Category Archives: Spiritual Growth

Authentic Christianity

Romans 12_2Authentic Christians are people who are transparent and live out who they are on the inside. They are people who reflect their inner values on the outside without pretense. The kind of individuals who don’t find it necessary to hide who they are, even when it isn’t perfect in the eyes of others. Authentic Christians are secure people about their pilgrimage and who are able to live a natural life expressing an individual identity of reflective spiritual development giving the person confidence to be who they are at any given stage of their journey. It is a life that rises above shame about mistakes, sin, and failure with confidence in the sufficiency of God’s transforming power. People like this are often hard to find and are people who have learned through hard experiences that the transparent life of the soul is more likely to bring the joy and peace of the Kingdom in the process, so they align with their core self and are honest about things happening in their own lives, as well as, issues they have with other people.

Think about it, if you have been in church very long, you know there are people who are evasive, secretive, and others who are downright deceptive about how they live to prevent anyone from knowing their secrets. One reason is that we live in a culture that thrives on shame, especially in religious circles where there is  little grace in the discussion of redemption by the saints. Also, it is because there is a deeply insecure, afraid, or wounded person who has not learned to trust God in a life of intimate transformation. It takes being broken by life and people to bring a person to the place of transformative grace and allow them to be honest, open and transparent.

Among Christians, there are the ones who are living in denial, i.e., individuals who have issues in their personal lives or their relationships that they never acknowledge and deal with things carefully hidden away, choking away spiritual life, and preventing honest transparency from happening. Unfortunately, from these buried problems, there is often the source material of people who often create division and confusion in relationships in the church or organizations because in a crisis situation the hidden and unresolved personal issues come to the surface.

Because authentic Christians live transparent lives, they tend to be able to trust in God through the problems knowing that he loves them beyond what cannot be grasped in human understanding. As such, the authentic Christian does not have to be deceptive because transparency provides realization that hiding behind fig leaves only derails intimacy with God. So, when you see a Christian who knows how to live a transformed life of intimacy, you will see authenticity and experience honesty in Christian living. Wouldn’t it be great if we all lived up to that kind of relationship with God and gave the same opportunity to others?


Authentic Fellowship

Walk in the LightAuthenticity and transparency go hand in hand with wisdom in the way life is expressed and with whom the heart I shared. Considering that even Jesus said “not to cast your pearls before the swine”, care should be taken in the choice of people that we share our heart with through life. The piercing truth about human nature is that many people do not have the capacity to receive or understand transparent and authentic people because they are not.

Transparent people learn the wisdom of living wisely and honestly in their spiritual relationship with God, self, and others. The principle of authenticity indicates that we are first and foremost transparent in our relationship with God knowing that He recognizes us as we are and yet still in spite of all we are or are not still loves us as we are —the person He created. When we are able to be honest with God and learn to be comfortable in His presence, we have started the journey of self-acceptance and honest assessment with our self where transformation is possible. One of the keys to living that transparent and authentic life is that people learn that a life of peace with others begins with having peace with yourself. You cannot love others as you love yourself until you actually learn to love yourself in a healthy way.

If we walk in the light, the light exposes all that we are and every attitude that precedes our actions. I wonder when you look at yourself in the light of Jesus’ reflection, what do you see? Is that person someone that you can live comfortably alongside of without hiding, deflecting, or faking? Think about this: Think about this: When we live in the light of His presence, forgiveness of our sins and walking in truth and light, with God and with others, will always be natural and authentic result of having fellowship with the light.


Storms: Choices, Consequences, and Contentment

Connecting Choices to Outcome

Do the choices that are made every day have anything to do with how things work out in life?  A few years back while living in another state, I decided to take a walk around the a walk around the neighborhood after a tornado; then later, taking a drive through the city, what I saw from the storm reminded me that consequences always follow every event of life.  I am mindful about the way people, so often, take for granted  peace, happiness, and good times in life and how many times that we forget that everything in life has consequences –good or bad.  Obviously,  some consequences are not because of the choices that we make in life, they are the result of nature, other people’s actions, or something that we do not understand about the seasons of life.  The fact remains that there are consequences for everything that happens in life.

