New and Improved

Apple unveiled the iPad mini this week. Microsoft will release the Surface tablet with Windows 8 this week, as well. All just in time for Christmas wish lists.

New and improved. New and not-so-improved. Fewer bugs, slimmer bodies, longer battery life. The next generation of must-have gadgets.

There’s been a long line of next-generation gadgets we’ve been conditioned to believe are necessities. For example, the first iPhone launched a mere five years ago in 2007. Since then, we’ve seen six generations of the iPhone: the original, 3G, 3GS, 4, 4S, and now iPhone 5.

Tablets and e-readers are another example of new-and-improved gadgets. Amazon introduced the first Kindle to the public, also in 2007. Variations on this particular e-reader include Kindle, Kindle DX, Kindle Touch, and Kindle Fire.

I admit to being a bit of a technophobe. While I’m not the last to purchase new technology, I do drag my feet. On the negative side, I miss out (at the early stages) on the modern conveniences technology brings. On the plus side, I’ve avoided the regret that comes with purchasing an iPhone 3GS only to hear the debut of the iPhone 4 announced a week later. Or the purchase of a Kindle Touch just before the Kindle Fire was announced.

Still, the idea of new-and-improved appeals to me. Wouldn’t it be nice to come out with a new-and-improved version of myself every year or so? Out with the old Ava and in with the new. Bugs fixed, longer battery life, and a slimmer body with every upgrade. (I sooo like that last part!)

But a new-and-improved me is not just a fantasy. Growth and progress are part of life…physical life and spiritual life. In his letter to Timothy, the apostle Paul said,

Set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity. Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching…. Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress (I Timothy 4:12-15 NIV).

Progress. The kind others can see. What does it look like? Galatians 5:22-23 provides a good summary. “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”

As Christians submit to the Lord, He works in observable ways. The process of conforming us to the image of Christ lasts a lifetime. Someday, however, His work in me will be completed. The bugs will be eliminated, my “battery” will last for eternity, and I will indeed have that slimmer body!

In the meantime, please excuse me while I go gadget shopping.  😉

Taking Inventory

When I was in high school, I worked in the toy department of a large 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 use 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 inventory on a regular basis to evaluate my spiritual 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 let go?
  • 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.” 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 is my calendar? Am I open to God’s interruptions?

One year from now, I hope to be doing this exercise again. 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?