For 2018: To Start Well, Make a Stop Doing List

If Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year, the week before the new year is the most dishonest. It’s when resolutions are made, most with the conviction of a wet noodle in a windstorm. Gym memberships go up, gyms fill up (at least through the first two weeks of January), and all sorts of plans are made up.

Instead of making a bunch of resolutions you find either too ambitious to achieve or that you don’t really plan to keep, here’s an idea that might help.

Don’t make a list of resolutions. But do make a “stop doing” list.

What are some daily habits or regular practices you need to quit in 2018? Sometimes it’s easier to stop something than to start. For instance, I’m a notorious key-loser. I’m clinically diagnosed with ADD, after all! But last summer I stopped randomly putting my keys different places with one little thought: “When I walk in the door, I will hang my keys on the key hook by the door.” I have literally not lost my keys one single time since. I stopped choosing random and followed a plan. That likely saved me about 8-10 hours of stress looking for my keys.

What might you stop doing as a pattern in 2018? Here are some ideas:

  1. Social media and the Internet: These are great tools for life, but they can add stress as we compare ourselves to others online or develop the immature habit of knee jerk reacting to things that bug us. Some ideas: (1) Stop looking at your phone first thing in the morning. Spend time in the Word, pray, workout, do something else. (2) Stop push notifications; instead, limit how many checks a day for twitter, facebook, instagram, etc. You can be actively engaged in social media without living on your phone. (NOTE: Read 12 Ways Your Phone Is Changing You by Reinke if this is a problem). (3) Stop immediately responding online. Before you post any kind of reaction to anything you see online, wait 10 minutes. This is the social media equivalent to waiting 24 hours before a major purchase. (4) If necessary, take one day a week and stop social media totally.
  2. Spiritual Growth: Stop randomizing your walk with God. Get a plan. Stop flying by the seat of your pants spiritually and develop good spiritual habits, like a devotional plan. Think about where you might be spiritually if you stop “just having a quiet time” and instead study the Gospels to learn how Jesus related to people (for instance) so you can know him better and relate to others like he did. Is there something specific in the mornings that keeps you from a consistent time with the Lord? Stop it, whatever it is.
  3. Health and Fitness: Instead of trying to become the poster child at getripped.com (I don’t think that’s a real site), what is ONE thing you can stop doing that trainwrecks your health? Perhaps stop buying that one snack you eat too much (you are an adult, right?). You don’t have to join a gym, lift a small house, or eat kale sandwiches. Just stop one bad eating habit and stop one thing that keeps you from exercising, like waiting to the end of the day to do so. Studies show you are far more likely to work out consistently if you do so in the morning. Can’t join a gym? Go to fitnessblender.com and try some of their free, body weight only exercises. If you simply do enough to work up a decent sweat five days a week you are on your way.
  4. Your Personal Witness: Think about this–what is the primary reason that keeps you from sharing Jesus consistently? Take the rest of this year (you have 3 days, right?) to ponder this. And then, stop that one thing. If it’s fear of knowing what to say to people, stop doing nothing about it and get some help (I know this guy who wrote a book called Sharing Jesus Without Freaking Out that might help). If it’s the fact that you just don’t have many opportunities, think of one activity a week you can stop, and replace that with time to talk to people. I had to do that a few years ago. I had to stop meeting with students as much (although I love my students!) so I could have time to develop friendships with people who don’t know Christ. Perhaps you are so busy doing church stuff in the church building (I’m looking at you, pastor) you don’t have time to do some outreach. Stop one thing. The church will not cease to exist.
  5. Priorities: All this leads me to the last one. Covey was right–you don’t prioritize your schedule, you schedule your priorities. Stop, please stop, just facing life without a plan. A few years ago I stopped living this way and developed the habit of regularly (though not always) taking a little time on Sunday evenings or Monday mornings to assess the upcoming week, and to make sure the calendar I actually lived was consistent with the priorities I have. I’ve certainly not been perfect, but I’ve learned doing this cuts out a ton of wasted time, decreases stress, and helps me reflect better. I’m actually making some changes in 2018 based on a far-too-hectic-late 2017, so I’m still learning and growing here myself.

What do you need to stop? I could have also listed some darker things, like a besetting sin, unhealthy relationship, or foolish habit. But you get the idea. Stop some things to see what you can do for the glory of God.

The Remarkable Freedom of Indifference

I just finished reading one of the more thought-provoking and helpful books I’ve read in some time (and I do read a lot of books). It’s Peter Scazerro’s book The Emotionally Healthy Leader

This book reads differently from many on leadership. I highly recommend this book as an antidote to the celebrity-focused, workaholic, ministry-by-volume approach too often championed today. The response to such an attitude of workaholism is not sloth, but surrender; spending more time with God and less time just doing stuff.

Our Lord surrendered to the Father’s will, and in his three year ministry he seemed to have plenty of time to accomplish a lot and to get away for rest and refreshment in prayer and solitude. Scazerro reminds me of this balance.