Outcome and Escapist Thinking

A problem with problems is that we do not like the outcome because the consequences make life difficult to experience.  One of the most common responses to negative experiences  is to try  escaping consequences, deny the impact of our behavior and choices on others, and escape the reality of what those choices bring to life experience.  I am reminded from working in the prison system  that quite often we have inmates come to the chapel and  make a choice to become a Christian and to begin to pursue a spiritual life.  Instead of entering into a process of discipline and developing a responsible faith and transformation,  a common response after becoming a believer is for inmates to begin  seeking prayer and guidance about how to appeal their sentence to get out of prison.  A problem with this thinking is because they do not like the results of their choices, present circumstances, and the absence of a gratifying life.  Instead of accepting circumstances of being in prison as a result of bad choices, anti-social behavior, and hurt and pain for others; they believe that a spiritual relationship entitles them to an immediate change of circumstances.  What is not clearly understood is that having a relationship with God does not mean that circumstances will be removed for a lifetime of choices that are made. When people go to prison it is because they are convicted of a crime –a consequence of a bad choice.  Something that stands out here is that many times there is a mystical, magical thinking about what forgiveness brings in a person’s life that needs to be demythologized.  Forgiveness does not mean that we are not responsible for what has happened and it does not mean that consequences will disappear because we have found faith through God.

Memories and Traumatic Experience

In cognitive psychology theory, the importance of memory is correlated to the way experiences are organized and stored in the information management system within the brain.  The impact of experience upon memories and schemas are  realized through understanding memory encoding, which is the way traumatic or painful experience codes a memory and actually change the construction of brain tissueEpisodic memories are the most powerful memories that people have and are connected to responses given through the lived-experience of life.  When painful events, invalidation, hurt, or trauma occurs beliefs, relationships, and memories are forever changed –life changing consequences attached to actions that classify memories with specific triggers.  However, it is not that simple when choices that are very painful are attached to the way the brain organizes information, memories, and painful emotions.  For some people, people they just want to say, I am sorry and hope that it will be forgotten because they wish for immediate release and change the painful circumstances choices have created.  However, it is not that simple when there is deeply ingrained hurt and trauma.  When choices are made, words are said, and actions are taken; we may not realize that when one word, one act occurs, it can be life changing. Indeed, how another person experiences our choices are related to how they experience and processes our chosen behavior.

Choices, Prayer, and Outcome

Memories embedded in the psyche, are connected to an internal perception process,  schema that is a part of the biological and physical makeup of the brain.  It is not just a emotional response; it is how an individuals brain and mind organize events, which and regulates how we think, feel and triggers how we behave when episodic memories are activated. Indeed, choices have consequences upon how life will be experienced, encoded, and remembered.   Unfortunately, outcome is not given enough consideration when people decide on a course of action or use irresponsible words, actions, and behaviors.

What needs to be emphasized  and understood is that when there is a painful experience, painful invalidating words, and abusive behavior that destroys trust and boundaries that the consequences of what has happened cannot simply be wished away, prayed away, or ignored.  The important and neglected truth is that  there are some things that are a part of life –like problems, storms, aging, death, and seasons of life that are very difficult to face.  What needs to be  understood is that we must learn to live with consequences and realize that some things will never change and do not go away no matter how spiritual one becomes.  Our prayers might be better focused upon asking for Grace that provides sufficient strength to live within the circumstances in the place our choices have taken us  to live.

Contentment through Spiritual Growth

The apostle Paul said,  ” I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, [therewith] to be content” (Philippians 4:11).   This is not an attitude of hopelessness and/or  surrender to circumstances, but an affirmation of faith that states that whatever circumstances that are faced, contentment can be found in a Savior who is sufficient in the whatever circumstances life may bring.  The fact is that anyone can trust God when everything is always going right.  The question is can you trust God in your circumstances to be sufficient –to provide efficient grace to live through the storms of life?

Forgiveness, Reconciliation, and Responsibility

forgiveness and ReconciliationWhat should you do when personal relationships are fractured by someone’s  behavior who repeatedly  violates your trust and causes deep regret? A person who you have given your heart and confidence to in a meaningful relationship who has now violated that confidence.

