How to Set Godly Goals

Reading Time: 9 minutes

We all want to be productive, but New Year’s resolutions can be so empty and often pointless. We have good intentions, but our vague ‘good ideas’ on how we need to be better in the new year often bring us nowhere. So as believers, how should we grow and challenge ourselves?

godly goal setting

I stopped making New Year’s resolutions a while ago because I never keep them.  Why start something I going to abandon in a week, right?

Instead of making a resolution, I started thinking about where God is calling me to go and who God is calling me to become.  When you start asking that question, the answers are humbling and challenging.

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Healthy Judging?

Reading Time: 6 minutesIt’s been said to me, and I’ve said it to others: “If you have nothing good to say, don’t say anything at all.”  It would appear that judging is not a good idea.  While I would generally agree, we may be ignoring some of the most humbling words of Jesus.  If judging is never appropriate, how do we distinguish between right and wrong?  Within a biblical world view, healthy judging is not only an option, but a requirement for Christian maturity.

Our biggest hurdle is probably the verb “to judge.”  Our culture has defined the term negatively, by where no good can come out of such an activity…unless, by good, you mean watching someone “get what they deserve.”  In any case, the definition isn’t exactly a Christian one.

Jesus simply said: “Judge not, that you be not judged” (Matthew 7:1).  The Greek word for judge (krino) implies “to pass harsh judgement.”1 John Stott used the word “censoriousness” and defined it this way:

“The censorious critic is a fault-finder who is negative and destructive towards other people and enjoys actively seeking out their failings. He puts the worst possible construction on their motives, pours cold water on their schemes and is ungenerous towards their mistakes.”2

The word “judge” doesn’t refer to our critical thinking, but to our harsh and destructive words and actions towards others.  Our critical thinking helps us, and others, mature in the faith.

Why harsh judgement is a problem

Our harsh judgement is really a form of self-medication to our faults – we can feel better about ourselves, if we tear someone else down with us.  Jesus made the repercussions very clear:

“…with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you.”3

Others will judge us in the same way we judge them, and God will judge us by the way we judge others.

Understanding our brokenness is the key.  If we stop to realize that we are all broken and in need of God, our judgment of others will naturally become more gracious.

If we realize we are all broken, our judgment of others will naturally become more gracious. Click To Tweet

What Jesus noticed about judging

Jesus used a very visual analogy:

Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye?”4

We’re clearly broken and have issues in our lives that should keep us humble.  Unfortunately, however, we tend to do three things:

  1. We often ignore our own brokenness (the log).

Just because we’re saved by grace, doesn’t mean we’re perfect.  If anything, we have simply come to the realization of how imperfect we actually are.

  1. We willingly see, even the smallest, issue in others (the speck).

We tend to quickly notice the imperfections of others.  In fact, sometimes we actually look for issues and can’t wait to find something.

  1. We are often taking notice of our own brokenness in those around us.

Subconsciously we may notice our brokenness in others so that we feel better about ourselves.  We might even use that information to improve our spiritual appearance and degrade the appearance of others.

Being saved by grace means we have come to the realization of how imperfect we actually are. Click To Tweet

Becoming a Mature Brother/Sister…

Jesus continued:

You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.”5

To avoid hypocrisy and become a mature brother/sister to those around us, we have to deal with the brokenness in our own lives first.  After we realize God’s grace and resulting humility, we are able to help others with their brokenness.

With that said, the goal is never to become a “humble corrector in the Lord.” On the contrary, the process of dealing with the brokenness in our own lives will naturally lend itself to the journey of discipleship and Christian maturity.  And then, in humility, “iron sharpens iron, and one person sharpens another” (Proverbs 27:17).

Dealing with the brokenness in our own lives will naturally lend itself to the journey of discipleship. Click To Tweet

But sometimes people aren’t ready…

Let’s face it, not everyone is ready to let receive words of love and mature discipleship.  In this context, we read verse 6 as a warning to believers:

“Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you.”6

Dogs and pigs were known to be unclean.  This is not to say that we avoid bringing the truth of the Gospel to those who need to hear it.  It’s simply a warning not to present the truth, especially in terms of correction (as seen in verse 5), to those who are not ready for it.  They could respond with rage like pigs would respond after being tricked into thinking the pearls were food.7  So we must use discernment.

