Make Next Year Better!


Written by Isis Roberts, contributing writer

Here we are…we made it through 2015!

Despite all Satan tried to throw at us, we survived it and here we are. For a lot of people, the start of the New Year causes them to reflect on the good and bad things that happened over the past year. Do you find yourself saying, “If I could just start over, I would do things differently?” Fortunately for all of us, Jesus Christ made this possible when he died on the cross for our sins and was resurrected. That is his Christmas present to all who believe. The reason he was born was so we could start over.

Every day we wake up, we are blessed with a second chance, a chance for our sins to be forgiven and for us to improve as children of God. Don’t let another year go by not living to your full potential.

Below are four things that I think are essential in making next year better:

1) Love more: Jesus also came to give us another command: ‘Love one another as I loved you.’– John 13:34. Show God some more love, too! Thank Him, praise Him, worship, honor and give Him all the glory every day. Watch how things change! “But as it is written in the Scriptures: “No one has ever imagined what God has prepared for those who love him.” — 1 Corinthians 2:9.

2) Pray! Ask God what you want: A lot of times, God can’t bless us with the things we want because we never asked. You have not because you ask not. In John 14, 15, 16, the holy spirits tells us to ASK, literally, SEVEN times. It must be important! As you ask God what you want, make sure you claim it by faith and believe it with every ounce of your heart that it is done. Don’t ever doubt it, no matter how it looks. Walk by faith, not by sight and don’t limit God. **John 14:14, John 15:7, John 15:16, John 16:23, John 16:24 and John 16:26. Also read Philippians 4:6-10.

3) Watch what you say: “The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.” –Proverbs 18:21. We’ve all heard this verse, but we don’t take it as serious as we should. The world of the spirit operates on what you say. By saying, “I don’t know how I’m going to get through 2016. I already know I’m going to be stressed,” you are already speaking that lack of faith into existence before the year even starts. Change your mindset. Think positively. Instead of saying, “I’m sick.” Say, “By Jesus’ stripes, I am healed.” Say, “I’m going to get a promotion.” “I’m going to be successful.” Determine to consistently speak the words of God. It’s a matter between life and death! There’s power in your words! **James 3:5-6, Psalms 141:3, Isaiah 54:17

4) Grow spiritually and be obedient to God’s word: “Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given to you when Jesus Christ is revealed. As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written; “Be Holy, because I am holy.” 1 Peter 1:13-17. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” –Proverbs 3:5-6

Keep an Uplifted Spirit through Discipleship

I can’t think of a better way to keep an uplifted spirit than through discipleship. As Christians, it’s what is expected of us. But many of us may think that being a disciple is something out of reach; something reserved for pastors, church ladies, and elders. Or, we may think of the twelve disciples who went out into the world spreading Jesus’ Word, and were responsible for much of the New Testament (heady stuff to live up to!). But before we become concerned that others may be better equipped for the job than we are, let’s look at what discipleship really means.

For us as Christians, to be a disciple is to be a follower and student of Jesus. In John 8:31-32 (NIV), Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. 32 Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” And in Luke 9:23, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.”

It’s about first drawing closer to Him; committing to a personal relationship with Him. Then when we ‘walk as He walked,’ we inspire others to do the same. It’s not about being “holier than thou” or an “expert.” Even some of the “original twelve” didn’t get it right at first (in Matthew 8:23-27, the disciples questioned Jesus’ abilities; in Luke 22:54-60, Peter, fearing persecution, denied he even knew Jesus; and in John 20:24-25, Thomas doubted that Jesus had returned until he saw the scars in His hands).

To strengthen our faith, in order to become better disciples, it seems we have to first develop the discipline to do as Jesus did. We can begin to mirror His behavior by:

  1. Consecration. If the first thing we do in the morning is to turn to the (insert media or vice here), it’s time to break the cycle! (Matthew 6:33; Phillipians 4:8)
  2. Praying daily (Philippians 4:6-7).
  3. Reading and meditating on The Word daily: to be a student, you’ve got to open The Book! (Deuteronomy 17:19).
  4. Keeping God’s Commandments (Exodus 20:1-17).
  5. Being a “doer of The Word” (James 2:26; 1Corinthians 7:17-24).
  6. Fasting (Isaiah 58:6).
  7. Controlling what we say (James 1:26): even Jesus spoke in parables.
  8. Giving our testimony.  Our successes on the journey will inspire others (Psalm 19:7). 

Finally, I think my favorite passage, Romans 12:1-2, says it best: 

1Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. 2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

Through His Will, and with Jesus as our teacher, yes, we become disciples – and our own lives can become a reason for others to believe.

5 Practical Tips to Avoid Budget Blunders

In keeping with our 25 Ways to Lift Your Spirits, our contributing writer, G. Sharp has compiled 5 Secrets from the Best Christmas Givers. Keep these in mind next year to prevent budget blunders!

-Antoinette R. Banks, Editor in Chief

5 Secrets from the Best Christmas Givers

1. Start a Christmas Savings Account

Enjoy the beauty of Christmas without the pressure to go into debt by saving a little toward the holiday throughout the year.  If you didn’t have a savings this year, then start now for next year.  If you need some help, some credit unions and banks offer Christmas Savings Accounts that let you decide on an amount to contribute during the months of January to October.  In November you’ll get a check to cover all your holiday expenses and gift giving.  Imagine, putting away $50 a month beginning in January would mean next November you’d have a check for $500 – A great step toward a stress-free Christmas.

2. Be Intentional

As you’re preparing to give, take a moment to refocus on the reason for your giving. Focus more on showing your appreciation for the person, and resist the urge to think that the best gifts always have a large price tag. Be intentional in your giving by thinking about those you’d like to bless. Honor them with gifts that express their uniqueness and what you know about them and you’re on your way to being a master giver.

3. Have a Plan

In most things a little planning goes a long way and giving is no different.  Taking the time to make your list, research items online and prepare a budget before you head to the mall can help you save both time and money, so don’t skip this step.

4. Pay Cash

It’s much easier to overspend with credit because you don’t see the money leaving your hands.  When you’re purchasing with cash you’ll make better decisions because we innately have more of an emotional experience when our hard-earned cash leaves our hands.  So leave the credit cards at home and then you’ll know when the cash is gone, you’re finished shopping.

5. Limit your Shopping to One Day

Once you’ve completed steps 1 – 4, all that’s left is to go shopping.  Consider planning to devote one day to completing all your shopping.  This way you’ll avoid impulse buying.  Multiple trips to stores increase the likelihood that you’ll find more reasons to bust the budget.  With steps 1 – 4 in place, step 5 should be a breeze

 

Written and Illustrated by G. Sharp