10 Ideas for Raising Children to Become Generous Adults

world in child's hands

I have had conflict most of my life between what I think I want and what I really need.

Most people share this conflict with me.

That conflict also appears in our children as well.

We don’t have to teach children to struggle with determining between wants and needs. It’s a natural response to life. And, if they need any help doing so — they can easily learn the struggle from us.

As parents we are the primary shapers of our children’s attitudes towards money, things, and desires. Our children will either be “givers” or “takers” in society and that will be greatly influenced by the life they live in our home.

How do we raise generous children?

How do we help our children (and ultimately ourselves) be people who genuinely enjoy living sacrificial lives — considering the interest of others — being givers rather than takers as the Bible commands us to do?

Here are 10 tips which we tried to practice in our own home. It has been amazing to watch our boys, now young adults on their own, having developed generous hearts towards others. They are far more generous than I was at their age.

And, let me be clear. The fact that they turned out that way is all grace. God has blessed us greatly. But, we have been intentional to live out Biblical principles — and we have learned that they work when applied “generously”.

Here are 10 ideas for raising children to be generous adults:

Have fun and be generous parents.

The story is told of Jesus and the disciples attending a wedding. The party had been going for a while when something tragic happened. They ran out of wine. That was a serious problem to the host of the party. It was a huge cultural embarrassment to run out of food or wine. Jesus took some big barrels of water and turned them into the best wine the people had that night. The people were overwhelmed.

The Bible says that was the very first miracle Jesus ever did. As culturally important as weddings were in those days, it still sounds like God met a want, rather than a need.

It is very clear that God is not trying to keep us from having what we want or from having fun in life. God is not opposed to blessing us with things we want, but may not even need. We should not be afraid to do the same with our children. If we can afford to, and if our children are living within the boundaries set for our home, we should not be afraid to give them gifts they simply want, but may not even need. (I thought I would start with an easy one first.)

Help children understand the difference between a need and a want.

It is understandable why it is difficult to raise children who understand the difference between a need and a want when we as parents struggle with the same issues. This will take a lifetime of teaching.

As much as God wants to bless us with wants, if we study the Bible, God seems far more interested in helping fulfill our needs than He does in giving us everything we want. In fact, God never promises to provide our want list, yet He does promise to meet all our needs. (Philippians 4:19) Granted there are some that take verses like this out of context and teach that God gives us everything we ask for, but that doesn’t line up with the rest of Scripture.

The problem from a Biblical perspective is that we have a messed up system of determining need verses want. That thing inside us that chooses good over evil, better or best, need verses wants; is broken.

When we apply Biblical understanding, most actual needs go beyond just enjoyment for today or even just for me. For something to fall into the category of need it should provide some lasting value to society or at least to my own character. Needs, beyond basics such as food and water, become things like righteousness — and love, and joy, and peace, and contentment.

We can even ask ourselves, does this “thing” benefit someone more than just me? Does it add value to someone’s life or to my own character? A true need, in this context, almost becomes something that money cannot buy.

We should consistently invest Biblical principles into our children — helping them understand the things that matter to God. Helping children develop a hunger for things they need — as much as, or even more — than things they want.

Provide needs. Bless with wants.

It is important that parents consider their system of meeting needs versus wants. Of course, that begins with a proper understanding ourselves of needs versus wants.

Consider this question: Which gets more attention in your home?

Does having the latest technology take a bigger role than teaching children to be good citizens and to generously love others?

Does being the best on the traveling soccer or dance team have a higher priority than finding ways to serve others?

Either answer is your choice — you’re the parent, but if a goal is raising future generous adults — you may have to consider some of the places you spend your energies and resources. When it comes to encouraging generosity, consideration should be given to use of time and money.

Our boys never did without basics needs. And, by needs here I’m even referring to housing, clothing, food, etc. They had plenty. But, there were probably things they wanted that they didn’t have. In how they spent their time, we let them choose what they enjoyed doing, but, we also limited the number of outside activities our boys could participate in at one time.

