1 Insanely Popular Way to Wreck the Next Year of Your Life

1 INSANELY POPULAR WAY TO WRECK THE NEXT YEAR OF YOUR LIFE

Angel Chernoff

Remind yourself: It is our choices that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.

And yet so often, against our better judgment, we make the wrong choices.

Our pride has us holding on when we need to let go.

Pressure from peers sways us left when we mean to go right.

Negative thoughts provoke frowning on otherwise beautiful days.

And so it goes…

One choice at a time, one moment at a time, we ruin the most promising days of our lives.

If you can relate at all, it’s time to answer your wake-up call!

How many times have you thought “this isn’t working” or “something is not right” or “things have to change”? – those thoughts and words are from your inner voice. It’s your wake-up call calling.

You really don’t need some scary, life-threatening diagnosis or major crisis to wake you up. And no one needs to tell you because you already know. Your inner voice has been trying to tell you for a while now, but in case it’s been a challenge to find time and space to listen through the chaos, maybe you’ll resonate with one of these situations:

  • If your life is on auto-pilot and you’re always feeling worn down and stressed out, this is your wake-up call.
  • If you never put yourself first, this is your wake-up call.
  • If you are constantly numbing out with food, shopping, booze, TV, or other distractions, this is your wake-up call.

Getting your wake-up call is not the hard part. Answering the call is. Choosing to answer the call instead of ignoring it is HARD! Right now, it may feel much easier to keep going, and going, and going. But you know if you don’t find a way out of the endless cycle you’re in, it’s going to get worse…

Remind yourself that a big part of your life is a result of the choices you make. And if you don’t like your life it’s time to start making changes and better choices.

Based on over a decade of one-on-one coaching sessions with hundreds of students from around the world, and hearing dozens of personal stories every year from attendees at our live annual events, here is the #1 way we as human beings gradually wreck our own lives, and some clear ideas on how to make better choices going forward:

Decide YOU ARE STUCK!

Seriously, that’s the most popular way we as human beings hurt ourselves! Take a moment to reflect on evidence of this in your own life…

Think about ONE self-limiting belief you have—one area of your life where you believe you absolutely CANNOT make progress. It can be about any part of your life you hope to change—your health, your weight, your career, your relationships – anything at all. What’s one thing you’ve essentially decided is a fact about your place on Earth?

And then I want you to shift gears and think about ONE time, one fleeting moment, in which the opposite of that ‘fact’ was true for you. I don’t care how tiny of a victory it was, or even if it was a partial victory. What’s one moment in time you can look back on and say, “Hey, that was totally unlike ‘me’—but I did it!”? Because once you identify the cracks in the wall of a self-limiting belief, you can start attacking it. You can start taking steps forward every day that go against it—positive daily rituals that create tiny victories, more confidence, gradual momentum, bigger victories, even more confidence, and so on.

And yes, I also understand that we all face our share of incredibly difficult circumstances, many of which are not the results of anything we’ve done. But we still have choices when it comes to how we’ll respond to these seemingly-random tragedies that afflict us.

The choice is as simple as it is universal:

  • Grit our teeth and try to move the immovable object, and become frustrated and bitter when we realize we can’t.
  • Answer our wake-up call. Let it be. Let go.

Paradoxically, the first choice is easier because it’s our default action. We want full control because feeling out of control is utterly terrifying.

It’s essential to know how to let go—how to understand the difference between what you can control and what you can’t.

Empowering yourself to relinquish control of the wrong attachments is one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself—the ability to exist peacefully and productively amidst the chaos of life.

If you feel yourself slowly collapsing under the weight of life and circumstances, we have a proven path to a more peaceful and productive life. We’d love to share it with you.

French philosopher François-Marie Arouet once said:

“We are free at the instant we wish to be.”

Choose to be free in the midst of life’s uncertainties, so YOU CAN make progress again.

And of course, if you’re struggling with any of this, know that you are not alone. Many of us are right there with you, working hard to think more clearly, respond to life more effectively, and get ourselves back on track. 

If you have (or had) toxic relationships of any kind, read this now!

IF YOU HAVE (OR HAD) TOXIC RELATIONSHIPS OF ANY KIND, READ THIS NOW!

Karen Salmansohn

This is a vulnerable story – about an unconventional therapist I saw – who helped me to learn how to get out of bad toxic relationships.

About a decade and a half ago I used to joke that for me all dating should be re-named ‘blind-dating” – and instead of saying I was “seeing someone right now” – I should be more honest, and say, “I’m dimly viewing someone.”

I remember I was once “dimly viewing” this particular guy. I’ve written about him before.

I explained how every time I said this guy’s name, my girlfriends would sing the theme song to Batman. Not because this man looked great in black Spandex tights. No, no. It was because he was a bad man.

“Dadadadadadada Bad-man! Bad-man!” my girlfriends would sing, right after I’d finish telling a particularly bad Bad-man episode—of which there were many.

Let’s call this ex of mine “Bruce Wayne” – to protect his not-so-innocent secret identity.

Today I want to share something I never told you about Bruce.

Ready?

Bruce’s “dadadadadada bad-behavior” began very early on – a few weeks into our relationship.

Yep, right out of the gate Bruce displayed what I felt were highly controlling and jealous behaviors, products of paranoia.

Yet I continued to date him.

I even went away with Bruce for a weeklong vacation in Turkey – where we had a very big fight one evening.  I made a silly joke to our Turkish waiter – who then laughed – and touched my shoulder before he left our table. Bruce then became convinced that I was flirting with this Turkish waiter.

Bruce specifically wanted to know if I’d rather be dating this Turkish waiter – a man who could barely speak English – plus lived well beyond a 5,000 mile radius of my zip code.

I kept reassuring Bruce I was not the teeniest bit interested in this Turkish dude – yet Bruce refused to talk to me for a full two days of our vacation!

When I came home from vacation, I sought out therapy.

I found a nice older psychotherapist, named Sid, who eventually became like a “grandfather from another great-grand-mother.” I adored Sid.

