Every time I go to Children’s Hospital in Minneapolis I cry. I didn’t use to cry when I went there. To be honest, the first few times I visited people whose children had been admitted I didn’t cry. Since I was a young pastor without any children of my own at the time, I thought that I needed to show strength and I did it by caring without becoming too emotional. And everything worked fine until I had children of my own. Kids do something to your emotions. They tend to rub off the rough edges and unwittingly teach you the depths of love. New parents will do anything for their babies because they are so innocent and precious. My children have certainly helped expose my emotions in ways that often take me by surprise.
The reason I cry whenever I visit Children’s Hospital is because I have spent a significant amount of time there with my kids. When Josh was just over three years old he was diagnosed with leukemia, which flipped my world upside down. Sara was two and Kathi was pregnant with Katie. I cannot even remember how many times we drove back and forth to Children’s, how many scares we had and nights we spent under close supervision while he was receiving chemotherapy. The time I spent in the hospital opened my eyes to a whole new level of people experiencing pain and suffering. My eyes were opened because I was experiencing intense pain and suffering along with Josh and Kathi. Even though Sara was only two she knew something was not right and was able to recall many details of Josh’s battle with surprising clarity. Many family members and friends felt the sting of cancer along with us.
So this week when I visited Children’s to see our close friends and their daughter I cried as I drove through the parking garage looking for a spot. After parking, I wiped away the tears taking a few deep breaths. After checking in at the front desk I took the elevator to the sixth floor. The sixth floor doesn’t mean anything to most people, but to me, it was two floors down from where Josh spent so much time. The same emotional pain that I experienced when Josh was hospitalized flooded my soul and came pouring out my eyes as I walked down the long hallway towards my friend’s room. Before entering their room I had to collect myself again. As I entered their room to see their precious child my heart was overflowing with authentic love and compassion for one of God’s precious children and two loving parents who would do anything to help their child who was in such underserved pain.
In my personal opinion, kids shouldn’t get sick. I could tolerate a cold or tummy ache now and then but when a kid has to fight for their life every day, it just doesn’t seem fair. But life is very unfair when you think about it. Why some people are handed so much and others are handed so little will always be a mystery.
I am sure I will visit someone at Children’s Hospital again. And when I do, I expect to cry and relive our pain and suffering all over again, for just a few moments. That is what makes me human. It also reminds me that I can hurt with those who are hurting and being present means more than saying a thousand words over the phone. You can never replace a real hug with a Teddy Bear or flowers delivered from the hospital store.
Pain and suffering has taught me that it’s OK to be real when you are hurting. It’s also important to comfort others who need you. The greater the pain, the greater the support system you need. You need to share your feelings with one or two close friends. This is true for both men and women. And if you know someone who is hurting, call them or stop by. Chances are, they won’t tell you they need anything, but the fact that you called or stopped by shows them you do care. The author of Hebrews writes: “And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased” (Hebrews 13:16). It pleases God when you cry with those who are mourning and celebrate with those who are victorious. So don’t avoid someone who needs you, make time to care for them because it pleases God and will bring you joy knowing you did what you could.
As a leader, I am often under the microscope. People have opinions and feel free to share them whether helpful or hurtful. Some people don’t only share their opinions, they actually intend to hurt and harm with their words and actions. Lately, I have been living under the scrutiny of others whether real or perceived. This scrutiny has impacted how I view myself and my calling. I have elevated my critics to the point that they have enough space in my head to impact how I live my life. This has resulted in my feeling ashamed, embarrassed, and even depressed. Their negative influence has impacted my thinking and the lens through which I view myself. I started to view myself through my critic's eyes instead of God’s eyes. This is not only wrong, but it has also led me down a path of darkness and deceit.
The truth is you have critics just like I do. It could be a parent, a coworker, neighbor, or even a person who lashed out on social media. Your critics impact the way you perceive yourself just like me. The good news is that you don’t have to view yourself as your critics do. You can start to view yourself as God views you. If you are a believer in Jesus Christ, then you are a child of God and as a child of God you are loved, cared for, and have a purpose to live out. But that’s hard to grasp if you keep listening to the negativity your critics keep pouring out on you even if they only made a few comments and you let them echo in your head.
