5 Criteria for Making New Year’s Resolutions We Actually Keep

Clipboard with Checklist

I love a fresh start.

Perhaps it’s because grace is the doctrine I’ve needed so much, but there’s something about a clean slate, which motivates me towards achievement.

I’m like this with my desk at the office. I create stacks. Magazines to be read. Notes to be written. Lists to be completed. Bulletins from other churches. (I am always looking for better ideas.) Stacks, stacks, and more stacks. When the stacks are at capacity – I call it organized chaos.

But, then one day I’ve had enough of the stacks and I go on a cleaning spree. I sort. I file. I trash until the top of my desk shows far more wood than paper. Ahhh… Finally, I’m inspired to work again.

I love a fresh start.

I think this may be why I’m one of the people who appreciates New Year’s resolutions. It’s like a line on the calendar, which screams to me: FRESH START!

But, as much as I appreciate the value in them – beginning new things, stretching myself, making my life better – I’m like everyone else. I find it easier to make resolutions than to keep them.

How do we make resolutions we will actually keep? Because they aren’t going to improve anything if you don’t follow through and they probably just make you more frustrated than before you made them.

Well, first, write them down. This is huge. I’ve heard people say you are twice as likely to keep a written resolution than one you simply state in your mind.

And, then, here are some suggestions for the type of resolutions which seem to work.

My 5 criteria for making resolutions I actually keep:

Reasonable – Another word might be attainable. The resolution must make sense for you to actually be able to do this year. Saying you want to read 50 books in a year – because you heard someone else does it – and, yet you didn’t read any this past year is probably going to be a stretch. You might be able to do it, but it likely isn’t a reasonable goal. Don’t be afraid of small beginnings (Zechariah 4:10). The key is you’re trying to achieve something, which makes your life better. If you’re successful this year you can set a higher goal next year.

Measurable – To be successful in keeping a resolution you need some way to monitor success towards it – certainly a way to know when you’ve achieved it. If your resolution is simply to lose weight you won’t be as motivated as if you say you want to lose a pound a week. You can track that goal and see your progress. Obviously it will still require discipline, but there is something about a measurable goal which – for most of us – drives us to meet it.

Sustainable – This one doesn’t apply for every resolution, but does in many. Ultimately I have found I’m more motivated to reach goals, which change my life for the better over a longer period of time. It’s great to meet those milestone, once in a lifetime type of achievements – such as running a marathon, or writing a book. And, we should have those type goals in our life – and maybe a milestone resolution is reasonable for you this year. The problem I have seen is if we get off track on reaching them it’s easy to simply give up – maybe even write it off as an unreasonable goal. We feel defeated and so we quit making any resolutions. In making New Year’s resolutions, I find I’m more successful if it’s something which I possibly adopt as a new lifestyle. Some examples would be changing my eating habits, beginning to exercise more often, Bible-reading, journaling, etc – again reasonable and measurable – but something I will sustain beyond the New Year.

Accountable – This is key. Weight Watchers is a great example here of this principle. There is something about their system, which works, and part of it is the reporting portion – where you have to be accountable to others for your progress. If you don’t build in a system of accountability – whether it’s with other people or some visible reminder of your resolution and progress – it’s easy to give up when the New Year euphoria begins to fade.

Reward-able – And, this may be the most important and the least practiced. One secret to actually achieving your resolution may be to find the “carrot”, which will continually motivate you to stretch for the finish line. If losing weight is a goal it could be a new suit or dress when you reach a pre-determined number. If it’s running a marathon (and if this is a reasonable resolution for you this year) it could be you run the marathon in some destination city you can’t wait to visit. If it’s reading your Bible through in a year – promise yourself a new Bible at the end of the year. The reward should fit the degree of stretching and effort it took to accomplish the resolution, but this often serves as a good incentive to helping you reach your goals – especially during the times you are tempting to quit trying.

