Posts Tagged ‘Bible’

Progress ReportOn January 1 I listed a number of goals for 2014 categorized into the areas of body, mind and spirit. This is the same categorization I used for 2013 and it seemed to work well, so I thought I’d stay with it again this year. After two months of 2014, I want to give a progress report and share some thoughts on the plan, along with some modifications.

When setting the goals, I wrote: “I have a little apprehension about the above goals – a slight fear that cumulatively I’m not cutting back enough from 2013’s sense of overload. I will reserve the right to adjust the above goals if I find that they’re too ambitious.” Having lived the past two months with these goals in mind, I’ve concluded that a shift is needed if I am to do a couple of major things well. So my review of the original goals below will, where applicable, note changes in the plan going forward.

Part of the plan change has to do with the idea that the original goals were solely focused on me. A few days into the year my pastor preached on the subject of our goals for serving others. It dawned on me that I needed to be more specific about goals for service for others and that to do so may require reducing some of the other original goals. Also, apart from adding items about serving others, I think the first two months have proven the original list to be too ambitious, so rather than charge ahead stubbornly and wear myself out or get too frustrated, I’ll make some changes two months in to try to balance out my time.

There are some major daily things that I do that aren’t recorded in these goals because they are a part of my routine. That doesn’t lessen the time required to complete them, however, so I’m mindful of the amount of time those daily disciplines take in addition to the other goals listed.

With that intro, then, here is a progress report on my goals for the year:

BODY

  • Average at least 10,000 steps per day every week. I’m glad to say I haven’t had a single day of less than 10,000 steps since last September sometime.
  • Do a stretching routine daily. I did this daily for over a month and then have taken a break for a bit due to some back pain that I probably inflicted on myself from bad form in stretching. I’ll resume again this week and see what happens.
  • Run 365 miles for the year. Most of this running will happen in nicer weather which is not what we’ve had in Louisville, Kentucky so far this year. I’m keeping a record and will have time to achieve this once spring weather arrives.
  • Average 7.5 hours of sleep a night. I’m disappointed in my record here. I’m only averaging 6.5 hours per night – a little better than last year but not enough. That’s another sign I have too much on my plate and need to adjust because this is too important to ignore.
  • Average no more than 45 hours per week for work. Believe it or not, I’m so far successful in doing this in 2014. I can’t remember the last year I worked less than in the mid-50s per week for work. I’ve kept a daily record, though, and have kept the average so far at 43 per week. That’s good.

MIND

  • Author or co-author a book related to enterprise social networks. I made the first move in February to collaborate with a number of professionals in my line of work to write a handbook on our profession. The idea was well received and I’ll be following up later this week with others interested in being involved. I’m excited about the potential for this. It will be very time consuming, but worthwhile.
  • Write 100 blog posts. Even though the 100 figure is a lot less than either of the last two years, I’m going to reduce it effective immediately to one blog post per week instead. I’ve only written 11 posts this year, but it’s felt good to be at a less frequent schedule and to start writing for some other websites in addition to my own blog. Changing the goal to one per week with a couple of those a month being for other websites seems reasonable, especially in light of writing and/or editing one or two books this year.
  • Set up Pinterest boards and pins to coincide with my blog categories and posts. Given a lot of time, this would be fun to do, but I’m going to remove it from the list in light of being behind on more important goals. Maybe next year, Pinterest.
  • Reserve at least one hour per day for unstructured, unplanned time not related to any tasks or goals. I haven’t done this every day, but I’m also sure I’ve done it more days in each of the first two months of this year than was typical last year. That’s improvement, right?

SPIRIT

  • Finish reading The Apologetics Study Bible. This is going very well. I’m ahead of schedule on this and may cut back a bit in the number of chapters I’m reading daily for the month of March.
  • Read these three major theology books: (1) Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine by Wayne Grudem, (2) Historical Theology: An Introduction to Christian Doctrine by Gregg Allison, and (3) Theology of the Reformers by Timothy George. The first of these I’m reading is the third one listed. It’s the shortest of them all and I’m nowhere close to finished. It will probably take a vacation week of reading to help catch me up.
  • Have a daily Bible reading and devotional time. This has been a goal I would not allow to slip, so I’m glad to say this is on track. Except for one night in a power outage with no electricity, I’ve done this daily.

