January 2024 Newsletter
by Pastor Mike Novotny
“Do you remember 11 months ago when I was such a gossip?”
That was the question a fellow Christian asked me the second time we talked, nearly a year after our first encounter. Apparently the sinful words she had spoken 11 months prior had become bricks on her conscience, weighing her down with a sharp sense of shame.
Honestly, I barely remembered our first conversation . . . but she couldn’t escape it.
In a way I felt bad for her, thinking of living the last year with that burden. Yet in another way, I was happy to hear her words. She was experiencing biblical shame, which is a spiritually healthy thing.
Consider the alternative. If she had gossiped behind someone’s back and hadn’t felt the slightest twinge of conviction, would her soul have been in sync with the God of love? Not a chance. She would have joined the ancient Israelites about whom the Lord said, “Are they ashamed of their detestable conduct? No, they have no shame at all; they do not even know how to blush” (Jeremiah 6:15).
The fact that this woman blushed over her sin was a sign of the Spirit’s presence in her heart. Just as white blood cells surge to fight an infection, shame rose up to battle a sin that had entered into her soul.
Summary—Shame can lead you to life.
Is there any sin from your past that bubbles up into your thoughts and weighs down on your heart? Perhaps some unloving words you said in the heat of the moment? Or the time you should have spoken up, but you lacked courage when it counted most?
If so, God wants you to deal with it through an open and honest confession.
Acknowledge before God the ugly nature of your sin. It may be helpful to do this with a trusted Christian friend or pastor. Then having confessed your shame, look to the One who is our shame-taker, Jesus Christ. Because “anyone who believes in [Jesus] will never be put to shame” (Romans 10:11).
Some people harden their hearts, so they don’t feel shame. Others wind up drowning in shame. I pray you will experience the holy shame that leads you to the cross, where you can leave it behind and move forward in the life you have in Christ.
You’ve been there, right? You’re struggling with temptation or unsure what God says about your overwhelming worry. You wonder how to move forward or how to truly grasp what God promises you in his Word.
You know what this is like, so you understand how people like Shelly feel when they are reassured from God’s Word through the messages of Time of Grace.
“I struggle with anxiety, and sometimes I feel like it puts a lot of stress on my marriage. We are also going through some financial stresses right now, which doesn’t help the anxiety. Please pray for me and my husband. We love watching your services; they always hit home for us, and we are able to relate them to our everyday life.”
This is the hope you help bring into people’s lives through your support of Time of Grace. You encourage people just like Shelly with the promises of God’s Word, and we are so grateful for the eternal impact you make possible!
Fight Anxiety With Joy!
Anxiety robs you of peace, sleep, confidence, and productivity. Anxiety robs you of life.
But God offers relief from your fears, hope in your heartache, and yes . . . even joy in your anxiety. Experience these promises in real, tangible ways with How to Fight Anxiety With Joy by Linda Buxa.
This 28-day guide shares daily devotions filled with God’s wisdom, along with proven tips to help you fight anxiety as you learn to rejoice in God’s love no matter what you face.
This devotional comes as thanks for your gift to help more people find life and joy in Jesus through the ministry of Time of Grace.
So request your copy on the enclosed reply card—and thank you for your generous support!
You Belong Here!
Thinking about trying a podcast but don’t know where to start? Here’s a great one from Amber Albee Swenson called “You Belong Here”:
Have you been wondering lately if you belong? I have too! Guess what? God says we belong in his family, even when our enemy tries to convince us otherwise.
Try something new this year!
Whether you spend regular time in God’s Word each day or could use a little help getting started, try something new to help build a habit of spending time with God each day.
- Sign up for our daily devotional emails.
- Watch devotional videos or the Time of Grace television program.
- Choose from one of our eight podcast feeds.
Coming up on Time of Grace
Out of the millions of conflicting messages that we absorb—from our feelings, our parents, our friends, our culture, our media, our churches—each of us will accept some things as true while rejecting others as false. But in a world where billions of people believe millions of things, how do you know if your beliefs line up with what’s true? This popular series from Pastor Mike, Whose Truth Do I Trust? explores the Bible’s answers to those essential questions. Watch this three-part series coming up in February.
The first episode of Whose Truth Do I Trust? is available to watch on February 4 with new episodes released each Sunday in February.
Q & A with Pastor Mike
Question: Dear Pastor Mike, how do I deal with the (complicated) people in my life?
Pastor Mike: If I could answer that question in one hundred words, I would be a very rich man. 😊
While there’s no simple script to loving people, here’s some wisdom I learned years ago: Afflict the comfortable, and comfort the afflicted.
When I’m with a person who is too comfortable with their own sin (selfishness, slander, overindulgence, etc.), I afflict them with God’s expectations. I gently but persistently call them out according to the Word.
But when I’m with a person who is afflicted by their sin, I comfort them with God’s promises, point them to Jesus, and remind them of their forgiveness.
People are complicated. But analyzing a person’s attitude about their sin (comfortable or afflicted) can help you figure out how to deal with people.
Us not them.
That short phrase is one of the seven values that shape the small group Bible ministry at our church, and it is essential to avoiding the ever-present temptation of becoming finger-pointing Pharisees.
What does it mean?
It means that we focus first and foremost on ourselves and not on the people who aren’t in the room.
In my ten-plus years of leading groups of Christians, I have learned that this is no easy task! Our instinct is to focus on other people, venting about changes in modern culture (most common among older people) or lamenting the way others have treated us (most common among . . . well . . . all people). There is, of course, a time to think about other people’s sins and our personal wounds, evidenced by David’s words in the Psalms about his enemies, but first we must deal with ourselves.
As Jesus said, “First take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye” (Matthew 7:5).
As difficult as this can be, I can tell you that it leads to healthy souls and true community. When we Christians vent about others, it makes us bitter and distant from each other. But when we confess our sins and struggles, it keeps us humble and cements our fellowship together.
At the start of this new year, I want to encourage you to start with yourself. With the help of God’s Word and his always available grace, we can deal with other people in due time, but let’s start with ourselves today.
You don’t need to fear. Whatever you see in your mirror, Jesus has already paid for it at his cross.