Julie Stewart
Time to Increase

When you think of New Year’s resolutions, you probably do not think of the word increase. Most New Year’s resolutions have to do with decreasing. Decreasing your weight, decreasing your debt, decreasing your busy life. While its good to decrease in these things, the attitude of increasing can be a better, more positive way to set our goals for the new year.

Each year, our family gathers to list our New Year’s resolutions that will help us to increase. We choose not to focus on the decreasing of the past year, rather, bring into focus the ways we can grow, or increase, in the year to come.  As we try to emulate Jesus, we use his example of increasing. Luke 2:52 gives us a guide.

“Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.” (KJV)

This verse outlines four areas that each of us can increase in the year to come.

First, we can increase in the intellect area of our lives (Acts 7:22). Luke 2:52 states that Jesus increased in wisdom. Ponder the possible areas of your life where you can increase in your intellect. Is there a new skill I need to learn? What can I do to do better in school this semester? Is there an area in my life that is weak that I need to learn more about?

Secondly, we can increase in making our physical state better or more healthy. Luke 2:52 states that Jesus increased in stature; He grew. While many of us may be beyond the point of our physical body growing and developing, we can still make the choice to increase in improving the health of the body we have. What can we do to improve our health? Our body is His temple (1 Cr. 3:16; 6:19). How can we improve it?

Thirdly, we can increase spiritually. Luke 2:52 says that Jesus increased in favor with God. We know that Jesus was a perfect, sinless man. He took time away to talk with the Father. He spent time teaching others God’s Word and ministering in the name of the Father. What are some ways we can set before us to help us grow spiritually? Maybe some questions to help would be: Am I reading His Word daily? Am I praying daily? Am I serving Him faithfully? Do I obey His Word? (Titus 1:16, James 1:22)

Lastly, we can increase socially. In Luke 2:52, Jesus also increased in favor with man. He ministered to others, loving them and meeting their needs. He didn’t shun people or desire to be a part of the “in group”. He dwelt among the people with no preconceived conditions of what they would do for him in return. This year, is there someone we need to get to know better? Is there someone we need to reach out to?  Am I being faithful to love my neighbor as myself? What do we need to change so others see Christ in us? (1 John 4:7)

These four areas are good starting points to set our New Year’s resolutions by. Not only that, it also encourages us to “increase” in those four areas. The word increase means to: go forward, to advance, to proceed. We can’t increase when we make the choice to stay put, or live in the past. As believers, we shouldn’t settle for that. Our knowledge, belief and obedience of His Word should always be increasing. And when we obey it, Christ is increasing in us. (John 3:30)

In 2014, lay aside every weight and sin that so easily entangles us (Hebrews 12:1), and run with great endurance to increase in wisdom, stature, favor with God and favor with man.

The Mailman Is Coming!

It’s that time of year! A time where I wait with daily anticipation of the mailman arriving. Yes, the mailman. It’s the time of year that we receive Christmas cards from friends and loved ones from all over the country. Each afternoon, I eagerly go to the mailbox to find the colorful, holiday filled, calligraphy written envelopes that hold a sentiment of someone our family dearly loves.

After Christmas several years ago, I didn’t want to take those cards off of display. I loved seeing the friends and family that God had placed in our lives, hung around the door and kitchen cabinets. Each one was a reminder of God’s love to us. Each one represented a different season of our walk with the Lord. Each one … a blessing. They had been sent to us by friends from years past, family from distances away and new friends God had placed in our lives.

That year, instead of putting the cards away, I decided to make a prayer book out of them. I went to the local craft store and purchased a binding ring. I then punched holes in the corner of each card, made a cover with the year on it and bound them all together. I placed our new prayer book in the center of our kitchen table, where it stayed all year. Each night during dinner, our family would open the prayer book to see the card it revealed. Sometimes our children would not know who the card was from. This gave us a chance to discuss who the family was and how God used them in our lives. Then, we proceeded to pray for that family. Each time we were at the dinner table, we would flip to the next card to find the gift God had given us to pray for.

