Goals

Resolved, To Rest In The Lord In 2014

New-Year_Resolutions_list

Tomorrow is the big day to start your New Years Resolutions! Have you made any? There are definitely some goals I want to accomplish over the next year but, to be perfectly honest, I started working on those a couple of weeks ago… Is that cheating?

I did, however, make one resolution for 2014:

Resolved, To Rest In The Lord

Most resolutions are made with this mindset – “I need to do _______________ differently over the next year to feel better about myself.” As believers, we may couch it in spiritual terms but most of our resolutions are focused on improving our perception of ourselves or improving how others view us.

Let me be the first to say that I have made numerous resolutions in past years with this mindset. I wanted to lose weight, read more books, write a book, learn to play the guitar, run a half-marathon etc. Yet, when I searched my motives behind these resolutions…well, I quickly realized they were all about me. I was busy, busy, busy trying to measure up to the arbitrary standard I had set for myself.

After some time of intense and purposeful reflection I came to the conclusion that what I needed to do was rest in the Lord. Here are some things that led me to make this resolution:

1. God already sees the best me possible. We should never forget the fact that, as believers, God sees Christ’s righteousness covering us (Romans 3:24-26). To him, we look like Jesus! Sure he knows the depths of our soul, our sin patterns, our faults and our failings but the blood of his Son covers all those things. We may spend our entire lives trying to impress other people while forgetting how God see us…and, in reality; his opinion is the only one that matters. We need to rest in the beautiful truth that we already measure up in God’s eyes!

2. We are all works in progress. The Holy Spirit of God is at work in every believer conforming us to the “image of Christ” (Romans 8:28-29). Too often we try to take on the role of the Holy Spirit – we want to be self-made! Though we play a part in the sanctification process (we can inhibit the Spirit’s work in our lives – quench the Spirit [1 Thessalonians 5:19], grieve the Spirit [Ephesians 4:30], fail to yield to the Spirit’s work [Ephesians 5:18]), the true power for transformation comes from the Spirit of God at work within us. We need to rest in the promise “that He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ!”

3. Jesus promised rest and peace for those who followed Him. Several times Jesus told his disciples that they should experience great peace and rest in following him. Paul echoed this truth throughout his letters. Consider these verses:

“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me.” (John 14:1)

“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.” (Matthew 11:28-29)

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” (Romans 15:13)

“And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:7)

The Christian life should not be exhausting and yet, for many this is what they experience. They try to live the Christian life in their own power (a “pick myself up by my own spiritual bootstraps” mentality). Following Jesus should bring ultimate rest and peace in our lives!

I am not saying resolutions are bad but I would encourage you to make this next year one in which you rest in the Lord. Rest in who he says you are. Rest in the freedom of knowing the Holy Spirit is at work in you at this very moment conforming you to the image of Christ. My prayer for you and me is that we find ultimate peace and rest as we follow Jesus in 2014!

We Are Debt Free & You Can Be Too!

Our family hit a milestone this past week. We are now debt free (with the exception of our house)! This was a goal that we have been aiming at for several years and are beyond excited to finally hit.

You may be wondering how in the world we did this and the answer is very simple – we began following Dave Ramsey. He gave us the tools and motivation to get started and make this happen. Listed below are his baby steps that we are following. We just finished step 2 and are working hard on step 3!

Dave Ramsey’s Baby Steps

1. Set aside $1000 for a starter emergency fund.

2. Pay off all debt (excluding your house) using the debt snowball.

3. Set aside 3-6 months of living expenses in savings.

4. Invest 15% of household income into Roth IRAs and pre-tax retirement.

5. Begin saving for your kids to go to college.

6. Pay off your home early.

7. Build wealth and give generously.

Why did we begin this journey? The answer is simple – we want to be good stewards of all that God has given and we want to be an example for others in how we handle our finances.