As mentioned above, it occurred to me early in the year that I should be more explicit in having goals in service to others. So a goal added in January beyond the list above was to spend at least two hours per week assisting with communication needs at my church – primarily social media via the church’s Facebook and Twitter accounts. I’m pleased to say that I’m working with these daily and thoroughly enjoying the opportunity to apply what I’ve learned in my line of work for the good of my church. It’s going very well and is where I find myself drifting in moments of free time because it seems like such a good fit for me. I know I’m giving more than two hours a week to it, but that’s OK.

So there you have it – my first goal update for 2014. Overall, I’m mostly pleased, although I’m behind on a couple and will permanently change or remove a couple more to make sure I have time for sleep, rest and serving others. The addition of doing social media daily for my church is a major addition not originally planned but of enormous importance to me, so I’ll adjust other things as needed to do that well.

What about you? How are you coming on your plans for 2014?

rattlesnakeSome of you may have heard about the Appalachian snake-handling pastor who died several days ago from a snake bite. Here are my thoughts on the matter…

While I applaud the exercise of faith in any professing Christian, there is a difference between exercising faith and laying down on the railroad tracks and daring a train to come by. Surely God expects us to use our brain and accumulated knowledge in matters clearly known (such as the fact that poisonous snakes can kill you) and not waste our time putting God to some magic genie test. In fact, Matthew 4 tells Jesus’ response to Satan’s temptation where Jesus was basically asked to prove himself by jumping off the pinnacle of the temple without getting hurt. Jesus replied, “Do not test the Lord your God.” So those who center their faith around such silly tests are not only misguided in their focus, but are, in fact, not following the example and command of Jesus.

Also, while it may make the heads of some of my fellow conservative Christians explode, it is thought by many biblical scholars that Mark 16:9-20 which contains the snake handling passage was not originally part of Mark’s gospel. That is why several translations either omit it completely or place it in brackets to note its uncertain origin. To center one’s faith and practice around some of the very few disputed verses in the Bible is woefully misguided.

And if the passage was considered to be authoritative and taken literally, don’t you think there would be some history of that happening in the first 1900 years of the church rather than strangely appearing in Appalachia a century ago? Here’s a clue, folks: when practices and beliefs emerge a couple thousand years after the history of the church has done otherwise, it is inevitably the new divergence that is astray and not the countless generations that came before.

If the pastor was truly a man of Christian faith – and I have no reason to believe otherwise in spite of our very different take on snake handling – then I believe he has passed from this life to an eternal one in the presence of his Lord. However, I can’t help but wonder if Jesus’ first words to him after death were “What were you thinking?”

Happy New Year 2014I set a number of goals for 2013, most of which were achieved as reported in this end-of-year progress report. After careful consideration of what worked and what didn’t last year, and after determining some directions I’d like to go in 2014, I’ve settled on the following personal goals for this year, not including those for my work. Like last year, I’m categorizing them as related to body, mind and spirit, although there are a few that might cross over to multiple areas or not necessarily fit well into any of those categories.

One thing I learned in last year’s pursuits is that some goals can become such daily habits that you no longer really need to call them out as goals and bother with tracking them. A few that are like that for me now are keeping my weight at or below 145 pounds, reviewing weekly the 100 Bible memory verses that I chose several years ago to burn into my brain and heart, and writing handwritten letters to my sons twice a year. So even though I’ll still be doing those, they won’t be recorded and reported here. I want the public goals I share to involve pursuits that add a new challenge and interest.

After feeling like I tackled too much in 2013, I’m setting some goals this year that reflect a desire to have a little more down time and rest. To do so, that time has to come from somewhere, meaning I have to do less in some areas than I did in 2013. Here, then, are my personal, non-work-related goals for 2014.

