Believing God…

believeAs a believer it has been my personal experience over the years that anything that places the focus back on me instead of on God is usually suspect. That’s not to say that I have no responsibility for anything, but rather so-called requirements on my part tend to take me away from and not closer to God. One such example of this involves believing God to get our needs met. I’m sure it started innocently enough, but over time it seemed to morph into something bigger than it actually was. Every time we failed in some capacity or maybe did not get a need met, the reason was always centered on our own personal lack of believing. And while God does require belief on our part to receive from Him, too much focus on myself and whether or not I’m “believing God” tends towards the negative. All of the great power and ability of God is suddenly held at bay all dependent upon something I am doing or not doing. The first red flag to notice is when the focus turns away from God and His willingness and ability and instead focuses on something people are doing or not doing. You can see this happening over and over again in religion. Religion repudiates God’s grace and unconditional love for us and makes it all about me and you. God’s blessings somehow happen or don’t happen dependent upon how well we obey or “do the Word” or line ourselves up with His perfection. If that were actually true all of us would fail. God is already well aware of our human condition and the sin nature all people are born with dating back to Adam and Eve. In this He and He alone initiated a way for us to escape the bondage of sin and it was not based upon anything that you or I ever did. Similarly, believing God is not a measure from which we evaluate ourselves. Believing God is more about knowing Him, trusting Him and looking for His help in life’s situations. Believing God is likely much easier than we have heretofore imagined.

If you think about it logically, all of the good things that happen in this life have been initiated by God. He is the starting point and the end point. If I am struggling with something He knows where I’m at and where I need to get in order to prevail. He knows me and you better than we know ourselves. This notion that we have to somehow grit our teeth and believe God in order to get something cannot be true. Then “believing God” turns into this magic system, this thinking nirvana, this systematic approach we are putting ourselves through in order to receive from Him. Unbeknownst to me I have now instituted a work I must do to earn or deserve something God has already promised to me. God’s promises are absolutely not contingent upon something I must do. Instead the promises have already been given to me to help me, to save me, to rescue me. It’s a very subtle difference, but a difference nonetheless. The acid test will always be who or what is my subject of focus. If the focus is on me and what I’m doing or not doing chances are I am no longer believing God. If my focus is on God and what He said He would do, chances are I’m believing Him. So the question is, what or who is your subject of focus? The enemy of righteousness is quite adept at getting the focus back on you and me. Have you noticed? You have a need that you are endeavoring to believe God to supply and what goes through your mind? You start thinking about where you don’t measure up, how many, many mistakes you have made in the past, how you must not be believing God or this need would have already been solved. The focus is then where? Squarely back on your own shoulders from whence there is no power (absent God) or ability to effect change. This is how and where we get tricked out of believing God and start trying to make things happen with our own mental powers. It’s a slippery deception but it always produces the same result – nothing!

So, how do we believe God to get our needs met? Simply stated we keep our focus on Him and what He promised. When our focus turns inward as it often does, we change our focus back to Him. We don’t have to make something happen! God is the One that makes something happen! If everything that happened was based on what I think then that would sort of make me God wouldn’t it? (Shudder) But that is exactly how we tend to view things. Again as if believing God was some type of mental nirvana state I must enter and maintain in order to get results. OMG I just had some doubts! Oh no, I was thinking negatively! Now nothing will happen until I sustain a certain mindset, over time and in the right way. Can you see how this kind of thinking just drives me back to me? It’s not it folks. Believing God is looking at Him. Believing God is remembering what His Word says. Believing God is thinking what God says is true and endeavoring to not think what isn’t true. At the end of the day it is God who backs up His Word. He made the promises, not me. I think God is big enough to get past my own inadequacies and weaknesses. God meets us where we are. We don’t have to get somewhere to get His help. We don’t have to perform to earn His help. We don’t have to play mental games to get His help. If your kid wasn’t doing so well, don’t you wish he would just tell you that? No matter how frightful, how ugly, how impossible, wouldn’t you want him or her to just tell you about it so you could help? Well, I’m pretty sure God can exceed that. If you are struggling why not say so? If you are having trouble getting your needs met, why not just talk it over with Him? I think believing God is just laying your whole self out to Him and asking Him to help you. He knows anyway right? He has already seen your whole life through and He still loves you. He still called you. Hey maybe it never was all about you!

