Do No Harm…


firstdonoharmI was talking with a doctor friend of mine the other day and she reminded me of the sincere oath that all doctor’s take, namely, “First, do no harm.” Contained in that little phrase applied to all would be doctors, is the key to living a successful Christian life. It is interesting to think that of all the shenanigans people may have attributed to God in terms of rituals and required behaviors and the giving up of something, the thing God values the most is how you and I treat other people. Love other people as you love yourself. On that principle hangs all the law and the prophets. Brothers and sisters, it behooves us to do no harm.

Many years ago, while sitting in a one-time revolutionary class about the Bible called, “Power for Abundant Living,” the teacher of the class made a statement I will never forget. In summarizing the beauty of the Grace Administration and demonstrating the freedom we all have in Christ, he remarked our whole duty simply by stating, “Love God, love your fellow man and do as you dang fool please!” That small declaration literally changed my life. I learned that life with God wasn’t about man-made rules and regulations, but rather a relationship with God based not on fear, but on love and with it an additional request that we love other people. To love God and to love my fellow man was something I could handle. This idea that being a Christian means everything is somehow wrong and everything is evil in some way, was something I could never reconcile in my mind and heart. The people I saw endeavoring to live this way were not happy people at all, skulking around all whipped, wounded and guilty. If life with God is harder than life without God, why would someone choose it? Why would anyone want to subject themselves to living life in this way? Further, how could we possibly love our fellow man by making his life harder than it was before he began to know God? In doing no harm to our brothers and sisters, we have a duty to offer them all the freedom and love that God has offered us. God loves us into doing good things and we do so in response to the love He has given us. In this, we do no harm.

Perhaps the best way to live your life is with the freedom to do as you dang fool please. Everything you and I do with compulsion, of necessity, because something bad will happen if we don’t do it, is not freedom, but rather religious bondage. Bondage demands of us certain behaviors that will please God; behaviors we must do in order to be okay; in order to be safe, to be protected. Yet, the harder we try to please God by our good works, the more we fall short, the less pleasing we become. In this we don’t live, but only half live. We become consumed with our shortcomings, our weaknesses, where and how we fall woefully short. We comb through our days and nights evaluating where we went right and where we went wrong, always ending predominantly in where we went wrong. Instead of enjoying the freedom God purchased for us in the life of His son, we reduce ourselves to less than God’s best and work out all kinds of schemes and plans to prove our value and our worth. In this we go astray and subject ourselves to misery, all somehow in the name of God. Yet, this is not what God asks of us. God said all of the commandments in the Old Testament could be summed up in one simple phrase, generally, love God and love your fellow man. Love, not rituals is what God is after. Kindness and a willingness to help others is what blesses God’s heart, not behaviors done out of fear. To do no harm we must have love in it.

This may surprise you, even shock you perhaps, but God has released those of us who believe from the curse of the law. The purpose of the law wasn’t to make people right, but instead to clearly identify what sin was in order that there would be a standard God could use to redeem His precious man. If there was no law, you would be free to do as you dang fool pleased without fear of consequences and trouble. You would actually be free to make decisions, not based on fear, but instead based on love with no compulsion in it. Just as any parent seeks freewill love from their children, God seeks free will love from us. Can you even imagine your children doing things in order to gain your love when they already had it from the onset? Would it bless you to observe consistent, good behavior from your children because they feared what you might do to them if they didn’t do it? If it is so obvious in the natural realm it must be equally as obvious in the spiritual realm. We do no harm to our brothers and sisters when we do things free of any compulsion or requirement.

Doing no harm to other people means that we love them like God loves them. However, we can only love people in this way in response to the love God freely showers upon us. Absent God’s love and gentle work in our hearts, we could never get the job done. As long as our relationship with God consists of rules and regulations in order to be successful, we will at best convey the same to our fellow man. Yet, this will never help him because it never helped us. That so-called Christian lifestyle never helped anyone. People don’t need more stuff to do or more reminders of where they fall short. We do a good enough job of that on our own. Instead people, our brothers and sisters, need freedom, freedom only God could give them. People need to be able to choose on their own. Only one choice is not a choice. I think folks would be surprised at the freedom God has given us if they only knew it. God said, all things are lawful for me, but not everything I can do is going to bless me or build me up. Amen, but all things are lawful for me. I am free, you are free as a human to experience life and prove all things, holding fast to the good. Sitting behind closed doors in fear of sin and evil and destruction is not life at all. How many Christians have stopped living out of fear when all of life remained open to them? Do no harm by telling your brothers and sisters the truth!

Absolute freedom to make your own choices is the very essence of life. Only when you are free yourself can you offer that freedom to another person. Only engulfed in God’s undeserved love and compassion can you offer love and compassion to other people. You cannot give what you do not have. You love your fellow man by loving him how God does without any compulsion or constraint. He or she does not have to be or do anything to deserve that love, but instead receives that love freely in the same way that you received it. To do no harm means simply that you do not do things that wound your fellow man or hurt him. You seek only his good, her good and have no other motive in it. When you love people like God loves them, you have finally let go of self and all that may be wrong with self and have decided instead to focus on the goodness that God is and is in Him and Him alone. Love God, love your fellow man and do as you dang fool please.

Just some good thoughts…

Be Good to Yourself…


shutterstock_1392252401Recently, while enjoying a glorious weekend away playing golf in Palm Springs during my first ever men’s trip, I had an astounding epiphany. On the inside, in the quiet place where nobody goes but you, you are having a relationship with yourself. I know it sounds weird, but your capacity to think and consider means the ability to draw conclusions about yourself, both good and bad. You weigh evidence, listen to people’s opinions, estimate your place in the world, evaluate your own behaviors and actions and finally arrive at some end point wherewith you consider your own worth and value. Maybe it is better described as your self-image. But, no matter how you get there, you are making decisions about how you should treat yourself, what you should say to yourself and what it is you deserve from yourself. Ultimately, you are choosing how you should interact with yourself. And in that vein, from personal experience and a multitude of interactions with other people, I’m guessing those interactions are not always good. In fact, if someone could actually hear your private thoughts, I think it is safe to say you are saying anything but good things to yourself. Oh my friends, you need to be good to yourself.

