Because I work to make my videos as brief as possible, I usually leave several minutes on the proverbial cutting room floor. But because I also have this blog, I occasionally would like to expand a little bit more on the topic at hand.
This video is about apostasy, which is when a person abandons their faith. They no longer follow Christ. I didn’t get a chance in the video to explain that I do not believe that those who apostatize actually cease being Christians. I believe that there are two types of people who apostatize: (1) those we are truly Christians, and will eventually return to Christ and (2) those who never return to Christ, thereby revealing that they were never really Christians to begin with, as described in 1 John 2, verse 19…
They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us; but they went out that they might be made manifest, that none of them were of us.
Why do people fall away from the faith?
A few reasons…
- Jesus does not measure up to their expectations.
- They find following Jesus too difficult.
- They fall into sin and then don’t want to have to deal with the guilt that comes with it.
- Peer pressure. Most of their friends and family, not to mention the culture at large, mocks Christianity.
The fourth reason is really what I addressed in this video. I believe we will see increasing numbers of “Christians” walk way from their faith because of the dwindling popularity of Christianity in North America.
On the positive side, God is purifying His church. The church will become leaner, but it will also become holier and more powerful in its witness and in displaying the love of Christ in all its purity and beauty.
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!
I’ve been talking a lot about goals in my recent messages on Sunday mornings and thought this talk by Tim Keller on the subject of risk is very relevant to the setting of goals:
A deeply moving family story captured with outstanding videography, music, and editing:
I lifted all the following from Justin Taylor’s blog and I pass it along to you:
The Daily Mall and others are reporting on Said (or Sayed) Musa. Earlier I had posted a link to his letter from prison describing sexual and physical abuse. Here’s the new report:
An Afghan physiotherapist will be executed within three days for converting to Christianity.
Said Musa, 45, has been held for eight months in a Kabul prison were he claims he has been tortured and sexually abused by inmates and guards.
Mr Musa, who lost his left leg in a landmine explosion in the 1990s, has worked for the Red Cross for 15 years and helps to treat fellow amputees.
He was arrested in May last year as he attempted to seek asylum at the German embassy following a crackdown on Christians within Afghanistan.
He claims he was visited by a judge who told him he would be hanged within days unless he converted back to Islam.
But he remains defiant and said he would be willing to die for his faith.
He told the Sunday Times: ‘My body is theirs to do what they want with.’
You can also read the Compass Direct News report, which begins:
An Afghani amputee in prison for his Christian faith since May will face a judge this Sunday (Nov. 21) without legal representation or knowledge of the charges against him, according to local sources.
Denny Burk suggests that if you have Twitter, you post one of the following:
Mr. President, speak wisely and boldly, in private if necessary, for Said Musa, imprisoned in Kabul. http://dsr.gd/ezR3jW @BarackObama
Mr. President, please persuade the Afghan govt. not to execute our brother Said Musa. http://bit.ly/bQ5RLQ @BarackObama Prov. 24:10-12
Update: A valid point by Paul Marshall:
If the actions of a Florida pastor who threatened to destroy a book holy to Muslims deserved public and presidential attention, then the actions of the Afghan government, ostensibly a ‘democratic’ ally, to destroy something holy to Christians, a human being made in the image of God, also deserve public and presidential attention.
I have previously recommended David Platt’s outstanding book, Radical. Below is a brief clip from Dr. Platt speaking (as a guest) at Cross Church of Springdale, Arkansas. It’s a good summary of his book.
Dear American Christian, how you respond to Platt’s message, either through the book or this video, reveals a lot about your brand of Christianity. Is your Christianity too influenced by the American materialistic mindset? How you respond to this critical message reveals a lot about the condition of your heart (Matthew 6:19-21).
You may actually be a Christian who claims to not to embrace the Health/Wealth gospel (aka prosperity gospel). But if you find yourself offended by Platt’s message or making excuses to get around it, you may need to probe your heart a little deeper…you may be more prosperity gospel than you care to admit.
You can watch the whole message HERE and you can order the book HERE.
On a side note, during David Platt’s message at this summer’s Pastor’s Conference, Matt Chandler (also on the program) tweeted that David Platt “preaches like he’s in pain and I’m grateful to God for him.” That’s funny. And true.