The Danger of Setting Goals

iStock_000021351648Danger of Setting Goals

This is the time of year when people typically begin to review the past, relish the fondest of memories, and imagine a brighter future for the days to come.

New Years’ Eve Celebrations will necessarily be followed by massive clean-up efforts, and fresh resolutions will tack the door frames, hallways, and refrigerators of our everyday, ordinary lives.

New Year, New Start

New Years’ Resolutions get a bad rap at times. Perhaps it’s the universally-accepted phenomenon that these types of “commitments” can easily be short-lived and then we’re delivered back to the desperate norm of the most basic of goals: survival.

So, let me add my voice to the barrage of other bellowers berating the besetting “sins” of setting goals.

Here are 4 dangers I see in setting goals:

1. They provide clarity and focus

It’s so much easier to rush from one event to the next, frazzled and frantic amidst the rush of frenetic activity. Your heart races, your body pulses, and you tend to “feel” more when you’re stressed and anxious and hurried and un-focused. Setting goals provide a clarity and focus that takes away that anxious feeling of not-doing-what-you-should-be-doing-when-you-should-be-doing-it. So, I don’t recommend setting goals if you prefer the fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants sort-of rush. It’s certainly not for everyone.

2. They hold you accountable

We love the phrases “no commitment required”, “no monthly fee”, “no obligation”. Who wants to sign a contract when you can get the same type of service with no commitment? This may work for some cell phone and cable-tv services, but it typically doesn’t work in trying to achieve our goals. Setting the goals is the easy part. Committing to them is what requires hard word and effort. It’s what helps us push through “the messy middle.” If we’re committed to our goals, they hold us accountable. That’s a dangerous thing if you’re opposed to accountability, hard-work, or effort.

3. They help you say “No” to other things

The word “No” has to be the most hated word in the English language. It’s the first thing a toddler screams about. Tell a 2-year-old “No” when she is about to put a fork in an electrical outlet, and two things happen: 1) you will save a life, and 2) your ears will hurt. “No” enforces limits. “No” establishes boundaries. “No” tells us that we can’t be everywhere, do everything, read every blog, participate in every event, and still achieve our every goal. In other words, “No” puts an end to our continual lust for God-like status. It reminds us that we are finite beings and that only God is infinite and unlimited in his power, wisdom, love, and strength. If you don’t like the word “No”, you might not want to set any goals this year because establishing clearly defined goals helps you say “No” to other things.

4. You just might achieve them

Perhaps after reading the preceding dangers, you are still with me in your desire to set goals. If that’s the case, I understand. However, you do need to be very careful of this final danger. This one is a tricky-one, and it may be the most dangerous of them all, so let me explain. In the event that you do decide to set clearly defined goals that provide focus and clarity, you decide to commit to those goals and be held accountable to them, and you learn how to say “No” to other things in order to achieve your goals, be very, very careful of this lurking danger:

You just might achieve your goals.

What are your goals for the new year? How will you hold yourself accountable to those goals? What do you need to say “No” to in order to achieve your goals? I would love for you to leave any comments in the comment-section below.

Need Your Soul Revived? I Recommend A Reading Plan 

iStock_000021072677Bible Reading

Conquering the Distaste for Reading

I used to hate reading. I would have rather done anything in the world than sit down and read a book. The idea of devoting focused time on some sort of reading material seemed so boring. I would think,

“Give me a video game or a movie, some music or a football, but please don’t hand me a book!”

Of course, this negative attitude toward reading made some classes in high school rather tricky because I was often required to write papers on certain books that I had “read.”

To circumvent my displeasure of reading, I skillfully learned the art of interviewing my friends about the details of a book before a paper was due, and then writing the paper from content I collected in my interviews (not a habit I would recommend to my kids!).

Now I LOVE to read. If I had my choice of any leisure activity, it would most certainly involve time invested in a book (probably on a beach, and most-definitely with my wife and kids close beside me).