How could a man or a woman get to the place where they are treating their own selves poorly? Having only one precious life and one shot at this thing, how does a person become convinced to function as their own worst enemy? What must take place in our minds day after day, that leads us to the place where we are at odds with our own selves; where we need constant validation and affirmations; where we cannot trust own assertions and opinions about important things? How do we sink to the low places whereby every negative, outside opinion concerning ourselves sends us reeling into self-doubt and second guessing? It is not just how life is and everybody doesn’t do it to the same degree. As crazy as it seems, we are doing it to our own selves. We are actively opposing our own best interests. Every parent learns eventually that they have to love the negative behaviors out of their children rather than attempting to beat it out of them with threats and punishment. Yet, here we are as adults approaching ourselves with contempt and even disgust for who we are or for what we have done or maybe not done. Something has gone awry in our thought processes. Something or someone has worked us over. Something or someone has broken us down inside, in our own hearts and in our minds. We have listened to and considered influences outside of ourselves and have drawn conclusions that guarantee our perpetual defeat. We need to learn or relearn how to be good to ourselves.

It’s interesting to think that children do not naturally draw negative conclusions about themselves, that is until they learn to do so. In fact, children don’t give much thought concerning themselves at all. They just move along nicely, anxious to get past troubles and return to enjoying life. It is not until they get much older that they learn to chastise themselves and beat themselves up. If you think about it logically, what value is there in thinking poorly about yourself? When you chastise and berate yourself, who is the winner? Has any of your self loathing ever led you to a better place? Does constant criticism and fault finding lead anyone to a better place? Further, does mental self-abuse or self-torture change any of the mistakes you may have made or erase painful memories? Yet here we are mature adults continuing to play in a game we cannot win, doing things that only promise us defeat. These issues are indeed part of the human condition, but they are not inherent in human beings. We all have the ability to change our opinions of ourselves and we all have the right to stand up for ourselves. Our failure is not in failing to think positively, but instead failing to recognize what is really going on. We have become blinded to our own reality by habituation and repetition. Something isn’t right or true because you have done it a lot. Your opinion of yourself may have been forged over decades of time, but that doesn’t make it a reality unless you have concluded it so. Thus your job, my job is to gain some clarity about what is going on and make the necessary changes. You have to learn to be good to yourself in the same way you know to be good to someone else whose struggles you are trying to alleviate.

Being good to yourself means being willing to give yourself a break. If you listen to the devil long enough, you will end up thinking you are more evil than he is. He will drive your mistakes, your shortcomings down your throat until you arrive at the place he chooses. Then, your days will be spent judging yourself and confirming his negativity until you die. Well, why sit we here until we die? For God’s sake, are you really that bad? Are you truly the personification of evil because you have a few areas where you fall short? Isn’t it even possible that you continue to fall short because of what it is you are thinking about yourself? Maybe, just maybe you are bringing the trouble on your own self because of how you have been “trained” to think. I can assure you that the things you do are what most people do and we aren’t all that dissimilar at all. We are human beings and at best limited in our scope and understanding. And to take it step further, maybe the things you think are wrong with you aren’t wrong with you at all. Maybe you are a human being with all of the myriad thoughts and feelings that accompany being a human. Maybe you are functioning just as God intended for you to function requiring some adjustments that make sense as you learn and as you grow. My friends, being a human being means you have to learn to forgive yourself. It means you have to learn how to love yourself and continue to love yourself. It means you have to get past this preoccupation with your self and your sins and just accept what God did for you in the life of His son. You will never overcome the weaknesses of your humanity on your own, so you may as well cut yourself some slack along the way. The devil is a liar. Learn to think properly concerning yourself. Make your mind your friend. Speak to yourself like you would speak to your friend whom you love. Be kind to yourself. Love your self. Offer yourself some compassion and some empathy. Lord knows it’s hard enough to be a human without adding brutal scourging towards your own self. And most importantly, stop judging yourself. Negative self-judgment is the entire basis on which all self deprecation; all internal defeat is built. And negative self-judgment is the one thing God did away with in Christ Jesus. (That’s how big it is!) Refusing to judge yourself is as simple as refusing to continue considering all that appears wrong with you and choosing instead to consider all that is right with you; whom God made you to be; what God did for you that you could never do for yourself! Self judgment comes from the accuser and as such must be discarded at every turn.

At the end of the day, you only have one life to figure some things out. If your days have been less than the best, chances are you are not thinking properly about yourself. Chances are you are entertaining evil conclusions about yourself that did not originate with yourself. Chances are you have been deceived. Well, not to worry. You always have the opportunity to turn things around and our great God will help you to do so. Get off your own back. Give yourself a break. Forgive yourself for being so negative and get back on the path of life. Decide today to be good to yourself and to be kind in your dealings with yourself. Be on your own side for a change and see how much sweeter your life will become. Let God do the hard stuff. Be good to yourself…

Just some good thoughts…

A Fine Line…


TightropeMany years ago, as I sat alone outside my tent in the final days of the leadership training program waiting for the Lord to show me a sign that would make clear my ministry to help people the most effectually, nothing happened except a pervasive urge to read a section of scripture over and over again. There was no display in the heavens, no unusual, titillating revelation, nothing but an inescapable desire to read Isaiah 58 repeatedly. It wasn’t until some time after that I realized my purpose in life was to help people escape the confines of bondage and to live in the freedom that only God could provide for them. The call to loose the bands of wickedness and let the oppressed go free remains within me unto this day. As such, I’m very clear concerning the fine line between truth and error; between freedom and bondage; between works and the grace of God. Indeed there is always a fine line.

