January, and the start of a new year with the promise of a fresh beginning with renewed purpose... and emails, articles and blogs overflowing with advice on setting new goals and resolutions....
But the success of these new year resolutions is doubtful. I know that, by about March each year, I struggle to even remember my carefully planned goals. Statistics indicate that 25% of resolutions are abandoned within one week, with another 60% within six months. Weight reduction is a common new year resolution but only 5% of those who determine to lose weight keep it off.
So, what about you? What will 2014 bring for you?
A suggestion for this year, instead of attempting ten or even five goals for the year, is to determine three words that encapsulate your focus for the year. Some suggestions might be: 'Consistently Encourage Others', 'Help Others More', 'Inform- Train- Delight'. Someone has humorously suggested, 'Dream Big ger'.
Use these words as a constant reminder of your focus but also as a launching point for action throughout the year. But don't just limit yourself to these words; take the time to think and pray as you claim a special Bible verse or passage for your new year.
Remind yourself frequently of your verse and your chosen theme words for the year. Write the words down. You are 42% more likely to achieve your goals if you take the time to clarify what you seek to accomplish by writing them down.
Display them prominently. Print them off and pop a copy in a photo-frame to display on your tabletop. Use the words as your computer screensaver. Find an online illustration of your chosen verse and use it as your iPad wallpaper.
In a similar way, we're identifying three words as our focus for our church: Rejoice- Refine- Relate. We'll be outlining more about this theme for the year and how it will impact our focus and our ministry over the next few weeks and, in greater detail, at our upcoming Vision Dinner.
But in case you've missed some of the great articles recently written about starting your year well, I've included some links below. Maybe a great focus for the year could be 'Read- Read- Read'. Enjoy...
I used to start each day while it was still dark but lately, the faintest glow of dawn is edging over the horizon as I make that first cup of coffee. It won’t be long before we will be altering our clocks for daylight savings. It always reminds me of the reader who complained to the newspaper, ‘That extra hour of sunlight will fade my curtains!”
Time is an intriguing subject, and so slippery. On some occasions, like holidays, it just slips by but when you are waiting or looking forward to an important date and want it to zip by, it drags. Also.. some of us can stay longer in an hour than others can in a week. And have you noticed how quickly deadlines arrive?
Robert D. Smith once titled an article he’d written, 'Everyone who reads this post will die.' It certainly grabs your attention and although it's true, perhaps it might discourage you from reading. The point of his article, though, was to encourage his readers to re-evaluate their use of their time and see whether there may be ways to add purpose and meaning to daily activities.
There’s a Youtube clip that I’d like to share with you titled, ‘The time you have.. in jellybeans’. Take a look at the clip below- it portrays your life as a counted heap of jellybeans. It’s amazing, and a little sobering to see the pile of jellybeans disappearing in often meaningless activities.
'Help us to number our days that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.' Psalm 90:12
The Bible encourages us to examine our use of the time allotted to each of us. Everyone complains that they have no time.. no time to help in ministry.. no time to connect with others … no time to read more or learn more. We all have the same number of minutes and hours in a day. But perhaps there are ways that we can plan our time for greater impact.
What if I watch half as much TV- I would have another 1338 days. Maybe I could use my time more wisely by listening to podcasts and audio books while travelling. I could enjoy more of my meals with others and create memorable experiences with family, and build connection and community with others. I can spend time developing teams and leaders to share the load of ministry rather than doing everything myself.
How can you alter your day and your activities for greater impact?
If you had just one more day, how would you spend it?
Why do children have no trouble talking to God, speaking naturally and conversationally as with a friend, while you and I reluctantly mutter our prayers, stumbling over the words while we struggle with doubt? Someone has suggested that children spend more time looking up.
Whatever the reason, almost everyone at some time feels dissatisfied and inadequate and longs for healthy prayer life that is consistent, confident and genuine. Joe McKeever has written that, whether physical or spiritual, health and growth can only occur when everything is brought into balance. He recently wrote an article about 'our poor prayer life'; take a few moments to read it below.