I wish I could say I’ve done this well, but it’s been a growing experience on many levels.  But isn’t that part of our journey towards Christian maturity?

Your turn…

In great humility, we have to ask ourselves: what is in my eye?

If we ask that question honestly, it will remind ourselves of our brokenness, God’s grace and how much grace and love we have to use when we help those who are also broken.

References   [ + ]

5 Resurrection Responses

Reading Time: 7 minutesJesus’ death has been recorded by many, but the resurrection of Jesus is ultimately founded in faith.  Where does that leave us?  It leaves us responding to a truth that is only seen through faith.  The good news is, there are five examples in scripture of how early followers responded and we can learn from them.  The question is: how will you respond to the resurrection of Jesus?


Five Resurrection Responses

1. Mary Magdalene
Mary Magdalene was healed from seven demons early in Jesus’ ministry.  She, along with other women, simply followed him in return (Lk 8:1-3).  After Jesus’ burial, Mary went to bring spices for the body only to find an empty tomb.  Angels told her of what had happened and scripture records her emotional and passionate response.1

What’s of most significance is the account found in John’s gospel (Jn 20:11-18). While experiencing the empty tomb, she turns and speaks to (who she thinks is) a gardener.  But once he spoke her name – “Mary,” she immediately knew his voice and her simple faith was solidified.

2. Guards and Jewish Leaders
The second response is very different.  After Jesus’ body was put in the tomb, guards were ordered to seal the tomb and stand guard (Mt 27:66).  Scripture tells us that the guards witnessed the angels; and, because of fear, acted like they were dead (Matthew 28:4).  They knew there were major military consequences, so perhaps they avoided them by going to the chief priests first.2

The response of the Jewish leaders should grab our attention.  Let’s be honest, the priests knew angels were real, they knew the supernatural was possible, and because of their previous action, they knew, more than ever before, they had to cover it up.  So they made a deal with the guards, and paid them to tell everyone that “[Jesus’] disciples stole the body.”  In return, the priests promised to keep them safe from military consequence.

To this day, Jews still believe that Jesus wasn’t the Messiah, and scripture confirms that (Mt 28:15)

3. Two Followers
Two followers of Jesus (outside the eleven disciples) were walking and Jesus appeared with them but they didn’t know it was Jesus.  They explained to him what had happened and why they were upset.  Even after Jesus rebukes them with scripture, it wasn’t until they stopped for the day, and Jesus broke bread with them, that they realized it was Jesus.  It took a “familiar experience” to believe it was actually Jesus (Luke 24:13-35).

4. The Disciples (the eleven)
It’s no secret that the disciples didn’t understand what kind of Messiah Jesus was.  They were often confused, misunderstood what Jesus was saying, and probably thought His death was the end of their relationship.3  It makes sense. I would have probably felt the same way.

What’s interesting, is that the people who probably knew Jesus the most, required the most to believe in His resurrection.  Jesus appeared before them through a locked door, but until they saw this scars and ate with him, they only perceived him as a “spirit” and were terrified (Luke 24:37).  But after their physical encounter, “the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord.”4

5. Thomas
Apparently Thomas wasn’t present when Jesus appeared to the rest of the disciples.  While they shared their testimony, Thomas wouldn’t believe unless he too experienced such a physical encounter.  After spending eight days in “belief limbo”, Jesus again appeared through a locked door and Thomas (known by many as “doubting Thomas”) had the opportunity to physically witness the scars of Jesus.  He believed, but Jesus said, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.”5

The Purpose

It would be fair to ask: why are these responses recorded? Were there other responses?  John explained it this way:

30 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.6

The ultimate purpose is so that all would come to know and believe who Jesus is.  And through that belief, realize that He is the son of God and Saviour of the world.

