Show resolve, not wishful thinking

Mat Perman, over at What’s Best Next, has a good post about why most people don’t keep their New Year’s resolutions — and how to keep yours. The idea of why people don’t is that they never envision how they will fit into their schedules. So, their resolutions never translate into anything more than wishful thinking. Something needs to happen. Perman explains:

Think of an Olympic athlete. They don’t simply say “my goal is to win the gold medal.” Instead, they adhere to a workout schedule. Without that concrete mechanism of action, the goal would simply be wishful thinking.

Now, what about those more intangible aims such as “lose 10 pounds”? How do you schedule that? Obviously you can schedule the exercise portion of that goal. But what about the “eating less” portion? Speaking from experience, it’s easy to get to the dinner table and forget (or deliberately neglect?) all intentions of eating healthy.

This is where reviewing your goals comes in. Mindsets that need to be more or less continuous (like “eat less”) tend to be kept in mind through regular review until they become second nature. The weekly review helps accomplish this; for things that tend to fall out of mind easily (like “eat less”), just pausing at the beginning of your work day to remember your aims can be helpful.

Which leads to one last thing: you have to keep your number of resolutions small. It’s not possible to create actionable mechanisms for or keep in mind a large number of new (or renewed) aims.

Also good to consider:

God approves of New Year’s resolutions

What if I fail?

A Guy’s Guide to Marrying Well

MarryWellThanks to the folks at Boundless and Focus on the Family for providing A Guy’s Guide To Marrying Well. The 32-page booklet (a free download at the link) is a collection from several really good books and sources. This is what the folks at Focus on the Family  hope the guide will do for young men:

The simple purpose of this booklet is to present a path that is as Biblical as possible in order to help you marry well. But not just so that you can experience all the happiness, health and wealth that guys who marry well enjoy, but so that your marriage can point to God’s glory and His greater purposes.

This guide is based on a few timeless concepts — intentionality, purity, Christian compatibility and community — that we rarely encounter in popular culture but are a proven path to marrying well.

In a world where we get garbage like The Bachelor, it’s good to know that young men can have something more trustworthy when it comes to giving clear, sound advice.

Don’t look to your past. Look to Jesus.

“Would you like to be rid of this spiritual depression? The first thing you have to do is to say farewell now once and forever to your past. . . . Never look back at your sins again. Say, ‘It is finished, it is covered by the Blood of Christ.’ That is your first step. Take that and finish with yourself and all this talk about goodness, and look to the Lord Jesus Christ. It is only then that true happiness and joy are possible for you. What you need is not to make resolutions and to live a better life, to start fasting and sweating and praying. No! You just begin to say, ‘I rest my faith on Him alone, who died for my transgressions to atone.'”

D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Spiritual Depression, p. 35.

 

HT: Zach Nielsen

The beauty of the cross, the ugliness of my sin

From Of First Importance:

“Suppose a man should come to his dinner table, and there should be a knife laid down, and it should be told him, ‘This is the very knife that cut the throat of your child!’ If the man would use this knife as a common knife, would not everyone say, ‘Surely this man had but very little love to his child, who can use this bloody knife as a common knife!’

Look upon the cross on which Christ was crucified, and the pains He suffered thereon—and the seeming sweetness which is in sin, will quickly vanish. When you are solicited to sin, cast your eye upon Christ’s cross; remember His astonishing sufferings for your sin, and sin will soon grow distasteful to your soul. How can sin not be hateful to us—if we seriously consider how hurtful it was to Jesus Christ?”

—Thomas Brooks, “The Golden Key to Open Hidden Treasures”

The wisdom of John Wooden

Born in 1910, John Wooden is the first person to be inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame both as a player and coach. ESPN ranks him as the greatest coach of all time, across all sports, as he won 10 NCAA men’s basketball titles — including seven straight — and had winning streaks of 47 and 80 games. In his 40 years at UCLA, he mentored legends such as Bill Walton and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. His career has been illustrious to say the least, and he has created a model, the Pyramid of Success, and authored several books to impart his insight on achievement to others.

Wooden wanted his players to be victors in life and not just on the court, so he treated them as an extended family and emphasized that winning was more than scoring. Indeed, most of his inspiring theories were born from conversations with his father, as a boy on their farm in Indiana. One that sums up his ideology quite well is his often quoted definition of success: “Success is peace of mind which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you made the effort to become the best that you are capable of becoming.”

There is much to be gained from the wisdom of a 98-year-old man. Below is video of a talk Wooden gave in 2001. It would also be worth your while to check out his Web site and some of the wisdom contained there.

 

Self-worship is stupid

For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.
— Luke 14:11

For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it.
— Matthew 16:25

Thanks to Jared Wilson for his post yesterday “The Kingdom is For Those Who Know How to Die“:

[T]he real beatitudes are today the powerful scandal they were in Jesus’ day. Because the kingdom is for the hurt, the grieving, the mourning, the poor and poor in spirit, the meek, the downtrodden, the marginalized, the discarded, the weary, the torn, the broken . . .

And why? Why is that?
I believe it is because those people have a keener sense of their own need. When you are on the drug of money or power or success (or any kind of drug), you can be numb to your basic, fundamental deficiency. Why do we keep trying to fill the God-shaped hole with any god but God? Because the other gods are just ways to believe we have no needs, that we have the power inside of us. Any worship directed to anyone or anything other than God is essentially self-worship.