In order to silence those critics and their voices in your head, you can write up a series of declarations to recite daily. These declarations will help you to claim the promises of God about who you are in His eyes, and that’s all that really matters. Paul writes: “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5).
Understanding that I need to take captive every thought, I came up with these declarations. Each one specifically pertains to a truth that I need to cling to. Here are my ten declarations that I say out loud to myself every day:
1. I am a child of God. I am loved, filled with the Holy Spirit, and wanted by God.
2. I serve a valuable purpose in advancing the kingdom of God helping to make disciples locally and abroad.
3. God has called me to help others grow closer to Christ.
4. I will be transparent and authentic as a husband, father, and leader sharing highs and lows.
5. I will accept the fact that God will continue to bless me and use me for His glory because I honor Him.
6. I will surround myself with quality people and great leaders that will help me to grow.
7. I will forgive others as God has forgiven me.
8. I will seek to follow the will of God every day so that I can be the best leader I can be.
9. I will be the husband, father, friend, and leader that God has called me to be.
10. I will give my best for the glory of God every day.
I encourage you to come up with a list of declarations that you say every day. Your list will look different than mine, but each declaration should be anchored in biblical truth. So, take a few minutes to write out your declarations. Pray over them and rewrite or revise as needed. You will be glad you did. After all, you are a child of God, created with intention, purpose, and grace. You are loved by God and will be used for His glory and His glory alone. May the LORD bless you as you declare God’s truth over your life.
There have been amazing inventions and discoveries throughout history that changed everything, yet all pale in comparison to the amazing discovery that Jesus Christ has risen from the dead after he was beaten, crucified, and buried. His body was even placed under guard to make sure nobody stole it.
After being dead for 3 days Jesus amazed everyone by coming back to life claiming victory over death offering everyone who believes in him a new life. This is what Easter is all about. Easter changes everything. According to Scripture, the resurrection of Christ is the centerpiece of the Christian faith.
Paul wrote First Corinthians to deal with those who were questioning if Jesus was resurrected from the dead. Paul writes:
“Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. For what I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. After that he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep [died]. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.” 1 Corinthians 15:1-8
Without a risen Christ, we have no gospel at all. But because he was raised from the dead, we will also be raised to eternal life and that’s amazing and impacts how we live today. Paul gave three compelling reasons why they should believe that Jesus Christ is risen from the dead.
The first compelling reason is the faith of the believers, who were so convinced that Jesus did rise from the dead that they would rather die for what they believed to be true than deny it.
The second compelling reason to believe in the resurrection is the Old Testament Scriptures foretold that the resurrection would take place. Isaiah writes: “But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.” Isaiah 53:5-6
These two verses foretell that fact that Jesus had to die so that all who believe in him may live. There are literally hundreds of prophecies that point to the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ in the Old Testament. Some were written thousands of years before he walked the earth.
Jesus told his disciples and subsequently you and I: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” That is written in John 3:16.
The third compelling reason to believe in the resurrection is found in the witnesses who saw him after his crucifixion. After the resurrection Jesus was seen by many of the same eyewitnesses that watched him die. Peter saw him and so did the disciples collectively. James was Jesus half-brother and he put his faith in him only after he saw Jesus risen. There were 500 plus other people who saw Jesus alive at the same time. There were eyewitnesses and they shared that Jesus was alive.
Paul tells the Corinthians that unless they believe in the resurrection their faith is a waste of time. “But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.” 1 Corinthians 15:12-14
Jesus is as real as life itself. And he wants you to put your faith in him by believing that he died on the cross and was raised into life on your behalf. That is why Easter is so amazing.
Angry crowds bring out the worst in people. A riot is a crowd with a mob mentality and it is unpredictable. That is exactly what the Apostle Paul faced in Jerusalem after he had fulfilled his purification vow to show the Jews that he was not demanding that they stop all of their Jewish customs and traditions. While he was fulfilling his vow by ritually purifying himself in a Mikvah [ritual purification tank] someone from Ephesus recognized him and stirred up the whole crowd.
