Jani Ortlund: Hi, everyone – welcome! We’re so glad you’ve joined us today, this week before Christmas, oh my! Heidi and I are sitting here around her table with all of her Christmas decorations up. It looks so pretty here at the farmhouse, Heidi.
Heidi Howerton: Oh, I love Christmas! One of my favorite times of year is to bring out all the red and white and green. It brings such a cheeriness in the middle of a very dark winter season.
Jani: Yes, I wonder if our listeners know that you and Mike bought a Christmas Tree farm or at least property to build into a Christmas tree farm? Last month you planted 1,000 tiny Christmas trees.
Heidi: We did, and I can’t wait to welcome families to the farm to cut down Christmas trees, all those traditions. Christmas is a season full of sweet family traditions.
Jani: I can’t wait till we can come out and get our first Christmas tree here.
Christmas this year
Jani: Well, we want to wish our listeners today a very blessed Christmas season, don’t we? Full of the joy and wonder of God becoming man in the form of a little, baby boy born to save us. Oh, my, what a thought. Blessed Christmas to each one of you listening today, this week before Christmas.
Jani: Heidi, I wonder if you might want to share with our listeners what your Christmas is going to look like this year.
Heidi: Oh, I would love to. So every year is a little bit different because we live away from family. This year, we decided to just stay at the farmhouse in Tennessee. So we’re not traveling. Christmas Eve is always one of my very favorites. We typed up the story of Christ being born and the Wisemen later coming and the shepherds, and there are little songs interspersed in it, Jani, and we all read it as a family. As a young child, we did this with all of my extended family, so 30 people around reading the story of Christmas and singing “We three kings of Orient are; bearing gifts…”, so after you read a part of the story, then you sing the song. So even though we’re not with my extended family this year, I’m excited to do that with our kids. So we’ll do that on Christmas Eve and go to the Christmas Eve service. Then on Christmas Day we will just wake up and open presents and spend time together and make a really yummy meal that evening.
Heidi: What are you doing for Christmas, Jani?
Jani: I think I may change my plans and come spend Christmas with you! It sounds wonderful…
Heidi: …singing all the old songs. Oh, it’s so much fun!
Jani: Well, I love it. What a great idea, Heidi. Thanks for sharing that.
Jani: Our Christmas this year is going to look different than any other Christmas ever because since Ray has stepped down as lead pastor of Immanuel Church here in Nashville, he no longer has the responsibility of leading Christmas Eve services and our children have wondered if we’d come and spend Christmas with some of them. Our kids live in different places: London, California, Illinois. So, this Christmas, we’re going to drive up to Wheaton, Illinois and spend Christmas with two of our children. Krista and her husband, John, have three children. We will spend Christmas Eve and Christmas morning with them. And then Christmas afternoon we will go over to our son, Dane, who’s married to Stacey and have Christmas afternoon and evening with their five little ones. So we will get to see eight of our grandchildren.
Heidi: Oh, how fun to finally have a Christmas where you get to have a number of your grandchildren around you, and maybe even some snow.
Jani: Yes, yes, we’re really looking forward to it, so we’re grateful.
Jani: We don’t know what your Christmas will look like, dear Listener, but we want you to know that we pray for you. We ask the Lord to bless you. We thank you for listening in, and we’re grateful for all your comments as well on our website. So thank you. Merry Christmas to you.
Jani: Now, we want you to know that next week on December 25th there will not be a new episode. We hope to hear a collective sigh and groan because of course, you’d rather be listening to a podcast then have Christmas morning at your house! But on Christmas, Heidi and our staff will be taking a break to be free to devote themselves totally to the Lord and their loved ones. But we do hope you miss not having a podcast.
Heidi: We will miss you!
New Series for a New Year
Heidi: And then, Jani, the following week, two weeks from today will be the first day of 2020. We will be back with the second part of this two-part series that we are beginning today on “Living Your Life With Godly Intention and Holy Purpose.”
Heidi: This is one of my favorite lessons that we’re about to begin on how to write goals and pray through them, and how to give our lives to Christ. Oh, I just love this lesson, and Jani, I’m so excited that you decided to teach this for the coming New Year. As we think about a new year, it’s helpful to talk about writing goals for your life.
Jani: Yes, this is so important to both of us, isn’t it, Heidi? So we’ve been excited about this recording. It’s such a huge topic. We love to teach on it, don’t we?