….We do not know how to pray as we should…. (Romans 8:26)
I find it liberating to know that the great Apostle Paul was dissatisfied with his prayer life. At least, that’s how I read Romans 8:26. And if he could admit that “we do not know how to pray as we should,” it’s a dead-on cinch that you and I don’t either.
One thing almost everyone in your congregation has in common on a typical Sunday morning is a dissatisfaction with their prayer life. That is not to say that all are doing poorly, only that none of us feels we have got it down right, that we are praying with the effectiveness we’d like.
In this life, we are always going to be doing things partially. “We know in part,” Scripture says. “We prophecy in part” (I Corinthians 13:9,12).
Good music, they say, is music that is written better than it can be played. The Christian life is like that: written better than any of us can hope to attain in this life. The standard of God is still the same: “Be ye perfect even as your Father in Heaven is perfect” (Matthew 5:48). We will not attain it in this life, but that’s how it’s written. So with your prayer life. You and I mumble in our prayers, like a child still learning to talk. It frustrates us and disappoints us, but–do not miss this–is oddly pleasing to the Father in Heaven.
Here are seven statements about your (and my) poor praying….
1. Your poor praying is a fact.
You knew it and you feel it often. In fact, unless you are one in a thousand, the fact that your praying is so poor has sometimes discouraged you from even trying to speak to the Father. Oh, friend. I want you to know you are not the odd man out. We are all in the same boat.
You have lots of company, poor pray-er. The preacher with a half-century of proclamation under his belt still approaches the Throne of Grace like a beginner, still coming humbly almost as a newcomer. “Nothing in my hand I bring; simply to Thy cross I cling.”
Do not let this upset you or discourage you. Go forward.
Our current sermon series, Life after Death- what you can know for sure about life after death, concludes tomorrow as we look at heaven- is it a real place or just a state of mind?
For those who would like to read further, I have listed below some books and reference materials that you might like to read. They are all available from our online bookstore.
The Heaven Answer Book
By: Billy Graham
One Minute After You Die By: Erwin W. Lutzer
Available also as an e-book
One Minute After You Die, DVD: 8 Transforming Teachings on Eternity
By: Erwin W. Lutzer (Lutzer is good- a worthwhile series.)
One Minute After You Die, Package of 25 Tracts
By: Erwin W. Lutzer
Life After Death: The Evidence
By: Dinesh D'Souza (This is a very recent book by a careful writer.)
Heaven: Better By Far
By: J. Oswald Sanders (Always worth reading.)
A Place Called Heaven
By: E.M. Bounds
CATCHING A GLIMPSE OF HEAVEN by E.M.Bounds
Also published under the title: HEAVEN, A place, a city, a home.
(Good non-technical coverage.)
I have to admit that I'm not the most organised and structured person, but today's to-do list was really stressing me out! Added to the things that I really needed to accomplish and would place as high-priority, like semon prep, appointments with members of the church family, preparing for the upcoming marriage seminar and more, I also had to complete some mundane tasks: pay a couple of unexpected bills, buy items for tomorrow's ladies' breakfast, email announcements for Sunday's bulletin, attend to a commitment I'd made for a friend, and a couple of other home tasks that had landed unexpectedly in my lap. I think most of us enjoy feeling in control of our life and schedule and grow frustrated when things don't go according to plan and yes, I felt frustrated. But if we truly desire to walk in the centre of God's perfect will, we must become willing to cooperate with His priorities and His time frame. It reminded me of something I was reading recently:
"God loves to gift people with healthy- spiritually, physically and emotionally- passion for all of our life. The life motto of C.T.Studd (1860-1931), an English missionary to the people of China, India and Africa was 'Some want to live within the sound of church or chapel bell; I want to run a rescue shop within a yard of hell.' That's an amazing, healthy ambition and passion for something- others' salvation. Maybe we should be known as human doings rather than human beings! But in our doings, instead of checking out, we need to create checkpoints. I've asked myself point blank: Am I doing things, living life, just for myself, or does what I do benefit others and give God glory? Is what I'm doing giving the Devil a foothold (see Ephesians 4:27) with which he can send me tumbling into the pit of self-service and greed? Am I aligned with God's will, or will God say my alignment needs service?