Since Paul was in a very public place and the Jews were adamant to protect their way of life and customs, it didn’t take much provoking to convince people that Paul opposed them even though he did not. The Gospel opponents used three triggers they knew would fire off the Jewish crowd - exaggerations, lies and sensationalism – as seen in Acts 21:27-30: “27 When the seven days were nearly over, some Jews from the province of Asia saw Paul at the temple. They stirred up the whole crowd and seized him, 28 shouting, “Fellow Israelites, help us! This is the man who teaches everyone everywhere against our people and our law and this place. And besides, he has brought Greeks into the temple and defiled this holy place.” 29 (They had previously seen Trophimus the Ephesian in the city with Paul and assumed that Paul had brought him into the temple.) 30 The whole city was aroused, and the people came running from all directions. Seizing Paul, they dragged him from the temple, and immediately the gates were shut.”
“31 While they were trying to kill him, news reached the commander of the Roman troops that the whole city of Jerusalem was in an uproar. 32 He at once took some officers and soldiers and ran down to the crowd. When the rioters saw the commander and his soldiers, they stopped beating Paul.”
The Roman soldiers chained Paul to themselves to take him away. As they were about to go into barracks Paul asked for and was given permission to speak. Continuing in Acts 22 Paul says,“1 “Brothers and fathers, listen now to my defense.” 2 When they heard him speak to them in Aramaic, they became very quiet. Then Paul said: 3 “I am a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but brought up in this city. I studied under Gamaliel and was thoroughly trained in the law of our ancestors. I was just as zealous for God as any of you are today.”
Paul goes on to tell them his conversion story and they actually listen to the point when he tells them that God told him to go witness to the gentiles. This was another trigger for the rioters and they tried to get at him again, forcing the Romans to bring him into the barracks.
In this section of text, Paul shows us three ways to respond to gospel opponents. First, pray for wisdom. Second, be bold with the truth of the gospel. And, third, share your story.
You don’t have to be eloquent or super educated, just tell others what God has done in your life. Your faith story has three parts to it. Describe your life before Christ, your conversion experience, and your present hopes.
Sharing your faith will encourage you because it will drive you back to the heart of your relationship with Jesus. I think that is why even when Paul faced the angry crowd he could still speak to them with boldness and clarity, because he knew God had him there for a reason.
And, finally, trust God with the results. God never wastes pain and he never wastes a story. God will never waste your story because your story is important. You matter to God and what God has done for you he wants you to share with others.
Have you ever found yourself in a no-win situation? It’s a bad feeling. That is the situation Paul found himself in. He was in Jerusalem and the Lord told him that he was going to face some really big problems. The Jews formed a mob and wanted to kill him. The Roman army saved his life then found out that Paul was a Roman citizen so they had to treat him fairly.
At the end of chapter 22 Paul was sent away for the night and told to come back the next day and explain to the Sanhedrin why everyone was so upset with him. The Sanhedrin was the Jewish governing authority and it was led by the high priest. Members of the Sanhedrin were either Sadducees or Pharisees. The word Sadducee means “righteous one.” They represented the Jewish aristocracy and the high priesthood. The other half of the Sanhedrin was made up of Pharisees. Pharisee means “separated ones,” and they kept themselves pure of any corrupting influence, including Greek or Roman influences, which were considered pagan.
In Acts 23 the Sanhedrin had assembled and Paul was called in to face them. It must have felt like a no-win situation. It was Paul against everyone else. This section of texts gives two life lessons that pertain to anyone who has ever faced a no-win situation.
“1 Paul looked straight at the Sanhedrin and said, “My brothers, I have fulfilled my duty to God in all good conscience to this day.” 2 At this the high priest Ananias ordered those standing near Paul to strike him on the mouth.”
Paul was a man of strong character. He can say that he has fulfilled his duty to God because he had done God’s will. After he says this Ananias the high priest ordered some other Pharisees and Sadducees to strike him. Such abuse of prisoners violated ancient legal ethics. Striking someone on the mouth was considered a huge insult.
