Simplify it All

A simple philosophy, simply lived, will lead you to a simple life.

A few months ago, I wrote about how it seems like we so often search out or create complex ideas and philosophies so that we can have the simplicity we so deeply need. It’s as though we think it’s complex to be simple. We go searching for “hidden truths” and “little-known secrets” to achieve what we think we want – really, what we’ve been told we should want.

I ran across a great article yesterday: 7 Steps for Achieving a Super Simple Life. You should definitely check it out. I think that blogger Joy captured the heart of how to have simplicity in life with her seventh step:

7. Simplify Your Philosophy
Adopting a simple lifestyle can require a shift in thinking. It requires you to accept that what you have is “enough”, learn to let go of the need to be a superachiever, live in the moment, find simple pleasures, and define your identity by reflection rather than by consumerism.

Really, that’s about it. Don’t let the marketing machine that was created for no other reason than to manipulate your desires for pride, greed, power, and lust to make you invest your very life into the things that lead to death. Don’t buy into it. There is a better way. A higher way!

Spend some time in the Bible, in prayer, and in worship. Allow God to define who you are and how you are perceived. And then live that.

It’s not necessarily easy. But it’s simple. It’s singular. In Christ it’s possible.

Prayer for Today

Most High God, Creator of all, grant that we, who by the sacrifice of Jesus and the power of your Holy Spirit are called by your Name, might have eyes to see and perceive, minds to understand, hearts to move with compassion, hands to serve, and feet to go where you direct so that those who are estranged may be reconciled, those who are broken and sick may be comforted, and those who are hungry may be fed for the glory of your Name and the advancement of your Kingdom.

We Traded Our Future For…

We have unwittingly lost our lives, freedom, and futures in a bad trade. We thought they had been stolen, but we were wrong.

I believe the US Church (you and me – the Church) has largely traded away our freedom and our individual and collective futures. And we’ve literally given it all away for almost nothing. We’ve traded our financial freedom for trinkets, charms, novelties. Nothing. We’ve traded our spiritual freedom for emotional highs and sin. But that is not the worst of it.

It’s time to realize that in our collective pursuits – stuff, pride, and power – we have traded eternal reward. Now, before you get all theological on me, I’m not talking about our eternal security – we are, after all, truly saved by grace. But because we have misallocated our time, attention, passions, and resources, we have nothing left to invest in the eternal.

We have invested our lives in things that will undoubtedly break, fall apart, be stolen, or become passe. And when that happens, we will have nothing. Even if we have all of our stuff when we die, we will still take nothing to eternity. Because nothing lasts except what actually is eternal.

Unlike the stuff of this world, nothing of God passes away. Every day, God is at work on the earth and we have the opportunity to be part of his life on earth. We have the opportunity to invest ourselves in the life of God every day. Without fail. As surely as the sun rises and falls and the seasons change. Every single day.

But it gets better: Almighty God, the creator of all that is the universe, the author of time, our kinsman redeemer, actually wants us to be involved in his eternal life on earth. We, who are immortal living in mortal bodies, who live in the intersection of time and eternity, have the opportunity to be eternally invested in the Kingdom of God right now. What an opportunity!

Think about your life and your investments. Where is your treasure and your heart? Are you heavily invested in things that don’t last (I know I sometimes am)? Or are you truly invested in God?

OK…I’m a follower of Christ but how do I invest in eternity?

Actually, it’s simple. While there is no magic formula, I do believe that two basic principles apply.

  • We have a strong connection to our investments
  • We can only expect to receive benefits from where we have invested

Jesus tells us that a man’s heart will be wherever his treasure is. As an example, if we have invested in Apple, our only real concern with Microsoft is how it affects Apple. We would like nothing more than to know that Apple is consuming market share and that Microsoft continues to make bad decisions. Because we’ve invested in Apple, we are happy to see the company succeed, knowing that we have a reward.

Second, Jesus tells us that a man will harvest what he plants. Or in more modern terms, a man will receive dividends based on where he invests. After all, we wouldn’t expect to receive $1.78 per share from Apple’s first quarter earnings if we’ve invested in Microsoft. Using the same logic, how could we ever expect to receive love, joy, and peace in the Holy Spirit if we’ve never invested our lives and resources in God.