I hope this will help. It does for me. I have some daily disciplines in my life now, which started as New Year’s resolutions. It doesn’t work for everyone, but I’ve found resolutions can help me start the year with fresh goals, and the discipline towards achieving them helps me have more discipline in other areas of my life.

Here’s to a great New Year! God bless!

7 New Year Resolutions Which Could Change Your World

fireworks

Whether or not you do New Year resolutions, we could all stand to improve some things in our life. And, if we do, I’m confident we could also improve the life of others.

In fact, with a whole lot of improving – it might become contagious – and we might just change the world.

Here are 7 new year resolutions which could change the world:

Let’s resolve to begin everyday with a prayer, a smile, and a humility check.

A 3 part checklist. What if we woke up every morning and began by talking to God – recognizing His power and asking Him to direct our steps, make sure our smile is our attitude, and humbly enter the world not expecting anything other than to be a blessing? It will require discipline – but how we begin a day almost always determines how we end one.

Let’s resolve to return evil with good.

It won’t be easy. In fact, it will be hard. A grudge or sarcastic remark seems so much more fulfilling – in the moment. But, over time, it causes more harm than good – mostly to us – often even more than “them”. Imagine your world when you influence others by how you don’t respond when they “push your buttons” the wrong way.

Let’s resolve to never let the sun go down on anger.

Anger emotions grow overnight. They blossom into more intense anger emotions. We may not be able to resolve all disagreements, but we can drop the right to get even and resolve to be at peace as much as it depends on us. We will awake with level ground to build better, healthier relationships with others. Oh, what a world it would be if we had less anger.

Let’s resolve not use social media as a forum to bash others.

Or even as a forum period. It divides people rather than bringing them together. Let’s resolve for a kinder, gentler Facebook – rant-free even – where we simply stalk – I mean check in on old friends. Let’s act like people – real people -may actually see what we write. And care. And, let’s post in a way which encourages and builds each other up – almost like that’s in the Bible somewhere. (It might even be somewhere around 1 Thessalonians 5:11 – check me on this one.)

Let’s resolve to develop our patience muscle.

Wow! I put this one in the middle so maybe you (or my wife) would skip over it quickly. Just kidding. This is one I need – we all need. I’m not sure we can completely master it this year, but, with intentionality – and Christ’s strength – we can keep getting better. What if we thought about the most common things which test our patience – such as the traffic on the drive home at night – and we asked God to help us deal with it before we experience it – each time? Just a thought.

Let’s resolve to remember it’s not about us.

This one alone would surely change the world. What if we placed into our schema – into our immediate thought process – a simple understanding – OTHER PEOPLE MATTER – just as much as we do? Does it make a difference when you think someone values you? Of course it does. What if we valued others and demonstrated to them by how we treat them, what we say to them, our facial expressions, or even our thoughts toward them? Think it might change a few of our relational encounters this year? I think it might. Certainly seems worth trying.

Let’s resolve to listen more than we speak.

Ouch – if needed! It’s hard to value others when we are doing all the talking. (It’s also hard to hear from God.) It requires an act of humility when we remain silent at times we want to speak. Many times disagreements, arguments, even serious issues like prejudism or racism, have more to do with misunderstanding or miscommunication than anything. When we listen we demonstrate value – but, it also guards the tongue, protects relationships, and we might actually learn something.

Of course, ultimately the change the world needs is the Gospel, but who knows? Maybe if we change the way we treat others – including other believers – others might actually want to hear our Gospel.

I realize I’m simple-minded – but I do, henceforth, resolve.

Who’s with me?

12 Challenges for the New Year Which Can Make Your Life Better

Challenge

The verdict appears mixed among the people I know of whether of not they make resolutions for a new year. And, I understand, many have tried before – it didn’t work – and so now they are like “why bother?”.

I believe there are probably some principles in place as to whether or not a resolution succeeds. For example, is it reasonable? Is it measurable? Is it sustainable? Do you have accountability in place? (But, at this point I’m writing another post – which I may – so let me get on with the point of this one.)

