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

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Six Boundaries ~ at No Sidebar

Today, I'm sharing about the importance of setting boundaries in six common, fundamental areas of each of our lives.  I hope you can join me over at No Sidebar to read what the Lord laid upon my heart!

Friday, July 27, 2018

A Case for Christian Minimalism by Evelyn Rennich ~ Guest Post

Today, you are in for a special treat!  I asked my sweet, online friend, Evelyn Rennich, to write a guest post for us, and she so kindly agreed.  Her words are words of wisdom, and I am so honored to have her as our very first guest writer!  I know you will be abundantly blessed as you read.  (You can also read her Inner Views interview by clicking HERE.)

A Case for Christian Minimalism

Modern Christians are suffocating in stuff, and we don’t even know it. Our lives are overflowing with junk and we feel the crush but don’t know what to do about it. Material possessions promise to make us happy and fill an emptiness in our souls. Purchases lend a temporary high, yet we are trading peaceful spaces for homes high on clutter. Christians are not immune to this vicious cycle. We know that our hearts are yearning for a connection with Almighty God, and yet buying another scarf is easier than pursuing His presence. Biblical minimalism is one way for cluttered Christians to fill their heart-void and un-fill their homes.

Secular minimalism is defined loosely as owning fewer items so that the important things in a person’s life can become truly clear. The Minimalists define minimalism as “a tool to rid yourself of life’s excess in favor of focusing on what’s important—so you can find happiness, fulfillment, and freedom.”  Christians believe that God created the world to reflect and draw His own glory, so a tweak of that definition could suggest that “minimalism can be a tool to help believers focus on God so that we can find happiness, fulfillment, and freedom in Him”.

Jesus, of course, is the ultimate example of godly minimalism. We aren’t told explicitly in the Word that He owned nothing, but Gospel accounts show His adult life as mostly a nomad, owning very few—if any—things. Jesus is the ultimate example of a life wholly devoted to God’s purposes, valuing relationships with people over possessions. He lived slowly, purposefully. He valued individuals and trusted God to provide for His every basic need. While He lived a very human life, His trust was placed outside of human reality—100 percent on God. Jesus warned against the danger of letting the desire for wealth and possessions rule your life.

“No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.” Matthew 6:24

Throughout the ages groups of Christianity have followed Jesus’ example in leading a simple life, undistracted by stuff and money. Monasteries and convents are obvious examples, where devoted followers of Jesus give their lives to worship, service, and meditative work without the burden of material possessions. Some sects of Christianity withdraw from the current culture in order to live simply. These groups forego technology and modern conveniences in order to more fully embrace a God-centered life. These lifestyles are beautiful pictures of singular passion and Biblical minimalism, but many of us find ourselves planted deep in a consumer culture with a family and a full schedule filling our calendars. Christian minimalism is one way to say “I don’t want it” to the world and invite a fuller experience of God into your life.

Owning wealth is not wrong
The Bible has a lot to say on the subject of riches, wealth, and belongings. Some verses and passages show that God blesses with physical wealth, such as in 1 Samuel 2:7, “The Lord sends poverty and wealth; He humbles and He exalts.” Examples of people who were divinely blessed with wealth and belongings include Abraham, Solomon, and Job to name a few. It is true that sometimes God chooses to bless people physically with wealth and belongings, so owning things is not a wrong act.
“If riches increase, Do not set your heart on them.” Psalm 62:10

There is nothing wrong with owning things. The real problem comes when our things rule us like they did the rich young ruler in Matthew 19. His riches owned him; he could not part with them when instructed to do so by Jesus.

Biblical minimalism isn’t determined by the number of things you own. Surely, a single person is free to live with less than a family who lives in a home and is involved in a myriad of activities. Biblical minimalism is a setting of the heart to trust in the person of God over money and things. It values delighting in the Creator more than delighting in consumable things. Biblical minimalism is a moment by moment decision to chase righteousness over riches.

Let’s look at a sampling of verses which warn against the love of money and wealth:
“For we have brought nothing into the world, so we cannot take anything out of it either. 8 If we have food and covering, with these we shall be content.” 1 Timothy 6:7-8
“Do not weary yourself to gain wealth, Cease from your consideration of it.” Proverbs 23:4
“Give me neither poverty nor riches; Feed me with the food that is my portion, That I not be full and deny You and say, “Who is the Lord?” Or that I not be in want and steal, And profane the name of my God.” Proverbs 30:8

The key is to rule your stuff, not the other way around 
This content state of heart and mind is a hard one to maintain, especially in a consumer culture. I admit that I often must keep my own intentions in check. It’s too easy to fall into wondering, how can I get more money so I can do this/buy this/have this? The sinful human response is to focus on the thing or the lifestyle we envision, and before we know it we are worshipping an idol instead of the living God. The foundation of Biblical minimalism is to hold loosely to things but to hold tightly to God’s character. Biblical minimalism is to worship God’s person, not to worship gold or possessions. If riches do increase, do not set your heart on them.

