The Secret to a Lasting Relationship…


kids-sharing-secret2A short time ago, I had the honor to officiate the wedding of my dear niece. As my manner is, I like to provide the couple with some marriage advice individually and together. I shared with them the real secret to a lasting relationship and surprisingly it wasn’t only communication. I called it a secret because it is not the way most couples function. Do you want to know the secret? Read on.

If you think about it, people do not remain the same person they were as they grow and progress through their life. We all have both the privilege and the opportunity to make changes and if needed, modify our behavior. Similarly our interests and our desires also change. What appeals or holds first place to a twenty year old is vastly different than what appeals to a fifty year old. When people get married, their task is to unify two separate people towards one common purpose. Being married does not mean forsaking who you are as a person in order to please the other person. Instead the couple has to find a way to continue to be themselves and also function as a team. How absurd the idea of marriage would be if the goal was to turn into something or someone you are not. Doing so or attempting to do so leads to nothing but perpetual resentment on the part of the one being asked to be someone they are not. In marriage or any serious relationship the people involved have to be able to be themselves. In the world you may be required to play a role, but at home there has to be freedom and tons of acceptance. How many relationships fail because one or the other is trying to make their partner into something they are not? This, of course doesn’t mean there isn’t a responsibility to rid oneself of obnoxious behaviors or to modify and adjust as required. Modifying and adjusting are part of the essence of life. Usually that thing that bothers you about your partner, bothers them as well. Yet, similar to how God works with us, you don’t scold and criticize away bad behaviors. Instead you endeavor to make an appeal to that good part of the person. Being critical and demeaning may make you feel better in the moments of anger, but in the end it simply gives birth to bitterness. But most importantly and in concert with the “secret,” you have to allow your partner the freedom to change. Each day is a new day and offers a fresh start in order to get it right. But, your partner doesn’t have a chance to get it right if you are still stuck back on something from yesterday. Allow them to change. Allow them to modify. Allow them to adjust.

The secret to a lasting relationship is found when you learn to live each day as a new day. Relationships, marriages turn sour because one or the other or both are dragging around their perpetual, negative memories of the past. Living in this way just fixes your partner to one moment in time doomed to the consequences forever. Your partner may have transformed lightyears from the person you initially met and fell in love with, but you won’t ever be able to see and truly appreciate that transformation because you aren’t seeing them for who they are, but rather for who they were. Your image of your partner, your spouse is distorted and predetermined leaving you with nothing but the dredges of the past you are carrying about with you. Whenever I see couples (and I include myself in this observation) carrying on a sort of low level bickering back and forth, I know there are so many unsaid and unresolved issues from the former days still affecting today. And I always think, what a shame! How sad that you cannot even hear each other because of that backlog of, “How you always are and what you always say!” So sad. You remember when you first met? You didn’t have all those negative associations built up and you actually saw and heard your partner. All of us can change and sometimes in dramatic fashion. All of us can learn a new, better way to be. All of us can finally decide to stop doing the stuff that causes ourselves and others pain and blaze a new trail. All people need is the freedom to do it. Give your partner, your spouse, your lover the freedom to change. Let them be someone else instead of the image you have decided they are and forever will be. They are growing and learning just like you are. Above all, learn to accept them; their quirks; their oddities; their foolishness. Accept it. Quit wishing they would be someone else and love them for who they are. You may find as you focus on their goodness that there is a lot there for you to love. If you know they have a weak spot, why not cover it? Maybe they have strange views about things, well God bless them, so do you.

The secret to a lasting relationship and even life itself is to live each day as a new day. Don’t try to live in your future and for goodness sakes, let go of the past. Live in the moment, in the day, and look at things with fresh eyes. Do your best to quit reading into current situations with a bunch of old data from the past. It’s old and no longer useful. Look at your partner with clear eyes and a clear heart. Just because their responses to certain situations are familiar doesn’t mean they will always be the same. Let them grow and change just like you have grown and changed. You have finally figured a few things out and maybe they have also. That person you are with that knows exactly how to drive you nuts likely loves you more than anyone else does and for that they deserve a fresh start; a thousand fresh starts. Communication is vital, but pointless if you are communicating from the vantage point of the ghosts of the past. Live each day as a new day. It is the secret to a lasting relationship.