I wonder if the term itself is a problem. RESOLUTION. I hereby resolve! Sounds kind of formal – almost intimidating – doesn’t it? I hate to say I’m resolving to do something where chances are good I won’t.

I do believe strongly, however, we should work towards continual improvement in our life – whether this begins at the first of the year or in the middle doesn’t matter as much. But, the new year does provide a nice, clear place to start.

So, I want to offer a spin on the old resolution tradition and offer a new word.

Challenge.

Do you ever challenge yourself to do better? It’s easier than saying I resolve to do this. You’re not saying you will – you may not even be able to – it will be a challenge – but you’re willing to give it a try.

Let me give you some examples – maybe some challenges for you to consider. I can almost guarantee if you meet just a few of these challenges your world will be better. You won’t need to meet all of them – just the ones most “challenging” to you. But, you’ll have to trust me in this – meeting them – or even improving upon them – will brighten your life.

Here are 12 challenges for the new year:

Quit trying to be someone else

God made you to be you and He didn’t make a mistake. The more you live the you He intended the more you’ll enjoy the benefits and blessing. There’s something you can offer this world no one else can. Comparison only leads to disappointment.

Quit trying to carry all your burdens

And, the challenge here for you may be to quit trying to carry everyone else’s burden. God designed you (and me) to be insufficient without Him and to have a relational need for others. Sometimes the best thing you can do is admit you can do it anymore – and ask for help. In your weakness – He is strong, but you’ll have to admit your weakness before He usually allows His strength to kick into full gear.

Start embracing today

You can keep hoping your life away – that this would happen or that would happen – but when you begin to find contentment – TODAY becomes a great day – in spite of the challenges it holds. The Apostle Paul said he had learned “the secret of being content”. I’ve personally defined contentment in my life as “being satisfied with where God has allowed me to be in life – right now.” Perhaps your greatest challenge in the new year will be embracing where God has you now and waiting more patiently for what He will bring in the fullness of time.

Let the past go

As much as we can learn from history, we shouldn’t be bound by it. One of my favorite verses is Ecclesiastes 11:3, “Wherever the tree falls, there it lies.”. So simple, yet so profound! It speaks volumes to me. If the tree fell – there it lays. You can’t do anything about it now. It’s done. Finished. On the ground. All you can control now is your response to the tree which fell. If grief is holding you back – grieve – get help if needed. If it’s regret – reconcile the loss. If it’s guilt, or disappointment, or anger – whatever “it” is from your past – deal with it now. Admit the tree fell. It hurt – it stinks – and you wish it hadn’t happened – but, I challenge you to move forward in the new year.

Accept God’s grace

It’s always more than we deserve. You can’t earn it. It’s amazing grace. But, denying or refusing it ignores the beauty of it. Is the guilt of your past keeping you from enjoying all the blessings of being a child of God? Has there never been a time you received the gift of salvation? Have you been living more like a prodigal in exile than a child of the King? If anyone is in Christ he is a new creation. If the Son has set you free – you are free indeed! I challenge you to embrace grace in the new year.

Live free of grudges and bitterness

The lack of forgiveness is a hidden destroyer of joy, peace and happiness. Someone reading this is holding on to a grudge, some bitterness, maybe anger – and it’s keeping you from fully enjoying life. Every time you hear a person’s name or see them you are reminded of the injury they caused. And, it’s hurting you more than it is them. Chances are they’ve moved on and you’re still struggling. Isn’t it time to let it go? (Let it go – could be a “Frozen” song you need to sing to yourself.)

Remember other people exist

Don’t be selfish or always command your way. People – even the best people – will never perform to all of your standards – and is it even fair to expect it of them? They may not even agree with you as to what is important. You cannot hold people to unrealistic expectations and not be disappointed often.

And, here’s a note to those of us disappointed with the things of this world. As followers of Christ, we can’t expect that everyone sees the world as we do. Of course, there are biblical principles through which we view the world and live, but can we really expect people who aren’t believers to embrace them?