BODY

  • Average at least 10,000 steps per day every week. I’ve averaged more than that since getting my Fitbit Flex in September, but 10,000 is an easy-to-remember goal and the threshold for earning maximum rewards from the HumanaVitality program offered through my company’s health insurance plan. That’s the equivalent of five miles per day, so that’s a healthy, reachable number that takes about an hour less per week than I’ve been doing the past four months.
  • Do a stretching routine daily. I have a nice set of stretching exercises that I do before and after runs that I’ve done for years, but I feel the need to do them daily for the value they bring, whether or not I’m running.
  • Run 365 miles for the year. I haven’t run regularly for a few years. I walk a lot and occasionally jog some while out with the dog, but I want to do better at running this year. I don’t care how these miles are spaced out throughout the year. I won’t try for one mile every day. Some weeks will yield more miles than others, and that’s OK. All of these steps are included in the 10,000/day in the goal above, and actually save time since I run about twice as fast as I walk.
  • Average 7.5 hours of sleep a night. My 2013 goal for sleep was six hours per night – more than previous years, but my body is telling me I need more. This will be very difficult for me to do because the time to do this has to come from elsewhere. Tracking it accurately with the Fitbit is easy, though, and I’m determined to work at it.
  • Average no more than 45 hours per week for work. I can’t remember the last year I worked less than 50-55 hours per week on the average, so this will be a serious challenge for me. I’ll have to be better at letting some things go and at training and delegating other colleagues and volunteers to make sure all still gets done. I’m placing this goal in the body category since consistently working too many hours takes more of a toll on my body and time available for other things than it does on mind or spirit due to how much I love my work.

MIND

  • Author or co-author a book related to enterprise social networks. It’s time I wrote a book. I would like to create an e-book related to my profession because I don’t think there is enough in print to help guide others whose roles are similar to mine. The weekly Twitter chat I lead on the subject – #ESNchat – is an incredible source of information and knowledgeable contacts, so by the time I’ve led that for nearly a year in September, 2014 I should have a wealth of information to write or collaborate with others to write a very helpful guide for those that manage enterprise social networks. I’ll probably just give it away online when written to get the info out there. I’m not planning on writing it for profit. Making a positive impact on the profession and perhaps getting some conference speaking engagements as a result will be adequate reward.
  • Write 100 blog posts. For 2012, I wrote a post a day – 366 of them. In 2013 that went to one every other day. For 2014, I’ll back that down once again to one every 3-4 days. Since I’ll be writing some substantive posts for other websites in 2014, those will take more time than I typically spend on posts for my own blog. To account for that added time, I’ll write fewer posts on my this blog, although I’ll post a notice and link here to posts I write elsewhere.
  • Set up Pinterest boards and pins to coincide with my blog categories and posts. I’ve wanted to do this for a long while, so I need to make it a public goal to hold me accountable for getting it done. With over 70 categories currently on this blog, the plan is to create one Pinterest board per category and then pin all relevant blog posts to each board. Once caught up with all posts going back to this blog’s beginning in 2011, pinning new blog posts will be a part of the publication process for each post in order to keep the Pinterest boards current. I’m thinking about devoting one of my vacation weeks in 2014 for this task.
  • Reserve at least one hour per day for unstructured, unplanned time not related to any tasks or goals. This may seem like an odd goal, but it’s tied to feeling like I didn’t allow myself enough down time last year. By making a goal of giving time to not working on some goals, I’m forcing myself to have more down time and enjoy some spur-of-the-moment activity. (Of course, not having structured time is actually working on this goal, but you get the point.) I’m putting this goal in the mind category since its purpose is to give me more mental breaks.

SPIRIT

  • Finish reading The Apologetics Study Bible. I started reading it late in 2013, but still have 95% of its 2000+ pages to read in 2014. Each 1-2 years I pick a different version or study edition of the Bible to read through. This is the current one I’m working on which will be my first complete read of the version called the Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB).
  • Read these three major theology books: (1) Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine by Wayne Grudem, (2) Historical Theology: An Introduction to Christian Doctrine by Gregg Allison, and (3) Theology of the Reformers by Timothy George. All together, these three books total 2,400 pages of material that along with The Apologetics Study Bible will be a fantastic theological and apologetic emphasis for the year.
  • Have a daily Bible reading and devotional time. I’ve been too hit and miss with when I do my Bible readings and prayer. I want to develop the consistent habit of doing so daily without fail.

