Are you in Good Health?

Not too long ago I was reading an article on health and health care and saw some interesting comments about physical health that made me reflect on spiritual health. One such comment said that everyone has a hunger for something…and where it is that your greatest temptation comes in dealing with your appetite is midday and then late at night…because those are the hours in which your body begins to crave what it desires. It went on to say that is why it is vital that you don’t skip a meal…because if you skip a meal and not give your body what it needs it will begin to desire what it wants.

When you don’t feed your body the necessary nutrients of health that it needs to stay healthy, your body in turn will begin to crave or desire to have those things that it wants.

You have to feed the body what it needs in order to diminish the drive and desire of what it wants. The reason you settle for snack food and junk food is because you did not have your vegetables and fruit and grain that is necessary. As I was reading that article the Spirit took my mind to spiritual health.

The reality is many of us fall to temptation and the things that make us weak because we have not fed our spirit person those things it needs in order to remain strong and healthy. When we don’t keep ourselves in good spiritual health it becomes easy to start to fall into doing things that we want…and when you are weak spiritually you will still want things you should have gotten over by now.

Everyone has a level of temptation

 All of us, no matter how saved we may profess to be has something we are weak to and can be tempted by. In Luke 22:40, it was Jesus who said to His disciples…PRAY SO THAT YOU DO NOT FALL INTO TEMPTATION…which says to me you can fall to what makes you weak even when you are following Jesus. You will never be tempted to do something you won’t enjoy…and you enjoy it whether you are saved or not. If you won’t enjoy it, then it is not a temptation. Everyone has a level of temptation. The only way to handle it is by making sure you are feeding your spirit what it needs… THE WORD OF GOD.

When you look at the temptation of Jesus at the beginning of His ministry, Jesus has been in prayer for forty days and yet when Satan comes He does not go into prayer but goes into Word. Your prayer life will be of no affect for you if you do not know the Word. When Jesus goes into warfare, He does not go into clichés and catch phrases and things He has heard at the church. When the enemy comes after Him He goes to the Word. It’s alright to quote and tweet Bishop and whoever else you want to quote, but when you are one on one with the devil, don’t just quote a sermon from Bishop…you better say, “THE BIBLE SAYS…AS IT IS WRITTEN,

No weapon formed against me shall prosper…
Stand still and see the salvation…
The joy of the Lord is my strength…
For thou, oh Lord, are a shield for me…
Fret not thyself because of evildoers…
The Lord is my light and salvation…”

Spend some tyme in God’s Word to feed your spirit and learn who you are and whose you are!!

3 John 1:2 Dear friend, I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along.

The Subtle Art of Starting Over


starting-overI don’t know about you but I’m a sucker for a good beginning. The opening chapter of a book. A beautiful sunrise. The bride walking down the aisle. The father holding up his infant son. The 18-year old heading cross country on a road trip. It’s that fresh smell of a new car. That first day of spring feeling. A good beginning is like an unwrapped gift. It holds promise, hope and possibility.

Of course, for every rosy-eyed beginning, there is another, far more ominous beginning. It’s the one that makes us weak in the knees and fills us with terror and uncertainty. It’s called Starting Over.

I know from a purely semantic point of view, starting over sounds an awful lot like your average beginning. But, if you’ve ever had to start over from scratch, you know as well as I do that it has a whole other vibe to it. Starting over is often the “do-over” we never saw coming. It’s the nasty beginning we feel is being shoved down our throats. A hurricanes ravages our home. We have to start over. We lose our job or our business fails. We have to start over. Divorce. Start over. Become ill. Start over.

In today’s world, starting over is no longer an anomaly. It’s a commonplace reality of life. We are constantly being called upon to pull up our boots, get back into the game and build up our life all over again. It’s a punch in the gut. And it can be tiring, defeating, and depressing. I’ll go so far as to suggest that “starting over” is one of the great challenges of our lives.  But, don’t jump off the bridge just yet. There’s hope. Lots of hope.

And, funny enough, it starts with a new beginning, or a new way of looking at our lives. It starts by embracing the challenge of “starting over” as one of the defining moments in our lives.  Today, I suggest we not only accept this challenge, but to turn it into art, as a true expression of who we want to become.

