Showing Posts from: Self-Improvement

On What Do You Base Your Most Basic Beliefs About Yourself and Others?

What is the basis of your self-image? What is the basis of your identity?

To change the quality of your life, whatever that means for you, you must first identify those beliefs in your head that are hurting you. Get specific!  Your beliefs are wings or weights: which ones are lifting you up, and which ones are weighing you down, specifically? After you have named them, and become aware of just how much they have caused, are causing, or will cause you to lose, you must work intentionally to re-frame or replace them with beliefs that can empower you to grow and flourish as a human being.

Furthermore, if you allow the ordained minister in me to take it a step further. As a Christian, I personally believe that the Bible has one of the best, most powerful teachings about who we are as human beings. It says that people are made in the "imago Dei"- in the image or likeness of God. That means, at the very least, that all people- including you- are similar to (but not the same as) God in the following ways:

  • You have a spiritual nature (you are not just a material body)
  • Were made to have loving with relationships with others (rather than living alone in isolation)
  • You have the ability to think (rather than just be a programmed robot)
  • You have the power to create (rather than just consume)
  • You have the capacity to rule (and not just be a passive recipient of all life throws at you)
  • You have the freedom to live a pure life and make ethical choices (and not be helplessly controlled by your drives like animals)
  • You have the ability to live forever (and not just end up as a pile of ashes or under six feet of dirt)

Also, BECAUSE humans are made in the image of God, all people- even those with whom we disagree- deserve to be treated with dignity and respect and love. 

That's what MY self-image is based on. That's also what I see when I look at other people. No matter who I am dealing with, I see beauty, potential, value, and worth. Even if they do not subscribe to my values, I still see all people as image-bearers. Having said that, in my view, we humans are all flawed, and cracked, and imperfect in so many ways, but beneath those imperfections, I still see glimpses of God's image in peoples' lives (and give myself permission to be imperfect too).  That view of myself and others helps me treat even the most addicted drug addict with respect. Beneath their addiction, they are people, just like me, made in the image of God.

That's the cognitive content I have chosen to replace my negative self-images with. It's also the content I have in my head about others.

What about you? On what do you base your most basic beliefs about yourself and others? How is that cognitive content helping or hurting your own growth as a person? How is it helping or hurting your relationships with others? That's just something to think about.

Have a great day!


A Word to My Fellow Christians about “Your Blessing that’s On the Way.”

I have to say something that some of my fellow Christians will not like but desperately need to hear.

I keep seeing people post or say things like, “God’s got something BIG for you this year,” or “God is about to take you to the next level,” or, “You are about to BLOW UP!” or, “God is really about to do something HUGE in your life this year,” or that “God is about to make you a millionaire” or that "you are pregnant with possibility so you need to PUSH!!!" All these “words of encouragement” almost always have something to do with people receiving a huge material blessing, or a financial blessing, or a huge raise, or a big promotion. Sometimes it relates to you achieving some kind of fame or glory. 

I understand personally why people/preachers say those things. When wealth, power, opportunity, education, justice, social status, prestige, and rewards have been clustered to privilege some people and exlude so many others, I understand why those who have been excluded would long for a "financial breakthrough," and why preachers are tempted to preach those things.  I really do. However, I don't think that preaching or teaching that kind of message is either Biblically supportable or actually helpful, especially for people who are in poverty. Even if the preacher has good intentions to give people hope, at best, that message is a false hope that will likely lead to despair for everyone but the preacher who preaches it (those preachers usually get rich off of the gifts of poor people, and then argue that their own success is proof that God answers prayer- all while they keep getting richer and their victims stay impoverished).

I can make that claim with confidence because I grew up economically disadvantaged. My mom made $5,000 a year, and we needed food stamps to survive sometimes.  I lived in 26 places before I was 16, and not because we were a military family. Things were hard for us. Hard. Sometimes the sadness was so great that I used to cry myself to sleep at night, praying that God would kill me in my sleep as a kind of sacrifice, just so my mom wouldn’t have to suffer anymore. 

So I know what it feels like to have a deep longing in my heart for more money, things, and significance. I really do. However, the only thing my longings ever gave me were the motivation for me to worry or work. After seeing that worrying didn't change anything, I decided to work - to DO some things- to take action- to improve my life and the lives of those around me. 

