How to Change and STAY Changed

The Resolution Solution Series:

“How to Change and STAY Changed”

Change. It’s a whole lot easier to talk about than it is to experience. We’re almost through January and that loud crash you’ve been hearing off and on, are resolutions falling to the floor. But don’t worry about it, some of our best lessons in life are the hard lessons of life.  And best of all, new starts aren’t restricted to new years.

“Because of the Lord’s great love, we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness!”  Lamentations 3:22-23.

Did you get that? God’s mercies and compassions are renewed every day. Every day is a new day and a fresh start. So, don’t focus on what you didn’t do, focus on what you can do. Don’t look at what you lost, look at what you learned. So, let’s continue to look at how we can experience lasting change. Let’s explore some resolution solutions.

Don’t Stop Dreaming.

I’m always a little shocked by the number of people who never make resolutions, who never make real concrete plans to change. Now there’s nothing magical about goal setting, but the late Zig Ziglar was right, “If you aim at nothing, you’ll hit it every time.” Ellen White put it this way:

“Remember that you will never reach a higher standard than you yourself set.”

Christs Object Lessons, 331

“Many whom God has qualified to do excellent work accomplish very little because they attempt little.”

Christ’s Object Lessons, 332

And my all- time favorite. “The Lord is disappointed when His people place a low estimate upon themselves…He is well pleased when they make the very highest demands upon Him…. They may expect large things if they have faith in His promises.”

Desire of Ages, 668

No matter how often you’ve fallen or how many resolutions you’ve broken, don’t stop striving, don’t stop dreaming. And get started again, because time’s not waiting on you. We’ll be looking at several keys to lasting change, but let’s begin with an all-important one.

Key Number One: Consistent Personal Devotion.

This is where real change begins. Before we can experience change in our homes and in our churches, we must first experience change in our own lives. This change begins with our personal time with God in prayer and study.  Ellen White put it this way in the book Sons and Daughters page 313:

“Our first duty toward God and our fellow beings is that of self- development.”

Paul says in I Timothy 4:7,8 that we must exercise ourselves to godliness or real change. Exercise. The core has been a buzz word in personal fitness circles for the last several years. Your core is that complex series of muscles, extending far beyond your abs, including everything besides your arms and legs. It is involved in almost every movement of the human body. When the core muscles are strong the rest of the body follows.

A consistent personal devotional life is the core of your spiritual body. Everything else tends to take it’s signal from that core. But it’s not easy. Our lives seem to be a blur of endless activity. From the time we get up in the morning until the time we fall asleep at night, we are on the move. We just don’t seem to have enough time to do it all.

But we have to make time to develop our spiritual core, our personal devotional lives. When is the best time for time for personal devotion? For most people, it’s probably in the morning when they are fresh, and the distractions are few. But for others, the evening hours are less hectic and more conducive to connecting with God. The best time for your personal devotion is the best time for you.

How much time should you spend in personal devotion? Again, that depends on you and your schedule. The age- old argument is whether you should focus on quantity or quality. But early on I don’t think you should obsess over quantity or quality, but consistency. Get going and keep going, that’s the goal.

Degree of difficulty?

Your personal devotional life is not like gymnastics or a diving competition. You don’t get points for the degree of difficulty or how hard the activity is. That’s where many people trip up. Make your devotional life fit your real- life schedule. That’s not compromise, that’s common sense.   

You have to set realistic goals or you won’t be successful. If your family or job or circumstances don’t allow you to invest a full hour in your personal devotion, that’s life. Do what you can do. Take 30 minutes, or 15 minutes and do it consistently.  And like physical exercise, set realistic goals. If you have not been exercising, it’s probably not a good idea to set a goal to run 5 miles a day. Those overly ambitious goals rarely last.  Same with devotion. Start small and build.  Remember the goal is not quantity or even quality, but consistency.

Next we’ll look at our second key to lasting change- Cell Membership or Community. In the meantime, don’t forget to get your copy of the eBook, “The Resolution Solution” and join me each Wednesday this month at 6:45 pm for our Facebook live series at the Madison Mission SDA church on these important keys to lasting change.