Step 1: Don’t live in the past

“My Mama always said you’ve got to put the past behind you before you can move on.” –Forrest Gump

Yes, it’s tough when we blow out our knee the week before the marathon, after we’ve trained for a year. And, yes, it’s tough when we have to look for a new line of work after we’ve been laid off by a company we’ve been faithful to for 30 years. Or a spouse leaves unexpectedly.

We want to believe we’ve paid our dues and we’re entitled to the life we’ve earned. And when life doesn’t go our way, it’s easy to dwell on it, be angry about it, and resent our predicament. And while it’s healthy to acknowledge our pain, to stay in that place of bitterness is to become frozen and stuck in tyme. The Art of Starting Over begins with acknowledging our past. Learn from it, forgive it, and be grateful for it. But, then move on, or as the Cherokee Indian Proverb says, “Don’t let yesterday use up too much of today.”

To start over we need to lose the idea of what was, and start facing what is. We need to realize that we won’t be able to let something better into our lives unless there is room for it. And we’ll never have room for something new if our minds are always reliving the way things were. The take-away is simple. Whenever you’re about to start something new, whether it’s a diet you’ve abandoned a dozen tymes, a new job, or a new relationship, practice letting go of the past as often as you can. Breathe out the past before you go to bed, and then when you wake up in the morning, pledge your day to stay in the moment as often as possible.

Stay active, be creative, go out in nature, visit friends, live, laugh, enjoy. It is in the present moment—the Now—where you’ll begin to slowly create a new you. It’s where you will not only find your future, but all your joy and happiness. There’s no better starting over point than that.

Step 2:  Accept starting over as part of your journey

“We must be willing to let go of the life we planned so as to have the life that is waiting for us.” – 
Joseph Campbell

I know most of us like our beginnings to show up exactly when we expect them. Turn 5 and you go to kindergarten; become 16 and you get your driver’s license; graduate high school and go to college; fall in love and get married. It’s a clean and orderly pattern that is predictable and safe.

Trouble is, life isn’t always so neat and predictable. More tymes than not, it’s messy and unorganized. It’s stop, start, go three steps forward, then five steps backwards. We get to the finish line, only to be sent back to square one. And at this point, we can either shake our fists at the stars, crying foul that the other guy always gets the lucky breaks, or we can wake up and treat what happens in our lives as a cosmic road map to where we will find inner happiness and peace.

Regardless of what personal philosophy we may believe, somewhere down in the corner of our hearts, we have to know we’re not here on earth to go swinging sweetly from one planned event to the next. If you think it is, than this probably isn’t the article for you. But, if there is one microscopic part of you that believes we are here on earth for a more noble purpose, that perhaps we are here to grow, evolve, contribute and become what we’re capable of becoming, than maybe you can entertain the simple idea that “starting over” is exactly what you need at this moment to take the next step in your life. To realize your destiny, or as Joseph Campbell said, “to have the life that is waiting for us.”

Next tyme you’re called to start over, ask yourself a few simple questions.

  • Could this challenge be the defining moment in your life?
  • Can you find a way to reframe what a moment ago felt like a shot in the gut?
  • Can you see the possibility that there is something in your present situation that you need to learn, even if you don’t know what it is yet?

Answer these questions and you will have gone a long way from being a victim to a willing participant in the journey that is your life.

Step 3: Embrace the adventure

“Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.”
 – Helen Keller

Okay, so let’s say we can all let go of the past, and that we can now view starting over as part of life’s journey. This is a huge step. But, the real leap comes when we can start to enjoy the ride, and if not enjoy the ride, at least appreciate it for what it brings to our life. And I know this is easier said than done, especially when you’re talking about things like losing your home or restoring your health.

But, it’s possible. All we need to do is take our cue from those much younger than us. Have you ever wondered why young people have less of a problem with starting over than their older counterparts? I know the easy answer is to say they have no responsibilities. And it’s true. They’re not tied down to mortgages, careers, kids or even the notion of what life should look like. If something doesn’t work out for them, no problem. They can just go in another direction.

But, I believe the real answer is this: young people feel as if they have infinite choices and tyme. And with choice comes the inherent belief that every day contains the opportunity to start over.  Such is the power and beauty of youth.

Unfortunately, the older we get the more we feel that tyme is running out, which in turn makes us feel as if our choices are limited. Suddenly, we become paralyzed into believing that our lives depend on making the right choice, an idea which makes the whole idea of starting over become something we dread.