The grace of God is one of the most incredible aspects of our Father, God. Grace is God’s undeserved, divine favor bestowed upon people without a cause; without deserving it; without any works on the part of the people to obtain it. God’s unending grace is on display in the life of His son who fulfilled the law forever setting mankind free from the claims of sin and wrong. You and I could never achieve this on our own. Instead we rely upon the finished work of Jesus Christ. It is called a finished work because it is finished. Jesus lived God’s law perfectly because we couldn’t do it on our own. And in so doing he set us free from the clutches of our adversary and sin and wrong forever. All that we have or could ever hope to be is based upon the grace of God. Where sin abounds, grace does much more abound. As such, it always astounds me when people begin to worry that we as believers could somehow take grace too far. There is no end point with grace or it wouldn’t be grace. Undeserved, divine favor will always be undeserved. If at some point, I need to deserve grace or else do something to encourage grace to continue, then I have forfeited that grace. I need not concern myself with whether or not people are using grace in order to sin as sin has its own misery. If God says I will never come into judgment from Him, then I will never come into judgment with Him. To infer that God is not pleased with me also infers that God is judging me. God may not be pleased with my behavior, but He is never displeased with me. Otherwise, my favor would needs be earned from Him and I could never live up to that requirement. If you think about it, we already wrestle with endless accusations that inform us in some way that God is not pleased with us. Yet those accusations can never be true or else it wouldn’t be truly finished. It is finished.

People that choose to live like hell have their own suffering. You don’t have to tell people to stop doing things that are wrong because the wrong itself punishes them and leads them to misery. As someone who has spent some time on the wrong side of the tracks, I can assure you that what people need when they are off track is healthy, abundant doses of love and forgiveness. It is the goodness of God that leads us to a change of heart, not a lecture. The people that do not care about God won’t listen anyway. It’s those of us who do care that suffer the damage. I don’t believe that anyone on their own really wants to rebel against God, but in their deception they suffer loss. Our opponent is adept at leading us astray and when we recognize it (if by God’s mercy we recognize it) then we need a way to come back home to the goodness we have forfeited. Jesus Christ is the way back home having done all for us in ways we could never do on our own. It’s like when someone talks about being greedy and then we, the tender hearted ones, consider it. Yet the people who are actually greedy never give it a second thought! What people need is unconditional love from the Father who loves us no matter what. Human beings are fragile enough without heaping burdens upon their heads; loads too heavy to bear. It is a fine line.

If God set us free then we are free. Absolute freedom is the ability to choose without the fear of retribution or loss. Compliance and obligation won’t get us there. Whenever we do things because of the fear of the consequences, we fall right back into the bondage God delivered us from. All things are lawful for me, but not all things build me up. All things are lawful for me, but some things hurt me and do not help me. You don’t have to tell people that, they already know it. It reminds me of the story of the poor alcoholic in the Foundational class on Power for Abundant Living. He came to church that day looking for answers, not further reminders of the desperate state he was already enduring. He was living that hell and came for help; help that only God could give by His mercy and grace. We, my friends, are no different. We all fall short and by God we know that. We go too far, we get deceived, we chase stupidity and error gets ahold of us. We find ourselves estranged, lost and heaven’s brass. Yet it is the grace of God that helps us get back to that safe place where our worthiness before God no longer comes into question. It is the finished work of Jesus Christ that we anchor ourselves to and then we can overcome and learn and get that much better. If my worthiness before God depends upon my own ability, God help me. Can you not see it? That old enemy of mankind, the accuser, is enough to contend with day by day without making it about me; what I do and what I might fail to do. You are preaching to the choir of which I am already a member. On my own I will always fall short, but with Him I will always win.

My dear brothers and sisters, there will always be a fine line between what is true and what is error. God, in His infinite wisdom, provided a way by which you and I could live in ultimate freedom. Where sin abounds, grace does much more abound. Every place I am weak and deficient, God pours in more grace and in that grace enjoyed, I am free to make a better choice, not by compulsion, but by love. God loves us into loving ourselves. God has perfected forever those that believe on what His Word says. Don’t let anything or anyone ever cause you to doubt God’s love for you or to doubt that God has divine favor towards you. You cannot do anything that God isn’t already aware of and He still chose to love you. Live your one precious life in the freedom that God bought for you with the life of His son. Don’t be only half free, but fully free. “Love God, love your fellow man and do as you dang fool please!” Don’t complicate what God has made simple. It is a fine line and it is there for you to enjoy…

Just some good thoughts…

Stop Being Such A Little B**ch


Depositphotos_4682824_l-2015Forgive my title, but something has happened to us as a people; as a nation. Whether it be the media, politics, cancel culture, the Internet, too much access to too much information, or whatever, something has moved in and caused us to be afraid of literally everything. There was once a time, it seems, when people made choices about their lives and decided exactly how they were going to live. There was a time when good folks were strong and resolute concerning how they wanted to be; what they were going to do. Then mass fear took hold and instead of seeking to be the individual God made them to be, people opted instead to take their place in line and, God forbid, not do anything that someone else might not approve of in some capacity. Yet ironically, being politically correct and refusing to be politically correct are two sides of the same coin. One side condemns all people for not having tolerance for all things, while the other side hurts everyone by having no tolerance for anything. And behind it all is a bunch of unbridled fear, terrified someone is going to take something from them or make them into something they don’t want to be or do things they don’t want to do, while at the same time having things taken from them, being made into something they don’t want to be and doing things they don’t want to do, driven by the fear of what might be unless they organize and stand against it. People are afraid of the virus and afraid of the vaccine. They don’t believe the government, the doctors, the science or the results. People are actually dying standing for some supposed, eroded freedom rather than doing whatever it takes to survive. When did we as a nation become so damn terrified of everything? Indeed, we need stop being a nation of little b**ches!

Fear is much more complicated and has many more faces than we have actually considered. As with anything the adversary of mankind has manufactured, there are a multitude of hard to discern layers and levels. You can be fully engaged in a fight for what you think is right while at the same time fighting an illusion leading you down a false path. You can stand adamantly against your fear of something bad that might happen and simultaneously act out of fear in your stance. Fear is the only explanation for how a political belief can supersede your common sense logic, make wrong into right and call the light darkness and the darkness light. Of course we Americans are sensitive when it comes to our personal freedoms, it is the highlight of what we represent. Yet there is a vast amount of difference between matters concerning our personal liberty and matters founded in fear, distrust and blind attitudes and opinions based upon that fear. Somewhere, somehow, someone got to you and that someone’s name is fear.