A practical step for an average family living in a first-world country is to purposely own less stuff. Choose to shed unnecessary items in your home, and you will discover if your things have a hold on you or the other way around.

Solomon was a man who had access to every pleasure possible. He set out to discover the purpose of life. He owned all the things, rich food, unlimited money, and yet he concluded what we all know deep down—these earth-based comforts are empty, unfulfilling. Solomon’s conclusion was that man’s sole—soul!—purpose was to fear God and keep His commandments. This is where abundant life is found—when our eyes and hearts are laser-focused on God and delighting in Him, our souls feel valued and full.

When we fixate on our Creator and choose to meditate on His character and His word, that is when we find true happiness, fulfillment, and freedom. Biblical minimalism is a practical way out of the consumerist trap and into the untethered life God designed for us. Shed your stuff, friends, and spiritual connection is likely to follow.

"Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep His commandments: for this is the whole duty of man."  Ecclesiastes 12:13

Evelyn is a writer and speaker who encourages women to uncover their best by living with less. She is passionate about functional minimalism, home educating her four young children, faith and intentionally “living small.” Find her thoughts at

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Minimizing Detrimental Relationships

Hello, everyone!

First, I want to say a big, hearty "Welcome!" to all of the new subscribers!  I am ever so grateful to have you on board.  God has blessed me again and again by your support and encouragement!

I'll be honest.  I have been trying with all my might to move on to the 5th slice of the Whole-Person Pie©, and let me just tell you, it is a tough one because it is all about relationships.  I have spent hours seeking the Lord for extra help on this one.  Relationships are tricky, and handling them in a Christlike manner is challenging.

Each one of the eight "slices" of the Whole-Person Pie© presents its own unique challenges, but the relational slice is the one that most affects other people and their feelings.  It is one thing to work on ourselves and minimize the spiritual, physical, mental, and emotional excess because all of those categories are, for the most part, internal and personal.  It is quite another to analyze and work on the relationships in our lives because they involve the external and other human beings.

No man is an island.  Even the most reclusive of us must have contact with another human being at some time or another and the things we do and the choices we make absolutely affects other people.

There are basically two kinds of relationships—those we choose and those in which we are involved through no choice of our own.

"No Choice" Relationships

Examples of relationships that are woven into the fabric of our lives outside of anything we can control are close and extended family members, in-laws, co-workers, fellow church members, and business associates.  These people are a part of our lives by default, but they are not there by accident.  As Christians, we know that everything that touches our lives has first passed through the hands of our Creator, and He is winnowing our path—leaving in and taking out according to His will.  We do not have the option of choosing our grand-parents, parents, siblings, or extended family members.  We have no control over the people who work with and around us, who choose to go to the same church we do, or who are a part of the business networks that life and careers dictate and require.  We have no power to choose who our close and extended family members marry or have as friends.  Though we do have the privilege of choosing who we marry, we have no control over who their parents, siblings, extended family members, or friends happen to be.  If we find them to be difficult, we have the option of not marrying the one we love because of our dislike for their family, but if we choose to unite in marriage with someone, their family will inevitably be a part of our lives as a part of the "package."

"No Choice," uninvited relationships encompass all of the people who are a part of our lives (whether we want them to be or not) due to circumstances that we did not cause or create.  They are in our lives outside the realm of our own preference or choosing.

Choice Relationships

These are the relationships over which we have full control.  Each person who falls into this category is there because we have invited them to be.  I have heard the comment, "If we weren't family, we surely wouldn't be friends."  When "no-choice" relationships happen to also be "choice" relationships, it is a rare gift!

The Inner Circle

Each one of us has an "inner circle"—a place occupied by select people that we choose to allow in.  The people in closest proximity to us, whether they be "choice" or "no choice" relationships, greatly influence and affect us, either for good or bad.  Biblical minimalism is the pursuit of bringing every area of our lives into alignment with how Jesus lived His life and wants us to live ours.  This surely includes making sure we are selective with who we permit into our inner circle—that part of our relationships over which we have complete jurisdiction.

There is a big difference in someone being a part of our lives and someone being a part of our inner circle.  Just because someone is in our lives due to circumstances beyond our control (whether by birth, marriage, or other reasons) does not mean this person has earned the right to be in our inner circle, nor does it mean they should be in our inner circle.