Question: So, what in the world changed my point of view?

Answer: I met Jesus – that is to say he revealed himself to me – and the night I met Him I discovered that He had authored a Book (2 Timothy 3:16).

I can still vividly remember opening a copy of my pocket New Testament shortly after I was converted. I began reading in Matthew, voraciously soaking in every word and underlining words-of-life in red ink like a ravenous scavenger.

Though my conversion sparked a love for all kinds of reading, there is One Book that has remained constant in my daily life: The Bible.

Since the day of my conversion, I have never stopped reading it. It’s hard to believe that this upcoming year I will be making my way through the entire Old and New Testaments for the 17th time, and it has never grown old. (Note: Pocket New Testaments fall apart when carried in your pocket daily – poor design if you ask me!)

Looking at the copy of that tattered and taped-up pocket New Testament always reminds me of the miracle of my conversion. It also reminds me of the value of Scripture.

What’s So Special About the Bible, and Why Should We Read It Regularly?

Simply put, Scripture teaches and our experience confirms that God’s Word is not like any other book in the world: it is a living book, breathed out by God Himself (Heb. 4:12-13). The Word of God is inspired, inerrant, infallible, authoritative and sufficient for life and godliness (Psalm 12:6; 2 Tim. 3:16-17; 2 Peter 1:3-4). God’s word is necessary for us to understand the way of salvation. Faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of God (Romans 10:14;17), and God promises to accompany His Word with saving and sanctifying power (Isaiah 55:10-11; John 17:17).

So reading is a form of feasting for the Christian soul. If you need your soul revived this year (as I know I do!), hear again the psalmist’s declaration:

“the law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul.” (Psalm 19:7).

Whatever your sentiment has been in the past on the topic of reading, I want to encourage you to make it your prayer and earnest pursuit that in the present, this year will be one in which you are devoted to the Word of God.

Scripture teaches that “man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4, emphasis mine). Since our souls are nourished by every word of Scripture, and we are to live by every word of Scripture, why not make a plan for reading every word of the Bible?

Simple Plans for Simple People

There are many Bible reading plans available to help us with this goal, and it’s never too early or too late to start.

My personal favorite plan is The One Year Bible which guides you daily (and quite manageably) through an Old Testament and New Testament reading, as well as a reading from the Psalms and Proverbs. I have found with this plan that if you devote 15-20 minutes a day, you will very easily read through the entire Bible in one year (our 10-year-old daughter is beginning her 3rd trip through the entire Bible using this plan, so I know anyone can do it!).

We want to be people of The Book. This year, may we all give ourselves to soaking in the Word of God.

As a result, may our souls be revived by God’s Word and may we continue to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen” (2 Peter 3:18)!

Christ Bids Us Come

iStock_000001587857Come and Knock

Consider the tender affection of Jesus in bidding us to come to him:

“On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, ‘If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’ – John 7:37-38

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” – Matthew 11:28-30

“But Jesus called them to him, saying, ‘Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God.” – Luke 18:16

“All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.” – John 6:37

“Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.” – Rev. 3:20

“The Spirit and the Bride say, ‘Come.’ And let the one who hears say, ‘Come.’ And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price.” – Rev. 22:17

Without money. Without price. With no merit of our own. Yet, Jesus bids us come to God, through Him. What a tender, merciful Savior we have in Christ.

Christmas and Conflict

iStock_000030974394Christmas Conflict

I’ve spoken with a number of friends who have experienced an increased level of conflict with their spouses and families over the Christmas holidays.

Some are surprised and others discouraged by the presence of bickering in what is supposed to be a time of joy.

More Time Together

There is no question that more time together over the holidays is a huge blessing! It also provides increased opportunities for family members to sin against each other.

Little things like setting up the Christmas tree, putting out the decorations, and simply discussing holiday plans can leave us all meandering our way through mis-matched expectations. Before we know it, conflict springs up, and with the conflict we can easily sin against each other.

