Now, the fact is we are growing and we are faced with the challenges that presents.  In the short run, that means we are probably going to get a little more uncomfortable until we can change things to provide a more comfortable experience in our facilities.  What does that mean for you personally?  I think it means we are each going to need to be patient and understanding about our limitations within our facility.  It also means we need to be praying that God would work mightily in providing for the growth that we are experiencing and that He would continue to bless and grow us.  I praise God for this place He has brought us to, and am looking forward to where He is leading Faith Church.  



Pastor’s Ponderings: January 2020

by John Armstrong
 

It doesn’t seem all that long ago that we were worried about Y2K.  Here we are on the cusp of 2020 and what do we have in store for the next twenty years?  The last twenty went by in a flash.  I’m guessing the next twenty will be gone before we know it.  Life is like that and that shouldn’t surprise us. 

Listen to what James has to say about it in 4:13-15, Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”— 14 yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. 15 Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.”

None of us know what tomorrow will bring, that is true.  We make all kinds of elaborate plans and we all have dreams and desires, but none of us know if we’ll be given the days to fulfill those things.  We also need to realize that many of our dreams and desires are self-serving and not in line with the will of God. 

OK, you’re probably thinking, that pastor is one of those “glass half-empty” kind of guys.  Well, I have to admit, I can be that way.  But look what the Bible has to say about it.  Our life is like a vapor or a mist that is at once here and before you know it is gone.  So what are we supposed to do with that?  This is where you find the competing philosophies of life.  You have on one side the man-focused philosophies that are represented by the old Schlitz Beer Commercials whose slogan was, “You only go around once in life, so you have to grab for all the gusto you can…”  Another way of putting this is often seen on bumper stickers that say, “He who dies with the most toys wins.” 

If all there is in life is serving yourself, then the whole purpose of life must be to do everything you can to make yourself happy.  That becomes a miserable existence, because serving the idol of self is never satisfying, because you are not God and you don’t have the capability of satisfying yourself. The only satisfaction in this life will be found in living this life as you were designed and created to live it.  God designed to find your deepest satisfaction and fulfillment in serving Him.  Any philosophy, any way of life that doesn’t take you in that direction is going to be ultimately dissatisfying. 

Come back to James and look at the text.  He isn’t saying don’t make plans, he is saying commit your plans to the Lord knowing that He is sovereign over all things.  Serve the Lord with the life that you have been given, serve Him in the place where you find yourself.  As He opens doors for you, go through them and pursue knowing and growing in Christ. This is where we come to another verse that sheds light on this life for us: Matthew 10: 39 Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.  There are folks out there making all kinds of money telling you how to have your best life now.  Your best life now is all about losing your life and taking up your cross in order to follow Jesus.  This life will be over all too soon, don’t waste it trying to find satisfaction in things that could never deliver.  If you want your best life now and forever, put off the old man and put on the new and follow Jesus.

My prayer is that 2020 will be a year full of life for you and for our church.  May the Lord guide and direct our steps for His glory as we face this year and in Him may we have life and that abundantly. 



Pastor’s Ponderings: December 2019

by John Armstrong
 
Thanksgiving is passed us and soon Christmas will be a memory and a New Year will begin, but
let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves. Time is relentless in its undeterred march ever onward.
The questions we must be asking ourselves is what are we doing with the time we have been
given. It is a question that needs to be asked often. You know as well as I do that at the end of
December there will be the dreaded New Year’s resolutions. I think it is a good thing to take
time out from time to time to take stock of our lives and how we are living them. I submit to
you, while you are dreading the New Year’s resolution thing, that we should be taking time
daily to do brief reviews of our lives. That should be part of our daily prayer life. We do well to
also have a weekly or bi-weekly time where we check in with a trusted friend or mentor with
whom we have a discipleship relationship. Then we also do well to take some time to have
more serious reflection on how things are going in our life. As we come into the Holiday Season
with Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year, we are faced with a time that is tailor made for
reflection. What are you thankful for? What difference does the birth of Jesus make in your
life? How are you going to serve Jesus this year? These are a couple of simple questions for
any Christian as we experience these holidays. There are a bunch of questions like that I could
ask. Then the question becomes, will I ask those of myself? Will I take an honestly searching
look at my life and invite the Holy Spirit to shine His light into the dark recesses of my life and
clean out the clutter that is there. That takes real courage. That takes Holy Spirit enabled
courage.
Now, hear me clearly, I’m not advocating a morbid introspection, where you spend long hours
determining all the ways you fail the Lord day to day. That is not healthy spiritually or
emotionally. You should already know that you are a hopeless sinner. Otherwise, why would
the Son of God have to die to save you? Don’t ever think this is about holy navel gazing so that
you can try harder to do better. That is not a godly pursuit. When the Holy Spirit convicts you
of sin, confess it and repent. Repentance means that you are going to take steps to put that sin
to death. In other words you are going to work at not doing that sin anymore. Confession is
agreeing with God that you sin is sin, and repentance is agreeing with God that sin doesn’t
belong in your life and you are seeking the Holy Spirit’s help to put that sin to death, by the
grace of God, for the glory of God, because He loves you and you want to show your love for
Him. If you come to Him in times of reflecting asking, “Search me, O God, and know my heart!
Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the
way everlasting (Psalm 139:23-24)!” If that is the attitude in your reflection, then you will be
well prepared to receive God’s direction for how He would have you move forward in your life
in service to Him.