Mountain Climbing

“Did you enjoy your hike?” I bet I’ve been asked that at least 50 times since returning from my most recent backpacking trip on the Appalachian Trail. My first answer is “No!” I didn’t enjoy my trip because it was a really tough hike. The definition that comes to my mind with the word enjoy is “to take delight or pleasure in.” On this last hike, I covered a section called the Roller Coaster, and I don’t think the name does it justice – especially when the region was experiencing a heat wave that made five of the eight days feel like a hot summer day in July, and the last three days were cold and windy with driving rain.

I started some years ago trying to accomplish the goal of hiking the entire 2190 miles of the Appalachian Trail one section at a time. With this last hike of 100 miles, I have made it from Springer Mountain in north Georgia to the Pennsylvania state line. When I first started, I would hike only 3 or 4 days a year, but now I’ve started trying to hike at least a week or more at a time. Unfortunately, I get older every year, and I don’t want to have to climb Mt. Katahdin in Maine with a walker.

I looked up enjoy in the dictionary and discovered that I did enjoy my hike after all. The second definition says that enjoy means “to possess and benefit from.” The fact is that hiking 100 miles on the A.T. brought me great benefit: I’m closer to accomplishing my goal, it was great exercise, I faced a tremendous challenge and won, I did a lot of praying, I met some great people, and I got to spend time with my father, who met me at the end.

I reminded myself numerous times through my hike that life is not just about having fun. It is about personal growth, victories, character, and facing challenges. It is about becoming the person God wants me to be. The fact is that we can’t become the person God wants us to be without struggle and pain. God wants to shape our character, and mountain climbing is part of the recipe for personal growth. Your mountain may come in the form of financial struggles, parenting challenges, or setbacks with your health. We’ve all got mountains to climb, and they’re all part of God’s divine plan to help us to become the person that not only He wants us to become but also the person we want to become.

Are you climbing a mountain right now? Is life kind of difficult in this current season? You’re probably in just the right place, so enjoy it.

If You Always Do What You’ve Always Done…

I just watched the University of Georgia score another touchdown against Alabama increasing their lead to 20-7. That’s the good news. The bad news is that I happen to be at a restaurant which is playing a rerun of the college football national championship game. I happen to know that Alabama came back to beat Georgia, so I don’t think the outcome of the game I’m watching today is going to change what I know to be a sad history.

Do you ever do the same old thing hoping for a new outcome? We do it all of the time. We eat the same fattening food hoping that this time we can enjoy calories without consequences. Unfortunately, it’s no different this time than it was last time. We pull out plastic to pay for something we shouldn’t buy promising to pay it all off at the end of the month. The problem is that we find that we have more month than money. That happened last month, too. We walk precariously on the pinnacle of temptation hoping that this time we can maintain our resolve and not fall into sin. Oh, well. Our resolve doesn’t seem to be any stronger this time around as it was last time.

Here’s the lesson I’ve gained by sitting here watching Alabama slowly come back on Georgia and take the lead. If you want the outcome of the game to be different, you’ve got to change the plays. What plays do you need to change in your life so that today is not a rerun of yesterday?

 

Which Way Should I Go?

How many of us have ever struggled with discerning God’s direction for our lives? I think I just saw everyone’s hand shoot into the air. I really don’t think that God has made His voice so indiscernible and will so elusive that knowing His will should be so difficult. Maybe the problem is not with God. Maybe it’s us. My church is currently involved in a fall spiritual growth emphasis, and we’re using Craig Groeschel’s book, Divine Direction, as our small group study. His book is AWESOME. It will possibly make my best book of 2018 choice. I am also preaching a short series to go along with the study. The first two messages are posted now, and the third should be up by the end of the week.

In my first message, I emphasize the fact that we are writing our life’s story every day that we live. I’ve got to confess that at times in my life, I have written a few lines carelessly. I wish I could find the delete button and re-write a few pages. While I can do that with the books I write, I can’t do that with the life I’m living. My life’s book is permanent as it’s written, and so is yours. Our challenge is to think ahead to what we want the final chapters of our lives to say. Is the chapter you are writing today going to get you to those final chapters you have envisioned? The chapter we are writing today will determine the chapters we write tomorrow because we are becoming today who we will be tomorrow. The choices and decisions we make today determine everything about our final chapters.

Stop and take a little inventory. Think ahead to what you want in that final chapter of your life. If the decisions you’re making today or the sentences being written by your current actions will not get you to your desired conclusion, you’ve got to change your story now. You can’t wait a year or two. I encourage you to consider what changes are needed now so your story has the best conclusion years from now.