And, we looked for opportunities where we could give back to others. We prioritized our time. And, we prioritized our “stuff”. We didn’t try to keep up with everyone else in terms of the “toys” they had. Having to wait until a birthday or Christmas for something they really wanted wasn’t unusual to them.

Help children make wise choices with their own money.

One of the primary reasons children should have access to their own money is so they can learn the value of it. Our children were always more careful spending “their” money than they are spending ours.

Talk with them about how they should spend their allowance, birthday, or even money they have earned on their own. Help them learn what the terms budget — and savings — and investment. And, tithe is still not a bad word either. Ultimately, they should give some to God, save some, and spend some for things they need or want (based on the system you have for meeting these in your home.)

We also freely discussed our own finances in front of our boys. We allowed them to know things like when things were tight financially and when we were giving to others.

Consider the “big picture” of your child’s life.

As a parent, we are a primary molder of our children. The choices they make in life — what they desire most — will largely be impacted by us early in their life. Their desires in life will be greatly shaped by the life they live in our home. (That’s a scary thought — isn’t it?)

I heard a statistic once that children these days get 90% of everything they want in life. That doesn’t seem like the statistic for most of our adult want lists, does it? I can’t verify the statistic, but it sounds about right for most children I know — probably even for our own. The problem this creates is that somewhere children are going to face a stark reality in adulthood — when we seldom have all that we “want”.

We have all heard stories of children of privilege who got everything they wanted in life, but who cannot seem to stay out of trouble as adults. They have no real sense of direction; no set of values to guide them, because they got everything they wanted in life, but nothing that they really needed!

We kept these principles in mind as we parented. We were raising them to be adults. That one thought changed our paradigm many times.

Spend more time, energy and attention meeting needs than wants.

At Christmas time, birthdays, and other special occasions we ask children what they “want”. There is nothing wrong with that.

Most of the time we already know what they need. We don’t have to ask them if they need to be honest people. We don’t have to ask them if they need to have character, love others or be generous. We do not need to ask them if they need a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. We know they need those things.

We need to ask ourselves if we are spending as much time and energy helping them get what they need as we are trying to buy them what they want. Let’s be honest, providing for a want is more fun sometimes. But we must be willing to sacrifice even what makes us feel good as parents in order to do what is best for our children long-term. We need to give them what they need.

It’s much more fun to give them wants, but it is far more valuable to give them needs.

Model healthy personal choices between needs and wants.

I think we teach our children to value the need more than the want by first modeling it for them.

We cannot ask children to do something we are not willing to do ourselves. Children are smarter than that. Today’s generation is far more interested in truth and integrity than earlier generations. This generation despises hypocrisy.

If children see parents saying one thing and doing another, they will reject that as being truth. We need to model and teach our children the proper concepts concerning money. Ultimately teach them that we are to be responsible with what God has allowed us to have. (When we had to use our credit card for purchases, for example, we usually explained to them why and that we would be paying it off quickly.)

Children need to see their parents giving sacrificially of their time and resources. Volunteering at a soup kitchen may be a better activity for an upcoming special occasion than opening a bunch of gifts.

Keep children properly grounded in a material world.

Children need to know that the universe does not revolve around them. Our world as their parents may revolve around them, but the rest of the world thinks otherwise. Children need to have created times in their life where they have to wait for something they want. Teach and model for children a life that puts others needs and wants ahead of their own.

Don’t give children everything; even if you can afford it.

If children are encouraged by example to have a love of money — a love of stuff — chances are they will never have enough possessions in this world to be satisfied. (Read Ecclesiastes 5:10)

Plant within them a love of God, a love of people and a love of life and they will want to bless others — and the joy of their life will be much greater.

Regardless of how wealthy a family is children should not be so “privileged” that there are no longer any items on their “want” list. When this happens the child has a hard time developing a heart of giving, because they are often too consumed with acquiring more “stuff”.

We have to model simple living sometimes for our children. IT IS OKAY TO SAY NO TO YOUR CHILD! In fact, that may sometimes be the exact thing we need to say. Every trip to the mall should not produce a new toy! (Okay, I know number 9 hurts!)

Teach and model a love for God.