Jesus had a close inner circle.  He spent 40 days fasting in the wilderness, being sorely tested and tried by satan, before He made the decision as to whom He would choose to be His elect twelve closest followers.  This was one of the most weighty decisions Jesus made while walking this earth.  He had to get it right.  Of the twelve He chose, only three were included in certain situations.  The Bible doesn't specifically divulge His reasons for giving Peter, James, and John exclusive access to particular events, but we know they were the only three who were invited to witness The Transfiguration (Matthew 17:1), His raising Jairus' daughter from the dead (Luke 8:49-51), and to be the most intimate witnesses to His anguish in the Garden of Gethsemane (Matthew 26:36-37).  There are many thoughts and theories on why these three men were particularly chosen for such monumental events in Jesus' life, but regardless what His reasons were, it is clear that Jesus chose to have a deliberately-chosen circle of twelve friends, with only three of those friends being granted fuller access.

Everything Jesus did while on earth was intentional.  Every decision He made was full of purpose. It is important imperative that we pay attention to the details if we are to successfully follow Him.  He didn't just choose Peter, James, and John to be granted a higher level of access at one time, but this happened three distinct times.  (There may have been more, but we are told of three.)  This was a well-planned and purposely-considered pattern of behavior, and it should not be overlooked as we seek to align our walk of faith with the way our Master lived.

There are people in all of our lives who are a detrimental influence.  Perhaps they are friends with whom we had a relationship before becoming a disciple of Jesus.  If we are choosing to follow Him and they are continuing to walk a path that is contrary to the way Jesus lived His life, sometimes this conflict of interest evolves into a fork in the road where a parting of ways is necessary for our spiritual wellbeing.  I am not defending adopting a "holier-than-thou" mindset or that we should ever judge others, but I am saying that it is so easy to be drawn back into pre-Christian behavior if we continue to keep ungodly influence in our inner circle.

PLEASE NOTE:  (Due to complexity and post length, I am purposely not including marital relationships or relationships with children in this mix.  For the sake of this discussion, my intentions are strictly to include and explore all relationships, other than spousal and parental.)

If detrimental relationships are ones that we have chosen and invited into our lives, it is a fairly simple process to minimize or completely eliminate contact.  Not that it will be easy or without fallout, but by God's grace, it can, and probably should be done.  It is quite a different situation when the destructive relationship is a part of our lives by default, such as with a parent, sibling, in-law, or other close or extended relative.  What to do then?  It is heartbreaking and complicated to come to the realization that someone we dearly love or someone with whom we cannot completely avoid contact is bringing ungodly influence into our lives simply by being a part of it.

We cannot change another person or their destructive habits and behavior no matter how much we want to, and the best things we can do are to pray for them and gently pull away for the sake of our own Christian walk.  This is never going to be easy, and misunderstanding is sometimes a sad albeit inevitable repercussion because sensitive feelings and emotions of others are involved.  Those who are not following Jesus will not understand the motivations of those who want to follow Him with all their hearts.

"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."  1 Corinthians 2:14  (KJV)

When we become a Christian, we are a new creation.  Our hearts are regenerated, and we are changed from the inside out.  That change will manifest in every area of our lives, including the selection of those in our inner circle.

"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)

All of us have dealt with rejection, betrayal, and hurt, and it is hard to think that due to a choice we initiate, however necessary it may be, a loved one may experience similar pain.  When it becomes obvious to us that we need to "evict" someone from our inner circle or put some distance between ourselves and another person, it is so important to seek God's will and ask for Holy Spirit discernment and wisdom concerning the imminent misunderstandings that will ensue in the aftermath of severed or minimized relationships.

Jesus understands hard choices.  There is no situation we will ever face that He has not already encountered something similar.

"For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin."  Hebrews 4:15  (KJV)

Jesus absolutely dealt with relatives and loved ones who were a source of vexation.  

"He came to His own people, and even they rejected Him."  John 1:11  (NLT)

Concerning familial relationships, Jesus said,

"For Jesus, Himself testified, that a prophet hath no honor in his own country."  John 4:44  (KJV)

"And a man's foes shall be they of his own household."  Matthew 10:36  (KJV)

Remember when Jesus was rejected in His own hometown?  They not only rejected Him, they tried to push Him over a cliff!  (You can read all about it in Luke 4:16-30.)

I find it very interesting that after His hometown showed such blatant disrespect, disregard, and complete repudiation, Jesus did not linger around and keep wasting time on such detrimental relationships.  He knew the dangers of listening to the wrong things for too long, and He refused to allow anyone to deter Him from His purpose.  He got away from them, and He moved on to pour His heart into those who would listen to Him, accept Him, and who were hungry for the truth.  Luke 4:30-32 says, "But He walked right through the crowd and went on his way.  Then He went down to Capernaum, a town in Galilee, and on the Sabbath He taught the people.  They were amazed at His teaching because His words had authority."  (NIV)

Jesus did not condone, nor did He require His disciples to keep pursuing such frustration and vexation.