Some of the goals above save me time compared to similar efforts in 2013, while other new goals will, of course, require time not dedicated for those things in 2013. Cutting back my work hours to something more reasonable will go a long way toward finding the extra hours needed, as will taking advantage of the many weeks of vacation time I have or will have accumulated by the end of 2014. I also suspect the TV will need to be turned off more frequently in my man cave.

I have a little apprehension about the above goals – a slight fear that cumulatively I’m not cutting back enough from 2013’s sense of overload. I will reserve the right to adjust the above goals if I find that they’re too ambitious. I’m determined to make sure I have the free time and added sleep needed, so other things will have to go if necessary. Until then, I’ll proceed with the above goals and will report back here quarterly (not monthly as I did last year) on my progress.

What about you? What are you going to tackle this year?

Psalm 119:11There is nothing glamorous about it.  It is accomplished most often from rote memory work using basic resources.  It isn’t something you to do to impress others or show off your knowledge.  It’s easy to forget about doing.  If you forget about it for too long, much of your previous hard work goes out the window (although it can be recalled with a little effort), so you have to stay with it in order to truly benefit.

I’m talking about memorizing Bible verses.

For the small fraction of readers that made it past the previous sentence and are still reading, hear me out when I say that memorizing scripture can play a significant part in one’s daily life.  It has been a part of mine for decades, although I confess that I have let the practice slide from time to time.  Fortunately, for the past several years, I’ve been on track again.

My wife, Linda, taught a children’s Bible drill class for older elementary school children at our church for a number of years.  Those who took the process seriously still benefit from that time in their childhood devoted to this discipline.  But the practice isn’t just for little kids in church!  It’s for all people of all ages who are serious about growing in their Christian faith.

Why memorize scripture?  I like the answer from Psalm 119:11 the best: “I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.”  There are other reasons as well.  The main reasons I choose to do so are:

  • The Bible tells us to do it.  The verse quoted above is enough for me, but there are other passages such as Deuteronomy 11:18ff (although we’re not to take that one literally if doing so is for show – see Matthew 23:5).  You can find other passages about knowing and cherishing His Word.
  • Doing so helps us resist temptation.  Think of how Jesus responded to the temptations of Satan when He was fasting in the wilderness for 40 days (Matthew 4).  He always responded with quotations from the Word of God.  God won’t bring to mind in time of need Scriptures we haven’t bothered to memorize beforehand.  We have to do our part.  Unlike Jesus, I still sometimes ignore that voice and do what I please rather than what pleases God, but that’s my stubbornness at work and no fault of God.
  • Knowing the truth of the Word equips us to recognize false teaching.  I have been told that those who need to identify counterfeit currency don’t just study existing counterfeit examples; they study the real thing and get to know it so well that any counterfeit immediately jumps out at them.  There are many who claim to be teaching truth, but if what we hear is contrary to the clear teachings of Scripture, it should be rejected as false.  How will we discern truth from falsehood unless we know the real thing well?
  • It equips us for gospel conversations.  Memorizing isn’t just for our personal benefit.  If we are to be faithful to Jesus’ command to “go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation” (Mark 16:15), then we have to know what that message is.  It is best to be able to do so without reliance on any physical resources in front of us.
  • It can be used by God to bring comfort in time of need.  I make it a point not to concentrate my memory work on feel-good passages.  That seems too self-serving to me.  The 100 verses that are at the core of my memory work are selected in order to provide a well-rounded knowledge of the gospel in order to have those conversations mentioned in the previous point.  There is nothing more comforting to me than an understanding of God’s story as recorded throughout the Bible.  Still, if there are particular passages that are meaningful to you and that provide great comfort, then by all means hide them in your heart.

