Living on the Plus Side of the Ledger…


imagesThis is a blog about living without debt, but has nothing to do with your financial decisions.  Rather this is summary of the greatest story ever told; a story about how to have a fulfilling and effectual relationship with God.  But, I’m going to warn you right up front, if you are a fan of religion and religious ritual, read no further because chances are I’m going to make you angry.  Naturally a discussion about your relationship with God will take more than a thousand words, but I’ll do my best to give you the salient points and then you, my friends, can decide for yourself!

So, here goes…  Anything that you do for God that you really, really don’t want to do will ultimately be based upon fear.  All kinds of things are said and done in the name of God are not only nutso and illogical, but are often far removed from the things God says actually please Him.  Forced obedience is not obedience, no more so than when your kids do what you tell them because they are afraid of what you will do to them if they don’t do it.  And if you are honest, when you follow some commandment or refuse to partake in an activity because you fear negative consequences with God, you are acting out of fear.  I’m pretty sure that you want your children to do what you say because they love and you and trust you, not because they are afraid of you.  Well, God is no different!  Add to that a society that has ever-changing rules regarding what is a sin and what isn’t, we are left with a real conundrum.  But God is smarter than that…

This may surprise you, but God is well aware of the human condition.  He knows how evil works and He’s well aware of the pitfalls that follow bad decisions.  And, in the world of “anything goes”  bad decisions still remain.  Thus in His infinite (and I don’t throw that word around haphazardly) wisdom, He came up with a grand solution.  For those of us that choose to believe, He did away with the sin problem once and for all.  He knew we would never live up to His Word on our own.  The first man, Adam, the prototype didn’t, so why would He expect that we would be any different.  Yet how many of us think otherwise?  How many of us do all kinds of shenanigans to “make” ourselves right with God.  And have you enjoyed much success playing that game?  For every good deed we do, we inadvertently do two things wrong.  And even the good things we think we do often present with another layer of how we could have done better and on that dastardly game goes.  Have you ever noticed how angry and judgmental religious people are?  Have a little compassion on them, that’s a tough, tough game they are playing!  Instead God masterfully devised the ultimate solution.  He sent His son as the Savior from sin.  Jesus Christ with all that wonderful freedom of will you and I have (minus sin in his blood), decided to walk and live God’s Word perfectly.  Then after suffering the worst torture any human has endured, died, paying once and for all the price for everything that was ever wrong with you and me!  He became sin for us so that if we chose to believe in him and that God raised him from the dead, we would be forevermore righteous in God’s sight!  Now think about that for a moment.  Once you accept Jesus Christ as your Lord and believe God raised him from the dead, you are forevermore righteous in God’s sight.  And in being made righteous by God Himself, never, ever have to fear again coming up short in His sight.  That’s true freedom folks…but, it gets better.

Being now made free by God, you are now 100% free to choose how you live your life.  Stay with me now!  You simply cannot sin in God’s sight.  You cannot.  Because you behave so well?  Of course not!  Rather, because you chose to accept God’s sacrifice for you.  Sidenote – if you revert back to earning God’s love and protection with your good behavior because something made you afraid, you go back to the ‘game of losers’ that no-one ever wins.  And now paradoxically, for the first time in your life, you truly have freedom to decide how you will live.  When you afraid of making God mad or losing God’s favor, you aren’t really choosing freely.  I don’t know about you, but I want my children’s love and respect and trust to come from their hearts, freely and without fear.  God is no different!  He wants you to do what you really want to do.  Don’t you think He can see through your rituals?  Can you imagine that He already knows your heart isn’t in that behavior you are begrudgingly choosing?  Really?  He is God, after-all… Now I’m not saying anything goes or do as you please through life.  You already know that doesn’t work.  I’m saying stop doing stuff for God you really don’t want to do.  You aren’t blessed, God isn’t blessed, so why do it?

You and I, as believers, are living life on the plus side of the ledger.  We cannot dip into the red because Jesus Christ already paid the price for us.  You wouldn’t pay more for something than it costs would you?  Well, that’s what you do every time you try to earn God’s favor!  Don’t go by what people say, go by what God says in His Word (you didn’t think I made this stuff up, did you?).  Don’t rely on your Pastor or the TV or the Internet, find out for yourself what God says in His Word.  Not too long ago dancing was a sin (smile).

Get off that high horse you have constructed over time and let God do for you what you were never able to do for yourself!  A relationship with God isn’t all about you (what you do and don’t do, though the preachers beg to differ).  Instead it’s all about what God has done for you in Christ Jesus.