“You’ll never believe what Bruce said/did last night,” I’d begin each and every therapy session. And then I’d launch into another “Dadadadadadada Bad-man Episode”!

  • “Bruce said he doesn’t want me to have brunch with girlfriends on weekends anymore – unless he comes along.”
  • “Plus, he doesn’t want me to take an evening painting class – because he thinks I just want to meet someone.”
  • “Also, he doesn’t want me to go to the gym  – because he thinks I just want to meet someone.
  • “Aaaaannnd…he told me he doesn’t like it when I come home happy from work – because he worries I enjoy work more than him! He actually became angry the other day because I came home so happy!”

Each week I’d tell Sid story after story – quickly followed by rationalization after rationalization – always explaining why I should stay with Bruce.

“You know what your problem is Karen?” Sid asked me one session.  “You’re so smart, you’re stupid.”

I laughed. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

“You are able to over-think things so much – that you wind up talking yourself out of what you already know.”

“So you think I should break up with Bruce?” I asked.

Sid sighed loudly. “I’m a therapist. I’m not supposed to tell you what to do. But if you want my honest opinion… I can’t believe you’re gonna stay with him, when he’s an asshole.”

“Wow! I can’t believe you just called Bruce an a***hole,” I said. “But you’re right, he is an a**hole.”

“Actually, I didn’t call HIM an a**hole! I called YOU an a**hole. You heard me wrong. I said, ‘If you continue to stay with Bruce, then YOU are an a**hole.’”

“What? I’m not the a**hole! Bruce is the a**hole!”

“At this point, Karen, if you stay with Bruce knowing what you know – then YOU are the a**hole.”

“I’m the a**hole?”

I repeated this word out loud – a word as opposite in content as a mantra could ever be – but alas, more powerful than any mantra I’d ever used.

This word “a**hole” became my wakeup call!

Sid was right. If I stayed with someone who was so very toxic to my wellbeing  – then I became the A**hole to me – for allowing this soul-crushing, freedom-squelching relationship to continue!

“Listen, Karen,” Sid said, “at this point in therapy we are simply wasting time talking about Bruce – and how messed up he is. Quite frankly, you are only using stories about Bruce to distract yourself from your real issues – and the important inner work you have to do on yourself. It’s time we talk about the white elephant in the room: your wounds! There’s obviously something so wounded inside of you, that you feel the need to stay with Bruce – when he is so toxic.

Although this story about toxic relationships happened well over a decade ago, I think about it often.

I particularly think about it whenever I’ve found myself starting to enter into what I intuit might be a toxic relationship – be it in love, business or friendship.

I feel if we’re not careful we can all find ourselves wasting a lot of precious tick-tocking time complaining about how badly someone is behaving towards us.

If you’re dealing with bad toxic relationships, you need to stop asking…

“Why is this person treating me this way?”  

“Why did this person do that crappy thing to me?”

“What is wrong with this person?”

“Are they an a**hole?”

“Sociopath?”

“Narcissist?”

“Isn’t this person simply just a terrible person?”

The really important questions to ask… so you can move on from bad toxic relationships…

“What did I miss in the vetting process that I allowed this person into my life?”

“What is wounded inside me that I choose/chose to stay with this person for as long as I do/did?”

“How can I grow from this experience – so it doesn’t repeat itself into a bad pattern?”

“Do I want to make this a story about how I was a victim – or how I became a victor?”

“Do I want to waste my time, thoughts and energy on toxicity or use it for a higher purpose?”

“Aren’t I wise and strong for how I moved on to be with better people and live better days?”

If you’re presently caught up in telling stories about the toxic misbehaviors of someone – the time has come to stop getting caught up in name-calling, contempt and blame.

The time has come to recognize you’re just distracting yourself with all the drama, chaos and static!

Yep, the more you stay with and/or complain about a toxic person, the more you’re merely delaying doing the important inner work you need to do – to heal your wounds, expand your limiting beliefs, and show yourself far more love and respect.

All of this time expended on them could be time spent on expanding you – growing who you are!

My lesson/your lesson:

  • Don’t be an a**hole to yourself.
  • Stop staying with (and/or complaining about) toxic people.
  • Choose to focus your time, energy and conversation around people who inspire you, support you and help you to grow you into your happiest, strongest, wisest self.

Heal and move on from toxic relationships.

One Insanely Popular Way to Waste a Life (And How to Avoid It)

ONE INSANELY POPULAR WAY TO WASTE A LIFE (AND HOW TO AVOID IT)

Angel Chernoff

Let’s cut to the chase…

What we truly need to do is often what we most feel like avoiding. This is a harsh reality.

But… If we don’t go after what we want, we will never get it. If we don’t ask the right questions, we will always get the wrong answers. If we don’t take a step forward, we are always going to be standing in the same exact place.

Life is a journey comprised of small steps. The key is to take these steps, every single day.

We know this already, right?

Yet how often are we stuck in a cycle of worry, fear, and other forms of over-thinking? How often are we aimlessly distracted? And how often do we procrastinate?

After consistently working on my mindfulness and time management habits, I’ve become reasonably proficient at getting things done with minimal distraction and procrastination.

Today, for example, I wrote a 1,200-word blog post, coached one of our Getting Back to Happy Course students, proof-read and cleaned up a chapter in a new workbook Marc and I are co-writing for our course students, responded to comments and emails from dozens of students and readers, worked on business planning and strategizing for two active side-projects, spent a quality evening with my family, and of course now I’m writing this which I’ll queue up for tomorrow morning.

It might seem like a lot, but it happens one step at a time, with presence and focus.

With that said, however, I’ll be the first to admit that Marc and I still struggle with some detrimental habits that sneak up on us sometimes and get in the way of our effectiveness (because we’re human). And there is one particular habit we struggle with that’s super common among our friends, family, acquaintances, and students alike – this is something we all do that ends up wasting our lives, one precious moment at a time. The word “waste” may sound overly dramatic, but it’s really not. After spending the past decade coaching hundreds of people, and working through my own personal issues, there’s little doubt that this is one of the most popular ways we all collectively waste our lives:

We waste our lives with a lack of self-discipline.