3 Things the Church Could Learn From Nick Saban!!

3 Things the Church Could Learn From Nick Saban!!

Let’s establish something from the outset. I am Not an Alabama football fan. I live in Alabama, but the only team I support outside of Oakwood University is Alabama A&M University. And yes, we do play football at Oakwood….Well, it’s intramural football, but who asked. In fact, I am still avoiding sharp objects because Monday night Alabama won their fifth national championship in 9 years. I’m in pain.

I’m not a fan of Alabama football, but I am a fan of leadership excellence. For that reason I do have deep, (begrudging) respect for the Alabama program. And it occurred to me that the church could learn a lot from coach Nick Saban.  I could list several things, but let’s look at 3 things the church could learn from the coach.

First: Everything Rises and Falls On Leadership

For some, there is a simple solution for Alabama’s football success. They win because they have always won! But not so fast. Alabama has a storied history of football excellence, but they were looking painfully pedestrian in the years following the legendary Paul “Bear” Bryant.

  • From 1997 to 2006 Alabama had more losing seasons than 10 win seasons.
  • Alabama didn’t have a single first round draft pick from 2001 to 2008.
  • The program was embarrassed by a recruiting scandal and severely sanctioned by the NCAA.
  • The season before Saban arrived the Tides record was 4 wins and 7 losses.

But my what a difference the right “leader” makes.

  • 9 straight years of being ranked Number 1 at some point in the season.
  • 18 first round draft picks and 29 All- Americans.
  • 5 National Championships in 10 years.

That is nothing short of amazing. I happen to consider collaborative, servant leadership to be the most effective leadership style for the local church. But that does not take away from the fact that without gifted leadership at the top, most churches, businesses, and organizations won’t reach their potential.

I regularly observe churches that were left for dead, now resurrected and restored because a different pastor was assigned there. It points up the need to carefully match church with pastor, but it also underscores the fact that no matter how gifted the congregation, good executive leadership is not a luxury but a necessity.

Second: Good Leaders Attract Good People

Nick Saban is a great coach but he has the reputation of being an even better recruiter.  As good as he is on the field, his reputation is even better in the living room of a potential recruit.  Steve Spurrier, himself a hall of fame college coach of Florida and South Carolina fame, said at the SEC Conference Media days in 2014 that Saban is the greatest recruiter in the history of college football. He’s probably right.

Over the last 10 years, Alabama has regularly had the number 1 or 2 top recruiting class. That’s talent. Young men want to play for him. They want to win. Good church leaders also seem to have a knack for attracting good people. At times those people unfortunately simply transfer in from other churches, but nevertheless, good church leaders are like magnets.

The reason is probably because good church leaders bring out the best in others. They recognize talent and more important, they train that talent. They realize that their success is directly related to the success of others. One criticism of Saban was that many of his best athletes failed to make the same splash in the NFL. But an NFL coach was quick to respond that those athletes had already received the best coaching that they would ever receive in their lifetimes- from Nick Saban. The coaching was all down-hill from there.

Third: Good Leaders Can Make the Hard Call

Real leaders distinguish themselves in a crisis. The most remarkable thing about the National Championship Game was our introduction to Tua Tagovailoa. This freshman phenom from Hawaii was the number one dual- threat quarterback coming out of high school in 2017. But that’s the point. He was in high school in 2017! This season he was patiently practicing behind starter Jalen Hurts, a phenomenal talent in his own right, who had a 27 and 2 record as Alabama starter.

But with the Tide down 13-0 at halftime, Saban pulled Hurts for the freshman quarterback. Initially the decision seemed ill-advised and a bit desperate, but it payed off big time.  I can just imagine the headlines if Alabama had gone on to lose that game. Saban would have been severely criticized and second guessed. But that’s the price that good leaders are willing to pay. They are prepared to make the tough calls and live with the results.

Gifted church leaders excel under pressure, under fire. Church members and boards are great at making suggestions, but often struggle at making decisions. Especially when decisions are hard. When decisions might upset people or challenge traditions. For that reason, many churches are literally dying for change. Good leaders provide principled but fearless leadership under pressure. They are sensitive to the persons involved, but they don’t shy away from the hard calls.

So, there it is. I said something positive about Alabama football. This might be the start of something……nah.