Above all else, perhaps the greatest thing a parent can do to help children be generous people is to help them desire the things of God more than the things of this world. God is a generous God. The more we know and love Him, the more generous we become.

Parenting is hard. And, we all make mistakes. Here’s a prayer your way. Be intentional. We need great parents. We need generous people.

7 Life Giving Statements Everyone Needs to Hear

Two People Having A Conversation

Words are powerful.

As leaders, the words we use make a difference. A huge difference.

I recently posted statements Jesus made that are life-giving.

As we seek to be like Him, we have an opportunity within our influence to be people-builders. Speak life-giving words.

For good and bad, my life has been greatly shaped by words shared with me.

I once had a pastor say, “Ron, you’re a giant killer!” He encouraged me to kill giants for the Kingdom of God. It changed the trajectory of my life.

Words are huge. Especially from someone we trust.

I’ll be honest. I’m not the best at it, but I try to pass on encouragement to younger leaders. And, others as I see opportunity.

Everyone needs encouragement.

It takes an intentional effort. I try to make it a personal discipline.

Here are 7 life-giving statements everyone needs to hear:

I’m praying for you!

You can do it!

I love you!

It’s going to be okay!

I believe in you!

I’m proud of you!

I’ve got your back!

So there you go. Words. Powerful words of encouragement.

Who could you add some life to today?

7 Life-Changing Questions of Jesus

Person Praying

Years ago I became fascinated with the questions of Jesus.

It occurred to me that if Jesus was asking a question it must be an important one.

In fact, depending on our response, they could be life-changing questions.

I realize that in the culture in which Jesus lived asking questions was a method of learning, but Jesus always knew the answers. He didn’t need to ask them. He IS the answer. What does He need to know?

His questions were to cause His listeners to think. And, they do.

Consider some of these 7 questions of Jesus.

“Do you believe that I am able to do this?” (Matthew 9:28)

“Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?” (Matthew 8:26)

What do you think about the Christ?” (Matthew 22:42)

“Do you love me?” (John 21:17)

“Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord’, and not do what I tell you?” (Luke 6:46)

“What do you want me to do for you?” (Luke 18:41)

“Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?” (Matthew 7:3)

To which of these do you most need to consider your answer?

25 Life-Giving Statements Jesus Made

Woman Reading the Bible.

I only read one statement of Jesus, but I couldn’t go any further in my reading.

It was a statement I had read hundreds of times before, but this time it hit me differently. Deeper. More impacting.

I love when that happens.

I realized I often take a statement like that from Jesus for granted.

Jesus — the Son of God — said something. Something so profound, so life-giving, and yet it has become so familiar to me that I almost gloss over it when I read.

This time I stopped.

I stopped and  thought about the many other truths Jesus shared — often in a single sentence — which are life-changing.

Perhaps some of these will be meaningful to you.

Read through the list — memorize a few of them (you probably already have many of them.) But, don’t read them as familiar quotes that are usually written in red. Let them soak deep into your heart and mind. Let them add life to you. Be better with truth.

25 life-giving statements Jesus made:

“Take heart, I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

“The harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few” (Matthew 9:37)

“Go and learn what this means ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice'” (Matthew 9:13)

“Take heart, my son; your sins are forgiven” (Matthew 9:2)

“Ask and it will be given to you…” (Matthew 7:7)

“If the Son has set you free you are free indeed” (John 8:36)

“For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:30)

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9)

“You are the light of the world” (Matthew 6:14)

“Apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5)

“The greatest among you shall be your servant.” (Matthew 23:11)

“Take heart, it is I. Do not be afraid.” (Matthew 14:27)

“I am coming soon” (Revelation 22:7)

“With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” (Matthew 19:26)

“If you love me you will obey what I command” (John 14:15)

“Your give them something to eat” (Mark 6:37)

“A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit” (Matthew 7:18)

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you” (Acts 1:8)

“This people honors me with their lips but their heart is far from me.” (Mark 7:6)

“You will be my witnesses” (Acts 1:8)

“Do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink…” (Matthew 6:25)

“So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do to them” (Matthew 7:12)

“I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)

“This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” (John 6:29)

“It is finished.” (John 19:30)

I realize some of these can be misunderstood if out of context, so feel free to read the context of each of them. But, the fact is these are things Jesus said.