Can you get out of debt? The answer YES! I encourage you to pick up Dave Ramsey’s book The Total Money Makeover and watch the video below for some encouragement to find financial peace.

It may sound weird but you CAN be debt free!

Healthy Living (Week 1)

Over the next few months I have a goal of dropping 40lbs (195lbs goal weight) and then maintaining a healthy lifestyle from this point forward. I need to do this. I need to do it for myself, my family, and ultimately to be a good steward for my Lord. I had this same goal last year and it never materialized. No regrets. I just need to move forward!

I struggled to get going this past week. I did not eat well and only hit two of my workouts. As a result, I did not lose any weight this week. It’s certainly not what I wanted but I know what needs to change.

Starting Weight: 235

Week 1 Weight: 235 

Total Weight Loss: 0

Week 2 Workout Plan

Wednesday

– 60 minutes racquetball

– 30 minutes weights

Thursday

– 30 minutes elliptical

– 30 minutes treadmill

Friday

– 45 minutes Beast of Workout

Saturday

– long run (60 minutes)

– 10 wind sprints

Sunday

– Rest Day

Monday

– 30 minutes elliptical

– 30 minutes treadmill

Rest Is Good

We live in a culture obsessed with productivity and accomplishment. Take a quick break from reading and type the word “productivity” into a Google search. There are hundreds of thousands of articles detailing how readers can be more productive, manage time more efficiently and set better goals. In fact, there are numerous websites devoted solely to these topics. By no means am I saying that these websites are bad or unhelpful, but we must be careful!

I struggle to balance my desire to be more productive with my desperate need for rest. I’m confident that I am not alone! We all hear stories of people who supposedly can sleep 5 hours each night and function at full capacity the next day. We hear about the productivity level of certain people and, inevitably, we feel inadequate. We read blogs of people, who claim to sleep little, exercise constantly, complete once-in-a-lifetime projects daily, read hundreds of books each year, and have a happy family life. Really?!?

Where does rest fit into the picture? How do we understand our desperate need for rest in light of our culture’s obsession with productivity?

Here are some things I was reminded of recently concerning rest:

1. We are created with limitations. One thing is crystal clear (and my wife would echo this statement), I struggle to function on less that 7 hours of sleep. Studies show that most people need between 7-8 hours of sleep each night. Our need for sleep reminds us that we are created with limitations. Our limitations point to the fact that we are mortal. They also remind us of our desperate need for God, who is not limited in any capacity.

2. God rested and tells us to rest. After God spent six days creating, he rested. God did not need to rest. He was not tired or overworked. He rested to show us our desperate need for rest. God, our maker, created us with a need: rest. Rest temporarily in this life and ultimate rest forever (eternal life).

3. There is a time for rest and a time to work. We should not live in a constant season of rest. This would be called laziness! There is a time to work and a time to rest. The questions we must ask are, “Am I working when I need to be working and resting when I need to be resting?” “Am I out of balance?” “Am I living as if I am God and I have no limitations?”

Disciplined Reading

One of my goals for 2012 is to read 1 book each week and I have done pretty well so far. However, one of the greatest struggles I experience is that my reading is not very disciplined. By this, I mean that I do not have a very good plan for making sure I am reading the “best” of what I need to be reading. Tony Reinke has emphasized the fact that for every book we read, we are saying no to 10,000 others. For this reason, I want to make sure I am disciplined in my reading. For some helpful blog posts about disciplined reading, check these out:

Albert Mohler’s advice to read in categories

Mark Dever’s advice to pick a theologian for each month

Nathaniel Claiborne’s emphasis on a theological theme each month

After reading these posts, I was challenged to put together a plan to discipline my reading throughout the year. I am still planning to read a book each week but will focus my reading in 4 basic categories (theology, theologian, pastoral ministry, personal growth). Each month will have a specific theological emphasis and I will read a book on that particular aspect of theology (I may read an entire book or several chapters it in a book like A Theology for the Church). I will also read a work by the specified theologian for the month (this may be a book or a collection of letters, etc). The third area I will focus my attention on is reading in pastoral ministry (overall ministry and student ministry). Finally, I will work through a book that is focused on personal spiritual growth (biography, prayer, revival, etc.) Here is the specific theological theme and theologian/theologians I will work through each month:

January: Epistemology – Clement, Chrysostom, Polycarp

February: Anthropology/Harmartiology – Augustine

March: Doctrine of God – Thomas Aquinas

April: Christology – Martin Luther

May: Pneumatology – John Calvin

June: Trinitarianism – John Owen

July: Soteriology – John Bunyan

August: Eschatology – Jonathan Edwards

September: Ecclesiology – Richard Sibbes

October: Ethics – James P. Boyce

November: Culture – Martyn Lloyd Jones

December: Apologetics – D. A. Carson

**If you have any suggestions feel free to send them my way!

5 Steps To Become A More Effective Writer

If you have read this blog you know one of my goals for 2012 is to write more. I love to write and hope to post 3-4 times each week on this blog and write a book this year. Even though we are only a few days into the New Year, I have written more than I ever expected. Here are 5 action steps that have helped me and hopefully they will be helpful to you if you want write more effectively in 2012.

1. Make writing a priority in your schedule. If you want to write more you must make the time to do it. If you never schedule blocks of time to write you will likely never write more than you do right now. Get up early and devote 20-30 minutes to writing. Stay up after everyone else hits the sack and spend time writing. We are always able to find time to do the things that are important to us so give writing a prominent place in your schedule.

2. Keep a pen and paper with you at all times. You never know when an idea will pop into your mind and if you are not ready to capture it, you might lose it forever. I am writing this as I sit in the Emergency Room waiting for my daughter’s test results (she is fine by the way). Every day events cause you to think and putting those thoughts on paper is helpful both short-term and long-term. Be resourceful if you find yourself wanting to write but don’t have a pen and paper. When I rushed out of the house this morning with my 15 month old, I did not think about grabbing a pen and paper. So what did I do? I pulled out my Blackberry and began typing this in an email. Most phones have memo pads on them and some even have voice recorders. Use whatever means possible to capture your thoughts and ideas.

3. Write to write and not to be read. I struggle with this more than anything else. After 7 years of post college education, I have had to train myself to write without worrying about the editing process. I do edit my writing before publishing it but only after I have allowed myself to write without thinking about the editing process. My initial writing may appear choppy and disconnected but I am able to capture my thoughts thoroughly. The result is writing that is clear, passionate, and from the heart. Let the sentences flow and edit later.

4. Write about things you are interested in. One of the most difficult things to do is write about something you care nothing about. I love my family so I write about them. I love being a pastor so I write about ministry. I love reading so I write book reviews. Whatever you do, do not let writing become a chore. Write because it is fun and you enjoy doing it. Think about the things you care the most about and fill pages and pages writing about those things.

5. Write even if you don’t publish. I have spent a good amount of time writing blog posts and working on my book recently but I have also continued to write in my journal almost daily. I have been writing in my journal for several years and have no plans to publish what I write. My journal contains my most personal thoughts and it is the place where I record, with pen and paper, what God is teaching me. The process of thinking and writing makes me a better writer and it will make you a better writer as well. Write because you love to write. Then it will not matter if it is published because you will be doing what you love.

Healthy Living – Let’s Do This!

Starting Weight: 225lbs

Goal Weight: 195lbs

If you have read my previous post (7 Goals for 2012) you know that I want to lose 30lbs by my 29th birthday (March 31, 2012). Over the next 12-13 weeks I will update my blog with a weekly weigh-in and some tips that have been helpful to me as I walk through this journey. Hopefully, these tips will be helpful as you seek to live a healthy lifestyle, regardless of whether you need to lose weight or not.

