Image "My Friend" by Helen Thomas Robson (Used by Permission)
Minimalism from a Biblical Point of View —

Biblical Minimalism is "a complete, whole-person release of anything unlike Jesus, a letting go of everything that hinders us from following Him wholeheartedly and single-mindedly, and a relinquishing of all that brings us under bondage to this earthly, very temporary life." Cheryl E. Smith

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

When Stillness Calls Loudest—MInimizing Noise

I don’t suppose there has ever been a noisier culture than the one in which you and I currently find ourselves. There used to be a time that when we were away from home, a ringing phone did not have the capability of interrupting our lives. Today, we and our “smart” phones are literally joined at the hip, and they beep incessantly, disturbing our peace and presumptuously interjecting their presence into what would otherwise be silence or uninterrupted face-to-face encounters. We go out for a quiet dinner, and televisions blare from what used to be white space, non-invasive restaurant corners. Music provides constant background noise nearly everywhere we go. Car radios are continually pumping out the sounds of talk shows, audio books, and the latest tunes. Social media pages scream news and gossip from the personal lives of those we have never even met, inviting us to click our way down endless rabbit trails. It is near impossible to escape noise and find a sense of stillness, but while we can’t force the rest of the world around us to be quiet and still, we have absolute control over the quantity and quality of noise that we invite in and give access to our personal space.

Obviously, noise is not all bad, and we can find great comfort and joy from the things we listen to and hear. But sometimes we become so inundated with the constant bombardment of sounds that we can no longer hear our selves think. We can no longer hear that still, small voice deep inside guiding us forward, and the noise-induced distraction derails us from our intended path. Sometimes we unconsciously, albeit intentionally, use noise as a means of keeping us so engaged that we are rendered incapable of dealing with the issues of our own hearts. If we keep the atmosphere loud and diverting around us or if we absorb ourselves with what is going on in the lives of others, we won’t have to face the man in the mirror or think about things that need to be confronted and thought about. Unresolved issues can fester and become bigger and harder to deal with later, and regardless how difficult it is to face them head on, it is never healthy or a good idea to ignore their existence.

Whatever our reasons for allowing noise, the voice of stillness calls to each one of us. It beckons us to come aside, to break free from the mold of what the world around us expects and demands, and to pursue the peace that comes from the simplicity of silence. There comes a point where stillness calls louder than every source of noise, and we find ourselves willing to do or give up whatever the serenity of stillness requires.

It is possible to drown out the noise and to surrender to the call of stillness. It is simple as making the right choices. What a relief it is to know that we don’t have to get caught up in the clamor and stress—even at Christmas! Here are a few voices to drown out, not only on regular days, but even during the chaos of the holiday season.

1. Consumerism. We don’t have to get caught up in shopping frenzy just because the voice of consumerism announces that our favorite store is having a sale. We are all fed a steady diet of sales ads, TV commercials, online shopping banners, and well-meaning family members and friends informing us of irresistible bargains. It is wise to pause, take a deep breath, and count the cost before rushing to the store. If not paying cash, is it worth the cost of credit to buy? Will the stress of January’s bills outweigh the thrill of buying in December? Which option brings the most peace? Shopping in Christmas-crowded stores can create enormous stress and bring the total opposite of stillness. Sometimes, it is best to just stay home.

2. Guilt. We don’t have to listen to the voice of guilt shaming us into buying for every person we know or even everyone who has bestowed a gift. While it is absolutely more blessed to give than to receive, our giving should be within our means. It defies minimalism’s wisdom to succumb to the pressure of over-indulgent spending, regardless how much our culture demands we reciprocate or impress.

3. Peer pressure. We don’t have to attend every party we are invited to or say yes to every obligation we are asked to take on. Instead of feeling obligated to please everyone and run yourself ragged in the process, choose to grace only select and meaningful events with your presence and commit to only family-inclusive projects. Oftentimes, the ones we love most end up getting shoved to the back burner in our mad quest to conform to the mold of social acceptance. Imagine the smiles and gratitude as they see you making the choice to put them first! Prevent regrets and keep priorities in order by choosing to create a special “party” at home with them instead of saying yes to others. Offer them agenda choices like baking cookies, watching Christmas movies, drinking hot cocoa, and singing Christmas carols. Make endearing traditions and choose to please the ones you love. These are the things your kids will remember most.

4. Self-neglect. Society demands constant busyness. What it doesn’t tell you is that you will completely burn out if you don’t allow stillness to be an integral part of every day. You are important. You matter. You can’t be all you need to be if you don’t take care of your own needs. Spend time daily at the foot of the cross. Allow the stillness of being in His presence to fill your inmost soul. Accept His forgiveness and grace. Get enough sleep. Chew slowly, savoring each bite of food. Stay hydrated. Cherish moments for all they’re worth. Breathe deeply. Forgive all. Release worry. Trust God. Put Him first in everything. Unplug. Relax. Let silence take over. Embrace quietness. Be still and acknowledge the fact that He is God. Hand Him the reins, then follow His lead.

It is all about choosing not only our battles but whether we want to enlist in the war against stillness at all.

Monday, November 26, 2018

Coffee GIVEAWAY at Homespun Devotions!

"Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits...who satisfieth thy mouth with good things; so that thy youth is renewed like the eagle's."
Psalm 103:2,5

Do you love coffee?
How would you like a chance to win a free bag?

This is my absolute FAVORITE coffee, and I would love for you to have a chance to win a FREE bag!

All you have to do is click HERE to visit our other blog and leave a comment!

I hope to see you there!

Friday, November 23, 2018

The Less You Have, The Less You Have To Worry About

Today, I am sharing at No Sidebar about how a hurricane and two french doors made me realize anew how very grateful I am that we have downsized our lives.
I would like to invite you to click HERE to read what God laid upon my heart!

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Minimizing The Obligational

There are eight "slices" of what I refer to as the Whole Person Pie©.  We have talked about the Spiritual, Physical, Mental, Emotional, Relational, Financial, Occupational, and today I'd like to delve into the eighth slice ~ the Obligational.

If you are interested in starting with the first post and working your way through the other seven categories, you can read the individual posts by clicking on these links:









Obligation - an act or course of action to which a person is morally or legally bound; a duty or commitment.

I don’t know about you, but when it comes to biting off more than I can chew, I seem to be an expert. So many times, throughout life, I have committed myself to do something, knowing full well, going into it, that it would take too much of my time and energy, and it was just plain not a good idea. More often than not, I have plunged forward anyhow, for one compelling reason or another. Too many times, it has been because I was trying to please others, instead of doing the thing I knew God wanted me to do. At the end of the day, each and every time I overrode the better judgment God instilled in me, I lived to regret thinking I knew better than Him.

Can anyone relate? If so, why do you suppose we do this? Why do we allow ourselves to be spread too thin? Are we so proud? Could it be that we want to appear capable of doing it all? When we take on too much, something, or more importantly, someone, suffers. There is no human way we can do it all and do it all sufficiently. So, why do we over-obligate ourselves? Taking on too many obligations will inevitably always end us up at the same destination. Total and complete burnout.

