A friend showed me his brand new MacBook Pro yesterday. He bought it because it is (of course) the mostly insanely perfect & powerful piece of greatness that a human can possess. However, he is a brand new Apple user, so I was giving him a quick tour of some of the features of the computer. Since his mind had been
corruptedtrained on (gag) Microsoft, he himself could not yet demonstrate to me how insanely great this machine was until his mind had been retrained to think like an Apple user & act like an Apple user.
Hmmmm…. that reminds me of something….
And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. (Romans 12:2 NKJV)
Think about this: with the new birth & the Spirit living within us we really do have the most insanely perfect & powerful piece of greatness that a human can possess (yes, even better than a MacBook Pro!).
But…. how many of us truly live transformed lives, lives that are radically different as a result of the new birth, lives that “prove” (or demonstrate, show to the world) that God’s will is perfect?
What does the Apostle Paul say must happen before you can do this, to be transformed to the point that your life can prove that God’s will is insanely great? Your mind has to be renewed. Your mind has to be remolded to understand what it means to love God & walk with Him.
I admit it, I’m an “Apple evangelist”— a term commonly used for people who are so sold on how insanely great Apple products are that they tell everyone around them & try to convince them to buy Apple too.
But it’s not enough to be an evangelist, is it? It’s not enough to get someone to buy a MacBook Pro, or to receive the new birth, is it? It won’t really, radically change your life until you learn to use it.
So, that’s my focus for today: to renew my mind, to change my paradigms, my faulty thinking, so that I can truly be a “power user” of the new birth & live a truly transformed life.
Have you ever prepared a recipe and accidentally added the wrong amount of an ingredient? I’ve certainly made my share of soupy instant mashed potatoes! For every recipe, there is an optimal level for each ingredient, such as water or flour or sugar. Putting in either too little or too much will give you a less-than-desired result.
This optimal level of input into a process for best results is sometimes called a ”sweet spot.” This simple principle holds true for more than just making mashed potatoes. There’s another sweet spot that affects you every day: the sweet spot of optimal resource investment into your goals.
Every goal, every project in your life, whether business or personal, requires an investment of your resources, such as time, money, planning, & effort. Each goal will have its own “sweet spot” of resource investment, the level that gives you the maximum accomplishment for the investment that you make. Finding your goal’s resource investment sweet spot is a major factor in its success and the satisfaction you will receive from it.
A Practical Example
Let’s look at a very practical example of the difference finding the sweet spot of a project makes. I know that some of you may think I am incapable of growing anything after reading my earlier post on passivity, but when I lived in North Carolina I had a garden that looked like this:
Now contrast that garden with this years’ attempt (I won’t even dignify it with the word “garden”):
Now, what was the difference between the two projects? It was my level of resource investment. With the first garden, I allocated an optimal level of resources. I did some reading & planning, tilled up a manageable plot (not too large or too small), bought the right number of plants, and gave it adequate attention through the year. The result: a garden that I really enjoyed and that was very productive. I hit the sweet spot for my North Carolina garden quite nicely.
However, with this year’s attempt, I did not allocate adequate resources. I tried to “get by” with a patio garden that used old potting soil that was probably contaminated with fungi and other nasty stuff. I thought to myself, “I don’t want to spend a lot of money, but I’ll make do and take what I can get.” The result: a project that gave me almost no enjoyment and almost no produce. What’s worse, this poor result brought in emotional discouragement and disconnection with something I’ve really enjoyed in the past, which could have made it much less likely that I would try gardening again.
On the other hand, I could have erred on the other side of resource investment. I could have bought & read a dozen books on gardening, and then went out and got a dozen of these very sweet but very expensive tomato growing systems:
If I had chosen that level of resource investment, I indeed would have had great tomatoes, but I also would have been frustrated and discouraged about the hundreds of dollars I had spent to get those tomatoes. Consquently, my end result would still have been sub-optimal because my level of resource investment would have been too much for the project at hand. Bottom line: there was a “sweet spot” of optimal resource investment for my garden, and hitting or missing that sweet spot had a dramatic impact on my level of success & satisfaction.
Finding YOUR Sweet Spot
Ok, now it’s your turn: make a list of some projects and/or goals in your life, whether they be work, personal, or hobby related. For each one, ask yourself the question, “Am I in the sweet spot of optimal resource investment?” For instance, you could consider whether you are spending too little money trying to cut corners with cheap paint on that room remodel. Or are you smothering that love interest with so much attention (or so little attention!) that they’re being driven away? Or are you investing the right amount of prep time before that job interview? Or spending too much (or too little) time editing that blog post before you click the “publish” button?
