10 Questions To Ask Yourself At The End Of Every Year (Part 1 of 2)

Every year, around this time, I take an inventory of my life. I believe it is important to be honest and real with myself because my goal is to continually strive for growth and maturity. I want to be able to look back each year and see progress in my life. Some years are more eventful than others, but every year is important and capable of producing fruit.

In an effort to evaluate my year I ask a series of questions. These questions are designed to help me think through important categories of my life. What I have noticed is that this brief exercise tends to be more encouraging and inspiring than discouraging or disheartening.

Hopefully these simple questions will help you take an honest look at your life and inspire you to use the approaching New Year to its fullest potential.

1. AM I GROWING AS A CHRISTIAN?

The most important relationship in my life is my relationship with Jesus! When this is going well, then everything else in my life is impacted in a positive way.

The big thing to look at here is SANCTIFICATION. Sanctification is the process of becoming more and more like Jesus. What’s so amazing about sanctification is that it’s a process empowered by the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is committed to transforming Christians into the likeness of Christ. As our relationship with Jesus deepens and our desire to be like Him grows, the Holy Spirit works in our hearts and lives to strip away the old person and replace it with the new.

“And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 1:6, ESV)

2. AM I GROWING AS A HUSBAND? (AM I GROWING AS A SPOUSE, PARENT, SIBLING, SON, DAUGHTER, ETC.)?

I cannot overstate the importance of providing an honest answer to this question. I treasure my relationship with my wife, and my goal is to continue to grow into the husband that God has called me to be. Sometimes I am blind to my failures, so it’s helpful to remind myself of what God’s word says about husbands.

“Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her…” (Ephesians 5:25, ESV)

(For more on the roles of husbands, wives, parents, and children, read Ephesians 5:22-6:4)

3. AM I GROWING AS A PASTOR? (AM I GROWING IN MY PROFESSION)?

I really love what I do! It isn’t an easy calling, but it definitely brings me joy.

Whether someone loves their job or not, it is important for them to continually grow in their profession. It is clear in Scripture that all of life matters. There is no such thing as a sacred and secular divide. All of our work could be, and should be done, for the glory of God.

“Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men…” (Colossians 3:23, ESV)

4. AM I GROWING AS A FRIEND?

Friendship is so important! With that being said, it is easy for me to overlook my growth in this area. Sometimes I just expect my friends to keep up with my changes and continue to like me no matter what I do.

The reality is, friendship takes work! It takes a good deal of trust, communication, and forgiveness. Don’t be content with a plethora of inch deep friendships. Instead, strive to build friendships that are deep and lasting. It is worth your time and energy.

“A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” (Proverbs 18:24)

5. AM I GROWING IN GENEROSITY?

This question always reveals what’s going on in my heart! As a disciple of Jesus, I want to strive to continually grow in generosity.

What’s interesting to me is that Jesus taught about money more than anyone else in the Bible. According to Him, the way we use our money gives us a good glimpse of what is going on in our hearts. We really have two options… Leverage our money to help build God’s Kingdom (an everlasting kingdom), or leverage our money to help build our own kingdom.

“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:21, ESV)

“God has given us two hands — one to receive with and the other to give with. We are not cisterns made for hoarding; we are channels made for giving.” ~Billy Graham

“You say, ‘If I had a little more, I should be very satisfied.’ You make a mistake. If you are not content with what you have, you would not be satisfied if it were doubled.” ~Charles H. Spurgeon

CHRISTmas: It’s All About Jesus

EVERYONE IS TALKING ABOUT JESUS!

I love Christmas! This season brings me the greatest joy because it’s the one time of year where the whole world is talking about Jesus! He is everywhere you go! It is so exciting that whether you are in the mall, a coffee shop, a grocery store, or school, Jesus’ name is being proclaimed. Even though I love gifts, good food, and hanging with family, above all, I love what Christmas stands for. It’s a holiday that celebrates the birth of Jesus the Messiah.

WHY IS JESUS SUCH A BIG DEAL?

The question we need to ask ourselves is, why is Jesus such a big deal? What makes Jesus so special that the whole world dedicates a season to him?

Christmas always reminds me of the fact that Jesus is the most popular person in world. I heard one pastor say that more songs have been sung to him, paintings painted of him, and books written about him than any other person in history. He is so significant in fact that we actually measure time by him. Our calendar is divided into the years before and after his birth. (B.C. meaning before Christ and A.D. meaning anno dommini or “in the year of our LORD.”) So why Jesus?

JESUS IS MORE THAN JUST A MAN!

Jesus isn’t just any old man. He is the God-man! Every other man who has ever lived pales in comparison because Jesus is God incarnate, God in the flesh. The Bible gives Jesus a very important title, Messiah (or Christ). Messiah means the anointed one of God. In the Bible, the Messiah is the hope of the world. The world needs a Savior: Jesus is the prefect Savior and King that the world needs.