As busy as our family is, this has become a routine we stick to most nights. It is one way that we can teach our children the importance of praying for others and to remove the selfish prayers we so often pray. Prayer, what a privilege. Friends, what a gift. Children, what a responsibility we have to teach them to pray.

Gotta run….I think I hear the mailman!



“Moreover as for me, God forbid that I should sin
against the LORD in ceasing to pray for you…” 
                          1 Samuel 12:23

image

Have Character or Be a Character

As a parent, it’s always a challenge to teach our children the meaning of character. This goal is challenging because their sin nature encourages them to be “characters”….not have character, which is consistent with Christlikeness.

During a transition time in our lives I was recently encouraged that we were raising children of character by a great honor that one of my children received.  In our move from Georgia to Louisiana our oldest child Trey, who is an 11th grader, was given a great gift.  Trey is an avid runner and was a team participant on both the Cross Country and Track teams at Heritage High School in Ringgold, Ga. This summer in his departure from that school, the Cross Country Coach sent Trey out with a great honor. The coach established an annual award in my son’s name. The name of the award is the “The Trey Stewart Award”. This award will be given to a team participant who shows the character qualities in which this award was established. Those character qualities, which were recognized in my son are: commitment to team, hard work, and positivity.

While the secular world may recognize these character qualities as good and moral, we know they are being instilled in Trey by God. I believe we could rename these qualities as: persuasiveness (2 Tim. 2:24-25), diligence (Col. 3:23), and responsibility (Rom. 14:12). By whatever means that these character qualities were recognized in my son, I am thankful. Of course, as his parents, we are extremely grateful for such an honor. To know that your child’s character qualities will be honored year-after-year is a humbling thought. We praise the Lord for His work in and through our son.  May it be said of us that we raise all our children to be a strong man and women of God. Our prayer is that they are not “characters" of this world, rather, exude Christlike characteristics.

image

Time of Transition

(NOBTS Campus)

A few weeks ago, God solidified His plans for another transition for our family. In the past, these decisions have always come with ease, as we packed up our toddlers and our belongings and moved to the place God had for us. Years have passed, those toddlers are now teenagers and many friends have been made, which makes transition a little harder. Not harder to follow God … harder to leave the wonderful friends the Lord has given to each of us in very pivotal times in our lives.

My husband Hal has accepted a position as a Professor of Discipleship in the Christian Education Division of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. We will leave serving the local church in a ministerial roll, a position Hal and our family have been a part of for 13 years, 4 states and 5 churches. Life will be so different for us all.

Between the years of 2004 - 2007, I was a student at NOBTS, pursuing the Women’s Ministry Certificate and a BACM through Leavell college. I always looked forward to each time that I was able to be on campus for classes. Then….Katrina hit. We were serving in North Mississippi at the time and were able to house and minister to countless people who evacuated to our area due to the storm. This was a pivotal time in my life. At that time God began to knit my heart to the people of the New Orleans area and to the city itself. In the spring of 2006, I was able to attend a workshop on campus, for the first time since Katrina hit. From that point on, I took every workshop I could on campus, just so I could be there. I absolutely loved it. I remember telling my husband, that New Orleans was a place where I thought I could live. Little did I know…..

Seven years have passed, another child has been born to our family and Hal has graduated from NOBTS with a PhD in Christian Education. All the years of ministry in the local church, move after move, and every trail and triumph in our life, has prepared us for our new calling. I stand in awe of what God has done in our lives and the fact that He called me there so many years ago. We accept this calling with gratitude and great humbleness. NOBTS is filled with faculty and staff that exude Christ. They are among the most gifted, Christ-filled and passionate people I know. Several of them have been great mentors in my life and have been a part of shaping the minister’s wife, mother and leader I am today. To think that we could be counted among them is a humbling feeling. What an honor.