Well, guess what? We have a choice. And the choice might not be as tangible as it is for someone much younger. We may indeed be limited by family, work and responsibilities. But, we most certainly do have a choice. And the choice we have is in how bold we will be in starting over. How brave we will be as we face our challenges. How much of ourselves will we give to the task of starting over, and the job of reinventing our lives.

Our answers will determine the adventure that our lives will become.

Step 4: Believe that something better will come

“When one door closes another door opens; but we so often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door, that we do not see the ones which open for us.”
 – Alexander Graham Bell

I don’t think you can truly start over at anything without believing in your heart that something better will come from it. And this is much more than seeing the glass as half-full. This is embracing the philosophy that says all our experiences are an opportunity to make life better.  And by better, I don’t always mean easier or smoother. I mean better in the sense that we are kinder, more compassionate, trusting, helpful, loving, free, joyous, awake, and alive. Better human beings.

Ultimately, the Art of Starting Over begins and ends with a giant embrace of what’s possible. To switch careers. Find the right mate. Discover our purpose. And sometymes the only way we can do this is by having to go back to the beginning.

I learned this firsthand and it wasn’t easy. I had to completely start over.

And while it is a challenging path, I’ve since started a new business, doing things I never would have done had I not been forced to start over. I have stepped out of my comfort zone, and begun writing about subjects I would have never touched before, taking on projects I never believed possible.

The journey is far from over, but life is beginning to feel like a great adventure again. I feel the power of youth and choice. I’m finding that starting over isn’t a jail sentence.
It’s an opportunity to reinvent my life, to become alive, connected and awake.

*Photo(s)/Resource(s): Bill Apablasa

Get Out of Your Comfort Zone & Push Your Boundaries

“The future is completely open, and we are writing it moment to moment.” ~ Pema Chodron

cz14Comfort is easy. We fear uncertainty, loss, pain, and so we seek to cushion ourselves against the rawness of life by spending our lives in artificial, climate-controlled boxes safe from unwanted intrusion. Powerful forces conspire to keep you in your comfort zone, penned by fear. The Matrix wants you to be compliant, following the rules of the group, being an accepter rather than a creator. Through the two-part strategy of making the comfort zone comfortable and everywhere else uncomfortable, we are pressured to remain within our comfort zones: cozy, content, cloistered. This is unfortunate. Personal discovery and personal development happen only outside your comfort zone.

These past few years, I’ve focused on my writing and getting published. I had my mind set on where I wanted to be and what I wanted to do. I didn’t realize the process (rewrite after rewrite) so my original concept that I had didn’t quite pan out, but I’m happy, because now it has a more focus and detailed structure. But this experience is going to be about more than just obtaining a finished book. For me this is a huge step. This truly is out of my comfort zone.cz1

Initially, I experienced a mix of emotions letting someone not just read but help edit my writing. I had feels including gross absorption and wonderment. My new point of views were gripping me, showing me something much bigger and brasher than myself. I stepped out of the myself; it was the culmination of a mentally pre-rehearsed experience. The journey felt a lot like autopilot, but I was finally there. Moving away from the old me  and into something I had been anticipating for months, maybe even years; but when it came around, it all just happened.

“The word ‘safe’ is an adjective meaning secure and a noun meaning an enclosed locked container. If you’re living the adjective then you’re living the noun.” ~ Steve Pavlina

The first lesson I learnrd from this move was not to go over things for months on end—that can drive you crazy. Its better just to immerse yourself in the moment and let things come around. This doesn’t mean neglect import things; it just means not to consume yourself with worry.

The important thing to remember is that new experiences present opportunity; it’s just whether or not you’re willing to take them up on it. It’s easy to sit back and only take in the things that are comfortable to you, but to get to where you aspire to be requires a little discomfort.

Often, those things which present worry also bring out your better qualities. They may even change you, give you a sense of clarity, a feeling of enlightenment, or maybe they just satisfy your thoughts and needs for that moment.

If you put yourself into a mind-set that deems its social barriers to be as wide as your room, you will find that reality will soon take the same shape. If you’re open to exploring and talking to new people, you will lose track of feeling lonely.

CZ3To put it simply, get out, do something and speak to somebody. Don’t procrastinate and wind yourself into pointless worry. Even if you don’t agree with someone else viewpoint, other sometyme can understand what your trying to say and can restructure it so the masses can also. I am quite a reserved person, but that doesn’t make me anti-social. I’m just a thinker rather than a shouter. This has its benefits and it has its downfalls. Yes, I can assess a situation quite effectively, but my reservation can mean I miss an opportunity because I’m too frightened to do anything about it.