The Son of God — who is God — said them. Spoke them. Revealed truth to us.

And, every word He said has life-changing value.

I wonder, if we really understood the magnitude of these words of Jesus and believed them — if they would change the way we lived our life? The confidence we have? The assurance in which we find hope?

Which of these do you most need to apply to your life today?

The sacred trust and responsibility of an online platform, and 5 ways to honor it

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I’ve been online since 1996. Those were dial-up days. I’ve learned a lot, made plenty of mistakes.  If you want to find typos — you’ve come to the right place.

Along the way, through consistency and patience, I’ve developed a small platform. Weekly — almost daily — I hear from people wanting my opinion because they somehow think I have something to offer. It’s so easy to clean up your game and appear to actually know something online. :)

Seriously, I’m honored people would care what I think. I don’t consider myself an expert by any means. I’m still learning new things everyday. But, for whatever reason, people’s boredom probably, last year my blog realized just a few numbers shy of 3,000,000 page views. Amazing.

It’s not huge. I have friends with far more. But, it’s huge for me. And, it’s humbling. Thank you if you’re one of those.

But, reflecting on that fact reminded me of something sobering. It’s true for bloggers, and Tweeters, and those who popularize Facebook and Instagram. (And any other social medium.)

There is a sacred trust and responsibility with a platform.

Whether online or because of your position — you have a platform. People look to you for insight. (That’s true for my ministry friends — regardless of your church size.)

And, it’s a platform we must honor. And protect. And use wisely.

Here are 5 ways to honor your online platform:

Think before posting. You already know you should — otherwise you wouldn’t have the platform you do now — but sometimes it’s hard isn’t it? Like everyone else, you have an opinion. You have immediate thoughts. Things happen about which you don’t agree. I get it. It happens to all of us. And, you just happen to have a platform to share them. You can move people’s opinions faster.

But, that’s a dangerous combination if misused. People are listening to you. They respect you. Take time to reflect before you react. You can cause a lot of damage quickly. Beware!

Don’t post when angry. Record the thought — then wait — go back when your emotions have calmed and see if you still feel the same way. Also, consider how your core audience will feel when they read what you post.

Make sure you’re not just another negative influence in their world. There’s enough of that elsewhere.

Use your platform for the good of others. That’s what the world really needs. More positive influences. More platforms making the world a better place to live. Helpful.

Above everything, use the platform with which you’ve been entrusted to make a positive difference. That’s how you honor it and show appreciation to those who have given you the platform. And, remember, you wouldn’t have a platform if people hadn’t honored you with it.

You are a leader. With a platform. You have influence. Use it wisely.

Don’t support every cause. You may legitimately care about every issue, but if you do, you’ll water down the impact you can have on the issues you care about most.

Do you remember the story about the little boy who cried wolf? And, then no one took him serious. Yea, that. It’s not quite the same thing — but the reaction will be similar.

The more you can streamline your platform the stronger that platform will be.

Speak about what you know — and not as much what you don’t. Find your niche. And don’t say it’s everything.

People are looking to you — because you have a platform — for wisdom and advice. It’s unfair, therefore, for you to build a platform, lead people to trust you, and then address issues about which you know very little. That misuses the privilege of your platform. Leave the subjects about which you know little to the people with platforms who are knowledgeable about the areas you are not.

And, when you do feel led to speak about something of which you’re not an expert — tell people up front that you’re not an expert. And, better yet, point to some people who you consider experts.

Limit self-promotion. The surest way to (eventually) lose your platform is to abuse it. You abuse it when you are only online for your own personal benefit. It may work for a while. Really well, in fact, but eventually it comes back to burn you. (Pride goes before destruction – Proverbs 16:18.)

When you only promote yourself. When you pretend to be bigger than you really are — or when you’re posting just to get more page views — you are building a platform on shaky ground.