 

Shake the Salt

“You are the salt of the earth.” Jesus told His followers that we have a role in our world to season and preserve. Notice that Jesus said “You are.” Influencing our world should be as natural for the believer as breathing or sleeping. So, how do you influence the world? We all have countless opportunities, but in this blog, I am going to address one area about which I am passionate.

Technology has opened a whole new world to all of us through social media, blogging, and even writing and publishing books. This thought led me to write a series of books called “The Published Pastor.” To date, I have two books in the series (Book 1 – “Expanding Your Ministry Through Writing and Publishing” and Book 2 – “How to Write and Publish Books”), and I will soon be releasing a third book on the topic of marketing Many of you who read my blogs could become a published author, and that would be one way you could be salt in our earth.

While the title of the Published Pastor series suggests these books only apply to pastors, the information is applicable to anyone who would like to write and publish. If you are a pastor, small group leader, Sunday School teacher, or Bible study leader, the books will have easy application to some of the things you do on a regular basis. You will see that I speak directly to pastors about how to turn a sermon series into a book, but the principles are easily applicable to every circumstance. Dr. Gerald Harris recently reviewed this series in the Christian Index. He said, “The book is extremely well written, extraordinarily helpful, and as practical as a Bible is to a Gospel preacher.” You can click this link to read the entire review.

In this series, I wrote to encourage Christians to use the resources availed to them through technology today to make a difference in the world. I also wanted to remove the mystery of becoming a published author and show that if you have ever considered writing a book, you can certainly do it. I originally published these as digital books and then combined books 1 & 2 into one paperback book. If $2.99 will stretch your budget right now, feel free to contact me, and I’ll send you a copy for free.

Whether you want to write books, record CD’s, paint pictures, blog, or create another product with a Christian message, I encourage you to find your avenue to make a difference in the world. Don’t keep saying that you will make a difference one day through your gifts or talents. Do it today. If you are interested in writing, I am happy to help you any way I can. Our challenge is to shake the salt, and God’s Kingdom will shine through us.

Personal Growth Plan

sapling-154734_1280Usually, by now, I have completed my personal growth goals and plans for the upcoming year. With my preparations for my mission trip to Mexico and Christmas activities (among other things0), I’m a little behind. I started writing out an annual plan for personal growth many years ago as a teenager, though back then, it was not nearly as formal and detailed. When I was a kid, my family sat around the table sometime toward the end of the year and talked about our plans for the upcoming year. We shared our goals with one another and some of our plans for accomplishing those goals. I eventually began writing these goals down and getting a little more specific with my plans. This eventually developed into my annual plan for personal growth.

I came to the realization that while growing old is automatic, growing up is not. For example, instead of being thirty-five years old, a person could be one-year-old thirty-five times. As a matter of fact, I’ve met a number of fifty plus year old people who still needed a pacifier. I have to confess that I rarely accomplish all of my goals, but because I give it a great deal of thought and write out my annual plan, I’m a lot closer to accomplishing my goals than I would be otherwise. Writing out my goals for personal growth not only helps me to know what to do to grow in six areas of my life, but it also helps me to know what NOT to do. For example, there are so many books out there to read (over a million new books are written each year), but not all of them are worth reading. I have many people suggest books to me. Some of the suggested books are excellent, while others may have been meaningful to the person, but it wouldn’t apply to my life and ministry very well. Planning my reading, which is part of my growth plan, helps me to be more intentional with what books to read. It also helps me to be more balanced in my reading.

I plan growth for six areas in my life: spiritual, family, physical, financial, leadership, and ministry. These are broad categories, and I fit a number of unique areas of growth under the various categories. For example, I want to grow as a writer, so I put that particular area of my life under “ministry.” Remember that this is a plan for personal growth. Even though I typically include various goals under each category, the idea is to create a plan that will help me to personally grow in that area. I will typically go into greater detail on general goals for various areas in a different place. For example, I have an Evernote notebook on my computer where I create detail plans and goals for my ministry through my church, my writing goals and plans, and other details of my life. A plan for personal growth is about growth. The key is to HAVE a plan for personal growth.

Under each broad category, I usually make a general statement of what I want to accomplish in that area and then make a list of books I want to read, people I want to hang out with, conferences I want to attend, or groups I want to join so that I will have personal growth in that particular area. I add some additional goals that may not fit so neatly into one of those smaller categories.

 

How do you plan to grow in 2017? Have you given it some thought? I encourage you to spend some time before the end of 2016 working on your plan for personal growth. When you finish your plan, share it with a few people in your life. When 2017 comes to a close, you may find that you didn’t accomplish everything, but you will accomplish a lot more because you have a plan. Someone once said, “He who aims at nothing hits it every time.” What will you aim at in 2017? Do you want to share some of your 2017 growth goals below?