Just some good thoughts…

Open Wide Your Heart…


heart openUs human beings have this uncanny approach to life whereby we tend to acclimatize ourselves to our surroundings and habituate a large portion of our existence. When we were young, everything was new and exciting. There was a whole world out there to explore and we looked forward with excited anticipation to where we might find our place in the world. Then life happened and we stopped looking. We traded in our thirst for adventure for the familiar and the well known. As the years passed, unbeknownst to us, we began to put limits on our options and settled in for the mundane. We became slaves to our habits and developed a fixed mindset; a mindset that has little space for the unfamiliar, leaving us with a little too much familiar. The days became longer and longer and our new activities became less and less. Our quest for learning slowed to a standstill and much less our capacity for spontaneity. We just go too old and too afraid of the unknown. In this we closed our hearts off to life and suffered as a result of it. Life was never meant to be endured or survived, but rather a place for endless learning and new adventures. The reason we lost track of that life is because we let our hearts get hard, closed off from the true experience of living. Life never changed, we did. Open wide your hearts!

Living life absent the truth of God’s Word subjects our hearts to a host of wrong ideas, fears and hurts. In defense, or in an attempt at defense or self preservation, we learned to close off our hearts. The world can be a scary place and an open heart feels vulnerable and subject to pain. That same world taught us to harden our hearts, to lessen risk wherever possible and to play it safe. We were told to content ourselves with the mediocre and be thankful simply to be alive as opposed to really living. We thought we were getting wiser, but in actuality were being talked out of life. One by one our happinesses and enjoyments were curtailed in favor of the responsible existence. The messages, “watch out now” “be careful” and “be safe” became our new mantra. Young folks rarely make such statements as the world has not yet convinced them of the danger in everything. And while being reckless has its own painful lessons, adhering to nothingness is even worse. How do you get to the place where you go to work for someone else’s dream, exert your energy for that dream, then come home, go to bed and wake up to do it all over again? You can’t do anything fun on a weeknight because it is a weeknight. God forbid you go to work a little sleepy. Any fun that there is, is reserved for a few hours on the weekend. There’s not a category of life that hasn’t been diminished by some expert or had its dangers extolled and repeated. In this people cease to live and end up enduring the hours of their remaining life. 

The culprit most famous for closing hearts is always fear. Fear closes off all the outlets until all that is left is you stuck inside alone. One by one, fear takes something from you until you have nothing left. Fear steals your fun, your thirst for life, your love of learning, your energy, your time, your enthusiasm and your health. Fear always limits your options. Fear makes you choose three things instead of a hundred things. Fear sets your prosperity limits and your means to enjoy your life. Fear makes you poor both metaphorically and literally. Fear is behind the boredom you endure because it talked you into what you can and cannot do, always emphasizing what you cannot do! In a life so full and rich, with so much infinite variety of experience, there is always, always so much more. You don’t see it nor can you experience it because of your fear. Open wide your heart by getting rid of fear. 

The only way to life is to seek out the Author of Life. Don’t waste your time with religion or any practice that always aims at you and your imperfections. Instead seek Him who is perfect. Seek the very source of life and experience. And in order to find Him, though He be not very far from any one of us, you have to open your heart. You have to be willing to learn something new. You have to be just as willing to unlearn that great edifice of error that has been built into your mind. You have to rid yourself of fear with all that you are. You have to learn a new and a living way. Every one of your lost pleasures and your lost treasures can be found in Him. He knows the person you really are and all that He put into your heart to do. You have a purpose and your life has meaning, deep rich, enduring meaning. There is vastly more life to live than you have days left to live. You just have not yet been able to see it. What questions have long plagued your heart? What things do you so desperately need? What needs His restoration and healing power? Riches and honor are in His left hand and in His right hand, pleasures forevermore. Open wide your heart. 

