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Resolutions that actually work...

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Talking about New Year’s Resolutions is like asking people about their retirement investments. You know you should do be doing it, but feel condemned for not doing it well...or at all. You are likely in the 38% of those who never set a resolution on January 1, or maybe you are part of the 24% who never sees success in the goals you do set. Either way, I know that just by bringing it up you are likely to groan and roll your eyes. I totally understand.

I’d like to help by letting you inside how I do this every year. I don’t do many things like a boss, but I do happen to consider myself a professional resolution administrator. I absolutely love new year resolutions. in fact, you can access our sermons and look the week before or after January 1 and I guarantee you’ll find a sermon preaching to the heart on the importance of intentional and resolved living in light of the Gospel’s freedom. That being said, I won’t go into that here. Here, I want to take you into the mechanics of how I have done it over the last several years to great profit. 

1. Spend adequate time reflecting on the last year?

Ask probing questions to get you thinking, like “What is the biggest highlight and win this year?” “Where did I repeatedly fail this year?” “If I could have changed anything about my life this last year, what would it have been?” “What is the greatest lesson I’ve learned this year?” If you want more great questions, check out what Justin Buzzard asks when he appraises a year already gone by. 

2. Establish what your roles are?

In other words, what are the lanes you drive in - in order. For me, I'm a Christian first, a husband second, a daddy third, and a pastor and church planter fourth. This is important because it helps you “shoebox” your life in a way that makes resolving life changes a bit easier.

3. Establish what your life’s mission may be and how you may be distinctly called.

I think it’s important for everyone to have a mission statement and a stated understanding of their calling. Now, the mission statement ought to sound just like Jesus’ Great Commission, so we’re not all distinct snowflakes in that regard. But, when it comes to your distinct calling you should expect to see a “bent” or “flavor” to how you want to live as a worshiping missionary on earth. For a great book on how to do this, check out Matt Perman’s What's Best Next.

4. Establish where you keep getting stuck.

Many of your resolutions will look like refurbished resolutions from last year, and that’s because you keep getting stuck in the same areas. Diet, prayer, giving, and other potholes keep finding you likely. This is an opportunity for you to spend time looking at (1) what you wrongly believe about God and (2) what you desire more than God. Knowing where you get stuck will greatly inform your goal setting and growth. For a fantastic resource on how to be fluent in why you sin in certain areas and how to be fluent in the Gospel, check out Jeff Vandersteldt teach Gospel Fluency. 

5. Develop good goals/resolutions according to your roles.

Armed with (1) why you keep gumming down in the same areas, (2) how you did this last year, and (3) what you are called to do here on earth, begin jotting down rough ideas of how you’d like to see changes within your distinct roles. For instance, I have resolved to parent my teenage daughter differently this year (daddy goal) and I have also resolved to tangibly thank people in small notes this year (pastor goal). Don’t think too hard, just start brainstorming.

6. Rewrite them several times to make them concise and crisp and honestly ask…

    1. Are they specific enough? This means instead of writing, “I need to be healthier” you instead write down “I need to lose 25 lbs this year.” You must define what the win is. Vague end zones provide no touchdowns.
    1. Are they measurable at all? How will you know if you have done well? You’ll need to bring a way to discern win over failure or else you’ll never see change that will satisfy, nor will you know if your goal was too easy. You must build your goals in a trackable format as best as possible.
    1. Are they attainable and realistic? Do your resolutions consider your ability and time? Are they do-able? Don’t write “I want to read 50 books this year” -  unless you understand that this means reading roughly 10,000 pages, which takes roughly 10 hours per week...gulp. Work backwards to see what a goal does to your calendar and assess whether it’s even doable. Resolutions should be something to stretch and strain towards, but not crushingly difficult or impossible.
    1. Are they time-bound? Also important is nailing a time down, or even breaking the year into seasons (trimester, quarter, etc…). A wise man once told me, “Don’t think of a marathon as a 26 mile race, think of it as 26 one mile races.” Makes sense.


7. Submit them to someone close and ask them to be brutally honest with you.

I have done this at great profit. Inevitably someone always picks up where I have over-reached on a goal or have an odd motive behind a goal. Maybe I have 3 goals for “pastor” for every one I have for “dad.” Not only can close community or a spouse de-bug our strategic growth strategy, they bring accountability to it.  This seems like an unnecessary step, but change is a community project.

8. Write them in a place where you can look them over often.

I currently use an app called Trello, but Google has a task function that I used for years. Google tasks also lets you import them into a calendar. It doesn’t really matter what you use to collate your resolved goals, but you should have them in a place you are already used to looking. I check mine most every Monday and use it to help drive my calendar for the next few weeks. Every leadership coach in the world says the same thing about good goal setting: Write. It. Down. 

Wanna see a pro do this. Check out Jonathan Edwards list of resolutions...it's inspiring. 

9. Re-assess how SMART the goals are on July 4th.

You guessed it, number 6 above spelled out the acronym SMART. Now you get to see how smart the goals really were. Every July 4th (about the middle of the year) I spend a few hours to re-assess my annual resolutions. Sometimes I find I was too aggressive, and sometimes I already met a goal because it was a bit too easy. So, I take this time to adjust the dial so come December 31st, I have a good chance of meeting the resolutions in a way that they serve me and help me grow.

10. Be patient and graceful, knowing you’ll fail many times

Seriously, you’re going to fail a ton when intentionally setting out to grow as a disciple. It will require a bunch of effort to break out of the patterns you're used to living easily. Breaking into a new rhythm and way of living is going to be difficult. Be ready for setbacks and handle yourself with grace because that is how Jesus handles your resolution failures.

