goals (5)

Intentional Grandparenting: What? Why? How? #3

My good friend, Phil, recently asked how I "re-imagine" discipling in today's world. My reply to him, as you'll see here, does not point to trendy technology or novel approaches. It points instead to timeless truth and ancient paths -- for ourselves and our grandchildren.

  I re-imagine that we'd "zero-base" our goals and strategies for cultivating Christlikeness in ourselves and others. Starting at zero, we'd re-examine the Scriptures for key goals and strategies. Ten steps would emerge, which we'd take ourselves. Then we'd recommend them to other God-followers whom we influence:

  1. Trust Jesus Christ--and Christ alone--for His redemption of9570812857?profile=original your "wages of sin" (Romans 3:23).
  2. Bask in the Bible and in the presence of God.
  3. Ponder the interrelationships among, and implications of, these scriptures: Matthew 5:14-16; I Corinthians 13; and Ephesians 4 & 5.
  4. Ask the RIGHT questions – the core, “Why?” questions -- about these scriptures.
  5. In prayer and unrushed reflection, with God’s Spirit filling your heart and mind, embrace God’s answers to those questions.
  6. Decide what you will say “no” to in your current swirl of goals and activities, so that you can say “yes” to focusing on and cultivating #5.
  7. Go out and do it. Walk as a child of light (Ephesians 5:8-10).
  8. As you walk, look for others whom you may influence in this same way.
  9. Be available to them; develop a healthy, Christlike relationship.
  10. Speak mostly with your life, not your words. As appropriate, share your journey with them in ways that encourage them to walk as “children of light” who influence others in their world likewise.

  Questions for journaling or discussion:

  1. Which particular steps (above) reflect Deuteronomy 6:4-7?
  2. What scriptures come to mind in support of step #2?
  3. What key goals and strategies do these steps suggest to you as you convey your spiritual legacy to your grandchildren?

(c) 2019 John Garmo

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“Love . . . is not easily angered . . .” (1 Corinthians 13:5b NIV).

Potentially the most impulsive—and most destructive—weakness in your life and mine is poorly controlled anger. We are inundated with angry incidents that—if we are not careful—can lead us to give ourselves “permission” to imitate those lapses of control: fiery dialogue in politics, fist fights at supposed sports events, rage on the roads, violent actions and reactions in media “entertainment,” and vicious words at home.

  God’s call to Christlike calmness in this 13th chapter is connected to Christlike patience, which we discussed in an earlier segment of this series. In fact, since patience, humility (also an earlier topic), and calmness each require significant self-discipline, this is an appropriate time to talk about self-discipline in general—albeit in the context of anger management.9570809869?profile=original

  Think of self-discipline as “focusing on worthy goals instead of on distractions.” A person who is self-disciplined is, first, not easily angered. Second, if that person does become angry, the anger is controlled, subordinate to that person’s focus on a related but worthwhile goal.

  God’s warnings against angry outbursts are ancient and changeless. In Proverbs 14:17, for example, He says, “A quick-tempered man does foolish things. . . .” How well we know.

  Interestingly, the same Greek word used by Paul in this warning against anger in 1 Corinthians 13:5b is used by Dr. Luke to describe Paul himself in Acts 17! What happened?! Did his own actions contradict his teaching?

  On the contrary, his actions demonstrated his words. Acts 17:16 tells us that Paul became very angry at the many, many idols worshiped in Athens. He knew they distracted people from knowing the true God.

  However, he did not throw a temper tantrum for the public to see. Instead, he reasoned with others about this issue in the synagogue and marketplace. He disciplined himself. His mind ruled his emotions. He was “not easily angered,” but when provoked by that widespread worship of false gods, he managed his anger and channeled it into robust apologetics.

  Privately or with some friends, how would you answer these questions?

  • Conviction: What does our self-discipline reveal about our trust that God loves and leads us?
  • Kindness: On whom are we focusing—and not focusing—when we lose control and allow ourselves an angry outburst?
  • Worship: How is self-discipline an act of worship?