So those who are called righteous ones and separated ones struck Paul on the mouth. These are the religious leaders. “3 Then Paul said to him, “God will strike you, you whitewashed wall! You sit there to judge me according to the law, yet you yourself violate the law by commanding that I be struck!” Paul calls the high priest a hypocrite.
The first life lesson is that your actions reflect your character.
A person’s real character always comes out under pressure. If you are living a Christ centered life when you face a no win situation, you will lean into it with faith and conviction like Paul. He spoke the truth even when it wasn’t popular.
What Paul did next is pretty interesting. “6 Then Paul, knowing that some of them were Sadducees and the others Pharisees, called out in the Sanhedrin, “My brothers, I am a Pharisee, descended from Pharisees. I stand on trial because of the hope of the resurrection of the dead.” 7 When he said this, a dispute broke out between the Pharisees and the Sadducees, and the assembly was divided. 8 (The Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, and that there are neither angels nor spirits, but the Pharisees believe all these things.) 9 There was a great uproar, and some of the teachers of the law who were Pharisees stood up and argued vigorously. “We find nothing wrong with this man,” they said. “What if a spirit or an angel has spoken to him?” 10 The dispute became so violent that the commander was afraid Paul would be torn to pieces by them. He ordered the troops to go down and take him away from them by force and bring him into the barracks.
This brings us to the second life lesson, you should pray for wisdom whenever you need it. Paul knew that everyone he was speaking to wanted him dead. So he gets them to argue with each other.
“11 The following night the Lord stood near Paul and said, “Take courage! As you have testified about me in Jerusalem, so you must also testify in Rome.”
It was a dark time for Paul. Certainly his hopes of continuing to testify for the Lord in Jerusalem were squashed by the proceedings before the Sanhedrin. Yet in this disheartening moment, Jesus encourages him. Those words gave Paul strength and hope. No matter how discouraging circumstances appear, we can trust that God will be with us.
Whenever God moves, Satan is always close by. John 10:10 records Jesus saying: “10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”
Satan and his demonic realm want to steal your freedom putting you in slavery to sin and killing your potential so that you aspire for average and never fully follow Christ in every area of your life.
As the church was forming shortly after Jesus ascension, Satan was attempting to silence believers so they would stop making disciples. It didn’t work. The Holy Spirit continued to stir hearts motivating believers to destroy their old way of life so they could embrace their new faith. Their lives would never be the same. Luke writes: “18 Many of those who believed now came and openly confessed what they had done. 19 A number who had practiced sorcery brought their scrolls together and burned them publicly. When they calculated the value of the scrolls, the total came to fifty thousand drachmas. 20 In this way the word of the Lord spread widely and grew in power” (Acts 19:18-20).
You can’t follow Christ with your whole heart if you keep secrets. This is how you can break free from your past behaviors and step into a closer relationship with Jesus, here’s how. First, repent. What is it that you need to repent from? Porn, drugs, alcohol, addiction to whatever? Bad Netflix shows? The list of things that mess up our relationship with God is extensive so I suggest whatever God puts on your heart you deal with.
Second, clean your house of ungodly things. Don’t convince yourself that you should try to sell or use these things until they’re gone; just destroy it and get it off your property or out of your presence. Ask the Holy Spirit to shine in every area of your house.
Third, believe that God has a better plan for you. Believe that God wants to fill your life with goodness and joy. Believe that God will meet all of your needs. Peter writes: “8 Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. 9 Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.” 1 Peter 5:8-9
Satan and his demonic realm are a believer’s real enemy. You might not be able to identify Satan in a crowd, but he is a real, viable, cruel, supernatural enemy that seeks to destroy you by leading his demons in attacks against you. His intent is to steal, kill, and destroy. He’s Powerful, but God is more powerful and Christians can tap into the power of God to fight against the enemy. Jesus was resurrected from the dead to prove that God is more powerful than Satan. The empty cross is an eternal reminder that God has more power than Satan, but that doesn’t mean he won’t put up a fight. Your best defense is to clean house and don’t let Satan get a foothold in any area of your life. If you need to repent, repent. Then remove what needs to be removed and believe that God’s way is the best way. You will be glad you did.