Similarly, people today have become so afraid to trust their own judgments and make their own calls. Instead of trusting what they know to be true, they have opted instead for group think whereby the group decides what is right. Yet, that is not how God made them to be. People are generally successful when they go the way of their own choosing, not in rebellion, but in being the sole authority of what is right for them; for their lives. The wrong way and the wrong choices sooner or later show themselves in failure, as they necessarily must. Much failure experienced; much unhappiness; much lack of contentment is found in going ways that someone else decided for you either directly or indirectly via the mass of public opinion. After all is said and done, you must win the battle inside your own head and you alone must learn what is right; what works, what leads you in the right direction. And, you alone must overcome fear and all of its disguises whenever and wherever it shows up. You have to stop being such a little b**ch!

As a great man once said, fear is our only enemy. It is fear that is thwarting you at very turn. It is fear that has made you terrified about losing your job, your money, your livelihood. It is fear that has you following all the rules, whether they make sense to you or not. It is fear that steals away the joy of your day as you contemplate what you can possibly lose and how. Sometimes I think we need to break a few rules. Sometimes we need to challenge the assertions made by others concerning what we need to do to be okay. Sometimes we need to turn back to our own hearts and release it from the chains of what it reportedly must do and instead let it decide what we want to do. If you’re not careful this old world and the fear built into it will reduce your life into a shadow of what it once was. You (and me) are too damn afraid of what might happen. “If you aren’t careful this might happen!” “Watch out because if you go too far you could be headed for trouble!” What happened to trusting in your own heart to know what is too far or being able to accurately discern the trouble if it is coming or if it is not? You see, that is how people and ideologies and governments control you. Instead of landing squarely on what is, the argument is always based on what could be. You don’t think that you have the wherewithal to know what is happening in your life? Or do you need someone else to make that decision for you? I submit to you that all conjecture concerning what might be and not on what is, will always be based on fear in some capacity. Sometimes you need to travel down a few wrong paths to know what sucks. It seems better that you went down the road and learned than if you stayed home timid and afraid, to prove it to yourself.

This is certainly not a criticism of people and the affect that fear has on people’s lives. Instead it is an exhortation to stop being so damn afraid and get out there and live. Stop being such a little b**ch! Stop letting the world and people and even those closest to you, make all of your choices for you. What do you like? What do you want? What turns you on? Do those things. Do something new! Get up and off the fear couch and live. If something bad happens, so be it. If you get a bad result, that’s one thing you now know for sure. You cannot really discover and live and experience if you allow fear to define all of your parameters. You may actually find something new that you never knew before. You may find yourself experiencing a freedom you have not tasted yet. In the final analysis, God freed us from the bondage of fear in what He did for us in His son. He made us free so that we could live and love and experience and learn! Get out there and experience life! All of it! Quit being such a little b**ch! I love you…

Just some good thoughts…

Stop Surviving, Start Thriving…


survival modePeculiar things can happen to you while you’re on the journey of life. You can lose the things you once possessed. Your path can imperceptibly become more difficult. The joy and the happiness you once enjoyed can be stolen from you and replaced with something less. Incredulously, you can even begin to work against your own best interests. What happens to a man or a woman that leads them to survive instead of thriving? It’s time to stop surviving and to start thriving!

No person alive would willfully choose to oppose themselves or work against their own best interests. Even animals instinctively know they have to fight for themselves; for their own lives. Yet this is what happens to people. They can become so broken down, so defeated internally that their only reasonable option seems to be survival. The reason this happens is because their opponent, who works in secret, develops and builds strongholds of error into their minds. These mental fortresses occupy and overrule their logic and paint pictures of life that aren’t actually true. Yet, because they appear true, their devastating effect is realized. People are defeated within the confines of their own heart. It’s no wonder God admonishes us to guard our hearts above all that can be guarded. Once these errors of thought take root, gain momentum and build strength, they render you as a drunken man, unable to discern with any clarity of thought. They rule with the iron fist of fear to the point that it seems more reasonable to limp along in life terrified of some potential outcome, more so than to take life on with its multiplicity of challenges and win. It’s the textbook definition of getting punked out; accepting failure and loss without even fighting back. Logic would seem to dictate that you only need to survive in life when you are out of all available options. Yet those in survival mode always have options as the the things they seek to escape aren’t actually a part of their reality, but rather a part of their imagined reality.

Once people find themselves in these self-made prison holes, it becomes very difficult to extricate themselves. They have been caught in the snare of the adversary and are taken captive by him at his will. In this they are captured alive like a bird that once had freedom of flight. They are not dead, thank God, but they may as well be in comparison to the misery they endeavor to survive day by day. A great teacher once remarked, “Choose your ruts wisely, for you may be in them for a long time.” Ruts are formed in the road by repeated travel down the same path to the point where a groove has been carved into the road. Try as you might, you just keep getting sucked back into the groove. Thus, the solution isn’t to keep going down the same paths over and over again hoping to jump up and out of the rut, but rather to stop traveling down that road altogether. The rut was developed within your own thoughts and you have to decide to make a new road. The reason we get trapped, myself included, is that we persist in thinking the same things that brought us down to begin with. If those things we continue to consider are a lie, our consideration of them, over and over and over, is not going to make them true. Rather, we strengthen the edifice; we build higher and stronger the opposing stronghold and suffer greatly as a result. There is no shame in recognizing that you have been captured, but rather in surrendering and choosing not to fight for yourself. God will always provide a way out, but you have to stand up for yourself and take it.