Once you begin to pay attention to one of those situations, you begin to understand the way people who you care about who do you wrong, violate your personal boundaries, and have patterns of behavior that consume your life resources emotionally, physically, and financially.

To ask, what should be done next is a reasonable response from the injured party.  The answers are not always easy to resolve everyone equally depending on their circumstances, but something must be done.  Some people just opt to run away putting as much physical or emotional distance between them and the offender as possible to avoid the consequences.  However sane that may seem at the moment, running away is not always a reasonable response when we have been hurt by others and trust has been compromised.

Quite often the best response is to try to manage relationships instead of running away.  However, when efforts are made to manage others behavior, those efforts to help others can be a slippery slope that can backfire if you do not think through the way you feel and how you will manage you own actions.  One thing to realize is that every time there is a hurt or violation, there are two people involved.  It is like the old saying, “it takes two to Tango”.

Obviously, the act of assessing blame and trying to get others to take responsibility for seemingly unjust or unethical behavior  can turn on the accuser because of the distorted emotions, perception, and self-interest other people may have about events.  In fact, most people always will judge their own actions in the best light. So, for most people, it is easier to blame others or make actions appear to be about someone else instead of accepting responsibility for personal actions or participation in a conflict situation that has produced hurtful actions, negative feelings, and a fractured outcome.

Looking at forgiveness from a purely religious or theological perspective sometimes leaves people with distorted ideas about responsibility for actions. When behavior occurs that violate another person’s rights or actions that defrauds another person willfully of benefit.

Many people think that if you are a Christian and you are wronged that you are obligated to get “holy amnesia”  instantly.  Then, if you are really a spiritual saint that you will act as if nothing ever happened.  Unfortunately, when some people look at the idea of forgiveness through a theological construction, often the emphasis is placed upon unconditional forgiveness without balancing actions with personal accountability for actions that wrong others.

In fact, unconditional forgiveness, ideally, removes responsibility for actions, absolves guilt, removes consequences, and automatically restores relationships. Unfortunately, in the real world of human experience that is seldom the reality in experience.  Something important to think about is that within the the subject of forgiveness an important issue to consider is that human beings are cognitive and emotional beings.  They are humans that are subject to human limitations and they are not impeccable altruistic beings as God.

Sadly, many people who have been deeply hurt by others are further damaged by guilt and manipulation of religious idealists who do not comprehend that there is more to forgiveness than holy amnesia.  In view of humanity,  when it comes to forgiveness many people falsely impose the content f redemption and forgiveness provided through Christ God upon human relationships as if it is normal or expected for people to behave just as God has while living with the limitations of a finite human being.

Unfortunately, for many people feeling the hurt and pain of broken relationships the pain doesn’t get any relief when religious notions are used to guilt and bruise the offended further. Think about this: from a Christian perspective, if the central emphasis of forgiveness is placed upon benefit for the sinner, relief for the offender, instead of responsibility for the effects of behavior that have damaged parties in a relationship, then who pays for the offense in the relationship?

The answer is clear –a  distorted understanding about forgiveness and responsibility re-victimizes the offended by placing the Lion’s share of consequences upon the person wronged. Obviously, forgiveness is distorted when cause and effect are not kept in balance.  There is no doubt that there can be little growth in relationships that is possible without a healthy process that addresses the consequences for the act of offense.

If a simplistic view of forgiveness is used,  there is a need for immediate relief from any sense of guilt from actions.  This view requires vindication, i.e., relief from emotional, social, and, personal responsibility for wrongdoing immediately.  In a theological understanding of God’s provision of redemption, penalty is  removed and sinners escape eternal separation from God, as well as, the benefit of relationship in the present because Jesus bore the sin and consequences.  However, the theological definition is not a very practical way to apply to how forgiveness occurs between people who are the product of a fallen nature and experience systemic relational problems.

Obviously, iIndividuals with a human limitations often lack a God-like ability to negotiate healthy balance between forgiveness and responsibility.  Therefore, when many people think of forgiveness they are equating it with to the doctrine of absolution from Roman Catholic Theology, where the priest mystically removed the penalty for wrong acts. As a result, movement away from a simplistic view of forgiveness by people who live by shoulds and should nots will be enhanced when they realize that forgiveness is both an act of the will and a process toward reconciliation that is not just a  instant “holy amnesia”.