I suspect I didn’t do as well as I could have on my initial draft because I wasn’t willing to go further than what I was told or expected. My mentality has since changed and I now find success from setting my own boundaries, or in my case, fewer boundaries.

I have found that meticulously defining goals and targets detracts from what you really set out to do. If you don’t set any guidelines, but have a rough idea in mind, the results have the potential to be outstanding. There are no limits to your potential achievements. So, to truly push the boundaries, start by not making any. Just put in your all and give it your best shot. Nobody can ever ask you of more than you’re capable. This will also help you to develop an inner sense of self satisfaction, which will intern boost your confidence and could help reduce self-reservation.

Secondly, mix with people who are better than you at what you’re trying to do, and don’t be intimidated by them. Learn from what they do and examine how you could enhance their methods to increase your chances of success.

What’s Next?

These were just few ideas and tips I have picked up. I wanted to share them so that other people could up their game and start living. It’s no fun sitting home alone. Go and do something out of your comfort zone. You won’t regret it. Comfort zones foster an attitude of learned helplessness, making progress harder. Learning, creating, growing happen only when you step outside your fortress and venture into the wilderness.

To get out of your comfort zone:

  • cz2Bring awareness to your comfort zone and your natural tendency to stay inside it.
  • Change your frame of mind. View your comfort zone not as a shelter but a prison. Embrace constructive discomfort. Don’t take the safe, known path. Choose challenge over comfort, and set goals that force you to get out of your comfort zone. Learn to be comfortable with being uncomfortable.
  • Gradually expand the perimeter of your comfort zone. Lean into the discomfort. Don’t sprint out of your comfort zone, take small but frequent steps. Push the walls out, don’t try to knock them down.
  • Periodically check your progress to confirm that you’re going further out over tyme.

As your life continues to improve it will become easier to expand your comfort zone, because when you’re happy, optimistic and confident, you’ll be more inclined to take risks and live adventurously.

* Resource(s) & Photo(s) courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/JLBarranco,Tom Murcko

Leadership and the Law of Replication

My dad was injured in car accident, when I was about four or five. As a result of that injury, he walks with a limp. As a young boy, I unconsciously emulated him. I just thought that was the way grown men walked.

dad

When I was about three or four, I remember my Mom saying to me, “Michael, you don’t need to walk with a limp. Dad walks that way because he was hurt in a car accident.” Regardless, I still walked with a limp for another year or so, simply because I wanted to be like my dad. This was the “law of replication” in action. This law says that like begets like. Dogs beget dogs. Trees beget trees. And people beget people.

This law also applies to leadership. Like it or not, you will replicate yourself. Your followers will adopt your behaviors, habits, and—if you have a strong personality— even your mannerisms.

Years ago, I remember visiting one of our authors at his corporate headquarters. I was amused to see his staff imitating him, down to the cadence of his speech and the inflection of his voice. It was as if they were paid impersonators.

This has powerful implications for leadership. Unconsciously, your people will mimic you. This means:

  • If you are late to meetings, your people will be late to meetings.
  • If you don’t take notes in meetings, your people won’t take notes in meetings.
  • If you are angry and defensive when you get negative feedback, your people will be angry and defensive when they get negative feedback.

Conversely:

  • If you are humble and grateful, your people will be humble and grateful.
  • If you are warm and engaging, your people will be warm and engaging.
  • If you are even-tempered and unflinching under fire, your people will be even-tempered and unflinching under fire.

Ghandi said, Be the change you want to see in the world.” I would add, “Be the change you want to see in your organization.

If you don’t like the culture of your department, division, or company, start by changing yourself. Set a new standard. Let your word become flesh. This is the most powerful thing you can do to change your world.

The bottom line is that you are the prototype for your followers. Your actions speak louder than words. You must pay careful attention to your own behavior. You are a living example of what it takes to go to the next level. You will replicate yourself.

