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

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.