To His disciples, He said, "And whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear your words, when ye depart out of that house or city, shake off the dust of your feet."  Matthew 10:14  (KJV)

"Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you."  Matthew 7:6  (KJV)

Here are some questions you may want to ask as you seek God's will concerning the need of minimizing relationships in your life.
  • Is this person a part of my life by choice or because of circumstances I did not create or cause?
  • What is my first gut feeling when I think of this person?  Is it negative or positive?
  • Is this person controlling me?  
  • Am I under bondage to this person?  
  • Do I feel the need to seek this person's approval before making decisions? 
  • Am I afraid of this person?
  • Is this person Godly?  
  • Does this person maintain a close relationship with Jesus and seek to follow Him in their daily life?  
  • Should I be listening to and following this person's advice?
  • Do I want my life to turn out like theirs?
  • How do I feel after being around this person?  
  • Does this person fill my cup or drain it?
  • Does this person inspire me to press in closer to Christ?
  • Do I feel like I can never please this person?
  • Does God require me to continue to try to please them?
  • Has this person ever hurt me in any way?  
  • Do I need to forgive this person? 
  • Do I hate this person?
  • Do I want God to bless this person?
  • Do I have a choice as to whether or not I am around this person?
  • Do thoughts of this person bring on anxiety?
  • Am I comfortable being around this person?
  • Does this person make me feel inferior?
  • Is this person in my inner circle?
  • Should this person be in my inner circle?  Have they earned the right?
  • Does this person remind me a lot of Jesus?
  • How does this person feel about Jesus?
  • Do I want to be like this person?
  • Would I want others to view me like I view this person?
  • Do I owe this person an apology?
  • Do I owe this person anything?
  • Is this a relationship I should gently, but firmly eliminate from my life?
  • If so, is this a relationship that I can eliminate from my life?
  • If not, what changes can I make to minimize contact and influence without being unlike Christ?
  • Do I feel obligated to this person?  Why?
  • Would Jesus allow this person to dictate His decisions?
  • Would He advise one of His disciples to shake off the dust and move on from this person?
In this post that was recently published on No Sidebar, I identified ten warning signs of a potentially toxic friendship.  The things I talked about could apply to familial and other relationships as well as friendships.

Biblical minimalism is about cleansing and purging the toxins, shedding the excess, minimizing what distracts us from wholeheartedly following and serving Christ.  In closing, here are some Scriptures that will help as you search your soul regarding the relationships you are allowing to be a part of your life, especially the ones in your inner circle.  This is so important to your well-being and to the measure of your success in following Jesus and living a life of peace.

"Do not be deceived: Bad company ruins good morals."  I Corinthians 15:33  (ESV)

"Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness?"  2 Corinthians 6:14  (ESV)

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord, and turn away from evil."  Proverbs 3:5-7  (ESV)

Who is in your inner circle?  Whose advice are you listening to? Whose approval do you seek?  Whose feedback are you influenced by?  Whose attitude is affecting yours?  Who are you allowing to sway your thinking and worldview?  Who are your friends?  Of those friends, who are you closest to?

As we continue to follow this path toward living a peace-filled, Godly, minimal, Jesus-honoring life, relationships play a vital role.  Though it is a challenging process to sincerely lay them out before the Lord and seek His will concerning whether or not there is a need for purging in this area, it is an extremely worthy and necessary endeavor.  God bless you as you seek His will and give you the courage to follow Him wholeheartedly.

Saturday, July 21, 2018

How Leaning Into God's Will Contributes To A Simple Life

Life on earth is made up of a series of peaks and valleys—trials and victories. Fighting against the ebb and flow of what is beyond our control is as exhausting and futile as trying to manipulate the ocean’s tide. What will be will be, and there is very little over which we have any control.

Life’s punches hit out of nowhere, upsetting normal routines and predictability and fall into the “accept the things I cannot change” category of Reinhold Niebuhr’s Serenity Prayer. Loved ones die, leaving us behind in a state of shock and bereavement. Sickness strikes, interrupting the best-laid plans. Cars and appliances break down forcing expensive repair and replacement costs. Jobs are lost due to downsizing, outsourcing, or other reasons beyond the scope of our preferences and decisions. Relationships end regardless of how much we don’t want them to. Such is life, and as Christians walking through life in the human condition, we are not exempt.

Jesus said, “These things I have spoken unto you, that in Me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” John 16:33 (KJV)

And the Apostle Peter said, “Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: but rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when His glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy.” I Peter 4:12 (KJV)

Trials are inevitable, but they are not random. God is winnowing our path. Nothing escapes His watchful eye, and everything that touches our lives has passed through the filter of His hand first. When we don’t understand His logic, we must trust His wisdom.

Early in our marriage, my husband and I adopted two Chow puppies. They were beyond adorable, but oh, the stubbornness behind that cuteness! We found ourselves in way over our heads when it came to taming their spirited nature, so we made the decision to enroll them in obedience classes. There, we learned an exercise that was a tremendously successful tool in conquering more than just the will of our puppies.