The one thing that every church should do is discipleship. In Matthew 28:19-20 Jesus said “Go and make disciples……” Discipleship is being a student of Jesus and teaching others about Christian doctrine, prayer, Christian living, and worship.
Jesus modeled discipleship. Mark 1:16-22 reads:
“16 As Jesus walked beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. 17 “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” 18 At once they left their nets and followed him. 19 When he had gone a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John in a boat, preparing their nets. 20 Without delay he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men and followed him. 21 They went to Capernaum, and when the Sabbath came, Jesus went into the synagogue and began to teach. 22 The people were amazed at his teaching, because he taught them as one who had authority, not as the teachers of the law.”
Jesus made disciples who in turn made disciples. After Jesus ascension, the Holy Spirit came and the disciples made even more disciples, thousands of disciples. Discipleship is the process by which disciples grow in Christ and are equipped by the Holy Spirit to become more Christ-like. This process requires believers to respond to the Holy Spirit’s prompting to examine their thoughts, words and actions and compare them with the Word of God.
Four characteristics that identify disciples:
1. Have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. A disciple is a Christian. There are a lot of people who are trying to live the Christian life without being a Christian. They are trying to follow the teachings of Jesus without having the supernatural power to do so. You see, a non-Christian cannot be a disciple of Christ because they are not a child of God. Jesus says:
“5 Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit.” John 3:5
There is a barrier between us and God, and that barrier is sin. The reason Christ died for you and me is to tear down that barrier. Also, a non-Christian lacks the supernatural resources to be a disciple. You need the supernatural power of the Holy Spirit, who comes into your life when you’re saved. So first of all, a disciple is someone who has made that foundational decision to receive Christ as his Savior.
You can grow in biblical knowledge without having faith in Christ but you will never grow closer to Christ unless you have a personal relationship with him.
2. Have a growing relationship with Christ. To have a growing relationship with Christ means that you know God better today than you did a year ago. Your relationship with God is not static; it’s dynamic.
You grow by committing to attending church every week. For 2000 years believers have been gathering together for discipleship, encouragement, and to express love for one another.
Make time to read the bible every day. People who read their bible at least four times a week are 228% more likely to share their faith than someone who only reads the bible a few times a year.
Commit to joining a group. At Freshwater we have over 400 people who are currently in some type of growth group whether it’s a small group, celebrate recovery, or other group.
3. Strive to honor Christ in every area of life. Jesus said we are to teach disciples to observe all things He commanded us. A disciple of Jesus is intent on applying all of Christ’s commands to his life. Jesus said, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word . . . He who does not love Me does not keep My words” John 14:23–24.
God says to tithe, so disciples tithe honoring God with their finances. Jesus says to love our enemies so we do our best to love our enemies and see them like Jesus. Jesus tells us to forgive so we forgive. Jesus tells us to pray so we pray. Jesus says to be wise so we seek the Holy Spirit to lead and guide us in every single decision that we make. This is what it looks like to honor Christ with your life, to put biblical principles into practice in your life every day.
4. Be making new disciples. If you are truly a follower of Jesus Christ, then you will take seriously these final orders from Jesus: go into all the world and make disciples. Jesus made disciples and commanded his disciples to make disciples. That is the process of discipleship.
Did you know that the more you read the bible, the more you will experience personal transformation? Bible engagement transforms lives, specifically your life if you are willing to read it. According to the data, 42% of believers are more generous after reading the bible; 54% are more loving, and 56% are more engaged with their faith. When people were asked if they felt like they read it enough, 57% said they wish they read it more. This data reveals that reading the bible does make a difference, so you should read it on a regular basis.