Breathe in the fresh air of freedom folks; where there is no fear.  You deserve that, don’t you think?  Haha, well maybe not, but God made you deserving of it!

Just some really, really, really good thoughts…

 

Waiting on Sunshine…


20071104182814_waiting-borderI imagine that all of us like to feel good.  All of us want to experience happiness, right?  Yet feeling good and being happy appear to be somewhat elusive and mysterious, don’t they?  So that got me thinking (a dangerous proposition I know).  How many Facebook memes give advice on being happy?  Happiness is ___________ (you fill in the blank)!  Happiness is reported as being a sunny day; a loving family; your dog; the beach; solitude; a son, a daughter, a Mom etc., etc.  With so many ideas; so many choices; so much disparity out there, maybe it’s time to look at things from another angle.

It seems that the general consensus is that feeling good or being happy are emotional states that just sort of happen.  You know what I mean.  “I feel good today!”  “I’m feeling really happy right now!”  Yet those apparently inexplicable mental states are more a rarity than the norm for most folks.  According to my highly unscientific best guess estimates, people seem to be happy about 20% of the time and seeking happiness the other 80% of the time.  Maybe that’s the old 80/20 rule again?  Is it plausible to consider that maybe life is supposed to be like that?  Were humans created to enjoy a few good times and spend the rest of their lives pursuing good times?  Is it really about the chase or the wait; the long, long wait?

Cliche’ man says, “I think we’ve got the cart before the horse!”  Feelings are really emotional states.  Emotions come and go, have you noticed?  While feelings are wonderful, they aren’t any guarantee for truth (said a great man once).  Our emotions are really barometers; internal sensors that react precisely to what we are thinking or were thinking or think about the most.  Feelings aren’t reality checks, they are thought checks!  Your emotions reflect back to you your mental climate.  If your mental weather is stormy, you feel unsettled.  If your mental climate is sunny and calm, you feel pleasant and peaceful.  Now get this!!!  You don’t feel first, you think first!  Okay, I will say that again with volume.  YOU DON’T FEEL FIRST, YOU THINK FIRST!!!  The real trouble is that most of us aren’t really very clear about what we are thinking about.  Thoughts sort of hit our minds and we go with them.  And worse, we have learned to accept our often fleeting thoughts as truth!  So, here’s a shocker, just because you thought something doesn’t make it true!  Your current thoughts or prevailing feelings may have absolutely nothing to do with reality, but since you are an insider looking out, you beg to differ.  For example, suddenly (it appears) you feel discouraged.  The feeling is very real.  No future, no hope, no sunny days ahead!  And, in your discouraged state you long for happier times; times when you felt hopeful and encouraged about life and its infinite possibilities.  Ya feel me?  Okay now slow your roll for a minute here…  What thoughts preceded those discouraged feelings?  What little snippets of mental picturing led you and of course your feelings to that conclusion?  Trust me, something did.  The problem is that you were woefully unaware of those thoughts and where they led you.  Now all you’ve got left is discouragement.  Do you see what I’m getting at here?

Waiting on good feelings or waiting on happiness is like waiting to eat.  The sooner you decide to put the food in your mouth, the better you are going to feel.  Can you imagine having a banquet at your disposal; starving and yet still waiting for the right time to eat it?  Waiting until the sun comes out…  Waiting until the conditions are perfect for eating…  Waiting until you get your new job; new boyfriend; new car…  Seems the simple solution is to decide right now to eat!  So you say, cleverly, “Yes but what if there isn’t any food to eat?”  Well, if I were a betting man, I’d say that once you have decided to eat in your hungry state, you are going to find some food!  However, happiness and good feelings (despite my thrilling analogy) are always available to you if you will decide to take them!  But, you don’t decide to take them.  You know why, because you are waiting for them (your feelings) to decide for you.  And in that perpetual ruse, you will be waiting a very long time (80/20)…

Our great God Who created all there is, wants you to be happy and feel good always!  I know that sounds fanciful to you, but it’s true.  Sure there’s a time to cry, a time to mourn, a time to overcome, but God wants you to be happy!  And good feelings follow good thoughts, so you got to learn how  to control your thoughts.  You’ve got to challenge that malarkey that enters your brain!  (Remember just because you thought it doesn’t make it true!)  The good book says, “leading captive every thought to the obedience of Christ (like he controlled his thoughts).”  God wouldn’t have asked us to control our thoughts if it wasn’t possible, right?  The endgame of controlled thought isn’t bondage it’s happiness and joy and love and peace.  (Man, I felt good just saying that!)  You learn to rein in that thinker and stop letting it get dragged down the path!  The whole world is afraid of disease, but God heals!  (But what about the C-word?  Yeah that too!)  The economy is in dire condition, but God promises prosperity!  Good feelings flow forth from good thoughts like water flows over Niagara Falls!