The only way to tear down those great citadels of error that exist in your mind is to begin to stand against them; to oppose them. It is the truth of the Word of God that sets you free and there is no other way to do it. You stop surviving by your refusal to go down those same paths. It is your human nature, your ego, your well nourished system of logic that is keeping you bound. Humility is the willingness to admit that you might be doing something wrong; that you might be working against your own best interests. The enemy of all goodness is counting on you to make the wrong choice by working on your ego, by those things you think that you already know. By the time you reach the rut; by the time you have become imprisoned by your own self, by the time that fear is the dominating factor in your life, you have already been captured. You’re in the trap! No amount of introspection will open the locks on the trap as it is your (and mine) incessant focus on yourself that got you there in the first place. Who told you that you were not good? Who convinced you that you have no power against the evil that has been threatening you night and day? It was a lie from the father of lies and the only reasonable escape is to stop your consideration of the lie! Stop surviving!

You can only begin to thrive when you rid yourself of the hinderances to your growth. You must cast down those reasoning thoughts against what God’s Word says is true and every exalted thing that stands in opposition to the truth. Once you stop going down the same path the rut will eventually fill back in. The smooth, flat road of the truth will encourage your forward movement. The truth considered and cleaved to will open every lock; break every chain or fetter the adversary has ever put around you and you will once again soar the heights of life where there is no fear. But, the starting point is your humility to God and the things He guarantees are true. Once you escape the false confines of self-made prison holes you can begin to recover yourself and return to sober minded thought that has no basis in fear, only love. And, as God lovingly and graciously gives you a change of heart to the acknowledging of the truth, you will be set free. You will be free to dream and expect and love and enjoy. You will be free to live your best possible life with accomplishment, success and exploits for God. You will stop listening to and acting on those damnable lies and will walk the new road of high endeavor. You will be the man or woman that God always wanted you to be, free to love, free to give, free to serve.

All of us are going to reach a point in our journeys where we have been deceived and suffer as a result of it. All of us are going to fall short. All of us are going to find ourselves in impossible ruts at times. All of us will find ourselves in despair, in survival mode. But the only good God of eternity is always willing to help us find the way back. God’s will is that we thrive. “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.” Stop surviving and start thriving. It is God’s highest good for you. Thrive!

Just some good thoughts…

Imagine…


Girl

Do you remember when you were a kid and imagined yourself in a variety of different scenarios? In those pictures you made up in your mind, you were always the hero or the movie star or the famous athlete, weren’t you? You never actually saw yourself in some mediocre role living out someone else’s dream, did you? You could have never pictured yourself enduring some boring, predictable existence waiting for payday or some other event that made you feel alive even if only for a brief hiatus. Children simply don’t think that way. For them, life is still fully open to infinite opportunities for their own personal happiness and success. Their hopes and dreams exist on the high road of success and plenty as a hope and a dream should. Adulthood, conversely seems to bring with it a requirement to settle down to life’s realities; code for letting your hopes and dreams go. It’s not that your age or level of maturity made you do it, but rather that somewhere along the way you decided to abandon those ideals that lived in your imagination and opted for something else; something safe instead. You forgot the importance of your imagination. Imagine…

When was the last time you pictured yourself as something different than who you actually are, or at least who you think yourself to be? As a living being, do you really have to remain whatever it is you have already assigned yourself to be? Do you make decisions in life and then become chained to those decisions forever? The ideas and beliefs you carry about yourself, are those ideas fixed and unchangeable? Are they even true? It seems the older I get, the more evident it becomes that the person we have decided we are is more based on our continued thinking than it is based on any reality. It seems at some stage in life we have gathered enough information to form some conclusions about ourselves and we are loathe to change those conclusions. In so doing, we cut ourselves off from any further learning and exploration. We cannot imagine life any other way. There is nothing new to discover; no feeling we don’t already understand; no new way of being that we might have access to simply by deciding to change our thinking. We walk the same tired paths day after day, bored and unfulfilled, while refusing to change the thoughts that got us there. It’s as if our destiny is set, there is no turning back. In this we have been deceived. We have been habituated to our habits and manners and customs. Once insecure, always insecure. Once lacking confidence, always lacking confidence. Once incapable and inexperienced, always incapable, always lacking what is required to master anything. We live amidst old wineskins that served a purpose once when they were new, but no longer serve us now that they are old. Our thoughts have gotten old. We lack imagination.

Imagination is the unique human capability to see something that isn’t yet a part of our reality. It is the ability to picture something we wish for ourselves or some person we would like to become. The image isn’t based on reality, so called, nor on any present circumstance. Instead it is a picture we initiate, if we dare. Imagination is having the audacity to not accept what is in favor of what could be. The more you carry with you the images of what you want, the more those images become a reality for you. The starting point has nothing to do with your current position or status or whatever other measure you have used against yourself. The starting point is your mind and the images that you feed your mind. Imagine that. Most people, and I often fall prey to the same dilemma, carry with them images of everything they don’t want in their life. They harbor fears and worries about their health, often picturing themselves in hospital rooms getting lifesaving treatments. They see themselves as weak and defeated. All the things they do not want, dominate their thinking and they wonder why good things escape them; why the blessings are not showing up. They imagine the worst in life and continue to live out that existence. It’s no wonder people settle for the mundane and safe as it appears to be better than all the things they have wrongly pictured for so long.

The solution is very obvious. We have to make the effort (and yes effort is required) to change the pictures we have been carrying around inside our heads. Just because you think a thought, even a thousand times, does not necessarily make that thought true. People believe too much of their own baloney. They hold on to and trust images that work against their own best interests. No amount of confessing you are stupid will ever make you smarter. Indeed every negative word you say or negative image you carry about yourself is an indictment against your very own being wherein you are the only judge. Instead, recognize what has been going on and try something new. Picture yourself exactly as you would like yourself to be. See yourself as already in possession of the things you would like to possess. Dream it. Imagine it. It’s your mind and it’s your life! No-one changes their life without first changing their mind. God gave you an imagination. Learn to use it for your good. You are not a child anymore, you are something better. You have an unlimited capacity to imagine good things. Imagine…

Just some good thoughts.