Admit mistakes readily

Sincere humility is an attractive quality – and it helps to free you from future regrets or guilt. We all can have “perfectionist” tendencies, yet none of us is perfect. If you want to live with less self-induced stress this year – admit you don’t have all the answers and sometimes you have none.

Give generously

Giving opens the heart to joy and contentment. Something happens when we give to others which causes us – though we have less – to feel like we have more. And, there are many needs around us. I challenge you to give more in the new year and see how it makes your life better!

Protect your heart

“Above all else” the Bible says. Where your heart is there your treasure will be also. Most likely there are activities, or people, or places where your heart is most easily injured. You may not be able to avoid them, but you can be aware so you can “guard your heart”. And, when you are aware you may be injured you will build guardrails to lessen the damage.

Take a new risk

The adrenaline of attempting something you’ve never done before fuels you for future success. It could be something you’ve always wanted to try or something you know God wants you to do, but, for whatever reason, you’ve resisted. Especially if it’s God-honoring, not sinful, will make your life or other’s life better, then what are you waiting for? Don’t let fear or thoughts of your inadequacies be your chief motivators in the new year. I challenge you – GO FOR IT!

Think and act eternally

There is more to this life than the world we know today. Thankfully, I might add. Jesus said to “store up treasures in heaven”. Whenever possible, I challenge you to consider the eternal consequences of the decisions, investments, and actions of your life. Jesus said to live in this world, but not be of this world. How are you making a difference in the world to come by your world today? The more intentional you are the more treasures you build for a future reward.

Which of these challenges are you willing to accept?

Which of the above do you most need to embrace?

10 Things I’ve Learned About Gossip – And Why I Hate It So Much

Young woman telling a secret to a man

I hate gossip.

I realize hate is a strong word. But it’s the one I prefer here. I’ve seen so much negative results caused by gossip.

Gossip happens in families, in the workplace – wherever two or more are gathered – gossip will be among them. And, gossip is always destructive to building healthy relationships. I hate gossip in any setting – but especially in the church.

Relational gossip – especially among believers – shouldn’t even exist. We have to violate a lot of principles of God’s plan for the church and believers for it to exist at all.

Gossip is destructive and has no part in our lives or in the church. I’ve counseled with families caught in drama after the loss of a loved one and gossip is fueling their division. I have witnessed gossip destroy a healthy work environment. And, I have worked with so many churches where gossip – drama – is a leading cause of why the church isn’t healthy – isn’t growing – isn’t accomplishing all God has for the church.

(I expanded this from a previous post where I addressed drama in the church. I decided gossip was the broader issue – and it applies to all relational settings.)

And, I’ve learned a few things about gossip.

Here are 10 things I’ve learned about gossip:

Not all rumors are true. In fact, most aren’t – especially not exactly as they are presented. When we repeat things we shouldn’t we seldom get all the facts straight. There is usually something we don’t understand.

People like to expand on what they think they know. People love to speculate, add their opinion to what they’ve heard. When they do the story gets further from the truth. People enjoy telling others “the good stuff”. With practice, some have even learned to make things “bigger” and “better” than reality.

There is almost always more to the story than what you know. Whenever multiple people are involved there will be multiple sides to the story. Even in stories involving only one person – if we aren’t hearing it from them – we only know what we know. We don’t know another person’s thoughts, history, or individual circumstances. And, it may or may not be what your mind stretches it to be.

Sometimes people don’t consider the ramifications of what they are doing. This is so true and so potentially damaging. I have seen gossip destroy a person – even seen it run people from the church – and some of the people involved in creating and furthering the drama wonder later what happened. They honestly didn’t realize the damage their rumor-repeating was causing. It’s so easy to get trapped in drama without considering the damage being done to others. I’m convinced, people don’t always intend the harm they cause.

Gossip is fueled by reaction. When someone tells you something you shouldn’t even know – the way you respond often determines how many times it’s told again. If you gasp with wonder and interest – the person sees they have something and are motivated to seek the same reaction in others. If, however, you appear not as interested or intrigued the person may feel disarmed somewhat from sharing it more.

