Friday, January 20, 2017

Goals 2017

A man's heart deviseth his way: but the Lord directeth his steps.  
(Proverbs 16:9 KJV)

Goal as defined by Webster’s Dictionary of 1828 is:  “The end or final purpose; the end to which a design tends, or which a person aims to reach or accomplish.[1]  Goal is a noun indicting a stopping point, as in a race or even a starting point.[2]  For the purposes of this post, I will be considering the word goal from the first sentence in this paragraph.

Word Cloud created by K. Jolly. All Rights Reserved.

We are nearing the end of the third week of this year.  The year is still fresh and new—full of possibilities.  Each New Year’s Day we receive a fresh start from God.  Of course, that is true of every day the Lord gives us, especially if we are walking in relationship with Him.

At some point in the last few years I have written about goals on this blog (please see Goals, Goals 2016).  This post is utilizing some material (with editing) from both of those posts, as well as some new thoughts.  Nevertheless, I encourage you to read what I shared the last two years; it may be helpful for you as you plan for this year.

The freshness of a new year beckons us to try new things, make changes in our lives, and accomplish a list of goals.  When we have our eyes on God, our goals should lead us ever closer to Him, rather than away from Him.  Furthermore, our goals should be healthy ones too—physically, spiritually, emotionally, and psychologically.  It is good to keep in mind that when we set goals they should be ones that do not require the cooperation of others—those goals have a high failure rate, for obvious reasons!

Many people make resolutions at the beginning of the year, abandoning them a few hours, days, or weeks later.  Why?  Perhaps the goals are far too ambitious, too vague, or require the cooperation of others.  New goals tend to require new habits to form—something that takes time and dedication to achieve.

The greatest commitment we can make as Christians is to grow and develop in a positive direction in our faith.  Taking time for silent meditation of our hearts and coming into the presence of God.  Doing this, along with dedication will help us meet the other goals we may set for ourselves.

The preparations of the heart in man, and the answer of the tongue, is from the Lord.  
(Proverbs 16:1 KJV)

It is my heart’s sincere desire that you are setting aside time in your daily schedule to commune with God and that you are growing in your relationship with Him.  God loves you so much and desires nothing more than a relationship with you.  He loves you so much, in fact, He’s crazy about you!  Keeping your eyes on the goal (prize), will help you stay focused and not get off track.  A word of caution:  be kind to yourself, realizing that some days or weeks will not be so great; things will go wrong—give yourself the grace you deserve—give yourself the grace you would give to others.  Encourage yourself over how far you have come.

Wordificator Word Art Creation by K. Jolly.  All Rights Reserved.

For the third year I have established goals for myself—these goals are fairly similar to the previous two years with a few tweaks.  For the second year, I developed two lists of goals:  general and spiritual—there is a healthy degree of overlap between the two lists, which is to be expected.  Once again, the goals are quite substantial (clearly I have learned little the last two years or I am trying to be an overachiever or punish myself).  

Even in the face of my substantial goals, I see the need for some time to simply be, to have some “margin” or “white-space” to allow God to work, and for me to rest.  (I wrote a bit more about this concept last year in my post on goals [see the link the third paragraph].)

However, I sense this year will be different.  Different in that I am using a life planner to supplement what I am already doing.  Additionally, two of my friends easily volunteered to hold me accountable to my goals.  My thoughts are to do a quick evaluation of how I am doing at the end of each month and do a more thorough evaluation quarterly (March 1, June 1, September 1, and December 1).  Perhaps evaluating how you are doing on your goals will be helpful for you as well?

Let thine eyes look right on, and let thine eyelids look straight before thee.
Ponder the path of thy feet, and let all thy ways be established.
Turn not to the right hand nor to the left: remove thy foot from evil.  
(Proverbs 4:25-27 KJV)

Discipline and accountability are key ingredients in goal setting and in achieving those goals.  The life planner has built in times to assess how I am doing with my goals; as I mentioned above, I plan to do a bit more than the life planner directs me to do, which is likely a positive idea.  