I am often asked by new believers if they should start reading the bible at the beginning. While Genesis is a great book to read, it can be a bit confusing. Most people who start reading the bible in Genesis quit by the time they finish Deuteronomy. They get hung up on all the Levitical Laws and names and timelines. So my advice to new believers is to start with the Gospel of John. The Gospel of John explains the life and ministry of Jesus. It is easy to read and will help a new Christian wrap their hands around what it means to be a follow of Jesus. Then after they finish it, I offer to meet with them or connect to talk about what they read. From there I encourage them to read the Book of Acts because it gives the history of the church and introduces them to the work of the Holy Spirit.
Growing Christians also ask me how to read the bible. I suggest finding a reading plan online that they like or reading the bible from cover to cover in a year. This takes discipline, but it is worth it. Personally, I like reading through the bible once a year. I use the Youversion (online bible app) chronological one year reading plan. This plan helps me to see the scriptures unfold in chronological order. I highlight verses that stand out to me so that I can go back and reference them. I also like to read my hard copy of the bible. I write notes in the margins, use a highlighter to mark verses, and underline key passages. After using the same bible for more than a decade, it is full of my personal notes and highlights. I often reflect on what I wrote and find encouragement in seeing all the answered prayers.
If you are feeling stuck in your faith right now maybe it is because you need read the Bible more. Reading God’s Word is always spiritually refreshing. God is always revealing himself to us in new ways through His Word. You could read the bible a thousand times and still learn something new about God every time you read it.
The bottom line is that the more you read God’s Word, the more you will know about God, his ways, and his will for you. The Holy Spirit will bring biblical truth to life in you. And when you know God’s Word, you will be able to apply it to your life. The goal of every Christian should be to know God and we know God through His Word as it is written in the Bible. The Bible is not just an ancient book, it is God’s inspired Word given to you. So add bible reading to your calendar today. Make it part of your daily routine and see what God does in you and through you. You will be blessed for it.
(resources: stateofthebible.org, accessed 2/26/2019)
In Acts 16:11-15 Paul has been out on his missionary journey making disciples, planting churches, and strengthening existing ones. Silas and Timothy are with him. The three of them travel to the town of Philippi, a city with anywhere from 5-10 thousand residents. Even though the city was well known, there were very few Jewish people in it, not even the required number of married men to start a synagogue. Verse 11 picks up the story.
“11 From Troas we put out to sea and sailed straight for Samothrace, and the next day we went on to Neapolis. 12 From there we traveled to Philippi, a Roman colony and the leading city of that district of Macedonia. And we stayed there several days. 13 On the Sabbath we went outside the city gate to the river, where we expected to find a place of prayer. We sat down and began to speak to the women who had gathered there. 14 One of those listening was a woman from the city of Thyatira named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth. She was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message. 15 When she and the members of her household were baptized, she invited us to her home. “If you consider me a believer in the Lord,” she said, “come and stay at my house.” And she persuaded us.”
Paul typically went to the synagogue to speak to people about Jesus. Since there wasn’t one in Philippi, he went outside the city to the river where he met a few women who gathered there for prayer. One woman at the river was named Lydia. Lydia owned her own business selling purple cloth, which was very expensive and labor intense to make. She was not Jewish but loved to worship God. Lydia believed Paul’s testimony about Jesus, put her faith in Christ, and was baptized. Lydia was Pauls’ first convert in Europe.
Lydia was a prosperous business owner who leveraged her resources for the glory of God. She welcomed Paul and the others into her home and cared for them while they were in her city. She used her influence as a business owner to help others to connect with Christ. By inviting the men to stay at her home she was letting everyone know she had become a believer in Jesus Christ.
Years later Paul wrote the Philippian church, which he saw emerge from a handful of spiritually hungry women led by Lydia. He saw people who were far from God come near to Him and he was elated with what was happening there. Lydia was certainly one of the main reasons why the church grew. Paul writes:
“Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus, To all God’s holy people in Christ Jesus at Philippi, together with the overseers and deacons: 2 Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 3 I thank my God every time I remember you. 4 In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy 5 because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, 6 being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 1:1-6
You can use your influence for the glory of God like Lydia did. You have influence in your family, with your friends, at work, school, or at the gym. Generously give your resources. Give your time, talents, and treasure to impact others. God wants you to use all of them for His glory.