One way to think about this subject is that there remains a fundamental difference between forgiveness and removal of cumulative consequences. In view of that, it is true that Jesus died on the Cross-as a substitution for the sins of those who place faith in Him.  However, does that mean that all of the consequence for every sin and sins are removed at the Cross in every area of life?  Some people believe the answer is yes, but the answer is an emphatic no.

To illustrate this point, the thief on the cross still died for his crimes, while at the same time he was forgiven of his sins. Indeed, there is a principle that needs to be understood about consequences in the human life that remain, even when there is full forgiveness.  Something to consider is that many people see forgiveness as a relief from responsibility for irresponsible behavior. Obviously, escapist thinking under girds many beliefs people have about forgiveness from bad behavior.

One place this is evident is in the majority of prayers prayed by people that focus upon God relieving or delivering them from consequences in life instead of focusing upon personal change in the person.  It seems rational to believe that the focus should be upon God providing ability to bear up under consequences while remaining faithful through circumstances.  Somehow people have come to believe that when they are forgiven of wrongdoing they will no longer have to live under the conditions that bring consequences from choices made or to face responsibility for consequences.

Unfortunately, the fact remains that unethical and unjust behavior influence levels of trust, communication, and relationship dynamics that, in turn, affect everything in life.

There is no doubt that common sense tells us that when something horrendous occurs to a person emotionally, psychologically, or personally devastates life, it will not be relieved with a simple “I’m sorry”. In fact, something is seriously out of balance with thinking about forgiveness that equates words of contrition or acting like something did not happen with relief from consequences and responsibility. Obviously, it is like believing the words, “I am sorry” will remap the cells of brain, change thought patterns, modify behaviors in way that minimizes, erases responsibility and eradicates consequences.

Consider the error of this point of view that is so prevalent among  the religious through an attitude that places greater emphasis upon acceptance of wrongdoers than it does upon the spiritual, social, and eternal consequences of evil acts.  Obviously, all actions have consequences and no matter how much individuals may want to ignore them, pretend they don’t exist, or mystically wish them away, there is always an ongoing impact on life. Consequently, what can be learned from church history is the point of view that minimizes responsibility from wrongdoing is nothing new, it is called, Antinomianism.

This perspective presented a problem recorded in the book of Roman where Paul asked a question directed at responsibility for actions, “What shall we say then, shall we continue in sin that grace may abound”.  Consequently, rational people know that when there are evil acts, there is not a freedom from responsibility, but a challenge to accept responsibility mandating a change in behavior in a responsible manner.

Apparently, some people in that time believed that the more they sinned, the more grace was magnified as a principle of forgiveness and acceptance —more grace is evident and available.  Unfortunately, this is how many people view responsibility for their wrongdoing: the more they are forgiven, the less sensitivity that is felt about the grave nature of injustice to others.  For example, among incarcerated inmates this is particularly evident in the way felons passionately rationalize crimes against others when they find Jesus. The point that is relative is that there is a felt need for relief through redemption and absolution from penalty in forgiveness.

However,  something that is characteristic among anti-social types is a visible absence of remorse, acts of willing restitution, or change of attitude about crimes committed against victims.  Those who are most passionate about forgiveness and who advocate acceptance, restoration, and vindication are those who have the greatest guilt and sin and want relief from consequences.

What needs to be understood is that Jesus died on the Cross for Sin to give a remedy for sins.  Sin is a legal term expressed in John 3:17 as condemned and in Romans 8:1, as condemnation, which has reference to  eternal punishment and separation from God as a legal consequence of sin.  The forgiveness that Jesus offers in His work on the Cross is declared to provide a way to experience a changed life that is a process in contrast to an escape from the consequences of sinful actions.  In the theological concept, forgiveness is about changing behavior and redeeming the consequences through building a life of trust and faith through fidelity. On the other hand, naive acceptance without accountability reinforces the potential for evil to continue thrive and prosper.

