Here he is preaching on the subject of death…
And here he is talking about the hope of Heaven…
As we near the end of January, I would ask you… how are you doing with those resolutions you made back on December 31st or January 1st?
Research tells me that you are probably not doing so well with them. In fact, according to researchers at the University of Scranton, only 8% of people are ultimately successful with their New Year’s resolutions. Furthermore, the average person makes the same resolution ten separate times without success. Then they give up.
How many times have you said, “I will never do that again!” only to do it again and again?
Good news! There is a better way.
It’s called GOALS.
Setting and pursuing goals is far more effective than making resolutions. Research says that you have a 42% greater chance of achieving your goals by this one simple action: WRITE THEM DOWN.
That’s right. There is something powerful about writing down goals.
A couple of years ago I was cleaning out some files and came across a “dream” goals sheet I had filled out when I was eighteen years old. It asked questions about long-range, lifetime goals in various areas of life. I had filled it out, filed it away, and then forgotten about it. I won’t share the details (they are private), but I was absolutely shocked by how much of those dreams had come true in that over quarter century time span, even some dreams that I had considered unrealistic. What is amazing to me is that I did not sit down to actually come up with a strategy to reach those dreams.
So what are some principles for setting and reaching goals? With a hat tip to Michael Hyatt and the late Zig Ziglar (both have influenced me much on this subject of goals), here is a top ten list I came up with that can help you get started in setting goals:
- Pray about your goals. Remember James 4.13-17… “If the Lord wills…”? You want your goals to be aligned with God’s will for your life.
- Set an appropriate number of goals and pursue only a few goals simultaneously. A good rule of thumb is to set 7-10 goals per year but only be working on 2-3 of those goals at a time.
- Be specific. It is not a good goal to “Get in shape.” A better goal would be: “Run a marathon.” That’s a specific goal that enables you to get in shape.
- Set a due date. Using our previous example, you might say, “Run a marathon by October 15th.” If you are setting a habit goal (a goal of doing something everyday until it becomes a habit), Make sure you set your date at least 67 days out. The old saying that it takes 21 days to make a new habit is a complete myth. Research says it takes about 66 days to make a new habit.
- Get an accountability partner. Ecclesiastes 4.9-10 says, “Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their labor. For if they fall, one will lift up his companion.But woe to him who is alone when he falls, for he has no one to help him up.”
- Develop an action plan. Break your goal down into manageable steps.
- Get started. An experienced author once counseled an aspiring writer, “The hardest sentence of a book to write is the first one.” Stop dreaming and start pursuing. Procrastination is the enemy of progress.
- Review your goals daily. There is an old saying, “Out of sight… out of mind.” If you do not keep your goals in front of you regularly, you will not stay focused. Come up with creative ways of keeping your goals in front of you… customized screen savers, notecards, bookmarks, etc.
- Eliminate stinking thinking. Proverbs 23.7 says, “As a man thinks in his heart, so is he.” The number obstacle to achieving your goals is your own faulty thinking. Attitude determines your altitude. If you are believing lies about yourself or about God, it will limit your ability to press forward and accomplish your goals. So, identify what Michael Hyatt calls “limiting beliefs” in your life and replace them with “liberating truths.” I like to find a Scripture verse or passage that counteracts each of the limiting beliefs that have taken root in my thinking.
- Don’t be afraid to fail and then restart. Don’t give up. Keep trying. In 2009 I set a goal to read 52 books in a year (1 per week). I failed miserably that year, only reading 11. The next year I set the same goal and only read 17. Year after year I set the same goal and year after year I fell short. But on my 8th attempt, in 2016, I finally succeeded and read 53 books that year (including the whole Bible).
So, you failed with your resolutions? Take heart… sit down with a piece of paper and a pen or pencil. Talk to God about setting some goals… and go for it!
**WARNING… This post focuses on a sensitive topic that is inappropriate for children.
What do the men in the following list have in common?
Harvey Weinstein (Film Executive), Kevin Spacey (Actor), Glenn Thrush (NY Times Journalist), Jeffrey Tambor (Actor), Louis C.K. (Comedian, Actor), Al Franken (Actor, Comedian, Senator), Charlie Rose (Journalist), Matt Lauer (Today Show Host), Roy Moore (Former Judge, Senate Candidate), Steven Seagal (Actor), Ed Westwick (Actor), Brett Ratner (Film Director), Dustin Hoffman (Actor), Jeremy Piven (Actor), Michael Oreskes (National Public Radio News Chief), Mark Halperin (NBC Senior Political Analyst), George H. W. Bush (41st President of the United States), Terry Richardson (Celebrity Photographer), Leon Wieseltier (Literary Critic, Magazine Editor), James Toback (Film Writer and Director), John Besh (Celebrity Chef), Bob Weinstein (Film Executive), Oliver Stone (Film Director), Roy Price (Amazon Studios Chief), Ben Affleck (Actor), Garrison Keillor (author, speaker, radio celebrity).
They are successful men in their respective fields who have all been accused of inappropriate sexual behavior in the past two months. And that list is not exhaustive. It all began with Hollywood executive Harvey Weinstein. He was the proverbial domino that led to what seems to be almost daily breaking news of another celebrity, or person in a psoition of power, being accused of inappropriate sexual behavior.
This morning it was music executive Russell Simmons (Def Jam Records).
For a lot of men in powerful positions, victims have chosen to no longer remain silent. For the ones who are truly guilty, their day of accounting is overdue. I suspect many more will be called out to accountability in the days, weeks, and months to come.