Starting Tips:

1. Learn from failure. You will fail at some point during this journey. You will overeat, miss a workout, and fail to hit a goal that you set for yourself. The question is not whether or not you will fail but how you respond to that failure. In the past, I have allowed one failure to stack on another and before long I had completely lost the motivation to persevere. I must respond to failure differently. I must learn from it and not let failures stack on each other. If I miss a workout, I must hit the next one. If I blow past my daily caloric intake, I must hit it the next day and workout harder. Failure does not have to be final; learn from it and keep moving forward.

2. Start slow. If you have ever been to a gym right after the New Year begins you will know exactly what I am talking about. People migrate to gyms in massive numbers and attempt a workout regimen that would cause Olympic athletes to blush. I must admit that I struggle with this tip more than any other. Naturally, I am wired to start strong and really go after whatever it is I want to accomplish. If you do this when you first begin a work out regimen you will become discouraged and, worse yet, hurt yourself in the process. Start slow, build some momentum, and then go full speed.

3. Plan Ahead. The old adage holds true, “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” Planning ahead is one of the most important things you can do when starting an exercise regimen and trying to eat healthy. If you want to work out early in the morning, you need to plan ahead and go to bed early. If you are going out to eat, you need to plan ahead and identify some healthy options on the menu. Many failures can be avoided if we plan ahead and this is something I must be certain to do throughout this journey.

4. Set mini goals. One thing that can be extremely helpful when seeking to accomplish a goal is to set several mini goals that will carry you to your overall goal. Every time you accomplish a mini goal you begin to build momentum that pushes you to accomplish your overall goal. Figure out how you are going to reward yourself when you accomplish a mini goal (unhealthy food and days off from exercising are not good rewards). For example, I love reading and I will likely reward myself with a new book. Make sure your mini goals are in proportion with your overall goal. I want to lose 30lbs and will reward myself for every 10lbs that I lose. It would not make much sense to reward myself for every pound lost nor would it make sense to do nothing until I had lost all 30lbs. Everyone’s mini goals will be different but make sure you set them and reward yourself when you accomplish them.

5. Find Proper Motivation. There are a number of good reasons to want to be healthy but there are also a lot of bad reasons. We all need motivation to help us stay on track through the journey but don’t buy into the lie that you need to look good so that people will pay attention to you (or be jealous of you). Let things that truly matter motivate you – being around for a long life of fruitful kingdom-focused ministry, seeing your grandkids get married one day, being able to run in the yard with your kids, etc. Let’s be honest, I don’t think you will care when you are 80 that you had a six-pack when you were 30. You will care, though, that you are still around and in good health.

* If you want to join me on this journey leave a comment with (1) your starting weight and (2) your goal weight. Check back in each week (Monday), update your progress, and share any tips that were helpful over the past week – Let’s do this!

7 Goals for 2012

The New Year is fast approaching. For many, 2012 is a godsend. This will be THE year; the year they finally lose weight, the year they out of debt, the year they do ____________ that they have been meaning to do but never accomplished. Change is not necessarily a bad thing. Certainly, there can be bad motives associated with making changes but, overall, I think change is good.

There are some changes that I need to make in 2012 and, as a result, I have identified seven goals that I want to accomplish over the next year. Goals are little more than dreams without actions steps, so I have also included the particular actions steps that I plan to take. The main reason for publishing these goals on the web is accountability. So be sure to send me an email occasionally asking how I am doing. Here are my 2012 goals:

1. Read through the Bible.

2011 was the first year that I read through the Bible during the course of a single year and it was nothing short of amazing. Scripture fits together in a remarkable way and seeing it come alive day after day is a great experience. I am planning to work back through the Bible this year using the Read The Bible For Life plan developed by George Guthrie. I have no doubt that this will be another great year in the Word. It only takes about 20 minutes each day to do the reading, which is accessible to everyone – we can all carve out 20 minutes in our day to spend in the Word. The benefits, though, will last a lifetime and have an impact on your life today.