A New Year to Reconnect with Life…


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As we reflect on the past year, it is easy to think about all of the things we didn’t like and make grandiose plans for the coming new year. But, do we really need to do that? If we want to lose weight, did we not want to lose weight last year? If our aim is the elimination of bad habits, did we engage in those bad habits in the year that is ending now? The same logic could be applied infinitum. Thus it seems it’s not so much changing the small parts that make up our life as it is our attitude towards life as a whole. There is a reason we get too heavy; we engage in unhealthy behaviors; we become bored and depressed and seek something new, exciting and different. But, that which we seek really has nothing to do with the date on the calendar as much as it has to do with our overall general approach to the life we are living now. The life you are seeking underneath your list of new year’s resolutions is actually here already. You just need to reconnect with it. You need to reengage with life.

All living things are either living or dying, thriving or deteriorating. There is no status quo when it comes to life. And, as you no doubt have guessed already, living in this world there is a tendency towards deterioration and decay. It’s not how God originally planned it, but it is what it is at this point! The world is a frightfully negative place. Social media is negative. Your friends tend towards being negative. The circumstances you find yourself in – negative. It is how the world runs and it is how the world functions. Ever since that old snake got involved with God’s creation, decay replaced flourishing with loss and defeats becoming the order of the day. As such, it is no wonder we have all become disconnected with life. It’s not so much the world’s way that has defeated us as it is how we have let the world into our hearts. We expect things not to work out. We peer around the corner in good situations waiting for the the shoe to drop; the bad things to appear. We are not gluttons for punishment, but rather have been systematically trained to expect negativity; to look for the cracks; to find reasons not to maintain any semblance of hope or positive expectation. In this, over time, we have been swept away from life and not to life. And, in our ignorance, we have been led away from the source of life and all that could ever be good about life. We chase money and status and sunny days without troubles. We long to feel good again and long for the energy and enthusiasm that accompany that goodness. We promise ourselves to get better at this and stop doing that in the hopes that we can discover or rediscover that which we seemed to have lost. Enter the new year and its promise for better things ahead.

Curiously, instead of taking the time to think and consider what might have occurred that robbed us of our life or our happiness in life, we flap around on the surface of things assuring ourselves that if we only had more money or more time or more favorable circumstances, things would quickly take a turn for the better. Surely dry January will do the trick instead of learning what all that alcohol is replacing in our minds. We eat too much and hate the result, but never quite figure out why we are eating so much. All excesses, a thing we are all guilty of, point us to some missing element in our lives, some unresolved issue, some fear allowed to hang around and plague us. Fears and worries and our constant preoccupation with ourselves and whether or not we are going to be okay, suck the very life from us. The more we think we have finally figured out, the less we actually know, yet we keep persisting in the same game year after lousy year, loving life less and less as every year transpires. What, you’re thirty, forty, fifty, sixty years old and you already have figured everything out? You don’t need to make any changes in your thinking or your conclusions? You don’t need to consider that you have perhaps been led astray in some capacity? I submit to you, with all the honesty my soul can fathom, that if your life sucks it does so because you have been deceived in some category of life which you have yet to discover. You have, as my wife is wont to say, gotten entrenched in some fixed mindset that serves only to limit and curtail your life rather than to enhance it. Look, we are all in this thing together and there is nothing you are experiencing that all of us haven’t experienced at one time or another. We all get down in life and feel miserable. We all get wrapped up in stupidity and the things that rob life from us. We all get perplexed, lost, confused and afraid. That isn’t the issue at all. The issue is whether or not we can humble ourselves to figure out why and then at last find the way back. The way back exists regardless of the date on the calendar!

When you reconnect with life, you will find that life and God and goodness have been here all along. God is more than willing to teach you something new. He is infinitely capable of exposing the darkness that has been wearing you out. He sees all and knows all. If you are going to make a New Year’s resolution, resolve yourself to rediscover life. Step down from that old, high horse of ego and be willing to admit that something has gone astray. You know if things aren’t working for you so you might as well admit it! I’m not sure what it is about being a human being that convinces us there is nothing new to know; no new path to discover; no new road to take. Sometimes you just need to find someone you love and trust and talk things through with them. Then while you are discussing your plight, listen to what they have to say. There will be errors of thought and subsequent actions you are taking. Be open to it. Lord knows we all need help from the people that love us most. But, in the end, seek the help from the One most capable of providing it; the One that knows you better than you know your own self. Don’t spend any pointless time lamenting your past errors. If there wasn’t an adversary, all of us would likely remain error free. But, there is an adversary and he happens to be dang good at his game. Forgive yourself, learn and find that life you have been missing. No matter what has happened to you or how low you may have sunk, underneath it all are the everlasting arms of God, ready, willing and able to give you a fresh start! Reconnect with life. Reengage life, your life. Look for the promise of brighter days ahead no matter what the calendar is reporting. Happy New Year my friends and I love you.

Just some good thoughts…

Holiday Musings…


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The holidays are always the most interesting time of the year. All of us grew up in the enchantment of Christmas; a time where for a short period it was about the other people and not ourselves. People were a little nicer; a bit more compassionate; more kind to their fellow man. As children, most of us experienced the magic whereby we could hardly sleep in anticipation of the gifts we would receive on Christmas day. It was the one day when all of our dreams might come true. As we got older, we rightfully accepted our duty to produce that same feeling in our children and the people whom we loved. How glorious! How beautiful! How grand! No matter your beliefs, no matter your background, no matter your upbringing, Christmas was always a special time reserved for families and dear friends. Then, just like that, the holidays were over and we grudgingly returned to life as usual. The time for giving had eclipsed and it was back to the pursuit of number one. Maybe there is a lesson in Christmas? Holiday musings are in order.