So, stop waiting for the sun to come out in your life.  Stop waiting for the stars to align.  Stop waiting for anything to happen.  Decide right now, today, at this moment, that you ARE happy.  Decide that you feel good, even if you are a little under the weather!  Decide you are going to live the life God promised you instead of the one the world keeps telling you is available.

Try walking on sunshine instead…

Just some good thoughts…(and feelings :-))

First World Problems…


first-world-problems-milk-500x500 I woke up this morning with one prevailing thought, “You’re acting like a spoiled little brat!”  The more I pondered that thought, the more I began to understand its application to my life.  Enter first world problems.  I thought back on my recent past and realized that I spent a lot of my time engaging in mental complaining.  I also suddenly recognized that I spent an inordinate amount of my prayer time complaining to God about this difficulty and that obstacle.  And interestingly that reminded me of Jim Rohn who eloquently pointed out that , “Life seems to say to us – Here are the raw materials — your creativity, and 24 hours to use it. What splendid things can you produce?” You see, you and I all have at our disposal the exact same things that everyone else has at their disposal, the question is what will we do with them?  All of us have to function in the same world.  All of us face similar difficulties and challenges.  All of us have good days and bad days.  All of us have hopes, dreams, desires and fears.  All of us wish it could be easier.  All of us wonder why things don’t always go exactly how we want them to go.  All of us…  So what can we do about it?  What should we do?

Living life how we live it in America makes it very easy to forget the all of the wonderful things we take for granted.  We enjoy so many conveniences; so many luxuries, that we often forget and behave like spoiled children lamenting and complaining because we don’t get everything we want at the moment that we want it!  Crazy huh?  I mean, God forbid if the Internet goes out or the computer is running slowly or dread of all dreads, our iPhone gets broken!   Or how about being upset over having to drive this “piece of sh**” car (that runs well but isn’t pretty) or being tired of this “ridiculous little 47″ TV.”  First world problems for sure.  You do realize that most of the world would consider what you and I take for granted to be living the good life, right?  Yet here we are distraught over not having enough variety in our shoe game or that we look fat in our clothes (fat because we enjoy the luxury of having to ‘stop’ eating).  We take the good we enjoy for granted, my friends.  We have forgotten that some folks are dealing with real problems, problems with dire potential consequences.  Some people face life and death decisions and here I am angry that there’s no half and half for my coffee!  Spoiled brat…

And as I further pondered how I might be behaving like a spoiled brat, I remembered that God never promised life would be without difficulties or challenges.  Oh we like to think that, but it isn’t true.  Life is chock full of challenges and difficulties because there is an opposing spiritual force working as hard against us as God is working for us.  But (and there is a but), God did promise that He would always make a way for us to win!  ( If God be for us, who can be against us?)  Yet to win requires effort and effort is the last thing we want to apply to the situation.  We want God to drop prosperity from the sky like manna and then get pissed off if we have to walk some distance to find it.  We want the new job that offers the promise of increased earnings and responsibility yet lack the desire to supply the necessary preparation to make it a reality.  We want the new BMW in the driveway, but we want it to show up on Christmas morning with a ribbon on it, from Santa.

I’m guessing that we probably live in one of the greatest eras of mankind.  So many people have access to so many things and yet here we are complaining and whining that life is too hard or that we lack sufficient opportunity.  First world problems are not problems they are distractions; distractions that persuade us to complain and to not be grateful for this glorious life we are privileged to live.  Gratitude, true gratitude takes a pause to recognize all of the wonderful things we enjoy.  Being thankful doesn’t mean thanking God for the obstacles and challenges of life (because they didn’t originate with Him), it means taking time to remember all the good stuff He already gave you which encourages you to believe that He is going to give you more good stuff.

So, as a former spoiled brat, I spent the day today looking at all of the fantastic things God has already blessed me with.  I recognized just how good I have it.  And in silent repose I thanked God.  I thanked Him that He was able to look past all of my petty whining and complaining and still lovingly provide everything that I needed and many, many things that I simply wanted!  I acknowledged that I faced no real issues other than an incessant desire to have everything I wanted exactly when I wanted it…and decided to stop that, right now!

A spoiled little brat?  Yeah, that’s what they used to call me… 😉

Just some good thoughts…

Is There Such a Thing as Too Much?