I say that to say, yes, God might have big plans for you in 2017, and He might desire to take you to "the next level" (whatever that means), and God might want to bless you with fortune and fame.  If that is the case, I am pretty sure that your blessing is going to require you to do a lot of things that other people will never see (and aren’t supposed to see). 

God’s plan for us is to live with integrity when no one is looking (Psalm 1:1; Proverbs 11:3; 2 Cor. 8:21; Hebres 13:18; Philippians 4:8).

God’s plan is for us is to discipline ourselves to get enough sleep at night so we can have enough strength to serve Him well (1 Cor. 6:19-20; Hebrews 4:9-11; Psalm 127:2; Mark 6:30ff). 

God’s plan for us is to be others-oriented, treating ALL people with dignity and respect (because they are made in His image) (Genesis 1:26; Matthew 7:12; Romans 12:10; Philippians 2:3; 1 Peter 2:17; 1 Cor. 10:33; John 13:34-35). 

God's plan is for us to make disciples (Matt 28:16-20).

God's plan is for us to do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly (Micah 6:8).

God's plan is for us to love the least, lost, last and left out (Matthew 25).

God’s plan for our lives might also be for us to keep our homes clean, our families fed, and our own businesses in good order (1 Tim. 3:5; 1 tim. 5:8; Titus 2:5; Proverbs 31:27).

God’s plan for your life might be for you to stop trying to take shortcuts (Colossians 3:23).

God’s plan for your life might be for you to sit down and read those books, and write those papers, and turn in those assignments (Col. 3:23; Psalm 90:17; Proverbs 6:10-12; 12:11; 13:4; 12:24; 14:23; 2 Tim. 2:6).

God’s plan might be for you to go to class and pay attention (1 Cor. 10:31; Prov. 14:23; 1 Cor. 15:57-58; Eph 2:10).

God’s plan for you might be for you to love your spouse when your spouse feels unlovable (Eph 5:22-33).

If you are a parent, God’s plan is for you is to cultivate your children into well-read, well-spoken, people-loving, God-honoring, citizens of His Kingdom and the world (Deuteronomy 6:6-9; Prov. 22:6; Eph. 6:4; Psalm 127:3; Prov. 13:24; Prov. 29:15; 2 Tim. 3:15). 

God’s plan is for you to treat people the way you want to be treated, and to behave in a way that you think they should (Mark 12:31; 1 Peter 3:8; 1 Cor. 10:24; Galatians 6:2; Philippians 2:3; Matt 7:2).

God’s plan for you might be to fill out that job application, prepare yourself for interviews, and to show up to those interviews on time (Col. 3:23; Psalm 90:17; Proverbs 6:10-12; 12:11; 13:4; 12:24; 14:23; 2 Tim. 2:6). 

God’s plan for you is for you to do your job so well that even your haters have to respect your hustle (Col. 3:23; 1 Pter 3:15ff; Col 4:5-6). 

God's plan for you and I is to remain faithful through the inevitable suffering and persecutiion that will come to those who seek to live holy lives (Romans 5:3-4; 1 Pet 3:14; Phil 1:29; Matt 10:38; 1 Peter 2:21).

Yes, God’s plan for us usually entails you and I doing a whole lot of little things that most people do not care about. 

If we do those little, behind-the-scenes, no-one-cares about things, I believe the more our lives will get better.  Neglect to do those little things, and keep waiting on God to do something big for you, and you are probably going to be waiting, or wasting, your whole life. Not because God is not able, but because you have not put your faith in God to work. Remember, faith without works is dead. Even the forces of darkness believe in God (James 2:19) and they shudder.  Your faith, absent of actual follow through, is meaningless. Why would you expect God to do the super-natural when you won't even do the natural? The Bible I read clearly shows that God is not a genie you or I can rub and get stuff from.  God is not some casino owner who is about to just give us some big jackpot.

Rather, the Bible I read says God has already done what needed to be done when he sent Jesus Christ into this world to trample down darkness, bring death to its knees, and give us a model to follow, and to serve as a sacrifice for the comprehensive, all-encompassing corruption in the world.  He came to inaugurate a kingdom where people who surrender to him will, through the power of the Holy Spirit, live out God's will vertically, internally, and horizontally- loving God, loving ourselves, loving others (which involves more than chump change charity or individualistic faith that never gets around to living out the social implications of the Gospel (social justice, poverty, racism, etc.)), and caring for the environment. That’s what God calls Christians to do. 