There’s a section in the book I want to quote below. While the idea is simple and hardly new, the approach Scazerro offers has helped me. I still struggle with this.. I’m a recovering control freak who has recently, intentionally made some choices with outcomes as of yet beyond my control and beyond my level of comfort. The result: the Lord is taking me to the School of Indifference, taking me to the end of myself in ways that are not very comfortable but are extremely powerful. Read his words (emphasis added):

My goal in preparing my heart for planning and decision making is to remain in a state Ignatius of Loyola referred to as indifference. By indifference, he does not mean apathy or disinterest. He simply means we must become indifferent to anything but the will of God. Ignatius taught that the degree to which we are open to any outcome or answer from God is the degree to which we are ready to really hear what God has to say. If we are clutching or overly attached to one outcome versus another, we won’t hear God clearly. Our spiritual ears will be deafened by the racket of our disordered loves, fears, and attachments. In such a state, it is almost a forgone conclusion that we will confuse our will with God’s will. Ignatius considered this state of indifference to be spiritual freedom. If we are truly free, he argued, we wouldn’t worry about whether we are healthy or sick, rich or poor. It shouldn’t even matter whether we have a long life or a short one. 
We place our life in God’s hands and trust him for the outcome. Admittedly, no one wants to be sick or die young, but his point is that what we do, where we go, or who we see are determined by God’s leadings, not our external circumstances. What is more important than all these things is choosing to love and obey God out of the love he offers us and the world. Arriving at this place of interior indifference and trusting that God’s will is good —no matter the outcome —is no small task. We are attached to all kinds of secondary things —titles, positions, honors, places, persons, security, and the opinions of others. When these attachments are excessive, they become disordered attachments, or disordered loves, that push God out of the center of our life and become core to our identity.
What this means for me is that I pray for indifference so I can pray the prayer of indifference. Every day, I pray for the grace to honestly say, Father, I am indifferent to every outcome except your will. I want nothing more or less than your desire for what I do. And I pray for both daily. If I fail to engage in this necessary heart preparation —praying the prayer for indifference and the prayer of indifference —I run the risk of missing God’s voice.*
This is another way of saying when God speaks what we do next reveals what we really believe about him. In a world of comfortableness and consumerism, this can be a challenge. I’m committed to growing in indifference to any plans other than the Lord’s in the coming days. I hope you will as well.
*Peter Scazerro, The Emotionally Healthy Leader  (Zondervan, 2015), 195.

 

Pastor: Equip Your People to Share Jesus in 2018

As a bivocational pastor (in addition to my main role as a seminary prof) I know something of the demands on the time of pastors. But we would all agree that of all the things we are called to do, equipping our people to share Jesus effectively and consistently should be well up near the top of the list.

May I suggest you equip your people this year with my book Sharing Jesus Without Freaking Out? It’s designed to help believers grow in knowing Christ, understanding the gospel, and sharing Jesus in everyday co versatility’s

Here’s a quick overview of how to teach this book and to encourage your flock in sharing Jesus in 2018. The response to this book has been amazing, with scores of testimonies (including many introverts!) of believers becoming more confident in their witness. I pray you will find this a blessing to your ministry.

First, go to www.sharingJesusbook.com and become familiar with the site. There are free resources including eight training videos (1 per week), a promo video, & role-playing videos.

Next, schedule eight weeks for the training. This could be for the whole church on a Sunday or Wednesday night for eight weeks, or through small groups. Churches have done this a variety of ways. Our church did it on Sunday nights. The book is divided into eight short chapters with eight principles. The focus is encouraging in tone, showing the reader how to share Christ in everyday conversations. “Evangelism the way you were born to do it,” as the subtitle says.

The idea is that even as physical fitness takes time, growing in your witness doesn’t happen overnight. But eight weeks can make a big difference!

At the end of the book you will find an eight-week journey. This includes questions for discussion as you do a session per week. Most teach it as follows:

—Set up an eight-week teaching schedule at the best time for your people.

—Show the Promo Video prior to beginning the study.

—Get a copy of the book for every person. NOTE: If you order the book from Lifeway, any order of 20 or more drops the price at checkout to $5.00 each!

—Encourage each person to read the chapter for that week and to come ready to learn.

—Show the video from the website (with me teaching to a live audience, each about 20-25 minutes).

—Facilitate discussion based on the chapter and reading (questions in the back can help). Encourage participants to commit to the 8-Week Challenge.
Encourage testimonies weekly of participants who speak to others about Jesus.

—The last week has specific helps for developing a lifestyle of living out the gospel. Encourage participants to see the training as the starting of a lifestyle not as a box to check.

Participants can also go to www.alvinreid.com or Doc Alvin Reid’s youtube channel for more helpful information.

I’m also very excited to be giving an overview of the book in a variety of churches and at conferences this spring. Whenever I can help kick off or encourage a church I do! I have a limited number of times I can still do that this spring, so email me if interested areid@sebts.edu.

A Good News Story for You and for Children

A few days from now Michelle and I will be in Chicago celebrating Christmas with our daughter Hannah, son-in-law Corey, and our grandson Lincoln. I’m excited for all the obvious reasons, but now I’m excited for yet another one.  There’s nothing I want more for Lincoln than that he understand the beauty and glory of the gospel Story. Next week we are going to be watching a beautiful short film about that Story. Here’s the good news about this good news: you can watch it today!

My friends at Spread Truth, who brought us The Story as a fantastic tool for sharing Christ, have done it again. This time they’ve created the Storymaker, a short film about the gospel Story especially for children. It is beautiful. Watch it for yourself, but if you are involved with children at any level, please check it out. Better, watch it with them.

You can now watch the film HERE. Please help spread the word on your social media platforms, at your church, and with others. Let’s let everyone know this great Story!