Self-discipline is a skill. It is the ability to focus and overcome distractions. It involves acting according to what you know is right instead of how you feel in the moment (perhaps tired or lazy). It typically requires sacrificing immediate pleasure and excitement for what matters most in life.

A lack of self-discipline for most of us is often the result of a lack of focus. In other words, we tell ourselves we are going to work on something, but then we don’t. When this happens to me, first and foremost, I forgive myself for messing up, and then I strive to be mindful about what’s really going on. Am I procrastinating for some reason? Am I distracted? Instead of telling myself that I’m “bad” or “undisciplined,” I try to productively uncover a more specific, solvable problem, and then address it.

But…

What do you do if your life is in complete disarray, you have hardly any self-discipline or consistent routines, can’t stick to anything, procrastinate constantly, and feel completely out of control?

How do you get started with building a healthy ritual of self-discipline when you have so many changes to make?

You start small. Very small.

If you don’t know where to start, I always suggest that you start by simply washing your dishes. Yes, I mean literally washing your dishes. It’s just one small step forward: When you eat your oatmeal, wash your bowl and spoon. When you finish drinking your morning coffee, rinse the coffee pot and your mug. Don’t leave any dirty dishes in the sink or on the counter for later. Wash them immediately.

Form this ritual one dish at a time, one day at a time. Once you do this consistently for a couple weeks, you can start making sure the sink has been wiped clean too. Then the counter. Then put your clothes where they belong when you take them off. Then start doing a few sit-ups every morning. Eat a few vegetables for dinner. And so forth.

Do one of these at a time, and you’ll start to build a healthy ritual of self-discipline, and finally know yourself to be capable of doing what must be done… and finishing what you start.

Although, again, for right now, just wash your dishes. Mindfully, with a smile. 

And of course, if you’re struggling with any of this, know that you are not alone. Many of us are right there with you, working hard to feel better, think more clearly, and get our lives back on track. This is precisely why Marc and I built “Getting Back to Happy.” The course is filled with time-tested steps on how to do just that. And I’m thrilled to let you know that the full Getting Back to Happy course is now OPEN again to early access members.

But we’re closing the doors TODAY, August 29, to early access members and sometimes we need a little nudge to invest in ourselves.

This is not some ebook that you read and forget about. It’s a revolutionary, self-paced online course and community with 60 HD video lessons, and hundreds of time-tested strategies and techniques that will teach you scientifically proven methods for Conquering Pain, Eliminating Insecurity, Beating Procrastination, Healing Toxic Relationships, Taming Life’s Complications, and Building Consistent Growth into Your Life and Career — the exact proven strategies and techniques Marc and I have used in our coaching practice to help tens of thousands of people over the past decade.

It took 17 iterations, and thousands of dollars, to get it right.

These techniques work no matter where you stand in your current situation or what you’re up against going forward. Even if you have limited experience with self-improvement and personal development tactics. And even if you don’t know what you really want for yourself…yet.

1 Hard Thing You Need to Start Doing for Yourself Today

1 HARD THING YOU NEED TO START DOING FOR YOURSELF TODAY

Angel Chernoff

In 1911, two explorers, Amundsen and Scott, embarked on a race against each other to become the first known human being to set foot upon the southernmost point of Earth. It was the age of Antarctic exploration, as the South Pole represented one of the last uncharted areas in the world. Amundsen wished to plant the Norwegian flag there on behalf of his country, while Scott hoped to stake his claim for England.

The journey there and back from their base camps was about fourteen hundred miles, which is roughly equivalent to a round-trip hike from New York City to Chicago. Both men would be traveling the same distance on foot through extremely cold and harsh weather conditions. And both men were equally equipped with experience, supplies, and a supporting team of fellow explorers.

As it turned out, Amundsen and Scott took entirely different approaches to the very same challenges. Scott directed his team to hike as far as possible on the good weather days and then rest on bad weather days to conserve energy. Conversely, Amundsen directed his team to follow a strict regimen of consistent daily progress by hiking exactly twenty miles every day, regardless of weather conditions. Even on the warmest, clear-sky days, when Amundsen’s team was capable of hiking much farther, he was absolutely adamant that they travel no more than twenty miles to conserve their energy for the following day’s hike.

Which team succeeded in the end?

Amundsen’s team, the one that took consistent daily action.

Why?

Because what we do every day defines us.

Today’s progress is always compounded by yesterday’s effort, no matter how small.

And it all comes down to the power of self-discipline. Think about the most common problems we deal with in our modern lives, from lack of presence to lack of exercise to unhealthy diets to procrastination, and so forth. In most cases, problems like these are caused not by a physically present limitation, but by a limitation of the mind—specifically, a lack of self-discipline.

We put the hard things off until tomorrow for a variety of reasons until we’ve lost our momentum. We grow accustomed to the belief that things should be easier than they are, and that waiting another day or two makes the most sense. Then one day we wake up and we’re emotionally incapable of doing the hard things that need to be done.

Let this be your wake-up call!

Your mind and body both need to be exercised to gain strength. They need to be challenged, and they need to be worked consistently, to grow and develop over time. If you haven’t pushed yourself in lots of little ways over time—if you always avoid doing the hard things—of course you’ll crumble on the inevitable days that are harder than you expected.

And if we had to guess, we’d say Scott’s team suffered in exactly this way. They tried to make things easier on themselves; the fantasy of “easier” became their mantra, their subconscious goal. But this fantasy was never going to be a reality during a fourteen-hundred-mile footrace in the South Pole.

Scott’s team lost the race, not only on the ground, but in their minds first.

Don’t follow in their footsteps!

Are you willing to spend a little time every day like most people won’t, so you can spend the better part of your life like most people can’t?

A simple thing you can do to insure a healthy marriage…

A SIMPLE THING YOU CAN DO TO INSURE A HEALTHY MARRIAGE…

Os Hillman

Check out this amazing statistic:
“While 50 percent of first marriages end in divorce, and 78 percent of second marriages end in divorce, less than 1 percent of couples who pray together daily end their marriages.