In Psalm 131:1, David made a statement that has come to mean a great deal to me. “LORD, my heart is not haughty, nor my eyes lofty: neither do I exercise myself in great matters, or in things too high for me.” I don’t know what David had to go through in order to learn this invaluable life lesson, but somewhere down the line, he came to the wise conclusion that there were things he simply should not try to do. There were situations that were beyond his scope of ability. There were matters that were past his capability of being able to administer. To override these facts and to try to force the issue of tackling tasks that were too much for him would be an expression of haughtiness and pride, and he had enough discernment to acknowledge what he could and could not do and enough wisdom to not pursue those ambitions. Being armed with this knowledge and having this understanding must have relieved untold stress and turmoil from David’s life.

There are plenty of types of obligations that can be damaging to us and may need to be eliminated from our lives and schedules. Anything that is distracting or detracting us from following after a simple, Christlike, unencumbered life should be closely examined, considered, and possibly walked away from and shed.

Sometimes it boils down to the simplicity of learning how and when to say “no." It is difficult to live a victorious, peace-filled life when you are overloaded with commitments and obligations that are beyond what God requires.

Oftentimes, God has to allow a situation to reach a certain height of misery before we realize a change needs to take place. Maybe He sees that it is enough already. Perhaps it is time to close that door...or that we can live in this

Sometimes, we can feel so stuck, we hopelessly assume that it is our never-ending lot in life, and we may as well learn to settle, accept, and deal with it. If you are in a situation that unceasingly vexes your spirit, causes you to lose sleep at night, makes you dread getting out of bed in the morning to face a new day, and fills your heart with anxiety and fear, I hope you will consider the possibility that God may be trying to arrest your attention. The misery you may be feeling could be coming from the fact that it is now time for a change. He may be trying to tell you to stop pursuing what is vexing you. He may have something so much better in store for you and your future. He will never force us against our will, but He loves us too much to fail to provide warning signs when we are headed in the wrong direction.

You are only one person, and that’s okay. You can only do so much, and that is all God requires.  It is good to find a quiet place of solitude in order to be alone with Him and to assess every, single obligation and commitment. Take a pen and paper, and make a list. Then, re-write that same list in the order of Biblical priorities.

While assessing your unique obligational slice of the Whole-Person Pie©, here is a little acronym to help you get on track.  I like to think of it as a M.O.P. to clean and tidy up the things that fall into the obligational category.

Management of Time - how am I spending it?  Are there excess or mindless ways I am allowing it to be wasted?  Life is short.  Time is precious.  Am I really managing the daily moments I am given in a Biblical, Christlike way?

Obligations - what have I committed myself to do?  Is the commitment really necessary? Is it beneficial to the ones I love most? Are we receiving any spiritual good from this? Does it bring fulfillment? Are our lives richer because of it? Has God shown me to do this, or do I just feel obligated by others to continue? Am I under bondage to anyone? Do I feel "guilted" into doing it?  Am I doing this for show or to earn accolades? Does this adversely affect the ones I love? Does it take time away from my family or keep me from being able to be what I should be to them? Is this meaningful?  Does it please God?  Take a long, hard look at even the "good" things, like ministry, Christian service, and outreach. 
Priorities - are they in order?  Do I make sure I put God first, above all else?  Do I take time for my spouse?  Do I nurture our marriage and pour into keeping it front and center?  Do I make sure my children know I am all in?  Can they come to me at any time, regardless?  Do they feel hesitant to approach me because I consistently convey the message that they are less important than the things I am doing? 

Ask yourself those hard questions, and be honest with your answers. Be still enough to hear the voice of God. Ask Him to show you what to minimize and what to keep.

If you find yourself in the wrong place or on the wrong path, may I encourage you, friend? All is not lost. Even when our well-meaning good intentions, do land us outside of God's "Plan A" for our lives, He allows all things (even the bad) to work together for our good. "And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose." Romans 8:28

The truth of the matter is, He has taken every, single event in our lives thus far to refine mold and shape us into the people we are today. And if God reveals that we are headed in the wrong direction, what a comfort it is to know that He allows U-turns. We can make necessary adjustments and turn around from where we are right now. He has promised to show us the way if we ask and seek Him with our whole heart.

"Trust in the LORD with all thine heart, and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths." Proverbs 3:5,6

“And ye shall seek Me, and find Me when ye shall search for Me with all your heart.” Jeremiah 29:13

God bless you as you make hard choices and take necessary steps to whole-heartedly follow Christ and His perfect will for your life.

Friday, October 12, 2018

Put Your Fingers In Your Ears, and Press On!

"What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?"  Romans 8:31

There are those in all our lives who do not share our vision of Biblical and/or minimal living.  There are also those who secretly long for what we are pursuing but are unwilling to pay the price and give up the things this kind of life requires, some of whose influence may sidetrack or derail us from our own mission.  We may find that there are few who really understand why we do the things we do, and it may feel like we are walking alone.  I think the thing we need to remember is that Jesus’ way of life has never been popular because it requires the denial of self and living in a way that is polar opposite to the way the world around us lives.

When I think of this fact, I often picture Christian in John Bunyan’s “Pilgrim's Progress.”  As he began His journey toward the Celestial City, he was mocked by those who didn’t understand the radical stand he was taking and his yearning for the life he felt called to live.  As they taunted shouts of discouragement, Christian put his fingers in his ears and ran forward, crying out, “Life!  Life!  Eternal life!”  This is what we are all going to have to do if we are to run a successful race toward our heavenly home.  We must turn a deaf ear to those who try to derail us and attempt to persuade us to turn back to our old way of living.

There comes a point in all our individual Christian journeys where we must learn to identify the difference between God’s approval and the approval of others.  What others think of us is irrelevant in the grand scheme of things.  Whether they applaud or dissuade our efforts truly shouldn’t have any effect upon the decisions we make or the path we take because God is the only one we are required to please.  It is His Word that we will be measured by when we stand before Him at the end of life.
The path toward Heaven grows increasingly narrow as we continue to grow in grace and the knowledge of who God is.  His holiness shines a consistent light upon our path revealing things about our nature that are contrary to His righteousness.  If He were to show us everything at the beginning of our response to His call to follow Him, it would overwhelm us to the point that we would never start.  If Peter had seen that following Christ would eventually cost him to be crucified upside down, could he have mustered the courage to say “yes” that first day of meeting Jesus and hearing His call to follow Him?  In that moment of Jesus’ original call, all Peter really knew is that he felt compelled to lay down his nets and way of life and walk away from it all to follow Jesus.  But, oh the things he ended up needing to learn and go through between that initial moment of responding to Jesus’ call and the moment he not only found himself facing crucifixion but even asking the soldiers to crucify him upside down because he felt unworthy to die in the same manner Jesus did!  As you read through the Gospels and the book of Acts, you can clearly see the gradual tempering process and transformation that took place in Peter’s life as Jesus and the Holy Spirit led him from conversion-level faith to the ultimate place of being able to willfully die a martyr’s death.

God understands our nature.  He created us.  He knows how much information we can handle at a time, and He gauges the pace of our revelation of light and understanding accordingly.  As we walk in the light He shines, we will often be misunderstood by those who are not living a Christian life.  The things of the Spirit are spiritually discerned.  I Corinthians 2:14 says, “But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God:  for they are foolishness unto him:  neither can he know them because they are spiritually discerned.”