CaptureAdmittedly, I have never been a fan of restrictions or anything that puts people under bondage.  I guess you could say I’m a liberal if liberal means “stop trying to live everyone else’s life and just do you!”  You know how annoying it is when you run into those people who insist on telling you how much is too much based on some standard they ascribe to, yet remain wholly unaware of what your personal decisions are based upon.   And usually, if they’re honest, they are just judging you for some enjoyment they feel they can’t enjoy but really would like to enjoy.  I remember when I was the Battery Commander in the Utah Army National Guard, one of the Sergeants once told me that my approach to life would “get me” one day!  Well, I’m still waiting…

So, with my aversion to religion and religious practices aside (religion being defined as man-made restrictions on enjoyment, seldom bible based or taken out of context etc), I began to ponder the question, “is there such a thing as too much?”  I mean if you really enjoy something, shouldn’t you do it as much as you can?  And how could doing something you really enjoy cause you hurt or difficulty?

It seems the answer is yes and no.  God says (not that dude on Facebook) that we are to do all things in moderation.  Well, moderation like discipline tends to illicit a negative reaction from most folks.   Again maybe that feeling comes not so much from the principles that the words convey but rather more of how people have used those words to beat us down!  So with that little caveat included, why moderation?  Why try to temper and control when “it feels like” less control is better?

Hmmm… This is where it gets interesting.  In order to understand, let’s consider the alcoholic.  At first the budding alcoholic has a drink because he enjoys it; maybe it masks some pain; maybe it softens hard feelings.  Soon, however, a few drinks no longer does the trick.  A few drinks turns into a lot of drinks which turns into a multitude of drinks.  And now, what once seemed to serve as a suitable medication now becomes an addiction which is never satisfied.  Okay maybe that example was too dramatic for you.  Let’s apply it to having fun.  Perhaps no-one loves fun more than I do.  In college, Eddie called me a “hedonistic bastard!”  (Yeah, Eddie swears…)  Yet can there be too much fun?  Again, yes and no.  If your pursuit of fun overrides your desire to work, you will soon find yourself no longer having fun.  Seems like the promise of having fun on the weekend maybe serves as a motivation to keep working during the week.  So what if you are retired?  Again, doing nothing isn’t fun for anyone, so there is such a thing as remaining productive even though you have retired from work.  Warning!!!  If you find yourself no longer productive it won’t be long before your time off work will morph into a misery that has no end point!   How about food?  No-one loves the taste of food more than me (see Eddie’s explanation earlier).  My Pops will tell you, I’m a great guy to cook for because I can appreciate some good tastes.  But, if I indulge my tastes without constraint, I soon find my food love turns into some anger over that fat guy staring back at me from the mirror.

Obvious results from over-indulgence aside, there’s something else to think about…  Us humanoids crave unique and exciting experiences.   A trip to Hawaii (or paradise rightly called) is a wonderful experience.  Yet, if we decide to move there it maybe loses some of its splendor.  Oh it’s still beautiful, but it is no longer unique!  Going to the club with friends and having drinks is great fun.  But going every night soon turns into monotony and before you know it you are forcing yourself to have the same fun you had when you didn’t do it so often.   Drug users quickly learn that it takes more and more of the drug to achieve the same effect.  (Yeah, you’re right, God probably wasn’t applying – all things in moderation – to drug use 🙂 )  But, I trust you get the point, right?

I often think that moderation refers not so much to quantity as it does to frequency.  When you get the nagging thought about not doing such and such so much, it probably follows frequency more so than occasional over-indulgent use (just preserving Thanksgiving folks!).  Have you ever found yourself in a setting that you wish would never end?  You know what I mean.  You’re just having the perfect time with perfect friends.  We have all been there, right?  But consider, that perfect time was for you at that perfect time, to be enjoyed in that perfect moment.  What made it a “perfect moment” was its uniqueness for you and your life.  If it happened every day it would soon lose its perfection.  Life is like that…  A lot of day to day requirements always leading up to the potential for “perfect moments.”  So savor the perfect moments, but not too much!

So, is there such a thing as too much?  Absolutely!  Moderation helps you to appreciate the beauty that this life is.  The absence of moderation, while promising you good times, will soon begin to afflict you and before you know it, will own you.  Anticipation is often just as pleasant as the actual event.

You have one precious life to live, my friends.  God desires the best of everything for you.   But (sorry there is a but), He is also smart enough to recognize that there is such a thing as too much (love excluded for sure).  So live it up; pursue your dreams; follow your heart, but every now and then put the brakes on and make sure that what you are desiring isn’t desiring you (to take you over)!