As I look back on all the moves in the past 13 years, I see God’s hand and the lessons we learned along the way. My two oldest children have lived in 4 states and have had 8 different addresses. This transition is hard for them as a rising freshman and junior in high school. Oh, the lessons I have learned in parenting through transition! (Another post for another time!)

To some, this may seem like a great sacrifice for our family, and in some ways it is. However, when we are obedient to Christ, it will cost us something. But, disobedience to Christ will cost us even more. No matter what it costs us, our family wants to be obedient. We sacrifice earthly things to gain the eternal lessons of following God.


10 things I have learned in transitioning ministry:

1 - This earth is not our home. We live in the tents of transition and never conform to the world.
2 - Every triumph and trial prepares you for your next assignment.
3 - Be faithful to do what God tells you to do, until He tells you to do something different.
4 - When we are faithful to follow God, He multiplies our family and friends.
5 - God always prepares you for the place/ministry He is sending you to.
6 - God never sends you to a place He hasn’t prepared for you.
7 - God holds your children dear and blesses them with each transition.
8 - Make eternal relationships in every place you serve. Leave a legacy.
9 - Always finish well.
10 - Even though your surroundings change, our God never does!

One thing I will do, is serve the Lord as faithful as I can and strive to bring honor and glory to Him. One thing I wont do, is eat a crawfish!

Disciples GO!

For several years I have been involved in women’s discipleship and leadership development. While the years of walking with Lord and women have strengthened me, grown me and encouraged me, I recently began to realize my comfort of being in safe environments. Many times I relied on my knowledge of the Word and understanding of the reproduction process from years past. Women’s discipleship and leadership development became a comfortable area of ministry in my life. While I was training others to disciple, I wasn’t actually setting the example before them of what it meant to live the missional life of the gospel. Knowledge without obedience can be useless. In fact, it is often dangerous. Possessing knowledge alone without obedience means that our heart is hardened to the truths and commands of God. I found myself constantly training those inside the church and having very little time to minister to those outside the church. It became my comfort zone. I wasn’t truly living the gospel in my home, church or community.

Conviction came upon me and I realized, that at some point, I must leave the comfort of the walls of our church. While the training is vital inside the church to equip the saints for the work of the ministry (Eph 4:11-12), it should not be the reason we use to not live the missional life of the gospel.  Many times I have measured the success of women’s discipleship by how many times multiplication takes place. Looking back, the multiplication only took place in the church, from believer to believer, from knowledge to knowledge. My conviction is this….to lay it down and entrust others to train. It was time for me to go out into my natural habitat to live out the gospel.

What is my natural habitat? Outside of the ministry to my family, my natural habitat are the school activities and community interest that my children are involved in each week. Over the last couple of months…it’s been track. When God was stirring my heart months ago, an opportunity came to me to serve as the Track and Field Booster Club President at my son’s high school. Knowing that my place was to live the gospel out, I took on the job trusting that God was giving me a platform to be a witness in a public setting. What an amazing 12 weeks it has been. Not only have I had more time with my children, but God has given me opportunity after opportunity to share His love. He gave me the opportunity to build relationships with students and parents alike. While I have not shared the gospel with my lips, my prayer is that they have seen it in my life. I have had the opportunity to meet physical needs with food, encouragement to seniors trying to make life decisions and praying with moms who are struggling with the demands and stresses of life. However, it took a while to build relationships with them. The kids that looked at me strange because I did nice things for them a few months ago, now make it a point to come talk to me or share a hug. If only I had more time! With the season ending last week, I can only pray that many seeds have been planted. My path may never cross their path again. But, I pray the actions of Christ in my life and words from my mouth will be honoring to God and used in their lives in the days, weeks and years to come.

