Essay 73 – You Are Invited

Essay 73 – You Are Invited

Jesus told a parable of a king who prepared a great wedding feast for his son. However, at the appointed hour, all the invited guests made excuses and did not attend. So the king sent his servants into the streets and alleys to quickly bring in the poor, the disabled, and the blind so that there would be people present to enjoy the feast. (Matthew 22:1-14).

It is generally agreed that the wedding feast refers to the second coming of Christ, when he will come in his glory as the bridegroom to accept his bride, which is his Church. These are the last days before he comes again, so this parable has particular application to you and me.

All those individuals with wealth, power, and standing in society who naturally would be invited to this prestigious wedding could not be bothered, so the Lord’s servants anxiously gathered all the outcasts of society to enjoy the festivities. I am convinced that Jesus was not just referring to the temporally poor and physically disabled, but to the poor in heart and those who struggle with spiritual and emotional issues that handicap them. These are the individuals who are responding to God’s invitation to come unto Him and enjoy a feast beyond comprehension.

God has prepared a feast for each one of us that is more fulfilling and enjoyable than we can imagine. As we seek God by feasting on His Word, following the impressions He gives us to do what is right, and look for the good around us, He will fill us with His love, peace and joy and a great sense of belonging and well-being. We will gain greater perspective, and our understanding will increase. He will bless us with the companionship of His Spirit, and we will not feel alone. We will be filled with love and joy beyond measure.

The choice, however, is ours. His invitation has gone out to the whole world, including to you and me. God is quickly gathering in all the poor and outcasts to enjoy the feast that the nobles and persons of high position have rejected. Time is of the essence. The Lord’s second coming is getting closer, and as it approaches, the turmoil and destruction of society increases. Now is the day for us to choose before it is too late.

The scriptures admonish us to prepare, for the day of the Lord is at hand. (Zephaniah 1:7). How do we prepare? Do we store food and supplies and purchase insurance to mitigate the calamity of natural disasters? That is partially how we can prepare. However, the key to understanding this warning is found in two truths: 1) those who are prepared will not fear, and 2) love casts out fear. In order to be prepared to meet God, we need to come to Him so that He can fill us with His love to eliminate the fears that covertly control our lives.

His love will drive away the fear of rejection because we know that He will always be there for us. We will not worry about being valued because we feel His love and acceptance in spite of all our weaknesses. The fear of not being in control will evaporate as we realize God is all powerful, all loving, and all knowing, and He is in control. As God drives away our fears, He fills our emotional black holes with His infinite love, which heals our souls.

I invite you to come unto Christ and be made whole. Let him fill you with his love so you can enjoy an abundant life full of love, peace, joy, and belonging. Let Christ fill your emotional black holes so you will be free to reach your full potential, become more in touch with your feelings, and experience more intense emotions. Let God convert you into His son or daughter so you can become united with Him and inherit all that He has. If you have felt this love but like a sheep have gone astray, He beckons you to return to Him to find refreshment for your burdened soul.

God is real, and He is inviting each of us personally to come and enjoy a life full of love, peace, and happiness with Him and in fellowship with a community of believers. Come join the feast. You are invited just as you are. He knows all your imperfections, and He still wants you to come and enjoy the feast. He will heal your soul and cleanse your life if you will simply let Him. Turn to God and come unto Christ, and He will bless you with love and joy beyond measure.

I personally testify to the truth of these things, in the sacred name of Jesus Christ, amen.

My people hath been lost sheep. . . . [T]heir shepherds have caused them to go astray, they have turned them away on the mountains: they have gone from mountain to hill, they have forgotten their resting place.
Jeremiah 50:6

I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.
John 10:11

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Essay 54 – We Are What We Think

Essay 54 – We Are What We Think

Proverbs 23:7 teaches us that “as [a man] thinketh in his heart, so is he.” Science is now beginning to understand this great truth taught by God’s servant thousands of years ago.

As we think and act, our brains build little connections between the brain cells affected by those thoughts and actions. These connections are like little bridges that enable electrical impulses or information to flow from one brain cell to the next. The more often we think or do the same thing, the larger and more numerous these bridges and expressways among the affected brain cells become, so the flow of information is expedited. That is why it becomes easy to ride a bike or throw a ball after we have done it several times. This is also how habits are formed and why they are so hard to break. We are literally wiring and programming our brain as we go through life. Consequently, the things we think and do are very important because that is who and what we are actually becoming.

