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Jesus and Me in '23

John 15:5-8 --  “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.

My daughter gifted me a 23andMe test kit for Christmas. Both she and her father had submitted their samples and received their results last year. The reports not only showed what countries or nationalities they were descendant from, but also noted health issues or conditions they may be genetically disposed to having and the likelihood by a percentage. We didn’t see many surprises, except for the fact that there was no Native American in their profiles. Both me and my husband had been told growing up that our families had Indian blood. I will be curious to see what my results say.

Another interesting part of the test results is finding other people who are related to you who have taken this test. Their profiles show up on a map if they have opted in to participate, and you can message them. Most of them are perfect strangers, but we are still connected by our DNA with common ancestors. My maternal grandmother was one of 10 children, who each had large families, so there are lots of cousins out there that we have never met. I am not anticipating any family reunions, but it does give you a different perspective when you see yourself as a branch of a much larger tree.

These tests can be very helpful, especially to a younger person like my daughter, in knowing what your health risks are – even more so to someone who is adopted or has no information on their family history. Knowing this information may encourage you to make better health and fitness choices. It’s probably a little late for me. I am already dealing with higher cholesterol and pre-diabetes with medications, diet, and exercise – all issues other family members I know have had.

I don’t have any concerns about what my results might show, but it will be interesting to review them. God created my DNA, so nothing in the report will surprise Him either. I am in awe of the human body and it’s multiple systems and functions, and how they all work together. I don’t know how some can spit in a tube and get a detailed profile about their body and their ancestry, and still not see the hand of the Creator at work.

We are starting a New Year, and as interesting as it will be to learn more about my physical being through the DNA test, I think this year I am more interested in revelations about my spiritual being. I have lived a very full life, but sometimes it feels like a lot has been put on hold while giving my all to being a spouse, a mom, an employee. Can you relate? And that’s not casting any blame on anyone or that I have any regrets… I love being all those things and would do them all again. That’s life. But I can tell when I have been so busy in those roles that I have cut out time from my spiritual walk with Jesus. Lately, I have felt like the church in Ephesus from Revelation 2. It was a church that had labored for the Lord with perseverance and patience, yet they had left their first love. I have kept up with all my church “duties”, but I really haven’t put in the time with my Savior. I have spit out a list of requests in my bedside prayers, but I haven’t spent the time in prayer and meditation necessary to hear what He has to say about my life like I used to do. I have shown up for church fellowship, but kept my brothers and sisters at arm’s length because I have felt emotionally and spiritually depleted to the point that I had nothing more to give out. It’s time to get filled back up, seek God and His will for me, and renew my joy in Him. I need to make time for "Jesus and Me in ‘23".

I wish there were a test like the DNA test that would clearly define our spiritual gifts, our talents, and who we are in Christ. Instead, it is a journey of faith where we have to listen with our hearts and souls for His voice and guidance. As Christians, we are family. We have the shared blood of Jesus Christ running through us. We are branches of the same vine, and we have to remind ourselves that we are not alone. We are part of a bigger family. We have lots of brothers and sisters all over the world. We don’t know them personally, and we never communicate with them, though one day we will have the most awesome family reunion. In the meantime, imagine if we all opted to be in one mind and one accord and able to proclaim the gospel boldly together, instead of being scattered and isolated. The Church is not even a silent majority anymore -- only silent.

John 3:16 -- 16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. 17 For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.

It isn’t easy being a Christian and standing for your beliefs in these times. I am not saying I want to be up in people’s faces or confrontational. But, I do want to examine myself to see what I may be doing that takes away from my testimony. I want to find ways I can let His light shine through my life that are uplifting and encouraging to others without sugarcoating the Truth. And, I want to quit tip-toeing around people who might feel “bad” because of the message. That’s conviction, not condemnation. I want everyone to feel loved and in a safe space, even if we disagree on something.

I know there will be push back. There will be rejection. But, what joy if even one person gets it! When contemplating all these things, I prayed for the Lord to give me a word or a scripture to help me. I opened my Bible to this scripture from Isaiah 51.

Isaiah 51:7-8

“Listen to Me, you who know righteousness,
You people in whose heart is My law:
Do not fear the reproach of men,
Nor be afraid of their insults.
For the moth will eat them up like a garment,
And the worm will eat them like wool;
But My righteousness will be forever,
And My salvation from generation to generation.”

May God bless you all in 2023. I pray that each of us will draw closer to Jesus and each other this year. Let’s build each other up and encourage one another through sincere acts of love and kindness. I pray that we will gain many new brothers and sisters through our outreach and spreading of the gospel, by being Christ-like and sharing His love. Amen.

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