There is nothing wrong with profiting from a platform. Be strategic. And, that will include promotion. But, always consider the interest of others — first. Build your platform for the good of others — first. If rewards come from that — consider that grace.

Those are a few of my thoughts. And, in full transparency, it’s a good reminder for me as well. Thank you for being one more page view. I’m honored. Seriously.

What tips do you have for protecting a platform?

10 Defining Words of a Stellar Leader

Stellar

Leadership is abuzz these days. Everyone is talking about it. I’m not the only blog — or certainly not the best blog — that addresses leadership frequently.

Yet, as much as it’s in our conversations and thought process, it appears most organizations and churches are consistently looking for new leaders. In my conversations with other churches, people want to know how to find, attract, and train leaders.

Apparently it is far easier to talk about it — even perhaps easier to call oneself a leader — than it is to actually be a leader.

Perhaps we need to do a better job distinguishing what leadership actually means. Defining leadership.

Even with an advanced degree in leadership, I can tell you experts who “schooled” me didn’t always agree on the definition of leadership. Perhaps, even more, we need to better understand what makes up great leadership — even more than add a definition in which we may not all agree.

Additionally, I almost wonder if one reason we have such a hard time defining leadership is because there are actually levels of leadership. There could be the kind anyone can do. Everyone is a leader at some level. If leadership is truly “influence”, then all of us are leaders in some area of life.

And, then, maybe there is something even more defined — simply for discussion I’ll use a term —

Stellar Leadership

The kind of leadership the truly great leaders provide.

Stellar means: Pertaining to a preeminent performer — or — outstanding or immense.

Isn’t this the kind of leadership we are all seeking?

Stellar leadership?

I am still a leader in training. Not sure when I’ll “get there”, but I know I’m not looking to be an average leader. I want to be a stellar leader someday. One who is outstanding or immense in my profession.

With that in mind, here are 10 definitions I think we find in stellar leadership:

(These words are mine, but I got the definition of each from dictionary.com)

Cognizanceawareness, realization, or knowledge; notice; perception:

Stellar leaders have a keen sense of what’s ahead. They study. They learn. They listen. They remain aware.

Optimisticreflecting a favorable view of events and conditions and the expectation of a positive outcome

Stellar leaders see the glass half-full. They aren’t negative-minded or hyper-critical. They are encouraging. They build momentum. They invest in others and build up the people around them.

Causala person or thing that acts, happens, or exists in such a way that some specific thing happens as a result

Stellar leaders are purpose-driven. Mission-minded. It guides their thoughts and keeps them on task.

Steadfastfirm in purpose, resolution, faith, attachment,etc.

Stellar leaders are consistent. Dependable. Buoyant. They aren’t quitters — even when things get difficult, boring, or even unpopular.

Respectableworthy of respect or esteem

Stellar leaders have been tested. They’ve earned a reputation worthy of following — mostly because they are servant leaders — willing to lay their life down for the people and cause they are trying to lead.

Truthfulness - telling the truth, especially habitually

Stellar leaders word is their bond. They could function — and be trusted — in a handshake world. You can trust them emphatically.

Valor - boldness or determination in facing great danger; courage

Stellar leaders are courageous. They lead into uncharted areas. They take us where we need to go, but haven’t, for whatever reason — many times because of fear.

Integrityadherence to moral and ethical principles; soundness of moral character; honesty.

Stellar leaders have a strong moral fiber. They base decisions on a sense of right and wrong. What you see at work you’ll see at play. They are the same with their family as with their co-workers.

Authentic - not false or copied; genuine; real

Stellar leaders have a unique style and confidence about them. While remaining teachable, they aren’t clones of another leader.

Humblenot proud or arrogant

Stellar leaders recognize they can’t — or won’t — do it alone. They are appreciative; thankful; knowing the value of team — and appreciative of the people they are trying to lead. Recognition for success is shared.

In my opinion, a stellar leader would possess ALL of these attributes.

(Of course, my greatest leader inspiration is Jesus — He didn’t “need” anything from His followers — that’s why He came — to provide what we needed — but He was all these in leadership. That, by the way, is an aspect of His grace — another great quality for a stellar leader.)

