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As the year winds down, I always find it is a time for reflecting. Most often, we take the time to look back over the past year and ask, "where did it go?" Funny. It didn't go anywhere. We lived it. The problem was, we were too busy to notice most of what was going on around us. We took for granted so many things because our focus was on things that, when we stop to reflect, really were not that important.

It is also a time when we stop and decide to make what is traditionally called, "New Year's resolutions." I have never been a fan of those. One, they rarely last. Most importantly, if you want to be a better you, just do it. Most resolutions are surface things and never get to the core of the issue. When we whittle it all down; when we are a truly honest with ourselves, it comes down to one thing - are we right with God? Remember, Proverbs 19:21: Many are the plans in a man's heart but it's the Lords plans that prevail.

We try so hard to make friends. We try so hard to ensure people like us. We want followers on social media. We want people at our work to like us. We want to make sure people at our church to like us. We want to be known as the "nice" one or "a good person." Let me take a moment to remind you, Jesus fed 5000 but only 500 followed Him after lunch. He had 12 disciples but only 3 went further in the garden and only 1 (only 1) stood with Him at the cross. Point: the closer you are to the cross, the smaller the crowd becomes. I think as we move into the new year, our focus should be to move towards the cross. We should strive, in the end to bring at least 1 with us for in the end, it will be better to be at the cross than on the mountain with 5000 never having arrived at the cross to begin with.

Being a Christian is not an easy walk. I have heard Christians say (to me as well as behind my back) "She doesn't act like a Christian." My response is simple... God doesn't need or want actors. I am the same imperfect me every minute of every day. I know my Lord and I am working, in tandem with the Holy Spirit every single minute, to be better. You see, Ephesians 2:10 reads, "For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them." (ESV) I know my worth. I know where my strength comes from. I do not pray for a lighter load; but a stronger back. I know that even if the world cannot see what I do - why I do it, I know God knows my heart. Last time I checked, the road to heaven was not through anyone's yard. As long as we walk boldly in the confidence of Jesus with the guidance and direction of the Holy Spirit, acting can remain to those who need to justify their hearts.

It has often broken my heart when I hear a Christian say something to the effect, "I am done with them." What? Where in the Bible do we have the luxury of dismissing anyone? Every single person we meet or run across was made in the image of God. Where we as people have errored is we failed to heed the words of God. God never told us to trust man. He told us to trust Him. Over and over this is the case. In fact, there are several places where He has warned us about trusting man. I take it one step further. I recognize I am not commanded to like anyone; that is my choice. I am; however, commanded to love everyone. This love covers a multitude of sins. Yet, it still does not mean I need to trust or like. It also means, I am not to dismiss or write anyone off. I have a list of people I would if I could. I never forget, Jesus healed the one who arrested Him; served the one who betrayed Him and saved the world who crucified Him. This is a hard pill to swallow and one that when you truly can, means you start to understand how to truly love like Christ.

I often cling to Isaiah 54:17 and remind myself God never said the weapons would never form, He said they would not prosper. There are several verses in scripture that reinforce this. One thing we often forget is sometimes, just maybe, God doesn't stop us from being thrown into the preverbal "furnace" because the point of us walking out is maybe to show the people who threw us in or for us to serve as a testimony/witness to unbelievers. I know when I am in the furnace who is with me. I may not like the heat or the flames or being in there in the first place but while I am there, I should dance, yes?

Psalm 34:19 reads, "Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all." (ESV) Whether it is illness, hardship, death, emergency, betrayal, persecution, etc. God has me. I can go through it or grow through it (corny but true.) I have learned to ask, "God, how are You going to get me through this and what can I learn from this?" rather than to wallow. It truly changes everything.

Yes, I do a lot of reflecting. I could have done this. I should have done that. I miss this. I really need to that. I need to start x. Why don't I do y. Look how I failed z. In the big scheme of things, how much of it all really matters? The question needs to be, what do I do each day to draw closer to God? To be more Christ-like? To yield to the Holy Spirit? If I do that, everything else, will fall in place, will it not?

Take a moment and ask yourself, are you living to please others or please Christ? Are you still on the mountain or on a journey to the cross? Are you merely an actor putting on a show to the world regarding your Christian heart or does your heart truly belong to the Lord? If it does, why does it matter so much what everyone else thinks of you (unless you truly are not right with Him?) Do you find yourself filled with anything less than love for people? Do you like and love them when they seem to be "for you" but as soon as they "cross you" or disagree with you or remotely do something you do not care for, you merely find it easy to write them off? Do you find it easier to trust someone rather than to trust God? When life throws you a curve ball, when something goes wrong, when "bad" things happen, do you find it difficult to go to God and thank Him? Do you find it impossible or hard to "dance" in the furnace you momentarily find yourself in? Do you forget others are watching to see how you react? Do you wallow or grow?

If you aren't sure... if you know how you answered, now is the time to reflect. Now is the time to say, "God, I want you in my life. I want Christ in my heart, and I want the assurance only You can provide. I do not want to go another day; I do not want to start another year without you leading my life. I am not perfect, and I screw up. I need you." I promise you just a mustard seed of faith with grow into a mighty tree by this time next year.

Let us boldly and with confidence grab the hand of our Creator. Whether you have never accepted Christ into your life or you have been a Christian your whole life, take His hand and walk confidently into the new year.

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