It's crunch time with our goal setting. I mean now is that time that you are either going to go for broke or throw in the towel. You may have already thrown in the towel. You may not have even set any goals for the New Year because you knew you were going to throw in the towel, so you figured, "Why even bother?"
I posted on a short video about this idea last week but wanted to give a little more attention to it here. The success of our goal setting is all about our "Heart". You may have encountered the "Obstacle of the Heart" in the past. The obstacle of the heart can flatten you pretty quickly.
You've been there: things get busy, you get tired, you get distracted, you get bored and the first thing to fly out the window are your goals.
Fill in the blank: In 2018 I really wanted to start ________________ or I really wanted to stop _______________.
What happened? Well, it's likely that your heart was never in it in the first place. It's the difference between, "Yeah, that'd be cool if I could start doing this or stop doing that." and "Oh my goodness, I absolutely have to do whatever it takes to make this or that a reality."
It's about discovering the "Why" of what you've set out to do accomplish. If you're "Why" is insignificant than the outcome of your goals will likely be insignificant as well. I would even go so far as to say that if your "Why" isn't significant then you will likely be exactly where you are now in 1 year.
You have to figure out your "Why" because that's what give you heart and when you have heart, you'll push through when things get tough at crunch time. The question really isn't "Where's your heart?" The question is better phrased, "Where's your treasure?"
Matthew 6:21 says, “Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.”
This verse gives us the idea that we need to work backwards to discover a truth. You see when you discover the answer to the question, "Where's your treasure?" then you truly discover where your heart is and when you discover where you're heart is, you begin to realize why accomplishing your goals is so tough or hopefully so easy.
So how do you figure out where your treasure is?
The answer to that question is found in how you spend your time, what you think about, what you're willing to sacrifice for, what you listen to, what you watch, who you try to impress.
Those are the things or people you truly treasure. If what you treasure doesn't line up with your goals then something has to change...and it shouldn't be your goals. Allow God to impress upon you His goals for your life and then make moves to line up your treasures with those goals.
What's in your heart is made real by your actions. Be encouraged and keep moving forward.
I've been reading and re-reading the book of Jonah found in the Old Testament of the Bible. Before you applaud my amazing commitment to Bible study, you should know it's only 4 chapters long. You could read it in it's entirety in like 5 minutes. Nevertheless, I've been reading it, studying some of the context of Jonah's life, trying to understand something deeper than what might be evident at first glance.
In my 2nd or 3rd reading I noticed something that I hadn't noticed before. Jonah 1:9 says, "Jonah answered, “I am a Hebrew, and I worship the Lord, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the land.”
This doesn't feel significant until you understand when and where Jonah made this statement. God had instructed Jonah, as one of His prophets, to go directly to the Assyrian capital city of Ninevah to deliver a message of coming destruction if the people didn't repent and turn back to God. Jonah does what comes naturally to many throughout history, he runs. He runs as far in the opposite direction as possible. He heads to the port of Joppa, boards a ship and makes off for the city of Tarshish.
Tarshish was significantly further away and in the opposite direction from Ninevah. Jonah's move to board a ship and head for Tarshish could not be any clearer, "He wanted nothing to do with what God was calling him to."
So with that information in mind, let's read Jonah 1:9 again, "“I am a Hebrew, and I worship the Lord, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the land.”
As I read that verse again the other night, I was struck by the ridiculousness of what was stated. Jonah was "saying" that he worshipped the Lord, the God of Heaven yet he was on a ship headed away from where God was clearly calling him. How could this be? Could Jonah really identify himself as someone who worshipped God and yet still completely ignore His leading?
As I reflected on my own life I began to wonder how often I "say" one thing about God and then demonstrate something completely different with my actions?
Do I sometimes try to convince myself that I worship the Lord when in fact I have boarded a ship and I'm headed in the opposite direction? If I don't actually follow God's leading am I really following? My prayer for you and me is that we would be people of faith, willing to go where He leads. When He calls I pray that we would resist the temptation to head to port in search of a vessel to take us away. Be encouraged and keep moving forward.
It really does fit. As difficult as today has been it just makes sense that we would honor my grandmother's life at her funeral on the 4 year anniversary of my father's passing. They always seemed to have a special relationship but towards the end of his life they seem to connect on a different level. Often, she would only leave the house if her were taking her somewhere, he had a way of coaxing her from her armchair and out to run errands.
I remember once when they stopped by my house on one of their many errand runs and as I stood in the driveway talking with my dad, grandma just sat in the car waiting. She was content to just be out, she had no need to get out of the car.
