Reflection and Taking Spiritual Inventory
Spiritual Inventory

When I was in high school, I worked in the toy department of a department store. Twice a year, we prepared for an outside firm to take inventory. We worked with these teams to count every item on the shelves, and I do mean every item. We even included incomplete or damaged toys and games to ensure everything was counted.

Today I apply the concept of taking inventory in other areas of life. For example, before I head out to the supermarket, I examine the pantry and the refrigerator to determine what we need. On those occasions when I forget this important step, the result is too many of some groceries and not enough of others.

What was good for the toy department and for my pantry is also good for my spiritual life. I need to take spiritual inventory on a regular basis to evaluate my condition. The end of one year and the beginning of another seems to be the right time to ask myself some pointed questions. This week I am:

Taking stock

Proverbs 27:23 tells us to “Be sure you know the condition of your flocks, give careful attention to your herds.” In biblical times, wealth was often measured by the size of one’s flocks and herds.

Today we usually measure wealth by the size of our bank accounts. But true wealth has nothing to do with counting dollars. So I will be asking myself:

  • How have I grown in my relationship with the Lord this past year?
  • Which fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) have I cultivated?
  • How have my earthly relationships grown and developed?

Checking up

Psalm 139:23 gives us a glimpse into King David’s heart as he pleaded with God: “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.”

It’s natural to want to avoid dealing with unpleasant things. But some things must be dealt with or the consequences will be worse than the confrontation! I may not want to face the areas of my life that require changing, but I do want to be all God desires for me to be. This means asking:         

  • What habits from the old year am I dragging into the new year?
  • What bitterness or resentment do I need to release?
  • Who do I need to forgive before the new year begins?

Planning for the new year

Proverbs 16:3 admonishes us, “Commit your works to the Lord and your plans will be established.”

Like many people, I live a busy life. Without plans and lists, my schedule would soon fall apart. But I also want to be sensitive to God’s plans for me, because I know He has them!

Jeremiah 29:11 reminds me, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” While this promise is specifically for the nation of Israel, the applicable truth for me today is that God does, indeed lead me according to His best for my life. The question is, am I following His leading so I can experience His best for me?

In order to be available for what God desires for me, I am asking myself:

  • Am I serving where I want to serve or where God has called me to serve?
  • How tightly am I holding on to my own agenda and ambitions?
  • How much flexibility is there in my calendar? Am I open to God’s interruptions?

One year from now, I hope to do this exercise again. And it’s my prayer that I will not have wasted the time God extended to me.

What questions are you asking yourself as this year ends and the new year begins?

Joy to the World
Joy to the World

The gifts are wrapped and tagged. Cookies are baked and decorated. I’ve watched Christmas made-for-TV movies until even I’ve had enough…and that’s saying something!

Yes, I’m one of those people. You know, the ones who play Christmas carols in July and put up their tree before Thanksgiving. There’s just something contagious about the joy of Christmas.

Apart from the Christmas season, we don’t use the word joy very much. We speak more often of happiness. But happiness is changeable. It’s dependent on our circumstances.

True joy wells up from a source greater than us and our circumstances. And one of the greatest, purest joys comes from the reason for Christmas.

Now in the glow of the Christmas tree lights, I’m thinking again of the reason for the season. Joy to the World is streaming while I type. As I listen to the words written by Isaac Watts, I’m reminded of who the baby in the manger really is.

He is the Lord, the One who created heaven and earth.
He is the King. Because He created our world, He has the right to rule over it…and us.

Joy to the world, the Lord is come!
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare Him room,
And heav’n and nature sing,
And heav’n and nature sing,
And heav’n, and heav’n and nature sing.

He is the Savior, the One who conquered sin and death to live and reign for eternity.

Joy to the earth, the Savior reigns!
Let men their songs employ;
While fields and floods, rocks, hills, and plains
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat, repeat the sounding joy.

He is the source of blessing. In every corner of the world where sin lurks and sorrow results, His blessings will flow, all because God became man.

No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found,
Far as the curse is found,
Far as, far as the curse is found.

His nature is the essence of truth. Even though we may not always like what He says, it is always true. We don’t deserve the salvation He provides, but by His grace He offers us His righteousness so that we can stand before our holy God. And He does it because of His great love for us.

He rules the world with truth and grace,
And makes the nations prove
The glories of His righteousness,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders, and wonders of His love,

Jesus is Lord, King, and Savior. He is truth and grace, righteousness, and love. He is the reason for our joy!

Will you join me in singing for joy this Christmas?

They’re Not Just Christmas Carols
Christmas Carols

What puts a song in your heart?

  • Your favorite playlist?
  • Your wedding song?
  • Christmas carols?

One of my favorite parts of the Christmas season is the music. You may be tired of hearing Christmas carols that have already been playing since Halloween. For many, the joy of those carols slowly dissipates until we have nothing left by December 25th.

But Christmas carols can provide more than mere distraction and entertainment. They communicate spiritual truths in wonderfully memorable ways. If you’re like me, you may have a difficult time with memorization, including memorizing Scripture verses. But if you know the words to many familiar Christmas carols, you probably have more Bible verses memorized or paraphrased than you realize!

For example, consider the lyrics of “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing,” originally written by Charles Wesley. Before you groan at the thought of listening to yet another Christmas carol, read the words as if for the first time…

Hark! the herald angels sing:
“Suddenly, a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God” (Luke 2:13).

Glory to the newborn King:
“Glory to God in the highest…” (Luke 2:14).

Peace on earth, and mercy mild:
“…and on earth peace…” (Luke 2:14).

God and sinners reconciled!:
“…to men on whom his favor rests” (Luke 2:14).

Joyful, all ye nations rise, join the triumph of the skies:
“I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people” (Luke 2:10).

With the angelic host proclaim:
“Suddenly, a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God” (Luke 2:13).

Christ is born in Bethlehem!:
“Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:11).

Hark! the herald angels sing:
“Suddenly, a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God” (Luke 2:13).

Glory to the newborn King!:
“Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews?” (Matthew 2:2).

Enjoy the carols of Christmas. And while you’re at it, enjoy the amount of Scripture you didn’t know you knew!

Think of your favorite Christmas carol – how many Bible verses can you identify in its lyrics?

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