My wife and I have been married 3 ½ years. I am thankful that my wife has a passion for God and has a powerful prayer life every day in her life. She starts her day at 5AM. We meet together at 7 to read a devotional book together and then Proverbs and a few other things I pick out. Then we pray together and we always pray the Jabez prayer and the Lord’s Prayer.

Taking that time together shuts out the devil from our relationship and allows us to focus on what is important.

The devotional book we read was written by my good friends, David and Teresa Ferguson. The book is called Never Alone: devotions for couples. It is one of the best books for couples I have ever read.

Each day they cover 52 topics to cover an entire year. Topics like acceptance, admonition, appreciation, sex, forgiveness, trust, faith, honor and so on. It’s amazing how often God speaks to us about issues we struggle with in our marriage. It seems that David and Teresa struggled with the same issues. I often hear that same comment about my TGIF devotional.

So, if you are married, I encourage you to get this book. When you order it, you will also get a free download of an interview I did with David and Teresa. Click here to learn more.

The Apostle Paul: His Secret to Fighting Sexual Sin

THE APOSTLE PAUL: HIS SECRET TO FIGHTING SEXUAL SIN

Luke Gilkerson

Hugh Hefner didn’t invent sexual sin. It is a problem that has been around since our ancestors walked east of Eden, and it will be around until the new Jerusalem descends upon us. The good news is that the Bible promises that we can experience foretastes of that coming freedom in the here and now. But how?

The Apostle Paul commands the Christians at Colossae, “Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry” (Colossians 3:5). But how do we do this? If we rip this verse away from the letter, we’re likely to apply it the wrong way, so we need to look closely to understand what Paul is talking about.

1. Fighting Sexual Sin Is Not About “Do More, Try Harder”

A dangerous philosophy was circulating in the church at Colossae that was championing asceticism: if you want to remain pure, then separate yourself from the pleasures of the body that are so often a source of temptation. This philosophy said if you really want the fullness of divine life within you, then insulate your life.

But Paul delivers a crushing blow to this philosophy:

If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations—“Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch” (referring to things that all perish as they are used)—according to human precepts and teachings? These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh. (Colossians 2:20-23)

No value. That is Paul’s verdict on asceticism. It simply doesn’t work. Yes, there is a grain of truth in the philosophy—all popular philosophies contain at least some wisdom in them. If you are tempted to sin sexually then it makes sense to get away from sexual temptations. This will keep sin at bay—but ultimately the flesh remains unsatiated.

This false philosophy is still circulating in the church today. When the best advice we can give people is better Internet filters, cold showers, more hours in prayer, and trying harder, we have given into this philosophy that Paul says is of no value.

This false philosophy either totally underestimates the power of sin, or it sets the benchmark of holiness too low. It either doesn’t get just how ingrained sexual sin is in us, or it thinks that merely getting rid of outward, blatant sexual sin is the goal. Neither is accurate.

2. Fighting Sexual Sin Starts with a New Identity

Paul offers his readers another approach to fighting sin, and it starts with these core identity statements:

  • “With Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world” (2:20)
  • “You have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God” (3:3)
  • “You have been raised with Christ” (3:1)
  • “You were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead” (2:12)
  • “You have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self” (3:9-10)
  • “The riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory” (1:27)

This is where a lot of modern readers check out. “Don’t give me these abstract theological ideas. I need something practical,” they think. But for Paul, there was nothing more practical, nothing more life-changing, than these ideas.

We are united to the risen Christ by faith. His resurrection life flows in our veins now. The Spirit of the living Christ lives inside us, so we no longer belong to this world and the rules it plays by—we belong to Christ and the age to come. In order to have the power to fight lust, we first have to understand this: we no longer belong to sin. We belong to God who has accepted us and forgiven us, not because we purified ourselves first, but because we are united by faith to the Pure One, Jesus Christ.

In order to fight lust, we must understand that we no longer belong to lust.

3. Fighting Sexual Sin Continues by Kindling New Desires

Knowing we are united to the living Christ, Paul writes, “Seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth” (3:1-2). The terms Paul uses here mean to center one’s interests, focus, and passions on something—to savor something. Now that God has united us to the risen Christ, we savor that reality, and this kindles new desires in us that displace a desire for sin.

What are these “things” above that we should savor?

  • First, we are to savor Christ himself. This is one of the reasons why Paul spills a lot of ink in this letter describing who Christ is. He is the beloved Son of God (1:13), the image of the invisible God (1:15), creator and sustainer of all things (1:16-17), the one whose blood reconciles us to the Father (1:20), the firstborn from the dead (1:18), and the one seated at God’s right hand (3:1). In him all the riches of wisdom and knowledge are hidden (2:3). The fullness of deity dwells in Him (1:19; 2:9).
  • Second, we are to savor our new position before God. Christ is seated at God’s right hand and we are seated with Him (Ephesians 2:6). To be seated at a ruler’s right hand meant to be in the position of greatest authority, honor, and delight. Because Christ is in us, we share in the favor He has with the Father.
  • Third, we are to savor the hope that someday we will see and experience these realities. Someday, Christ Himself will appear and we will appear with Him in glory (1:4). It is our destiny to be like the holy, pure Son of God. Someday our eyes will see the one who died for us and rose again, the one who is God in the flesh, and God will honor us as his royal children before every creature, every human soul, every angelic being in the universe.

How does this practically help us to fight sexual sin? The reason why sexual sin can have such a grip on us is because of its power to define us and what is most valuable, how sexual pleasure makes us feel about ourselves. Sexual fantasy, pornography, or pursuing illicit sex makes us feel desired; it makes us feel valued and validated; it gives us a refuge; it gives us connection; it can even make us feel powerful. This is why setting our affections on things above is so important: it gives us a new center to our lives and gives us a completely new sense of value—not based in our worthiness but based on the love God has for Christ that overflows to us.

4. Fighting Sexual Sin Is About Fighting For Our New Desires

Finally we come to Colossians 3:5, “Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.”