Both my father and my grandmother impacted people in significant ways throughout their lives. Both left tremendous legacies for their families. It's my hope that I could impact people an leave even a fraction of the legacy that they have left. They are missed. Below are the words I shared at my father's funeral four years ago.
"As I reflected on the words that I would say in this moment, my mind was filled with the memories of a father who left me no shortage of stories to tell and examples to recall and to pattern my life after. I suppose I could tell some of those stories to you this afternoon and you would walk away with a better picture of who my dad was, but ultimately, the best way to understand who someone really is, is to observe the impact that he or she made on the lives of those around them and my dad impacted the people around him.
My dad was a big believer in discipline. Growing up in my house there were no timeouts or counting to three or questions like, “Was that a wise choice?”. You knew instantly when you did something wrong because you got whipped. And if the offense occurred while dad was at work mom simply said the words, “You just wait until your father gets home”. The day before dad passed away I saw one of those little cartoon blurbs on Facebook that said, “My parents spanked me as a child and I now suffer from a psychological condition known as ‘Respect for Others”. That summed up my dad’s philosophy on parenting. But respect for others wasn’t just something that he told us about, it was something he modeled for us. Dad treated everyone with respect and love.
Although my dad was a man of few words he modeled for his sons what a husband and a father looked like. He modeled for me a life of servanthood as he pampered and catered to my mom. He demonstrated what it meant to be a patient husband. Mom seldom did the dishes, she never shoveled or scraped snow from the sidewalks or car windshields. He always volunteered to clean the bathroom, take out the trash, sweep the carpet, dust the furniture, etc. My dad took care of my mom in every way possible. It’s that example that my wife will attest that I’m still working on but I believe that if I could treat my wife with even a fraction of the respect and love that my dad treated my mom with, I would be an amazing husband.
My dad modeled for me how to be a father. The attention that he paid to us as his sons, the countless school projects that he helped us squeeze out at the last minute, the time he spent showing us how to fix everything from A to Z. He modeled what it meant to not only pay attention to his kids but really focus on them and to pass along his knowledge to us.
The way that my dad treated his mother-in-law, my grandmother, was one of extreme patience. He demonstrated not only patience, but love and respect and dignity to the mother of his wife. Over the last week since dad’s passing, grandma has said on more than one occasion, “I loved him, he loved me and we loved each other.” That certainly summed up their relationship.
I want you to understand this afternoon that my father’s legacy will live on, it will live on in my life and in the lives of my brothers and our sons and daughters. But you also have an opportunity to carry on his legacy because ultimately my dad was patterning his life after the person and teachings of Jesus Christ.
His love and patience and faithfulness that have been highlighted here today are straight out of God’s Word, Paul says in Galatians,“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” That is my father’s legacy.
During the last few moments of my dad’s earthly life as mom, my brothers and I and are wives were gathered around his bedside he modeled one final act of faithfulness for us. He demonstrated for us how we’re to finish the race. He had been motionless for an hour or so and just moments before he took his last breath he simply raised his left hand straight into the air towards Heaven, lowered it back down and then fell asleep.
Church I believe with all my heart that at that moment he was beginning to see the face of his Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. It was at that moment that he heard the words, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”
Day 1 was all about realizing that God inspired fresh starts begin with something greater than our own motivation. We need God's guidance and motivation to keep us moving. Why we struggle so much on our own while He waits in the wings is baffling. Day 2 dealt with the company we keep. While we look to God for strength to accomplish our goals, the company we keep will either propel us towards success or drag us off course. Surround yourself with quality people who share your values.
Moses gives us yet another example of what our lives and goals can look like when we allow God to do what He does best.
Here's the 30,000 foot view:
Exodus 1: The account of Moses' birth. Moses was a Hebrew and unfortunately Hebrew babies were an endangered group at the time of his birth. The Pharaoh of Egypt was dealing with a "population problem" of sorts. The Hebrew people were beginning to outnumber the Egyptians so logically the Pharaoh's solution was to "limit" the possibility of future Hebrew growth by slaughtering off Hebrew infants. Fewer male babies would eventually lead to a slowing of the Hebrew population boom and that would ultimately allow the Pharaoh to remain in power for a little longer.
Exodus 2: Enter Hebrew baby Moses to a quick thinking Hebrew mother. After keeping baby Moses hidden for a season her options narrowed as the Moses grew. She did what any logical mother would do in the same situation, she made a floating basket and sent her baby down the river. It's bananas in our thinking but perhaps she knew something we've missed in our modern day interpretation and understanding of parenting.
Exodus 2:5-10: As Moses floats down the river he's "spotted" by the Pharoah's daughter. I put "spotted" in quotes because I don't want you to miss the supernatural aspect of this event. God was on the move. Ultimately, the Pharoah's daughter hands the baby off to an attendant (unbeknownst to her: Moses' mother) to nurse him and then return the baby to her when he's older.