For each goal on your list, make a decision as to whether your resource investment is too little, too much, or just right. Yes, I know, sometimes that’s hard to gauge, but that’s where you have to make your best judgement now, and then monitor the goal’s progress and be willing to revise your estimate up or down later.
If you have an area where you think you are over-invested, your solution is straightforward: cut back on your resource investment a little and see how it goes. However, if you have an area where you are under-invested, you have a choice: you can either ratchet up your level of resource investment to get optimal results, OR you can further reduce your resource investment to zero and drop the goal entirely.
If you’re like me, you’ve probably got too many projects that are all performing poorly because you only have so much time and money and effort per day, and by spreading yourself too thin you end up not being optimally invested in anything. The result: a whole series of poorly performing projects that don’t give you any joy at all. The harder, but smarter, course of action is to invest more resources of your finite time, money, and effort optimally into fewer goals, which will then give you optimal payback, whether in produce or productivity.
Some of you may instead find that you have the reverse problem: you’re so heavily invested in one goal (like getting ahead in your career) that you don’t invest in anything else. The danger here is that you have nothing else to fall back on if your results in that one area don’t turn out like you expected or you realize the goal isn’t as important as you first decided. The harder, but smarter, course of action for you would be to diversify your resources into several different goals.
Finding your sweet spot of optimal resource investment in your goals will help you achieve a greater level of success & satisfaction in multiple areas of your life. Why not make that list and start looking for your sweet spot today?
It’s a common plot device, used by everyone from Charles Dickens to Star Trek: alternate realities. What if this had never happened? What if this was different? What if this happened in the future? Somehow, looking at that alternate reality, or living in it, gives the person insight into how better to live in their “real” world.
Question: does that living in another world work the same way for us?
“What?” you ask. “I don’t have any alternate universe hopping contraption!”
Oh yes you do. It’s your mind.
Every moment we can live in an alternate reality. We can live in a past reality of an awful mistake, mired in reliving that moment or berating ourselves for what our life would have been like if we had just made another choice. Or we can live in an alternate, more “attractive” version of today: what if I made this change in my work hours reported to increase my paycheck, what if I approached that man who seems far more attractive than my husband? We can even lose ourselves in a future that never will be, embittered about that accomplishment we’ll never be able to achieve or focused on a goal that will end up hurting others in the end.
Do you realize when your mind slips into another world? Do you realize if that alternate world is paralyzing you or poisoning you or just distracting you from the real living and the real joy that can be found in your real world? It’s your choice, day by day, moment by moment. You can choose to live in the world that is or you can live in a world that is not. What world are you living in?
paradigm: A set of assumptions, concepts, values, and practices that constitutes a way of viewing reality
give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 1 Thessalonians 5:18 ESV
This short verse gives us a radical way of viewing reality that is only possible through being “in Christ Jesus” through the new birth. At first glance, it appears to be a simple command to do something– “give thanks.” But the 2nd phrase “in all circumstances”—like so many of the Biblical commands, should bring us to our knees in realization that in our own strength it is impossible to fulfill. Give thanks in all circumstances? All the time? In everything? No matter what?
No, this is more than a simple command, it is a radical paradigm shift that influences every waking minute of our lives, that is fundamentally different than the paradigm we were born with.
Today we will look at our “original” paradigm, how we fail to thank God in all circumstances, and tomorrow we will look at how our new nature gives us the power to transcend our old nature into a new way of viewing reality through continual thanksgiving to God.
Our innate lack of thankfulness toward God originated with our first parents, Adam and Eve. Their actions in the garden served as the prototype for all their children. They (and we) will forget God, then redefine God, then ultimately reject God as we manifest a spirit of ingratitude toward God.
It has been well said that sin often begins with forgetting God and His blessings. With all of the tremendous beauty and bounty of the garden, with anything but the one tree available freely to them, Adam and Eve forgot all that God had given them while they concentrated on what they didn’t have. We see this pattern repeated over and over again in Scripture. When David sinned with Bathseba, Nathan the prophet challenged David to remember all of God’s blessings, implying that if he had been thankful for all that God had given him he would not have fell to temptation:
”I gave you your master’s house and your master’s wives into your arms and gave you the house of Israel and of Judah. And if this were too little, I would add to you as much more. Why have you despised the word of the Lord, to do what is evil in his sight?” (2 Samuel 12:8-9 ESV)
Forgetting God’s blessings effectively causes us to despise both them and the God who gave them. God knows well our propensity to forget Him: Eight times in the book of Deuteronomy alone he warns Israel not to forget Him or His blessings. Yet it is so easy to forget: I didn’t get the promotion I wanted, so I forget God’s blessings of providing me a job. The church’s carpet looks hideous, so I forget God’s blessing of living in a country where worshipping Christ isn’t against the law.