The path to the life you wish to live runs through your heart. Open it back up again and let it heal. Give out that love and kindness you have inside and don’t reserve it only for the little ones. Be a wave of warmth and goodness to the people you meet and let your light shine. Be lavish in your praise and hearty in your approbation. (Thanks Dale Carnegie). Be the goodness you want to see in the world. Be the person, hurting people need the most and be it with your whole heart. All that you could have ever wished for in your life will come through your open heart. Open wide your heart…

Just some good thoughts. 

Enjoy the Life that is Now!


When God invented life, He intended for it to be a time of happiness, blessings and delight. In His original creation, man and woman had unlimited access to all that God created and He created it all for them. There was no pain, no sorrow, no sadness, no sickness and no death. There was no disruption in God’s provision for his precious people and everything they touched turned to gold. Then, something happened. Evil found a way to gain access to man’s heart, deceived and tricked them and eventually took away all of the rights God originally gave to man. From that fateful day forward, unto this very day, the creation continues to function in a disrupted, decaying state. Evil’s involvement resulted in pain, sorrow, sadness, sickness and eventually death. This is the life people live today. Instead of rejoicing in the experience of life, people settle for survival, unfamiliar with any alternative way to live. Enjoying and rejoicing in life doesn’t appear to be an option except for fleeting periods of happiness destined to return to the old familiar misery. Yet it is not necessary to live this way any longer. There is a life available to you that encompasses all that you could have ever imagined. It is the life God gave you to enjoy.

Jesus Christ lived God’s Word perfectly in a world subjected to evil the same way it is today. Jesus had no sin in his blood and by his freewill choices, never sinned or broke his unity with God. He obeyed God’s Word for mankind perfectly, a feat no other man had ever been able to do. And when he freely gave up his life for mankind, despite being the innocent blood, he paid the price for everything that was ever flawed or corrupted in you and me. By his sacrifice, he gave back to mankind everything mankind had lost when evil entered the creation. Once a person decides to accept his sacrifice by making him Lord in their lives and believing that God raised him from the dead, they become born again and receive God’s spirit inside, forever setting them free from the claims of sin and evil. From that day forward, the believer has the capacity to live the enjoyable and blessed life God originally had in mind for His people.

So you may ask, why am I telling you these things? I’m telling you this because people have been living far, far below par. People spend their entire lives in the grips of fear and uncertainty. Folks over occupy their minds with sin and condemnation, guilt and shame, all of which has been throughly purged by Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. When Jesus said, “it is finished” just before he gave up his life, he meant it. What was finished forever was any need on your part to try and earn God’s love, protection and care. Good people work hard to be worthy before God and it’s a futile work. God made you worthy in the life of His son. Trying to do it on your own simply crucifies the son of God afresh. People have so many, many unmet needs but are afraid to go to the One who promised to supply all of their needs. Folks walk around with anxiety about everything. It’s no wonder they aren’t enjoying the life that is now. You are never going to be able to really enjoy your life until you let God be God and you content yourself with being you. Honestly, what problem have you ever been able to solve with all of your worry and fret? What guarantees do you have in your life outside of God? God never intended for you to live that way. The only way to enjoy your life, I mean really enjoy the experience of it, is to let God do the things He promised to do and you to simply keep yourself in a space to receive it. It is never more complicated than that. The real complication and perplexity in life comes from evil, masterfully manipulating people’s minds in a corrupted, broken and sad world. Endless causes. Ceaseless distractions. Perpetual shifting away people’s focus from God to everything else supposedly going on in the world. As if men that God made can band together and fix something God made. You are missing the enjoyable, blessed life.