One of the problems with beliefs about forgiveness is that it is philosophically bound to utilitarian reasoning about forgiveness grounded  in hedonism. Hedonism is the the pleasure principle, which advocates that the greatest good outcome in life is achieved on the least path of resistance resulting in relief or pleasure.  In other words, the way that brings the greatest pleasure in life is the easiest way. Utilitarian’s advocate the principle of greatest good and is the best outcome for everyone concerned.

However, the question remains unanswered about how is the greatest good or best is determined?  Usually the good is in human terms arrives socially, from group input, or from sociocultural norms and mores’, not from a universal or rational truth.  Unfortunately, Utilitarian forgiveness is not very effective at helping people change behaviors or protecting people from harm, and restoring trust.

In this case, forgiveness magnifies the principle of toleration and means that there is no universal understanding of consequences or for morally wrong behaviors.  Therefore, illegal activities and damaging behaviors deconstructs  normal boundaries for behavioral expectations and normal expectations about responsibility.

Therefore, the impact upon the human experience is that when people become so desensitized to consequences of evil that the effect is no longer felt, the result manifests an inadequate view of forgiveness and responsibility.  Therefore, when people hold a fundamental belief that there is forgiveness for sin and with no consequences, spiritual change or personal growth does not occur in relation to forgiveness.  The opposite occurs: behavior adapts to wrongdoing creating no accountability and the system dynamic turns the abnormal into the normal.  Consequently, forgiveness should demonstrate change in the forgiven not reinforce a potential to act in evil ways without accountability. Consequently, forgiveness should mean that, offenders are changing how they feel and how they believe, so life can move forward in a healthy productive way.

A cultural challenge to forgiveness in the 21st century is within the proliferation of Utilitarian thought.  At its core there is never really any possibility of right or wrong so there can be no offense.  Obviously, this belief is connected to a relativistic view of culture that removes all moral implications of sin or wrongdoing and removes absolutes.  As a result, a conclusion might be made that since nothing is really ever wrong, forgiveness is just a psychological transaction where feelings are purged creating emotional catharsis and acceptance.  However novel that may seem to modern people, this thinking does little for the person who has been violated and who has memories encoded with trauma after an experience creating Post-Traumatic Stress.

Forgiveness is an internal process that sets the forgiving person free from bitterness and internalizing of pain in self-destructive ways. However, contrary to popular thought, forgiveness does not mean the offender is free from the consequences of their actions.  When the news reported that Usama bin Laden was killed, there was a sober reminder that evil actions have consequences that will stalk a person and exact a penalty sooner or later through consequence in life and after death.  Obviously, we live in a time when universal truth has been rejected and been replaced with a view that makes all actions relative to the person. Consequently, the reality of 21st century sophistry is no moral right and wrong, but only what is relative to a person or a group.

Another way to consider responsibility for actions is presented in Psalm 37 that says, ”Fret not thyself because of evildoers, neither be thou envious against the workers of iniquity.  For they shall soon be cut down like the grass, and wither as the green herb”.  Indeed, the certainty of the future is that  every person will fall into the hands of a just God, who has reminded us that there are consequence for evil acts and violence.  With that in mind, the message that resounds for victims is that the pain felt through unjust acts in this life is only a token of the eternal reward for injustice from evil acts in this life.  Something to think about is that God will have the last word on every act and consequence of evil behavior.

Finding Grace In A World Demanding Performance

Take time to look at people in terms of their humanity and not their failures.Forclosure House - The Day After (28)

A truth that might be understood about how we look at others is that when we see others at the point of their need and have compassion: giving grace, reflects our own sense of need, realizing that we also need grace at times in our lives.  Jesus said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit” that was targeting an attitude that would characterize those who understand their culpability, have sense of their humanity, and potential for failure which results in humility about who they are.  It is a truth that it is very hard to extend grace to others when you have no understanding how much a human that you are or how failure may have characterized our existence.  How we look at others says something about the impact of humility upon our character. People are human and fail at times in life and if the only people who we are willing to give grace to are people who look like us and fit into the cookie cutter that we have made of our view or brand of church-ology, we will never be of any help to anyone except a select few and we may miss a rare opportunity to be incarnational in how we respond to people.  Jesus looked upon the multitude as sheep without a shepherd.  Most people need a shepherd that can see them as they are and realize that there is a felt need that needs intervention that expresses grace.