When we completely surrender to Jesus and His call to live a life that is selfless and eternity-focused, we should never expect to receive accolades from the world around us.  We may as well expect to be misunderstood, talked about, confronted, and even scorned by the company of those who used to profess to care about us.  Jesus was persecuted and eventually killed by the most brutal, anguished means of death known to man.  Do we honestly think we will be widely accepted, well-liked, and popular among the masses if we go all in and follow Him wholeheartedly?  In John 15:18-20, Jesus said, “If the world hate you, ye know that it hated Me before it hated you.  If ye were of the world, the world would love his own:  but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.  Remember the word that I said unto you, the servant is not greater than his lord.  If they have persecuted Me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept My saying, they will keep yours also.”

I often come across the word “intentional” as I am perusing minimalism reading material, and it occurs to me that we will more than likely not be able to continue to stay the course and press forward in our path toward living the simple and minimal way Jesus lived without staying continually intentional and focused on eternity.  He must steadily increase, as we continually decrease.  (John 3:30)

In closing, I would like to share, once again, the two verses that I believe encapsulate what Biblical minimalism really means—“Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.”  Hebrews 12:1,2

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

How To Discover Your Life's Calling

After taking a break from making our way around the whole-person pie©, I felt led to delve back into it today and discuss the next to the last slice—the occupational—that part of our lives that encompasses what we do for a living.

I believe God has a specific plan for every person He creates, and each life’s unique plan is equally important to Him. I don't believe any one of us are here by accident or coincidence. At the onset of the conception of a life, I believe God already knows the course He intends for that life, and His specific thoughts concerning its path are already in place. This is the thing we should put our energy and efforts into discovering. If we wholeheartedly seek God, He will faithfully reveal to us what He wants us to do.

"And I will bring the blind by a way that they knew not; I will lead them in paths that they have not known: I will make darkness light before them, and crooked things straight. These things will I do unto them, and not forsake them." Isaiah 42:16

"Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee, and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations." Jeremiah 1:5

"Before I was born the Lord called me; from my mother's womb He has spoken my name." Isaiah 49:1 (NIV)

I also believe that the way to true heart-peace, contentment, and fulfillment is by coming in line with God's intentions and following them in obedience. When one is out of God's will and purpose, there is an underlying restlessness, lack of contentment, and even outright misery. All of these are clear indications that something in our lives needs to be adjusted.

God created us with a free will, and, sadly, we often take our own liberties with that free will and choose our own way. We do not always follow His intended path or adhere to the direction and individual plans He has set in place for us. He leaves the choice to us.

I find it sad that there are people who go through their whole life never really living up to their full potential or finding that unique path God has chosen for them to walk. They never feel quite fulfilled, even though they may find success in many facets of life. In spite of outward prosperity and accomplishment, there is always that deep-down stirring that tells them that they are not quite doing exactly what they are meant to do while here on earth. Perhaps you have felt this and can relate.
True wholeness comes when we have surrendered what we think is best for us to God and when we have whole-heartedly relinquished control and are allowing Him to lead.

It isn't easy turning loose of the reins. We think we know what we do best when all along God sees our full potential capacity and parts of us that can expand and grow in ways we would never have dreamed.

Have you ever asked yourself these questions? What am I called to do? Why am I here? What is my true purpose? What was God's rationale for creating me? What is my unique, individual reason for being brought to the Kingdom, "for such a time as this"? (Esther 4:14)

It is never too late to turn around and change direction.  If you discover you are not in the occupation that best allows you to use your God-given, purposeful gifts, you can make adjustments.  It is my hope and prayer that answering these eleven questions will help you identify what it is that God may be calling you to do and help direct your thinking towards His perfect will and the life plan He has carved out for you.

1. What type of work do you like to do?
You know...the work that lights you up and makes you come to life. The task that makes you feel great and stokes a deep-down passion inside of you. The duty that you are most zealous about and can't seem to get enough of. The work that you need no compensation for doing...that the actual doing is its own reward. Consider the thought that God may have placed those likes in your heart for a reason.

2. What task(s) are you good at?
comes easiest to you? What seems to flow from you effortlessly? If it comes that naturally, it is an inborn, God-given talent. An endowed gift that He instilled in you at birth. He specifically gave it to you to set you on the right path…to give you a clear indicator as to the direction you should pursue. The ease with which you accomplish this is a sure-fire sign that this is something you need to consider and that this may the thing you are supposed to be doing. This is where your true beauty shines through, and quite likely, the purpose for which you were born.

3. For what kind of work have you earned the most compliments?
Not that we should go through life fishing for them, but sometimes, other people can recognize our calling before we can. They can see things we fail to notice about ourselves. We would be wise to listen to their input and take heed to their praise, not becoming proud or puffed up over it, but using it to open our eyes to what God may be trying to tell us through them. “…in the multitude of counselors there is safety.” Proverbs 11:14

4. What gives you the most peace?
At the end of the day, as you reflect over things you have done, what kind of work made you feel most at one with God? What gave you the deepest sense of having pleased Him? What task(s) drew you closest and most widely into His presence?

5. What are you most comfortable doing?
Let's face it. If it tears up your nerves every, single time you do it, if you are continually feeling sick to your stomach before doing it, it is more than likely not what God is calling you to do. I'm not talking about normal "stage-fright" or expected, natural pre-jitters. I am talking about walking around under an oppressive cloud that completely robs the joy from every other single element of your life. I am talking about it consuming your every thought and making you perpetually unhappy. This is not what being in the center of God's perfect will feels like. Believe me, if you are this miserable place, He is trying to tell you something. It is time to take notice and get alone with Him, seeking Him with your whole heart for an escape route and re-direction. I am not saying you will always feel comfortable doing what God is asking you to do, as there will be trepidation, and you will be stretched and asked to leave your comfort zone, time after time, as you follow Jesus. But, it should be a "healthy" fear of failing Him and a sense of respect for Him, reliance and dependence upon Him, and a desire to please and satisfy Him....not an overwhelming sense of never-ending misery and constant dread.

6. What do you dream of doing?
Did you ever think that God may have placed the seeds of those dreams in your heart in the first place? Did you ever consider that maybe those dreams were actually and purposely put there for the sole purpose of directing your life steps? Psalm 37:4 says, "Delight thyself also in the Lord, and He shall give thee the desires of thine heart." If you are 100% into serving God, if pleasing Him brings delight to your inmost being, did you ever stop and wonder if maybe He put those desires there? That maybe they are not self-driven desires, but God-planted dreams to point you in the right direction of His perfect will for you? It is a beautiful thing when God's plans and your dreams completely agree.  “The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord:  and he delighteth in His way.”  Psalm 37:23

7. What have you wanted to do for the longest time?
I'm not talking about your bucket list of things you want to accomplish before you die. I'm talking about those childhood far back as you can remember. What was it back then that you admired the most? We all take rides on ships in the night...passing fantasies that quickly lose their appeal and trial runs that soon reveal we aren't cut out for the long haul. But, dig deep. What is that nagging thing that keeps coming back to you over and over—that thing that came to you longest ago and still brings a sense of excitement every time you think about taking a step in that direction? If it has lingered and simmered in the back of your mind for this long, there may be something to it, and it is worth seeking God's will about, at the very least.

8. What fulfills you most?
Fulfill means: to measure up satisfy. What satisfies your need for feeling you have measured up to your potential? Think about it. The task that makes you feel most fulfilled when you are finished—that convinces you that you have done something that really mattered, made a difference and satisfied your need to feel useful and necessary and even important. Everyone needs to feel that they are making the contribution they were put on this earth to make. Until you do that, nothing else will quite fill that longing deep inside for accomplishment.