And those who keenly feel and know their own brokenness know self-worship is stupid.

“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called sons of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.

— Matthew 5:3-11

Who really was behind the crash of USAir Flight 1549

USAirFlight1549So, earlier here at this blog we’ve seen how a child from a broken home and difficult circumstances grew up to be the first African American President of the United States. Just days before, we saw something truly incredible happen when USAir Flight 1549 made a crash landing in the Hudson River and all 155 people aboard survived. Two spectacular events, each remarkable in its own right.

John Piper writes about just how remarkable the story of Flight 1549 is:

Picture this: The Airbus A320 is taking off at an angle—maybe 30 degrees. It’s not flying horizontal with the earth. Not only that, it is flying fast—not full speed yet, but perhaps four times as fast as your car would go at top highway speeds.

The geese are flying horizontally with the ground, more or less. They are not flying in a cloud like a swarm of bees. They fly level with the ground, often shaped like a V. In view of all that, what are the odds that, traveling at this speed and at this angle, this airplane would intersect with the flight of those geese at that very millisecond which would put a bird not just in one of those engines, but both of them?

Two laser-guided missiles would not have been as amazingly effective as were those geese. It is incredible, statistically speaking. If God governs nature down to the fall (and the flight) of every bird, as Jesus says (Matthew 10:29), then the crash of flight 1549 was designed by God.

He continues, pointing to the significance of this spectacular event:

If God guides geese so precisely, he also guides the captain’s hands. God knew that when he took the plane down, he would also give a spectacular deliverance. So why would he do that? If he means for all to live, why not just skip the crash?

Because he meant to give our nation a parable of his power and mercy the week before a new President takes office. God can take down a plane any time he pleases—and if he does, he wrongs no one. Apart from Christ, none of us deserves anything from God but judgment. We have belittled him so consistently that he would be perfectly just to take any of us any time in any way he chooses.

So, as much as some of us want to complain, we should stop and remember God’s mercy to all of us and repent. Piper gives good counsel for all of us:

As much as I reject Obama’s stance on abortion, I am thankful to the bottom of my soul that an African-American can be President of United States. The enormousness of it all is unspeakable. This is God’s doing. The geese were God’s doing. The landing of Flight 1549 was God’s doing. And the Obama presidency is God’s doing. “He removes kings and sets up kings” (Daniel 2:21).

And I pray that President Obama has eyes to see. The “miracle on the Hudson” and the “miracle in the White House” are not unrelated. God has been merciful to us as a nation. Our racial sins deserved judgment a thousand times over. God does not owe America anything. We owe him everything. And instead of destruction, he has given us another soft landing. We are not dead at the bottom of the Hudson.

The standard of measuring up

It’s easy to look around and feel discouraged — or proud — when you compare your life to others. We all do it. Even if you say you’re not discouraged or proud, maybe instead it’s a feeling of satisfaction or dissatisfaction. Whatever it is, it’s dangerous.

While it’s one thing to have spiritual heroes (see Hebrews 11), it is also good to remember that we ultimately have one standard. As we enter a new year, many of us have set goals based on how we see our lives as falling short in the past. Some of those may have to do with being more healthy, being better stewards of our finances or times, or living a certain way. Regardless, we have to remind ourselves that there is only one life worth imitating, that of Jesus Christ.

One of my heroes in the faith is John Piper. In this post, he talks about the struggles with trying to measure up to others. In it, he talks about Jesus’ blunt words to Peter from John 21:18-22:

“Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.” (This he said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God.) And after saying this he said to him, “Follow me.” Peter turned and saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following them, the one who had been reclining at table close to him and had said, “Lord, who is it that is going to betray you?” When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, “Lord, what about this man?” Jesus said to him, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me!”

Piper calls those harsh words sweet words for him and for all of us:

…I was refreshed by Jesus’ blunt word to me (and you): “What is that to you? You follow me!” Peter had just heard a very hard word. You will die—painfully. His first thought was comparison. What about John? If I have to suffer, will he have to suffer? If my ministry ends like that, will his end like that? If I don’t get to live a long life of fruitful ministry, will he get to?

That’s the way we sinners are wired. Compare. Compare. Compare. We crave to know how we stack up in comparison to others. There is some kind of high if we can just find someone less effective than we are. Ouch. To this day, I recall the little note posted by my Resident Assistant in Elliot Hall my senior year at Wheaton: “To love is to stop comparing.” What is that to you, Piper? Follow me.

So, let’s all stop comparing and do the work that God has called us to do. Love God. Trust God. Follow God.

Department of complaints

Matt Perman, over at What’s Best Next, nailed me today with a post about avoiding the temptation to complain. It’s an easy thing to do, and I am the chief among sinners. In fact, I am already considering this as one of my resolutions for 2009. Don’t do resolutions, you say? That could be another post.

Anyway, read Matt’s post, digest it, think about it, repent for being a complainer (like me) and then do something about it. I like what Matt said:

Fight the frustration of life by working on behalf of others, even when it doesn’t come easy (or it may not be “your” job). Try to figure out something you can do, even if it’s not obvious at first.

Thank you, Matt, I needed that. God is good. And, if you ask, who then can we complain to, since life often seems not fair. Try this: Tell your complaint to God.