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"Why Your Resolutions Don't Stick"

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I’m an unabashed history dork, currently on my second biography of Teddy Roosevelt. Of all his noteworthy moments, the one that sticks out for me is a page from his workout program - I’m fascinated by his “Body by Ted” program. While president, Roosevelt would often grab some aids or even guests, choose a distant point off in the distance and head for that point only to then return.

 The catch? They would do so in a perfectly straight line no matter what was in the way.

 “The rule was that no natural impediment should cause them to digress or to stop. So they went through the fields and over the fences, across ditches and pools, and even clambered up and down a haystack, if one happened to be in the way, or through a barnyard. Of course they often reached home spattered with mud or even drenched to the skin from a plunge into the water, but with much fun, a livelier circulation, and a hearty appetite to their credit.” He called this “hiking”.

 We can learn much in our goal setting from this practice of “hiking.” There’s something to be said for having your eyes set on a goal and refusing to let impediments interrupt your journey. Sure, we all desire discipline, but accomplishing goals in a disciplined manner isn’t always good. Your accomplished resolutions may be carrying you in the wrong direction.  

 Matt Perman’s incredible book What’s Best Next (a must get) argues that improved productivity is no longer efficient if it’s carrying you in the wrong direction. You must first know what the right direction is for productivity to matter. I couldn’t agree more. One of the key ways in which our discipline can carry us in the correct direction is to staple it to a personal mission statement. Mission statements act like Roosevelt’s lighthouse or mountaintop, dictating direction no matter the obstacles. Perman notes,

 “...the purpose of your mission statement is to define the rock-bottom principles that define you even in times when you don’t know what you are doing or where you are going. You want your mission statement to orient you even when your entire world seems to be giving way —when you’ve lost your job, lost your house, aren’t sure what city to live in, and the wonderful plan you have for your life seems blown apart. Your mission statement is a good one if it is able to help you then, in those circumstances. Only then will it be able to guide you in the ordinary circumstances of life.”

 This year, before sitting down to list out new goals and aspirations, first ask, “Why am I here? Where am I going?”. Let the answers become beacons to your calendar, expenditures, and decisions so that you're not productive in the wrong direction.  Most people fail in their resolutions simply because they are irrelevant to their overall mission, and therefore peripheral rather than central. In fact, what’s worse, someone inefficiently moving in the right direction or someone efficiently moving in the wrong direction?

We clearly see Jesus and Paul with their eyes fixed on an end without veering or shifting in their journey. Sure, they were disciplined, but they were also tethered to a defining mission. Their decisions were guided by an ultimate goal. Have you considered yours? Take some time to today draft a mission statement that becomes the “rudder” for all your resolutions, aspirations, and goals. Maybe this year you’ll head in the right direction no matter what’s in the way.

 William Thayer, Theodore Roosevelt; An Intimate Biography (Public Domain Book) Kindle Location 2378
2 Matt Perman, What’s Best Next: How the Gospel Transforms The Way You Get Things Done (Grand Rapids, Zondervan, 2014) pg. 148
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Shaken to Become Unshaken: The SCOTUS Decision

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Shaken to Become Unshakable

My Reaction to the SCOTUS Decision

“Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire.” (Hebrews 12:28-29, ESV)

Today, the Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage. I must confess myself shaken, but perhaps not for the reasons you think. I knew same-sex marriages would be legalized soon. Frankly, I don’t despair over it either. My sorrow over same-sex marriages is in line with my sorrow over greed, selfish ambition, dishonesty, envy, and exploitation of the needy, all of which has been institutionalized and normalized since the dawn of time in every society, all of which should nauseate us. It is in line with my sorrow for when I, myself, mar God’s image through my own normalization of escape, self-centeredness, impatience, and a host of other nasty things flooding out of my idolatrous heart. No, legalization of same-sex marriage doesn’t shake me. But what does shake me is seeing peoples’ knee-jerk reactions. I literally shake with emotion when I read them. It pulls me to join in with my own hasty, ill-thought-out reactions. It pulls me to judge. It draws out my detached, judgmental accusations of, “How could you…” and “What’s the matter with you?” Holy Spirit help me!

I have many friends who are gay or lesbian or whose worldviews consider homosexuality to be perfectly fine. I also have friends who would be considered staunch, religious, and conservative. I see one Facebook post from a friend who I know has a past of marital brokenness proudly say, “Let me remind you what real marriage is.” I see yet another post saying, “Our country has really gone down the drain.” Yet another post says, “Finally, the religious right’s tyranny is at an end.” A church I know of took the opportunity to publically reveal that they see nothing wrong with homosexuality, applauded by many with expressions of relief and approval. Two camps. One typically disregards God’s loving commands and refuses to trust them where they don’t fully understand. The other disregards God’s pursuit of sinners and refuse to trust when it feels uncomfortable. In the middle live real people, real image bearers of God, being objectified and turned into fodder for detached rhetoric.

I find myself shaken by the rigidity of the division. No, I’m not claiming the church should embrace homosexuality as perfectly fine any more than they should embrace greed as perfectly fine. But didn’t Jesus embrace both the gay and the greedy as He placed His love on them and drew them out of sin and to Himself? Sin destroys, period. And Jesus pursues and rescues many sinners of all kinds, period. Both are true, and they are in harmony. A gospel that does not rescue us from sin is no gospel at all. A gospel that does not pursue us in our sin is also no gospel at all. The divide that shakes me is when the church forgets the Apostle Paul’s instructions in 1 Corinthians 5:9-11.