In the near future, may be even next week, I plan to share my word for the year.  In my mind, the word will guide and inform how I pursue my goals.  In my thought processes I am beginning to see how my word for the year will “make or break” how I pursue my goals or do not pursue my goals.  Moreover, it will also guide my walk with the Lord.  How is that for a “teaser”?

Setting goals, having dreams serve to give us a purpose in life.  Waking up each day with a sense of excitement, expectation, and a purpose makes it easier to get out of bed and get going on the day, especially when we are fighting against the urge to stay in bed with the cover over our heads!

My most sincere desire is that you have reserved, set aside time each day to be alone with the Lord in prayer, worship, and reading the Word.  There is no substitute for this time with the Lord.  Try making a goal to spend a certain time frame with the Lord (even write it in your planner)—keep it as you would any other appointment.  I pray that you will discover, as I have, how precious this time is and make the necessary effort to tenaciously guard it. 

Personal Photo

Personal Photo

What goals have you established to pursue this year?  Who have you asked or can you ask to hold you accountable? 

God-given goals will make an impact, not only on us but on those around us as well.  May God bless you with the drive and dedication to achieve your goals.  Be sure to encourage those around you too!

Please join with me in prayer:

Dear Lord of All, thank You for the fresh start that seems so readily apparent at the start of the year; remind us though, how each day is a fresh start and gift from You.  Although we struggle at times, we know we need to surrender our goals and the whole of our lives to You—help us to surrender.  Guide us through the discernment process of goal setting, so that our goals would be given by You for our growth and development.  Guard us from losing sight of what really matters—our relationship with You.  As always, may our greatest goal be that of being rightly related to You, having our names in the Lamb’s Book of Life, so that we can enjoy You and Heaven for all eternity.  In Jesus’ Name, we pray.  Amen.

From My Heart to Yours,


Friday, January 13, 2017

Worship Time for the New Year

O sing unto the Lord a new song; for he hath done marvellous things: his right hand, and his holy arm, hath gotten him the victory.  (Psalm 98:1 KJV)

Behold, I will do a new thing; now it shall spring forth; shall ye not know it? I will even make a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert.  
(Isaiah 43:19 KJV)

Image from Pixabay

In an effort to do something a bit different this week, I have decided to offer three worship songs to start this year off worshiping and praising the Lord. Please join me in worshiping the Lord with Michael W. Smith’s God-given musical gifts.

We know that the Lord desires our worship—may we worship Him in a worthy manner!

Michael W. Smith:  A New Halleluiah

Image from Pixabay

Michael W. Smith:  Open the Eyes of My Heart

Image from Pixabay

Michael W. Smith:  Agnus Dei

Please join with me in prayer:

Lord of All Creation, as we begin this year, we turn our hearts and minds to seek You first and to worship You in sincerity.  Nudge us to sing to You in our hearts and with our mouths; knowing You love to hear our praises, no matter how our voices sound.  As we worship You train our minds to focus on You and not on what is going on within and around us.  Free us from self-consciousness and focus exclusively on You, and not on what others are doing or may be thinking.  Thank You for this fresh start; may we seek You first and let the other tasks fall into place—with You as our first priority each and everyday, all other tasks and people will be taken care of as well.  In Jesus’ Name, we pray.  Amen.

From My Heart to Yours,


Friday, January 6, 2017


 And the Gentiles shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising.
Lift up thine eyes round about, and see: all they gather themselves together, they come to thee: thy sons shall come from far, and thy daughters shall be nursed at thy side.
 Then thou shalt see, and flow together, and thine heart shall fear, and be enlarged; because the abundance of the sea shall be converted unto thee, the forces of the Gentiles shall come unto thee.
The multitude of camels shall cover thee, the dromedaries of Midian and Ephah; all they from Sheba shall come: they shall bring gold and incense; and they shall shew forth the praises of the Lord.  
(Isaiah 60:3-6 KJV)

*Note: The majority of this post is a reformatting and editing of a sermon that I gave in January 2008.  More information is listed in the reference section.

