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How is this year going to be different than last year?

I love a new beginning. A fresh start. A New Year. With it comes a sense of spiritual cleansing; “the old is gone, the new has come.” But every New Year, I fight the challenge of “how is this year going to be different than last year?”

Do you make New Year’s Resolutions? Here are a few I came across recently from children:

“My new year’s resolution is to not eat as much sugar. But I probably won’t keep it” (Joey, age 10). “I am going to stop picking my nose. It is going to be hard” (Hadssah, age 7). “My resolution is to stop biting my nails because my mom says she is going to make me wear nail polish that tastes like ROTTEN EGGS if I don’t” (Kate, age 8). “So?!!! What is the point of making resolutions if you never really keep them?” (Love, Kendra, age 6).

Kendra has got it right. Most studies show that 80% of all people who make New Year’s Resolutions break them within the first thirty days. How about you? Have you sat down and made your list of resolutions knowing full well that you probably won’t keep them?

What if this year you add some teeth to your bite? Why not go one step further from making a resolution to developing a plan? Here’s a tried but true template that can help you set goals, develop a plan, and follow through. I use this on a personal level, and the staff I help lead do the same. This is called, ‘The 4 Disciplines of Execution’ which comes from a book with that title written by McChesney and Covey.

  • Develop your W.I.G.s. These are your wildly important goals. One of the mistakes many people make is that they set too many goals, and thus get confused, frustrated, and give up. Less is more. Simple leads to greater growth. Set two to three goals, and make sure they are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timely (S.M.A.R.T.). A good W.I.G. should state, “I will go from x to y by z date.” For example, I will go from 175 pounds to 160 pounds by December 31, 2019.
  • Act on the Lead Measures. This is where you develop a plan. W.I.G.s are the outcomes, whereas Lead Measures are the inputs. What can you do to move you toward the accomplishment of your W.I.G.s? Using the weight loss analogy, one lead measure would be to exercise thirty minutes five times per week where you get your heart rate up to a target rate of 50-85% of 220 beats per minute. Lead Measures are activities you can control which will help you accomplish your primary goals.
  • Keep a compelling scorecard. Many people fail to reach their goal because they don’t know how far along they are in the process. Keeping track helps you keep motivated, and it helps you measure your progress. Keep a chart. Have a scorecard on your smartphone. Whatever method you use, enter the data on a weekly (if not daily) basis, so you can see where you’ve been, where you are, and how much more you have to go.
  • Create accountability. Ask a friend or talk with your spouse about holding you accountable. Give them a WEEKLY update on your progress. If you don’t report in, you won’t keep up. This is why Weight Watchers has been so successful. They require participants to go to a weekly “weigh-in” to chart progress.

As the old adage goes, if you fail to plan, you plan to fail. Don’t make the same mistakes in 2019 that you (and I) have made in past years. Don’t just make a resolution to stop smoking or lose weight or grow spiritually. Develop a specific plan and stick to it with good accountability. And one year from now, you will be amazed at the progress you’ve made.

“The more you grow like this, the more productive and useful you will be in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 1:8, NLT).

Posted by Rick Grover, Lead Pastor with

Something Did Happen That Night in Bethlehem

Every Christmas I’m amazed at the hustle and bustle, crowded shopping malls, concerts and programs, decorations and lights, cookies and cakes. Part of me takes it all in like a deep breath of pine and holly. The other part of me is amazed at the global holiday that emerged from a very unlikely local place.

Have you ever stopped to think how absurd the original Christmas story must sound to a non-Christian? And yet, the festivities continue devoid of faith but rich with presents and Christmas ham.

In an episode of the TV show Thirtysomething, Hope, a Christian, argues with her Jewish husband, Michael, about the holidays. “Why do you even bother with Hanukkah?” she asks. “Do you really believe a handful of Jews held off a huge army by using a bunch of lamps that miraculously wouldn’t run out of oil?”

Michael exploded. “Oh, and Christmas makes more sense? Do you really believe an angel appeared to some teenage girl who then got pregnant without ever having sex and traveled on horseback to Bethlehem where she spent the night in a barn and had a baby who turned out to be the Savior of the world?” (Yancey, The Savior I Never Knew, 30).

Frankly, Michael’s incredulity is understandable. Child-like faith can believe in angelic visitations, immaculate conceptions . . . and Santa Claus visiting every child’s home in one night. But don’t we outgrow that child-like faith as we mature and accept only that which is scientifically or empirically verifiable?

A scientist I am not, but I think most would agree that not all truth can be put in a test tube and run through a lab. But this story, the Christmas story, has that uncanny testimony of empirical evidence from the visit of the shepherds to the wrath of King Herod to the gospel writers to the movement of Christianity that spans the globe. Even someone of no-faith must confess that something happened that night in Bethlehem that changed the world.

If there was ever a story that should not have gotten past the introduction, it is the unlikely story of God’s eternal plan resting on the response of two rural teenagers. The condemning looks of villagers who could plainly see the changing shape of Mary’s body. Nine months of awkward explanations along with the lingering scent of scandal.

As Philip Yancey writes, “It seems that God arranged the most humiliating circumstances possible for his entrance, as if to avoid any charge of favoritism. I am impressed that when the Son of God became a human being he played by the rules, harsh rules: small towns do not treat kindly young boys who grow up with questionable paternity” (ibid., 32).

So, the next time you see a Christmas card declaring joy to the world, and the next time you sing, “Silent Night,” remember what led up to that first Christmas. Remember the incredible obedience of two teenagers who followed God’s path. Remember the sacrifice of a young girl who heard the angel out, pondered the repercussions, and replied, “I am the Lord’s servant. May it be to me as you have said.” 

Posted by Rick Grover, Lead Pastor with

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