The Most Fragile Attitude

The Most Fragile of Attitudes

If you are reading this, you most likely live in one of the most wealthy societies on earth. You probably have enough food to eat, a cozy home that protects you from winter’s chill, friends who enjoy your company, and a family that will love you no matter what life brings. If you have enough food to eat, you are a privileged minority. Abundant food is worthy of thanksgiving! According to the World Food Program, some 805 million people on earth (1 in 9) do not have enough food to live a healthy, active life. Given our many blessings, why do we spend so much time complaining?

I am more Eeyore than Tigger. I notice problems because I am motivated to fix them. What is basically a good impulse makes it easy for me to miss the blessings that God so abundantly has given me. No matter where you are on the Eeyore—Tigger scale, I’m guessing your focus regularly moves from gratitude to frustration, discouragement, and on occasion, to despair. Life is filled with struggle. As the Man in Black says to Buttercup in The Princess Bride, “Life is pain, Highness! Anyone who says differently is selling something.” When we experience deep emotional pain, the fact that we have enough to eat may seem irrelevant. But it’s not.

Our daily struggles consume more attention than the incredibly privileged context in which we live—this is natural. There are also times we must endure grief. Sometimes we cannot scrape together enough scraps of blessing for which to be grateful. But most often we are surrounded by abundance. Look honestly at the blessings in your life. When you do, gratitude will rise in your soul. You will have reason to give thanks to God for His care and provision.

Gratitude is the most fragile of attitudes.

The Most Fragile Attitude
Christopher’s “Best. Apple Pie. Ever.” by Luigi Anzivino
Slightly modified from the original. Jacob Wrestles with the Angel, Gustave Doré - Doré's English Bible

We Prefer Counterfeits

Nobody wants a knockoff for Christmas. Well, perhaps some of us wouldn’t mind a counterfeit product, but we wouldn’t want to be told it was the real thing. The biblical Letter of James reminds us that our natural bent is to accept what is counterfeit as genuine. We do things that we think are good, but they end up hurting us. Deep down, we may be aware that what we are doing isn’t right. We think, “I have  a special deal with God.” But God never changes. He wants to give us the real thing, not a counterfeit.

Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren. Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.—James 1:16–17

God is the source of everything that is good for us. The reason some of us turn away from God’s plan for our lives is that we doubt his goodness. We choose our own methods to find fulfillment, pleasure, and money instead of relying on God to give us what we need. God alone knows exactly what we need, and he never fails to care for those who trust in him.

Abraham knew that God had promised him a son by his wife Sarai. After waiting for about 10 years, he took matters into his own hands and had a child with his wife’s servant. (See Genesis 16.) Ten years is a long time to wait for God to do what he has promised. All of us should understand Abraham’s predicament. Yet, even in this case, Abraham preferred a counterfeit over the genuine. God had spoken, and God would fulfill his word. It took about 15 more years, but Sarai did bear a son to Abraham.

Jacob, Abraham’s grandson, made many mistakes. But his mistakes taught him that God is the only source of real blessing. In Genesis 32, we find Jacob in a crisis. His brother Esau hated him and had sworn to kill him on sight, but Jacob was returning home to face his enemy. As he spent time alone in prayer, a “man” confronted him. They wrestled all night. Given the context, some theologians believe this “man” is an appearance of the pre-incarnate Christ—also referred to as a Christophany. As night came to an end, Jacob held on to God in desperation pleading for a blessing.

Slightly modified from the original. Jacob Wrestles with the Angel, Gustave Doré – Doré’s English Bible

Then he said, “Let me go, for the dawn is breaking.” But he said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”—Genesis 32:26

If you are a Christian, it is time to settle this fact in your heart. The only way to receive lasting blessings is to trust God for them. Don’t run ahead of his plan for you. Trust him to give you real fulfillment, pleasure, and wealth. Don’t disregard his plans for you as revealed in the Bible.