  Do you want to honor Him and do what matters most to Him? I do. Let’s cultivate self-discipline—especially over our anger.

  How do you expect that it will be tested this week?

  How do you expect that it will be tested today?

  What will you do to discipline anger when you feel it building up inside?

© 2018 John C Garmo

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The Downside of Being a Goal-Setter

I’ve been a goal-setter for as long as I can remember. Whenever I got a “B” on my report card, my dad and I would sit down and come up with a plan for getting an “A” the next time. And when my batting average fell below 300 on my middle school baseball team, we would spend extra time hitting balls in the batting cage.

After I gave my life to Christ at age 18, I found Bible passages that seemed to endorse my enthusiastic approach to goal-setting. I quickly embraced Paul’s statement about forgetting the successes of the past and pressing on toward a calling that was always “upward” (Philippians 3:3-14).

I also was influenced by motivational speakers and self-help gurus who warned that “If you don’t set a goal, you will hit it every time,” and “People don’t plan to fail, they just fail to plan.”

But now, at this advanced stage in my life, I’m rethinking my approach to goal-setting. I find myself disregarding the promotional emails I receive every from authors wanting to sell me on their “revolutionary” new approaches to better goal-setting.

Maybe I’m just feeling too tired for all of this goal-setting hype. But some recent events in the lives of other people have also given me quite a wakeup call. Could it be that my goal-setting approach has been off-balance all these years?

When Perry Noble was removed as pastor of New Spring Church because of alcohol problems, some of the “back story” really caught my attention. Perry clearly was an amazing goal-setter, and this helped to make him wildly successful. His church was one of the largest in the country, with 30,000 people over 17 cities.

Yet it turns out that Perry wasn’t satisfied by this incredible achievement. In fact, he wasn’t even close to his ultimate goal of having a following of “100,000 or more.”

Wow. A goal for New Spring to grow to “100,000 people or more.” This was goal-setting on steroids. Although I’ve tended to be driven by ever-higher goals, I’ve never driven myself anywhere near this extent.

A friend pointed out to me that Perry Noble probably wouldn’t have reached 30,000 members in his church if he hadn’t aimed at 100,000. Perhaps so. But I’m wondering if he also wouldn’t have had a problem with alcohol…

So I’m working on a new approach to setting goals. Here are some of my preliminary thoughts for your consideration:

  1. 1.     Make sure you involve God in setting your goals. A few years ago, one of my divorced friends set a goal of “finding a new wife in the next 12 months.” Although I’m sure his intentions were good, the result wasn’t. He should have spent more time consulting with the Lord before setting such an audacious goal.
  2. 2.     Make sure you’re looking to God to help you reach your goal. Even if you have a correct, God-given objective, you’ll end up frustrated if you try to attain the goal through your own strength and ingenuity. The Lord not only wants to show you His will, but He also wants to work through you to accomplish that goal (Philippians 2:13).
  3. 3.     See your goal through the dual lenses of quantity and quality. Numerical goals are important, but too many leaders and churches judge their success only on the basis of numbers. Hey, wouldn’t you tend to feel successful if your church had 30,000 people, like Perry Noble’s? Yet Jesus saw things much differently. Knowing that the crowds would come and go, His central objectives were to (1) do the Father’s will and (2) pour His life into some true disciples (John 8:29, John 6:60-71). Even after three years of Jesus’ ministry, only 120 people showed up for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.
  4. 4.     Resist the urge to compare yourself to others. If you compare your church to the size of Perry Noble’s, you will undoubtedly get depressed. No wonder the Bible warns us against comparing ourselves with others (2 Corinthians 10:12). Listen to me on this: If you’ve been faithful, you’ve been successful. But even as I encourage you on this profound truth, I know there will be many times when I’ll need people like you to remind me to apply this principle to my own life.
  5. 5.     Healthy things grow, but they don’t grow by striving. I’ve visited many churches that have done well in gaining numbers, but there’s clearly a spirit of “striving” in the air. The pastor, staff, and volunteers all seem entirely exhausted and burnt out—a symptom that they’ve achieved their objectives with self-effort rather than abiding in Christ and waiting on the wind of His Spirit (John 15:1-5, Isaiah 40:28-31).

