Dear Friends,

Why does it feel like such a long time since the beginning of this year? Is it just me, or does the return to our regular routines make life feel like we’ve suddenly snapped back into reality? Going back to a full work week and the demands of whatever we have on our plates has a way of doing that. It seems as if the New Year’s hype fizzes out like the fireworks we saw just a little more than a week ago. So I have to ask:

How do we keep our goals and resolutions when nobody is around to cheer us on?

How do we stay strong when we become distracted by life and realize that this is soooo much harder than we thought…

…or when we are several months into this year and it isn’t so new anymore?

Continuing on from Part one of this series, “Setting Goals and Reaching them in 2014”, let’s look at three reasons why (besides Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter LOL) we tend to fall short of our goals:

1)      We fail to make a plan – We think that a spontaneous intention will carry us through, but it won’t. We have a vague idea of how we want to change and grow, but we don’t know how to get there. One thing that helps me is to take a big goal for the year and do something each month to get me closer to achieving it.  You can break them down further on a weekly or even daily basis.

For instance, instead of saying “I’d like to save more money”, create a list of what you have to do to meet this goal very specifically, and how it meets you life’s purpose, as we mentioned in the last post:

Goal: I want to save $ _____ to _____ (go on a mission trip, support new church building, etc.).

Expenses I will need to cut out this month:______


Instead of “get more rest”, write a daily log, such as:

Goal: I would like to get 8 hours of sleep every night

In order to be in bed on time today, (DATE), I will need to accomplish ________ before bedtime.

2)      We forget. Seriously, when the boss demands the presentation tomorrow, or the kids get sick, or the car won’t start, we simply forget our long-term goals for the year. We didn’t write them down somewhere we could see them every day. Instead, tack a copy in front of your mirror, or put them up on sticky notes in front of your computer.

3)      We lack self-discipline. Ahhh. You knew it! You knew the dreaded D-word was coming, didn’t you?

So you may ask,

“How do I gain self-discipline?”

“I mean, how do I build a character of self-discipline that becomes a natural part of my lifestyle?”

“How do I internalize obedience and self-control as a consistent, daily habit?”

To help myself find some practical answers, I came across some tips from John MacArthur, pastor of Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, California that I hope will help.*  Here are his tips:

1)      Start small – For example, clean just one room in the house. Learn to put something up when it is out of place. Then move on to another room, then the rest of the house.

2)      Be on time – (I almost didn’t include this one, because it is a doozy for me at times, but I must) Cultivate the ability to reign your activities and the things that pull at you so that you can be where you need to be on time. Now, this may not be relevant to your goals, but doing little things like cleaning a mess and being on time will begin to cultivate an attitude of self-discipline.

3)      Take the hardest job and do it first – This will help to minimize procrastination. By doing the hardest job first, your sense of accomplishment will gain momentum. It will also nurture a sense consistency to step up to the plate when faced with other daunting tasks of life.

4)      Be grateful for correction – Accepting criticism will help you be open to what you need to avoid. Tell others what your goals are this year and allow those who care about you to be a part of your growth.

5)      Practice self-denial in simple ways – Learn how to say no to your feelings. Want a hot-fudge sundae? Even if you are thin and it won’t hurt anything, MacArthur states it isn’t about weight, necessarily. It is about cultivating self-restraint; getting into the habit of being self-disciplined.

6)      Welcome responsibility – When you have an opportunity to do something that needs to be done, volunteer for it. It forces you to organize yourself.

Well, there you have it. Three reasons why we fall short of our goals, but twice the tips to achieve them! As Christians, we cannot presume to think that any of it is our doing. It is actually a quality of the Holy Spirit within us:

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. – Galatians 5:22-23.

It is the Holy Spirit that gives us the perseverance we need to exercise this self-control, and that’s great news. It tells us that we’ve already won the battle if we focus our hearts and minds on His strength in us to overcome our weaknesses.




This is going to be one of the hardest posts to write, because it’s about a struggle that I deal with on a daily basis…time management. So here goes…I’m constantly dreaming of what I would do if I didn’t have to go to work, then I ask myself why I have to dream at all. I mean, we all have the same amount of hours in a day. Why can’t I arrange my life in such a matter of discipline so as to accomplish what I’d like in spite of the 9-5? Why can’t I just make it happen?

Yet, I’m constantly running around chasing my tail. Case in point: I am writing this post in the wee hours of the morning because I spent the day recovering and catching up from a hectic, work-loaded week. Then the weekend, (with all its chores and projects), often spills into the next week. It’s a vicious cycle.

I really want to stop the insanity. The coming of this New Year has given me a chance to reflect and look ahead. In fact, every New Year brings with it a sense of hope and potential to do things differently.

What if I fill 2014 to the fullest, using each day focused on utilizing the time I have to its greatest potential? How would I do this? I mean, we all have responsibilities that demand our time and energy. Certainly the Bible would have something to say about the “everyday-ness” of our lives, because this “everyday-ness” takes up the bulk of our lives.  I searched the scriptures on time- management, and although it never comes out and gives a top 10 list on how to be self-disciplined, it does give overriding principles about how we are to use our time.

Consider that our time is short. Moses prays:

“Teach us to number our days,  that we may gain a heart of wisdom” (Psalm 90:12).

Knowing that our time is short, let’s consider that life is to be lived intentionally, with a focus. We can’t be hap-hazard, always trying to get our act together, or we’ll get nowhere.

Here are some questions that have got me thinking about my focus in life:

  • What is the most important purpose of my life?
  • What legacy will I leave behind?
  • What am I all about
  • What would I die for?

The Apostle Paul was clear about his:

But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God. (Acts 20:24)

Paul also writes:

Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. (Ephesians 5:15-17)

Too many activates and goals lead to burnout; therefore, we must understand which goals fall in line with the focus of our lives as Christians, that is, to live out lives in obedience to Christ.

Does this mean that all of our goals must be spiritual in nature? No, (I would love to develop my interest  in cooking, have friends over more, enjoy the outdoors more, and invest more), but again, not to the detriment of the spiritual. It’s all about the greatest focus. I’m beginning to see that even the physical goals (such as weight loss and exercise) contribute to the spiritual. If I don’t get enough rest, for instance, I can’t even begin to have the energy to focus on Bible Study and prayer, on this blog, on serving and having the attitude I need to have. Also, by caring for the physical, I am making an investment that could add more years of productive ministry, not to mention that the body is a temple, where the Holy Spirit resides. (1 Corin. 6:19).

For instance, my goals for the next year are:


  • To publish my Bible Study, “An Invitation to Forgive: A Study of the Book of Philemon
  • To publish at least 1-2 more studies, (perhaps on Hebrews 12:1-3 or James 3:3-11 )
  • To begin my study of the Book of Jonah, completing at least the first 2 chapters.
  • To continue with this blog, posting at least 3-4 times a month


  • To develop a Bible-reading plan
  • To read at least 7-10 books, including authors such as Arthur Pink, J.C. Ryle, David Platt, the Puritans

Yet, in order to be effective, I need to supplement those goals with a balance of diet, rest and exercise:

  • To exercise 3 times a week
  • To get at least 7 hours of sleep
  • To replace bad food choices with healthy ones

You may have written similar goals. Now that we have a clear focus, let’s get to the hard part. What’s stopping us from reaching our goals? How do we reach the goals you and I have for the New Year?

It comes down to one word. The D-word, the word we dare not embark upon without the strength to persevere from above. Yes, I’m being dramatic, but it is true. We have to build discipline into our lives in order to implement this opportunity to live our lives to the fullest in 2014.

Let’s talk about that in the next post. It’s time for bed!