Today is Epiphany (January 6), many churches will observe this special day on the church calendar on January 8.  Epiphany comes from the Greek word epiphania, which means manifestation or appearance.  While today, we use it to celebrate the coming of the Magi, part of its original focus was on the incarnation of Christ.  This focus acknowledges one of the names of God—Immanuel—God with us.  It was through God coming to live with us and walk among us that we could begin to understand His love for us.[1]  According to The United Methodist Book of Worship, Epiphany of the Lord predates the celebration of Christmas.  It originally focused on the nativity, the incarnation of Jesus Christ and His baptism.  Today, Epiphany celebrates the coming of the magi—the wise men—to worship the child, Jesus—the King of the Jews.[2]  

Personal photo

Like the magi, we too, should seek the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords.  In seeking we will find, and will not be disappointed.  But we do have to want it—want it beyond anything we have ever wanted before, because the journey will be rough and long and things will not always be easy.  In fact, things may get down right rough and perhaps nearly impossible due to Christ.  Within a family, the first person to be saved sometimes faces extreme persecution from his or her family members.  Satan is attacks them (and us) with everything he has, to get them (and us) to leave Christ.  If we hang in there and refuse to give up, we will learn that God is bigger and stronger than Satan and that we will be victorious through Jesus. 

The story of the wise men goes back to the time of Daniel when he lived in exile in Babylonia.  Daniel was able to influence and teach the Gentiles around him, prophecy concerning the coming Savior hundreds of years before it came to pass.  The wise men were scholars—powerful men of a priestly, kingly line.[3]  These men were familiar with royalty and the honors associated with it.   

We can learn a lot from the wise men.  For example, the wise men were persistent; they did not give up until they found who they were looking for.  How are we as individuals at persisting on, despite not finding what or who we are going after?  How often have we almost seen Jesus only to quit when He was less than a step away?  The wise men’s quest took them on a long, arduous journey—one that held a variety of risks.  They left the life they knew behind. 

Consider the wise men’s response when they found the Christ child and His mother.  First, they worshiped.  They knew they were in the presence of a very special child—a royal child.  How are we at worshiping Christ?  How are we at giving Him the time and the place He deserves in our lives?  My beloved, we are to worship Christ, this is one activity that is expected from us as Christians; our worship should benefit us greatly, as well as honor our Lord and Savior.

Second, the wise men did not stay where they were; they returned home to share their experiences with their fellow citizens.  And what an experience and story they had to share!  We, too, have an experience to share and a story to tell; perhaps the experience is not as intense or as life changing as the magi experienced but it is important, nevertheless.  Like the magi, we are to go out and share Christ in the greater world.  It is staggering to realize just how many of those around us have never heard of Christ and His love for them and all that He did for them.  Maybe, we should take the story of the wise men more seriously than we do?  The wise really do seek Him and in seeking they find.  And in finding, they are changed.  This change inspires them to go out and share with others, so that they too can be changed.  The thought of people not being churched should call us to action.  There is much to do!  Many people—people right around us are seeking Christ—they need us to point the way to Him.    

Photo Credit: P. Whitlach

For some reason, Christ’s birth surprised the religious leaders and scholars—the way He was born made it hard, perhaps impossible for them to accept Him.  They were caught off guard, because He came in among those on the margins, pheasants, shepherds—instead of coming into a palace or the temple.  He did not come into an easy life but a difficult one.[4]  In this way, He was better able to relate to our struggles, our hurts, our pains.  I would not want a Savior that could not relate to me and the struggles that I face.  What about you?  I know that I find great comfort when I acknowledge that Jesus knows what it is like to have physical pain, to be rejected, to be abused, to be disowned by family and friends, to not be understood, to be mocked, etc.  I know that Jesus has experienced the totality of life; therefore, I have a friend who can truly empathize with my struggles and experiences.  Thanks be to God!        