Once we have forgotten God and His true nature, we are but a step away from redefining God to suit our liking. In the garden Satan redefined God to Eve; “Did God actually say…?…God knows when you eat of it your eyes will be opened…” Now Eve is thinking, “Why God is not being good to me at all—He’s keeping something good from me”—and she moves from merely forgetting about God to redefining Him as someone not worthy of her gratitude. Paul speaks of the human heart universally doing this in Romans 1:
For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles.
Notice the sequence: they started out knowing God, but they stopped giving thanks to Him, which eventually resulted in their redefining God into idol images.
How often does lack of gratitude make us redefine God? How many marriages have been destroyed when people have said, “I know God would want me to be with this person who is not my spouse, God wants me to be happy.”? How many callings have been rejected when someone says, “God would never ask me to do THAT.”? Whenever we are not thankful for what God has given us, we will end up finding an excuse to sin, and often finding a way of not calling it sin by changing our view of God and His holiness.
The final step of ingratitude is a wholesale rejection of God. That’s what Adam & Eve did: they rejected God’s blessings and goodness and rule in their lives to pursue what they felt was right, to their (and our) ruin. When we sin, we have both forgotten God and rejected Him.
Many people who say they are atheists will trace the origin of their conviction to something tragic or evil that they could not reconcile with their definition of God. Although it is impossible for the finite minds of humans to understand all the reasons God acts and why evil exists, to reject God because we cannot understand Him is the mark of a rebellious fool. Sorry those words are harsh, but, after all, they are not my words, but God’s: “The fool says is his heart, “There is no God.”" (Psalm 14:1 ESV) It has been said that at the heart level most people’s rejection of God is not on an intellectual basis (as they often maintain), but actually on a moral basis, because to accept God is to accept His rightful place as the ruler of your life, and a subject who is not grateful for his King will always attempt to overthrow Him.
This pattern of forgetting God and his blessings, then redefining Him, then rejecting Him is deeply inground in our psyche—how will we escape its destructive grip? Tomorrow we will examine how our new heart gives us the ability to both change our paradigm and continually grow in thankfulness to God in all circumstances.
One of my favorite early Dilbert panels shows some space aliens coming down to Dogbert saying that they want to share their advanced technology to rid the Earth of disease and bring peace to the world. Dogbert’s reply is “What’s in it for me?”—which prompts the aliens to get back into their spaceship and take off. Dogbert then muses, “I’ll always wonder if I could have handled that better.”
“What’s in it for me?” is the core question in every human heart. The whole structure of our soul is built on our total devotion to our own self interest, ever since the Fall. That is the core question that Adam and Eve asked themselves when they first disobeyed God, and their children have asked it every day since. Whether it is what food we eat, or how we treat someone else, or our goals or aspirations, our natural devotion is irrevocably “what’s in it for me?”
The problem is, humans weren’t designed to live this way—with our programming fixated on the self. As Douglas Wilson once said in a post, with every step we take focused on “what’s in it for me”, we become more hollow, empty, and wretched.
What’s the alternative? It is what we were originally designed for, to be devoted to the glory of God. Our souls were originially designed to continually focus on “What’s in it for God?” Devotion to God was meant to guide our every thought, our every word, our every deed. Through having a life solely and purely focused on God we were meant to live in freedom and love and joy and peace and fulfillment.
Only through Christ, only through the new birth, do we gain a new nature that can shift our paradigm from self to God. This paradigm shift is one part of being in “the kingdom of God”. If you are in a kingdom, if you a subject of the king, your life is consummed with whatever the king’s business is, whatever will benefit and glorify the king, and your joy rests in being a good and faithful servant. When we enter the Kingdom of God through regeneration, then we gain a new heart that is inclined to God, that lives and works and dreams unto God. Living in this new state of “God-devotion” vs. “self-devotion” frees us from so much that brings confusion and pain into our lives and allows us to fulfill God’s purpose for our lives.
If we have a new heart, we don’t have to be slaves to self-devotion anymore. We can choose to live from our new heart, to live joyous lives of devotion to our God.