* Resource(s) & Photo(s) courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/JLBarranco, Michael Hyatt

Take Your Focus Off Your Problem And Put It On The Word

focusWhen the troubles of life come don’t put your focus on the problem put it on the word. The scripture says “While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal” (2Corinthians 4:18). Your problems are temporal(subject to change), but the word of God is eternal(everlasting). when you put your focus on the problem you loose sight of the power of God. Like Peter when Jesus told him to come to him out on the water, he got out of the boat and walked on the water until he saw the waves boisterous. Notice when he changed focus from Jesus to the waves he began to sink.

How about Elijah when he called fire down from heaven King Ahab told Queen Jezebel what had happened and she sent a messenger with a message that she was going to kill Elijah and he ran and hid and begged God to take his life just at Queen Jezebel’s word. The man just called fire down from heaven and yet he got focused on Queen Jezebel’s message and lost all sight of God’s power (1Kings 19:1-4). The scripture says “While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen.” God has done some things that may not appear to be done, but that’s the time to walk by faith and not by sight (1Corinthians 5:7).

Like Elisha and his servant when the King of Syria sent his army to capture Elisha, they surrounded the city by night. When Elisha’s servant arose that morning and saw the great multitude of soldiers he paniced, but when Elisha came out he said “Fear not: for they that be with us are more than they that be with them.” Then Elisha prayed that his servant’s eyes be opened and he saw the angels of God. Two men in the same situation one focused on the problem and the other focused of God’s word.

 How about Abraham both him and his wife were old and Sarah was barren, but God said that they would have a son what did Abraham do. He considered not his own body now dead, when he was about an hundred years old, neither yet the deadness of Sarah’s womb (Romans 4:19). He was fully persuaded that, what God promised, he was able to perform (Romans 4:21). Notice what Abraham did, he didn’t focus on the problem he focused on what God had promised. And that’s exactly what you should do in the times of trouble.

* Resource(s) & Photo(s) courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com, Frank B

Does your faith produce a verifiable, transformational experience?

jesus_buddha2

This morning, my pray partner forwarded me Richard Rohr’s daily mediation called “Jesus and Buddha.” I like it so much I decided to quote the entire piece here:

The Christian tradition became so concerned with making Jesus into its God and making sure everybody believed that Jesus was God that it often ignored his very practical and clear teachings. (How many of us love our enemies?) Instead, we made the questions theological and metaphysical ones about the nature of God (which asked almost nothing of us!). Most of our church fights have been on that level, and no one ever really “wins,” so it goes on for centuries.

What Buddha made clear is that the questions are first of all psychological and personal and here and now. We created huge theories about how the world was saved by Jesus. I think what Jesus was primarily talking about was the human situation and describing liberation for us right now. Clearly the Kingdom of God is here and now, as Jesus said. However, we turned Jesus’ message into a reward or punishment contest that would come later, instead of a transformational experience that was verifiable here and now by the fruits of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). For Jesus and for the Buddha both rewards and punishments are first of all inherent to the action and in this world. Goodness is its own reward and evil is its own punishment, and then we must leave the future to the mercy and love of God, instead of thinking we are the umpires and judges of who goes where, when, and how.

I think this perspective highlights one of the key issues dividing Christians today: Is Christianity simply an external system of future rewards and punishments, as people like Jerry Newcombe believe? If so, being a Christian is about conforming to that system and teaching other people to do the same–not to mention warning them about what will happen if they don’t. How grace factors into this perspective is a mystery, seeing as this essentially turns Christianity into a works-based religion. But you’ll hear adherents to this view arguing for it all the time.

On the other hand, we have Christians like Richard Rohr who certainly keep one eye on the future, but who believe that being a Christian is primarily about imitating Christ today. I’m definitely in this camp. As a commenter on my Huffington Post article said yesterday,

I don’t believe that God is the egomaniac that so many people make him out to be. I don’t think he really cares all that much whether we believe in him or not. What matters most is how we act, what we do and how we live our lives in relation to others. So you’re an atheist. Whatever. Do you love your neighbor? Yes? Then that’s great. Keep doing it. So you’re a devout Christian. That’s wonderful. Do you love your neighbor? No? Then you still have work to do. It’s that simple.

I couldn’t agree more. I don’t think God puts too much stock in the names we call ourselves. In fact, when someone tells me they’re an atheist, I tend to imagine God chuckling and saying, “No you’re not.” Especially if that atheist is currently engaging me in a theological debate. The same goes for any of us who take on the name “Christian.” In that case, I see God eying us skeptically saying, “I’ll believe it when I see it.”