The other night, I listened to a debate between presidential candidates. I am sure they each were sincere in some of the beliefs they expressed, but these beliefs were often diametrically opposed. We all have had a conversation with someone we felt was completely deluded. Yet that individual sincerely believed their position.

Understanding how the brain works helps explain why different individuals can have such divergent, sincerely held views of the truth. The more they think a certain way, the more entrenched that idea becomes. That is the cause of groupthink, in which individuals reinforce their beliefs by limiting their association to those individuals holding similar ideas. Academia, media outlets and political groups are accused of doing this, and social media exploits it.

Yet truth is not relative. Truth is how things actually were in the past, currently are, and will become. God is truth. The closer we get to God, the clearer our views are until we reach the point, like the prophets of old, where all things—past, present, and future—are revealed to us. Now, this will not fully happen until we become unified with God in the hereafter, but we can get a glimpse of it now as we learn to place our thoughts in tune with God and reality.

Thoughts also are precursors to our actions, good and bad. No wonder we are taught to control our thoughts. (Matthew 5:22, 28). Rarely if ever does an individual indulge in immoral action without first fantasizing about such behavior. Likewise, individuals need to first aspire, then plan, and then diligently execute their plan to accomplish great achievements. Athletes are trained to repeatedly visualize themselves successfully performing their event to increase the likelihood of winning. Again, the brain creates and expands connections between the affected brain cells as we engage in thought.

The more we think or do the same thing, the more connections are created, and the larger they become. The larger and more numerous these information bridges become, the more easily and readily our thoughts will flow through and follow the course they provide, thus reinforcing the likelihood of even further similar thoughts and behavior. Consequently, if we learn to control our thoughts, then we not only increase the likelihood of accomplishing our goals but also make it easier to do.

Conversely, it is important to avoid evil thoughts and bad behavior because they can become entrenched. When we went sledding as children, I learned that the first person to go down a hill of fresh snow would not go very far, but once the path was created, the next person would go down much faster and farther. Our thoughts and actions are very similar to this. That is why once we do something wrong, the next time it is much easier to do, until we eventually lose all sense of restraint and remorse. This is also why, once we start down a familiar path of bad behavior, we may find it nearly impossible to resist the ultimate outcome. Learning to identify and avoid these trigger points is vitally important.

The more we are aware of what we are thinking, the more power we have to control and direct our thoughts. We are not helpless creatures, doomed by our upbringing and past behavior. We were created to think and to act. We have free will because God has given each of us a portion of His spirit, which is independent and intelligent. Hence, the power is within us to accomplish things of our own free will and choice.

However, if we fail to exercise this power, we become subject more and more to our current and past thoughts and behavior. The scriptures talk about Satan beginning to lead his subjects with a thread, then a rope, and eventually with the chains of hell. However, with the Lord’s help, we have the power to break these bonds. Just as these connections between our brain cells grow when they are used, over time, they decrease when they are not used. Just as muscles atrophy from lack of use, these information bridges in the brain fall into disrepair unless they are maintained through repeated use.

I also strongly believe that when we have a born-again experience, the Lord has the power to burn the bridges that lead us down. However, unless we build new bridges in our mind to direct our thoughts in a new, positive direction, our brains will have a natural tendency to rebuild the old negative bridges. Once we remove something negative from our lives, we need to fill the void with something positive, or the vacuum will be filled by what used to occupy that space. (Luke 11:24-26).

It is a great blessing that the more we are aware of what we are thinking, the more power we have to control and direct our thoughts. When we find ourselves thinking something that pulls us down, we have the power to replace it with positive, uplifting thoughts. We may even want to keep a ready inventory of positive thoughts (such as our spouse, child, parent, friend, music, art, nature, or a peaceful location) handy so we can immediately choose to replace negative thoughts or temptations with thoughts that uplift. The key to controlling our thoughts is to consciously seek good things so consistently that this approach eventually becomes second nature to us.
Paul’s last advice to the Philippians tells us how this is done. He admonished:

Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.
Philippians 4:8 (Emphasis added)

I find it interesting that Paul admonishes us to start with being honest. Being honest and seeking truth are the foundation on which everything else is built. We need to be honest with others so we will have the power to be honest with ourselves, which is one of the hardest things to do.