Use what you have to be a blessing to someone else who may need a hand up.

One of the most profound things that you can do for someone is not to give an expensive, costly gift that is beyond your ability, it is the act of showing that you care enough about someone else to give what you have, what you can, and what helps the person. If you have ever been desperate with nowhere to turn, no one to call, stranded with no where that you feel that you can turn to get help, and God places an angel (messenger) in your path who does not know you, but chooses to help you because they have been in that exact spot before, then you may understand a hand up.  The unfortunate thing is that many Christians are so self-absorbed and detached from others–that all that they can see is their own need.  What people need to know more than they need your money, food, or time is to know that you see them as a person and that you have a genuine concern that will do more than talk about being missional.  To give people a hand up means feet on the ground—using what you are and what you have to offer to show what people need the most, loving concern that shows.

Finding grace in the holidays will come when grace has found us and we come to realize that people all around us every day need a touch on their lives that communicates that I accept you like you are and I am willing to give of myself, giving grace that connects with the felt need of another person .  Everyone needs to experience salvation, redemption, sanctification, and empowerment from God to live an effective life.  The best expression of love that is demonstrated gives with no expectation of receiving anything for the giving. Giving love with no strings or conditions is a choice made reflecting the Grace that God gives in loving us. Loving without expectations the act of Grace reflecting a character that seeks the best for the one being loved freeing the person to give love freely. (John 3:16)

Spirituality: Striving and Developing on the Path

When Jesus said, “Strive to enter in at the strait gate: for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able” (Luke 13:24), there is the reminder of discipline involved in continuing to walk day after day in a committed Christian life.  It is a formidable challenge to consider to not to allow the shadows and underbrush overshadowing the walk to hinder  progressing toward the goal that is just ahead on the jagged road called strait.

The grim reality presented in what Jesus said,  “Strive”, indicates a life of resistance against elements that are always present, which constantly oppose success toward a direction called the “strait gate”.  The truth is that, unless there is a tenacious commitment to embrace the calling of the “strait” direction with total dependence on God, it is not likely that striving in human effort alone will keep you on the path. Nevertheless, what is apparent indicates that there is a ongoing struggle to live in a “strait” way, but the question remains about what the struggle is with?

Is it the struggle with the road of life chosen or a struggle with the way the road leads life?

A calming reminder from the psalmist says, “the ways (steps) of a righteous man are ordered by the Lord (Psalms 37). Comfort and assurance are given to us living on the path of righteousness indicating that it is a ordered way – God is involved in every step taken.  The confidence given from the psalmist affirms that there is not a step taken or resistance faced that He has not already prepared for in our steps.  On the path, a discovery comes that there is a way that seems right, which may feel right, looks right –the path of least resistance.  At this place of understanding, a decision has to be made to have trust during the struggle or to give way to the temptation to the impulse to run away from the “set path”, the ordered way, which is “strait” and characterized by “striving”.

A challenging concept in the statement comes as Jesus says, “Strive to enter” A question that arises is what exactly are we striving with, while entering the “strait gate?”  Many people see this as a struggle in becoming a Christian, or the struggle in surrendering to Christ. However, what must be noted is that striving is a continual struggle on the “ordered path”.  If it is believed that God gives salvation freely, it is hard to accept that this is struggling for salvation.  It seems that the struggle is pointing to an important understanding about what we struggle with the most in life,  surrender of control to live under control to God alone.  Our striving is not with God, salvation, or receiving grace – it is a struggle with a thing called depravity that haunts the soul of man with unbelief, selfishness, and a propensity toward a disobedient and unfruitful lifestyle.  It is a struggle with self to a life of surrender.

Have You Arrived Yet? Choosing, Forgetting, Pressing, and Reaching

“Everything can be taken from a man or a woman but one thing: the last of human freedoms to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way” (Viktor E. Frankl ).

“Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13).