We were to hold the puppies, one at a time, in the palm of our hands, forcing them to remain on their backs. Can you imagine the squirming? They wriggled and whimpered and wore themselves completely out trying with all their might to figure out a way to escape the firmness of our grasp. The instructor insisted that we did not give in, but resolutely hold them in place while talking to them in a commanding but gentle tone. The first time we tried, the discipline was extremely exhausting—for us and for the puppies. The next time it got just a bit easier, as they remembered not only our refusal to let them have their own way but more importantly they recalled that we did not let them fall. With time and consistency, the puppies squirmed less and less as their trust in us grew more and more.

Around this time of puppy training, we experienced several distressing situations. My 40-year-old brother-in-law died, unexpectedly. My Dad, who lived near us, became seriously ill and was hospitalized at the same time my mother-in-law, who lived out of state, was diagnosed with cancer. There were more family deaths and concerning health issues, including the heartbreaking beginning of many years of infertility. Job stress and other hardships flooded our lives, and to say we were completely overwhelmed is a huge understatement.

We began to see the change in our puppies and the futility of their intense struggle against strength that was beyond their own. Ultimately, we were the ones in control, and as we convinced them they were safe in our hands, they began to learn that squirming would not change the outcome, and they could release their fears and let go knowing we were not going to let them fall. We began to recognize that the lessons our puppies were learning were also intended for us.

Our faith in God taught us that He has a plan for each of our lives and His arms are always underneath, holding tightly, refusing to let us go. Even though we often squirmed during that season of severe trials, we came to see that struggling against what was meant to be was only making things more difficult. Trust is a learned practice, and as God brought us through each situation, we began to squirm less and trust more, knowing there was a power greater than our own ability, and no matter what, we would be okay.

That season and many other hard seasons have passed, each one instilling a deeper sense of trust. In due time, God answered our many prayers and miraculously blessed us with one beautiful baby boy of our very own who is now a teenager and graces our lives and home with such joy every, single day.

We’re still learning. I won’t say we never squirm, but I will say we have learned to squirm less over the course of our 30 years of marriage. Learning to trust God instead of squirm against Him and His perfect will is truly the path to peace.

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Minimizing The Giant Of Fear

When I was preparing this post, I found that according to the Psychologist, Robert Plutchik, there are eight basic human emotions—anger, fear, sadness, disgust, surprise, anticipation, trust, and joy.  Before we move on from the emotional slice discussion of the Whole-Person Pie©, I wanted to devote one entire blog post to the subject of fear.

Why talk so much about fear, you ask?  I'll be honest.  I spoke a little bit about how my imagination can run completely away with me in this post, so if you got to read that or some of my posts at Homespun Devotions, it may come as no surprise to you that, for years, I have struggled with an unnaturally, all-consuming sense of fear.  With shame and regret, I'll tell you that fear has dominated far too many of the moments of my life.  I really hate that because I'll never get them back.  Life is so precious, short, and fast-moving, and it is beyond frustrating to think I have allowed fear to steal so much from the only one I'll ever live.

As I talk to and counsel with others, I find that I am not alone.  Perhaps you also battle fear?  If you do, you already know very well how intense the struggle can be.  My heart goes out to you, and I hope, by sharing some of the things I have learned am learning firsthand, you can find encouragement.  At least, you will know you are not alone, and we can pray for one another in this battle.

First, let's clarify the difference between "healthy" fear and the terrorizing, "unhealthy" fear that I battle so much.

There are two types of "healthy" fear.
  • Fear, as an emotion, is needful.  The emotion of fear is a natural reaction and response to perilous situations.  It makes us aware of danger and compels us to move to safety and make necessary adjustments to protect ourselves.
  • Fear of God is a debt we owe.
"Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep His commandments: for this is the whole duty of man."  Ecclesiastes 12:13  (KJV)

The word "fear" in this verse means, "affright."

Each one of us will stand before a sinless, holy, Almighty God when we leave this world, and we will give an account of how we responded to His commandments while here on earth.  Knowledge of this should instill in us a sense of sobering awe and reverence, as we consider that He paid the ultimate price to make a way for us to live a holy life, and we will stand before His righteous presence, without excuse.

"It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God."  Hebrews 10:31  (KJV)

May we never lose our fear of God.  It is vitally important to our spiritual vision and moral compass.

"Healthy" fear is necessary.  But, when fear becomes a continual, overshadowing, paralyzing force that drives every decision and consumes even the best of moments, it has gone far beyond what is natural and healthy.  This, my friends, is the fear with which I am so embattled and of which I speak.

I recently shared a glimpse into some of the root reasons for my intense battle with fear at No Sidebar.  As I continue to unpack my emotional baggage, I am delving deep into what the Bible says about such agonizing fear and psychological intimidation—ever seeking God's face with all my heart for deliverance and victory.  I want to know the truth because I want to be free.  Don't you?

Jesus said, "And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free."  John 8:32  (KJV)

Here's what God's Word tells us about "unhealthy" fear.  Herein lies the truth.

