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More Than Deciding

14 May

A group of junior-level executives were participating in a management training program. The seminar leader pounded home his point about the need to FrogGraphic_LOLwithGod_Freedigitalphotosmake decisions and take action on these decisions.

“For instance,” he said, “if you had five frogs on a log and three of them decided to jump, how many frogs would you have left on the log?”

The answers from the group were unanimous: “Two.”

“Wrong,” replied the speaker, “there would still be five because there is a difference between deciding to jump and jumping.” *

LOL and ouch!

How many things have I “decided to do” but then failed to follow through?

  • Deciding to save money for Christmas.
  • Deciding to eat healthier.
  • Deciding to faithfully exercise.
  • Deciding to read through the Bible.
  • Deciding to memorize more scripture.

Decide … then follow through. Sounds simple enough. But then we trip up.

Why don’t we follow through?

(1) We are human beings—we’re still sinners.

“Surely there is not a righteous man on earth who does good and never sins. … as it is written: ‘None is righteous, no, not one. … for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Ecclesiastes 7:20; Romans 3:10, 23).

(2) We don’t always appropriate what God has done for us.

We need to take possession of what God has given us: eternal life, and the power to change. The power of the cross and Christ’s resurrection will change our lives, and we can begin to see that change as we practice acting on our identity with Christ.

Humbling ourselves and calling upon God for mercy and strength, we trust in the righteousness of God in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:21) enabling us to produce good fruit. God is consistently conforming us to His will; by God’s grace we are continually making progress in becoming more like Christ.

We make progress one step at a time as we trust the Lord to work, strengthening us from within (Philippians 4:13).

(3) We don’t make any serious strategies.

I need to visualize the goal and ask the Lord to show me what I need to do to get to that goal.

Benjamin Franklin said, “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.” The Bible says, “Plans fail for lack of counsel….” (Proverbs 15:22).

Plans aren’t meant to be “hope so,” but rather a step-by-step strategy for success.

Strategies might include getting good counsel, organizing time and effort to fit godly priorities, and creating steps of action that align with our purpose or mission statement.

(4) We don’t remember the source of our spiritual progress.

When we commit to the Lord what we want to accomplish, we can believe Him to “establish” our plans (Proverbs 16:3, 9; Psalm 20:4).

We seek  His desires and wisdom (Isaiah 28:29; 55:8).

We are meant to live in a state of dependence on the Lord for everything!

(5) We don’t discipline our lives. In other words, we don’t commit to implementing the strategies with a disciplined life (1 Corinthians 9:24-27).

In other words:

Envisioning a goal and making strategies won’t work if I don’t take disciplined action!

Self-Discipline may be painful, but it will yield blessings (Hebrews 12:11)

Along with self-discipline, there must be a heart attitude of willing sacrifice—a “whatever it takes” heart to follow hard after God’s will. We say, “Yes, Lord!” when He gives direction. Then we can set procedures in place to back up our willingness with obedience.

(6) We don’t take time to create a reliable source of accountability.

We are stronger in pursuing holy goals when others come alongside us. As iron sharpens iron,” friends can help and support us (Proverbs 27:17) and spur us on toward love and good deeds (Hebrews 10:24-25).

Remember:

Deciding to make a choice isn’t the same as actually making the choice.

And in making the choice, we need to strategize, recruit support and remember where the power and wisdom come from to move forward and accomplish great things for the Kingdom of God.

Which of these points could help you move from deciding to doing?

 – * Humor: Cybersalt Digest, “Decisions,” 5-13-14

 – GraphicImage courtesy of japanachai at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 – Dawn

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Stop ‘Trying’

30 Dec

I love these simply awful answering machine messages:

  • “Hello, I’m not here right now. In fact, I’m out getting a new parakeet. If you leave a message after the beep, I’ll be sure to get back to you. Oh, and by the way, a word of advice:  Never try to clean a parakeet cage with a AnsweringMachinevacuum cleaner.”
  • “I’m sorry, but you have reached an imaginary number. Please imagine a real number and try again.”
  • “Hello there. I’m not answering the phone right now, because I’m trying to avoid someone. Leave a message… and if I don’t call back, it was you.”
  • “Hi! I’m sorry, but I’m trying to break the record for the ‘most calls missed.’ If it’s an emergency or your dying or something, please hold on until the record is broken and I’ll call you back.”

Did you catch all those “try” phrases? I’ve been thinking a lot about that word, and I have a completely different perspective on New Year’s resolutions this year. It begins with an attitude adjustment. Let me explain…

Teaching little children new things is a study in encouragement. We coax them to do new thing by saying, “Just try it.” I think of the old Life cereal commercial:  Three brothers at breakfast, and two decide to shove a bowl of cereal toward the third brother (the youngest), prodding him to “try it.” Little Mikey ends up loving the cereal.  (I tried something similar with one of my sons with little success. He still hates broccoli, I think.)

We encourage kids to try new foods … try new hobbies … try new sports. It’s what kids do. They “try” things.

But when we’re more mature, we realize success in life takes more than just “trying” a lot of things. In the secular world we see the foolishness of “try” in the Star Wars movie. Old Yoda said to Luke Skywalker ~ “Do or do not. There is no try.” Try is hard to measure, and sometimes it equals a lack of commitment. Think about it… when you say to someone, “I’ll try to ____(whatever)” … do you really mean it? If nothing else, you’re not showing much excitement about the prospect!

A few years ago, I cut out the word “overwhelmed” in my vocabulary. It colored how I thought about life. I couldn’t figure out a way to deal with “overwhelmed”? Today, I might say I’m “time challenged,” or there’s “too much on my plate right now.” I can do something about those problems. I can change my schedule, delegate or eliminate some things. It’s the same with the word “trying.” Instead of saying “I’ll try,” I now substitute the words “choose” or “plan” or “strategize.”