And, here is the ultimate irony of the whole thing. You can have this life God promises right now in your day to day existence if you only knew it. It is already here for you to live. It has already been done for you. Your job simply is to accept it. Once you accept it and learn to trust God, you can start enjoying your life like a five-year old does at her birthday party. Like when you were a youngster, you can put your focus back on enjoying things instead of killing your joy with worry and concern. You can finally stop over thinking everything and for God’s sake (literally) let stuff go. You can open your heart and have fun in life. You can be vulnerable. You can share the love you have been burying inside. You can be perfectly imperfect. You can be flawed yet tremendous. You can be any damn thing you want to be because God has already covered you forever. Don’t you see it? You can stop waiting to exhale and rejoice in the life you get to live. Rejoice in it. Live it. Experience it. Prove it. Test it. You no longer have to be worried about what God thinks, He tells you what He thinks in His word and when it comes to you, it’s all good! So live your life now. Enjoy the life that is now. Rejoice and treasure the life that is right now. You owe it to the God that did so much for you to experience it. God ain’t mad at ya and neither am I!

Enjoy the life that is now…

Just some good thoughts….

Harmony


harmonyIt has taken me many years to learn what I’m planning to share with you tonight. What I’m about to say is for all the people who yearn to see the power of God in their lives. It encompasses a little known secret crucial for the Christian man or woman who dreams of living the more abundant life promised in the Bible. As you may have already noticed by now, there is more to being a believer than simply getting born again, though that in itself guarantees a life that will last forever. But, what about the here and now? What about the joy promised in God’s Word? What about actually getting your prayers answered and having access to God’s power and His goodness in our day by day lives? Many Christians, sadly, talk of God’s ability and willingness to help them, yet fail to realize those promises in their experience of life. And absent any results, seek to explain away their shortfalls by assigning mysterious reasons for the lack such as God having a higher purpose and so on. God’s promises in His Word are very real and He desires above all else that we obtain all that He has lovingly promised us. The secret is found by getting in and remaining in harmony with God.

Harmony or fellowship with God is something we must do with our minds. The contest that rages day by day takes place in our minds. The thoughts we think and continue to think matter a great deal. We literally remain in harmony with God by that which we choose to think about; that which we choose to refuse and those things that harmonize with God’s Word. Every time we entertain thoughts that are not in harmony with God’s Word, we limit God’s ability to work in us and for us. The more we entertain these negative thoughts, the less harmony we have with God. Negative thoughts serve to separate us from God in our minds. Once we have accepted our Lord and Savior and believed in our hearts that God has raised him from the dead, we have God’s seed born within us. Nothing can separate us from His love and care. His love for us remains unconditional and there is nothing He won’t do for us. But, and it is a very big but, we can become separated from Him in our thinking. Wrong thoughts convince us of lies such as “God is angry with us” or “God is punishing us with negative consequences because of our sins.” These falsehoods burrow themselves deeper and deeper into our subconscious minds. It is never that God is unwilling to meet our needs, no matter how poorly we may have behaved, but rather that we lose our confidence in Him. We get out of harmony with Him and His Word. Living out of harmony with God is the reason our prayers are not answered. Being out of fellowship with God is why we feel miserable and defeated. It is never good works of righteousness we must do to get back in harmony with God as our Savior solved that problem forever. (It is finished) Instead it is our minds. We have to learn how to get our minds back in harmony with Him. Every time you and I get fearful, which is darkness, we are out of harmony with Him. Every time we persist in condemning ourselves for some sin Jesus paid for already; every time we judge ourselves; every time we deny who God alone has made us to be, results eventually in broken fellowship with Him and from that dark place we cannot access God’s power that we need so desperately in our lives. Again not because He is unwilling, but rather because we, by our own thoughts and actions, are not in fellowship with Him. Harmony with God is the key.

Think of harmony with God as your relationship with Him. (Not His relationship with you that never changes.) In order to have a good relationship you must remain loving and open in your heart to the one you seek a relationship with. In the human sense, once you begin to harbor negative thoughts about another person or assume their negative thoughts concerning you, the relationship begins to suffer. Instead, loving relationships assume good intent. Loving, trusting relationships expect good things from the other person involved. When outside things begin to influence our relationships, we become less trusting and loving and begin to harden our hearts towards the ones we love. We seriously doubt they have our best interests at heart. We look for and expect more and more trouble. This is exactly how we get out of harmony with God. God is good always and never is the source of our difficulties, ever! Instead we begin to harbor negative views towards Him. We start believing and thinking things that are contrary to God’s Word. We ask for His light while we sit in the darkness. Instead of resting in His promises to us, we are full of doubt and worry about getting any result which almost guarantees we won’t get any result. The problem isn’t God. The problem is our failure to get in and remain in harmony with Him.