9. Who do you most admire?
Not saying that all of us can be a Billy Graham or reach the stature of the ones we most admire. Nor do I condone placing people on pedestals, as we are all subject to fail, and Jesus Christ is the only perfect person and the only One we should ever seek to emulate. But, what is it about the person you admire that you find so admirable? Is it what they do? Is it a characteristic? What draws you to them? Why do you look up to and respect them? Give it some thought and ask God to show you if there is a Divinely-appointed reason for your esteem for and regard of them. He may be calling you to follow a similar course. He may have placed that person in your life to serve as an example and to light a fire in you in order to set your thoughts towards a particular path. The idea is worth exploring with Him alone in prayer.

10. When have you felt most sincerely respected by others? 
You know—those moments when it wasn't about self-glory, but about earning the true appreciation of someone else for the selfless effort you had put into something. It is important that our life work is valued by at least one other person besides ourselves. To earn that is an immeasurable gift. Think back over your life and try to recall a moment you felt that something you did gleaned genuine validation from another person. Chances are, God permitted the right person to be there at the right time to bestow affirmation that we did the right thing and were walking His designated path. Not that we should do what we do with the sole purpose of pleasing other people. That will never happen all the time and is a fickle, unreliable, untrustworthy, inaccurate gauge. Mom used to tell me that you can please some of the people some of the time, but you will never please all of the people all of the time. To try is a senseless, exhausting, disappointing endeavor and a complete waste of time and energy. But, there is within the heart of every one of us, the need to feel at least one other person's respect. It is important.

11. What most builds your self-esteem?
Not your pride, not your ego, but your true sense of valuing yourself as an important part of God's grand design. What makes you feel most a part of that design? What makes you feel that you really matter? That your life is important? What contributions have you made that convinced you that only you could have filled that particular need? Let's face it, we need to feel good inside...about ourselves. If the whole world applauds our efforts and accomplishments, it won't matter if we do not have within a sense of self-worth and the sweet assurance that we are indeed doing His will and fulfilling our life's mission.

Look for the clues, my friend. God has a particular purpose for your life. There is a Divinely-appointed reason that you are here right now —right where you are. You may look around at your current circumstances and feel you are on a dead-end street. That there is no way path available to reach your full potential for God. I beg to differ with you. Where this is GOD, there is a way. And God is everywhere, even in the darkest, most impossible dungeons of hopelessness and despair. He wants to use you. Your life and your past experiences—the good, the bad, the ugly, and the unmentionable. Your talents—yes, you have them. Your skills—He has enabled you to develop them to this point. Your uniqueness—there is no one else quite like you. No one else can fulfill your purpose. No one else can reach your inner circle—not in the way you can. No one else will do. Only you.

Life is too short to sell yourself short. To settle for less than God's best for your life. To drift along, aimlessly, then pass off the scene, never having reached your full potential, never having accomplished God's intentions for you, and never having found the deepest sense of the joy in knowing you lived out your whole reason for being on planet earth.

If you are on the wrong path, turn around. You are allowed, you know. God allows any and all points along the way. All you have to do is follow His lead.

Get quiet. Shut out the noise, and listen. Watch the signs He places in your path. Be aware of His presence. Make necessary adjustments as He points them out and at every given opportunity. Do what you need to do to search for Him with all your heart. Discover His perfect will for you, and take the necessary steps to bring yourself in complete alignment with it. Then, stay the course, my friend.
He will walk with you every step of the way, He will never leave you, and He will, at life's end, lead you ever safely to the other side—at peace and happy in knowing you fulfilled His reason for creating you in the first place.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

"Why You Should Stop Trying to Conform to the Molds of other Minimalists" at No Sidebar

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."  Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)

God's plans and path for each one of us is personal and unique.  He does not require or expect us to try to contort ourselves to fit into the mold of anyone else.  He created us all as individuals, and He has a blueprint for each one of our lives.  Finding and walking in our true identity in Him brings abiding peace.

Click HERE to read my latest article published at No Sidebar, where I talk about the reasons we should stop trying to follow anyone else's path to a simpler, more minimal life. 

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Are You A Slave to Your Spending Habits?

"For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also."  Jesus Christ  Luke 12:34  (KJV)

Modern society is saturated with a materialistic focus.  Consumerism is at the heart of every TV commercial, magazine advertisement, and online marketing banner.  To not be drawn in and succumb to the power of the temptation to buy takes a continual, diligent effort.  Far too often, we find ourselves on the other side of buyer's remorse because we bought something on the spur of the moment without giving careful thought to purchasing decisions.

Never before, in the history of time, has it been easier to buy things.  At the click of a mouse, we open a whole world of spending opportunities and find an unending supply of enticing, eye-catching expenditure possibilities.  An abundance of credit opportunities make our spending capabilities simple and quick and only add to the appeal of the temptation to buy things.

All of this power to consume and have the things this world offers seems very liberating, doesn't it?  It is thrilling to get new things in the mail, carry multiple bags around the shopping mall, and continually experience what "new" feels like.  But, is the pleasure long-lasting?  Is the binding misery of ensuing indebtedness worth the freedom of buying what you want even it if means living above your means?  Does the feeling of elation bring a deep sense of peace?  Does it contribute to our inmost joy?  Does the fun feeling of buying things come unaccompanied, or is there an underlying, co-existing shadow and aftertaste that lags along behind it?

Things of this world will never be able to fill the longings of the heart because God created us for more than what this world can afford.  We are travelers passing through then passing on to an eternal home.  Only the things of that world can truly satisfy the cravings that occur deep inside each one of us.  Peace comes when we uncover this truth and embrace the reality that no matter how much we amass in this life, we will leave it all behind one day and it is best to not set our hearts on the things we cannot hope to keep.

Just because you are offered a steady diet of flesh-appeasing, shallow-filling buying attainability does not mean you have to fall prey to the propositions.  Just say no.  Click out of the website.  Avoid window shopping.  Stay away from temptation's ground.  Make a budget, and make up your mind to buy only what is within its parameters.  Pray and ask God for wisdom and strength to follow that wisdom.  Seek His Word, and become acquainted with His heart and desires for you.  As contradictory as it sounds, true freedom comes from giving up our rights to the One Who created us and who paid all for our redemption.  Thank God, we don't ever have to live our lives enslaved to anyone or anything else.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Responding to Jesus' Call to an Eternity-Focused Life

"Now as Jesus was walking by the Sea of Galilee, He saw two brothers, Simon who was called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen.  And He said to them, 'Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.'  Immediately they left their nets and followed Him.  Going on from there He saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets; and He called them.  Immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed Him."  Matthew 4:18-22  (NASB)

How does reading about the call of Jesus to His disciples make you feel?  When I read it, I feel a deep sense of longing—a yearning to have been one of the original twelve Jesus called as He walked this earth.  His call is so compelling—so intense—so impossible to refuse.  The appeal of Jesus' call was constraining enough to cause twelve grown men to drop everything they were doing, leave it all behind, and follow Him.  Their lives, from that day forward, would never be the same.

The longer they walked with Jesus, the more like Him they became.  The closer they drew to Him, the farther removed they were from what bound them to earth.  The deeper they ventured into the spiritual, the greater the distance between them and shallow, unintentional living.