How NEW Years Help OLD Habits

How NEW Years Help OLD Habits

There is at least one thing that we all have in common. We want change. We need change. Lady Tramaine Hawkins has been my special musical guest, from time to time, when I’ve conducted summer evangelistic campaigns. She is always well received when she sings old favorites like, “Oh Happy Day” and “ Goin Up Yonder.” But the place explodes when they hear the introduction to her classic, “Changed.”

Change. There is something about most of us that wants to be better. That wants to do better. And that’s one of the powerful appeals of the month of January. The eyes of the world are focused on resolutions and change- if only for a few days. Just under 50% of Americans make resolutions each year and the resolutions are largely the same. The Nielson Company noted the top resolutions in 2015:

  • Exercise and stay fit – 37%
  • Lose weight – 32%
  • Enjoy life to its fullest – 28%
  • Spend less and save more – 25%
  • Get organized – 18%

But here’s the problem. According to Forbes, 80% of people have broken or adjusted their resolutions by Valentine’s Day. And in case you forgot, that’s in February! Now that failure rate is high compared to other surveys, but I’m not surprised.  A few years ago this month, I was going through some old sermon notes. I discovered a list of resolutions I had made in January of 1994. I shook my head when I realized that they were almost identical to the resolutions I was making roughly 20 years later!

Change isn’t easy. But the encouraging thing about the month of January is that it reminds us of what God wants to do for us. Not just in the first month of the year, but every day of our lives. The good news is that God is the eternal source of change, of fresh starts and new beginnings. He won’t leave you the way he found you!

He says in Revelation 21:5, “Behold, I make all things new!”

Jeremiah said in Lamentations 3:22 -23, “…the compassions of the Lord never fail…they are new every morning, great is the faithfulness of God.

Paul said in 2 Corinthians 5:17, “If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature, old things are passed away, behold all things are become new.”

Inside-Out Change

God is the source of genuine and lasting change.  The problem with many of our yearly resolutions is that they begin in the wrong place. There is absolutely nothing wrong with plans to do better. But real change works from inside out and not from outside in. Everything in us and around us is fighting for the status quo, for things to remain the same. “Stuck” is a bad condition but it’s a comfortable condition.  Only the power of God will ultimately break through bad habits.

Years ago, I saw a photo of a sink hole in Orlando, Florida. It was large and destructive. It was so big that cars were trapped inside the sinkhole and structures were in danger of being sucked in.  A gentleman from the Public Works department was asked to explain how something so big could have developed almost overnight. “Did a truck punch a hole in the asphalt and start the sink hole?” Did a large tree fall on the street and start the spread of the sink hole?” Those were some of the questions the spokesman was asked.

His answer was enlightening. He said the problem was not with a truck or tree. A water main had broken under the street long ago, they discovered. Slowly but surely it had eroded the foundation of the street: At a certain point the foundation was so degraded that, the spokesman said,

“Something as light as the foot of a fox could have broken through the top layer of the street. And because the foundation was destroyed, nothing could stop the sinkhole from spreading.”

Our foundation is critical. Many of us are literally “dying” for change. Old habits are destroying our health and our relationships.  Outward change is important and extremely motivating. But if we’re not focusing on our foundation in 2018, our resolutions are destined to fail. God offers the inside-out power for foundation building and lasting change.

So, join us on a life changing journey this month of January. Our focus is lasting change. This blog is the first in a series that I’ve entitled, “The Resolution Solution: Secrets to Lasting Change!” We will explore critical keys that will help us walk in God’s purpose for our lives in 2018. Each Wednesday evening at 6:30 Central I will be presenting this series in a Facebook live event from the Madison Mission Church here in Alabama. Connect with us live or join us in the rebroadcast.

I have also written a short e-book that expands on these principles that we will be studying in the blogs and on Wednesday evenings.  It’s Free!! You can get the e-book entitled, “The Resolution Solution” for free from January 1 through 8. Download it here and now.

So, are you ready to do a new thing in 2018.  Are there things you want God to for you this year? What are the biggest barriers to change? How can we pray for you?  Let us know and we’ll begin praying now.

The Resolution Solution: 3 Keys To A Supernatural Year