Proof of The Resurrection

Through these responses, we can also surmise proof of the resurrection and realize its authenticity.  Here are four points that can be found in the book The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus:7

1. Faithful eyewitnesses.
The Apostles (Jesus’ disciples) and early followers believed in the message so much that they died for their faith.  While these responses include some doubt, their final understanding was so real they were willing to put their lives at risk to spread the message.

2. Skeptics drastically transformed.
Thomas (from doubter to believer), Paul (from persecutor to author), and James (from unbeliever to leader) – they all suffered and died for their faith.  If the resurrection wasn’t authentic, why would such drastic change take place?

3. Reaction of the enemy.
They realised the tomb was empty, so they quickly put the blame on the disciples.  If the disciples did, in fact, steal Jesus’ body, why would they let their friends, family and themselves die for a lie?  The other rebuttal is that Jesus didn’t die in first place.  This can’t be true, because the condition of his body (from the suffering and beating alone) would have made him immobile, to say the least.

4. Women were the first witnesses.
I’m certainly not a sexist by any means; however, the first-century culture saw things differently.  The social gap between men and women was wide and women were low on the social scale.8  The simple fact that women are seen as the first witnesses would have been embarrassing and thus speaks to the authentic and faithful account of the gospel.

Our Response to the Resurrection

So, how will we respond 2000 years later?  How do we relate to these five biblical responses to the resurrection?

Do we have simple faith like Mary Magdalene?
Do we ignore faith like the priests and spread lies (cover up) like the guards in an effort to save our reputation?
Do we have blind faith like the two followers of Jesus who couldn’t see Him standing right next to them, but instead needed a “familiar experience?”
Do we have a physical faith like the disciples and need to see Jesus in action before we believe?
Do we have a doubting faith like Thomas who, even with the testimony of this close friends, still needed a physical encounter in order to believe?

Your turn…

Out of the five responses, who can you relate to the most?

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References   [ + ]

The Fellowship – The Early Church (Part 4)

Reading Time: 6 minutesA devoted church, is a church in fellowship together.  In this series, we’ll explore what Jesus said, what the early church did, and how we, the church, can become more devoted.

What JESUS said about fellowship…
Jesus declared that he would build his church on the rock that Peter stood on – the faithful ones who believed and followed him…

“[Jesus asked], But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon, Son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.  And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it…”[i]

Jesus spoke of building his CHURCH.  He used the Greek word ecclesia, meaning “the called out ones.”  Therefore, the Church consists of those who are called out to believe and follow in faith.  Jesus is calling all of us[ii], and so those who choose to believe and follow become the Church that Jesus is building.

Jesus even prayed for those who would believe in the future.  Jesus prayed, “I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message…”  But he didn’t stop there, Jesus prayed that through UNITY and LOVE, others would and will know that He indeed was the Son of God.[iii]

The Church, as Jesus taught, is a group of believers who not only follow in His footsteps, but also bond together in unity and love so that others would believe and follow as well.  For Jesus, the Church is about being in fellowship together.


What the EARLY CHURCH did…
The early church devoted themselves to the fellowship.[iv]  The fellowship was who they were.  The early church made up a group of believers, following after Christ’s example who gathered together in unity and love.  Paul wrote of this when talking to the church in Ephesus:

“For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.  So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord.  In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.”[v]

Because of their common belief, values and connection with God, the members of the Church became uniquely connected.  With Christ as their cornerstone, they were joined together by the Spirit to become a dwelling place for God.  As a result, the early Church devoted themselves to developing this fellowship with one another.

Check out this interesting picture of the early Christian life…

“The Christians are distinguished from other men neither by country, nor language, nor the customs which they observe.  They display to us, nevertheless, a wonderful and confessedly striking method of life.  They dwell in their own countries, but simply as sojourners.  As citizens, they share all things with others, and yet endure all things as if foreigners. Every foreign land is to them as their native country, and every land of their birth as a land of strangers.  They are in the flesh, but they do not live after the flesh.  They pass their days on earth, but they are citizens of heaven.  They obey the prescribed laws, and at the same time surpass the laws by their lives.  They love all men, and are persecuted by all. They are insulted, and repay the insult with honor.  They do good, yet are punished as evil-doers…”[vi]

No doubt this is an optimistic picture of early Christian life; however, it certainly gives a clear picture of what was expected of early Christians.