I think it is time to reframe our thoughts about God. He is so incredibly vast and so much higher than us in His thoughts and ability. We need to simply approach Him how a child approaches their parents. No pretense, no performance, no formulas and systems, none. Just say what’s wrong and what you need. Humble yourself in that you might not already know. What you think is your issue may not be the issue at all. There is no need to play mind games with God. You are the child and He is your Father. Father knows best. Believing God is really about getting honest with Him and honest with yourself. Life is way too big with way, way too many variables for you (and me) to figure it out with our own thinking alone. Believing God is about letting God be God and solving for us what we are unable to solve on our own. Look for the red flags of self-focus and become determined to focus on Him. Believing God is not a system or a law. Believing God is a willingness to trust in something higher and bigger than yourself. Believe God!

Just some good thoughts…


The Birthday Blog!

birthdayAs I rejoice in making another rotation around the sun, I thought it time to share some life lessons that have impacted me the most. The older I get the more it becomes apparent that life really boils down to two great motivating principles, love and fear. Within the realm of those polar opposite anchors, life is either lived or not lived, enjoyed or endured, embraced with fondness or survived with pain and suffering. Nothing can make your life sing and move with gentleness and grace like love and nothing can take away your song and slow life to a standstill like fear. It is always so plain and simple yet often obscured from our view. When we are operating from a heart of love the days; the good days sail by. But, when fear has eased its way into our existence nothing works anymore and time appears to slow down to a crawl with dangers and threats surrounding us. If you only learn one great lesson throughout your life it is always to encourage love as your reason why and to dismiss fear and its whole world of counterfeits from your existence.

Many years ago as I sat through a class called, “Power for Abundant Living” I learned for the first time in my life what fear was and how it serves to thwart and ruin your life. And incredulously for the first time in my life I was no longer afraid of anything. Fear which had ruled my earlier days no longer held a place of prominence in my heart. When the fear is finally gone, life is a joyful experience just as God intended it to be. But, the problem is most people do not even know they are afraid. Fear is such a pervasive part of our culture and how we live that we accept it as simply part of the human condition. As such, the whole earth literally runs on fear, acts out of fear and chooses based on fear. How fear drives people! How fear delineates our choices in life. How fear whips people into submission leading to the multitudes no longer feeling they have any say about how their life will turn out. Fear causes people to limp along desperately trying to avert the tragedies and difficulties that seem to assail all people. People are afraid of their health failing and not having enough and becoming poor and not winning and not getting what they wanted and losing respect and sudden loss and not finding love and not becoming successful or actually becoming successful or dying prematurely or being found out or not getting their needs met or not climbing the corporate ladder fast enough or not having money when they retire or turning into their mother or their father and on and on it goes. It’s all fear and it’s always wrong. Fear, indulged (and how can you not indulge it when it is literally all around you), leads always to the very failure and loss you were trying so hard to avoid. Fear steals away the time in your life. Fear ruins relationships. Fear stops you from prospering and just as surely as the sun will set leads to all manner of sickness and disease. Fear robs you of your energy and enthusiasm for living. So many folks are living depressed lives with absolutely nothing to look forward to because of fear. Fear closes all the doors and shuts all the windows. Yet it never seems to dawn on folks that fear is the real culprit behind ALL of their troubles.

So why, do you ask, am I sharing this with you today? I’m sharing it because even if you have come to terms with fear and grappled with it, it can still sneak into your life unawares. You’re going along living your life with God enjoying all of the benefits and blessings of living in love and slowly and imperceptibly you start adding in some works to sort of help God do His job better. Maybe you recognize how good life has been and you want that way to continue as it has before. Instead of keeping your focus on God where it belongs you start to focus in on yourself more and more. And the more you focus on yourself the more imperfections you begin to see which naturally prompts you to work a little harder. Then, the harder you work the more you come up short. Soon enough your mind becomes overly preoccupied with everything that is wrong with you. You begin to like yourself less and less and it seems like all of your choices have become bad. Now instead of trusting God to care for you in every possible way, which is how you originally overcome your fear, you revert back to self and all the things you must somehow do in order to garner God’s favor in your life once again, those times when you lived above fear. Now the things that were so effortless for you have become challenging and your good results less and less. So you work a little harder and pray a little more often and vow to swear off this and get rid of that. Yet heaven’s brass and you wonder what you ever did to lose God’s love and perfection in your life. You wonder why He isn’t answering your prayers anymore and why you are not getting the things you need. But, do you know what really happened? What happened was, unbeknownst to you, you allowed fear back into your life. And no matter how it is disguised, whether you are a believer or an unbeliever, whether your works are good or your works are bad, fear cannot help but produce what it always produced, pain, misery and a lack of good fruit. Fear is the great thwarter of efforts and retarder of any progress. It is never God who changes towards us, but rather we change towards Him. We forget that He is the great initiator of all good things and that it is by His grace that we prevail. We lose sight of His goodness in our lives and attempt to generate that goodness from within. Our challenges, our lack of results, our so-called unanswered prayers are only so because we have replaced our love with fear which can never, ever work.