Just so we’re clear: This is not another version of the works-based salvation I criticized above. Unless you define salvation–as I do–as deliverance from the cycle of self-destructive violence in which the human race has been trapped since the beginning. In that case, I believe we can literally play a hand in the salvation of the entire world. How? By imitating Christ, by loving our neighbor–even our enemy–as we love ourselves. We don’t do this because we’re afraid that if we don’t, God will consign us to hell. We do this because we recognize that this is the only way to break the cycle. And until we do, hell will continue to reign. And we won’t have to wait until we die to experience it. Best of all, this doesn’t require faith in some sort of convoluted theology. It is what Rohr calls a “transformational experience that is verifiable here and now by the fruits of the Holy Spirit.” In case you don’t know what those fruits are, Galatians 5:22 gives us a list: love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

Where does grace enter the picture? Simple, it’s all grace. That’s because our actions do not determine is our eternal destiny. That has been secure from the beginning. As Thomas Talbott argues so well in Universal Salvation? The Current Debate, our actions merely determine the means by which our salvation will be achieved.

For the more tenaciously we cling to our illusions and selfish desires–to the flesh, as Paul called it–the more severe will be the means and the more painful the process whereby God shatters our illusions, destroys the flesh, and finally separates us from our sin.

So tell me this: Which brand of Christianity is most likely to produce such fruit? One that runs around warning people that the wrath of God is about to come down unless they jump through the right hoops? Or a faith that announces that salvation is already here, that there’s no longer anything to fear–not even God?

I can only respond with the fruit each brand of Christianity has produced in my own life. And if you ask my wife and children, they’ll definitely go for door number two.

The Christian tradition became so concerned with making Jesus into its God and making sure everybody believed that Jesus was God that it often ignored his very practical and clear teachings. (How many of us love our enemies?) Instead, we made the questions theological and metaphysical ones about the nature of God (which asked almost nothing of us!). Most of our church fights have been on that level, and no one ever really “wins,” so it goes on for centuries.

What Buddha made clear is that the questions are first of all psychological and personal and here and now. We created huge theories about how the world was saved by Jesus. I think what Jesus was primarily talking about was the human situation and describing liberation for us right now. Clearly the Kingdom of God is here and now, as Jesus said. However, we turned Jesus’ message into a reward or punishment contest that would come later, instead of a transformational experience that was verifiable here and now by the fruits of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). For Jesus and for the Buddha both rewards and punishments are first of all inherent to the action and in this world. Goodness is its own reward and evil is its own punishment, and then we must leave the future to the mercy and love of God, instead of thinking we are the umpires and judges of who goes where, when, and how.

I think this perspective highlights one of the key issues dividing Christians today: Is Christianity simply an external system of future rewards and punishments, as people like Jerry Newcombe believe? If so, being a Christian is about conforming to that system and teaching other people to do the same–not to mention warning them about what will happen if they don’t. How grace factors into this perspective is a mystery, seeing as this essentially turns Christianity into a works-based religion. But you’ll hear adherents to this view arguing for it all the tyme.

On the other hand, we have Christians like Richard Rohr who certainly keep one eye on the future, but who believe that being a Christian is primarily about imitating Christ today. I’m definitely in this camp. As a commenter on my Huffington Post article said yesterday,

I don’t believe that God is the egomaniac that so many people make him out to be. I don’t think he really cares all that much whether we believe in him or not. What matters most is how we act, what we do and how we live our lives in relation to others. So you’re an atheist. Whatever! Do you love your neighbor? Yes? Then that’s great. Keep doing it. So you’re a devout Christian. That’s wonderful. Do you love your neighbor? No? Then you still have work to do. It’s that simple.

I couldn’t agree more. I don’t think God puts too much stock in the names we call ourselves. In fact, when someone tells me they’re an atheist, I tend to imagine God chuckling and saying, “No you’re not.” Especially if that atheist is currently engaging me in a theological debate. The same goes for any of us who take on the name “Christian.” In that case, I see God eying us skeptically saying, “I’ll believe it when I see it.”