As long as we're examining ourselves, it's also tempting to take a good punch in the jaw and accuse ourselves of out-of-whack priorities. We need to get ourselves off the top shelf and put Christ there, put Christ first on our priorities list. On second thought... I'm not going to do just that, because, first of all, we shouldn't put Christ on top of our priority list. (Wait! Before you call the heresy police, hear me out- or read me out, in this case.) Christ should hold top position in every aspect of our lives. In other words, the priority list doesn't just put Christ as number one and continue down the line with faith, family, job, friends, mundane tasks, etc. Rather, Christ obviously is first in our faith; He's also first in our family; first in our job etc. If that's the case, we'll walk humbly whatever we do, giving the glory and honour in our lives to Christ instead of self. He's part of everything we do, think and say. He's the priority in every part of our lives.' (T. Weseman)
Submitting to God's timetable requires faith and courage. Then, as you follow God's schedule, you'll experience the joy of watching Him make all things beautiful in His timing.
As we look at Nehemiah over the next few weeks, we see him mainly a a leader, and he certainly was that. But before he was a leader, he was an employee. And it was the character he developed while still a servant that prepared him to be such a great leader. A recent study reported that Gen Y is sometimes called the Echo Generation because they want (reflect/echo) what Baby Boomers have created for themselves over the past 40 years.Boomers have worked hard all their lives and now can have some rewards for it. Gen Y, having grown up with it, just expect to have it. Unfortunately, when it comes to character, you don't just automatically have it; you must develop it. There are few areas in life in which we live or work that do not come ready-equipped with a superior- a boss or other authority figure. It is our task to develop qualities of leadership germinating within ourselves while still being accountable to these superiors in our individual spheres of influence- just as Nehemiah did. Take a few moments to write down the characteristics that make Nehemiah a commendable employee. For instance, you might note how he investigated the circumstances before sharing his heart with others and taking action. Another was his positive approach even though the situation was dismal. But Nehemiah also prays about his situation and his employer, the king. How much time have you spent grumbling about your boss as opposed to praying for him? Maybe now would be a good time to take a leaf out of Nehemiah's book and start balancing out the scale.
'Staying alive and paying the bills both require our attention squarely fixed on our own business. Our sprawling cities and suburbs are wonderful and frightening tributes to creative self-absorption. In them, we spend our microscheduled days bustling between work and the endless details of our private lives, turning in our moments of rest to the buzzing distractions of television and computers - all accelerating toward some ultimate, unseen fulfillment of convenience and hyperreality. Little encourages us to pause and look around, much less question the end goal of all our busyness. Anything slower than the quick cuts of TV commercials is overwhelmed by our impatience and short attention. Unfortunately, we might be missing something important'... (Jason Gardner).
Yes, and the important 'something' invariably turns out to be our continued closeness with God. Do you have a moment before you dash off to your next engagement to do this quick evaluation by Joe McKeever 'Ten Ways to Tell You're Slipping'?
Read it here......
Someone once said that an optimist is someone who figures that taking a step backward after taking a step forward is not a disaster, it's a cha-cha. Some days, when your rates notice arrives on the same day as your car rego, and your house insurance payment is due and your hours at work have just been cut, it's difficult to maintain that type of enthusiasm. Even so, it's important to remember that your attitude really is one of your most valuable assets! Read further in this article by Jan Coates.
Stanford Research Institute reports that only 12.5 percent of our success in life is determined by knowledge; the other 87.5 percent comes from attitude. More than skill, knowledge, or aptitude, our attitude dictates our success in life.
Did you know that? Perhaps you’ve never thought of it that way before. Chuck Swindoll, bestselling author, writes, “I believe the single most significant decision I can make on a day-to-day basis is my choice of attitude. The attitude I choose keeps me going or cripples my progress. When my attitudes are right, there’s no barrier too high, no valley too deep, no dream too extreme.”