Things I’ve Learned About Discipleship:

1- True disciples leave their comfort zones and live the missional life of the gospel in their natural habitat.
2- God is working all around us in others. We need to get out and join Him!
3- Build relationships with unbelievers, no matter how long it takes.
4- Meet the physical needs of others so they know you care enough to meet their spiritual needs.
5- We CAN love the unlovable. And they WILL respond to that love.
6- True disciples obey and use their knowledge of the Word by obeying God, not just hoarding it in their minds.
7- Its okay to serve outside the church and away from church programs.
8- The first command in making disciples is to “Go.”
9- God is with His disciples, always.

image

                           (Some of the girl track athletes and me)

Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matt. 28:19-20

What’s your Choice?

image

Read Genesis 13:1-18

After being cast out of Egypt, Abram, Sarai, Lot and all their belongings traveled north again towards Negev. A quarrel broke out between Abram and Lot’s herdsmen, because the land could not hold all of them. Abram, being the older of the two, reveals his humbleness and wisdom to Lot. While Abram’s age would have allowed him to choose the land he wanted, Abram relinquished that thought and let Lot have first choice. Just as Abram, we should take the initiative to resolve conflict. It may require us to allow others to make the first choice, even if it means we don’t get what we want. We must put family peace above personal gain (family should be both biological and spiritual). That is the heart God rewards. When we are concerned about others, God is concerned about us and multiplies our joy and blessings all the more.

Lot chose with the lust of his eyes and the desires of his heart, the most lush and fertile land (vs. 10 - 11). Abram freely gave up his rights to his nephew Lot. Without any hesitation, he allowed Lot to have the abundant land. However, the land that Lot chose was near the sinful city of Sodom. Lot took the best of the land, risking the temptation of a sinful city. Could he withstand the temptation? Lot must be alert to not become like the people he is trying to reach. His greedy desire for the best of everything led him to sinful surroundings. He desired success and possessions over  freedom. We also, can be enticed to such decisions and surroundings. The prosperity we long for can hold us in captivity. We too, can become like the people we are trying to reach. Later, Abraham had to rescue Lot (ch.14).

Like Abraham, do we want what is best for others? Even if it means we don’t get what we desire or deserve? Are we the type of people who always want to pick first, or do we give others the first pick and look out for their interests? Abraham gave Lot the first pick of the land, but we often quarrel and fight and have wrong motives even over the simplest of things. As Christ-followers, we should take the initiative in resolving conflict; letting others have first choice. Laying down what we deserve in order to have peace with others. This reveals our heart and trust in the Lord, while also revealing the heart of others. Are we humble and giving or are we haughty and greedy? When we are concerned about others, God is concerned about us and multiplies our joy and blessings all the more. Just like He did with Abraham.

There are lots of Lots in your life. Are you willing to lay down your “rights” to show them Christ? Are you willing to rescue them when they have wronged you? Ask God to help you have a heart like Abraham. We all have a choice. The questions is, will you choose to be last or first?

"So the last will be first and the first will be last." Matt. 20:16

Read More

After a long day of working, preparing dinner, cleaning the house and helping the kids with homework and projects, the last thing on our minds is working towards our marriages. Many times at the end of the day, I just want to crawl into bed and go to sleep! But, there is someone else who needs our attention. Our husbands. He deserves our attention too.

Things to remember in ministering to your husband.

1- Love him first. God gave you your husband before He gave you your children. Titus 2 :3-5 list the husband before the children. By loving him first, we can give our children their first glimpse of what a godly marriage looks like. 

2- Quality over quantity - Make every effort to give him your full attention when you have time together. Put away the computer, cell phones and television. Don’t bring him all the bad news and frustrations of your day at work or with the kids. Talk, laugh and even pray.

3- Alone Time - Schedule date nights and do not cancel them! Don’t fail to plan special times where you and your husband can be together without children. Even if money is tight, schedule a time with a cup of coffee on the back porch after the kids are in bed. Do not neglect alone time with him.

4- Learn his love language - Speak love to him in the way he receives it. By doing so, you are filling his love tank each time.