Christian, your personal struggles are only a sideshow

Christian, Your Personal Struggles Are Only a Sideshow

If you have trusted in Jesus Christ as your savior, you are fighting in a cosmic battle. Because of your daily struggles, you may think this battle is over financial provision for your family, your sexual purity, your depression and loneliness, or the safety of your children. This is not true. Your personal struggles are merely a sideshow.

The main event is the battle for the eternal souls of those around you. In Matthew 28:18-20, Jesus has given every Christian their marching orders. We are to go into the world and preach the good news that Jesus Christ has paid the sin-debt of every person, and that they can be saved by simple faith in him.

Could it be that much of the incredible difficulty faced by Christians is caused by this misunderstanding? We focus on a sideshow when God wants us engaged in the main event! We want to hold to our faith, to protect our loved ones, and not to give in to the temptations and pitfalls of the world around us. But when we trust in the work of Jesus Christ, we are secure in his love and provision for this life and for our eternal home in heaven. Our personal victory is guaranteed in Jesus. Rather than defending our personal gains, we need to engage in sharing the gospel so that God can take new ground in the lives of those around us.

Will you join Jesus in the main event by sharing the gospel with those around you? You are to share the love of Jesus Christ, and to be Jesus in this world. Let me urge you. Take your eyes off of yourself. Christian, every hurt, every financial challenge, and every besetting sin has a simple purpose: to shut your mouth. See Revelation 12:11 to understand why I believe this is Satan’s primary goal.

If you are so weighed down with the cares of this world that you lose sight of what God has done for you, you will no longer speak of God’s love. If you doubt your own salvation because there is no visible sign of God’s life in you, you will not testify of the saving power of the blood of Jesus to those you meet.

Join me in this simple resolution. “I will never forget that the real battle is for the lives of those around me. No matter what struggles I face, I will dedicate myself to sharing the gospel whenever and wherever I can.”

I believe that if you make this resolution and act upon it your personal struggles will begin to lose their strength. Those personal struggles are only useful to Satan if they close your mouth. Once he sees that nothing will close your mouth, he will likely shift his tactics. You may lose business opportunities, promotions, and in some parts of the world even be imprisoned for sharing your faith. But once you are obedient to what God has told every Christian to do, your faith will grow, and those around you will come to know Jesus Christ personally.

Personal Note: If you are my friend and you do not know Jesus as your savior, I am sorry that I have not spoken to you. Please approach me and let me know you want to hear the gospel. Sometimes it is difficult for me to know how to bring this subject up, especially at work, but I am always happy to talk about it!

Christian, your personal struggles are only a sideshow
Panorama atop Battle Mountain at night by slworking2. Some rights reserved.
How To Be More Productive by Waking Up Early

How To Be More Productive by Waking Up Early

I am a night owl by preference. I love to stay up late dreaming dreams that I will probably never realize and building a sleep deficit. It feels as though I’m taking on the world and getting more done by staying up late.

But recently, I realized that my sense of productivity at night far outstripped the reality. I spent much of my night-owl time dreaming and not doing. As a student, father, husband, and employee my life requires a high level of productivity. And, since every highly productive person I know is an early riser, I chose to change my morning routine by rising at 5AM.

Past attempts to change my wake-up time have always ended in failure, and these failures have taught me what I need to do to become a morning person. Perhaps the things I’ve learned will help you start your day more effectively as well.

Set a Bedtime

Get to bed on time every evening. You know how many hours of sleep allow you to do at your best. Though I wish I could live on less, I need 8 hours of sleep to be in top form. That means my bedtime is 9PM. Making this change has been very difficult for this night owl. However, I’ve been successful so far by using these guidelines:

  1. No caffeine after 3PM. The half-life of caffeine is 3-7 hours, and if it is in your bloodstream, it will keep you awake or disturb deep REM sleep.
  2. No TV or Computer after 8PM. When I am tired, and especially when fatigue is combined with discouragement, I like to escape into the alternate reality of television or social media. Hours can pass quickly, however, and soon I am going to bed later than I planned. To make matters worse, screen time before bed reduces the quality of sleep.