The good news is that God is a Redeemer, and he can use even our sinful moments of failure to remind us of the joy of Christmas.

Really? Yes!

This Is Why Jesus came

God is not surprised by our sin. We may be alarmed at times by what can come out of our hearts in unguarded moments, but He is never surprised.

Our impatience, anger, unkindness, and pride has never caught Him off guard. In fact, this is exactly why we have a Christmas holiday to celebrate. Our sin is why God sent His Son.

Christmas reminds us of the truths that we are in desperate need of a Savior and that the Savior has come! Jesus came to save us from our sins.

The next time we have a conflict with a family member and blow-it in our impatience, anger, unkindness, rudeness, or any other manner, we don’t have to despair. We can take it as an opportunity to be reminded afresh of the good news of Christmas:

“She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21).

There is a Savior, and there is enough grace, mercy, and hope for each of us in Him!

No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found,
Far as the curse is found,
Far as, far as, the curse is found.

This Christmas, let’s turn our moments of failure into moments of worship and once-again embrace the grace of God in our Savior, Jesus Christ.

Celebrating Christmas With Those Who Don’t Follow Christ

Celebrating Christmas

“How can I honor God while I’m celebrating Christmas with unbelieving relatives?”

This was essentially the question my friend asked me, immediately following our church service on Saturday evening. She was traveling on her way through Nashville to meet her family for the Christmas holiday.

I could sense the trouble in her spirit, even as she asked the question. We had just enjoyed a wonderful service, focusing our attention on the significance of the birth of Christ. The hymns we sang, the Scriptures that were read, and the message that was preached all wonderfully pointed to the person and work of Jesus.

It was clear that God had captured my friend’s heart personally and specifically by these glorious truths and that there was a strong desire in her soul to honor Christ as she celebrated Christmas.

Feeling Alone at Christmas

The problem, she shared, was that she was on her way to spend the Christmas holidays with family members who don’t follow Christ. She was somewhat discouraged as she considered what the holidays may have in store for her.

A large storm was quickly approaching the middle Tennessee area where we were located, so I assured my friend that I would pray for her and I sent her off to travel home safely before the storm hit.

I don’t think my friend is alone in her struggles. On the contrary, I’m quite sure that many feel as if they are traveling into a storm as they make their way to spend the holidays with unbelieving relatives.

So, how would Scripture guide us when we’re celebrating Christmas with those who don’t follow Christ?:

1 Peter 3:13-15:

Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil.

Zealous For What Is Good

People are generally not harmed for acts of kindness. We are encouraged from this passage that we can go to spend time with our family members with “a zeal for what is good.” Let us do good to them so that they see Christ in us. When opportunities arise, and our relatives ask what is different about us, we can give the “reason for the hope” that is in us.

When we do this, we must do it with gentleness and respect. As my friend, Dave Odom, recently shared: “The content of the gospel should never be compromised, but neither should the graciousness by which we communicate it.” As those who have received mercy, let us graciously extend that same mercy to others.

The gospel is “good news” for sinners. We can arm ourselves with this mindset. We come into sinful homes with good news that Jesus was born to live a perfect life and die on the cross as a substitute for sinners. There is no one who has fallen too far from the reach of Christ’s love.

Therefore, we do not have to fear or be troubled. Whether our relatives accept or reject us for our acts of kindness, we will be blessed. And even if no one else in the room is honoring Jesus as they open other gifts, in our hearts we can set apart Christ as Lord.

Even If We Suffer for Embracing This Good News, We Will Be Blessed

Matthew 5:10-12:

“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

May God grant us grace to “walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. {May our} speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that {we} may know how you ought to answer each person” (Colossians 4:5-6).

And in our hearts, may Christ, the Lord, be honored as holy even as we celebrate his birth in the midst of those who don’t acknowledge his Name.

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests” (Luke 2:14).