Just so we’re clear: This is not another version of the works-based salvation I criticized above. Unless you define salvation–as I do–as deliverance from the cycle of self-destructive violence in which the human race has been trapped since the beginning. In that case, I believe we can literally play a hand in the salvation of the entire world. How? By imitating Christ, by loving our neighbor–even our enemy–as we love ourselves. We don’t do this because we’re afraid that if we don’t, God will consign us to hell. We do this because we recognize that this is the only way to break the cycle. And until we do, hell will continue to reign. And we won’t have to wait until we die to experience it. Best of all, this doesn’t require faith in some sort of convoluted theology. It is what Rohr calls a “transformational experience that is verifiable here and now by the fruits of the Holy Spirit.” In case you don’t know what those fruits are, Galatians 5:22 gives us a list: love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

Where does grace enter the picture? Simple, it’s all grace. That’s because our actions do not determine is our eternal destiny. That has been secure from the beginning. As Thomas Talbott argues so well in Universal Salvation? The Current Debate, our actions merely determine the means by which our salvation will be achieved.

For the more tenaciously we cling to our illusions and selfish desires–to the flesh, as Paul called it–the more severe will be the means and the more painful the process whereby God shatters our illusions, destroys the flesh, and finally separates us from our sin.

So tell me this: Which brand of Christianity is most likely to produce such fruit? One that runs around warning people that the wrath of God is about to come down unless they jump through the right hoops? Or a faith that announces that salvation is already here, that there’s no longer anything to fear–not even God?

I can only respond with the fruit each brand of Christianity has produced in my own life. And if you ask my wife she’ll definitely go for door number two.

* Resource(s) & Photo(s) courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com,Kevin Miller

 

Walk by Faith, Not by Sight

Job 1:1–12 1 In the land of Uz there lived a man whose name was Job. This man was blameless and upright; he feared God and shunned evil. He had seven sons and three daughters, and he owned seven thousand sheep, three thousand camels, five hundred yoke of oxen and five hundred donkeys, and had a large number of servants. He was the greatest man among all the people of the East. His sons used to hold feasts in their homes on their birthdays, and they would invite their three sisters to eat and drink with them. When a period of feasting had run its course, Job would make arrangements for them to be purified. Early in the morning he would sacrifice a burnt offering for each of them, thinking, “Perhaps my children have sinned and cursed God in their hearts.” This was Job’s regular custom. One day the angels[a] came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan[b] also came with them. The Lord said to Satan, “Where have you come from?” Satan answered the Lord, “From roaming throughout the earth, going back and forth on it.” Then the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil.” “Does Job fear God for nothing?” Satan replied. 10 “Have you not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has? You have blessed the work of his hands, so that his flocks and herds are spread throughout the land. 11 But now stretch out your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face.” 12 The Lord said to Satan, “Very well, then, everything he has is in your power, but on the man himself do not lay a finger.” Then Satan went out from the presence of the Lord

#4Without Job’s knowing it, a dialogue took place in the invisible world. As the Lord and Satan had their strange encounter, the subject quickly turned to this well-known earthly man. The Lord calls Satan’s attention to Job’s exemplary life, and Satan responds with a sinister sneer. “Of course, who wouldn’t serve You, the way You’ve prospered and protected him. Take away all the perks and watch what happens; the man will turn on You in a flash.” God agrees to let the Adversary unload on Job.

And so, in today’s terms, the Lord bet Satan that Job would never turn on Him. Philip Yancey refers to that agreement as the “divine wager.” Satan instigates a sudden and hostile removal of all the man’s possessions, leaving him bankrupt. Within a matter of minutes, everything he owned was gone.

This brings us to the first lesson worth remembering: we never know ahead of tyme the plans God has for us. Job had no prior knowledge or warning. That morning dawned like every other morning. The night had passed like any other night. There was no great angelic manifestation—not even a tap on his window or a note left on the kitchen table.

In one calamity after another, all the buildings on his land are gone, and nothing but lumber and bodies litter the landscape. It occurred so fast, Job’s mind swirled in disbelief. Everything hit broadside . . . his world instantly changed.

You and I must learn from this! We never know what a day will bring, whether good or ill. Our heavenly Father‘s plan unfolds apart from our awareness. Ours is a walk of faith, not sight. Trust, not touch. Leaning long and hard, not running away. No one knows ahead of tyme what the Father’s plan includes. It’s best that way. It may be a treasured blessing; it could be a test that drops us to our knees. He knows ahead of tyme, but He is not obligated to warn us about it or to remind us it’s on the horizon. We can be certain of this: our God knows what is best.

* Resource(s) & Photo(s) courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com, Charles R. Swindoll