Which verses should you memorize? For a number of years in my young adulthood, I would pick at the start of the year 100 verses and then work on them throughout the year.  Sometimes I went with prepared packets I found at Christian bookstores.  Other times I chose passages that were most meaningful to me.  One year I picked one of my favorite Bible books – Philippians – and memorized its 104 verses.  Unfortunately, I didn’t keep reviewing those selections, so I couldn’t begin to quote them to you today without taking time to re-learn them.  You certainly have the freedom to choose as many or as few as you wish from wherever you wish.

The last several years I’ve concentrated on 100 specific verses chosen because, all together, I think they provide a well-rounded understanding of the gospel and the Christian life.  These are the same 100 I review weekly year after year.  I am less concerned with learning additional verses now than I am with learning these 100 really well and making them a part of who I am.  You can find these 100 verses here if you’re interested.  They are categorized into different sections and are quoted from the 1984 New International Version of the Bible since that is what I was using most often at the time they were chosen.  Pick a translation you like if this one doesn’t float your boat.

How do you memorize them?  Before personal computers and smart phones, I used 3×5 cards with the verse on one side and the Bible reference on the other.  About a decade ago, I started printing them on the perforated business card sheets you can find at office supply stores, again with the verse on one side and the reference on the other.  For the last few years, though, I’ve mostly used the app Remember Me on my smart phone, a great little free app available for Android, iOS and Blackberry that lets you practice in a variety of ways as well as lets you hear them read to you – good for when you’re driving or at times when you need something spiritually healthy to listen to.  I also wrote an email reminder-based course you’ll find here if you’d like a little nudge daily and some simple question-based approaches to memorizing the 100 verses mentioned above.

Regardless of the method chosen, it is still a matter primarily of drill and practice, learning a verse phrase by phrase, repeating it over and over along with the reference of where it’s found.  Spending a mere ten minutes a day is perfectly adequate for most people to easily learn 100 verses over the course of a year.  Once you learn a verse, go on to the next, but never, ever let a week pass without reviewing all the ones you’ve previously memorized or they’ll fade from memory took quickly.  Since I’ve spent several years now on the same 100 verses, it takes me about 20 minutes to quote them all given the reference, and just a few minutes to quote the references given the verse text.  I do that weekly for the 100 to keep them fresh.  Even after several years of working on the same 100, I find weekly reviews necessary.  If I neglect it for a few weeks, I inevitably miss some the next time I review.

If setting aside even a small chunk of time is an issue for you right now, then grab a few moments here and there throughout the day while you’re waiting in a line, walking to your destination, or anytime you find yourself with a couple minutes to spare.  When I take a bus to work, this is a great use of the ride.  Watch fewer commercials on TV and invest that time more wisely.  An hour-long TV show typically has at least 15 minutes of commercials, so that’s more than enough time for the day’s memory work.

You may be able to find other resources for memorizing scripture that add elements of excitement, variety or games to the process, and if that’s your thing, go for it.  I’ll stay with simple drill and practice using the Remember Me app for now.

As mentioned above, there are several reasons for being intentional about memorizing scripture.  Whatever your reason, I encourage you to do so.  Like so many others, I have found the practice to be instrumental in my daily walk with Christ and in my ability to grow as a Christian.

(Note: For a number of additional scripture memory resources, check out http://www.godresources.org/?p=scripture-memorization.)

Body Mind SpiritTo start 2013, I want to share with you my goals.  In an attempt to be fairly well-rounded in them, I have made sure to include some in the categories of body, mind and spirit.  I make them public to invite you to hold me accountable.

Goals for my body:

1. Keep my weight at or below 150 pounds.  After reaching my top weight of 167 last March, I decided in June 2012 to get back to 150 where I hovered for many years until the 2011 Thanksgiving-Christmas holidays.  I reached that goal on July 26, 2012 and am glad to say I’ve not had a day since then above 150, including the most recent holiday stretch.  I know many advise you not to weigh yourself daily, but I do it, anyway.  What I weigh each morning determines how many meals I eat that day.  It works for me.