Quite often in life, we encounter obstacles that tend to define all of life in a momentary experience. More often than not being able to choose the right actions and move ahead is Don't expect others to understand your journeyderailed when the focus of life is always in the present. Something that may not be obvious now is that life is always stretching toward the future. The things that we see and experience today will only be here for a moment and all we have left is tomorrow. When the apostle Paul wrote that he had not “laid hold of it yet”, he was speaking about the goal of his life. He had not arrived yet, but his attitude toward life was organized around a primary theme.  He was not going to remain where he was, but he was stretching, “pressing” toward the future that God had for him. Something important that can be taken away from this is that the ability to choose is God’s gift to us that enables life to be focused upon things that will help us reach the goal “of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus”.  As a result, while life may railroad our plans sometimes, Paul said, “I press“, demonstrating that he exercised an enlightened choice to reach forward to a goal of Christian living, “to know Christ in the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His suffering.

Choose How You Think and You will Choose How You Behave

Something to be noted about the power within a person to choose reveals while we have little control over circumstances or the actions of others, we control our thoughts and reactions to circumstances and people. Obviously, most people can learn how to think more positive and operate with an attitude of hope, regardless of circumstances, temperament, or intellect; but it requires an intentional effort to focus energy on the right things. Indeed, the way a person chooses to act toward the transitions in life influences whether forward movement occurs and if successful goal achievement will take place. Therefore, believing in your ability to reach a goal is an integral component of the power of choice. When you believe, you can reach the immediate goal and maintain a sure footing and it will enable continuance and provide a successful foundation for leading others to believe that they are able to choose a pathway to success.

Think Positive to Act Positive

To start thinking positively, begin by living positively. Most people wait until they feel like it before taking action, but that is going about it backwards. Instead, you have to act your way into thinking. By putting desires into action, you can establish a habit of thinking correctly and the result is a positive way of acting that reflects that we intend to succeed. If you tend to think negatively, break that habit by choosing to have and exhibit a plan that is focused on the goal and the outcome of actions. Our actions reflect an attitude that we can and will.  Besides improving your personal well-being, you will model the actions that you want your followers to take as well.  As they see your commitment to being positive, they will follow your example.

Plant Seeds that Nourish Life

To reap a successful harvest, a farmer does not plant seeds and then just expect them to grow on their own. He must continually water, weed, fertilize, and nurture the growing plants if he wants them to reach maturity. Likewise, if we want a successful life, we need to spend time every day nurturing our attitude. We must nourish the seeds of positive thinking, or they won’t grow. And if we don’t pay attention to our crop, weeds of negative thinking will spring up and choke the positive plants until they die.

Focus on an Outcome

Don’t feed the weeds. It does make a difference what we think about and how we view our life. “Whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, and whatsoever things are of good report … think on these things.”

Pay Attention to Details in Life

Have you noticed that whenever you buy a new car, you suddenly see others driving that same model everywhere?  I’m sure you’ve figured out that those other cars were there all along; you just weren’t looking for them before. Now that you have that particular car yourself, your eye is trained to notice it.

Beliefs Drive Perception and People see What They’re Prepared to See

That’s why it’s so important to train yourself to look for the best in others. There is good in the worst of us and bad in the best of us, if we look for it hard enough. So whether you notice positive traits or imperfections depends almost entirely on what you to see. When we consciously look for the best in people, we allow their good traits to have a positive impact on our life and leadership.

Creativity Leads to Productivity

You might believe that great ideas come only to the geniuses of the world. Nevertheless, in reality, discovering an idea is more a function of attitude than aptitude. An open-minded, creative person looks for ideas anywhere he can find them. He considers every option and does not reject anything until he has thoroughly examined it for any good he can find. Thomas Edison, one of the world’s great inventors, discovered some of his best inventions after other ideas went wrong, and he found another use for them. In fact, that is exactly what happened with the phonograph. If you keep an open mind and explore every idea presented to you, other people will follow your example.  Therefore, the new ideas you discover together will contribute to your success. Many people tend to take attitude for granted. They assume that they are stuck with the attitude that they have. Yet your outlook on life, as well as, that of those you influence, can be changed.  Consequently, the impact of positive thinking is so significant that it deserves regular attention. Take an attitude inventory today, and set yourself on the right track of thinking. Before you can change your world, you must first change the way you look at the world you where you live.

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