Paul here is not endorsing asceticism—something he has already refuted. Asceticism is about fighting to get rid of something we think is unholy, but mortifying sin is about fighting for the new affections that God is giving to us.

We can construct helpful boundaries in our lives that keeps sexual sin out of reach, but we should do so standing on our identity as God’s beloved children, standing satisfied in Christ and God’s love. When sexual temptation comes knocking, we can say to it, “No, sin. That’s not who I am anymore. You do not define what life is to me anymore. You do not define me anymore. Christ is in me. I am a child of the king, and one day the whole world will know it.”

5. Fighting Sexual Sin Is Sustained by Relationships that Remind Us of Our New Identity

“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God” (Colossians 3:16).

This is the essence of real accountability in the body of Christ. Yes, accountability involves confessing our temptations, sins, and the state of our heart, but it also involves godly encouragement. Accountability is not just about someone calling you out on your sin, but someone calling you up to the person you already are in Christ. Accountability is about surrounding yourself with the kind of Christian friendships that teach and admonish you, that inspire thankfulness, and that help us unpack all the wisdom contained in the great mystery that Paul called “Christ in us, the hope of glory” (1:27).

Accountability is like stoking the embers of the fire. It does not add energy to the embers. It only exposes those embers to the air so new reactions can happen. When we engage in the disciplines of confession, encouragement, and mutual prayer we expose our souls again to the life-changing gospel, and God’s power is released again and again.

How to Change the Way You Feel (Without Changing Anything Else)

HOW TO CHANGE THE WAY YOU FEEL (WITHOUT CHANGING ANYTHING ELSE)

Marc Chernoff

Happiness does not start with a relationship, a degree, a job, or money.  It starts with your thinking and what you tell yourself today.

“I had a date scheduled for last night with this guy I started talking to on a dating app.  I waited outside the diner where we agreed to meet for 30 minutes past the time we were supposed to meet.  He never showed up.  All sorts of negative thoughts were running through my head.  I thought maybe he saw me from a distance, didn’t like what he saw, and then bailed.

Just as I was about to leave, one of my old college friends, Jared, who I haven’t seen in nearly a decade, walked up to me with a huge smile on his face and said, ‘Carly!  It’s great to see you!  You look fantastic!’  I almost blew him off because of how I felt inside at the moment.  But luckily I pulled myself together to engage in a conversation.

After we talked in that same spot for awhile, he said, ‘What are you doing for dinner?’  We ended up going into the diner I was supposed to eat at with the no-show date and having an amazing conversation filled with laughter.  After dinner he walked me to my car, we exchanged numbers, and he asked me out on a formal date for this Friday night.”

Our Stories Make or Break Us

The story above comes from Carly, one of our recent Think Better, Live Better 2019 attendees (and of course, we’re sharing her story with permission).

Think about how her initial reaction was rooted so heavily in negativity.  Her date didn’t show up and she immediately crumbled inside.  Now think about the amazing opportunity she would have missed if she had let that negativity endure.  And think about how often your negativity gets the best of you.

How often do let your insecurities stop you?

Or, how often do you judge others for their imperfections?

What you need to realize right now is that you have a story about yourself and others (or perhaps a series of stories) that you recite to yourself daily.  This is your mental movie, and it’s a feature film that plays on repeat in your mind.  Your movie is about who you are and how the world is supposed to be: your tummy is too flabby, your skin is too dark or too pale, you aren’t smart, you aren’t lovable… you aren’t good enough.  And of course, you catch yourself picking out all sorts of imperfections in others, and the world at large, too.

Start to pay attention when your movie plays—when you feel anxiety about being who you are or facing the realities of life—because it affects everything you do.  Realize that this movie isn’t real, it isn’t true, and it isn’t you.  It’s just a train of thought that can be stopped—a script that can be rewritten.

Ready to rewrite the script?

Let’s start by being honest… Sometimes negativity absolutely dominates our better judgment!

So, how do we outsmart our own negative tendencies so we can feel better, behave better, and ultimately live better?  There are many ways, but Angel and I often recommend two simple (but not easy) practices:

1.  Practice questioning your stories.

You know what they say, don’t believe everything you hear nor everything you read.  Don’t believe the gossip columns in every magazine, the doom and gloom predictions from your co-workers, or the “shocking news” that you hear on TV… until you have verified it.

Well, the same concept applies to your inside world—your thoughts.

We all have stories about ourselves and others even if we don’t think of them as stories.  Case in point:  How often do you pause to logically contemplate what you really think about your relationships, your habits, or your challenges?  How often, on the other hand, do you just blurt out whatever fleeting emotion comes to mind—i.e., the pre-recorded movie script you’ve been holding on to—without even thinking straight?

Stories can be short, such as “I’m not a good writer,” “I’m not good at yoga,” or “I have intrinsic relationship problems.”  And if we were to dig deeper into your own personal version of these stories, I bet you’d be happy to go on and try to explain why the stories you’ve been holding onto are real.  Even though the aren’t.  They’re just stories.

So the key practice here is to question your stories.  For instance, let’s take the writer example.  Ask yourself: Why do I think I am not a good writer?  What would it look like to be a good writer?  Can I describe my current writing in a way that serves me better?

You will be surprised by how often the questioning process helps you emerge with a clearer and more accurate version of your story.  Give it a try!

2.  Practice running your thoughts through three key filters.

Sometimes you are in a hurry, and not having a great day to boot.  On days like this, there’s a mental conditioning exercise I recommend that’s super quick and can help keep your attitude in check…

I’ve been in arguments with my my wife, Angel, in the past and one of the things I certainly regretted was not filtering my words before saying them.  At the time of these arguments, I did not have the right tools, except for thinking “Be nice!”, which does nothing for you when you’re feeling the opposite of nice.  Some years later I found this simple tool that helped me shift my behavior.  Here’s how it works:

Before you utter anything, run your thoughts through three key filters and don’t speak unless you get three resounding “YES” responses:

  • Is it true?
  • Is it kind?
  • Is it helpful?

