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SMART GOALS FOR 2016

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Wow, the last day of 2015! Hard to believe but once again we are focusing on “out with the old and in with the new!” As we evaluate last year, and we should, we can walk through a W.I.N. to help us focus on these three areas:

  • What did you do well? What were the accomplishments in your life, family, and ministry in 2015 that brought you the most joy? What happened last year that when you think about it brings a smile to your face? Don’t forget to reflect on the positives and celebrate the wins even if they were small wins. We need to celebrate more often and remember that “we become what we celebrate!”
  • Where do you need to improve? What were some of your greatest disappointments of 2015? Everyone experiences challenges and failure at one level or the other. Every goal was probably not met and if all your goals were met maybe you set the bar to low? Is there is a skill set you need help with to make you more effective in the new year? Who knows what you need to know? Who out there could help you and how will you find them?
  • What will you do next? The key now is to think about what you will do differently in 2016? An often used discription of insanity is “doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results!” One example of this would be to ask, “Is your church reaching new people with the gospel?” Craig Groeschel gives us this challenge, “To reach people no one else is reaching, we must do things no one else is doing.”

You must focus on what is “next” in 2016. You also need to look back and as you remember you should:

  • Rejoice in what God allowed you to accomplish!
  • Repent where repentence is required!
  • Reflect on major life lessons learned!
  • Refocus your energy on new opportunities!

Here are things to consider as you enter the new year:

  1. What are your goals for 2016? What would make this year a great year? Have you spent time alone with the Lord asking His direction in setting your goals for 2016? If not, when is the soonest you could take a prayer retreat to hear from Him? Are you regularly placing yourself in the best possible position to hear from God clearly and consistenly? You never, no matter what your age is, mature past the need for prayer and hearing from the Lord daily!
  2. Why are these goals so important to you? God is really into motives! It is not just what you are doing but why you are doing it. Jesus made it very clear in the semon on the mount that in the areas of giving, prayer, and fasting we were not to practice these disciplines to be noticed by other people. Check it out in Matthew chapte 6. Your motivation should not be to be applauded by men, to impress people, or to show them how “spiritual” you are.
  3. What 2-3 goals are the most important and non-negotiable? You need to prioritze your goals and especially if you have 7-10 goals for the new year. Here is also where it is important to look back at last year. What was missing the most in your life as you look back? Is there anything you can do to change it? Maybe not but one thing that might help is to focus on what you do have and on what you can change!
  4. What are the most immediate actions steps you need to take to make these goals a reality? You need to make these “smart” goals ” (see below) and then write 2-3 action steps that are required to make that specific goal a reality. If my goal is to walk across the room then I must think actions: 1) stand up. 2) take required number of steps. 3) stop when there. Here is what you need to ask yourself about each goal, “What’s the very next thing I need to do to reach this goal?”
  5. What are your biggest prayer requests as you approach these goals? If prayer is not needed then maybe the goals are not big enough. Remember, faith is required! What if you didn’t step out in faith and ask God to do great and mighty things? What are you praying for? What if God answered everyone of your prayer requests? How many lives would be changed, transformed and how many souls would be saved?

Don’t be afraid to set God-given, Holy Spirit directed goals and then ask God to do exceedingly and abundantly above all that you could ask or think! Hearing from God is not enough. You must also take action on what He has commanded you!

  • Specific: Identify exactly what you want to accomplish.
  • Measurable: Quantify the result.
  • Action Oriented: Start with an action verb, not a to-be verb.
  • Realistic: Recognize and implement the power of incremental change over time.
  • Time-Bound: Set a specific deadline.

Help Somebody – Please!

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The book of James is all about doing and taking action. The reality is that before we go any further talking about doing we must first address the issue of our attitude. God has always been into motives and while what we do is very important He also looks at why we do what we do. It we serve without the right attitude we submit to legalistic guidleines. It becomes all about a list of “do’s” and “do not’s.” All you hear is you “must do that” and you “can’t do that.”

James focuses having the right attitude and having the right actions. Obedience in both areas is required. Legalism produces the wrong motives while a lack of service produces the wrong actions. It can become easy to criticize what others are doing because it is different but we must remember that different is not necessarily wrong, it is just different. Many of the tried and true methods we are comfortable with today were radical, outside the box, innovations at one time.

First, we must have the right attitude! This places the focus on who I am. James 1:2-3 says, “My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience.” Attitude is everything because if we serve with the wrong attitude we become easily frustrated and eventually will burn-out emotionally.