Instead of making a long list of resolutions this year, how about making just one … Resolve that you will obey God whenever He prompts you in any area of life. It takes off all the pressure to perform. It allows you to just rest day by day in God’s guidance and wisdom for your life.

Let me give you some examples of how that works.

Weight Loss – We say, “I’m going to try to lose weight.” Try? What does that look like? [Imagine the grunting and intense expressions.]  It sounds defeated before we even begin. It sounds like a hopeless cause with a happy face.

But what happens when we say, “I’m going to create some strategies to lose weight. I’m going to make choices that will enable me to slim down and get healthy.” That sounds like a plan and it’s measurable, right? We might write down what we eat, count calories or Weight Watcher points, change what we stock in our refrigerator and pantry, join a gym – all positive strategies. There’s some determination there as well as strategies to follow.

But then, take it all up a notch. After you’ve made the plan—and a plan is a good thing—you relax and say, “Lord, speak to me every day about this area of my life, and I will obey you in whatever you say.” At that point, you’ve gone from fruitless trying…  to making strategies … to resting in and responding to God! Doesn’t that make more sense and seem like reasonable effort?

This is true in any area of life.

Finances – We say, “I’m going to try to get out of debt.” We can try all day, but if we don’t have some solid strategies and the will to choose and change, we’re not going to get out of debt.

How much better to say, “I have a new financial plan that will help me get out of debt, and I’m going to make some tough-but-positive, intentional choices.” And we pray, “Lord, I need your help to follow wise financial counsel. Help me listen to your voice concerning the choices and purchases I make.”

How about Relationships – We say, “I’m going to try to get along with my nasty relative.” We can try all we want, but “trying” doesn’t have any teeth… any grit … any umph.

Instead, we say something like, “I’m going to learn how to practice the ‘one anothers’ of scripture with my friends and family… and I’m going to choose to obey God.” (You know the one anothers, don’t you? Love one another, encourage one another, forgive one another, serve one another … more than 20 one anothers to practice in our daily relationships. And each one is an intentional choice.)

Practicing those one anothers isn’t always easy, because feelings ~ “I deserve this” or “I don’t deserve this” ~ get in the way. So we pray, “Lord, help me to love others the way You do… Show me in every circumstance of life how to relate to my family and friends, and give me the courage to follow and obey You.”

There are plenty of areas in life where we can make intentional choices … but I’m going to list just one more.iscipline

Spiritual Growth – For the Christian, spiritual New Year’s resolutions always seem to be “biggies.” We say, “I’m going to try to read the whole Bible this year,” or “I’m going to try to pray more,” or “I’m going to try to memorize scripture.” There’s that word “try” again. And the truth is, all that trying won’t take us far … maybe into February.

How much better to …

  • Find a scripture reading plan to read through the Bible (or even one book of the Bible) and ask God for an accountability partner. Post a checklist of chapters read where at least one other person will see it … (not to brag, but to encourage us to read).
  • Create a prayer list for our computer (or somewhere we will really use it) and ask God to bring us things to pray about—maybe different people/topics each day.
  • Commit to memorizing four scriptures each month and ask God what to memorize because He knows what we will need to use in the days ahead.

In the Bible, Joshua was tired of the Israelites trying to live life their own way. He told the Israelites, “Choose you this day who you will serve” (Joshua 24:15). Joshua knew there comes a point when we must stop playing games ~ a moment we choose. Maturity seeks God daily for clear direction and makes wise, intentional plans and decisions.

Remember:  You can move from fruitless trying … to making new choices … to resting in and responding to God!

What is God saying to you about your choices for the New Year? Plan, choose, act, rest, obey… “There is no try.”

– Dawn

5 Ways to Encourage “Resolution” Success

2 Jan

By now, you may have made some New Year’s resolutions. It seems that resolutions change through the years.

  • 2007: I will get my weight down below 160 pounds and get into my new red dress.What's Your Resolution
  • 2008: I will count my calories until I get below 170 pounds and fit into my sweater.
  • 2009: OK… I will follow my new diet until I get below 210 pounds and maybe I’ll buy some new slippers.
  • 2010: I will talk to a counselor about developing a realistic attitude about my weight and appearance.
  • 2011: At my doctor’s suggestion, I will work out five days a week at my gym.
  • 2012: I will drive past the gym once a week … and if I have my gym bag in the car, I’ll go in. And if I don’t, I will take that as a sign that I should go to the Dairy Queen next door.

The most common New Year’s Resolutions are, according to studies, “losing weight, exercising more, and quitting smoking,” but other popular resolutions include “managing debt, saving money, getting a better job or education, reducing stress, taking a trip, or volunteering.” (1)

Although some studies say making a resolution increases the likelihood of achieving a goal, making a resolution ~ in and of itself ~ isn’t really enough.

I’ve found that New Year’s resolutions don’t work unless people work at making resolutions stick.  Otherwise, by February 1st or sooner, the resolutions are a dim memory. The same old frustrations or longings linger.

ResolutionsMany resolutions are made after periods of indulgence. For example, we give ourselves “permission” to go crazy over the holidays, but then we feel guilty, or we don’t like it that our clothes no longer fit.

Resolutions are our way of convincing ourselves we will eventually take control. At first, we feel pretty confident that we’ll win out… but then those feelings of discomfort and stress return. If we haven’t developed a new habit or acquired the character quality of self-discipline, we aren’t likely to keep those resolutions.  Or, when our “results” take longer than we expect, or we find that our new choices haven’t made us any happier, we tend to give up.

But here are five ways to encourage success with “resolutions.” Continue reading

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