faith, Life

What’s Your Word?

“Shout to the Lord” by Hillsong Worship

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In 2018 I embarked on a word adventure. Having been immersed in the social media world for many years, I saw how much it was a reflection of culture. Little did I realize how accurate that was – especially when you consider today’s world.

My adventure had to do with being the encourager that I am mixed with a non-resolution resolution.

Say what, Sunny?

Let me explain from my 2018 post:

I began thinking about the impending New Year’s and the inevitable resolutions that people make. What is it they say? A high percentage of resolutions are broken within the first few weeks of January. 

People have good intentions making resolutions – getting healthy, exercise, quit smoking, read more, cut back on social media. Noble ventures, to be sure. But, so many end up in “failure”. 

The reasons vary. Unrealistic expectations. Lack of support. 

Failure.

So, I set out to do something about it. Something that would help people think beyond resolutions and grasp on to something more realistic. 

One word.

“What’s Your Word?” – 2018

A word a month is how it started. I don’t know if it helped anyone back then, but it sure helped me. So much so that I am still doing a variation of it today.

Now, I do a word for the year. One word that will help me (and others) re-center myself when the trials and storms of life come. Or, in a moment of discouragement, I am reminded of my word for the year that the Lord so graciously gave me.

My words have been Release, Strength, Vertical, and Deep. The first two had more to do with things I faced that year. The last two were very much tied to Scripture. As the end of each year rolls around (September-ish this year), I begin to ask God what His word is for the next year will be for me. This time, however, I did things a little different.

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There are only a few people of faith that I listen to regularly. Each of them not only studies the Bible in English, but they study it in the original writings of Hebrew and Greek as well. Doing that, and being led by the Holy Spirit, provides a deeper understanding of the context in which Scripture was written.

I’m fascinated by the concept of studying in this manner. It’s a little beyond me at this point in my life, but I still find it fascinating. Little by little, I’m leaning into that.

I mention this because as I began to ask about the word for the year, Rosh Hashanah – the Jewish New Year – was approaching. No, I am not a Jew, but the Jewish New Year follows the times and seasons that God ordained in Scripture.

With Rosh Hashanah approaching, I thought I’d ask God for a word for the Jewish New Year. It was purely a whim, but as the day grew closer, He gave me a word: Vested. Meditating on that as 2023 approached, I thought that was going to be the word for the Gregorian calendar year.

Nope.

Before going to bed one day in late October or early November, I was reading the Bible. I began thinking about something called “testimony night”. I only experienced a few of these in my early church days, but it’s simply a night that a church has where members can step up to the microphone and tell others what God has done or is doing in their life.

Here in the Christmas season, it makes me think of the song, “Go Tell It on the Mountain”

Go, tell it on the mountain
Over the hills and everywhere
Go, tell it on the mountain
That Jesus Christ is born
That Jesus Christ is born

The shepherds who had just beheld the sight of the baby Jesus, their would-be Savior, the Bible says this about them, “…they made known the statement which had been told them about this Child” (Luke 2:17, NASB).

Yesterday, I was listening to my spiritual Mama, Cheryl Salem, give a short talk about 2023. She began reading from the Gimel section of Psalm 119. The word “testimonies” was read. Looking at that Psalm further (ESV), and the word “testimonies” appears 23 times.

I’m not one of those who reads everything into numbers, but surely that can’t be a coincidence, can it? “Testimony” (or a variation thereof) appearing in Psalm 119 23 times and we’re heading into 2023!

Maybe?

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Every time I turn around, the word “testimony” or some variation of it keeps popping up.

The dictionary, from a religious perspective, defines testimony as “a public profession of a religious experience.” This coincides with the “testimony night” I mentioned earlier. But there was one other definition that caught my eye from Merriam-Webster:

Say the word testimony and most people will think of a witness stand. It’s something that happens when a person is called to the witness stand in the courtroom to testify. They give their account of an event, person, or whatever the “case” may be, according to the questions given to them by the questioning attorney or judge.

Key words there: their account.

It’s a bit difficult to give an account of something you haven’t experienced. Questions can come, but if you don’t have a frame of reference, how can you possibly answer? We must experience things firsthand, right?

That’s not to say that we couldn’t attempt to answer questions that someone poses to us. Lord knows we see that all the time on social media. We can weigh in on a topic we don’t have experience with beyond what we read something somewhere or heard someone else say.

I mean, it’s hard for me to understand those who have had a great relationship with their dad when I didn’t have that growing up. Far from it. But I know what it is like to have a great relationship with my Heavenly Father, God. I have firsthand knowledge of that fact.

As I think about it, sitting here typing, I think back to something I wrote in 2020 in the middle of quarantine season. In “Scrolling through the Heart-line” and reference Matthew 12:34, out of the abundance of the heart, our mouths are speaking on social media. What we type is what is coming out of our heart, based on our firsthand experience.

For Christians, even our social timelines are our testimonies. Whether we post once in a while like me or every single day, what we say, is our testimony to everyone who can see/read our posts. Some of us, we’ve been blessed with the grace of God in that it hasn’t come back to bite us yet. Emphasize…YET!

But I believe, in 2023, because it is the Year of Testimony, we are speaking loudly with what we post. We are speaking loudly in how we communicate verbally. We are testifying loudly with how we conduct ourselves as Christians in this life.

It’s time for us as Christians to stop pointing the finger at others, or even each other, as if others are wrong or at fault and we aren’t. It’s time for us to deal with our “church hurt” and recognize that we are just like those who hurt us in that we are imperfect people walking on this imperfect earth dealing with an imperfect culture.

I’m not minimalizing or pushing aside the hurt we have experienced, but it’s time to stop acting like we are right, and they are wrong. We’re not. God is right and righteous. He is gracious and kind and true and faithful and loving and patient and… need I go on?

As it says in Romans 3,

21 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. 

Romans 3:21-25 (ESV)

“…all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God…” (verse 23)

I have sinned. I fall short of His glory.

I have hurt and been hurt by church leadership and other Christians. I have failed and been failed by church leadership and other Christians. I have fallen short of His glory as have others I have known in the past 30+ years I have been a Christian.

And yet, God still loves me.

He has forgiven me and says, “Keep walking, My child.” He reminds me that He will help me RELEASE (2019) that others have caused. He reminds me that He is my STRENGTH (2020). He reminds me to look VERTICAL (2021) and ‘set my eyes on things above not on things of this earth’ (Colossians 3:20). He reminds me to dig DEEP (2022) into His word and in my prayer time so that I will be sustained when trials come.

He’s telling me it’s time to be fully VESTED (Jewish Year 5783) and be a or tell my TESTIMONY (2023) in the year that is now/to come. In every aspect of life, whether it’s interacting one-on-one in person or online, when I’m driving and people drive me nuts with their bad driving or shopping at the grocery store, live the TESTIMONY.

And so, I ask you, Christian, are you fully vested in Him? What testimony are you telling with your life actions this day? Jesus is coming soon.

As the song says,

Shout to the Lord, all the earth let us sing
Power and majesty, praise to the King
Mountains bow down and the seas will roar
At the sound of Your name
I sing for joy at the work of Your hands
Forever I’ll love You, forever I’ll stand
Nothing compares to the promise I have in You

Testimony Time! Can I get a witness?

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Knees Down, Prayers Up

Sunny