2. Walk/jog/run a total of 10,000 steps per day three days per week.  My company, Humana, supplies pedometers to employees and encourages activity for our health with periodic campaigns, competitions and ongoing ways to earn rewards for healthy behaviors.  A reasonable goal of about five miles per day three days per week helps me do that.  So does having a dog that needs a lot of exercise.

3. Average at least six hours of sleep per night.  I know this doesn’t sound like enough, but I assure you it is more than I have averaged in many years.  Of all that I do to my body, lack of sleep is probably the worst, so I need to do much better in this regard.

Goals for my mind:

1. Read a book every other week.  In a normal year, I read many thousands of pages of information, but it’s mostly online – articles, reports, surveys, studies, blogs, etc.  I don’t read that many books in a typical year.  For 2013, I want to finish one every other week and then write a book review or blog about it in some way.

2. Blog every other day (at least).  Having achieved the every day blog goal for 2012, I’m cutting that in half for 2013, although I’m sure I’ll still have back-to-back days occasionally now that I’m in the habit (such as this week).  2013’s blog posts will be a variety of reflections on life and work like most of 2012’s, plus book reviews and other things that strike my fancy along the way.  The subheading change for the blog reflects this as now it reads “like a blog of chocolates – you never know what you’re gonna get” (obviously a take-off on the line from the movie Forrest Gump).  I won’t impose the 366-word limit per post this year, but I’ve learned the value of brevity both in forcing me as writer to be clear and in attracting readers, so I promise not to get too long-winded.

3. Continue to follow My 3 Words: Ground, Stretch, Reflect.  This is the framework with which I approached each day in 2012:  ground myself daily in that which is most important and foundational to me, stretch myself to excel and do more than others expect, then take time to reflect on the day to be sure I learn from it.  I’ll capture many of those reflections in the every-other-day posts.  The framework worked so well in 2012 that I see no need to change it for 2013.

4. Double the blog’s readership from 10,000 views in 2012 to 20,000.  While this isn’t entirely up to me, there are things I can do to be more intentional about promoting readership.  This means I’ll have to learn about the subject and do more than just post on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn when I publish a new post.

5. Continue to write hand-written letters to my sons.  It may be only once or twice for the year, but it is important to capture in black and white significant memories and thoughts to pass on to the next generation.  This goal might cross the “mind” and “spirit” categories.

Goals for my spirit:

1. Finish reading the ESV Study Bible and read half of The Apologetics Study Bible.  I’ve read the Bible cover to cover 20+ times in my life (and need to continue until it sinks in this thick skull), but the last several times have been focused on also reading all of the study notes that are part of certain study Bibles.  I’ve read the MacArthur Study Bible and The Evidence Bible in recent years, and about half of the ESV Study Bible, so I want to finish the ESV (English Standard Version) this year and get at least halfway through The Apologetics Study Bible.  Reading about 3-4 chapters per day plus the accompanying notes will do the trick, so I’ll start with five chapters per day to make sure it gets done.  If you’d like a handy half-sheet chart of all the chapters of the Bible to mark off on your own pursuit of reading it through, you’ll find one I created here.

2. Review 100 Bible memory verses weekly.  For the last several years I have worked on remembering the same 100 Bible verses that I chose years ago as my top 100 should I be stranded on some deserted island without a Bible.  You’ll find them here.  (And I’ll keep hoping for that “stranded on a deserted island” thing!)

3. Come to some resolution to an unsettled situation where I worship.  I’ll spare you the details, but tension, dissension and unhappiness don’t exactly lead to spiritual health in any body of believers.  I don’t know what the answer is, but I know the situation can’t continue as is without much damage to many.  I have many beloved friends there, and I only want what is best for all in the end.  I’ll pray for wisdom along the way.

So there you have my goals for 2013 for body, mind and spirit.  Putting them out there for the world to see helps hold me accountable.  I’ll let you know how I do along the way.

What about you?  What do you want to happen in 2013?