Biblical Goal Setting

I am not a very structured person which is kind of ironic because most pastors (senior pastors that is) are very structured, strong type A personalities.  That being said, I recognize this as a weakness and I try to do what I can to accommodate this weakness.  For me, the computer helps me to organize things and I keep spreadsheets for virtually everything I do.  When it comes to real papers and such, I’m probably a lost cause however.

What’s the point of this story?  A few years back I had a graduate class on leadership.  The only thing I really remember from the class was a section on creating goals.  I recently ran across my notes from class and thought that this would make a good book.  So that’s what I did.  I wrote a short book on the subject of setting Biblical goals.

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For the most part, this book is like any other book that deals with setting goals.  What makes your goals Biblical has to do with your priorities as a Christian.  This doesn’t mean that all of your goals will be about “church stuff” but rather that you recognize what your priorities are supposed to be and that you rank the achievement of your goals accordingly.

While I had sort of incorporated the lessons from my class a few years ago, writing this book has caused me to redouble my efforts at scheduling my time and really being specific about about what I hope to accomplish and when.  So part of me wants to self congratulate and say that if I can do this, anyone can.  And I also want to say “I’m not also the writer, I’m also a client.”

Either way, I believe that the book is worth your investment in time and money – only $2.99! – regardless whether I wrote the book or not.  Because frankly these are not my ideas and I can’t claim to any genius plan, I just broke down good thoughts that other people had and put them into a book.

Currently the book is available on Kindle but it will also be released on Nook and through multiple other e-book distributors.  You can find out all about the book and how to purchase it at our new site Biblical Goal Setting.

2014 – The Year of Grace

Theologically speaking, grace is God’s righteousness at Christ’s expense.  It is what is given to us on account of our faith.  It is what is needed for salvation.  And absolutely everyone needs grace because we’re all sinners.

More generically though, grace is unmerited favor.  Grace is something that is given to us that we didn’t earn and can’t possibly repay.  We need grace for salvation but God’s grace doesn’t stop at just salvation.  And that is my focus for this year.  I need more grace in my life.

Taking a cue from a friend who placed a theme on upcoming years, last year I declared it to be a year of Jubilee.  This didn’t turn out anything like I expected but God was still praised and celebrated in 2013 as I wrote about in my previous post.

The reason I decided on making 2014 a year of grace is because I could really use some unmerited favor.  Now, this may just sound like I want to rub a genie’s lamp and expect to have some wishes granted.  That would be great but it obviously isn’t happening nor would I want it to be so.

Instead, I want grace because more and more I’m beginning to realize that I have little control over what goes on in life.  Certainly there are aspects that I can control.  With regards to my health I can eat properly and exercise regularly.  But that isn’t a guarantee that I will be healthy.  With regard to my finances, I can work diligently at my job and wisely save and invest my money.  But that isn’t a guarantee that my job will remain or that my investments won’t crash in the stock market.

There is just so much of life that I have no control over.  And just maybe, the things that I do have control over I obsess about too much.  The more difficult life gets, the greater our tendency becomes to control what little we have control over.  Rather than hand things over to God, we claw and scrape and try to hold onto the last things that we do have control of.

And that’s why I need grace and that’s what I’m asking for in particular this year.  I’ve been working too hard to make things happen on my own.  Some people rely on themselves because of a lack of faith in God.  I don’t feel like that’s the case with me.  But instead, my feeling is that often we ask God to do things for us and His response is “I’ve given you all the tools you need to accomplish this already.”  And then people get upset at God because they continue to do nothing and blame God for not answering their prayer.

But I’m on the other end of that.  Yes, I’ve prayed but I’ve continued to work as hard as I can to make things happen.  My work hasn’t accomplished what I hoped for.  I need grace.  It’s not that I deserve what I want in life.  It’s not that it’s owed to me because I’ve worked so hard for it.

Once I finally reach the point of saying “God I can’t do this” and completely handing it over to Him, all I can do is rely on His grace.  Because God doesn’t owe me anything.  My faithfulness to God does not warrant that I get what I want from Him.  My past struggles do not mean that God needs to right the balance sheet now in order to be fair.  All I can say is that I don’t deserve what I’m asking for but I can’t do it myself and I need the Lord to make it possible.

So that’s my theme for this year.  I need unmerited favor.  I don’t deserve it and I certainly don’t deserve it more than anyone else.  That’s the point of being unmerited.  All I can do is ask and expect God to provide.  And in the meantime, I need to stop trying to do God’s job for Him and allow Him to work.

The Real Story of Santa Claus

While Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus at Christmas time, there is another person who is just as strongly associated with Christmas.  That person, of course, is Santa Claus.  While it is wrong to emphasize Santa at the expense of Jesus, the two are not incompatible if you know the real story of Santa Claus.

To begin with, there really was a Santa Claus.  He was known as Nicholas and was declared a saint by the Catholic Church after his death.  December 6 is Saint Nicholas’ Day in the Catholic Church – just about every day is a celebration of some saint.  Saint Nicholas became Santa Claus because of the way names get translated.  Saint became Santa – just like all of those city names like Santa Fe, Santa Monica, Santa Cruz, etc.  Nicholas was shortened to Claus.  Thus Saint Nicholas became Santa Claus – both names mean the same thing.

There are lots of stories about the real Santa Claus and it is very difficult to determine what is actually real and what is legend at this point.  What is widely accepted is that Nicholas lived from 270-354 in the region that is modern day Turkey.  He was a devout Christian man who went on to become bishop of Myra.

Nicholas likely came from a wealthy family but was orphaned at a young age.  He is known for sharing his wealth with gifts to the poor.  Many of the stories associated with his gift giving are more likely tradition rather than truth but they involve placing coins in shoes left outside or tossing coins into socks that were hung by the fireplace to dry.  Another popular story involves Nicholas paying the dowries of three poor girls in order to prevent them from being forced into slavery.

After Nicholas’ death he was declared a saint and his legend grew.  Every culture seems to have its own stories about Saint Nicholas.  These were certainly embellished but the idea behind them was to promote giving to others and aiding the poor.

Our modern day Santa Claus most likely originated in 1821.  In the book Children’s Friend “Sante Claus” appears from the north with a sleigh led by flying reindeer.  It’s impossible to know the origin of this version of Santa Claus but it is a likely adaptation of numerous cultural traditions that had become associated with Saint Nicholas through the years.

In 1823 the man we know as Santa Claus became solidified.  It was then that “A Visit from St. Nicholas” was published.  We know the poem better today as “The Night Before Christmas.”  Ever since, Santa Claus has been a jolly elf with flying reindeer.

While we should be careful not to emphasize Santa Claus over the true meaning of Christmas, he can be a helpful reminder of what Christmas is about.  The real Santa Claus was a man who gave gifts and helped the poor.  He also serves as a reminder that God gave us the greatest gift of all at Christmas time.  God sent us Jesus so that our sins could be forgiven at the cross.