I hope this helps you this year. Volumes can be written on goal setting by people more qualified than me, and as much as you may find failure in the goals you set this year, you statistically stand a 10x better chance of succeeding in them if you go through this process. Happy New Year!

Posted by Luke Thomas with

The Church Needs Your Weakness

The Church Needs Your Weakness

In the last two sermons at Legacy, we’ve heard a lot about the seemingly backwards culture Jesus brings about. If you want to be “great,” then you must become an unappreciated servant for those the world has forgotten. If you want to be satisfied, then stop thinking about yourself so much. If you want your needs met, then forget them, and seek to meet the needs of another. It’s beautiful, and the bedrock beneath it all is God’s faithful love and provision. He is the one who gives me value. He is the one who gives me all things.

The beauty of weakness has been brewing in my mind over the last couple of months, and I’d like to continue this theme of Jesus’s upside-down kingdom by saying:

It might not actually be your strengths that the church needs most desperately but rather your weaknesses.

In my experience, our weaknesses form who we are far more than our strengths do. We take our strengths for granted. But we have to fight tooth and nail to overcome our weaknesses. Our minds rarely spend time on our strengths, but we’re constantly fretting over our weaknesses. When you run a hilly course, you spend the vast majority of your time going slowly uphill, not downhill. It’s the incline that sticks out most in your mind. It’s the incline that does the actual training.

God Isn’t Intimidated by Weakness

As you trek through the Bible, one of the resounding themes that takes shape is that God does His most profound work right in the middle of our most glaring weaknesses. All it takes is looking at the Jerry Springer show of Jesus’s lineage to figure that out. We have people pawning off their wife to kings, stealing their brother’s entire life through deception, having sex with their own daughters, raping women and killing their husbands, and the list could continue even more graphically. It is through this chaos that God chose to bring Jesus into the world. That was not an accident.

Jesus came from a mess, and He came to rescue us right in the middle of our mess. What this storyline does more than anything is highlight just how great God is by comparison to our glaring weaknesses. Given our eyes need to be on God most of all, this is a good thing. It shows how desperately we need rescue, and it shows how powerful a Rescuer He really is.

God simply isn’t intimidated by your weakness or your mess.

Weakness is a Gift

As we continue to trek through the Bible, though, we find a point sharpening even more in the New Testament. Not only does God do His most profound work through weakness, but your weakness is actually a gift.

The most obvious example of this is when God recognizes some weaknesses in Paul the Apostle, namely pride. God knew Paul intimately just as He knows you and me intimately. In that knowledge, and in His wisdom and love, He sent Paul “a messenger of Satan” to torment Him until the day he died. Lest you take this lightly, Paul says he pleaded over and over and over again for God to “take it away.” I bet you’ve repeated that exact phrase about at least one thing in your life. “God, just take it away!”

It was visible. It was shameful. And it was deep, soul-rescuing grace given out of tender, compassionate love. We find Paul’s opus of sorts regarding weakness right after he talks about this in 2 Corinthians 12, where he says,

But [God] said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

 2 Corinthians 12:9-10

Your Weakness Determines How You See Jesus

Weakness is the very lens through which you see Jesus. You only came to Him because the Holy Spirit made you keenly aware of how deeply you need Him. It is because of your need that you wanted the gospel to be true in the first place.

And your need is not some generic thing. It is unique. It is individual. It is a vivid painting with bold colors. Those are the very colors the Holy Spirit uses to paint Jesus for you. The weaknesses Jesus came to rescue you from define every aspect that you most treasure about Him.

The church needs the view of Jesus your weaknesses have crafted.

When you struggle daily with unrelenting depression, forced to cope with it through medication, exercise, diet, and meditation solely to be able to function in daily life, you’re are forced to see Jesus as the Manna that never runs out. You aren’t given the choice. You are forced to treasure Him as the fountain that is readily available now, five minutes from now, and five years from now. You are forced to delight in heaven to come when that ailment is no more. He knew you would need that because He knows you intimately. That struggle is a deep grace to you and to those around you.

Together, We See God More Completely

When we’re together, we see God more completely than when we’re apart. You struggle with a gut-wrenching fear that your savings will not be enough. I struggle with believing my work will complete me. Another among us struggles with believing another person will satisfy them. Yet another has nearly constant panic attacks. Yet another has persistent pain that never leaves.

The beauty of this is that our unique and individual weaknesses highlight certain aspects of God uniquely. By ourselves, we have tunnel vision when we approach God because we see Him through our own lenses of weakness. Together, we get a more complete picture of Him, relating to one another the aspects we find uniquely beautiful about Him.

The church needs your weakness. We need your panic attacks. We need your invasive thoughts. We need your depression. We need your disability. We need your mental illness. We need your struggles with lust, emotional dependency, greed, anger, laziness, eating disorders, drug addiction, gender dysphoria, and pride.

Why would I say this? Because your struggles were never meant to be hidden. You have to fight tooth and nail to trust Jesus in the midst of your weakness and difficulty. In some cases, you never actually “overcome” the weakness but rather fight just to cope with it. In that fight, you discover something uniquely beautiful about God that the church around you needs.

Please Don’t Hide Your Weakness

Paul boasted in his weaknesses because he understood what God was doing with them. He was content with difficulty that is frankly unimaginable to the vast majority of Americans.

I know your struggle is shameful. I know you want to hide it. Believe me, I know all too well. But Jesus is calling you to be courageous. The truth is that God’s kingdom is by design the Island of Misfit Toys. He prefers the lowly and shameful. You belong.

Some struggles need to be confined to a trusted circle of friends, and I understand that. But that circle of friends needs to know your weakness so they can grow, not just you. For some of us, it’s appropriate for our weakness to be known more widely. Regardless, we desperately need your weakness. Otherwise, we won’t see Jesus the way we need to.

Posted by Matt Norman with

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