Thus, if I can only leave one thing with you on the evening of my birthday it is this. Seek out and get rid of fear in your life no matter how it shows up. The fears you cleave to; the falsehoods you have accepted; the wrong motivations that have been driving you – rid them from your life. If you do not they will eat and tear away at everything that is good. They will stall your progress and set you back. They will steal your results. They will open the door to all sorts of trouble and difficulty in your life. Decisions and actions motivated by fear, no matter how pious they appear, can only lead to loss and defeat. Instead choose love. Do things because you want to do them not because you have to do them out of fear. Stop pretending to be someone you are not and be yourself, the good and the bad. Don’t hide yourself from God or from anyone else for that matter. You do not have to earn the favor of everyone at the expense of yourself. Live your days in freedom where you decide how you are going to live. If you don’t want to help don’t. If you don’t want to give don’t. But if you do, do it from the love in your heart. Do it not to secure a return but because you want to love and help people. Don’t do it to earn God’s favor or protection in your life but because you already have it! That is love and love is the only thing that overcomes fear. This life is frightfully short with each revolution around the sun. Why spend your days afraid of some lying outcome that will likely never comes to pass? Instead get out there and live again. Take chances. Try new stuff. Believe in yourself. Get your groove back. Get rid of your fears old and new. Your life really is on the other side of fear.

Just some good thoughts…

The Constant Need to Do Better…

selfHave you ever thought about how many people in the world find themselves constantly plagued with the need to do better? You can’t go very far without hearing someone explain how they need to get better in some category of life. Sure it seems honorable and like the right thing to do, but is it? Do you really need to get better and if so in comparison to what? What is the better that you and I are trying to reach? Even the word itself implies a moving target with better being a little further along than you actually are. There is a reason that the Self-Help industry is a multi-billion dollar industry. Now don’t get me wrong, I love learning about new things and new ways to approach life. But at the heart of all self-help is a pervasive notion that something about us is broken and in need of repair. It addresses a negative core belief that there is something wrong with you and I and that we need to figure out a way to fix it. But, and forgive me for this one, aren’t we all actually very similar? I’m guessing that if we were able to get inside other people’s minds we would find many of the same foibles and flaws in common. Maybe we wouldn’t be so quick to judge ourselves so harshly as a result. Perhaps our focus shouldn’t rest so heavily on what is wrong with us but rather on what is right about us. I heard a great line from Matthew McConaughey at a virtual self-help conference I attended recently. (Oh, the irony…) He said, “Instead of trying to be good at what you’re bad at, why not try to be great at what you’re good at?” Grammar violations aside there is a lot of truth in that little one liner. The world has coerced us into thinking about and focusing on what is wrong with us perpetually. We foolishly have believed that we can “get better” by honing in on; getting serious about; applying the necessary discipline towards; fixing what is so wrong with us, which produces the exact opposite result to what we intended. Life will get immeasurably better for you once you are finally able to escape the need to get better.