“I will set a sign among them, and I will send some of those who survive to the nations—to Tarshish, to the Libyans and Lydians (famous as archers), to Tubal and Greece, and to the distant islands that have not heard of my fame or seen my glory. They will proclaim my glory among the nations.” Isaiah 66:19
As the New Year approaches, most people make a series of New Year’s resolutions. Some resolve to losing weight, lowering their stress, or sacking more money away for the future. All of these resolutions seem achievable and those who make them really do indent on following through with them. At the start of 2018 a study by Statista.com revealed the top five New Year’s resolutions made by Americans:
53% resolved to save money
45% resolved to lose weight or get in shape
25% resolved to have more sex
24% resolved to travel more
23% resolved to read more books
These are all good resolutions, but in reality no matter what we resolve to doing, very few people actually follow through on their resolutions. In fact, Business Insider conducted a study revealing that 80% of New Year’s resolutions fail by the second week in February. That is a very high failure rate. I suggest that prior to making any New Year’s resolutions, you commit to five overarching principles that will help you make the right resolutions no matter what resolutions you are thinking about making. So before you make any list, consider making these five commitments first.
1. Commit to the right things. One reason why we fail to follow through on our commitments is because we don’t commit to the right things. When you don’t commit to the right things you set yourself up for failure right from the start. Don’t commit to being the team manager if you don’t like managing. Don’t commit to volunteering at your kids school once a week if it puts too much stress on your family. We live in a complex, busy environment where everyone is asking for help all the time. You should only commit to doing the things that enhance your life and add value to the greater community. For example, you may get asked to commit to keeping the books for the kids team and get asked to make meals for struggling families. If you are an excellent cook, you should consider prioritizing cooking food for others once a month over keeping the books. Do what you are good at and trust that God will bring in others who are willing to use their gifts to shore up the areas where more volunteers are needed.
2. Commit to realistic things. Don’t commit to going to the gym five days a week when your family life and work schedule makes this impossible. You might be able to rearrange your schedule for a week, but is it sustainable for six months? If it’s not, then change your expectations so you can follow through on your resolutions. And when it comes to saving you may be able to save 1% for the next three months then bump your savings up to 2% of your gross income. Gradually over time you can increase your savings to 5% or 10%, but don’t expect to save that much right away, especially if you have been living check to check for years. If your resolution is to lose weight, set realistic goals tied to how much weight you would like to lose. If your goal is to lose 12 pounds commit to losing 12 pounds over the course of three months that equals one pound a week, which is realistic.
3. Commit to not feeling guilty for saying “no” when you need to say “no.” I remember back when I had small children living at home. They were in sports, did church activities, and had homework every night. My time for other commitments was limited due to my own family obligations. As my children have grown older, my nights have opened up simply because my kids are more independent now. If you can’t commit to do something, it’s OK to say no. And when you say no, don’t fret about it, focus on the right commitments you made.
4. Commit to investing in yourself. I suggest investing in yourself on three levels: body, soul, and mind. Take care of your body whether it means getting enough rest, exercise, or eating right. And take care of your soul by connecting with Christ through praying often, reading the bible on a consistent basis, and attending church faithfully. Invest in your mind by reading intellectually challenging books, watching documentaries, and increasing your knowledge.
5. Commit to building great relationships. I learned long ago that you can’t be close friends with everyone, but you can be close friends with one or two people. Most people have far more acquaintances than friends and that is OK, just don’t expect to have great friendships with dozens of people because good friendships take time and effort to build. Invest in those who you want to be friends with and who want to be closer friends with you. These are the relationships that should get priority.
2019 can be your best year yet if you commit to applying the five guidelines we just covered. If you do, you can be one of the 20% that actually sees their New Year’s resolutions come to fruition. And in doing so, you will be happier, healthier, and more content. This is the whole reason we make New Year’s resolutions in the first place. May the LORD bless you as you step foot into 2019. May it be your best year yet!
https://www.statista.com/statistics/378105/new-years-resolution/, accessed 27 December 2018
https://www.businessinsider.com/new-years-resolutions-courses-2016-12, accessed 27 December 2018