Exodus 2:11-15: We pick it up with Moses, now a young man, aware of his true identity, attempting to flee the scene of a murder. Well that escalated quickly. Moses is attempting to come to the rescue of one of his fellow Hebrews (who are still in slavery) and in the process murders one of their Egyptian slave drivers. As a result, Moses finds himself on the run for fear of his life. The Pharaoh discovers the murder and Moses hightails it to the middle of the wilderness.
Imagine for a moment the guilt that fills Moses' mind over his murderous act. Guilt quickly gives way to fear and distrust of everyone. Who knows what he did? Who was watching? Will they follow him? How far will he have to run? How long will he have to hide? Moses plops down next to a well, discovers an opportunity to save the day for some vulnerable women being hassled by rowdy shepherds and ultimately ends up marrying into a wealthy family as a result of that "chance" meeting. Again, the quotes are intentional.
That's the 30,000 foot overview of Moses, his murderous ways and his new life in Midian. Now let's zoom in as God begins to provide Moses with a fresh start. Keeping Moses life journey thus far in mind, read Exodus 2:25, where is says, speaking of God, "He looked down on the people of Israel and knew it was time to act."
Here's my question: What about Moses up to that point led anyone to believe that he was capable of doing anything about the enslavement of the Hebrew people? He was clearly a hot head and in need of some serious character adjustments. Why does God even consider someone like Moses for such a task? I'm all for God acting on behalf of those in need but why Moses? Here's what I see in this account that I think parallels God's movement and our goal setting.
God's action isn't dependent on our attributes. If it was then God would have never chosen Moses for anything. If it was then you and would never be chosen for anything either. As we set goals in the New Year, as we wade through what God may be calling us to in the New Year I wonder how often we shy away from something because we assume that we're too messed up. We've got a past. We've got some baggage. We've got some junk that we're not convinced God can do anything with. We've allowed our attributes to outweigh God's ability.
Read this carefully: God doesn't need you and your attributes to accomplish what He wants to accomplish. He uses you and I in spite of ourselves. Let go of your past, look to His future and set goals that are only possible with His intervening. Be encouraged and keep moving forward.
Yesterday we looked at the first of several ingredients to a successful New Year plan. Our realization that God inspired fresh starts begin with something greater than our own motivation is crucial to our success. We need to lean into God for success and follow through. I'm as guilty as the next person but it's baffling that we strive and toil for so long before coming to God for help. As mentioned earlier, there are bunches of examples in Scripture of the fresh starts that you and I desire around the New Year. Joseph, Peter, Paul, a case could be made for the "sort of" fresh start that Jonah makes.
Let's take a look today at the account of Peter. Peter serves as a classic "fresh start" case. All four gospels record Peter's denial for us in varying degrees. The most concise of the accounts is found in John 18:25-27. This passage basically says, "Peter denied Jesus and the rooster crowed". Luke 22:54-62, Mark 14:66-72 and Matthew 26:69-75 each give more detail and even use significant phrases like, "Suddenly, Jesus’ words flashed through Peter’s mind..." and " Peter swore, “A curse on me if I’m lying..." Regardless of which passage you study, it's clear that Peter was on a rollercoaster. I mean it was Peter who declared in Matthew 16 that Jesus was indeed the Messiah. Fast forward a few chapters and it's Peter who was flatly denying that he even knew who Jesus was. Fast forward a few more days and we find Acts 2:22-24 where Peter is boldly proclaiming the truth of who Jesus was and God's plan for humanity through the sacrifice of Jesus. Buckle up, because if that's not a roller coaster of emotion, belief, unbelief, action, inaction, confidence and terror I don't know what is. Sound familiar?
If we're honest, Peter's journey mirrors our New Year goals and all of our other grand plans throughout the year that come and go with the wind. One minute we're on fire, the next we've fizzled out. One minute we're going to change the world and the next we've settled for another episode of the latest Netflix series. What can we learn from Peter to overcome this, "Up one minute, down the next" journey that we so easily find ourselves on?
Allow me to suggest that Peter's rollercoaster ride was due to in part to the company he kept. Think about Peter's declaration of Jesus as the Messiah. The context of Peter's declaration was a conversation that Jesus was having with Peter and the other disciples. Peter was among friends. While the other disciples missed the boat on who Jesus really was, their suggestions were at least in the right ball park. "Some say John the Baptist, some say Elijah, some say Jeremiah, some say one of the other prophets". They may not have pinpointed Jesus as the Messiah but they were in the neighborhood. It was in this context that Peter, through the revelation of God, honed in on as Jesus as the Messiah. In other words, Peter had positioned himself in the right soil to experience a little growth. Click, click, click, up the hill we go.