Jesus' call draws to what is most important—to the forsaking of what is temporal for the sake of what is eternal.  As we respond to the call to follow Him, life as we know it will never be the same for us, either, and the longer we walk with Him, the less we will be attracted to what is unlike Him.

"Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new."  2 Corinthians 5:17  (KJV)

Biblical Minimalism is the laying aside of the old and the picking up of the new life Jesus has for each one of us.  He didn't promise it would be easy.  Doing what is right seldom takes the path of least resistance, but He did promise He would walk with us every step of the way.

Do you hear His call?  How will you respond?  As you contemplate the way He lived His life, what do you identify as being something you may need to minimize?

In closing, I hope you enjoy listening to my sweet friend, Sarah Davison of High Road Music, sing a song about laying down the old coat of sin and picking up the new coat Jesus offers.  If you would like to read an interview I did with Sarah, please click "The Inner Views of Sarah Davison."

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Seven Ways to Tap into the Resourceful Spirit of our Ancestors

Not so many years ago, our ancestors lived very different lives.  Even though they had far fewer choices than we do, they were content.  They used what they had, however meager, without even a thought of the possibility of having more.  Their homes were much emptier, but their lives were full.  Families ate together around the table, without distractions.  They went to bed early and slept soundly because they were gratifyingly tired from doing what they needed to do to survive.  There was no room for laziness and no time for an idle mind.  Everyone pulled their weight, and a family was, by necessity, a team, in which each member knew their part and played a valuable role in the mechanics of everyday life.  Times were hard, but a rare sense of accomplishment and productivity made it all worthwhile.

Pleasures were simple back then.  It was a treat to have a glass of lemonade or something sweet to eat. Summer evenings were spent with adults seated in rocking chairs on front porches watching barefoot little ones chasing fireflies.  Winter nights were spent indoors reading God's Word, studying, playing music, and singing around an old cookstove or fireplace.  Genuine hospitality was the norm, and visits from neighbors were a welcome reprieve.

Oh, for the simplicity of days marked with such clarity!  Looking around today, we see no resemblance to the primitive, yet peaceful lives our ancestors lived, but what if we discovered that the chasm between their lives and ours isn’t as wide across as it seems?  What if we dug deep, through the external layers of excess, busyness and modern-day expectations to find that their courageous, inventive spirit still remains and is the very bridge that will span the gap and lead us back to where we long to be?

Sure, we can’t turn back the clock and land ourselves in the day and time in which our ancestors lived, nor am I implying we should start washing our clothes on a washboard or living life without the convenience modern inventions provide (though it would certainly help to cure some of the issues resulting from the sedentary lifestyle they encourage!)  But, what if we could come closer to living through the lens of their mindset?  What if we could tap into their resourceful spirit, transform the way we live our lives, and annihilate stress?  What if we dared to swim upstream and refuse to get caught up in the fast-moving pandemonium that pervades modern society?

Here are seven simple two-word steps to renew our minds and breathe new life into the steel-resolve, improvising spirit of our ancestors buried deep within every one of us.

1.  Slow down.  Defy culture.  Life may be moving at lightning speed around us, but who says we must participate?  Look for ways to reduce debt and expenses so you don’t have to work so much, even it means selling what you have to pay what you owe.  Quieten noise.  Unplug.  Turn off.  Step outside, stargaze, and listen to nature’s symphony.  Sit still.  Thank God for your many blessings.

"Stay on the path that the LORD your God has commanded you to follow. Then you will live long and prosperous lives in the land you are about to enter and occupy."  Deuteronomy 5:33  (NLT)

2.  Spend less.  Challenge yourself to find contentment in what you already have.  Don’t bring unnecessary clutter and useless junk into your home.  Rein in the urge to splurge, limiting luxuries to rare occasions like they did in the olden days.

"Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for He has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”  Hebrews 13:5  (ESV)

3.  Give more.  Jesus said, "It is more blessed to give than to receive."  Acts 20:35  Give lavishly of your money, time, energy, excess possessions, talents, and resources.  Reach out to others from a place of authentic concern.  Your excess is someone else’s bounty.  Instead of buying things you don’t need, give the money to someone who is in need.  Pay a debt you don’t owe.  Buy groceries for a widow.  Mow your neighbor’s lawn.  Pay a college student’s car payment.  Pay a compliment to a struggling child.  Breathe hope into the life of an underprivileged teen.  Spend an afternoon listening to the stories of a neglected grandfather.  The fulfillment of benevolent goodwill far outshines the cheap thrill of self-indulgence hands down.

"Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again."  Luke 6:38  (KJV)

4.  Realign priorities.  No matter what we accomplish or how much we accumulate, it means nothing if the price to acquire and maintain it requires the sacrifice of what matters most.  Clear your schedule of all that is preventing you from nourishing and pouring your energy into relationships with the ones you love.  Say no to all that is unnecessary.  Time is a limited commodity, and every window of opportunity has an expiration date.  Prevent tomorrow’s regrets by making wise choices today.

"Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil."  Ephesians 5:15 (NASB)

5.  Release excess.  Clear your home of anything that vexes your spirit.  Keep only what you need, use, and love.  Discover the beauty of living within the boundaries of the basics.  If you have two of something, give one away.

"He answereth and saith unto them, 'He that hath two coats, let him impart to him that hath none; and he that hath meat, let him do likewise."  Luke 3:11  (KJV)

6.  Remove temptation.  Our ancestors lived within their means out of necessity, yes, but it was also due to limited shopping opportunities and little to no credit temptation.  They lived without credit cards, and we can, too.  Cut up every credit card you own.  If it isn’t in your wallet, you won’t be tempted to use it.  If self-restraint is an issue, avoid window shopping.  Throw catalogs away before even looking at them and go to stores only when necessary.  Do what it takes to live within your means.

"No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and He will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation, He will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it."  I Corinthians 10:13  (ESV)

7.  Be kind.  We all have at least a few skeletons in our closets when it comes to some not-so-nice branches in our ancestral family tree, but even so, an overall spirit of human kindness was a whole lot more prevalent in their day.  The golden rule was still taught in school.  Prayer and Bible reading was an integral part of public education curriculum.  A deep sense of underlying conscience produced honesty and caring interaction with others.  Children were raised to know that respect of parents, elders, and others was a natural, non-negotiable part of life.  What if we tapped into that spirit of kindness and began to allow it to flow into every, single thing we do?  What if we dared to forgive and love everyone?

"Be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you."  Ephesians 4:32  (KJV)

Who knows?  Maybe the good old days are still ahead of us.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Clear Your Past So You Can Move Forward

The word "aftermath" means ~ the consequences or aftereffects of a significant unpleasant event.

If you and I were to meet at a quaint, little downtown cafe for coffee, find a quiet corner, sit down face-to-face, and I were to ask you, "What does the aftermath of your past look like?" what would you say?  I'm not talking about the good parts of your past or the precious memories you hold dear, but the aftermath—the consequent-baggage of significant unpleasant events that have happened to you.  How would you answer me if I were to ask you about it?

Would you tell me that you fear commitment because you were deeply wounded when you made yourself vulnerable?  Would you say that a toxic relationship has drained every good thing from your life?  Would you mention that an abusive father made you afraid to trust your Heavenly Father, a controlling mother causes you to fear to have children of your own, or a failed relationship left you too bruised to try again?  Would tears fill your eyes as you remorsefully recall the biggest mistake you ever made?  Would anger rise to the surface as you begin to think of the person you have never been able to forgive?