What is it concerning Christmas that works so powerfully to change our views about people? Many say that Jesus is the reason for the season. But, is he? Most bible scholars will freely admit that the birth of Christ did not occur in December at all. More appropriately, Jesus is the reason for all seasons. The very idea of a man that lived for others; that sought the good of others above himself; the determination and drive to bring about God’s will in all situations; the enduring love and willingness to heal all that were oppressed under the burdensome hand of the devil, this was the life of our savior, this was God’s perfect man. In many ways, he exemplified the concept of Christmas in that his focus was the happiness and deliverance of others. He didn’t live this way for a month or so according to tradition, he lived this way his entire adult life. He was God’s representative on earth and as such he came only to do good for all that needed him, both in his present time and throughout the future. Perhaps the good feelings of Christmas, whether based on the pleasant memories of our past or based on a change of our perspective in the present, remain to teach us a valuable lesson; continue to exist to offer a small taste of the life that God intended for us, a time where everyday is Christmas at our house.

Christmas is a time when we finally let our preoccupation with ourselves go and turn our focus outward. We joy and rejoice in the intended effect our gifts will have on those we love. We think of all the people we embrace and look for ways to express our love for them. Instead of carelessly glossing over and taking for granted those we hold most dear, we seek rather to honor them no matter the cost, so that our love for them is increasingly evident. For us, it’s not about the money, the expense, but instead it’s about actively seeking their good, their blessing; their hearts. In this, we taste the goodness of God and experience for ourselves the true intention and heart of our Creator. We learn, even if for a relatively brief time, that it is more blessed to give than receive and that in giving from the heart our hearts are satisfied and blessed. We touch on the grand design and for a short respite forget ourselves. Oh the blessing and delight that Christmas represents.

Christmas is a time when we draw back from the hustle and bustle of life and recommit ourselves to our people. We finally take a break, a much needed break from the rat race and endless striving for something we don’t have, and settle down to our base, our foundation, our happy place of family. And,  though far from perfect, our place of safety, blessings and love. We stop trying to make our family into something they are not and instead embrace them for who they are, good and bad, because we love them. We share our fondest memories and remember how we all waited in gleeful anticipation for the great day that was on the horizon. In some way, we all tasted and felt how good life could be and we embraced it with all of our hearts. Christmas, steeped in tradition and a conglomeration of many ideas and beliefs, still served to teach us a different way; a way based on looking for the good in others instead of the bad in ourselves. And, every year we are blessed with that same pleasant reminder of how good life can be.

This Christmas, no matter your beliefs or upbringing, let yourself experience the love and blessings that your family and friends supply for you. Don’t let the moment escape you. Don’t fret yourself over something you cannot afford or worry yourself with meeting every demand. What your children will remember most is not the Xbox or the the new car, but instead the love you shared with them during the season of goodness and love. The love you felt and recall so fondly is the love they will remember as well. Put the Christmas music on. Watch the Hallmark movies. Serve up the hot chocolate in your pajamas reserved for the holiday season. Drink wine, bake cookies, make the place as festive as you can for in so doing, you encourage the love and goodness you enjoyed that lives on until this day. Ahh it is Christmas time and the love of God is all around you. Embrace it. It’s Christmas…

Just some good thoughts.

Healthy Mind


ADA-Website-Mental-Health-770x400-1The topic of health has become increasingly more prominent in the minds and hearts of people due to some fantastic advances in terms of medicine and medications. Yet, often missed in our quest for better health is the condition of our minds. More and more people are experiencing mental health issues ranging from anxiety to depression which may have even reached clinical levels without really understanding the importance of mental health maintenance in terms of how we think and continue to think. Just as there are lifestyle choices that lead to unhealthy bodies, there are also ways of thinking that result in unhealthy minds. Unhealthy thoughts indulged in and repeated produce in us all manner of difficulties and troubles. Yet, we continue on blindly, never considering that we are always responsible for what we choose to think, healthy or unhealthy, whole or sick, helpful or hurtful. In order to live our lives successfully, we need to learn how to have a healthy mind.

Of all the great, foundational things you may have learned in school, how much of that learning was devoted to “how to think” or “what to think?” Thinking is something people just take for granted and wrongly conclude that it doesn’t have much impact on their life. Instead of endeavoring to learn what and how to think, they just sort of let their thoughts run like a boat on the river driven with the currents. Their expectation is that good thoughts simply appear based on sunny circumstances and bad thoughts must be endured until the storms of life have subsided. The deception carries with it the idea that people have no control over their thoughts. It’s as if thoughts are something that occur despite the person doing the thinking. It is as if thoughts have a certain truth to them and must be accepted as they are; where they are; in the manner in which they present themselves. In this, people unknowingly subject themselves to misery by the thoughts they continue to think. Certain thoughts have no value to you and work instead to make you ill. Other thoughts encourage, warm and uplift you. Why people would continue to think thoughts that hurt them is one of life’s greatest conundrums! Yet the whole world lives under this curse. Being negative, ungrateful, agitated and afraid offers nothing for your desire to be positive, thankful, at peace and secure. But, onward we march poisoning our souls, leading to our own, eventual demise. A healthy mind, like a healthy body, must be fed with healthy food. Oh sure, you can afford an occasional overindulgence or splurge, but to do so often will cause you harm. In the same way, we can survive our minds going south for a little bit, but we must find a way to return to that place working towards our own best interests. A healthy mind requires it.

There is only one you and there will never be another you. You only have one life to live on earth. If, while living on this earth, you are wholly against yourself, who can be for you? If you are not voting for yourself in the great election, how can you expect to win? People think all manner of horrible things about themselves. They criticize themselves, malign themselves, condemn themselves and doubt themselves. They have learned not to trust their own judgments. They willingly choose to persist in thoughts that serve no other purpose than to bring them down. They tear their own selves down! They aggrandize their every error and fault and minimize their own achievements and victories. How absurd! How awful? Yet, that is how people have been taught to think. And they persist in this evil thinking day after day, year after year. They fail to recognize what is behind that persuasion as even animals instinctively know how to protect their own selves. Thinking this way is not simply part of the human condition, but is rather a perversion foisted upon us by things we cannot see or readily discern. No person thinking clearly and in their right mind would actively work against their own best interests. This type of thinking comes from evil, working you over from the inside out to perform as your own worst enemy. If you can talk a man into thinking evil of himself, he will forever be defeated before he begins. As such our duty is to begin to recognize that these thoughts, these habits, these ways of thinking of ourselves are not right and are to be rigorously excluded. We owe ourselves that much! No person on earth has ever been made better, not even one iota better, by constantly living in and dwelling upon thoughts of inferiority and shame. You don’t make a child better by habitually pointing out his faults, but by cleaving to his goodness until he follows suit and believes it himself. A healthy mind only follows a determination to be for yourself instead of against yourself!