Some of the juiciest gossip is disguised as a prayer request. Be honest. You’ve done or seen this done many times. People do this to pastors all the time. “Pastor, please pray for the Jones family. I’ve heard their son is really causing them problems. Just wanted you to know so you could be praying.” And, actually, many times they just wanted me to know so they could be telling.

People often stir drama for personal advantage. It could be to advance their own agenda. They may be on a power play. Sometimes people talk about others thinking it will make them feel better about their own life. And, sadly, I’ve known people who seem to get a “cheap thrill” out of creating drama. (I’ve never understood this one – but it’s true.

The only reliable source is the direct source. Every. Single. Time. In fact, a good discipline would be to not repeat anything which wasn’t from a direct source.

Thumper’s mom was right. If we can’t say something nice – we really shouldn’t say anything at all. If we all lived by this principle there would be far less drama. And, far less pain caused as a result.

Gossip destroys. Gossip can bring down a person’s reputation quickly. Start a tale about someone and watch their character unravel in front of you. It happens to celebrities and politicians. I’ve seen in happen to pastors, individuals, and entire churches.

The point of this post is awareness. Most of my readers are believers. Some non-believers, however, will likely share my distaste of gossip in relationships. If you’ve made it this far in the post – you and I can make a difference in stopping gossip from spreading by how we respond to it.

You may want to read my post 7 Ways to Stop Gossip Or, even better, read the Book of James in the New Testament. Or maybe Ephesians. (Specifically note 4:29).

What Is There to do the Day After Christmas?

open christmas gift

And all they that heard it wondered at those things, which were told them by the shepherds. Luke 2:18

It’s the day after Christmas.

Presents are opened. Trees are coming down. Reflecting is in full force. Plans are being made for a new year.

I can imagine the “wonder” happening in Bethlehem shortly after the birth of Christ. There was great wonder in the naming of this baby. Jesus, which means “salvation of God” – it was not something someone like Joseph and Mary typically would have named their son. Talk about high hopes for your children!

With the excitement going on in the town because of the census, it is probable that few took notice of Jesus’ birth. Therefore, when the shepherds go about joyfully, almost ecstatically, proclaiming the Good News, people most likely wondered “what baby?” “I didn’t see a baby”. They were so busy with their own celebrations they had missed the birth of a Savior!

What about you? As you clean up the torn packages from yesterday, and you pack away all the new gifts – as you travel back home or prepare to head back to work – as you explore how to spend your Christmas cash – what difference has Christmas made in your life?

Did the fact a Savior was born make a difference in your life this week/this year? Are you living a life that reflects that truth? Or – are you still wondering what all the excitement is about?

Many celebrated Christmas this year. How many really understood the why behind the celebration? Was it the center of their celebration or part of a checklist or after thought.

The parties are over and the gifts are open, and many will be sad the celebration is over, but the celebration alone will never completely fill a person’s heart. Only the true gift of Christmas, the one they named Jesus, can fill the void in a heart, which often dwells at the end of a Christmas celebration.

After the dust settles from the hustle and rush of buying, wrapping, opening gifts, stuffing ourselves with holiday treats and enjoying the company of friends and family is over, perhaps you and I should pause and wonder – pause and truly reflect on the true meaning of Christmas. 

Perhaps after Christmas is more important even than during.

A Savior has been born. He is Christ the Lord! The Savior grew, lived a sinless life, died on a cross, rose again, and now intercedes between God and man on behalf of those who believe. 

He wants to be a friend who sticks closer than a brother. He wants those who are weary and heavy-burdened to come to Him. He wants to bless our lives with true peace. Hope was born at Christmas.

And this part of the Christmas season – will last throughout the coming year – and throughout eternity!

10 Life Lessons and Reminders from “It’s a Wonderful Life”

wonderful life bank scare

“It’s a Wonderful Life” has to be one of my all-time favorite movies. I have probably seen it thirty times or more.