Being in fellowship with God, where all of the power and results and answers for life are found, requires that we do something different with our minds. We have to learn how to renew our minds. We have to put off all of that pervasive darkness we have been cleaving to and think God’s Word instead. We must consciously change our thoughts that are contrary to the truth back to thoughts that are in harmony with the truth. You know why? Because it is the truth. The rest is all just error playing out in a thousand different variables. For example, God promises to preserve our health and if we need it, restore our health. That truth will be challenged with sickness, disease and anything else that is contrary to it. We will find ourselves very tempted to get afraid and worry and fret. Doing so is believing the darkness and will result in our getting out of harmony with God. When we are out of fellowship with God, heaven is brass and nothing happens, despite our heartfelt prayers. The solution is to get back in harmony with God. Simply say, “Papa, Im sorry I got so afraid and I choose instead to believe what your Word promises me. Thank you for healing me.” Now you are saying what God’s Word says and now you are back in harmony with Him. In harmony with Him, in the light, is where God’s power will be found for your life. Naturally you will be tempted with many other things that challenge the truth of God’s Word in your mind, so you must follow the same process time and time again. If you get out of harmony, get back in as quickly as you can. When you recognize your mind has gone south, get back into fellowship with Him. When you feel miserable and defeated, get back into harmony with Him again. You find God in the light.

The more than abundant life promised in God’s Word is dependent upon you remaining in fellowship with God. The more you stay put, the better your life will become. God is not after your pleasing works done to persuade yourself you are worthy in His sight. He wants your heart. He wants your freewill love. He wants to do for you ALL that you could never do for yourself. He is your Father. He is your Papa. He never judges you and He always wants the best for you. Stay in harmony with Him in your mind. Remember what He has already done for you. Find out who His Word says you are and replace that old image you have been carrying around with you. You don’t please God with your good works. You please God by believing His Word. Cultivate that close, endearing relationship with Him and let Him do for you beyond all that you could ever ask or think.

It is that good. He is that good.

Just some good thoughts…

Do Something!


march-forth-and-do-something-day-fun1When you take the time to consider how life works best, I think you will agree that life involves activity. Living things are not stagnant and if they become stagnant, generally, something has gone wrong. The beauty and the value of life is found in activity, not mindless movements and empty tasks, but meaningful activity that accomplishes some end. Human beings were meant to do something, not sit idly in a state of inertia doing nothing. Activity is the anecdote to restlessness and anxiety. There is always something to do and having nothing to do leads to fretting and focus on things that have no purpose or usefulness. Often the troubles we imagine were born in those times when we had nothing planned and thought it beneficial to “veg out” confusing it with relaxation and repose. Relaxation has its purpose; vacations have their purpose and periods of not feeling compelled to perform behaviors or tasks have their purpose. But nothingness and killing time and wasting away serves rather to damage us than to heal us. If you want to be immeasurably happier, you have to do something.

All of us have experienced the joy that follows a busy day; a day where we put our entire focus into what we were doing and nothing else. We are all familiar with the satisfaction that accompanies the completion of some needed project or necessary repair of a thing that was broken. Similarly, we all know the misery associated with doing nothing for too long or letting things go that call aloud for remedy. We were made to do things and we were made to engage with life. That is not to say that we should work ourselves to the bone or submit ourselves to endless “to do lists” or requirements. Life has a balance and a flow to it and we typically know when we are pushing too hard. Fun times and play time are usually enjoyed after the work is done and not before. We often wish we had more leisure time, but leisure time lost in inactivity seems to generate more stress than relaxation. We function best when we have some work to do and a complete withdrawal from all work tends to work against our own best interests. Retirement does not mean we go from doing much to doing nothing. It simply involves a shift of focus from required tasks to tasks we choose to require. Whether it be tending a garden or writing in a journal or rearranging the furniture or cleaning out the garage, we still need something to do if want to be okay. Choosing to do nothing or to do less and less doesn’t lead to better feelings, it leads to boredom and unrest and opportunities to seek out what is wrong with life and what appears to be wrong with us. Busy people have no time for such trifles as they have remained engaged in the activity of life. You have to do something!

