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calvin-hobbes-new-years-resolutions1. Cut down on your sarcasm

sarcasm-spoken-here-t-shirt-sarcastic-or-sinful-pride-humor-christian-300x300Yes I said it: sarcasm, for the most part, is not a good thing.  It builds environments of pride (even arrogance) and is a killer of vulnerability and transparency.  It also kills encouragement.  Check out this short post I did: 4 Indications that your Sarcasm Needs to be Checked.

2. Quit porn

just_say_no_to_porn_stop_looking_at_porn-150x150This one should be a no-brainer, but as many know, it’s much easier said than done.  Get Covenant Eyes on your phones, tablets, and computers.  Check out what is by far the most clicked article on my blog: Reasons to Stop Looking at Pornography…and how to do it.

3. Spend 30 minutes a day with Jesus

Isacred rhythms ruth haley barton bible reading hate giving “guarantees” when it comes to people’s walk with God, but if there’s anything I can give that’s as close to a guarantee as possible, it would be this.  Spend 30 intentional minutes a day with Jesus and it will transform your life.  I’ve been doing this since July and it has been the single-most spiritual transformative thing I have ever done.  Imagine you have 48 units of anything.  48 eggs.  48 Snicker bars.  48 dollars.  Can you give Jesus one?  You give enough to Netflix and the news and to football, yes you can give one of these daily 30 minute portions to spending intentional time with Jesus.  This is not 30 minutes of Bible reading–the problem with that is it’s all cognitive, just grinding away the mental gears.  Plus that sort of mindset is typically quite legalistic as well…I should do this, I ought to do this–No.  It’s also not Santa Clause style prayer requests…Jesus, give me this, Jesus give me that.  No, what this is is relational.  It is spending time in God’s presence.  It is taking the spiritual truths of Scripture (God is holy, you are not, but God is merciful to you!) and laying them before God–asking him if they are really true–asking him to make them second nature to you–asking him to break you with his holiness (and your depravity) and then to rebuild you in his mercy and your new identity in Christ.  It is engaging God with your heart, not simply with your mind.  There is a lot to this but if you want to go in this journey, I highly recommend the book Sacred Rhythms by Ruth Haley Barton.  Last point, you will not do this if you aren’t in covenant with other people doing this.  Being in covenant is much more than accountability.  Accountability won’t work, you need something on the line for the many days you will not feel like doing this.  Try this: find at least one other person who wants to go on this 30-minutes-a-day journey with Jesus as well and commit to checking in with each other every 7 days.  Make it your goal to do this 5 days out of a week at minimum.  Make a covenant with this other person(s) that whoever doesn’t reach their 5 day per week goal has to pay $100 to the other person(s).  This will motivate you on the days you are getting lazy!  Try this arrangement in covenant for 60 days and by then, you should have a firmly established rhythm in place.  Ground rules:  You must be alone (not reading in bed next to your spouse, not having your kids playing in the room while you read).  This is solitude time with God.  Often this means you need to get up earlier than anyone else in your house.  Light a candle.  This brings focus and intentionality to your time.  Allow the candle to be a symbol of God’s tangible presence, like you are spending time with a friend–which you are!

4. Fix your marriage by fixing your perspective

How-to-Love-Your-Spouse-When-They-Dont-Love-You-BackMake it your resolution to stop trying to fix your spouse.  Instead, repent of your entitlement and allow God to completely transform your perspective.  Do you truly believe God is holy and that you aren’t?  Do you truly believe you deserve to be separated from God for eternity (a.k.a. hell) and without the intervention of Jesus’ mercy, that’s where you would be in this moment.  If you believe these things, then live in them (and stop asking God to give you what you deserve!).  It will change you.  It will change your marriage.  It will change everything.  Read more in the recent article I wrote for Covenant Eyes’ blog: How to Love Your Spouse When They Don’t Love You Back.

at a crossroads behind the curtain ministry podcast noah filipiakRuth Haley Barton is the award winning author of 7 books and the founder of The Transforming Center.  Her book Sacred Rhythms won the Logos Book Award for Best Book Award on Spirituality and her book Invitation to Solitude and Silence won the Christianity Today Book of the Year Award for Spirituality.  In this interview, Noah Filipiak interviews Ruth about how to deal with success and failure, burnout, ego, ambition, technology, pace, false self and true self, finding who we truly are in Christ versus the facade strategies we have learned to protect ourselves, and much more.  Ruth and her Transforming Community team have extensive experience helping Christians and ministry leaders find their true self in Christ and are uniquely gifted and called to this essential work in today’s hectic, cluttered, performance-driven culture we live in.  If you’ve ever struggled with having a dry devotional time with the Lord and wondered if there was more to experience from God than you currently know, God has led you to the right person by now connecting you with Ruth Haley Barton and the Transforming Center.

I’m a relatively critical person and do not give out compliments flippantly.  No hyperbole, Ruth’s book Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership has been the most transformative book for me as a Christian and a pastor that I have ever read.  Period.  I wrote about my experience with the book here.

I highly recommend that you read up on Ruth’s books and if you connect well with them and with this podcast interview, that you consider joining a Transforming Community, a cohort of 70 people who meet in the Chicago area over a period of 2-years for 9 quarterly retreats.  I’m currently in a Transforming Community (just finished retreat 2 of 9) and I highly recommend this process as an essential training piece for ministry leaders.  I had a great seminary experience and with all due respect to higher education, I would say that a Transforming Community is the most important training a pastor or ministry leader can undertake.

Listen to the Ruth Haley Barton interview here: (or subscribe on iTunes)


Ruth’s Books Referenced in Interview:

Sacred Rhythms: Arranging Our Lives for Spiritual Transformation – This is the book Ruth recommends to start with.  Get in touch with your spiritual desire and begin to get in touch with the spiritual practices that correspond with it.  It’s not an “ought to” to do these practices, it’s how to get in touch with your spiritual desire and move toward spiritual practices that are good for your soul.  Practices covered include: solitude, silence, prayer, Sabbath keeping, discernment, establishing a set of sacred rhythms, Scripture, and honoring the body.

Invitation to Solitude and Silence: Experiencing God’s Transforming Presence – If you’re feeling drawn to solitude and silence, Ruth acts as a spiritual director here.  She takes you by the hand and walk into solitude and silence together with you as a guide.  This is a very personal book for Ruth and her journey which reflects on a period of her life of being out of control and not being transformed.  Based on the story of Elijah.

Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership: Spiritual Practices that Nourish Your Soul and Transform Your Life – Connects the dots between solitude and leadership.  A false bifurcation has developed between solitude and action as if just those “contemplative types” practice solitude and silence.  This book says no, this is the key discipline for all in Christian leadership.  How are my private spiritual disciplines fueling my public life as a leader?  Based on the story of Moses.

Life Together in Christ: Experiencing Transformation in Community – This book lays out Corporate Leadership Discernment as a spiritual practice.  It teaches how to discern God’s will together at a spiritual level; how a leadership group can discern as a community how to do the will of God.  Solitude.  It looks at the question of what is the role of community in our transformation process?  Based on Emmaeus Road story.

Other resources mentioned in the interview:

TransformingCenter.org where you will find many articles written by Ruth and her team, along with information on Transforming Communities, and much more.

The End of Absence: Reclaiming We’ve Lost in a World of Constant Connection by Michael Harris

AtACrossroads.net Weekly Bible Reading Devotional
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