Set a Wake-Up Time

As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, my non-negotiable time to rise and shine is 5AM. I don’t debate about what time I will get up the next morning, because that has been settled in advance. This wake up time only works if I keep the agreement to avoid caffeine after 3PM and screen time after 8PM.

Don’t Let Regret Follow You

In my case, the most effective enemy of early rising, and overall effectiveness, is regret. When I let myself become overwhelmed with my work and begin to let things slip, I can quickly feel defeated. One defeat easily leads to others, and before I know it a good habit can be undone.

To avoid regret and its companion discouragement, I try to set realistic goals and to avoid beating myself up when I don’t perform at my best. But when I go to bed each night, I am determined to have that day’s checklist crossed off whenever possible.

Things To Remember

Your successful morning routine is really an expression of your nightly routine and your intake of caffeine. If you exercise some self-discipline, it is relatively easy to create a new routine. Keep regret at bay by fulfilling each day’s responsibilities, because its companion, discouragement, will remove the bounce from your morning footstep before you can say, “cock-a-doodle-doo.”

How To Be More Productive by Waking Up Early
Sunrise From English Boom- Camano Island,WA by Chris Parmeter. Some rights reserved.

Does Your Morning Routine Help You Succeed?

Keeping a regular morning routine is often a battle, even for a self-described “morning person,” busyness tends to crowd out our sleep, and discouragement is always waiting to take the wind out of our sails.

What do you do to keep your morning wake-up time from slipping? Share your tips and experience by leaving a comment.

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3 Rules for Choosing a Business Idea You’ll Love

If you are an entrepreneur, you have more business ideas than you will ever be able to execute. How can you choose ideas that will help you succeed?

There is no guarantee that your best efforts to start a business or create a product will reach thousands, or that you’ll make millions. Yet there are thousands of “make money online” websites and books that hold out the hope that you will make large amounts of money with very little effort.

The get-rich-quick mentality encourages “me-too” businesses that are “proven” to make money. These “proven” money-makers usually have little to do with the gifts and interests of those who buy into them. There is a better way.

Money usually follows a significant investment of time and hard work. Do you know anyone who has succeeded in making more than a few dollars without hard work? I don’t. Since you will invest emotional, physical, mental, and spiritual energy in your business or product idea, it makes sense to choose to create something you love. Avoid being a “me-too” entrepreneur.

No More “Me-Too” Projects

There are several criteria I use to judge my own ideas: timeline, gifts and abilities, and monetization. I want to choose business ideas that I’ll love, and these criteria helped me choose well.

Timeline

Your timeline is an estimate of how long it will take for you to begin bringing in money from your business or product. I typically do not have much time to complete a project. Usually it’s a month or two. Choose projects that you can complete and launch quickly.

Gifts and Abilities

Know yourself and your gifts. Your business ventures let you express yourself as a unique creation of God. I ask myself how a particular project uses my gifts and helps those around me. If you don’t know where to begin discovering your gifts, consider reading StrengthsFinder 2.0 by Tom Rath and Do What You Are: Discover the Perfect Career for You Through the Secrets of Personality Type by Paul D. Tieger. If you are a Christian, also take a good spiritual gifts inventory like Discover Your Spiritual Gifts: Identify and Understand Your Unique God-Given Spiritual Gifts by C. Peter Wagner.

Monetization

Since it’s important to have financial resources, I also ask myself how I will make money from any project. I typically don’t start on my personal projects until I can see a path toward income.

Graphic background created with "Show me the money..." from OpenSource.com. Some Rights Reserved for that image.
Graphic background created with “Show me the money…” from OpenSource.com. Some Rights Reserved.

To recap, the questions I typically ask myself are:

  1. Can I complete it quickly enough with the amount of attention I can commit?
  2. Does this project express my personal gifts and the purpose of God for my life?
  3. Is there a path towards making money through this venture?

One word of caution: if you’re really confident about your answers to the first two questions, don’t throw something away just because you don’t immediately see how you’ll make money. If you think about your idea long enough, a path to monetization may emerge.

What questions do you ask yourself when you’re thinking about a new business or product idea? Share your advice by leaving a comment!

Faith and Digital Marketing