Healthy thinking is the cornerstone to a life well lived. Healthy thoughts build you up and strengthen you for the journey. Healthy thoughts are on your own side, even when you may have fallen short. It is difficult enough to live life with all of its complexities and potential for errors without the added burden of self evaluation and self investigation. You likely already know where your weak spots are and where you need improvement without the added criticism and judgment. Those judgments, that persistence in finding fault does not come from God. God is not behind that stuff, convicting you of sin as some have erroneously taught. God already made the way to save us from ourselves because He already knew we could not measure up. God also knows well the devices of our opponent, working in secret to defeat us by weakening our thoughts. Unhealthy thoughts, weak thoughts are made up in direct contrast to all that God says we are and all that God says we have. When we are afraid we have believed a lie and will not escape until we refute it. Hours spent in worry weaken our nervous system and make us ripe for sickness and decay. Thoughts of self hatred and disgust are the heighth of unnatural thinking pointing to a long persistence in wrong, uncontrolled, unchallenged thinking. Choose health. Choose life.

Today is the day to make up your mind to not think another negative thing about yourself. Stop participating in the things designed and orchestrated for your own defeat. Cease from finding things wrong with yourself and instead look for the good, your good. Begin to spot those habitual thought processes you have developed over time that serve no other purpose than to malign you. Quit opposing yourself. If God be for you, who can be against you? You can live the more than abundant life God has promised you, but you have to do your part. What you think and how you think is your part. Break free from the tyranny of self enslavement by learning to control your thoughts. A healthy mind is everything. Healthy mind.

Just some good thoughts…

Where are You Going?


elephantHave you ever taken the time in the activity and hectic pace of life to think about where you are going? It seems counterintuitive to even pose the question. I mean we are all heading in some direction, but have we given any reflective thought to where? You may find yourself engaged in certain activities you perform habitually and even dutifully, and after a while you are not even sure why you do it anymore. Maybe at one point in time it served you well. Maybe once there was something or somewhere you were trying to get to and that is why you did what you did. Quite possibly you behaved in a specific way to get a specific result and now find yourself, like the drug addict, searching endlessly for that initial high; that early experience that hooked you in the first place. Whatever the reasons, whatever your present circumstances, the question remains. Do you know where you are going?

A funny thing happens to you after you have been living for some time on earth. You can have the tendency to forget your way. Instead of seeking or striving towards some worthy goal, you sort of settle into the routines of life. There is really nothing you are after or trying to accomplish, but instead days of living with no real purpose, nothing that gets you up in the morning. You still do the same stuff, but there is no longer anything behind the stuff. The habits you have developed over the years become your existence and on you trudge day after day, mired in bad habits and things that no longer serve you. And like the crazy person who continues doing the exact same thing without any good result, you persist on a fruitless path ever wishing, hoping something will change. However, nothing can change if you don’t change. Instead of wishing your life was different in some way, you owe it to yourself to give some thought to which direction you are heading. If what you do, day in and day out, is not producing any result (any good result), you have to at least begin to change what it is that you do. At some future point, you aren’t going to have any days left. 

Self introspection and evaluation is not your aim. As imperfect creatures, we will all succeed in finding things that aren’t so good. Instead your end game is to honestly and  lovingly look at your life; how you have been living and see if your tendencies lean towards good things or if your tendencies lean towards bad things; bad things defined by the results they engender in your life. Some things we do, and you know this, serve no other purpose than to wear us out. Oh we persist, by God, but in the final analysis it’s the same bad habits leading to the same bad results over a lifetime. If you do stuff and continue to do stuff that causes you not to feel good about yourself, that is your first clue. Good things, true things, productive things have no downside. That is not to say you always have to produce something, but if you are producing bad things, you are heading in the wrong direction. Look if you are doing things you enjoy and feel good about and they leave you feeling happy, keep on keeping on. But, if you have to rationalize their existence, make excuses and lie to yourself, you’ve got to come clean at some juncture. All things in moderation are acceptable lest you be too severe with yourself!

Sometimes the issue isn’t so much what you are doing as it is what you aren’t doing. Every day has contained within it demands that must be accomplished. Ignoring those demands, in favor of some fun or other distraction, doesn’t leave you the better for it, but rather the worse. Do the important things however seemingly small. Every brick you leave unstacked gathers power over you. Soon you find yourself buried under a weight you can no longer discern. Doing nothing of value day after day, shirking your responsibilities, forsaking any discernible goals or plans, halts your forward progress and thus guarantees you will not reach any desirable destination. How could you? Maybe your life has become such a drag not because of your circumstances, but because you stopped moving forward. You stopped setting things to aim at or pursue. There’s nothing about getting older that suggests you should no longer have things you want to accomplish nor stop making plans to improve and increase and to grow. If you don’t have anything to aim at you’re going to spend a lot of time wandering in futility. And perhaps we have all been there at one time or another, faded out and lacking motivation. But, it is never too late to change and it is never too late to start moving forward again. 

So, where are you going? Do you know? Is there something specific you are aiming at and want to achieve? Is your life getting better and better? Is your life getting worse? Or maybe worst of all, has your life become an endless episode of ground hog day offering no promise, no hope, no blessings, no goodness, nothing? Whatever your life is with every conceivable combination therein, you owe yourself some reflection concerning where you are and where you would like to be. It’s okay to be stuck as long as you know you are and are seeking the way out of it. There is nothing as good for the soul as some sincere realizations followed by a vigorous desire to change. You can always change directions. You can always learning something new. You can always get to where you want to get as long as you know where you are going!

Just some good thoughts…