For example, let’s say a running thought in your head says that your partner doesn’t care about you, and you are about to shout those words out because he or she didn’t do the last chore you requested.  Question that thought first: Is it true that my partner doesn’t care about me?  Is it kind for me to say or think this?  Is it helpful for me to say or think this?

Remember you can’t take your words back.  What’s more, you will never regret behaving in a true, kind and helpful way down the road.  So make it a ritual in your life in the days and weeks ahead.

Now, it’s your turn…

Leverage the two practices above to gradually rewrite the script of your mental movie.  Learn to recognize the worn-out flicker of your old movie starting up, and then stop it.  Seriously!  Whenever you catch yourself reciting lines from your old script (“My arms are flabby…” or “My spouse deserves the silent treatment…”), flip the script and replace those lines with truer, kinder and more helpful ones.  This takes some practice, but it’s worth it.  Just keep practicing, and forgiving yourself for making mistakes along the way.

And keep in mind that various kinds of external negativity will attempt to distract you from your new script and your better judgment—comments from family, news anchors, social media posts… lots of things other people say and do.  When you sense negativity coming at you, learn to deflect it.  Give it a small push back with a thought like, “That remark is not really about me, it’s about you.”  Remember that all people have emotional issues they’re dealing with (just like you), and it makes them difficult and thoughtless sometimes.  They are doing the best they can, or they’re not even aware of their issues.  In any case, you can learn not to interpret their behaviors as personal attacks, and instead see them as non-personal encounters (like an obnoxious little dog barking in the distance) that you can either respond to gracefully, or not respond to at all.

So, what was your biggest takeaway from this short article?

Anything else to share?

The Lies of Lust: Promises That Never Deliver

THE LIES OF LUST: PROMISES THAT NEVER DELIVER

Noah Filipiak

The “Lust Trap” can reel you in anytime, anywhere. Its strong pull brings you in like a sci-fi tractor beam. The graphic imagery of Proverbs 7 describes it like an ox going to slaughter, a deer walking into a noose, or a bird darting into a snare, little knowing it will cost him his life.

Most of us can relate to these metaphors. One moment you are minding your own business, the next you are caught up in an insidious trap, too late to be able to do anything about it.

The Lust Trap is a web of lies. Lies that we believe. Lies that make promises that never deliver.

Lie: This man or woman will make me feel whole and valuable.

The biggest lie that men and women fall into with the Lust Trap is thinking they will find wholeness and a lasting feeling of value from their lust. We typically think of full-blown affairs as the end result of chasing this lie. You think this person will make you feel whole and valuable, so you leave everything else and make your dream a reality.

But upon closer inspection, the dream, the pornography, lustful gazes, and mental fantasies all spring from the same breeding ground.

Try to zoom out from yourself for a moment. Picture the last situation you were in when you got sucked in by lust and observe yourself from an out-of-body sort of perspective. What is going on in your soul? What is going on in your deepest desires?

Some will argue that there are no deeper desires. They just desire the body parts and the physical feeling that lust brings. But I can almost guarantee that your lust, whether it was pornography or just a mental thought, was related to seduction. He or she had a seductive look, a suggestive pose or manner about them. Or, that’s what you were wishing for or picturing when you gazed upon this person.

If body parts are the engine of lust, then seduction and suggestion are the gas and oil.

The driving desire behind almost all fantasies is the desire to be desired—the want to be wanted.

We have a gaping hole in our soul that spews out feelings of inadequacy, failure, rejection, and so on. This hole was put there by our dads, our moms, the guys and girls we liked who rejected us, abusers, ex-husbands or wives, and any litany of harsh words and messages throughout life.

Some of this hole is there as the automatic byproduct of living in a culture that constantly exposes us to the top .01% of “beautiful” people in advertisements, movies, music, and television, and then tells us that we are failures if we don’t look exactly like them (and of course, if you buy the product they’re advertising, you will become just like them).

The hole in every person’s soul is unique from the next, but we all have it. And we all seek to fill it up. There are many ways to try to fill up this hole that are not sexual, but they all share a common characteristic: we need to prove our value.

Money, your job, your reputation, your popularity, your accomplishments, your family, your possessions, your physiological feeling of comfort, and your latest three posts on Facebook all make excellent attempts to fill the value-void we carry around.

I am valuable!

I am important!

I matter!

None of it is ever enough.

Life becomes a constant sprint on the hamster wheel of trying to prove these things.

While drugs give a high feeling that numbs the pain, sex gives a high feeling that includes human embrace and acceptance, something no drug can offer. It’s no wonder we chase sex with such abandon. But we all know the harsh reality: the brief feeling of value and acceptance that sex gives us quickly fades away, just like the high from a drug.

There are two options at this point. You can either do more and stronger drugs, or you can reject the lie and embrace the truth. I beg you to choose the latter.

Truth: I am whole and valuable as God’s beloved son or daughter.

When you feel the Lust Trap pulling you in, identify what it is you are really after. It’s not the temporary hit of endorphins, it’s the deeper state of wholeness, acceptance, approval, value, comfort, etc. (add your own words that fit you best).

Saying “no” to lust isn’t enough; we have to say “yes” to something else. We can’t just stop the tractor beam. We have to turn and run into the arms of someone else.

That someone else is Jesus. And I don’t mean the Sunday school, pixie dust Jesus, or even the Jesus that merely gets you into heaven. Not that’s a small thing, but it really only scratches the surface of all we have in Jesus and the healing he longs to bring to our day-to-day aching, lonely, distracted souls.

If you have put your faith in Jesus, Romans 8:15-17 tells you that you are a child, a son or daughter, of God.  It also tells you that you are an heir of God and a co-heir with Christ. What Jesus gets from the Father, you get. Romans 8:4 and Colossians 1:22 tell you that when God sees you, he sees perfection, because of what Jesus accomplished on your behalf.

He doesn’t say, “You don’t measure up.” He says, “I love you so much, and I am so pleased with you.” The Father spoke to Jesus in Matthew 3:16-17 and said, “This is my son, whom I love, whom I am so pleased with.”

Because Jesus paid for your sins on the cross, making you a new creation, you are now a co-heir with Jesus. You get these same words from our same Father. You are my son. You are my daughter. Who I love. Who I am so pleased with.