At the foundation of the need to get better lies a conclusion we have made. Interestingly when we were children we were not so preoccupied with improving ourselves. Yes, we wanted to get better at sports maybe or earn better grades, but inside we didn’t think there was anything wrong with us or who we were. It wasn’t until some time later that we began to internalize the message being promoted. Instead of viewing mistakes as mistakes we started buying into the idea that perhaps there was something wrong with us; something deep inside that no one else could see. As this lie took many forms and came at the hands of a multitude of teachers, we eventually came to the conclusion that we needed to get better. We bought in. We accepted it as true. Do you ever wonder why we analyze ourselves so throughly and often ruthlessly when we make an error? Because inside, deep inside, hidden from view we just aint right man! And it’s only a matter of time before we get found out. Crazy huh? This treacherous deception works so well because we have only got our own heads to compare. I’m skulking around trying to hide my crazy from you and you are skulking around trying to hide your crazy from me. It never dawned on us that we might share the exact same crazy; that all people might share the exact same crazy. Who says that makes us flawed? Who says that makes us so unworthy? What talked us into thinking like that? This is why people don’t want to get involved with church. We already are well aware of what we’ve got going on inside and we don’t need someone up front adding to the list! At the end of the day, being “what is wrong with me?” conscious does not help us to actually get better presuming that we even need to get better to begin with. It is an unhealthy way to think and a terrible way to treat ourselves. What we actually are is imperfect creatures living out or lives the best we can.

Have you ever considered that what the world needs the most from you is you? You and all of your so-called insanity and individuality. People won’t benefit from the sanitized, white-washed version of you that has been carefully nurtured by societal norms and reportedly acceptable ways of being. There ends up being no benefit in that version of you that isn’t really you. Further living that way is not going to make you happy. All that time you spend fixing yourself does not produce a finer version of you, it produces a lesser, demeaned version of you. You become your own worst enemy. Instead of enjoying this life God has given you, you find yourself consumed with “what you’re bad at…” And the worst cruelty of all, you cannot, with your human efforts, ever make yourself into that false ideal you have been pursuing. You are going to come up short somewhere. You’re going to miss it at times. You are going to stumble and you are going to fall a lot! Why not just brush yourself off like little kids do and leave the introspection and soul searching for someone else? Why don’t you just embrace who you are? Love yourself flaws and all. You have got one run through so you may as well run through it. You are a human being and you are okay.

If you can learn to shift your focus away from “what you’re bad at” and focus instead on your strengths you will go far. We all have certain gifts, certain capacities, certain abilities that God has given us; all of us. There are things you can do and to which you have no rival. Do those things. You know by now, I hope, where you tend to excel or if that’s too strong for right now, where you have the easiest time doing or being. That is the good you need to focus on and that is the good you can work to “be great at.” Don’t you love and admire people that have mastered some aspect of life? No one ever became great at anything by focusing on what was bad or where they had the most trouble. Instead they focused on some good they enjoyed. They decided to pursue things that made their heart sing instead of something in which they sought escape. Well how about you deep down inside your own heart? Don’t you want to be happy and fulfilled in life? Don’t you seek to experience joy and blessedness? Well, you’ll have a hard time finding any of those things while your focus is on a perpetual need to get better. You may not know this, but God solved that human foible focus problem once and for all. He provided a perfect solution to imperfect people. He gave His son for you (and me). He gave the perfect for the imperfect. Further He gave us a perfect spirit inside that never goes south, never blows it and never suffers any damage or corruption, no matter what we may do. Why do you ask? So you could once and for all let go of everything you ever found wrong with yourself and rest in what He did for you. You could live by the works of another man. (Jesus Christ) God knows you and God knows me. He knows how easy it is for us to get tricked into sin-consciousness and feeling bad about ourselves. He also knew we would recognize our flaws and where we come up short. So He solved it for us. He did for us by His spiritual effort what we could never do for ourselves by our human effort. Why not be a great person shining your gift onto other people? Why not?

Life is too short to spend another moment consumed with what is wrong with you. THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH YOU! You are an imperfect person and so am I. You are going to make mistakes. There are things you will learn that you wish you knew earlier, but you didn’t know. It is okay, you are a person. There are choices and paths you wish you would have taken but you didn’t and it is okay. Excuse yourself from the madness of trying to perfect your human flesh. You can’t do it. But, what you can do is to embrace who you are inside. Focus on your good bits. Dwell on the best parts of you and share those parts as often and as much as you can. Love yourself (again) for goodness sakes and give that love to other people. I’m sure in the end of times you and I will find out that we weren’t so different from anyone else on Earth. Maybe we weren’t as crazy as we thought we were. And instead of God judging us like we feared all of our lives, we will have the joy of living together with Him forever because we believed what He said about His son. If God isn’t asking you to constantly get better, then why are you asking the same of yourself? Live your life. Enjoy your life. When you are gone people won’t remember how ideally you managed to live or how much better you became. They will only remember your love. Love doesn’t need to get better…

Just some good thoughts…