1.  Fear is a spirit.

"For God hath not given us the spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind."  2 Timothy 1:7  (KJV)
2.  Fear never, ever, ever comes from God.

God gives us the spirit of power ~ to overcome fear, to take control of fearful thoughts, to conquer the lies of fear, to identify and annihilate deceit and psychological intimidation, to press through the smoke and mirrors and fake facades of fear into what is real and what is truth.

God gives us the spirit of love ~ to accept His forgiveness, to open our hearts to His truth and what is real, to understand that through His shed blood and atonement on the cross we have been washed clean from the sins of our past, to embrace our true identity as a joint-heir with Christ, to fully walk in and enjoy a privileged life as an adopted child of the King, to finally see ourselves as fully His—redeemed, forgiven, completely loved, and capable of loving others with the same spirit of love.

God gives us the spirit of a sound mind ~ to live free from what is irrational, to make level-headed decisions based on reality, to think sanely and sensibly, to live at total peace—with Him, ourselves, and others.

Power and love and a sound mind—not fear—are good and perfect God-given gifts.

"Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change."  James 1:17  (ESV)

"There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love."  I John 4:18  (KJV)

"We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in His love. God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them."  I John 4:16  (NLT)

God would never bestow such torment and anguish as comes from fear.  Finally knowing, understanding, and believing that fear NEVER comes from God is extremely liberating.

3.  Since fear doesn't come from God, we know who it comes from.

There are only two sources from which everything flows in this life—good and evil.  God is goodness personified.  Satan is entirely evil.  Satan is our archenemy.  Satan is a liar.  If we are listening to him, we are serving him, instead of God.

"Jesus said to them, "If God were your Father, you would love Me, for I have come here from God. I have not come on My own; God sent Me.  Why is My language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say.  You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father's desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies."  John 8:42-44  (NIV)

Satan comes to steal, kill, and destroy everything good in our lives.  Jesus comes to make our lives completely full—of love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.   (Galatians 5:22,23)

"The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life and that they might have it more abundantly."  John 10:10  (KJV)

One of satan's ways of stealing, killing, and destroying the good in our lives is to take perfectly wonderful moments and force his lies into our thinking, making us afraid to enjoy the abundant life Jesus stands offering to us.  Jesus said there is NO truth in satan.  Every, single time he speaks, he tells a lie.  He is the father of lies.

So, since satan is a liar, and he is the source of fear, we now know the truth that will set us free.  Fear is a liar. 

4.  Since fear is a spirit, this is spiritual warfare.  We can't see fear.  If we could, this battle would be so much easier, but our battle is against what we cannot see with the human eye.  It is happening in the spirit world.

"For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms."  Ephesians 6:12  (NIV)

5.  Since this is not a fleshly battle, it cannot be won with fleshly weapons.  

"For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds."  2 Corinthians 10:4  (ESV)

6.  Divine power is tapped into by speaking God's Word out loud.  

If we want to give the spirit of fear a TKO blow, this is how it's done.

When Jesus was being sorely tempted by Satan in the wilderness, Satan chose to begin his first two attacks with the word "if."  This was a fear tactic.  He was trying to place seeds of doubt in Jesus' mind as to who He was and cause Him to fear that He may be mistaken about being God's Son.

"If Thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread."  Matthew 4:3  (KJV)

"If Thou be the Son of God, cast Thyself down: for it is written, He shall give His angels charge concerning Thee: and in their hands, they shall bear Thee up, lest at any time Thou dash Thy foot against a stone."  Matthew 4:6  (KJV)

Though Jesus knew who He was as young as 12 years of age when He was found conversing with the teachers in the temple, Satan tried to undermine Jesus' belief in His own, true identity.  He knew if he could get Jesus to fear that He may not really be who He was, he could deter Him from pursuing the whole reason He was sent to this world in the first place.  If he could inject the spirit of fear into Jesus' mind, he could sabotage the whole plan of salvation, and he could win the ultimate battle.  Can you even imagine such?  To think of it is unimaginable.

Jesus was fully aware of what was at stake, and He wielded the only all-powerful weapon, striking satan down in utter defeat every, single time.  To each of satan's underhanded, fearful "ifs", Jesus responded with the Word of God—spoken out loud.

"But He answered and said, it is written, 'Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God."  Matthew 4:4  (KJV)

"Jesus said unto him, It is written again, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God."  Matthew 4:7  (KJV)

The Word of God is proven and tested artillery.  It worked for Jesus and enabled Him to overcome, and it will work for us in the battle against fear.  In order for us to use the Word of God, we must first hide it away in our hearts so it will be there, at the ready, automatic, and at all times.  The way to do that is to read it, study it, and memorize it.

"Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against Thee."  Psalm 119:11  (KJV)

After it is hidden in the heart, we use and wield it as an offensive weapon by speaking it out loud.