What words/definitions would you add to my list? And, do you know a stellar leader?

7 Ways to Better Enjoy Reading the Bible

Christian woman reading a Bible

I’ll never forget the day a young college-aged girl told me recently that she didn’t enjoy reading her Bible and asked if there was an alternative book.

At first, I didn’t know what to say. Then I realize she was very serious.

“Well…no!”, I thought, but didn’t say.

The Bible is THE BOOK!

There is no substitute. There are plenty of great Christian books, but none compare to this one.

That wasn’t a new concern. I’ve heard similar concerns many times. The Bible intimidates many people; even those who are avid readers of other books.

I did suggest this girl could listen to the Bible on a CD or mp3. YouVersion will even read the Bible to you. But then I told her I’d give her some more suggestions.

That’s what prompted this post. The reality is I think we need to figure out how to enjoy reading God’s Word. Part of maturing as a believer is to fall in love with the Bible.

Here are 7 suggestions which may help:

Pray – The Bible is not like any other book. You need God’s Spirit to help you understand and process it. You should always pray before and as you read it. Ask God to help you understand what you’re reading — even to help you enjoy it. Good news here! This appears, in my experience, to be one of God’s favorite prayers to answer.

Version – Pick a version easy for you to understand. I would suggest you read a more literal translation primarily, but the paraphrase versions are good for casual reading. I suggest HCSB, NIV or NLT for a more literal but very readable version, ESV or NKJV if you want a most literal translation, or for a paraphrase version, that’s extremely readable, try The Message Version. I read some of each of these for my studies and casual reading. (I wrote a post on how to select a version HERE.)

Sharing – It brings Scripture to life when we can share it with others. Find a small group. That’s what church is great for at providing. Or find a group of guys or girls at a coffee shop or a couple of people from work. Studying the Scripture with a community helps energize you as you learn. When you talk about what you’re reading, it helps you value it more. (Read Philemon 6 for an example of this.)

Journaling – Writing about your time in God’s Word will help you process your thoughts and keep a record of them. It’s exciting to go back over time and remember what you read before. It fuels your enthusiasm to study even more.

Timing – I love the idea of reading the Bible through in a year. I’ve done this many times. I think it’s more important, however, that you benefit from what you’re reading. I sometimes meditate on a few verses or a story for a day — or a week. I also recommend people start with an easier book to understand and move to more difficult passages from there. The books of Matthew, Mark, Luke or John are good places to start. And, find the right setting. A comfortable chair, an open field — morning, noon or night — what works best for you. And, for as long as you can. Don’t put a time limit on it that adds more burden to the experience.

Clarify – It’a best to have a study Bible for this part, but there are plenty of free online tools also. Look up words you don’t understand. Learn to use Bible dictionaries and commentaries. Use the Table of Contents. No shame. Look up passages, which aren’t clear, cross-referencing verses with other similar verses using footnotes. For some people, having a Bible study to work through along with reading the Bible is helpful. And, when you aren’t certain, ask someone you trust who understands the Bible.

Relationship – The best way to fall in love with God’s Word is to get to better know it’s Author. It’s cliche now, but read it as a love letter written to you. If someone writes you a love letter, you’ll read it continually until you figure out what it means, and maybe even memorize parts of it along the way. If you can’t figure out something, you’ll consult the author.
The greater your love grows with God the easier Bible reading becomes — and the more enjoyable. You may even someday say it’s “fun”!

What would you add to my list?

2 Simple Prayers That Greatly Changed My Life

prayer

Over 25 years ago I took a month to read through the book of Jeremiah. Two verses stood out to me then that have continued to produce spiritual growth in my life.

The two verses are:

Jeremiah 24:7

I will give them a heart to know me, that I am the Lord. They will be my people, and I will be their God, for they will return to me with all their heart.

I realized that God had promised the people they could have a heart to know Him. Therefore, the God who never changes has also promised me I can have a heart to know Him, not just know about Him, but really get to know Him personally. I began praying that God would give me that kind of heart.