That being said, it is important to understand that Jesus didn’t just magically appear one day. He didn’t parachute into Israel. Instead, there is a whole historical story that leads up to his miraculous birth. There is a story, rooted in history, that takes place over thousands of years, a story that is faithfully recorded in the pages of the Old Testament, a story that finds its climax in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.

What’s amazing is that the whole Bible is about Jesus the Messiah. He is the hero that everyone needs, which brings us to the true message of Christmas. The message of Christmas is, IT’S ALL ABOUT JESUS! He is not just the reason for the season; he is the reason for everything. I like Christmas because it helps direct us back to what really matters. There are a lot of great things in this world but without Jesus, you are missing the greatest thing that this world has to offer. What really matters is having a personal relationship with Creator God. This relationship was made available through the birth of a little boy in a small town called Bethlehem. I encourage you on this holiday to not forget that Christmas is about more than toys and good food. CHRISTmas is all about Jesus!

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:6, ESV)

Merry Christmas!

Give Thanks To The Lord

A Short Thanksgiving Devotional by Ricky Hemme

Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever. (Psalm 136:1 ESV)

Every year, on the fourth Thursday of November, people from all around the U.S. gather together with family and friends to share a meal, and reflect upon God’s provision and loving kindness. It is the one time of year, where we slow down and take a good look at our lives, and remember all the ways that God has richly blessed us.  This holiday is a stunning 392 years old, but this practice of annual thanksgiving is not unique to America.

A Meal of Thanksgiving in the Bible

The people of the Bible had their own annual meal of Thanksgiving. Every year in the month of Nisan, Israelites traveled with friends and family to Jerusalem to worship God and share a meal. This feast of Thanksgiving is called the Passover. The Passover feast commemorated God’s faithfulness over the years and highlighted in particular His act of freeing them from slavery in Egypt. Without God’s hand, they would never be a nation, and most of all, without God’s provision of atonement they would never be forgiven of sin. God’s people were spared the judgment which came upon the land of Egypt only through the substitutionary death of a perfect lamb. There is no doubt this annual feast was a time of serious reflection.

As families from around the country made their journey to Jerusalem, it was tradition to sing songs on the road. Many of these songs are recorded in your Bible in the book of Psalms. Some start with the small caption, “A Song of Ascent.” These songs prepared the hearts of the people for the feast, and they were gladly sung by friends and family on the road up to Jerusalem. No matter from what direction you came, North or South, Jerusalem was an ascent. Hint: “A Song of Ascent”

Take a Moment to Reflect

This year, I encourage you to reflect upon some of these Psalms in preparation for your Thanksgiving meal. Most of these Psalms can be found between Psalm 119 and 136. Like the Israelites, prepare your heart by looking back at God’s faithfulness and loving-kindness over the years. Most of all reflect upon his provision of atonement. God demonstrated his love for you by sending his Son into this world to die as your Passover Lamb. When you trust in Jesus’ finished work on the cross, God’s wrath passes over you, so that instead of judgment, you are received as a beloved child. Give thanks this Thanksgiving. God is worthy of your praise.

Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever. (Psalm 136:1 ESV)

Help My Unbelief – Ricky Hemme

It is no secret that the Christian life is a life of faith. The Bible defines faith as the assurance of things hoped for, and the conviction of things unseen (Hebrews 11:1). According to this definition, faith is not just a shot in the dark. It is not a, “blind trust in the face of contrary evidence.” Instead, faith is a confident trust in the eternal God.

 

The problem is, sometimes our faith is lacking. I think it is clear in Scripture that every Christian battles with faith. Every Christian is tempted at times to lean on their own devices rather than God.

 

We even see this with Jesus’ disciples. Time and time again Jesus called them out for their lack of faith. It usually came in the convicting and poignant phrase, “O you of little faith!”

 

The words “little faith” come from the greek word “oligopistos” which means, “ineffective,” “defective,” or “deficient” faith.

 

After reading every instance in Matthew where Jesus called people out for their lack of faith, I became convicted! I realized that a lack of faith was always accompanied by at least one of three things… Fear, anxiety, and a missed opportunity for God to display His power.

 

Fear – And behold, there arose a great storm on the sea, so that the boat was being swamped by the waves; but he was asleep. And they went and woke him, saying, “Save us, Lord; we are perishing.” And he said to them, “Why are you afraid, O YOU OF LITTLE FAITH?” (Matthew 8:23-27, ESV)

 

Anxiety – “And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O YOU OF LITTLE FAITH?” (Matthew 6:27-30)

 

Missed Opportunity – He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.” Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O YOU OF LITTLE FAITH, why did you doubt?” (Matthew 14:25-33, ESV)

 

I know that I am lacking faith when I am afraid of the storm. I know that I am lacking faith when I am anxious about tomorrow. And I know that I am lacking faith when instead of trusting God to do the miraculous, I sink in my doubt. What about you? Where does your faith need to be strengthened?

 

Lord, help our unbelief!