So, I wish you happy goal-setting, my friend. But don’t forget that the Father loves you, no matter what your earthly achievements may be (Matthew 3:16-17). Remember to cease striving, always recognizing that He’s God and you’re not (Psalm 46:10). And if, like Perry Noble, you’re dealing with personal issues behind the scenes, take time to disengage from the rat race. Get the help you need so you can finish well.

One more thing...

My son Ben is finishing his final college class this week. The past few years, I’ve been telling him not to worry about grades. “Just shoot for a ‘C’ Ben!” I regularly say.

Despite my encouragement not to sweat the grades, Ben has been getting “A’s” lately. He tells me goal-setting is a good thing, and perhaps he’s right. But I’m really not so sure anymore.

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By nature, I’m an “all in” sort of guy. One of my favorite mantras is “The shortest distance between two points is a straight line.” So when I set an objective, I’m always looking for the quickest and most direct route to get there.

Lots of us guys are like that. We don’t just want a new car that can get us to our destination, we’re looking for how fast it can take us from 0 to 60 mph.

But not everything in life works like that…

  • If it took you two decades to put on those extra pounds, you won’t be able to remove them in two days.
  • If you’ve been on a downward spiral of debt for years, you’ll have to be patient as you make the necessary changes to dig yourself out.
  • If you’ve allowed your muscles to deteriorate since the beginning of the century, a week at the gym isn’t going to immediately turn things around.

I know, it’s hard to accept the reality that some things take time. Ever since the invention of the microwave oven, our understanding of goal-setting has been skewed. Why can’t we make the changes in our lives as fast as it takes to cook a bag of microwave popcorn?

As another year begins, I find myself (as always) trying to figure out my objectives. You probably have been doing that too. As we dive into 2016, I’m trusting that we’re right on the brink of some wonderful changes and progress. Today I feel the same kind of excitement the Israelites must have felt when they were about to enter into their Promised Land.

But I’m also reminded of a word of caution God gave His people as they prepared to enter into their place of new beginnings (Exodus 23:28-3). Even though He had prepared a great land for them to enter and enjoy, He made certain things clear about what they would experience in the process:

  1. They would encounter enemies and obstacles (v. 28). No matter what you hope to achieve in the new year, it’s certain that you will have to overcome some hurdles along the way.
  2. They would have to view possession of the Promised Land as a long-term process, not a quick and easy event (v. 29). As Christians we’re sometimes so wrapped up in one-time events and breakthroughs that we don’t commit ourselves to persevere for the long haul. Let’s remember: We’re in a marathon, not a sprint.
  3. Although God would help them in this journey of faith, they would have to recognize that their progress would come “little by little” (v. 30). I’ll admit, I don’t really like this. I would prefer God to always give us progress as a quantum leap. But that is seldom how things work. Yes, if you starve yourself for 40 days, you can say you’ve lost weight. But the “little by little” plan is far healthier and works better in the long run.

So, my friend, I hope you’ll be patient and persistent as you pursue your objectives for the new year. Little by little, the Promised Land can be yours.

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Almost every Tuesday and Thursday, I meet with a few other men for the purpose of making disciples.  We hang out, talk about life, ask accountability questions and think through certain points of the Bible together. 

We’re not looking to create a mini-country-club.  A club of three is admittedly a sad club.  We’re not striving to solve the problems of our community or create the perfect church.  We’re simply trying to be – and make – disciples.

You may not think of a two or three people gathering at a local BBQ as the epitome of disciple-making, but regardless of what your discipleship process looks like, it has to have an end goal.  Whether you think of discipleship in terms of classes or in terms of life-on-life interaction, you have to define your discipleship target before you can truly make disciples.