Some of the men on the list have only one accuser. Some have multiple. In both cases, we need to be careful of assuming someone’s guilt simply due to accusation. I heard about one pastor (several years ago) who was accused by a teenager of inappropriate behavior. It nearly cost him his church and brought untold turmoil on his family, his church, and the community. Sometime later the girl admitted that she made the whole thing up.
So what does this have to do with our Vice President and with famous evangelist Billy Graham?
Well, simply this… Both Pence and Graham chose to live by a very high standard that would make it virtually impossible to (a) engage in this kind of behavior and (b) be accused of this kind of behavior.
How? They live by a principle that my generation credited to Graham… strive to never be alone with another woman other than your wife, including, but not limited to, not eating out alone with a woman other than your wife in public. In ministry circles we called it the Billy Graham rule. This current generation is calling it the Pence rule because our Vice President applies the same rule to his life.
Men who hold positions of influence or power have more opportunity to act upon their sinful inclinations as well as are more susceptible to false accusations. Therefore, you would think that all Christians would see the wisdom in such a principle, especially for men who are in positions of leadership (which the Bible calls for being “above reproach”). But if you think that, you would be wrong.
Case in point… Christianity Today editor Katelyn Beaty. This young lady recently wrote an op-ed for the New York Times in which she argues that the Graham/Pence rule is demeaning to women. She writes, “The Pence rule arises from a broken view of the sexes: Men are lustful beasts that must be contained, while women are objects of desire that must be hidden away.”
Well, Ms. Beaty, if this Autumn’s news cycle hasn’t convinced you… men are lustful beasts (Ephesians 2.3) who, apart from the restraining grace of God, will engage in shocking and disgusting behavior to fulfill their lusts. Any man who tells you otherwise is lying or self-deceived. King David was a man after God’s own heart and yet he fell into the trap of using his position of power to sinfully fulfill the lust of the flesh.
Second, as for women that are objects of desire that must be hidden away, I hate further rain on Ms. Beaty’s pollyannaish parade, but the truth is that many women today actually need to do a better job of hiding away their sexual parts, instead of showing as much of them as possible. I’m not saying women need to cover all their skin and dress frumpy. But let’s be honest, the rebellion against modesty seems to know no limits these days. (And yes, I’ve read the viral article titled “Modest is Hottest” is not in the Bible. The author makes some good points but is dangerously naive, as well as weak theologically, on some critical points.)
God created them male and female. But because our society has summarily dismissed God and His wisdom concerning sexual standards, it’s no wonder that there is so much confusion about how to safeguard against sexual misconduct. What’s disappointing is that an editor for Christianity Today thinks that the Graham/Pence rule is a bad thing.
As for me, I am going to stick with the Graham/Pence rule. As each “Breaking News” story unfolds in this current sordid news cycle, I’m increasingly seeing just how wise these men are.
Jeremiah 29:11 is a beloved verse for multitudes of Christians. And that is understandable when you consider its content:
I’ve seen Jeremiah 29:11 on refrigerators, Facebook cover pages, car windows, framed art, and permanently inked onto human skin.
I have also heard Christians rebuke other Christians for assuming Jeremiah 29:11 is a promise that can be claimed by them today. The argument goes something like this… “Jeremiah 29:11 does not apply to us today. It was written at a specific time for a specific people. You cannot claim it as a promise for yourself.”
I get it. I totally understand that it is vital that we study our Bibles in context and that we do not take verses out of context. Yet, I also think it is entirely appropriate for Christians today to draw hope and comfort from Jeremiah 29:11. Here’s two good reasons why…
- Though Jeremiah 29:11 is a promise given by God to Israel, under the old covenant, its content is consistent with the promises of God given to believers under the new covenant.
- The New Testament instructs us to take the Old Testament promises and see them as fulfilled for us and through us in Christ: “For all the promises of God in Him are Yes, and in Him Amen, to the glory of God through us.” (2 Corinthians 1:20, NKJV)
Now, that said, let me bring some balance. One of the legitimate reasons that many Christians are concerned about claiming Jeremiah 29:11 as a personal promise for today is that sometimes people make assumptions about the verse that simply are not true. Here are a couple of examples:
- A Christian is going through a very hard time, reads Jeremiah 29:11 and assumes that this means that the trial they are going through is definitely not God’s will and He will quickly rescue them from that trial. Yet, Jeremiah 29:11 was written to God’s people when they were experiencing the discipline of God in their lives. In the midst of the trial God had given them, He wanted to remind them that His ultimate goal was to bring them to a place of peace and prosperity. As for the assumption that God would soon rescue them, that was definitely not the case for the people to whom this promise was originally delivered. In fact, Jeremiah 29:10 said that they would be under God’s discipline for seventy years!
- Someone hears Jeremiah 29:11 and assumes God is going to give them a glorious future and they have no responsibility themselves. I have actually seen people claim this verse for themselves while they are living in blatant, unrepentant immorality. My dear friends, it does not work that way. If you are truly a child of God and if you are living in rebellion against your loving Heavenly Father, don’t expect Him to give you peace and prosperity. Expect Him to discipline you (see Hebrews 12:6-8). You have a responsibility to be calling upon Him in prayer and seeking Him with all of your heart (Jeremiah 29:12-13).
So, in summary, Jeremiah 29:11 applies to you after all! But make sure you first understand it within its immediate context, as well as the context of the entire redemptive story.
You Are Loved!
Later this month I will be self-publishing an e-book through Amazon Kindle… Lord willing. The title of the book is The Starting Five: Discovering the Five Doctrines that Anchor the Christian Life. A 31-day devotional, this book will be especially helpful for new Christians who are looking to establish a strong foundation for their Christian life. But I believe it will be a good resource for established Christians as well, reminding us all of foundational truths. More details forthcoming.