5- Ask God for endurance - So many need, desire and depend on us. When we are tired and fill empty ourselves, go to God and His Word. His grace is sufficient and He is faithful. “And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.” 2 Cor. 9:8

These are just a few ways we can be better wives and mothers. There will come a day, when the kids are grown and gone, and the two of you will be left alone. Work at your marriage now, so that when that day comes, you aren’t left living with a stranger.

More to come……

Better to Give Than to Receive

Today our family celebrates the birthday of our youngest child. She has looked forward to turning 5 for many months….her eyes focused on growing up quickly. As her mom, it is my desire to teach her early the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord, His power and the wonders He has done (Ps. 78:4). Always trying to teach her the characteristics of the Lord. One of those characteristics is giving.

In a world that is filled with self indulgence, self promotion and self gratification, I strive at taking every opportunity to teach her what Christ’s character looks like. For a young child, actions speak louder than words. So….

For her birthday, I took her to the store and told her that she would be purchasing a gift for each friend at school. She should be giving on her special day instead of receiving. I explained that she would give these gifts on her birthday,  as we celebrate and thank God for giving her to us. What joy she had in picking out 8 boy gifts and 8 girl gifts, plus 2 teacher’s gifts. She was so careful in choosing each one, naming each friend as we went. We picked out some blue wrapping paper just for the boys and pretty pick wrapping paper for the girls. As fast as we could, we hurried home. She immediately started wrapping and again, naming each child as she went.

Arriving to school the next day, her teacher was much surprised at all the individually wrapped gifts Hallie had brought with her that day. At the appropriate time, Hallie handed each gift to each friend. Again, joy was on her face and in her heart.

Even at the age of 5, Hallie learned in her own way, about giving. Even as “Star of the Week”, the focus was taken off of her and was given to each precious friend.  A lesson in giving that I pray, she will always remember.

"In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ " Acts 20:35

image

image

God’s Way of Intervening


Various trials…when they come…..we must…..have…..JOY!  You know the verse from James (1:2). Trials come and produce faith and patience in our lives. You have experienced short trials, long trials. Trials that end with  your understanding of them. Trials that end the way we desire and those that linger on and on, even though we cry out to God. Many times they seem unfair.

God’s Word promises that trails will come. But understand that they only come through the hand of God. Some trails come and we understand why. Others come and we cry out to God to intervene. Yet, He doesn’t; so we think. The pain and rejection continue on. Untrue words said against you and negativity about your character, lead you to question all you do. The promotion you deserve and have worked for goes to another. Your friends hold precious babies in their arms, while you fight back the tears of barrenness. You cry out and beg God for a cure. Yet, nothing happens. The suffering goes on.

Sometimes God chooses to intervene and we recognize it. Other times, He doesn’t. In those times, when it seems that He isn’t intervening, know that He is there. He is working all things out for His good (Roms. 8:28). He is preparing you for your next assignment. An assignment where you need to be stronger, more patient, more humble… more like Him.  And while we may not recognize it, He is intervening.  He is intervening in a way to prepare us for the future. To intervene, is to come between so as to prevent or alter a result or course of events. Our suffering for a time is His way of intervening, to come between “us and ourselves” so that we respond differently to the course of events that are coming. Our suffering causes more and more of our flesh to die.

We can see this in the story of Joseph. God could have rescued him from the pit of jealousy, the rejection of slavery and the unjust imprisonment. But, He didn’t. Instead, God was preparing Joseph for leadership. He was giving Joseph a heart for others. Joseph was filled with compassion and forgiveness that he learned along the way. God, through Joesph was glorified in the end. We can also see it in the crucifixion of Jesus. Once again, God could have rescued His only Son from death. Instead, His way of intervention was to crush His only Son for our sins in order prepare a way for us. God was glorified in the end.