So, let’s define the goal of discipleship.

But before we jump to the center of the target, let’s clarify a few things that we are NOT shooting for (these seven things may get you some points on the religion target, but they are not the primary goal):

  1. It’s NOT about living a good life and helping others to conform.
    If the goal of discipleship was to train people to act appropriately, Jesus did not need to come.  The law already existed.  The Pharisees spent more time studying the law than we spend studying Facebook (and that’s a lot of time)!  They had rabbis and they were already producing disciples.  Beyond that…the cross (hello?).  It’s not about increased knowledge.
  2. It’s NOT about increasing attendance or participation in the church.
    Although this is a natural consequence of making disciples, it is not the goal.  If the church was the ultimate goal for Jesus, He would have given it a little more attention.  But, as it is, He only mentions the church three times in the gospels.  So, while the church is critically important, it is not the goal of discipleship.  The goal is not the church.
  3. It’s NOT about more money for God’s kingdom.
    There are times that all of us feel like we need to help God push this effort forward.  And to be fair, God does allow us to participate in advancing His kingdom.  But, He doesn’t need more “money for missions.”  He owns it all.  I don’t recall any points of serious concern for Jesus because of a lack of money in the pot.  It’s not about more money – even if you are funding a great cause.
  4. It’s NOT about joyfully proclaiming the glory of God.
    In Revelation 5:13, John sees an amazing sight as all of creation joins together to proclaim the glory of God.  He says, “And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying,

    ‘To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb
    be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!’”

    What an amazing time of worship that will be!  But…worship is not the goal of discipleship.  Much like participation in the church, worship is one of the fruits of discipleship.  It is not the goal of discipleship.

  5. It is NOT about obtaining specific spiritual gifts.
      See 1 Corinthians 12:11; 19-20 and 28-31.  (Or just read the entire chapter for the full effect.)  God wants us to utilize the gifts that He gives us, but spiritual gifts are not the goal – or proof of – discipleship.
  6. It’s NOT about dragging as many people as possible into life-after-death heaven.
      Don’t misunderstand me - evangelism is commanded by Jesus.  In Acts 1:8 He tells us, “you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”  Evangelism is part of the disciple’s life, but it is not the goal of discipleship.  On top of that, life after death is not the goal.
  7. It’s NOT about dwelling in the kingdom of God.
      It’s not about experiencing “life that is truly life” or “abundant life” or “God’s will on earth as it is in heaven.”  It’s not about entering the fullness of kingdom-life today.  In fact, even though Jesus taught extensively about the kingdom, He indicated that we will not fully experience the kingdom while we are on earth.  He was quick to remind His disciples that while the Spirit would help them to “overcome the world,” they would still “experience trouble” in this life (John 16:33).  He also noted that “there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life” (Mark 10:29-30 – bold added for emphasis).  Therefore, experiencing the kingdom of God is not the ultimate goal for disciples.

So, if knowledge, the church, money for missions, worship, spiritual gifts, heaven and the kingdom of God are not the goals of discipleship, what is?   What is the aim of a disciple’s life?

Paul summed it up pretty well when he said,

I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith—that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead (Philippians 3:8-11). 

When Paul said he wanted to “know Christ,” he used a Greek word that was sometimes utilized to describe sexual intimacy.  Before we strike up a LBGT controversy, let’s be clear: Paul was not speaking of sexual intimacy here.  But, he was making a powerfully charged statement that he wanted a deep, personal relationship with God.  And he went further than that.  At the end of that statement, he noted that deep intimacy with Jesus would result in an all-encompassing imitation of Christ.

That’s the goal of discipleship: true intimacy with God that results in an everyday imitation of Jesus.  As we aim at that goal, all of the other items (knowledge, the church, the kingdom of God, etc.) will be thrown in.  But, if we make the other items our focus, we cheapen both that item and the process of discipleship.

Originally published at DiscipleWriter.com

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