So if you “blowing up” or “getting rich” or “going to the next level” does not involve the things I just mentioned, then I am pretty sure those aspirations are not biblically defensible and have nothing to do with the Kingdom of God (which, by the way, is what Christians are really supposed to care about).

Now, please do not hear me saying that being rich is wrong or evil, for Jesus never made a universal indictment against all wealth. Rather, I am saying that your desire to achieve success should not involve committing interpretive rape against the Bible- forcing your own fleshly desires upon the text against its will, without its consent. There ARE biblical principles that, if followed, can help one achieve great success, but almost all of them involve prayer, planning, advisors, sacrifice, integrity, generosity, and hard work.

When I was a broke, struggling college student, I went on a fast to seek God's will for my life. During that fast, I read these words over and over: "Seek first the Kingdom of God, and His righteousness, and ALL these things will be added unto you" (Matthew 6:33). During that fast, I decided that I would take those words seriously in my own life.  I would really seek God and His righteousness with my finances, in school, in my relationships, on my jobs, and in my day-to-day life. Things didn't improve for me right away. However, it's amazing what the discipline of living a life that aims to please God will do for your earthly circumstances. Since that day, I can't even begin to tell you how many more of my dreams have come true (while many of my blessings have been material and financial, my most meaningful ones have had nothing to do with money, power, or prestige). 

Sincerely seek God's heart, and not just His hand, and see how your heart, habits, and even your circumstances will begin to improve. 

My Newest Dream: To Fly My Family Around the World in My Airplane

Years ago, I dreamed that I would one day have a happy, healthy marriage and family, that I would own my own home, become a pilot, own an airplane, help a lot of people, and earn my PhD.  All but one of those dreams have come true.

Now I'm dreaming again. Usually, I only share my dreams AFTER I have already achieved them. Well, I'm going out on a limb with this one.  

Here it is: It is my dream to fly my family around the world in a spacious, capable twin-engine airplane, learning about several of the world's wonderful cultures, being a blessing to people everywhere we go, and inspiring underprivileged youth all over the world to dream BIG!

I shared this dream with my family, and they are excited! Who knows how this will affect the development of all of us, especially our children? I'm excited to see how my children will be affected by the beauty and poverty and diversity of the worlds they (we) will see and experience.

Normally, when I have a dream, I write it down, and then I take some kind of action, like putting together a draft plan to transform that dream into reality. This time, I'm telling others- you- about it. While I know there will be some naysayers who doubt that this will happen, I believe there are a lot more people in the world who will cheer us on. No, this is not where I put in a gofundme link.  This is just me externalizing my dream.  

I have already completed the first draft of our itinerary (see picture). So far, it will take 135 flights, 307 hours of flight time, 10,731 gallons of fuel, in order to fly 61,322 miles from Atlanta to Europe, Africa, Asia, North America, South America (and maybe Antarctica), and back. Along the way, we will be stopping to experience each city's culture, and to somehow  be a blessing to a local group either through a service project or through speaking/preaching to one or more of their groups.

The trip will take at least one year to complete.  Maybe longer.  

Between now and then, a WHOLE LOT has to happen. With God's help and a whole lot of focused work, I plan on finishing my PhD in December of 2018. Then I plan on taking the beginning of 2019 to finalize the details of this trip. Before my wife and I backpacked through Europe for six weeks in 2003, we ate grilled cheese sandwiches and saved all our pennies to make that trip possible.  To afford this trip, we are probably going to have to start eating cake mix or something! lol! In any case, I believe in sacrificing for my dreams, making them a reality.

All I ask is that you please pray with me and my family that everything comes together for this dream to come true. That's it.  I'll share more as I know more. 

Thank you.


What is the First Step to Improving Your Life?

Someone recently asked me, "Your book, “Your Next Chapter,” provides advice on creating the life of one’s dreams. What’s the first step in that process?"

My answer is pretty simple: people need to understand that if they are not where they want to be in their lives -physically, mentally, emotionally, academically, professionally, financially, relationally, or spiritually- they have the power to turn the page. To turn the page means that they are committing to take proactive steps to improve the quality of their lives, one belief, one decision, one step at a time. It means that you are taking action to make your life align to the story that you want. Turn the page.