Action Steps:

–       Print out the Read The Bible For Life booklet.

–       Make reading a priority each day.

–       Pick out one verse to meditate on every day.

 2. Memorize the book of Ephesians.

I have attempted to memorize the book of Ephesians several times over the past few years but to no avail. My failure has been nothing less than a lack of discipline in making Scripture memory an important aspect of my life. Andy Davis’ booklet has been a huge help in this area and I plan to use his approach to memorizing Ephesians.

Action Steps:

–       Work back through Andy Davis’ booklet.

–       Set a schedule for when I want to have the book finished.

3. Lose 30lbs.

I have a picture in my office of my wife and I on our honeymoon and sometimes I wonder who that good-looking guy is standing next to my wife! Exercise and healthy eating was an important part of my life all through college since I played baseball. Even though I am still very active and exercise, I need to lose about 30lbs. I would like to accomplish this by my 29th birthday at the end of March but I want to do it in the right way. If it takes longer that 3 months then that is fine – I just want exercise and healthy eating to become a habit.

Action Steps:

–       Count my calorie intake each day (1800 max).

–       Set up an exercise schedule (6 days/week).

–       Find an accountability partner for support.

–       Set several small goals and rewards to go with each one.

4. Run a half-marathon.

I enjoy running but have only ran in a few 5Ks throughout my entire life. I would like to build up to running a half-marathon over the course of this next year with the eventual goal of running a marathon at some point in the future.

Action Steps:

–       Lose 30lbs first.

–       Find a half-marathon training plan.

–       Find a half-marathon race and pay the entry fee (that’s motivation!).

5. Read 1 book every week.

I love to read so this goal is pretty self-explanatory. If I hit 52 books by the end of the year, I have no doubt it will have a huge impact on my walk with Christ and my ministry. My plan is to read in 4 categories – (1) Biblical Studies, (2) Theology, (3) Pastoral Ministry, and (4) Personal Development. Non-fiction books usually range from 250-300 pages, which means I will need to read 40-45 pages each day – completely doable but it will take discipline.

Action Steps:

–       Follow Stott’s 1hr per day/3hr per week/8hr per month reading plan.

–       Gather books ahead of time that fit in each category.

–       Read old books.

–       Write book reviews of each book.

6. Re-learn Greek and Hebrew.

There are always things in life you wish you would have paid attention to more and made a priority. After all, hindsight is 20/20. I enjoyed learning Greek and Hebrew in seminary but it didn’t stick. That was my fault. I crammed vocab in my head and regurgitated it for tests but I did not learn either language. Now, after 4 years out of seminary, I see how valuable the languages are for study and preparation. John Piper’s article entitled “Brothers, Bitzer Was A Banker!” (also a chapter in his book Brothers, We Are Not Professionals) has haunted me for several years and challenged me to do the hard work of re-learning the biblical languages.

Action Steps:

–       Carve out time in my schedule to work through the chapters and exercises in each text book.

–       Keep vocab notecards with me so I can study “on the fly.”

–       Focus the 1st half of the year on Greek and the 2nd half on Hebrew.

7. Write.

I know this one breaks all the “rules” for a goal. Goals should be specific and easily measured to determine success or failure. The problem is I’m not sure I know how specific to be or what success would even look like at this point. The truth is I love to write and I do not write enough. It seems that there are always several book ideas floating around in my head at any given point in time. One thing I know I want to do is write a book this year (Parent-Driven Discipleship) based off of a great deal of the research I did for my D.Min. project. I also want to blog consistently over the next year (3-4 posts each week). Beyond those two desires, I just want to make sure that writing is a part of my daily life and ministry.

Action Steps:

–       Carve out time in my schedule devoted specifically to writing.

–       Research publishers for my book (too much work to just sit in a file).

–       Write posts before they will be published and stay ahead.

*I would love to hear your goals or resolutions for 2012 and, yes, please email me over the next year to check in and see how I am doing with mine.