Most of us believe we possess a positive attitude. But what would happen if we asked our best friend or spouse for a no-holds-barred honest assessment of our attitude? Chances are high their comments might include:
*Not too bad after three cups of coffee
*Little things get blown out of proportion
*Irritable and moody
*Frets and worries over everything
*Unforgiving toward certain people
In the midst of foreclosure notices and layoffs and personal and professional pressures, it is hard to maintain a positive attitude 100 percent of the time. Why? Because we’ve become reliant on outside influences, such as friends, family, teachers, bosses, and media to color our perspective. We wrongly believe attitude is something we’re given or born with, rather than a choice we make.
How often do you run from problems? Or maybe you find yourself going out of your way to avoid problems or situations that are potentially uncomfortable or challenging? Steve Diggs (internationally acclaimed Chisitian life-skills presenter and author) points to these challenges as opportunities that God can use to grow and develop you. Read his following article:
One of the most human of all the things we do is try to avoid pain. No one wants to be hurt. For most of us, problems are the quicksand of life. They bog us down and stop our forward motion. Allowed to go unchecked, problems will kill our productivity, energy, passion, and optimism.
A recent survey indicated that nearly sixty percent of employees under age thirty-five want to be managers. But among employees over fifty-four, less than a third said they would accept the title of manager. As a guy who is in his fifties, who gives a Retooled and Refueled Seminar weekly, and who has managed a number of companies, I can tell you exactly why the seasoned pros responded the way they did: They don’t want the grief! Management seems prestigious and exciting to young, inexperienced workers. But as the years pass, reality and cynicism often set in.
However life is too short to spend our days running from its inevitable difficulties. I want to share some strategies that will help you view problems from a healthier and more productive perspective—and learn to “eat 'em for breakfast".
It was several decades ago when I began to realize that problems have the potential for good. I noticed that a friend of mine (who was in a pressure cooker job) rarely used the word “problem.” Instead, he chose the word “challenge.” When he hit a really rough patch of life waves, he would often say, “Let’s think about what God is trying to teach us through these challenges.” I noticed that he seemed to weather tough times better than most of the other people I knew. Life has taught me that problems (or challenges) can be the precursor to great blessings.
This weekend highlights the role of mothers in our lives and it seems appropriate to include a mother's perspective of this special celebration. Bonnie Gray's website, The Faith Barista, serves up shots of faith for everyday life and I've included her thoughts on Mother's Day as she experiences both grief and joy.
And, with a lighter touch, I've concluded with the Skit Guys' take on Mother's Day. Mums.... enjoy your special day!
'As a mother of two preschooler boys, I’m sandwiched in between my experience of motherhood as a child and my own journey as a mother.
When I was pregnant, daydreaming of the life I wanted to build for my new family, I never would’ve guessed that my own growing up years would return to me. What I’ve found are flashbacks to my own childhood. Memories that I had long forgotten resurface as I step through childhood a second time with my children. I am both little girl and grown up woman, finding my way to nurture and create a new history with my children.
What I didn’t anticipate is that along with the loving a mother naturally desires to grow into, God has taken me through a journey of grieving. Motherhood goes deeper than genes transmitted to one’s offspring. It cracks hard places open, to face ourselves as child and let God love us. Deep where we’ve pushed away our weaknesses to grow up and become adults, lies the heart of a child that Jesus tells us holds a secret — to bring heaven into us on earth.
“Permit the children to come to Me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. … whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it at all.” ~ Mark 4:25-29
I used to think that joy meant the absence of grief. Whenever certain holidays would circle around, I would beat whatever was bothering me into submission. I spent most of my emotional energy trying to keep the closet of sadness shut. Becoming a mother has disassembled that steel determination. I can’t explain it, except to conclude my heart can no longer protect itself like a sieve held up to rushing whitewater. The heart isn’t a piece of machinery we can open one valve and close another. When we open our hearts to joy, especially children, our defenses are dismantled. Our innocence returns.
I’ve had to grieve what I missed out in the earlier chapters of my story, but I’m also learning there are moments of grieving in the daily giving as a mother too. There is a lot of letting go in exchange for the joy of letting in.'
Church planting and growth has been a focus for most of my ministry. I frequently lecture and speak on church planting and have been actively involved in many church plants. Under God's hand and direction, my wife, Kaye, and I planted the