This is what the Father thinks of you. Any other voices you hear are lies.

This is our healing truth. This is the embrace we run to when the Lust Trap comes knocking. This is real, compared to what the Lust Trap can only cheaply imitate.

Your healing wholeness is found in knowing these truths and reminding yourself of them over and over again. Write them down over and over again. Pray them over and over again. Read them in Scripture over and over again. Ask the Holy Spirit to speak them into your heart over and over again.

This wholeness is also found in being in community with others who affirm this truth about who you are.  People who accept you and love you as a beloved son or daughter, the way the Father sees you. Not as someone mired by shame who doesn’t measure up. God designed the Church to be his hands and feet, his very body on earth (1 Corinthians 12).

I’m not going to tell you that church small groups are perfect, but they are a starting point. Look at the brothers and sisters in Christ that God has put into your life and pray and ask God which ones you can go deeper with. Then take the risk and go deeper.

The Lust Trap is a never-ending spigot of lies, and thankfully our God is a never-ending fountain of truth. Reorient your whole life around running toward him and his truth.

His love never fails.

Being a Woman of Grace

BEING A WOMAN OF GRACE

I’ve been growing intently for years now in trying to become what I would call a ‘woman of grace.’  It’s probably been the most difficult journey for me personally, even though I’m naturally kind and loving, being a true woman of grace means exhibiting maturity even during the hardest of circumstances.

Maturity.  I love this word and it’s meaning.  I love that this is what Jesus meant when He said that He desired for us to be “perfect” (Greek meaning = mature, complete in growth), like He was.

Complete in growth.  Stable, mature, peaceful… uneasily shaken by others and what they may say about you or do to you.

When people are being human, with their flaws, or even sometimes difficult personalities, I’m able to exhibit grace fairly easily.  I’m blessed to be easy going and optimistic in nature, but when I’m confronted with extremely rude or even evil people, I tend to throw grace out the window and can become like a mamma bear in all her anger in setting my boundaries or telling them off.

While I’ve come a long way in spiritual growth in this area, I still want to work to become more mature, more able to understand a difficult situation so that I’m no longer sucked into sinful drama.  Its critical to understand the motive behind our own behavior that can end up leading us to being ungraceful in how we deal with others.

A few years ago now, I read one of the most interesting books on anger and dealing with people or situations that bring out bad characteristics in us.  The book is called Overcoming Emotions that Destroy, written by Chip Ingram, and helps one to identify what kind of person they are (a Stuffer or Exploder… I’m a Stuffer that can endure for years before I finally Explode), what kinds of things hurt or anger them, and how they spiritually need to go about dealing with toxic emotions (or people) in order to have joy and peace in their life.

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Being a woman of grace means having composure, finding and being grounded.  It carries over into the realm of crisis situations, and into confrontations with catty or gossipy females.

Carrying oneself with grace means having patience when a difficult person needs time to mature, but grace also means having the wisdom to know when to move on away from a person who refuses God’s assistance to grow beyond their immaturity.

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Being a graceful woman is finding maturity through allowing God to develop in you the traits of the Fruit of the Spirit (more below), but let’s take a look at why it is so important to cultivate Grace. Let’s take a look at the ungraceful woman.

The Ungraceful Woman

To be an ungraceful woman (not disgraceful as that implies shameful), but merely a woman who lacks real grace in dealing with others, is a very painful existence for that woman, and is why I truly feel sorry for people who live their lives in such a unhealthy manner.  She constantly feels the need to control others, to criticize or “punish” them, without trusting that God sees everything and has taken vengeance into His own hands, and commanded her not to herself!

Meddling in others’ lives, watching them in order to jump on their mistakes, gossiping to her audience of relatives or friends about their mistakes or perceived lack of character… all these things are actions that prevent these women from growing in true maturity, and it always makes me very sad when I come across someone with this defect.  A woman like this is shirking her calling, ignoring her God-given talents, and being consumed with the faults of others while her own creativity withers away.  Once you understand the depravity of her actions, you no longer feel any other emotion toward her except for deep sadness at the life she’s chosen for herself.  She knows deep down that she’s wrong, that she’s behaving immaturely, that she’s deliberately confronting someone (or going behind their back to gossip) in something that is not her place and not bringing glory to God, however, she believes she is doing what is right, even beneficial to her target.  She is driven by this feeling, even though she has a nagging horrible anxiety about it.

The Ungraceful Woman Is Addicted to Attacking Others (you know… like a hobby)

Why do people attack others?  Why would someone focus so much on another’s life, devoting their words or actions to criticizing their every move?  Why would someone go into a church, sit there for an hour listening to a Bible study, and then carry out their plans to murder the people in that church because they hated members of a different race so intensely?

Even though these are situations where a person gives in to evil in lesser or greater degrees, I want people to understand that these all have one major motive in common: 

The desire to shame or punish others

When Dylann Roof, the recent aggressor in a mass shooting in an African American church in South Carolina, carried out his actions they were based on the desire to punish the blacks in that church for perceived crimes others of their race had done (or even not done) in our country.  He felt like he was carrying out a righteous duty in harming them, in exterminating them.  His words were that he had to do it because he would be benefiting society.  This is the basis of all racial crimes and genocide that has been prevalent all over the world, but it is always motivated by more than mere hatred, but by the desire to punish, shame or exterminate someone (or people)…

because they “deserve it.”

To a lesser degree, this is the same motive that takes place when a woman (or man) decides that harming someone through gossip (ruining their reputation or hurting their feelings), or punishing them by using harsh language, dismissing them or ignoring, or shaming them, is beneficial to that person or even a “righteous act.”  The can even justify that harming them is beneficial to others or a certain group.

Be it someone like Dylann Roof or a woman who punishes and shames others, the evil is shown when the aggressor thinks they are justified to treat another human being this way.  In Patricia Evans book, Controlling People, she discusses the scenarios of a person spanking a baby to get it to stop crying, and the event of a terrorist act,

While I am not in any way equating hitting a child with the quite different act of terrorism, I am pointing to the fact that they both arise from a terrifying unawareness on the part of the aggressor.  And that in most cases, when people act against other people, they feel justified.  They feel sensible.