Having gone through times like these myself, I have come to realize that just because God doesn’t intervene for me in a way that I can see and understand, doesn’t mean He has forgotten me. It only means that He loves me so much that He is putting me through the fire only to come out as gold. He is making me stronger. He is preparing me for my future. He is making me more like Him. Its in these times that we live out what we believe. Our view of God and belief of His Word will sustain us in difficult circumstances. Our faith does not rely on our understanding of the situation, rather, the promises of God. God promises to give us a hope and a future (Jer. 29:11). He promises to work all things out for good for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose. Rom. 8:28

He is always at work. Even painful, He is intervening for you! Start strong, stay strong, finish strong. In the end, He will be glorified through you.

Your view of God and belief of His Word will sustain you in difficult circumstances. Our faith does not rely on our understanding of the situation, rather, the promises of God. (Romans 8:28)

Abstaining for Abundance

For the past 40 days, I have been on a Facebook and Twitter “leave of absence”. It started on January 31st as I was drawn into a season of such longing for the Lord…a time in my life where I desired to know His presence and hungered for His word like never before. I found myself spending hours a day reading, reflecting and praying. Unbeknownst to me, I was no longer constantly checking my social media accounts for the most current updates. It was then that I realized God had removed that desire for social media and had renewed my love for time with Him.

Then, it brought me to ask myself this question. Why do we replace our time with God for so many other things? Its called “feeding our flesh”. Satan, through worldly things, desires to pull our attention away from God and onto things of this world. Things that are temporary. Things that will fade away. Things that will lead us astray. Things that are not eternal.

Peter, in 1 Peter 2:11, warns us against such sinful desires.

"Dear friends, I urge you as aliens and strangers in the world to abstain from sinful desires which war against your soul."

You see, because we are followers of Christ, we are aliens to this world. This is not our home. Because of that, we should abstain from the sinful things that our flesh so desires. I am not saying that getting on social media is a sin. However, when we replace God with it, it then becomes an idol, our god. Ex. 20:3 says that we should have no other God before Him. Therefore, because it is an idol in our lives, it is a great sin.

During this 40 day period, God has revealed much to me. I look forward to sharing with you in the days to come, some of these truths. This time of abstinence on social media has given me an abundance in the Lord. Isn’t it amazing how God can give us such abundance when we give Him the time He so deserves? So…I ask you today…. How are you satisfying your flesh through worldly means? Are you willing to abstain from those things to have abundance in the Lord? I pray that you will.
 

Walk, Talk and Wait

image

When we think of Noah, we think of the ark, animals, the flood, a dove and a rainbow. All are great things to prompt our memory of the story. But, oh….there’s so much more. Not only can we learn of how strict God is in dealing with sin, in wiping the whole face of the earth from its wickedness. But what type of person He finds favor in. The type of person He uses as a remnant. The type of person He calls and uses for his glory.

There are three important characteristics that we can learn from Noah.  First, we must WALK. Noah trusted God in the face of the unknown and unheard of. In a world filled with wickedness, Noah was found the only righteous and blameless man around. Was he without sin? No. However, Noah had a close walk with God. And because of his walk with God, Noah was able to trust God with an unheard of, unknown situation….the flood.   He took God at His word and trusted him with the outcome. When things come our way that we can’t understand and are scary to us, are we shaken or are we found standing firm? If we are walking with God, no bad news will shake us. Walk daily with the Lord and trust a known God to an unknown situation.

“For the righteous will never be moved; he will be remembered forever.
He is not afraid of bad news; his heart is firm, trusting in the LORD.
His heart is steady; he will not be afraid…”
Psalm 12: 6 - 8a

Read More

Wait in Your Resting

image

Several times in my life, God has called me to a task. Upon obedience of that call, usually comes a time of testing. Then comes the end of the test… and nothing happens. Have you ever experienced that time where you feel  like you are just sitting around waiting? Scratching your head and wondering “now what”? If so, I believe part of Noah’s story can give you some encouragement and certainly give you an example to live by.