Or what if you were to invite me to your home and show me all your physical possessions, pointing out how each one of them makes you feel?  Would you tell me that the clutter is smothering your ability to breathe?  Would you say that you feel overwhelmed by all the excess?  Would there be moments we would take a pause next to certain belongings as a sense of morose negativity clouded our visit?

What exactly makes up the aftermath from your past?  It is worth thinking about, isn't it?

None of us want to live life looking backward, right?  All of us are broken by the pain of our past, but my friend, today is a new day.  Today is the day to forgive, to release, to surrender it all to the One who is the Healer.  He has an amazingly bright future ahead for each one of us, but we can't move forward if we are loaded down with old toxic relationships, nursing old wounds, clinging to old grudges, and holding on to physical possessions that we no longer want, need, use, or enjoy.

"Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus."  Philippians 3:13,14  (KJV)

It is time to let go of the old and embrace the new, leave the past where it happened, and clear everything from our lives that its aftermath has left behind.  I'm ready, how about you?

Saturday, August 25, 2018

Tithes and Offerings

In this post, we began a discussion on the financial slice of the whole-person pie© and talked about God's way of eliminating debt. Today, I'd like to linger on that slice and delve more into the subject of money. How does God want us to handle it? Does it matter to Him? Should the financial slice of the whole-person pie© be off-limits to God? Should we endeavor to bring all of the other seven slices into alignment with His Word, but reserve our money to ourselves?

The definition of Biblical Minimalism© and the premise of this blog is, "a complete, whole-person release of anything unlike Jesus, a letting go of everything that hinders us from following Him wholeheartedly and single-mindedly, and a relinquishing of all that brings us under bondage to this earthly, very temporary life."

In order to follow Jesus wholeheartedly, we must hold nothing back. It will require us to relinquish control over every "slice" of what makes up our whole person. This includes the money He allows to fall into our hands, and I believe we should strive to follow His Word and example in the allocation of it—beginning with the first ten percent.

I've heard a lot of controversy and discussion over the matter of tithing ~ some argue against it, saying it was strictly an Old Testament requirement but no longer necessary under grace. Others say we should give to God's cause, but the amount is not important, and a sporadic way of giving is acceptable. There are plenty of other ideas and opinions. I don't know about you, but I really don't care about opinions and ideas. I want to know the truth. Only the truth will set us free, and the whole, absolute truth can only be found in the Word of God. It is His Word that will be the rule of law when we stand before Him and give an account of what we have done in this life.

God's Word is actually very clear on the subject of money and the kind of financial stewards we are to be. Here are some Biblical precepts that I hope will be an encouragement and help as you seek to bring this slice of the pie into alignment with God's will. (All Scriptural emphasis is added.)

Give to God first

Matthew 6:33 says, "But seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you."

“Honor the LORD with thy substance, and with the firstfruits of all thine increase: so shall thy barns be filled with plenty, and thy presses shall burst out with new wine.” Proverbs 3:9,10

“Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's.” Mark 12:17

Just as the government requires a mandatory deduction of taxes from a paycheck before it is ever released to an employee, God’s part should be returned to Him as soon as money is within our possession. It is rightfully His, and to Him, it should be rendered ~ first, before all else.

The word "tithe" literally means "tenth"

It doesn't mean "whatever you can afford this week" or "however much you have left over after paying the bills" or "dropping the loose change in your pocket into the offering plate" or anything other than 10% of the money you are given.
  • Abraham set the precedent and his is the first biblical account of what it means to tithe. 
"And Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. (He was priest of God Most High.) And he blessed him and said, “Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth; and blessed be God Most High, who has delivered your enemies into your hand!” And Abram gave him a tenth of everything." Genesis 14:18-20
  • Jacob followed the pattern by vowing to give God ten percent. 
"Then Jacob made a vow, saying, “If God will be with me and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat and clothing to wear, so that I come again to my father's house in peace, then the Lord shall be my God, and this stone, which I have set up for a pillar, shall be God's house. And of all that you give me I will give a full tenth to you.” Genesis 28:20-22 
  • God cemented the definition of tithing very specifically when He gave the law to Moses and laid the ground rules. 
"Every tithe of the land, whether of the seed of the land or of the fruit of the trees, is the Lord's; it is holy to the Lord. And every tithe of herds and flocks, every tenth animal of all that pass under the herdsman's staff, shall be holy to the Lord." Leviticus 27:30,32

"You shall tithe all the yield of your seed that comes from the field year by year. At the end of every three years, you shall bring out all the tithe of your produce in the same year and lay it up within your towns. And the Levite, because he has no portion or inheritance with you, and the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow, who are within your towns, shall come and eat and be filled, that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work of your hands that you do." Deuteronomy 14:22,28-29

Giving is a New Testament command

"Give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you." Luke 6:38

“Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver.”  2 Corinthians 9:7

"Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone." Matthew 23:23

The ESV words it this way, "“But woe to you Pharisees! For you tithe mint and rue and every herb, and neglect justice and the love of God. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others."

In other words, Jesus was saying that they should include and demonstrate judgment, mercy, and faith, but they should also continue to tithe. In this solitary statement, Jesus confirmed that tithing is absolutely a New Testament command that continues to be God's will.

Disobedience steals from God and those in need

Malachi 3:8-10 says, “Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed Me. But ye say, "Wherein have we robbed Thee?" In tithes and offerings. Ye are cursed with a curse: for ye have robbed Me, even this whole nation. Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in My house, and prove Me now herewith, saith the LORD of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.”

This passage mentions both tithes and offerings. Since a tithe is equal to one/tenth, any giving above that amount is considered an offering unto the Lord. Both are mentioned, individually, so it is evident that God wants us to do both, to give as much as we can, and He will reward us accordingly. NOT that we should ever give from the motivation of hoping to receive, but blessing is the reward for obedience.

Refusing to put God first in our finances is robbing Him of what is rightfully His. When we fail to give to His cause, we not only rob Him, but the ultimate effect is that we take from those who are in need. God is all-sufficient. He has no need, but His children do. Someone else suffers from our failure to tithe.

There are so many who are hurting and in such dire need. How can we withhold help from them, when the proof of our love for God is demonstrated and measured by the degree with which we love our fellow man?

I John 3:17 says, “But whoso hath this world's good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him?”

When the love of God is in the heart, it cannot be contained. It automatically bursts forth when we see and recognize that someone else has a need. Just as when Jesus was on earth, many times, He was “moved with compassion”, we will not be able to turn away from those whose plight of poverty and need we could alleviate and remedy by our giving.

What could be more satisfying than to know God has used you to bless and provide for another person? The blessing is even multiplied when you give to those who cannot give back.

“Then said He also to him that bade Him, "When thou makest a dinner or a supper, call not thy friends, nor thy brethren, neither thy kinsmen, nor thy rich neighbors; lest they also bid thee again, and a recompense be made thee. But when thou makest a feast, call the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind: And thou shalt be blessed; for they cannot recompense thee: for thou shalt be recompensed at the resurrection of the just.” Luke 14:12-14

“I have shewed you all things, how that so laboring ye ought to support the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how He said, It is more blessed to give than to receive.” Acts 20:35

Proverbs 3:27 says, “Withhold not good from them to whom it is due when it is in the power of thine hand to do it.”