Good Questions to Ask
Jani: We usually begin by asking some questions just to get our brains and hearts thinking. Here are some you can ask yourself today, this week before Christmas.
Jani: What dreams carry you from day today? What are you looking forward to? What are you hoping for in your future? What drives you? What thrills you, what excites you? Or as one of our pastors, Sam Allberry says, “What gets you up? What gets you down and what gets you through?” Up, down and through, those are good questions to ask yourself when you’re starting to think about setting goals for your life. What helps you decide what to say yes or no to?
Jani: Now here’s something that’s helpful to me. Think about your life five years ago, in 2015. What is different? What’s the same? Heidi, your life was different five years ago, you only had one child and one on the way.
Heidi: Yeah, I had two and one on the way. It was right before I was diagnosed with cancer. What was your life like five years ago?
Jani: It was somewhat similar to what I’m doing now (speaking, writing, teaching), but no podcast, so that was different. We had five fewer grandchildren, but it was somewhat similar. It’s good to look back and think, what was different? What was the same? What did you like about your life back then? What are you glad has changed?
…and Looking Ahead
Jani: Not only should we look back, we should also think ahead. Listener, think about your life five years from now in the year 2025. What would you like to remain the same? What would you like to change? Ask yourself, “God, where do you want me to go in my life?”
What does the Bible say about goals and resolutions?
Jani: Look up Romans 14:12 and meditate on it. It says this, “So then each of us will give an account of himself to God.” Heidi will. I will. Our husbands will. Our children will. You, dear friend, will as well. So then each of us will give an account of himself to God. So we need to think, “What would God like us to do with our lives?”
Jani: Here’s a question that I think about now: “At the end of your life, what do you want to look back on?” What would satisfy you and say that was really worth the effort and time and money I put into it? What do you want to lay before the throne of the King of Kings as you’re offering to him when you see him face to face?
Heidi: You’ve even taught us, Jani, that Jesus had a goal. Luke 19:10 says, “For the Son of Man came to seek and save the lost.”
Jani: That was a very clear goal, wasn’t it, Heidi? To seek and to save. Paul also had a life goal. He laid it out for us in 1 Corinthians 9:24-27. He saw life as a race and he wanted to run it well. Verse 27 says, “So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air.” We don’t want to be women who just are drifting along, spinning our wheels, in a sense, “beating the air”, as the Apostle Paul put it.
Jani: We are daughters of the king of the whole universe. Isaiah 32:8 says, “But he who is noble plans noble things, and on noble things he stands.” We are royalty. We’re nobility. What noble things do you want to stand on in your life this coming year?
Jani: John Piper, in his excellent book called A Godward Heart, points out that Paul prays for the Thessalonians in 2 Thessalonians 1:11, “…that God may fulfill every resolve for good.” The Thessalonians had made every resolve for good. I love that language. These are resolutions for good! It means Paul is praying over their resolutions. That’s what a life goal is. It’s a resolution to spend your life producing good fruit for Christ and his kingdom, and it is important to remember that it is only through his power that we can produce eternal fruit. Anyone is capable of doing a good deed, but it is only through God’s divine power that our good deeds can bear eternal fruit.
Heidi: I love that, Jani. It makes me think of 2 Peter 1:3:
“His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence.”2 Peter 1:3
Jani: His divine power has granted us all things. That means that nothing is missing that pertains to life. I take that to mean just my daily actions, living life and godliness, my inner life. Oh, thank you, Lord, for that promise.
Jani: King Solomon also gives us advice on making plans and setting goals. He says in Proverbs 4:26- 27,
“Ponder the path of your feet; then all your ways will be sure. Do not swerve to the right or to the left; turn your foot away from evil.”Proverbs 4:26-27
He’s saying to us, dear ladies, think about it. Stay on course, set a goal and then, by God’s grace, seek to live it out.
Heidi: I love that, Jani: the importance of setting a goal. In order to stay on course, we have to know what that course is and have a clear vision of it.
Jani: Yes. Where are we headed? Otherwise, how will we know which path to take?
Jani: Paul gives us advice, too, in Colossians 1:10. You know, Heidi, this is the verse I’m meditating on these months, “…so as to walk in a manner…”—there we have that term of walking; Solomon was talking about our feet on the path—”…so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.” Wow.