If we are honest with ourselves, we will know, as the Savior said, “I can of mine own self do nothing.” Once we understand our own nothingness and God’s great love and mercy which He offers us, we are then ready to approach the source of all truth and goodness so that He can bless us. We must open ourselves up to Him and be willing to allow Him to destroy all those chains that pull us down.

Paul then admonishes us to seek after things that are pure, lovely, of good report, virtuous, or praiseworthy. We must pursue good things. If we really desire and look for goodness, then we have claim on the promise that we will find it.

The other day, I was driving down the freeway while deep in thought on a personal matter, and I drove right past the off-ramp I needed to take. I had been driving for quite a while and was oblivious to the world around me. Has that ever happened to you? Life can be just like driving that car, missing out on all the goodness around us that God placed here to edify us and help us come closer to Him. If we do not look for it, we will miss it.

We need to look for the good around us. If we look for it, we will find it and be edified in the process. Seeking or looking for good is how we remember Him so we can have claim on the promise to always have His Spirit to be with us. This is one useful way to increase our union with God, the spirit of truth and love.

Essay 32 – Lost My Shirt in the Garment Industry

Essay 32 – Lost My Shirt in the Garment Industry

I became fascinated with the garment industry. Owing to the dynamic nature of fashion, the industry had developed avenues for new products to reach consumers quickly. It was hard to predict which new style would catch fashion’s fickle eye, so there had to be means available for undercapitalized designers to produce and deliver their hot new looks to market. Consequently, the machinery of the free enterprise system kicked into gear for anyone who could snag an order from a strong retailer. Fabric suppliers would typically provide goods on sixty-days trade credit to allow time for the order to be produced, and financial institutions would factor (buy) the invoice to the store as soon as the goods shipped, providing the funds to immediately pay the mills and sewing factory, even though the retailers would not pay the invoice until a month or two later. I had never seen an industry in which someone could make a lot of money so quickly with such a small amount of capital to start with. The industry has changed a lot over the past thirty years, so it is much more difficult for a new clothing start-up to succeed today. But back then, my entrepreneur spirit could not resist the siren call of large, fast profit.

My analytical mind engaged in finding problems in the industry, knowing that I would create value if I could find solutions. I identified three major challenges: 1) fashion is fickle, so what is hot today may be worthless tomorrow; 2) the margins are very thin unless you have strong logo appeal, and it typically takes good connections or millions of dollars to create this logo appeal; and 3) success can lead to failure because major retail chains often overbuy styles that are selling at high margins in the boutique stores and then slash prices once the sales volume slows down. I missed the fourth problem: whatever can make quick money attracts unethical people.

My solution was to avoid the fickle nature of fashion and stick with denim, which was just beginning to attract fashion designers. Jordache had recently spent millions of dollars on an ad campaign to launch their sexy, tight-fitting jeans. I didn’t have that type of money to risk up front, so I decided to license a recognized logo and pay royalties after the clothes sold. A salesman mentioned that he felt college logos would find their way off campus onto Main Street. He was right. A couple of years later, J.C. Penney and other major retailers started carrying college logo merchandise. So I created the company Student Body Jeans and set about licensing all the major college logos in the country for use on denim jeans, shorts, and jackets. I ended up with licenses from over sixty major universities. You name the school and I had the license: USC, Notre Dame, Harvard, Kentucky, Alabama, et cetera. Licensing college logos also solved the industry problem of overdependence on major retailers. College bookstores sell a lot of merchandise and provide a third leg to stabilize the garment market, which typically rested on boutique stores and department stores.

All I needed was to find a “garmento” who could produce the goods. I met a number of fascinating individuals. One of them was Stanley Foster, who owned the famous Hang Ten logo. He told me the fascinating story of his success. He was managing a furniture store when he married into the Ratner family, who owned the largest clothing company west of the Mississippi. After working in the family men’s suit business for several years, he became the president when his father-in-law retired. Soon after, he told his father-in-law that he had just purchased a clothing company for three million dollars. His father-in-law said, “Great, let’s go see the factory.”
Stan replied, “There is no factory.”