The power over the money God blesses us with is in our own hand. We can decide whether to give or to withhold…to reach out or to be selfish… to follow the world’s example of “hoard and accumulate all you possibly can” or to imitate Jesus’ example of giving all He had.

Matthew 10:24 says, “The disciple is not above his master, nor the servant above his lord.”

If we would be followers of Christ, should we not give as unselfishly as He gave?

Again, the proof is in the love. Jesus said, “By this shall all men know that ye are My disciples if ye have love one to another.” John 13:35

Jesus also said, “Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Sell that ye have, and give alms; provide yourselves bags which wax not old, a treasure in the heavens that faileth not, where no thief approacheth, neither moth corrupteth. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” Luke 12:32-34

Truly, we have been so abundantly blessed, and there are so many who need our excess.

"Freely ye have received, freely give.” Matthew 10:8

"There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold and laid it at the apostles' feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need." Acts 4:34-35

God's economy doesn't work like man's. The more you give, the more He gives back. My grandmother used to say, "You can't outgive God," and it has been proven many times through the years that she was right. I feel sure every person reading this can vouch for the validity of that statement.

As we sacrifice, put God first in our finances, and reach out to meet the needs of others, He will absolutely take care of us and supply our needs.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Latest Post at No Sidebar

"But godliness with contentment is great gain.  For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out.  And having food and raiment let us be therewith content." 
I Timothy 6:6-8  (KJV)

Recently, I shared at No Sidebar about a subject very close and dear to my heart.
I would be thrilled if you could stop over and visit me there!

What lessons from your growing up years have come to mean the most to you?

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

How To Eliminate Debt ~ The Biblical Way

We move on now to the financial slice of the Whole-Person Pie©.

It is amazing to me how relevant the Word of God remains.  It is every bit as powerful and on target as it was the day it was written.  The world around us can make finances seem complicated, and the thought of bringing them under submission to God's will can seem daunting.  The truth is when we view them through the lens of God's Word, they are quite simple.

The more we strive to live our lives as Jesus lived His, the more we realize that it is completely against His will and what He stood for to live life weighted down. Debt is a heavy burden to bear that creates untold stress and unnecessary worry.  It wreaks havoc and causes strain in marital relationships and is a constant drain on one’s nerves and emotional state.  Living indebted feels like being shackled to a ball and chain.  Debt is a cruel, relentless taskmaster, and God never intended that His children live enslaved to such.  His Word is very clear and has much to say about debt.

“Owe no man anything, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law.” Romans 13:8  (KJV)

 “For the LORD thy God blesseth thee, as He promised thee: and thou shalt lend unto many nations, but thou shalt not borrow, and thou shalt reign over many nations, but they shall not reign over thee.” Deuteronomy 15:6  (KJV)

“The LORD shall open unto thee His good treasure, the heaven to give the rain unto thy land in his season, and to bless all the work of thine hand: and thou shalt lend unto many nations, and thou shalt not borrow.” Deuteronomy 28:12  (KJV)

"The rich ruleth over the poor and the borrower is servant to the lender."  Proverbs 22:7  (KJV)

We have all made bad choices, bought more than we should have or intended to, and fell into the credit trap.  Wherever you find yourself, debt-wise, there is hope, my friend, and there is help to be found in God's Word.  Jesus came to give us deliverance from all forms of bondage, and that includes the area of indebtedness.

Here are Biblical steps to reach freedom from debt.

1.  Face the truth.
Jesus said, "You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free."  John 8:32  (CSB)
The path to any type of freedom begins with the single courageous step of acknowledging what is true.  The first step to recovering from indebtedness is to figure out how much you owe. Until you do that, you will more than likely never make any changes to your spending habits and the way you handle your finances. In order to accurately assess your situation, you will need to be completely honest—with yourself, with your spouse and family, and with God. As cringe-worthy as your plight may be, face it head-on.  Own what is real, and embrace it.  It is extremely liberating to overcome the hurdle of finding and facing the truth.

2.  Forgive yourself.
"He will not always chide: neither will He keep his anger forever.  He hath not dealt with us after our sins; nor rewarded us according to our iniquities."  Psalm 103:9-10  (KJV)
Stop beating yourself up.  What's done is done.  You cannot do one single thing about changing the outcome of where you are right now.  Learn from what you regret, and move forward.  Punishing yourself and living in a state of remorse won't undo a thing.  God forgives, shouldn't you?

3.  Stop borrowing.
"Don't be one of those who enter agreements, who put up security for loans.  If you have nothing with which to pay, even your bed will be taken from under you."  Proverbs 22:26-27  (CSB)
The third step to debt recovery is to stop incurring more debt. God does not need a credit card to supply your needs, nor would He ever require you to do something that would cause disobedience to His Word.  It is not His will that you incur more debt even in this “give it to me now,” “buy now, pay later” age of time.
Jesus even mentioned debts when He taught His disciples how to pray. “And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.” Matthew 6:12  (KJV)
He would never instruct us to ask our Father in Heaven to forgive us for something, then ask us to turn around and repeat the same offense.
This can seem like a hard truth to swallow, when it comes to making larger purchases, such as a home or an automobile.  In today’s world, to even imagine or suggest that someone not go into a mortgage or car loan debt seems preposterous. But, what if we all only purchased what we could actually afford to pay for with cash?
There is no shame in renting someone else’s property instead of owning our own if it means avoiding the pitfall and bondage of long-term debt. Laden with debt, we do not really “own” something anyway.  What if we lowered our standard of living down to the size of home we actually need, instead of trying to conform to the world’s standards and dictations of what is necessary?  The truth is that we need very little in order to not only survive but to thrive.
A big part of refusing to buy things on credit and not incurring more debt has to do with contentment. Contentment is something that has to be learned. It is not a trait with which we are inherently born. The Apostle Paul said, “Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: everywhere and in all things, I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” Philippians 4:11-13
If buying something requires going into debt, the bondage that ensues is just plain not worth it and is counter-productive to the calm of minimal living.
Things that are worth having are worth waiting for until they can be purchased with cash. Waiting on God’s timing for provision produces the sweet fruit of patience, and there is so much rest that comes from thanking God for what we have and trusting Him for what we need.
"But godliness with contentment is great gain.  For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out.  And having food and raiment let us be therewith content." I Timothy 6:6-8  (KJV)

4.  Sell What You Have to Pay What You Owe.
In 2 Kings 4:1-7, we find a remarkable story. A widow came to Elisha and told him that her husband had died.  Upon his death, she was left with unpaid debt, and, as a result, the creditor was threatening to take her two sons as slaves. Elisha responded, "How can I help you? Tell me, what do you have in your house?" "Your servant has nothing there at all," she said, "except a small jar of olive oil."  Elisha said, "Go around and ask all your neighbors for empty jars. Don't ask for just a few.  Then go inside and shut the door behind you and your sons. Pour oil into all the jars, and as each is filled, put it to one side."  She left him and shut the door behind her and her sons. They brought the jars to her and she kept pouring.  When all the jars were full, she said to her son, "Bring me another one." But he replied, "There is not a jar left." Then the oil stopped flowing.  She went and told the man of God, and he said, "Go, sell the oil and pay your debts. You and your sons can live on what is left."

Selling what we have to pay what we owe is such a simple solution to indebtedness.  Though it is radical and 100% counter-cultural, it makes perfect sense.  Where can we look with confidence to find such obvious clarity?  To God's Word, of course.