Now, Scripture does not tell us if there really were three kings (or magi) or if there were more or less.  The number three is assumed because of the three gifts:  gold, frankincense, and myrrh—which acknowledged Jesus’ roles.  Gold—symbolizes His kingship.  Frankincense—symbolizes His priestly ministry.  Myrrh—symbolizes our redemption through His death.  The important thing to consider on this day is that they—the magi—came and worshiped the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords who revealed Himself.  These Gentiles realized that God had revealed Himself and come to earth, yet I doubt they realized the full import of this event.[5]  Amazing!  Simply, amazing—the Creator of the heavens and earth and of everything in it came to earth to live among His creation.  We truly have an awesome, loving God! 

What Scripture does reveal to us is this: the magi knew that a King—a King of the Jews was to be born and they were following His star, so that they could worship Him.  Moreover, the magi were Gentiles—this tells us that Jesus was to be not only for the Jewish people but for Gentiles as well.  The magi came from the east—Medio-Persia (in the area of modern day Iran).  How are we at following the star, following the path to Jesus?  In many ways, it should be easier for us; we have more history and the totality of Scripture in the Old and New Testaments to guide us.  Yet, many times, I am afraid that we are blind and miss it, not unlike the Jews missed the birth of Christ.  Christ, now as then, comes in unexpected ways and in unexpected wrappings.  The Jews missed Him because they were expecting a political Messiah and coming that is in line with Jesus’ second coming.  They missed how He was to come the first time, despite what prophets, such as Isaiah had prophesied.  The Jews wanted earthly freedom—freedom from oppression and dominion—never realizing that their true need was for redemption and an eternal freedom that only a Savior who could be a suffering servant could provide.  We miss it too!

Personal Photo

Today, I encourage you to take some time to reflect on how Jesus has revealed Himself to you in the last year.  Jesus, if we take the time to reflect, I believe that we will find Jesus revealing Himself to us in both the good and the bad.  We serve a visible, living God; a God that is beyond any adjective we can place on Him.  He reveals Himself to us in so many ways—ways that many times we do not notice or maybe ignore because they are so common place.  Despite how difficult it is to see and understand our Savior reveals Himself in the most difficult times and or places of our lives.  Yes, it is hard to see Him at the time but I want to assure you that He is there.  He is there holding you.  He is the one who keeps you from falling.  It seems to be that when we are at our weakest is when He is at His strongest in our lives.  Seek our Savior and His activity in your life; you may be surprised at what you find.

Scripture tells us to seek the Lord while He may be found (Isaiah 55:6-7) and if we seek we will find (Matt. 7:7).  Indeed we are to thirst after God like a deer pants after streams of water (Psalm 42).  May our souls long and thirst after the living God.

May we all follow the example of the Wise Men and seek Christ with all of our heart and may we encourage others to seek Christ too.  Seek Christ with your whole heart!  He will be found and your life will never, ever be the same again!

How have you seen Jesus manifested in your life this week?

Please join with me in prayer:

Dear Heavenly Father, as we start a New Year, we look to you for guidance.  Open our spiritual eyes to the multitude of ways You guide us.  Open our eyes and help us to see Jesus in our daily lives and especially in the dark, difficult times.  May we like the wise men not stay where we are, but go out and share Jesus with those who live and work all around us.  Thank You for sending Jesus to save us from our sins and to walk among us.  In Jesus’ name, we pray.  Amen. 

From My Heart to Yours,


[1] This post is based on a prayer sheet from January 2007 and one of my sermons The Wise Still Seek Him (January 6, 2008).
[2] The United Methodist Book of Worship (p. 295).  The United Methodist Publishing House, 1992.
[3] From Neil Montz, Late Birds Lectionary study and other studies.
[4] From The Upper Room Disciplines 2000:A Book of Devotions Jan. 6, 2000.
[5] More information from Neil, Late Birds and other studies