“OK, let’s go to the warehouse to see the inventory.”
“There’s no warehouse.”
“Well, what did you buy?”
Stan Foster held up the Hang Ten logo.

At this point in the story, Mr. Foster chuckled and told me that his father-in-law wondered how his daughter could have married such an imbecile and how he himself could have been such an idiot as to put him in charge of the company. Mr. Foster soon got his payback, earning several times that amount the first year and building the business into a $200 million retail juggernaut. Mr. Foster knew how to spot trends and understood the value of leveraging a strong logo across multiple market categories. He seemed to like me and was interested in getting his son-in-law involved in my venture, but nothing materialized.

I eventually hired a garmento in New York for $15,000 a month (about $50,000 in 2022 dollars) to be in charge of the production. I worked with pattern makers and fit models to design great-fitting fashion jeans, shorts, and awesome-looking jackets with the school’s logo embroidered on the back. I rented a showroom in the denim section of Los Angeles’s Fashion Mart and hired an experienced salesman. We were up and running with orders flowing in.

However, the garmento disagreed with my whole marketing strategy. He felt our products were so good that we should be selling them exclusively in university bookstores for three times the price. I insisted that our target market was the general public loyal to their alma mater or local university and that we needed to keep the price down to attract this larger market. He didn’t see my vision, so he surreptitiously started his own company, Student Union Jeans, and took copies of each of our embroidery tapes that I had spent over $100,000 to produce and our patterns, raised $2 million from investors, and started to market to the bookstores.

Of course, once I discovered what was happening, I canned him. When I confronted him and reminded him of the confidentiality/noncompete agreement he signed, he laughed and said that if I sued him, by the time my lawsuit was over, he would have made millions and hidden all of it, and I wouldn’t see a dime. I realized I didn’t have the time or resources to become embroiled in a lawsuit because I had orders to fill with cancellation dates staring me in the face. My greatest concern was that I was left without any production as all the factories had long-standing relationships with this scoundrel.

I immediately contacted the local denim factories in Los Angeles and negotiated orders for them to fill. Unfortunately, they recognized a desperate novice when they saw one, and instead of producing the goods on schedule, they raised the price and delivered late. Without shipments, I had no cash flow, and my reserve was running out. I should have scaled back and selected half a dozen popular schools to concentrate on, but my pride would not allow me to cancel orders from across the country, creating a void for my nemesis to fill.

I sold our three rental properties to buy time, but it was not enough. Everything started falling apart, and I realized that we were not going to make it. I confided my situation to the manager of a showroom down the hall who had been friendly with me. He said that our product was too good to let it die and suggested that I talk with his brother, the owner of Braxton Jeans, which he sold in his showroom. He, however, was not on speaking terms with his brother, so he needed a way to introduce me. He introduced me to Mr. Miller, the retired president of Marshalls Department Store. Mr. Miller concurred that we had a good product with a viable market and agreed to introduce me to Peter Ma, the owner of Braxton Jeans, who he had a close relationship with. Mr. Miller was the first person to give Peter an order, which launched his successful career in the apparel industry.

After I met with Peter and told him my story, he shook his head and said, “You are too nice of a guy to make it in the garment industry. You should stick with finance and real estate, which you know best, and leave the garment industry to people like me. By the way, I am looking at buying a number of commercial properties out of bankruptcy from the owner of Pioneer Chicken. I will pay you to check them out.” And so, a new chapter of my life began as a financial consultant to Mr. Ma. Even though Peter did not always follow my advice―I was too conservative for him―he valued my input.

By this time, I was broke and our home was in foreclosure. On one occasion, I decided to drive to Los Angeles to ask Peter to pay me for some work, knowing that I did not have enough money to buy gas to return home if I didn’t get paid. So I brought a squeegee with me just in case I needed to wash car windows for tips at a service station to buy gas.