Early Pentecostals really embraced the idea of being a part of a spiritual family.  A Pentecostal believer wasn’t simply a part of an assembly; rather, they were a part of a family – and they were devoted to making sure everyone felt a part of it.

One of the ways Pentecostals create a family atmosphere, is by calling each other “brother” or “sister”.  No matter ones leadership role, age, or spiritual maturity, this prefix is used to bring everyone together.  This was especially true among early Pentecostals, and it brought a sense of community to believers.

Moreover, the Pentecostal view of fellowship can be seen in their view and understanding of God.  Steven Land labels this understanding as Eschatological Trinitarian Fellowship.[vii]  Let’s break that down.  Their fellowship is eschatological (meaning “focused on Christ’s return”) because they believe they are a part of the body of Christ and their work, as a fellowship, is directly involved in preparing for the return of Christ.  Their fellowship is Trinitarian (meaning “God in three persons: Father, Son & Spirit) because they believe they are in a relationship with the Father, as the body of Christ (Son), while living in the Spirit.  As a result, Pentecostals are driven by the fact that Christ is returning, to be a part of a fellowship based on a godly relationship with the Father, through the Son and in the Spirit.


What the CHURCH TODAY needs to do…
Jesus, the early church, and early Pentecostals gave a lot of attention towards being a fellowship.  A believer was not only a believer personally with God, but also in community with God and each other.  As a result, believers become united together in faith, belief, finance, community, and relationship.

In our culture, however, tradition often outweighs biblical support.  The question Christians need to ask today is this: will we base our fellowship on scripture or culture?  This is especially true for our public gatherings.  If we based our gatherings (services, socials, etc…) on scripture, not culture, would our meetings look like they do today?

Perhaps we should re-evaluate the way we conduct ourselves as a fellowship.  Maybe we need to regain what has been lost, and remove what has been added without warrant.  In either case, we need to be a people who are eager to be a part of the fellowship!


[i] Matthew 16:15-18, ESV.

[ii] 1 Timothy 2:3-4.

[iii] John 17:20-23, 26.

[iv] Acts 2:42

[v] Ephesians 2:18-22.

[vi] Henry Sheldon, History of the Christian Church The Early Church, vol. 1 (Peabody: Hendrickson Publishers, 1988), 293.

[vii] Steven Jack Land, Pentecostal Spirituality (Cleveland: CPT Press, 2010), 205-206.

Living to Learn – The Early Church (Part 3)

Reading Time: 6 minutesA devoted church, is a church who is willing to learn and teach.  In this series, we’ll explore what Jesus said, what the early church did, and how we, the church, can become more devoted.

There are two kinds of people involved in learning – someone who is receiving information, and someone who is giving information.  Quite often we call these people the mentoree and the mentor.

What JESUS said about learning…

Jesus did a lot of teaching throughout his ministry; however, sometimes we forget to study his life before his ministry started.  Luke is the only gospel writer who gave us a picture of his early childhood.

…the child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom.  And the favor of God was upon him.  Now his parents went to Jerusalem every year at the Feast of the Passover.  And when  he was twelve years old, they went up according to custom.  And when the feast ended, as they were returning, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem.  His parents did not know it, but supposing him to be in the group they went a day’s journey, but then they began to search for him among their relatives and acquaintances, and when they did not find him, they returned to Jerusalem, searching for him.  After three days, they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking questions.  And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers.  And when his parents saw him, they were astonished.  And he said to them, ‘Why were we looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?’ And they did not understand the saying that he spoke to them.  And he went down with them and came to Nazareth and was submissive to them.  And his mother treasured up all these things in her heart.  And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man.[i]

There are a number of things Luke wants us to see here.  First, there is a human side to Jesus.  He was a man who grew.  He didn’t just appear; he was a child who grew into the person he needed to become.