If you have ever encountered a person who acted against you by harassing you, defining you, discriminating against you, or physically assaulting you, you may have noticed that the act was perpetrated against you as if you were deserving of it.

Whether they are experienced as horrifying, hurtful, or simply nonsensical, acts against others have certain commonalities:

1) Perpetrators usually believe that their oppressive actions are necessary, even right.  Their behavior is actually the opposite: unnecessary and wrong

2) Generally acts against others, that is, attempts to control others, eventually bring the perpetrators just the opposite of what they want.

3) Acts against others originate with a distortion or lack of awareness.  Perpetrators almost universally believe that they see clearly and are aware: the opposite of reality.

Instead of growing in maturity, an ungraceful woman develops a toxic character of constantly feeling like it is her “duty” to “call out” the sins, failures, and shortcomings of others.  She feels like her oppressive and ungraceful behavior is necessary to bring about some kind of desired change.  She attempts to control another to try to get what she wants from them (compliance), but ends up getting the opposite (a broken relationship, or being ignored, or facing the other’s indifference).

In acting in an ungraceful manner of attacking, shaming, or gossiping about another person, she is pursuing the opposite of growing in maturity.  Maturity in our actions with others is found in the Fruits of the Spirit,

Maturity through the Fruits of the Spirit:

Love

Joy

Peace

Patience

Kindness

Goodness

Faithfulness

Gentleness

Self-Control

An aggressor or ungraceful woman at times, will break every single one of these beautiful tenants of the Fruit of the Spirit, characteristics that should be growing in someone that is becoming more and more mature or Christ like, in order to criticize or punish another.

Being a woman of grace means actively pursuing each of these characteristics whole-heartedly, allowing God to change her more and more into a complete woman  – a woman who is mature.

Hope for a Future of Grace, Even in Our Failings

If you’ve failed in this way, if you’ve been the ungraceful woman, let me just tell you that I’ve been there… I’ve hit rock bottom.  Don’t let shame that you’ve failed in this area prevent you from embracing the hope and joy that God can change and heal everything, giving you that maturity and peace to help you understand how to better deal with others.

Here are some scriptures that are for those who feel like they’ve failed being a woman of grace:

“I give thanks to my God for every remembrance of you, always praying with joy for all of you in my every prayer, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now.  I am sure of this, that He who started a good work in you will carry it on to completion (maturity) until the day of Christ Jesus.  It is right for me to think this way about all of you, because I have you in my heart, and you are all partners with me in grace….”  Philippians 1:3-7

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“For it is God who is working in you, enabling you both to will and to act for His good purpose.  Do everything without grumbling and arguing, so that you may be blameless and pure, children of God who are faultless in a crooked and perverted generation, among whom you shine like stars in the world.  Hold firmly the message of life.”  Philippians 2:13-14

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“Not that I have already reached the goal or am already fully mature, but I make every effort to take hold of it because I also have been taken hold of by Christ Jesus.  Brothers, I do not consider myself to have taken hold of it.  But one thing I do: forgetting what is behind and reaching forward to what is ahead, I pursue as my goal the prize promised by God’s heavenly call in Christ Jesus.  Therefore all who are mature should think this way.  And if you think differently about anything, God will reveal this to you also.  In any case, we should live up to whatever truth we have attained.”  Philippians 3:12-16

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“Therefore, God’s chosen ones, holy and loved, put on heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, accepting one another and forgiving one another if anyone has a complaint against another.  Just as the Lord has forgiven you, so also you must forgive.  Above all, put on love – the perfect bond of unity.  And let the peace of the Messiah, to which you were also called in one body, control your hearts.  Be thankful.  Let the message about the Messiah dwell richly among you, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, and singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, with gratitude in your hearts to God.  And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.”  Colossians 3:12-17

5 Regrets You Do Not Want to Have in 5 Years

5 REGRETS YOU DO NOT WANT TO HAVE IN 5 YEARS

Angel Chernoff

Let me re-share a quick story and some important life lessons with you…

This morning, like he has every morning for the last decade, my 86-year-old grandfather picked a fresh wild flower on his morning walk and took it to my grandmother. This morning I decided to go with him to see her. And as he placed the flower on her gravestone, he looked at me and said, “I just wish I had picked her a fresh flower every morning when she was alive. She would have loved that.”

As you can imagine, his words touched a nerve in me. I almost immediately started thinking about everything and everyone I care about, and what I don’t want to regret down the road. It almost felt like every aspect of my life was flashing before my eyes. And as soon as I got home, I started jotting down some key things that had come to mind. When I was done, I read the list to Marc. He nodded his head all the way through to the end, and then said, “I couldn’t agree more. I don’t think anyone wants to regret any of those things when they’re older.” Perhaps you will also agree…

1.  Spending too little time with the right people

Sooner or later, you just want to be around the people who make you smile. So today, spend time with those who help you love yourself more. And remember, the people you take for granted today may be the only ones you need tomorrow. Never be too busy to make time for those who matter most.

2.  Not taking action on meaningful goals

Instead of complaining about your circumstances, get busy creating new ones. You either suffer the pain of discipline or the pain of regret. Most of the time, the only difference between who you are and who you want to be is what you do.  When it’s all said and done, be sure you haven’t said more than you’ve done.

3.  Settling for less than you are capable of

Remember, growth and change may be painful sometimes, but nothing in life is as painful as staying stuck where you don’t belong.

4.  Collecting more excuses than you can count

If you really want to do something, you’ll find a way. If you don’t, you’ll find an excuse.

5.  Letting impatience dominate your decisions and actions

Patience is not about waiting; it’s the ability to keep a good attitude while working hard for what you believe in.

And of course, if you’re struggling with any of these points, know that you are not alone. Many of us are right there with you, working hard to feel better, think more clearly, and live a life free of headaches and heartache.

Of course, making these shifts—thinking and living better—takes guidance and practice.

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