After years of building the ark and telling people of the coming wrath of God, the first rain drop fell. It rained for 40 days and the water covered the earth for 150 days. (The term, 40 days, usually signifies a time of testing for those in the bible.) Noah was tested on a dark ark filled with loud, hungry, smelly animals, being tossed to and fro by the wind and waves. I imagine he pondered what life would be like once it was all over. All those years building the ark, he told of the coming wrath of God and no one repented. He must have felt grief and sorrow as the sound of people screaming for help and banging on the side of the ark was replayed in his head. Finally, he feels the ark come to a rest on solid ground, yet hears nothing from God. Noah saw dry ground, and sent out a raven and a dove to test if the earth was dry. Still, nothing from God. He never left the ark, because God had not yet told him to. What great patience Noah had. What great trust he had in God and God’s timing. If he left the ark too soon, he could sink in the miry mud. Then, one year after the first rain drop fell, God spoke and Noah walked out of the ark.

Has God called you to a task that makes no sense? Have you been tossed to and fro by the wind and the waves of hurt and rejection? And now, you find yourself waiting for God to speak? After a time of testing, we all need rest, just as Noah did. We must wait for God to act while we trust Him in our resting. When you can’t see God’s hand, trust His heart. Be faithful to complete the task until He speaks and gives you another. Don’t move on too quickly; you could sink. Wait. He is preparing solid land for you to walk in.

Genesis 8:1-22

"Increase" This Year

image

Each year about this time, we lead our children in a time of reflection from the year past and resolution for the year ahead. As parents, we strive to point our children to Christ as much as we can….even in our New Year’s resolutions. Jesus is the perfect example to follow and Luke 2:52 gives us a guide.

       “Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.”

There are four areas in this verse for setting our resolutions for the year.

Wisdom - representing our growth in intellect (mental) (Acts 7:22)
    Is there a new skill I need to learn?
    What can I do to do better in school this semester?
    Is there an area in my life that is weak that I need to learn more about?

Stature - representing our physical body (physical)
    What will we do to improve our health?
    Our body is His temple (1 Cr. 3:16; 6:19). How can we improve it?

Favor with God - representing our relationship with God (spiritual)
    Am I reading His Word daily?
    Am I praying daily?
    Am I serving Him faithfully?
    Am I obeying His Word? (Titus 1:16, James 1:22)

Favor with man - representing our relationships with others (social)
    Is there someone we need to get to know better?
    Is there someone we need to reach out to? 
    Am I being faithful?
    What do we need to change so others see Christ in us? (1 John 4:7)

Not only does this verse give us four areas in which to set our resolutions, it encourages us to “increase” in those four areas. That word increase means to: go forward, to advance, to proceed. We should never settle for where we are or feel like we can never do better. Our knowledge, belief and obedience of His Word should always be increasing. And when we obey, it is Christ that is increasing in us. (John 3:30)

Praying for Others

image

(Prayer cards from 2011)

Prayer - we know we are supposed to do it. But sometimes we are just “too busy”, “too tired”, or too overwhelmed with all those we should pray for. However, God commands us to pray. (Eph.6:18, Romans 12:12,  1 Ti. 2:11, Luke 18:1) And we must believe that when we pray, God hears and acts upon the prayers of His will.

One year, when putting away all our Christmas decorations, I couldn’t bear the thought of taking down all the Christmas cards sent to us and throwing them in the trash. They had been sent to us by friends from years past, family from distances away and new friends God had placed in our lives. Each one represented a season of our lives. The Lord gave us a blessing in each one. It was then that the Lord laid on my heart to use them as a way to pray for each of those families. So…….

I purchased a binding ring from the local office supply store, punched a hole in the corner of each card and bound them all together. It then became my prayer book of friends for the year. Each night at the dinner table, our family would flip to the next card, discuss who the family was and how God used them in our lives. As a family, we would then pray for those on the card. (taking a new card each day)

I now open each Christmas card with great anticipation. Knowing that God has blessed our family with the relationship and that we have the privilege of praying for them for the next year.

1 Samuel 12:23 “Moreover as for me, God forbid that I should sin against the LORD in ceasing to pray for you…”