Prepping for 2016 Pt 2

new-years-resolutionsYesterday, I wrote about my usual approach to planning for the new year. In a nutshell, it’s usually been an intense process that leaves me saddled with a big To Do list. Until recently, I’ve enjoyed the work involved. And when I’ve looked over a finished list, a sense of excitement has taken hold.

So many possibilities for the coming 12 months!! But possibility wasn’t enough to keep me going, and most of my great ideas would soon fizzle out.

But this December I’m going about this differently. It’s more than shortening my list, though. Inspired by Michael Hyatt, a gifted teacher in the area of time-management, I’m looking at the “why” of my goals. In doing that, I’ve uncovered some values – like gaining worldly success and pleasing others – that have driven my planning.

My next list was of the results that living by those values: frustration, discouragement and anger, among other things. The obvious question that came to mind was, “Do I really want to live like that anymore?”

The answer was a resounding “No”, so I set out to create a new set of values.

First, I had to admit that those old values showed a lack of connection and obedience to God. But, as a believer, I’m called to follow my Heavenly Father, not my own desires. Look at what He says in the Book of Isaiah,  “I am the LORD your God, who teaches you to profit, Who leads you in the way you should go.”

That’s more than a commandment – it’s a promise that He will always be there, providing for me.

Comforted by that truth, I was able to see a need to change from focusing on myself to thinking more about others. Paul’s words in Romans 12 capture this mindset beautifully, “Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.”

A new sense of possibility and excitement stirred up in me as I wrote two new lists:

What do I want my values to be from here on?

  • Having a view of myself (including my identity, my worth, measuring my success, etc) based on what God says
  • Using my talents and gifts to build God’s kingdom and to build others up
  • Taking personal responsibility in areas like finances, health, household spending, etc
  • Showing care for other people each day
  • Using my time well each day
  • Spending time in God’s Word, reading, studying and memorizing it

The results of living by those values:

  • Deeper sense of purpose
  • More peace
  • More joy each day
  • Better relationships

Here’s to a truly New Year!

The Answer To Self Condemnation

As a young Christian, I dealt with a lot of guilty feelings. Accepting Jesus when I was 30 years old meant I entered my new life having made a lot of mistakes and bad choices. And each one left a sense of remorse behind, like a layer of sticky residue.

I’d only been to church a few times over the years, and had never read the Bible. Once I got settled into a congregation, I began to be tutored and discipled. And that’s where my struggle with guilt really kicked in.

You see, up until then I’d “gotten away” with sinning. I might have felt bad about hurting someone, or regret that I’d gotten myself into a bad situation. But I’d find all sorts of ways to avoid and ignore facing my responsibility head-on. The result was temporary relief, followed by a lingering feeling of “wrongness”.

The more I started to learn about God, the worse I felt about me. All I could see was how far I’d fallen short of His commands. The memory of every faulty thing I’d done came to haunt me, each a reminder of how hopeless I was. But I wasn’t hopeless – I was being misled.

The truth is that guilt can serve a very useful purpose. God uses it as a tool to help me realize when I’ve sinned. But I always took “good guilt” to the next step, into self-condemnation. And that is a favorite tool the enemy uses to discourage us.

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus…”                          Romans 8:1

I think Paul understood the temptation to fall into self-condemnation. Earlier in Romans chapter 7, he lays out the ongoing battle we all face with our sinful nature. He ends up exclaiming “What a wretched man I am!” But Paul doesn’t stay there. He goes on to give us the way out – “Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ…”

Do you ever feel weighed down by guilt? Go to God. When you confess your sins, He not only forgives them, but removes them from you. Because of what Jesus’ death on the cross, our sins are gone, separated from you forever. And when He’s done, you are clean – no sticky residue left behind!