This life we all are blessed to live has an infinite amount of things to be interested in. You aren’t miserable because you have run out of life to experience. You are miserable because you have stopped experiencing life. You have bought into the myth that life is better when you have nothing to do. As a human being, there is never a time when you have nothing to do. It doesn’t fit with God’s plan for life. Chances are there are many things you need to do but have stopped doing them or many things you could do but have chosen to disengage from them. All of us need to recharge at times. All of us need a break or an extended break. But, even when we are taking a break, life still requires us to do something with our time. I understand what happens to us. We get overtaxed and overburdened at times. We spend too much energy. We buy into the logic that our best times are when we have nothing to do. But, there is a vast difference between not working your job and choosing to do nothing. Doing nothing makes a vacation suck. Time spent ignoring things needing to be done sucks. Deferring things requiring completion for later sucks. Sitting around disengaging from life and the people in our lives sucks. In short, God intended for our lives to be filled with meaningful activity or meaningful inactivity, the point being we always need to do something!

Being unproductive works at cross purposes with the flow of life. Our job when we feel bored or feel things have become pointless or find ourselves trapped in painful, dull routines is to reengage with life. Life hasn’t changed. We have. We put in limitations where there is no limitation. We draw finite lines around our existence, never really considering that our Source of life is infinite. We simply stop doing life and over the years find ourselves entangled in a large bowl of nothingness. We live for the weekend while completely discounting Monday or Tuesday or Wednesday. We anxiously await the warmer weather when life still exists when it’s cold. We have succumbed to a fixed mindset where the options are few and our opportunities even less. We cannot go to dinner on a “school night.” We have to wait until the weekend to work on the flower beds. We cannot engage ourselves in things that interest us because we have already foolishly concluded there’s little that interests us. What an insult to Infinite Variety and the life He envisioned for us. You want to break out of your rut? Stop thinking so much and do something.

Human beings, life and happiness have their roots in activity. Meaningful activities or activities that have meaning to you are part of the human experience and cannot be excluded or reduced. Children are happier when they have something to do, even if they complain about doing it. Schedules and labor and obligations fuel the good times we enjoy. Good, old fashioned hard work does wonders for your soul. Think about your life and what you do and see if there aren’t things you have stopped doing or reduced or neglected and get back out there and do stuff. Don’t medicate inactivity with alcohol or television or sleep. Instead do, summon the energy to do and be and engage with your life. You just might find some stuff that has been waiting for you to do.

Just some good thoughts…

Judge Not…


download (1)I have noticed, in my brief stint on earth, how people love to judge you and form opinions about the type of person you are. For awhile, as an avid red wine enthusiast, I used to post pictures of myself on Facebook trying different Cabernets, Pino Noirs, Malbecs and Merlots to name a few. My hope was that other red wine drinkers would be inspired by my posts and share some of their favorites as well. It didn’t take long before being a red wine drinker became my entire identity to the point where my wife advised, “You need to stop with all the wine posts because that is all that people think you do!” How sad? How narrow? It seems social media has morphed into a breeding ground for judgment and criticism. Some folks are angry with you for appearing to enjoy your life and, God forbid, posting pictures of yourself having fun. Other folks want to pick a fight with you concerning your views. Don’t even mention politics! Even more strange, certain people feel quite indignant that a fellow human must be exaggerating their good times and should post a more shitty, realistic view about their present situation. Again, how narrow? How sad? What is it about people that has led them to this place of criticism and harsh judgments? Why won’t they choose to judge not? 

