Category Archives: Christian Living

The Massive Difference between “Have To” and “Get To”…

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Out with Resolutions, In With Goals

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.”
  6. Develop an action plan. Break your goal down into manageable steps.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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!

Yes, Jeremiah 29:11 Applies to You!

Jeremiah 29:11 is a beloved verse for multitudes of Christians. And that is understandable when you consider its content:

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (NIV)

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…

  1. 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.
  2. 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:

  1. 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!
  2. 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!

“The Starting Five”

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.

Where Was Your Bible MADE?

In the last few years, I have become more intentional about buying more American-made products. But I had never given much thought to where my Bibles are made. Until now. I stumbled across this eye-opening post (albeit a little dated…2011), about how a large percentage of Bibles are now made in China, by a company that apparently does not support line up with my Christians values.

I took at look at the last 4 Bibles I have purchased (a NLT, MEV, and 2 KJVs) and found that two were printed in the U.S., one in Italy, and one in Korea (I’m assuming, and hoping, that means South Korea).

If you want me to recommend a Bible Publisher, I am a huge fan of the Trinitarian Bible Society (TBS), based in the UK, and whose Bibles are printed in the Netherlands. They only produce King James Version Bibles, but that is not a problem for me since that is the translation I prefer for my daily Bible reading.

TBS Bibles are the best combination of quality and value. They are not quite at the same level of quality as Cambridge, Allan, or Schuyler, which are the highest quality Bibles on the planet. But they are much higher quality than the vast majority of Bibles you will find at Walmart or your local Christian bookstore, and at remarkably low prices (a calfskin Bible for only $43!).

Another great thing about TBS is that they are not a corporation that views the Bible as product to sale. Unfortunately, most Bibles are published primarily to make money. TBS is a ministry whose primary goal is the distribution of the Word of God. This is why their prices are so low.

You can buy them directly from TBS or from evangelicalbible.com.

52 ideas for 2017…

Forget about resolutions… Here’s some ideas for you for 2017:

  • Read through the Bible (or the New Testament).
  • Fast from something occasionally (food, Facebook, TV, etc.).
  • Make a new friend, or two, or more.
  • Eat something you’ve never eaten before.
  • Write a book.
  • Write an old-fashioned snail mail letter to an old friend.
  • Establish a new habit of walking with your spouse or parent or sibling.
  • Eat meat from an animal you killed yourself. (I accomplished this idea this week, with a successful pheasant hunt).
  • Plant a garden.
  • Read more. Much more.
  • Get on the floor and wrestle with your kids or grandkids.
  • Take some ibuprofen the next morning.
  • Read a biography.
  • Videotape an interview of one of your older relatives.
  • Eat at local restaurants (non-chain) as much as possible, especially when traveling.
  • Give away more money.
  • Play a game of UNO with your family.
  • Play a game of Killer UNO with your family.
  • Return to playing regular UNO with your family so you will love each other again.
  • Clean out your closet or garage or attic or basement.
  • Watch an episode of the Andy Griffith show.
  • Spend an evening with your old friends reminiscing about how good things used to be, without looking at your phones one single time.
  • Enjoy a sunrise.
  • Take a Sunday afternoon drive with your family.
  • Pray more. Much more.
  • Play more board games with family and friends.
  • Learn a new skill.
  • Give away some of your stuff.
  • Pay for the order for the person behind you in the drive-thru.
  • Make sure they are not a family of six or more.
  • Take more pictures.
  • Write out your goals (make them Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Relevant, and Time-keyed)
  • Go to worship every weekend unless Providentially hindered.
  • Design your life plan, no matter how old you are.
  • Ask a trusted friend to keep you accountable about what matters in your life. Offer to do the same for them.
  • Think of someone who you think is probably lonely and either call them or go visit them or meet them for lunch.
  • Laugh at yourself more.
  • When you go to church, ask people, “How can I pray for you?” Then, pray for them on the spot.
  • Take a bubble bath. When you get in the bath, dramatically say, “Calgon, take me away!”
  • Men, grow a beard at least once this year.
  • Women, let your man grow a beard at least once this year.
  • Teenagers, your parents really do know a few things. Listen to them. They love you. They really do.
  • Go watch a ballgame at your alma mater. Wear the colors and cheer for those kids like they are yours.
  • Start each day by saying the Lord’s Prayer. It’s not the only great prayer, but it is the one prayer Jesus told us to pray.
  • Try to find some times to turn off your phone.
  • Sing in the shower.
  • Read the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution.
  • On August 21st, be in a location to experience the first coast-to-coast solar eclipse in the United States in over 80 years!
  • Go Christmas caroling at a nursing home or retirement home.
  • Go to a museum.
  • Enjoy a sunset.
  • Make things right with God.