Second, Luke uses the catch-phrase, “he grew” to isolate how Jesus grew.  Verses 40 and 52 mark the beginning and end of the story.  Jesus grew by Luke calling him a child to being called Jesus, from being filled with wisdom to increasing in wisdom, and from being in favor with God to being in favor with God and man.[ii]

Third, it’s interesting to note how Jesus was submissive to his parents.  As a child, it seems as though Jesus knew he was the Son of God.  He said, “did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?”[iii]  When his parents came for him, however, he submitted himself to their leadership.  He knew, that at this place in his life, it was important to obey his earthly parents.

Jesus was a human who grew in size, maturity, wisdom and in favor with God and man.  Even though his heavenly Father had future plans for him, he remained faithful to the leadership of his earthly parents.  He was willing to learn; he was both a mentoree and mentor.

What the EARLY CHURCH did…

The early church was devoted to the apostles’ teaching.[iv]  Peter described this devotion as craving after spiritual milk just as a newborn baby craves it’s milk.[v]  He seemed to understand spiritual growth and spiritual learning in terms of a natural hunger.  A baby doesn’t have to think about wanting their milk – they just want it.  The early church understood spiritual growth as a natural desire to want to grow.

Learning took place in a number of ways.  Being an oral culture, they listened to teaching, memorized scripture, and were often involved in intense discipleship.  They even learned from the generations before them.  One author makes this connection when studying early Christian occupations.  Early Christians followed in their father’s footsteps and chose humble, honest and hard working jobs (ie. tent-making, fishermen, or carpenters)  because “God hates the slothful.”[vi]   The early Church had a natural desire to learn and teach.


Early Pentecostals believed in a spiritual journey of learning and experience.  Steven Land explains this in a sort of divine participation.  They experienced three foundational experiences: (1) new birth (justification); (2) spiritual growth (sanctification); and, (3) empowerment (Spirit Baptism).  They didn’t just experience these three aspects of their spiritual journey, they experienced “life as part of a biblical drama of participation in God’s history.”[vii]  Their desire to learn and teach each other was based on a desire to participate in God’s activity among them.

Early Pentecostal pastors also relied on the Spirit for their learning needs.  In relation to what we know today, they relied less on “academic learning” and more on “Spirit learning.”  Because they understood the Spirit to be very active among them, the Spirit gave them the instruction they needed.  Whether it was a lack of resources, or if they truly believed the spirited provided what they needed, early Pentecostal pastors had a desire to learn and relied more on the Spirit than academic education to do so.

What the CHURCH TODAY needs to do…

We need to be people who both learn and teach.  If we do so, we’ll bring unity, purpose, confidence and humility to our assemblies.  Learning and experiencing life together brings unity to the body of Christ.  Likewise, when the body gathers together, we share in each other’s gifts.  As we do so, we bring purpose to what God has uniquely gifted us with.  Learning and teaching also aids in confidence and humility.  If we’re able to teach and share something with others, it builds confidence in how God can use us.  On the other hand, if we’re willing to learn from others, it allows us to stay humble.  A growing and devoted church, is a church who is willing to learn and teach; including mentorees and those who mentor.

Along the way, academic and spiritual learning both play a part.  God helps us understand scripture and his will by speaking to us through the Spirit.  On the other hand, academic learning helps us set a frame work, ensuring our emotion doesn’t take us off course.   Pastors should be educated to think and defend theology while encouraged to have a relationship with God leading to vision and passion.

We need to be a people who are eager to learn and teach!

Will we be as devoted as the early Church was to learning and teaching?

[i] Luke 2:40-52, ESV.

[ii]Comparison of Luke 2:40 & 2:52.

[iii] Luke 2:49b.

[iv] Acts 2:42.

[v] 1 Peter 2:1-2.

[vi] Henry Sheldon, History of the Christian Church: The Early Church, vol. 1 (Peabody: Hendrickson, 1988), 304.

[vii] Steven Jack Land, Pentecostal Spirituality (Cleveland: CPT Press, 2010), 67, 75, 82, 84.