I think the only logical explanation for the overflow of judgments is that the world and its systems has worked over the masses to the point where people are judging themselves so negatively that they can’t help but judge everyone else as well. People have been trained to search for the wrong in themselves and following a natural course, see the wrong in others as well. People judge where you work; the type of work you do; where you live or don’t live; the type of car you drive; how you dress and on into infinity. Folks just love to find out your faults, your weaknesses, so that they might feel just a little bit better about themselves. Further, those judgments are fraught with generalizations that fail to take into account the human being behind the actions. And all the time, beneath the judgments is a person that does not feel good about themselves. You wouldn’t be so quick to judge if you didn’t feel so judged yourself. In its basic essence, you tend to give out what you are inside. Judgment of people is a harsh reality festering in the heart of the one doing all the judging. You and I cannot possibly know what is going on inside another person; their motives; their reasons; their why. All we can do at best is look on the surface and form a few opinions. In this, when we judge other people, we are wrong. Judging another person has never led to improvement in a person, but instead only serves to fracture and break up the relationship. Judgment brings out cruelty in people. It offers the ever false promise of maybe feeling better about ourselves. Yet, we will never feel better about ourselves by pushing others down, no matter how justified we may feel. The way you persuade that old heart of yours is by building others up. You feel better about yourself when you hand out a little empathy, a little compassion coming from a place that knows how easy it is to get screwed up in life and how many times you have been there yourself. Sometimes what people need most from you is a pass. A great man once said, “Love sees more but is willing to see less!” A close friend of mine once remarked, “Don’t look at people too closely!” In other words, what people need most is love and a lot of forgiveness, not judgment. 

It may surprise you to know that our great God is not a fan of judgment. The reason for the law of the Old Testament wasn’t to condemn and criticize people, but rather to establish a standard for what sin was in order to send a Redeemer from sin and its claims on mankind. Jesus Christ fulfilled that just standard by living the law perfectly so you and I wouldn’t have to! Remember, Jesus came not to condemn but rather to help; to offer a sin sick and sorrowful world a chance at life. He hung out with the publicans and sinners because those are the ones that needed his help. He didn’t choose to judge people but instead left the judgment with God, whose judgment is always just. And, incredulously, that same God made a way for His precious man to escape the confines of sin and live his life without judgment because of the accomplishments of another man; His son. God’s will is that we do not judge and He gave us a way to cleanse our own hearts to help us not judge other people. Who are we to say that our own mistakes and endless foibles are any less than an another man’s errors? When we finally get a good taste of what God did for us with His son on the cross, we can finally rid ourselves of the cruelty of judgment towards other people. God works in your heart to see and love like He does. The least I can do is offer you forgiveness remembering how many times God has forgiven me.

Obviously there are times when you acknowledge wrongs done to others and you don’t have to pretend to like it. But even then, it’s not our job to judge folks. Judgment hurts people and wounds their tender hearts. Even a child knows the sooner they acknowledge their wrong done and say they are sorry, the sooner they will feel good about themselves again. Similarly, people are going to make mistakes at times; sometimes epic blunders, but when that happens they don’t need your judgment to get better, they need your love. They need your willingness to never bring it up again! And, the world would be a better place because of it. I know how easy it is to get caught up in it at times especially when everyone else seems to be doing it as well. But, it is the wrong space from which to operate. It serves no other purpose than to glorify the insidious one behind it; the one working in the situations to bring about the pain and loss; the enemy of mankind behind every wrong that was ever done. It is much better therefore, to try and live your life without all the judgment, beginning with yourself. Give yourself a break and stop listening to the accuser. You are not the mistakes you have made, you are a person with a heart; a good heart. God looks on your heart! Forgive yourself for being a human and extend that heart to other people. That is what God wants you to do. 

At the end of the day, this life is challenging enough without judging people from here to breakfast. Folks have enough challenges to surmount without the added pressure of negative judgments. Someone might be behaving like a real stinker right now, but haven’t you been that stinker yourself at times? Not being judgmental does not require that you ignore all of the wrongs done in this life, but rather asks for compassion for your fellow man. You don’t know all that is involved, only God knows that. Let God do the judging and know that He desires for all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. Who knows, maybe your acts of compassion and empathy might be all a person needs to finally turn their life around. Love people like your Momma loved you! Judge not! 

Just some good thoughts…

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…

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…

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.