"Death and life are in the power of the tongue."  Proverbs 18:21  (KJV)

We are in control over what comes out of our mouth.  We can either give in to the spirit of fear, give it an audible voice, feed into its intended frenzy, and perpetuate its existence, OR we can speak God's Word into existence.  Spoken truth exposes and dispels the lies of fear.

When David went out to fight the giant Goliath, he refused the untested armor King Saul offered him.  He chose to go into battle with nothing less than what he was familiar and experienced with and what he had tried and proven to be successful in the past—with what he knew.  David knew his trusted sling, and David knew his God.

"Then he took his staff in his hand, chose five smooth stones from the stream, put them in the pouch of his shepherd's bag and, with his sling in his hand, approached the Philistine.  David said to the Philistine, "You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the LORD Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied.  This day the LORD will deliver you into my hands, and I'll strike you down and cut off your head. This very day I will give the carcasses of the Philistine army to the birds and the wild animals, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel.  All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the LORD saves; for the battle is the LORD's, and he will give all of you into our hands. As the Philistine moved closer to attack him, David ran quickly toward the battle line to meet him.  Reaching into his bag and taking out a stone, he slung it and struck the Philistine on the forehead. The stone sank into his forehead, and he fell facedown on the ground.  So David triumphed over the Philistine with a sling and a stone; without a sword in his hand he struck down the Philistine and killed him.  David ran and stood over him. He took hold of the Philistine's sword and drew it from the sheath. After he killed him, he cut off his head with the sword. When the Philistines saw that their hero was dead, they turned and ran."  I Samuel 17:40,45-51  (NIV)

What purpose would David's sling and stone have served if he had left them in his shepherd's bag and turned away from Goliath in defeat?  For sake of space, I didn't include the whole story, but if you have time to read it, you will see that Goliath was continually spewing threats toward David that would make a lesser person tremble and run in the opposite direction.  David identified the threats for what they were—total bullying, empty fear tactics, and absurdity when stacked up against his GOD.  He stood firm in the face of such terror, reached into his bag, pulled out a stone, placed it in his sling, marked his target, and landed the blow that felled his opponent once and for all.

The giant of fear will rear its ugly head in all of our lives.  Of this, we can be certain.  It isn't a matter of "if" fear will resurface, but when.  The wonderful thing about it is that the next time he reappears with all his taunts and threats, we are armed and fully loaded with the truth.  We know he is a liar, and following Jesus' example and speaking God's Word is the only "stone" we will ever need to minimize and take him down.

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Minimizing Emotional Clutter

There is a fine line between mental clutter and emotional clutter.  Since the mental and emotional parts of us are so closely related, and they even overlap in different ways, we will move right on from the mental slice of the "Whole-Person Pie©" and delve into the emotional.

Following Jesus does not mean that we will no longer feel or be excused from the human condition. As human beings, we will experience the full gamut of all emotions on a regular basis.   Jesus lived on this earth for 33 years to show us what God in the flesh looked like.  He felt every emotion we will ever feel.  His circumstances may have been different from the exact situations we find ourselves in, but the emotions, the hurt, the betrayal, the pain—it was the same for Him as it is for you and me.

If we are experiencing it or facing it, we can be 100% certain that Jesus faced it first.  If we are going through it, Jesus has already been there, yes, in a human form.  Just like you.  Just like me.  How do I know that with an absolute certainty?  Because His Word tells us the truth.

"For we have not a high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin."  Hebrews 4:15  (KJV)

Truth is the thing satan does not want us to know about—he hates truth.  Truth releases the chains that satan takes delight in wrapping around our spirit and emotions.  Truth is what sets us free.

Jesus said, "And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free."  John 8:32  (KJV)

Jesus IS the truth.  "Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by Me."  John 14:6  (KJV)

Jesus came to not only tell us the truth but to show us the truth, lived out in a body of flesh with a human mind that was susceptible to every single emotion known to man.  Jesus experienced them all, and through each one of those emotions, He never sinned.  He didn't allow His emotions to control Him, nor did He allow them to consume His life or deter Him from His purpose.

Emotions are real.  They are a part of us.  As long as we are in a human body, we will experience them.  It is what we allow our emotions to lead us to do that matters.  Reining in our own reactions to our emotions is a lifelong battle, but one that we can overcome daily, through following Jesus and yielding control to the power of His Spirit dwelling within us.  

Each one of us bears scars from the wounds of our past.  There isn't a person alive who has not felt the sting of hurt, heartache, grief, and suffering.  None of us possess the capability of completely shutting off our feelings or coming to a place of such resolve that we are left unaffected by the things that touch our lives.  Each hard thing we go through in this life leaves its mark, and the deeper the hurt, the longer it takes to heal.  But, just as too many physical possessions creates chaotic stress and clutter—long-term accumulation of rampant, undealt-with emotions take over and become deeply detrimental to our well-being.  Emotional baggage is a heavy weight to carry.  Even if we have found the rare peace that comes from the release of excess physical possessions, out of control emotions can overwhelm and steal every bit of that peace and pull a cloud over an otherwise serene life.