"A gospel that does not rescue us from sin is no gospel at all. A gospel that does not pursue us in our sin is also no gospel at all."

I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people—not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one. (1 Corinthians 5:9-11)

We aren’t supposed to be divided from the world. We’re supposed to be engaging them with a message and a living testimony of its power. It shakes me because I know I suffer the same disease in my own propensity to forget scripture when it says, “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness” (Exodus 34:6). I want to be rash and quick in my anger with my brothers and sisters in the church. But that dishonors God’s name as much as their sins. Holy Spirit help me!

What shakes me more than anything is my fear of being rashly pigeon holed into one of the camps by people I love and respect. I care what people think, and I loathe the idea of being simplistically identified as something I am not. I fear for my reputation. After all, Stephen was martyred in a situation stemming from false rumors about him. He died being misunderstood. Think about that. It’s is a big fear of mine. I’m shaken, and I feel very unsettled. My guess is that you, too, feel unsettled for one reason or another. We are being shaken, and I know for a fact that God is doing it on purpose. I even know, at least partly, why He’s doing it because He has told us some things. The scripture that began this post starts with a command toward thanksgiving! Of all things, thanksgiving! We are to be grateful to God in the midst of the Supreme Court’s decision. In fact, the context of this passage in Hebrews is warning that we not refuse God’s gospel. It’s a serious deal. God shakes His people “in order that the things that cannot be shaken may remain.” I want this to leave you with reasons to be thankful and restful.

God shook Israel with fear and trembling at the sight of lightning, fire, and thunder at the foot of the mountain, calling them to come up to Himself to be His treasure and His very own people. They did not trust Him, and therefore when they were shaken, they fled from Him in distrust as if He were something foreign. We would surely have done the same because we are also very shakable people. Jesus had to go up the mountain on our behalf so that we could finally become God’s treasured, intimate people. That’s why Hebrews says, “Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken.” If we didn’t receive it, we would never have it at all. But we did receive an unshakable kingdom. We have a core in us that truly cannot be shaken, and God will shake us until that is all that remains. He promises to do so, and it is for our good. So, let us be thankful to God that the Supreme Court has legalized same-sex marriage, friends, not because we agree with the decision, but because a wise God is in control, and He does only good to His people. Yes, let’s grieve for sin that seeks to destroy others and ourselves, but let us keep our eyes on God!

I am shaken with fear of being placed into a camp I don’t belong in. There isn’t much of a category for people like me, and I feel even brothers and sisters close to me isolating me with their rhetoric and hemming me into a place I don’t belong. Being misunderstood shakes me deeply. But why? Asking the Holy Spirit to be kind to me and open my eyes, I believe it is because I am very protective of my reputation. I find identity in how others view me. And this is an idol. God is shaking me to expose that which can be shaken, and idols are very shakable. God, I repent for fixing my eyes on how other people view me. God, I repent for letting my fear of being misunderstood outweigh my awe of your Son. Please help me to keep my eyes fixed on you and your gospel as Stephen did when he was being murdered. Help me to be enamored with your justice, wisdom, power, and pursuit of sinners. May my only fixation be on you being known as you are throughout the ends of the Earth. May my hope be in your message of reconciling sinners to yourself through your Son’s death and resurrection. May I rest in that message and depend on it utterly! May my sole desire be for your reputation, not mine. May I belittle shame as Jesus did on the cross, with my eyes fixed on you. Rescue me, God!

"May I rest in that message and depend on it utterly! May my sole desire be for your reputation, not mine. May I belittle shame as Jesus did on the cross, with my eyes fixed on you. Rescue me, God!"

 Friend, I imagine that you, too, have been shaken in some way by this decision. It is for your good. Please join me. Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal what is shaking in you and why. Find the idols that God is exposing. Is it pride in how you behave or with whom identify with? Is it fear of discomfort? Is it the need for Christianity to be normal or the fear of suddenly being seen as an outcast? Is it fear of being misunderstood either as a hater or as “emergent”? Is it feelings of inadequacy in approaching your LGBT neighbors and a fixation on what you’re innately capable of? God, the Holy Spirit, is wise and capable. You can depend on Him to reveal what is being shaken. Ask those close to you to tell you what they see in you. Then, press into God with the gospel of His Son rich on your mind, repenting with empty hands that beg for grace and power to overcome and change.

The sole purpose of our existence is to make God known more deeply and more widely. The sole means of this is through a message, a simple, powerful message that exposes a God who pursues so many vile, blind, people (like me) to rescue them and bring them to Himself. Lay aside the hindrances that God is shaking and revealing, and hold onto that which cannot be shaken. Hold onto the gospel, and expose its work in your own life to see it work in others’ lives. Any country can make any law they want, but God’s people will desire Him above everything no matter what the context. That which is unshakable has not changed, friend, so take comfort, and let this shaking do its work. God works all things for the good of His people, so let this be an opportunity to be deeply thankful and find healing from your own idols.

Posted by Matt Norman with

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