Jani: He also says in Ephesians, 5:10,”…try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord.” I love that.
Heidi: I love that, too. Sometimes I keep that in the back of my mind as I have to face different decisions, or the day goes on and we have to choose what to do. You remind me of that a lot, Jani, to try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. “Lord, what would please you in this situation?”
Jani: Yes. I love that first verb. Even as we’re thinking about setting goals, he just says, try, we don’t have to be perfect.
Heidi: Yes. Oh, I love that, Jani. That’s so good.
Jani: So we can just try, we can even fail at it. But let’s at least try to discern. It’s going to take some thinking, some praying, some discussion. That’s okay. Try to discern what is pleasing. What will bring a smile to our Savior’s face? So how do we do this? Heidi, would you read Ephesians 5:15-17?
Heidi: It says, “Look carefully then how you walk…” There it is again Jani, walking. I think of Paul when you talked earlier about running, all of these verbs of moving forward on a course. It says,
“Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.”Ephesians 5:15-17
Jani: So we have a choice as we enter into 2020: to be foolish, or to try to understand what the will of the Lord is. We ask ourselves, “What is God’s will for me? Help me to understand what your will is, Lord, please, in my own individual walk with you.”
An Assignment for you
Jani: So Heidi and I want to ask you to do something. We’re giving you an assignment the week before Christmas, can you believe it? Don’t turn it off yet until you hear what it is. We want you to think about this idea of setting life goals. We want you to pray about this idea. Maybe you thought about it or heard about it before. Maybe this is a brand new idea. Perhaps you could use that special week between Christmas and New Year’s, where you’re taking down decorations and getting ready for your New Year. Think about your long-term goals, your lifetime goals and always keep it under the umbrella of, “If God wills it…” trying to understand what the will of the Lord is for you personally, individually.
Jani: So here is your assignment for these next two weeks before now and when you listen on January 1st. Ask yourself, “What do I dream about? What drives me? What gives me excitement? What thrills me?” Ask yourself, “Why did God make me in this time in history and in this particular geographic and political setting? How does he want to use me for His kingdom purposes here and now?”
Jani: Then I want you to think and pray about your own lifetime goals. When you come to the end of your life, what do you want to be able to look back on? Discuss these with a family member or a prayer partner, and then I want you to get a piece of paper and a pen or a pencil and try to write out 5 to 10 lifetime goals.
3 Aspects of a Goal
Jani: Now, let me tell you this, a goal should be three things: it should be measurable, it should be sustainable, and it should be stimulating (in other words, it should make you salivate and should energize you).
A Goal is Measurable
Jani: For example, maybe some of you want to set a goal for exercising in the new year. I am all for exercise. I have some goals like that as well. A lifetime goal, some might say, could be to “Exercise regularly”, and we all pat ourselves on the back and say, what a great goal! But Heidi and I would have to tell you that’s an awful goal, that just stinks. Why? Because it’s not measurable to exercise regularly. That could be once a year, and you’d be regular. It could be once a month. It’s not measurable. Make sure it’s measurable.
A Goal is Sustainable
Jani: Then it also has to be sustainable. So you say, “OK, Jani, I want to exercise and I’m going to make it measurable. I want to exercise six days a week.” Now is that really sustainable in your life? Maybe it is, but I doubt it for a lifetime goal. I mean, for myself, one of my lifetime goals is to keep in shape, and I rarely can exercise more than three times a week. So three times a week is sustainable for me and any more than three times a week is not.
A Goal is Stimulating
Jani: And then it has to be stimulating or exciting. It has to make you salivate and energize you. It has to be fun! Dad Ortlund said to me once, “Make your lifetime goals fun, Jani, or you won’t want to keep them.” So I agree with him. So how could you make this exercising regularly fun and stimulating? Well, I would say, one time a week with a friend. I tried to make that a goal because I’m a people person and I’ll tend to exercise if I get to do it with a friend. Or maybe a new pair of running shoes would be very motivating, or maybe a YMCA membership. Figure out what would make it fun for you.
Jani: As you pray over these goals, as you think through them, as you discuss them, as you write them down think of these three questions: are they measurable, are they sustainable throughout my life and are they stimulating or fun? Now go ahead and give it a try.
Heidi: And we wish you a very Merry Christmas.