Here is what you need to consider in having the right attitude:

  1. Guard your heart! Pro 4:23 says, “Guard your heart above all else, for it is the source of life.” You must be careful to not allow bitterness, envy, jealousy, or pride to control your heart. A great way to test your heart condition is to listen to yourself. How do you sound? Are you more positive or negative? Do you talk more about your needs or the needs of others?
  2. Change your thinking! Pro 23:7 says, “For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he:” Once again listen to yourself. Do you gripe and complain more than you tell others how wonderful a God you serve? Todd Wilson said it this way, “You can’t always change your context or the hand you are dealt, but you can change your thinking.” What and who does your mind dwell upon?
  3. Adjust your focus! Phi 2:3 makes this clear, “Do nothing out of rivalry or conceit, but in humility consider others as more important than yourselves.” How do we take the necessary steps to no longer be consumers of the goods our church offers to becoming contributers for the cause of Christ? The truth is that there is more joy found in serving others than in serving yourself.
  4. Know the real treasure of Christianity! It is not that we get to do good, or that we are bleesed when we help others, nor is it even that we get to go to heaven one day. The real treasure of Christianity is that we get to know God intimately and personally. I Jn 3:1 says, “Look at how great a love the Father has given us that we should be called God’s children. And we are!”

Second, we must have the right actions! Now the focus is on what I will do for Christ because I have the right attitude. James 1:27 says, “Pure and undefiled religion before our God and Father is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself unstained by the world.” This is a challenge to focus on those who need our help the most. God has blessed us so that we can be a blessing to others. Who is it, in your circle of influence, that needs your help?

Here is what you need to consider in having the right actions:

  1. Have a servant’s heart! It starts with leaders who have a love and concern for others. When we send church planters to their communities we challenge them to go serve their city and then God will build His church. Remember leaders, if you want people in your church to have a servant’s heart they must see it in you. Speed of the leader, speed of the team.
  2. Love your city! When Jesus saw the multitudes He was moved with compassion and as He looked over Jerusalem He wept. Daniel Im puts it this way, “To many times we have a vision for our church but not for our city. Develop a vision for your city.” If your church closed it’s doors would anyone in your community even notice?
  3. Redefine church membership! The true definition of membership is not attendance but rather service. I Corinthians 12 tells us that if a member of the body is not functioning then it is not fulfilling it’s role properly. Do not allow atrophy to set in where there is a gradual decline in your effectiveness and vigor due to underuse or neglect. Make sure you are exercising your serving muscles.
  4. Glorify God and spread His fame! Be a church where the glory of your church  takes a back seat to the glory of God. All of us need to talk more about the gospel of Jesus Christ than we talk about our church. Hopefully, you are excited about your church, enjoy your church, and want to invite others to come to your church. However, make sure you tell them about Jesus. Tell them how wonderful a savior you have and that you would much rather talk about Him because He is what it is really all about!

Healthy Christians and healthy churches are helping others spiritually and physically. Find someone to serve. Look for ways that your church can be a blessing to your community. Help somebody – Please!

Be Real

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Is you behavior consistent with what you say you believe? Does your church behave in a way that shows you mean what you say? We say we believe in evangelism but do we practice it? We say we know discipleship is important but is anyone being discipled? The things we say we value, are they truly convictions or are they just preferences? In James 1:22 we are challenged with his truth, “But be doers of the word and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.”

We are told to not decieve ourselves and the idea here is that we need a reality check. A good friend of mine, Sam Douglass, says it this way, “It is time to interogate reality!” Are we deceiving ourselves? The word here refers to incorrect reasoning. In mathematics it is a miscaulculation. Gal 6:3 says, “For if anyone considers himself to be something when he is nothing deceives himself.” The word of God makes it clear that when you hear the word without obeying it you are making a serious miscalculation.

James then gives us the analogy of a mirror. The mirrors of that day were nothing like what we have today. They were polished brass or bronze and only the wealthy could afford ones made of silver or gold. Even the most expensive ones had to be polished vigorously, postioned at just the right angle and placed in the best light to eventually see a fairly accurate image. The mirrors of today, invented in the 14th century, give an instant picture of how we really look compared to how we think we look.

Church, it is time to look into the mirror and see what we really look like not what we think we look like. The time has come to interogate our reality so that we might confess what needs to be confessed, correct what needs to be corrected, and then commit to what must be done for the kingdom to advance. What do we need to see in the mirror today? What area of our lives and our churches do be need to “Be Real” about? What is it that we need to see as we look intently into the perfect law of freedom?

  • First, we need to see ourselves! All of us need better self-awareness. We need to know how God uniquely made each one of us to better understand our strengths and our weaknesses. He has hard-wired all of us a particular way for His purposes. Every child of God has a unique spiritual gift and passions. It does not take long to see that when you read I Cor 12 and learn that we are to be unified even though there is such diversity in the body. Psa 139:14 says, “I will praise You because I have been remarkably and wonderfully made. Your works are wonderful, and I know this very well.”
  • Second, we need to see our abilities! What do we need to learn and what instruction do we need to receive? Our abilities are an accumulation of our training and our life experiences along the way. It is very easy to be an expert about things we are not involved in. On Sunday afternoons spectators enjoy being armchair quarterbacks. We need to be careful about being that way at church. It is easy to give advice about how ministries should be done that we never plan on helping with. One man said this, “Before I married I had three theories about raising children; now I have three children and no theories!”
  • Third, we need to see our relationship with Christ! Are we growing in the Lord and spirtually maturing daily? This is what brings together our personalities and our education by placing them under the authority of our Lord. Phil 3:10 says, “My goal is to know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death.” First and foremost, how is your walk with Christ? Are you passionatley pursuing Him daily to know Him better?