This was a very difficult time financially. It was particularly hard on my wife, who depended on me to provide for her and our six young children. She and her brother and sister were raised in a nine-hundred-square-foot home by their frugal widowed mother on Social Security and veteran benefits, who managed to save enough money to send her three children to college. Our boom-or-bust life was foreign to her steady, reliable upbringing, but she supported me emotionally as best she could.

We were able to find a buyer for our home before the scheduled foreclosure, so we needed to find a new place to live. Driving from Escondido, in San Diego County, to Los Angeles on a regular basis was time consuming. So we looked in various LA suburbs but couldn’t find anything we felt comfortable renting. One morning I told Jean that I got a good feeling when I drove by Mission Viejo in Orange County on my way home from Los Angeles and suggested we check it out, even though it was still quite a distance from downtown Los Angeles.

We took our two youngest sons, who were not in school, and drove up to Mission Viejo in our rundown Oldsmobile to find a house. The first house we looked at had just been remodeled with white carpet and white flat paint. We were sure they would not even consider renting to us when we told them we had six children, and I knew our credit was ruined. After driving around looking at several rentals all day, I asked Jean if she felt good about any of the houses we had looked at. She said, “Yes, the first one.” So we drove back to see if they would rent us the home. The wife answered the door, looked at us, and said, “Just a minute.” She turned and yelled to her husband in the other room, “Hang up the phone! That nice couple has come back. Don’t rent the house to those other people.”

Losing our fortune and being destitute and nearly homeless turned out to be among the greatest blessings of our life. We would not have moved from Escondido to Mission Viejo without this financial catastrophe. God picked us up and sat us down in this specific house for our children’s eternal welfare. Mission Viejo was a community full of families with a lot of parental support and active religious participation. In large part as a result of this parental support, the high school received the United States Department of Education’s highest award for excellence three times while our children attended there. The high school’s football team was ranked second in the nation when our son played on the team. Its band, drumline, color guard, choir, drama, Academic Decathlon and Model United Nations teams often competed for top national positions. Each year several dozen students graduated with the honored International Baccalaureate diploma. Unlike in Escondido, where most of the youth struggled with large problems, in Mission Viejo, most of our children’s friends were well adjusted. When the teenagers in our church congregation presented a high-quality original musical, they had nearly one hundred youth involved onstage. Thanks to hours of sacrifice by many men and women in the community, our four sons earned the rank of Eagle Scout. Without hesitation, I can say that this was the best place in the world for us to raise our family. Sometimes God needs to hit us on the head to get us to move so that we will receive the blessings he offers us.

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Essay 71 – The Light of Christ

Essay 71 – The Light of Christ

The essence of God’s spirit is light, truth, love, and goodness. This essence is what is in all things, quickens all things, and governs all things; it is the power by which all things were created; it gives life to all living things; and it is the light or intelligence of man. This is the force that governs the elements and is integral to their existence. It is the unifying principle that physicists are trying to identify.

I refer to this essence, energy, or intelligence as the light of Christ because he is unified with the infinite and all truth and goodness. Christ is the source of all light and truth. This intelligence, or the essence of our and God’s spirit, is light and truth, and the more we seek light and truth, the more we receive and the closer we come to God until we are united with Him as Christ is united with his Father. What we refer to as inspiration is often simply our becoming more in tune with this light of Christ, or intelligence.

When God breathed into Adam his spirit, man became a living soul, created not only in God’s image but also with divine potential. (Genesis 2:7). We all have a spark of His divinity in us. This portion of God’s essence that is allocated to man incorporates an ability to make choices. It is intelligent. We were created to act and not just react. This is our purpose: to decide, act, and develop that portion of God’s essence that He has given to us and bring more glory to Him through this process. Our free will also establishes our condemnation if we choose to reject this light of Christ. However, as we cleave unto light, we receive more light; as we accept truth, we receive more intelligence; as we share love, God endows us with more of His love.

This is how God is glorified. As we accept God and his goodness, more love is created in the eternities, which is the essence of God’s spirit. Thereby, God receives more glory through our development in becoming more unified with him. Interestingly, the more unified we become with God, the more we also are edified by the goodness of others. Hence, jealousy and envy are incompatible with the Spirit of God.

There are three analogies that I like to use to demonstrate the concept of the Light of Christ. Each is far from perfect and has its own limitations, but I believe they are still helpful in understanding this principle.