Living in a house we cannot afford, driving cars that require us to keep our noses to the grindstone, having to use credit cards to finance a lifestyle far beyond our means just so we can impress others and fit into someone else's "mold"—these are the things that do not make sense.  It all boils down to one question—what do you want most?  To be debt-free or to hold on to what you "own?"

The woman could have clung to her olive oil and it would have prevented God from working a Divine-intervention miracle of such magnitude that it is still inspiring faith to this day.

God is able to take what we have and multiply it into what we need if we will take Him at His word and walk in obedience to Him, regardless of how absurd or radical it seems.  He takes the insignificant and insufficient and turns it into overflow and abundance.

Where do you find yourself, my friend?  Does your situation seem impossible?  Perhaps you owe more than your assets are worth and liquidating them would not produce enough to cover the entirety of your indebtedness.  Any elimination of debt is a good thing, even if you aren't able to wipe the slate completely clean with one swipe.  Don't lose hope.  Focus on what God can do, not on your circumstances.

He took a small jar of olive oil and kept multiplying it until it produced enough oil to not only pay off every, single one of the widow's debts, but there was enough surplus to provide a livelihood for her and her sons.  (2 Kings 4:1-7)

He took a little boy's lunch of five loaves of bread and two fish and not only fed over 5,000 people, but there was enough left over to fill a basket for each of the twelve disciples.  (John 6:4-13)

He took one smooth stone in the hand of little David and killed a giant over nine feet tall.  (I Samuel 17:20-51)

He took a handful of flour and a little oil and stretched it to feed and sustain Elijah, a widow, and her son throughout the duration of a drought.  (I Kings 17:8-16)

He took a jawbone of a donkey in the hand of Samson and killed 1,000 of his enemies.  (Judges 15:11-15)

He took a cloud the size of a man's hand and produced not just a small downpour but an abundance of rain.  (I Kings 18:41-45)

He took a tiny newborn baby boy born in the lowliest of settings and made Him the Savior of the whole world.  (Luke 2:1-20 & John 19:1-34)

Let Him lead the way, and be pliable and willing to take His path to freedom, even if it is not your preferred way out of debt.

It is absolutely God's will that we repay our indebtedness.  He wants us to walk free and unencumbered.  Yes, it is a lofty goal but if we follow our Example and are willing to take the humble road He trod, we will find the complete liberation that living a life of self-denial affords.  Nothing in this world could ever bring such peace.

Friday, August 3, 2018

The Most Important Relationship of All

I don't want to move on from the relational slice of the Whole-Person Pie© without giving due focus to the most important relationship in all of our lives—our relationship with the Lord, Jesus Christ.  It all begins with "The Call"—that moment you first hear the Shepherd's voice, asking you to forsake all and follow Him—the moment that every subsequent moment points back to—the one that (however significant or inconsequential it seemed at the time) you later realize served as the catalyst that changed your life forever.  Our response to that call is the single most important decision we will ever make because that choice will ultimately determine where our never-dying soul will spend its eternity.

After making the decision to respond to Jesus' initial call by choosing to follow Him and pattern our lives after Him and the earthly life He lived, we will find that there are many subsequent "calls" as the road from earth to Heaven becomes increasingly narrow.  Each call presents a fork in the road as the call necessitates a response.  The motivation behind each of those ensuing calls is to pull us ever closer to and invite us into a deeper level of intimacy with Him.  His desire, all along this Christian journey, is that you and I would make a steadily-continuing shift from an earthly to an eternal focus.

It was one of these subsequent calls that spawned a deep-seated desire in my little family and me to follow Him yet closer and let go of anything and everything that kept us from whole-hearted surrender and service to Him.  A complete dedication to His purpose initiated our "launch out into the deep" on this path to what we have come to call "Biblical Minimalism©" and compelled us to sell our 4 bedroom, 3 bath, oversized 2-car garage home and let go of 90% of our personal physical possessions.

I don't know what your minimizing journey looks like but if we dig deep enough we will find the same root reason at the bottom of each Christian's desire to pursue a Biblical path to minimalism—we all intensely hunger for Him and long to live our lives like Jesus lived His.  We all yearn for the peace and simplicity that such a life affords.  We all want to let go of the things of this world for the sake of a higher call.  We want to run a successful Christian race unencumbered by the things of this world, free from the bondage to people and things, unfettered by selfish ambition and pursuits, unbound by the shackles of sin, and completely unchained to anything that is not like Christ.

I have often said that the one passage of Scripture that most fully encapsulates the meaning of Biblical Minimalism is Hebrews 12:1-2, "Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God."  Along with that Scripture, there is a song that has been coming to mind that also encapsulates what Biblical Minimalism really means.

It is simply called, "Consecration."  Written in 1907 by Mildred E. Howard, its words are every bit as relevant today as they were 111 years when it was first composed.

Since Jesus gave His life for me,
Should I not give Him mine?
I’m consecrated, Lord, to Thee,
I shall be wholly Thine.

My life, O Lord, I give to Thee,
My talents, time, and all;
I’ll serve Thee, Lord, Thine own to be,
I’ll hear Thy faintest call.

I care not where my Lord directs,
His purpose I’ll fulfill;
I know He everyone protects
Who does His holy will.

Though He may call across the sea,
With Jesus I will go;
And tell the lost of love so free,
Till all His power may know.

My home and friends are dear to me,
Yet He is dearer still;
In my affections first He’ll be,
And first His righteous will.

My all, O Lord, to Thee I’ll give,
Accept it as Thine own;
For Thee alone, I’ll ever live,
My heart shall be Thy throne.

To say those words, and mean them from the heart, is truly a cry of surrender and total consecration.  Too many times, as Christians, we surrender some of ourselves to God.  We pick and choose the areas in which we want Him to have full control, and we hold Him at arms' length, reserving certain other parts to ourselves, attaching an invisible "off limits" sign.    If we are to run a winning Christian race, we have to give it all we've got, holding nothing back from the One who gave all for us.

Is there anything you are holding back from Him?  Is there any area of life where He doesn't reign supreme?  On any of the eight Whole-Person Pie© slices—the spiritual, physical, mental, emotional, relational, financial, occupational, and obligational—do you see a "No Trespassing" sign?

In closing, I want to share the lyrics to and video of another song that is so relevant to this discussion.  It is called, "The Secret Place" and was recorded by The Booth Brothers.  Please scroll down to hear Ronnie Booth's story of his and Michael's Dad's testimony followed by them singing this moving song.


My heart is like a house,
One day I let the Savior in,
There are many rooms,
Where we would visit now and then.
But then one day He saw that door,
I knew the day had come too soon,
I said, “Jesus, I’m not ready,
For us to visit in that room.

‘Cause that’s a place in my heart,
Where even I don’t go,
I have some things hidden there,
I don’t want no one to know.”
But He handed me the key,
With tears of love on His face,
He said, “I want to make you clean,
Let me go in your secret place.”

So I opened up the door,
And as the two of us walked in,
I was so ashamed,
His light revealed my hidden sin.
But when I think about that room now,
I’m not afraid anymore,
‘Cause I know my hidden sin,
No longer hides behind that door.

That was a place in my heart,
Where even I wouldn’t go,
I had some things hidden there,
I didn’t want no one to know.
But He handed me the key,
With tears of love on His face,
And He made me clean,
I let Him in my secret place.

Is there a place in your heart,
Where even you won’t go?