So, here is where I suggest that you invest your time, attention, and passion every day.

  • The Bible – spend time in the Word to meet and learn about God
  • Prayer & Worship – spend time with God, listen, adore
  • Fellowship – spend time with God’s people
  • Service & Sharing – show and tell what God has done in your life

So that there be no confusion, I must tell you that this list is only slightly adapted from what my sister-in-law, an Episcopal Priest, has been teaching for years. She refers to it as “The Four Spiritual Food Groups”.

Where have you invested your life? If you need to make a change, now is the time. There is no time to waste and everything to gain. Put your life in an investment that is guaranteed by God Most High and will never see recession or lose value. Never.

Tough Times – What are you doing?

It’s no secret that we’re living in tough financial times (at least by our standards). Many of us are stretched beyond our now-shrinking means. We’re having to do things differently than we did in the past.

I’d like to know what you’re doing to make it through these times. Do you have a plan? If so, what is it?

We often showcase difficult times as our “defining moments”. To be sure, they can be just that, the moments that change and define who we are as much as they can also simply be the moments that show who we have always been – the way we’ve always behaved and made decisions.

Especially in this nation, though, I think we have a “one-time hero” mentality. When something difficult comes along and we do the right thing – often for the first and last time – we try to define ourselves based on that one experience. Now I’m not saying that if you’re in a tough spot you shouldn’t do the right thing but I would challenge us to make a lasting lifestyle change.

We need not be a nation of “financial yo-yo dieters”, bingeing on the financial candy of more, newer, and better until our financial health warrants a change and then trimming down using until we feel better about ourselves, only to repeat the process again and again. And we especially need to actually do the work of getting out of this. We should not plan on the financial liposuction of personal bailouts, bankruptcies, and winning the lottery.

Remember that ultimately, whether we pay for our mistakes or not, somebody does.

We have to ask ourselves whether we will honor our commitments even though they are difficult. We have to reevaluate our priorities. We have to deal with stress. King David is quoted as having said “… [He] honors those who fear the Lord; He who swears to his own hurt and does not change….”

To do this requires that we make some hard choices and do a few things:

  1. Swallow our pride and admit that we have a problem
  2. Ask God for help
  3. Decide what is important
  4. Find or develop a plan
  5. Actually do what we have planned

A few years ago, I found myself unsure of why I never seemed to have money and I decided that it was a problem. So I prayed about it and felt like God had defined a time when I should start working on it. In preparation, I started tracking what I was spending and where, how much I owed, and so forth.

I was appalled that I had spent hundreds of dollars over the previous year on bank fees, late charges, and interest. I began to see that I could easily save a few hundred dollars a year simply by keeping track of and paying bills on time. And that I could use that money to pay off credit card debt – money I had spent mostly on things I no longer had. In addition to that, I had to define what things I thought were most important and take care of those first. For me, it was like this (roughly in order) tithes, offerings, housing, food (groceries, not restaurants), transportation, bills I owed, everything else.

So for the next few months, I handled my money in this way. I didn’t cut out all of the fun and restaurants, I simply curtailed it. And every time I had “extra” money, I put it to paying off bills.

About 2 months into this I was amazed. It was as if God was blessing my efforts – my bills were being paid off more quickly than I had expected even though I seldom felt constrained by my financial situation. Perhaps I had simply stepped into God’s blessing by hearing from him, creating a plan, and following through.

Over the following 3 months, I was able to pay off all of my credit card debt, pay off some bills, build savings, and buy a house. While I’m not saying that this is God’s plan for you, it is what he did for me when I heard from him, created a plan, and followed through.

So, back to my question to you.

How are you (as an individual or family) working through this difficult time?

  • Where is your trust?
  • Are you keeping your commitments?
  • Have you developed a plan to work through this?
  • Have you prioritized what gets taken care of?
  • If so, what are your priorities?
  • Are you following through?

Seriously, I’m interested to know how you’re working through this. What you’re doing. Maybe I (or somebody else) can learn from what you’re doing.