Fast forward to Peter's denial of Jesus and examine his surroundings. According to each the accounts Peter found himself in the courtyard, outside, with the guards, with the servants, warming himself around the fire, at a distance, rubbing shoulders with people who made no claim to know or care anything about Jesus. Is it any wonder that Peter so quickly denied his knowledge of Jesus? Buckle up, over the hill we go.
Fast forward with me one more time to Peter's declaration of Jesus at the Christ and of God's plan for humanity found in Acts 2. Take a look at his surroundings. It's the day of Pentecost and Peter is surrounded by Jews from all over the known world. The Holy Spirit had descended as Jesus had promised and everyone was hearing the truth of the Gospel in their own language. The setting must have been electric. Imagine the "Passion Worship Band" or for you old timers, "Bill Gaither" singing your favorite song while Rick Warren or Billy Graham preaches. You'd be through the roof. You're surrounded by believers, engaged in worship and passionately pursuing the things of God. You couldn't help but cry out and declare the wonders of God right? Click, click, click, up we go again.
Perhaps the lesson we learn from Peter is that the company we keep contributes, at least in part to the success we experience. God inspired fresh starts are certainly sourced in God Himself. We need His wisdom to get a clear picture of where we should be going and we need his strength to keep making progress. But we would do well to learn from Peter on the company we keep. Surround yourself with people who share your values. Surround yourself with people that care about your relationship with Jesus.
Take a moment to honestly evaluate your ups and downs. Your ups and downs of goal setting or perhaps the ups and downs of your spiritual journey. Can you trace your ups and downs back, at least in part to the company you kept? Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians that bad company corrupts good character. These are the lessons we teach our kids but often forget to apply to our own lives. Be encouraged and keep moving forward.
The New Year. January 1. Fresh start. New beginning. What is it about January 1st that motivates people to want to start fresh? What is it about the start of the New Year that suddenly gives people that extra burst of “go get ‘em” attitude? In large part it has to do with cultural conditioning. If we’re honest, January 1st is no different than any other day of the year. Technically speaking, every day is the start of a new, fresh 365 day cycle. So what’s so special about January 1st? Most likely we’re motivated more at this time of year because everyone else is as well. We’ve been conditioned to get motivated at this time of year and everyone is posting and sharing their New Year goals so it makes it easier for us to jump in on the goal setting.
I say, “goals all around”. Why not? Regardless of our motivation, if the New Year proves to be a helpful time for you to get the ball rolling, then go for it. The New Year can be a fantastic opportunity to make changes spiritually, maritally, financially, organizationally, physically, etc. So go for it.
The Bible gives us some great examples of those that made fresh starts. In fact, God is in the business of facilitating fresh starts. Peter moved from denying Jesus to declaring His wonderful works. Moses moved from murderer to travel agent extraordinaire. God moved Joseph from abandoned to adopted. All throughout Scripture we see it again and again, God giving His children a fresh start.
As you and I seek this same fresh start in the New Year, let’s take some time over the next few days to examine some of the key ingredients of God inspired fresh starts.
God inspired fresh starts begin with something greater than our motivation. We need more than just us. That’s a tough statement to swallow in our “pull yourself up by your own bootstraps” culture but it’s true. Real change, lasting change cannot be accomplished without God’s help. Psalm 121:2 says, “My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth!” We’re foolish to strike out on our when we have God’s help waiting in the wings. When we strive for a fresh start on our own we’re akin to the stranded motorist on the roadside blindly tinkering with his engine while he waits for the real help to show up. Why do we tinker with our lives? Why do we tinker with our goals? Does God not know best? Ahh, there’s the question that begs to be answered.
Perhaps our forsaken goals of the past have been sabotaged by the answer to that question. Do we really believe that God knows best? Do we really believe that our help comes from the Lord? Do we really believe that God is greater than our motivations? If we do not, then it’s no surprise that our best motivations have fallen short. It’s no surprise that we have set goals, given up, set goals, given up, set goals, given up.
Hebrews 4:15-16 says, “This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin. So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.”
We have an amazing example in the person of Jesus Christ. He understands our weakness. He faced the same struggles that we faced. But here’s the Good News, He did it successfully. He accomplished what He set out to do and you and I can as well when we look to Him for motivation, when we look to Him for guidance, when we look to Him strength.
As you move into the New Year, move with motivation. Move with God inspired, God strengthened motivation. Be encouraged and keep moving forward.