A few days later, I read this verse:

Jeremiah 32:39

I will give them singleness of heart and action, so that they will always fear me for their own good and the good of their children after them.

God also promised His people that not only could they know Him intimately, but also He would help them carry out that heart in the things they did. They wouldn’t simply believe a truth; they would actually begin to live truth. Again, I realized God would do the same for me. I began praying that God would give me “singleness of heart and action.”

Praying the truths of these two verses became a pattern for my life over the next year. Looking back, I can see how God did just as He promised. I continue to make mistakes and I consistently need to go back to these principles, but God truly has given me a heart that desires to know him and more and more I am beginning to see myself live out the truth I believe.

What verses have worked that way in your heart? Do you need to pray God would work these verses for truth in your life?

Five Personal Reflection Questions to Evaluate Your Year and Start the New Year Right

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I’m a reflective person. This time of year — when we start to see all the “best of” reflections online and in the news, I like to do my own personal reflection. How was the year? What can we learn from it? How can I do better next year?

Perhaps you need a little help getting started. Take a couple hours over the next week or so — get alone — and reflect.

Here are five questions to get you started:

What was great?

List some of the highlights of your year. What gave you the most pleasure in life? Make sure they merit repeating — sin can have an immediate pleasure — but plan ways to rekindle those emotions in the new year. Most likely they involve relationships. The new year is a great time to plan some intentional efforts to strengthen relationships — spend more time with family and friends. Maybe you enjoyed the times you spent writing. Take some intentional steps to discipline yourself to do that more. Remember how good it felt that day you served people less fortunate than yourself? Well, now you know something you need to do more of in the new year.

What wasn’t great?

Think of some things that are draining to you personally. Again, it may be some relationship in your life. It could be a job or a physical ailment. It could also be that whatever it is that isn’t great has been around for more than a single year. But, chances are you’ve never taken the hard steps to do something about it. Sometimes recognizing those things is the first step to doing something about them. (Your answer may be that a relationship has ended — and there’s nothing you can do about it. Maybe this is your year to move forward again — even in spite of the pain.) Could this be the year?

What can be improved?

Sometimes it isn’t about quitting, but working to make something better that makes all the difference. Intentionality can sometimes take something you dread and make it something you enjoy. I’ve seen couples who appeared destined for divorce court turn into a thriving marriage when two willing spouses commit to working harder (and getting outside help if needed). I was out of shape in my mid-thirties. I’m healthier today in my 50’s than I was then. The change began in one year — one decision — one intentional effort. Conventional wisdom says a new habit begins in 21 days, but some now believe it may take as long as 66 days to really get a habit to stick. But, would it be worth it if you really began a daily Bible reading habit? Or the gym really was a part of your life more than just the first couple weeks in January? Maybe this is your year to get serious about improving some area of your life.

What do I need to stop?

Maybe you need to stop caring so much what other people think. Maybe you need to stop overeating. Maybe you need to stop worrying far more than you pray. Maybe you need to stop believing the lies the enemy tries to place in your mind. Maybe you need to stop living someone else’s life — and start living the life God has called you to. Maybe you need to stop delaying the risk — and go for it! Maybe you need to stop procrastinating. Do you get the idea? Sometimes one good stop can make all the difference. What do you need to stop doing this year, so you can reflect on this year as your best year ever? Start stopping today!

What do I need to start? 

Think of something you know you need to do, but so far you’ve only thought about it. Maybe you started before but never committed long enough to see it become reality. Often, in my experience, we quit just before the turn comes that would have seen us to victory. Is this the year you write the book? Is this the year you pursue the dream? Is this the year you mend the broken relationship? Is the year you finish the degree? Is this the year you get serious about your financial well-being — planning for the future? Is this the year you surrender your will to God’s will — and follow through on what you know He’s been asking you to do? Maybe getting active in church is your needed start this year. Start starting today!

Five questions. When I’m answering questions like this, I like to apply them to each area of my life — spiritual, physical, relational, personal, financial, etc. Reflect on your life with God, with others, and with yourself.

Try answering them — see how it helps you start your best year ever!