The first I call wave theory. When two waves meet, they combine and become one bigger wave. However, each wave has its own frequency, or rate at which it moves, which also relates to the horizontal distance between the top and bottom of the wave. The goal, then, is to become in tune with God’s frequency so we are on the same wavelength with Him. In this process, He not only lifts us, but, to some small degree, we also glorify God.

The second example is light itself. I do not believe it is by happenstance that God frequently refers to Himself as the light of the world. Light is the source of life. It enables us to see and understand truth. Interestingly, Einstein’s theory of relativity teaches that time stops at the speed of light. Theoretically, God may exist in a dimension operating at the speed of light so that all things are present before Him: past, present, and future. That also is a great way to define truth, which is another way to refer to God.

Similar to the wave theory example, adding more light enhances the light that already exists. Turning more lights on in a room does not detract from the first light but simply adds to it. Using a match to light candles on a birthday cake only perpetuates and augments the flame from the match and brings more smiles to the faces of those present. Likewise, as we accept the light God shares with us, more light, truth, goodness, and love exist, which glorifies God.

I personally like the third example of an orchestra as mentioned in an earlier essay, in which a manufacturer of color printers ran an advertisement using a tune played by one instrument and then a few more, until a full orchestra was playing a symphony. The first tune was nice, but it kept getting better. Likewise, as we become united with God, we do not lose our own identity, but our individuality enhances the glory of God. A violin is complemented by an oboe and drums, each playing something a little different yet all following the conductor to make beautiful music. Likewise, if we follow the eternal conductor, our existence will enhance the quality of existence for others following God, to our mutual benefit and the glory of God. Additionally, even though the conductor is at one with the music they are creating, he and the musicians do not lose their personal identities.

Because the essence of God’s spirit exists throughout eternity in all things, He does not lose His own personal identity. He is an entity as individual as you or I. To this I personally testify. Similarly, we will not lose our identities as we become more unified with Him.

As we seek light and truth, we need to learn that there is one great truth, one great reality that transcends all other truths and incorporates them into one comprehensive whole. That truth is the atonement of Christ. Christ’s atonement is infinite and more encompassing than we realize. He created all things that exist by distributing and organizing that essence I call intelligence or the light of Christ into various creations. This spirit essence is intrinsically connected with light, truth, and goodness. It is why the elements and all creation obey the laws of physics. Because their nature comes from God, they consistently obey. Now how does this apply to the atonement?

Christ descended below all things to make all things subject to him. While Christ was in the Garden of Gethsemane, he bore the weight of all of the hurts and wrongs throughout the history of the world. Christ was fully human as well as divine, and the pain and anguish he felt was as real as the pain, miniscule in comparison, that we suffer when we are injured. His pain was so excruciating that he bled from every pore of his human body. No mortal could endure such agony. Christ was only able to live through this experience because he had power over death. Even then, he pleaded to have the bitter cup removed from him, if possible. Nevertheless, he submitted to his Father’s will and drank it up. (Luke 22:42).

Christ had a choice to make. He could escape the excruciating pain caused by sin throughout the world’s existence and the agonizing death by crucifixion, but instead, because of his love for God and for each of us, he chose to submit to God’s will and bear it. Christ used his free will and chose to become unified with love, compassion, and goodness while He was in the midst of suffering incomprehensible anguish caused by all of us, the very individuals for whom He had compassion, while suffering through this ordeal. What goodness! What love! How marvelous! How incomprehensible! No words can describe the wonder of it all.

Christ remained true to his essence while he carried the weight of the whole universe on his shoulders. He swallowed up all pain, suffering, evil, error, sickness, and even death itself, through the power of his infinite love. In this process, all things became subject to him because all things are created out of this essence. He can heal a broken heart, fix a ruined life, and raise us from the dead. Because he is so good, he is all powerful. His unity with the essence of God (love, truth, and goodness) makes all things subject to him because all things are created out of this essence or intelligence—the light of Christ—that remains in them.

The whole purpose of our existence is to become more like God by following Christ’s example and to develop our divine capacity to love so we can increase our unity with the Divine. God’s goal then is to convert us from our natural sinful state into an eternal loving state in unity with Him.