I read recently, the movie was not a success the first few years after it’s release. No one could sit through the hard part to get to the happy ending. Aren’t we like this with life sometimes?

A couple years ago Cheryl and I saw it on the big screen. One of our local, historic theaters, shared the film for Christmas. There was something even more wonderful about “It’s a Wonderful Life” in this setting.

I took time to reflect on the moment. I was reminded how many life lessons this movie provides.

Here are 10 life lessons from “It’s a Wonderful Life”:

It’s not just about us. Other lives matter. We are better, richer, because of other people.

When we hurt, we hurt others. When we are in pain, we tend to feel we are suffering alone, but this is never the case. When someone we love hurts – we hurt.

We can’t hide our pain from people we love. They know. They may not know how to help or even how to express their concern – at least not in a way we will receive it – but they know – and care.

We need community. We really do need people in our life. We never realize this more than when we are in need. (I can’t imagine my life personally without the church.)

There is power in cooperation. We can do great things when we work together. I love this quote by Aimee Semple McPherson, “With God, I can do great things! But with God and you, and the people who you can interest, by the grace of God, we’re gonna change the world!” So true.

We seldom know the impact we have on others. Or, the good we are doing. I think God may protect us from foolish pride this way – thinking it is all about us. But, when we care – when we love others – when we strive to make a difference – we make a bigger splash on humanity than we could ever measure.

Character speaks louder than cash. Every. Single. Time. I’d rather have my integrity than a stuffed wallet any day. And, I’d rather have friends I can trust – and strive to be like – than friends who can buy my lunch.

“All you can take with you is that which you have given away”. (Peter Bailey) There are so many Biblical principles in this movie – this is one of them. Storing up treasures where moth and rust cannot destroy – it really does make for a wonderful life.

No man is a failure who has friends.” (Clarence) You can’t watch the movie and not wonder if you’d have friends come through for you as George Bailey did. I’m reminded the best way to have a friend is to be one. It worked for George – and it still works today.

Our life matters. Your life matters. (“Strange, isn’t it? Each man’s life touches so many other lives. When he isn’t around he leaves an awful hole, doesn’t he?” – Clarence.) God makes no mistake with His creation. He has a purpose for every soul, in which He breathes life.

What did I miss?

5 Suggestions for Finding More Joy at Christmas

Christmas package

But the angel said to them, “Don’t be afraid, for look, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people: Today a Savior, who is Messiah the Lord, was born for you in the city of David. Luke 2:10-11

As I read the Scriptures, the ability to have joy is a gift. We may not always be “happy” with our circumstances, but we can have joy. Joy is a condition of our heart beyond the situations life may bring. It was “good news of great joy” the angels announced at the birth of Christ.

For many, however, living in the reality of joy at Christmas is harder than other times of the year. Memories of loved ones, financial struggles, health issues, and relationship woes often make for a very difficult celebration. And, have you spent much time watching the news recently? It’s enough to depress anyone.

Do you ever wonder why everyone else seems to find it, but you’ve been “left out” when it comes to “good news of great joy”?

How do we find the joy of Chrismas? (You may want to read my previous post 10 Ways to Overcome a Sense of Christmas Loss. This post come from another angle.

Here are five suggestions to greater joy at Christmas:

Lower expectations of others

We falsely expect others to respond as we want them to respond – or thin we would. We expect them to react to our gift as we felt when we bought it for them. We thought they’d remember us and they didn’t. We sent a card – they didn’t. We tried to be nice – and they weren’t so nice. We shouldn’t hold others to an expectation we set for them. People, even the best of people, will disappoint us. And, people are different from us. We aren’t responsible for the reactions of others. We are only responsible for our actions.

Increase your investment in others 

If we aren’t careful, Christmas can become so commercialized, even within our own families, we unintentionally become selfish towards others. Something supernatural happens when we share with people. Giving has an intrinsic value, which can’t be duplicated in any other way. This includes extending grace, as it was given to us – this includes granting forgiveness to those who disappointed us. Giving frees our heart of selfishness and self-centered tendencies we all have at times.