Here is whay this is so important:

  1. If we are not real about ourselves we will be frustrated! There is always work to be done. There are always improvements that need to be made. That is why James has already challenged us to be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger. He then tells us to be real because obedience is required and without obeying the truth it is really of no benefit to us or anyone else.
  2. If we are not real about our abilities we will be ineffective! How can you improve your skill set? How can you improve on what you are doing for Christ? Whatever ability you need to work on there is a great question to ask yourself. Who knows what I need to know? Figure that out and then get the instruction and training you need. Churches please do not give your people a job without clearly defining what their responsibilites are and equipping them for the role.
  3. If we are not real about our relationship with Christ we will have broken fellowship! A reality check is necessary because you can believe that your walk with Christ is better than it actually is. That is why James is telling us that we need to make sure that our behavior lines up with what we say we believe. Obedience is required! Luke 6:46 says it well, “Why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and don’t do the things I say?”

Healthy churches and healthy Christians are not afraid of a reality check in the mirror!

Slow to Anger

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The book of James is about behaving the way we say we believe. It is not enough to only hear the word. Also, it is not enough to listen to God’s word with an attitude of submission because the reality is that without obedience to God’s word it is of no benefit to anyone. The bottom line of true spiritual life is not a momentary feeling or a short-term commitment but continually living by the truths of the word of God. Obedience is required!

We are given three commands in James 1:19 that are to be embraced as we submit to the authority of His word. We are told to be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger. Anger has gotten the best of most people at one time or another. One temper tantrum can unravel years of relationship and team building. One outburst can create hurt feelings, resentment, and bitterness that can take years to recover from. It is just like trust because it takes years to earn but seconds to lose.

The anger spoken of here is not that kind of explosive outburst that erupts and goes away as quickly as it happens. Also, the anger in James 1:19 is not just a fleeting moment that is observed by everyone and taken as a minor, innocent flare-up. This anger is an inner deep resentment that maybe only you and the Lord know about but it is smoldering inside of you. It is especially dangerous because it is privately held on to and internalized.  James is zeroing in on an anger towards the truth of God’s word that we do not like or agree with.

We become angry because the truth confronts us with our sin, it is in conflict with one of our personal preferences, or it convicts us of our incorrect thinking. The idea here is in harmony with what Paul said to the church in Galatia in Gal 4:16, “Am I become your enemy because I tell you the truth?” Whenever we are confronted by the truth we have a decision to make. Will you submit to the truth, confess your sin, celebrate God’s forgiveness, and commit to obey? Or will you fight to have your own way regardless of the consequences to the cause of Christ?

In James 1:20 we are told, “Human anger does not reproduce the righteousness God desires.” Our anger does not accomplish what is right in God’s eyes. Yet, far too often we are angry about things that really do not matter. We must make sure that we get angry about what makes God angry not personal preferences and non-essentials. Churches have fought over the proper length of staff member’s beards, the brand of coffee they serve, and even whether the church should serve “deviled” eggs at the potluck, oops I meant to say “pot-blessing.”

This message of being “slow to anger” is so vitally important for several reasons:

  1. Your church is entrusted with the Great Commision and representing Christ in your community! John 13:35 says, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” Let’s make sure we get angry about what makes God angry not our personal preferences, pet programs, or petty problems.
  2. Your church needs to be a family of believers where the glory of your church takes a back seat to the glory of God! More than anything else we must desire for His name and fame to be known and spread. You should be excited about your church, enjoy your church, and be actively inviting people to your church but it is more important to introduce them to Jesus. Let them know you would love for them to come to church but even if they never do you are more interested in them!
  3. Your church must realize that how you face and maneuver through tension will determine your church’s culture and its future! What is the best way to teach the children? How do you best reach, involve, and minister to young couples? What is the best way to focus on making disciples? How do we develop a vibrant growing youth ministry? What programs should we consider stopping and shutting down because they are no longer effective?
  4. Your church must understand how vitally important it is to not move forward without knowing God’s mind and will! Tensions are a part of God’s plan to help us grow. They help us to trust Him more, take Holy risks, and to face our two biggest tensions: sacrifice and surrender. Will you be the kind of church that willingly and joyfully sacrifices comfort to be who God wants you to be? It will always cost us something and there is a price to be paid.
  5. Your church must take an honest look at what might be distracting you from fulfilling the Great Commission! Are you making disciples? In a recent Lifeway study on the survivability rate of church plants it was interesting to see that some of the evangelism techniques that many have frowned at are still being effecitive. The moral of the story is that any evangelism is better than no evangelism.

What are you doing to reach your community with the gospel of Jesus Christ? If we want to get angry why not get angry at ourselves because we have allowed non-essential things to dominate our lives while people need to know the love of Jesus. One visitor to an unnamed church said this after attending, “It’s like you invited me into your house and then ignored me when I arrived.” Now that is something to be angry about!