Just some good thoughts (in moderation 🙂 )…

 

Damned If You Do…?


no-condemnationMy grandsons were at the house this past weekend enjoying a good romp and mess making opportunity (goes with the territory!).  Two year-old Tristan, formerly playing quietly with the iPad on the couch, suddenly launched it onto to the floor!  So I said, “Hey Tristan, you can’t throw the iPad on the floor!  You are going to break it!”  And he exclaimed, before I was even finished chastising him, “I sorry Pampa!”  But I wasn’t finished yet as I added, “You can’t do that Tristan because you are going to break it and it costs a lot of money!”  Again he offered, before I was even done yet again, “I sorry Pampa, okay?”

You see, young Tristan didn’t want the condemnation that goes with feeling like he had done something wrong.  And in the wisdom of a two-year, figured the best response was to be sorry as quickly as possible to end that “feeling bad” thing.  What a lesson for us infinitely wiser adults, huh?  Feeling bad about ourselves; condemning ourselves; thinking bad things about ourselves is one of the greatest life-suckers that confronts the human race!  The best prescription for defeating a man (or a woman or a child) is to talk them into beating their own selves up from the inside out.  (Similar to getting a person addicted to drugs then watching them systematically destroy themselves!)  So what is behind that insidious tendency?  Where does it come from?  Is it something that God employs to make us better people?  Is there an actual benefit to it that we may not be aware of yet?

To understand condemnation you have to start with its definition.  To condemn means to pass judgment against.  It means to find guilt and its associated punishment (i.e. condemned to death).  It comes from a word that means “con – implies intense feeling” and “damn-to provide adverse judgment.”  So condemning yourself means that you are judging yourself and finding yourself coming up short.  And worse, your judgment of yourself anticipates punishment (fear) which works most effectively to strengthen the cycle.  So here’s a fun thought to ponder.  Have you ever met anyone that did better; performed better; or made better choices following an unhealthy dose of being made to feel bad?  My guess is probably not, right?  When you are in a constant state of evaluating your own behavior, or measuring yourself against other people, or finding the wrong in everything you say and do, you are living in a state of defeat.  You are actually made weaker by that process, not stronger.  And weak people tend to do worse and worse, thus the cycle continues…

So, here’s another fun thought?  Do you suppose that it is God that is condemning you?  Is it plausible to you that God, who is infinite in wisdom and love chooses to take the “beat them into submission” approach to influence your choices?  I would say emphatically, hell no! – but that would be swearing (:-))…  God, the really smart one, knew that you and I would be susceptible to feeling bad when our thoughts or behaviors came up short and in so knowing, devised a master plan that would forever free mankind from that vicious cycle.  His master plan was (and is) to have a son with no sin in his blood that would have an opportunity to live his life perfectly, without ever sinning if he so chose to do so.  And then, if His son was successful, His son could function as the savior of mankind, forever freeing man from the consequences of sin by becoming the perfect substitute and sacrifice for man.  That perfect plan happened, my friends, and by accepting Jesus Christ as our savior from sin, you and I will never come into condemnation again (as far as God is concerned).  Read the Bible – I didn’t make this stuff up.  haha

So where then does that condemnation come from?  It comes from the enemy of mankind, the adversary, who uses what you don’t know against you.  For example, if your church teaches you that you have to obey this command or follow that law or do these behaviors, for God to love, bless and protect you, then that church has unknowingly sold you a lie.  Easssy now, stay with me here.  If Jesus Christ paid the full price for all of your sins, which ones are left for you to pay for?  Seems to me that we have already been made perfect in God’s eyes, so why all the gut wrenching and fear?  The gut wrenching and fear come from that same enemy…  It’s a trick man!  God made it so that it is no longer all about you (what you do, did or don’t do) and instead made all about Him; what He did for you!  And you wonder why I love Him so… 🙂  Just because someone claims to speak for God or is sincere doesn’t guarantee you anything at all.  Used car salesmen are often very sincere…

So here is the startling reality!  God doesn’t want you to live under all that bondage.  God doesn’t want you cataloging what’s wrong with you all the time.  God doesn’t want you to even judge yourself (see Apostle Paul in Bible).  Get off your own back and get away from those shackles that bind you.  You will never, ever, ever be able to truly and freely believe God to get the things you need in life until you completely and thoroughly kill off all that insidious condemnation!

For if our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things.  Beloved, if our heart condemn us not, then have we confidence toward God.  And whatsoever we ask, we receive of him… I John 3:20-22

Damned if you do, damned if you don’t?  No!  God doesn’t damn anybody and neither do I…  Live in the freedom that God prepared for you and stop listening to that ol’ bird that’s always on your back!  It aint about you man…it’s about God!

Just some good thoughts…