Examine your life and address sin

You can’t experience complete joy with a holy God if you are living contrary to His desires for your life. Where does your life need a realignment with God’s purposes and plan for you? Chances are good you already know. Is it an unforgiving spirit? Are you holding on to anger? Do you have continued, repetitive sin in your life? Christmas is a great time to make new commitments, and re-dedicate your life to Christ. Then you have a whole year to strive in this area of personal growth.

Change your perspective

Choosing to be joyful is not based on circumstances, but often comes by perspective. Where we stand always determines what we see. Stand in faith and we will see the world from a different and more positive viewpoint. The Apostle Paul wrote one of his most joy-filled letters – Philippians- while chained in a jail cell. (Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. Philippians 4:8) The fact is – joy is a gift. It’s not based on what we have done or could do, but on His grace towards us. It’s based on the hope of the righteous, not the reality of the moment. We can choose joy. And, then choose it again. And again. And again.

Set your eyes on the prize

If you’re struggling to find joy in life, set your eyes on Jesus – the author and perfecter of your faith. (If indeed He is your Savior – if not choose His grace by faith now.) Set your sight on the glory to be revealed through your trials and circumstances. God will write the final chapter of your story – and He’s not finished yet! You can trust Him. Look again at the manger – Jesus, the One who existed before time began, set the stars in place, lowered Himself in the form of a baby and was placed on a feeding trough, so He may give us access (through the Cross and resurrection) to a Holy God! I can find joy in this fact! Can you?

What suggestions do you have for finding more joy at Christmas?

5 Do’s and Don’ts to Help Pastors and Ministers at Christmas and in the New Year

Yes or no buttons

I posted something similar several years ago, but decided the subject needed mentioning again. One of my goals in ministry is to help protect the ministers and their family. Through this blog I reach thousands of men and women who serve God in a vocational role. My heart is heavy when I hear from those who are drowning with burnout and whose family is suffering.

Having been on both sides of the pulpit – as a pastor and a layperson – I have a unique view of the pastorate. I am very thankful to be serving in a healthy church, which encourages my family time, but I hope to encourage those who struggle to balance family and ministry.

I also realize the size of my church helps. We have a great staff and dedicated, trained volunteers. We even have several retired ministers in our church who can help fill in when needed.

With the Christmas season here – and really thinking into the new year – I thought I would share a few things you can do and a few things not to do to support the ministers you probably love.  The reality is the December calendar is packed with activities – as they are for everyone. The difference is many times a pastor doesn’t feel the freedom to control their schedule. People in ministry have accepted a call of God to care for people. Most ministers have a hard time saying no to people and can easily become overwhelmed with the never-ending demands of their time. That’s especially true during certain times of the year.

If a minister is not careful, they will spend so much time with others their own family will feel neglected.

With that in mind, here are a few suggestions to support your pastor or minister:

DO:

  • Pray for them during the holidays (and always) – This is an especially stressful time for everyone – and it may be one of their most stressful times of the year. 
  • Let them off the hook from attending every social event. They simply can’t do everything and still be ready for Sunday, care for the rest of the church and their family.
  • Invite them to your social – without an expectation they will come. They will love knowing you thought of them and wanted to include them – that you see them as regular people who like to have fun. 
  • See if they have specific needs at the holidays. Many ministers, especially in smaller churches, have a hard time financially at Christmas.
  • Encourage them. People in ministry usually have tons of critics. Find some time to encourage them. It may be their greatest gift.

DON’T:

  • Expect them to be everywhere. It’s simply impossible – and unreasonable.
  • Show them disappointment when they can’t make your event. Don’t take it personal – it probably isn’t. It may simply be practical – they can’t be everywhere and do everything – just as you probably can’t – or shouldn’t try. 
  • Make them feel guilty when they aren’t where you want them to be . They will likely take it personal and it will weigh heavy on their heart. They wouldn’t be in ministry if they didn’t love people. And, some of them even struggle with being people-pleasers. 
  • Hold them to a higher standard than is realistic. Remember, they are simply human. 
  • Place unrealistic expectations on the minister’s family. They probably enjoy just being a family – as your family does.