Just as none of our physical possession minimizing journeys look quite the same, the contents that fill up the suitcases that hold our emotional baggage are also very different.

So, let's open those suitcases and take a look inside, shall we?  Do we dare?  It is one thing to peel back the layers of physical possessions in search of excess and unnecessary things that need to be released, but digging into and disturbing emotions presents a whole new ballgame and challenge.  It can get real ugly real quick because who wants to face and deal with this stuff?  It is much easier to just shove it farther to the backs of our minds and try to convince ourselves it doesn't exist than to acknowledge and embrace reality and shine the light of God's Word into all those darkened corners.

You can do this!  Take courage, and know that you are definitely not alone.  If each one of us is brutally honest, we will have to admit that this is a level playing field.  So, go ahead—unlock your suitcase, and lift the lid.  What do you see?  What's in there?  Chances are it has been in there for so long and become such a part of you that you have forgotten it is even there.  What does your emotional baggage look like?  There are only two people who will ever know—God and you.  He's known all along, and He loves you so much!  He is so pleased that you are taking this audacious first step toward letting go of all the "junk" in that suitcase.  It has weighed you down and made you unhappy for so long.  Today, you are going to start your emotional minimizing journey, and you are soon going to be set free!

Shh!  Just between you and God, do you happen to see any bitterness in there?

"Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord:  looking diligently lest any man fails of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled."  Hebrews 12:14-15  (KJV)

"Who is wise and understanding among you?  Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom.  But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth."  James 3:13,14  (NIV)

Do you see any grudges?  Look close.  Are you unable to forgive someone who has wronged you?  I know it hurts.  I know that what they did to you is incomprehensible.  I know they may or may not have apologized or admitted to their own guilt and wrongdoing.  I totally understand that you are 100%  justified in feeling the way you do.  Your feelings are real.  They matter.  They deserve validation.  But, friend!  Carrying this unforgiveness is making your suitcase really, really heavy and hard to carry.  Imagine how much lighter it would be if you just decided today to forgive, bury that hatchet once and for all, and lighten your load!  You are the one who will benefit most from letting it go.

"Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye."  Colossians 3:13  (KJV)

"Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath:  neither give place to the devil.  And grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption.  Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice:  and be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you."  Ephesians 4:26-27,30-32  (KJV)

"Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone.  If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.  Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: 'It is Mine to avenge; I will repay,' says the Lord.  On the contrary:  If your enemy is hungry, feed him;  if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.  In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.  Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good."  Romans 12:17-21  (NIV)

Is there any guilt in there?  Any shame for past, already-forgiven sins?  God already forgot about them.  Why can't you?  Why carry the weight of them any longer?  Oh, look!  He already took them from you.  If you look just a bit closer, you will see that they aren't in the suitcase at all.  Memories of what you did and the shame and guilt are all that linger—mere illusions of what used to be.  You are not that person anymore, remember?  Don't you want to walk forward, from this moment, with only what is real?

"There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.  For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death."  Romans 8:1-2  (KJV~emphasis added)

"He will turn again, He will have compassion upon us; He will subdue our iniquities, and thou wilt cast all their sins into the depths of the sea."  Micah 7:19  (KJV)

"For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through Him might be saved."  John 3:17  (KJV)

"The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy.  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.  For as the heaven is high above the earth, so great is His mercy toward them that fear Him.  As far as the east is from the west, so far hath He removed our transgressions from us."  Psalm 103:8-12  (KJV)

Those sins are gone, my friend!  Now, go—forgive yourself and extend to yourself the same grace God has bestowed upon you!

Do you see any hatred in your suitcase?

"If a man says, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?  And this commandment have we from Him, That he who loveth God love his brother also."  I John 4:20,21  (KJV)

"He that saith he is in the light, and hateth his brother, is in darkness even until now.  He that loveth his brother abideth in the light, and there is none occasion of stumbling in him.  But he that hateth his brother is in darkness, and walketh in darkness, and knoweth not whither he goeth, because that darkness hath blinded his eyes."  I John 2:9-11  (KJV)

How about self-loathing?

"For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them."  Ephesians 2:10  (KJV)

"For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life."  John 3:16  (KJV)

"The LORD hath appeared of old unto me, saying, Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee."  Jeremiah 31:3  (KJV)

"For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's."  I Corinthians 6:20  (KJV)

What else are you finding in there?  It is time to minimize.  Release everything negative.  Let go of all that drags you down.  Purge the excess.  Open your heart and mind to the unconditional love God has in His heart for you.  Stop nursing old wounds, and allow yourself to heal.

Are you feeling lighter?  Hey, maybe you no longer need that suitcase at all.