Find ways to support those who have accepted God’s call to ministry. You would be amazed how a small gesture can make a difference in their life and the life of their family. Plus, you’ll be playing a part in Kingdom-building – strengthening one of God’s servants.

Pastors/Ministers, what else would you add to my list? Do you feel especially stretched this time of year?

7 Ways Satan Tries to Destroy a Church

church crowd

Be serious! Be alert! Your adversary the Devil is prowling around like a roaring lion, looking for anyone he can devour. 1 Peter 5:8

I’m not a pastor who is constantly looking for Satan behind everything which goes wrong. I concentrate my attention on Jesus and encouraging others to follow Jesus — and not to focus on the defeated one.

We are to keep “our eyes on Jesus, the source and perfecter of our faith”.

Yet, I’m fully aware Satan loves to destroy – or attempt to destroy – a church. Obviously, Satan is a limited being – and God’s church is secure. The gates of hell shall never overcome what God started. But, Satan certainly loves to disrupt the work of God’s church – and the work of those who love the church.

Here are 7 way Satan tries to destroy a church:

Church conflict.

Satan loves business meetings which get out of hand or when two church members have disagreements inside or outside of church. He loves when church members argue about trivial things, such as colors of the carpet or big things, such as whether to add another service. Worship style or pastoral authority – doesn’t matter to the evil one. Show him a potential argument and he’s willing to stir the fire – and these days he may use social media to do it. 

Staff or volunteer burnout.

Satan loves to burn out a church volunteer, staff member, or pastor. If he can make them feel they are no longer needed, their work is not appreciated, or they no longer have anything to offer – he feels he’s winning part of the battle. He loves to spread the lies of discouragement and unworthiness.

Rumor spreading.

Satan is the stirrer of dissension. He likes to plant little seeds of a juicy story, about someone in the church or community – sometimes even the pastor or staff – and watch them quickly spread. The version, of course, usually grows to a larger portion than reality. Satan likes this too. If you’re tempted to repeat something you know you shouldn’t, the enemy will make sure you find an opportunity.

Busyness.

Satan loves to distract church goers with a plethora of activity, which produce little results in Kingdom-building, but make people feel they’ve done something. He loves programs, activities, full calendars – if they keep people busy in the church, so they never have time to share the Gospel outside the church. And, he has been known to guilt people into staying busy, so they never rest and eventually burnout – then fallout altogether. 

Lies

Satan attempts to interject what is often called a “half-truth” – just a hint of false doctrine – and then watch it disrupt or divide a body. Of course, we all know half-truth is really just a cleaned up version of a bold face lie, but Satan is clever enough to disguise a lie in a way where false teachers gain entry and do damage before being discovered. The enemy also loves to condemn you, convince you you’ll never measure up, and remind you all the things you did wrong. He is not afraid to lie about God’s grace, His unconditional love, or the Spirit’s work in your heart.

Scandal

Satan loves when the church makes the news – especially if there’s a good, juicy, gossipy headline in the local paper. If it will split, divide or destroy a church body – even better. If it will destroy someone’s Kingdom calling or work – he’ll take it too. He’s striving for Christian leaders – he wants to destroy their reputation – the more people thought it was foolproof the better.

Marriage and family disruptions

Satan loves to destroy any relationship, but he also goes after key leader’s marriages – even the pastor’s marriage. He likes to encourage prodigal children – to never return home. He wants to cause families to fight within the church and fight with the church. Satan knows if he can destroy a home, he has a better chance of destroying a church.

Thankfully, there is good news:

You are from God, little children, and you have conquered them, because the One who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. 1 John 4:4

Let’s be aware – and stand strong, Church. 

What other ways have you seen Satan try to destroy a church?