We need not become discouraged, thinking this is impossible, because it is not all up to us. In fact, it is a free gift from God, if we are willing to receive it and let God have His way with us. Now, that is the difficult part, but God will empower us to succeed as we strive to follow Him. He promises that if we seek Him, we will find Him and that He will bless us with His love to heal our souls as we follow Him. (Matthew 7:7-8). Once we feel God’s love and acceptance, He fills us with hope, which empowers us to move forward and endure difficulties.

Just like Christ, we have a choice to make. Will we listen to that voice inside us, the light of Christ, that tells us what is right and true, or will we ignore it and pursue other paths that are shallow and empty? The choice is ours. As we choose to draw closer to God, it becomes easier to follow Him. Just as a magnet has more effect on a piece of metal as it gets closer, God has more influence on our lives as we choose Him.

Some of the choices we must make may be very difficult. Will we follow the Savior and choose love and forgiveness while we are in the midst of being betrayed or falsely accused? Will we trust God enough to let go of a legitimate complaint and let Him fight our battles? Will we stand up and humbly, yet courageously defend the truth when it is unpopular? The issues are numerous yet very personal to each individual and must be faced as part of the refining process whereby God purifies our souls and brings us more into unity with Him. That is why we are told to rejoice in tribulation. (Romans 5:1-5). As we deal with challenges, we learn to rely more on the Lord and to trust Him so that He can convert us to become more like Him, and we can participate in His glory. The ancient Christian martyrs testified that they drew closer to their Savior as they yoked their life to his and suffered with him, many even in death.

The choice is ours, but as we choose to follow Christ, God will heal our souls of the emotional black holes that pull us down. He will fill us with His love and glory. It is well worth the effort. If we seek Him, we will find Him and bask in the joy of His love and glory.

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Essay 47 – Sacrifice the Need for Validation

Essay 47 – Sacrifice the Need for Validation

Looking back at my life, I realize that I spent a lot of effort trying to prove my self-worth. I have learned that responding to a need for validation is evidence we are on the wrong path, leading us away from God and His happiness.

When we were born here on earth, we were separated from God and the direct influence of His love. Some individuals refer to this as a veil or curtain of forgetfulness that keeps us from remembering our pre-earth existence with God. This separation from God and His love creates a void inside us that acts like a vacuum, drawing us in and making us self-centered.

Self-centeredness is the father of sin. Sin is nothing more than any action contrary to the will of God. It is God’s will that we become like Him, so any un-Godlike activity is sin. Consequently, all sin, in essence, is an expression of pride (our will versus God’s will). Pride is actually the only real sin. All sins are nothing more than pride expressing itself in various forms.

Dishonesty is usually motivated by a desire for approval or by selfishness. Decadent behavior results from a self-indulgent attitude. Violence is often an overreaction to something one is hypersensitive to or comes from a disregard for others. Vanity and the desire to be popular result from the craving to fill a void in our lives.

Interestingly, depression is a sister of pride because it often involves being too self-absorbed. Consequently, depression is the opposite side of the same coin as pride. Even trying to prove our self-worth through good works is a form of pride that is actually counterproductive. Improper behavior can usually be traced back to a desire to gratify some selfish impulse or to avoid some personal emotional issue. Interestingly, catering to any selfish interest only exacerbates the need for self-gratification. It does not solve the underlying cause but makes it worse.

Only God can fill the emotional hole inside us. As we engage in un-Godlike behavior, we move away from God, making the void in our life even greater. As we continue down this cycle of a self-centered approach to life, we become more miserable and unhappy until the quality of our life implodes, and we are left alone with nothing but ruined relationships.

There is, however, balance in the universe. So, along with the enticement to do evil, there is a comparable impetus to find God. Without this quest, we would not allow God to convert us to become more connected with Him. We need to be separated from God in order to exist in an environment where we are motivated to seek Him with sufficient intensity that we will allow Him to convert us. So, the very void that creates the environment for temptation and sin also acts as the impetus for positive change. This life is intended to be a metamorphosis in which we change and mature into the creature God desires us to become.

Change is often painful, so we resist it. Hence, we need an environment in which we are enticed by both good and evil. We choose what to follow. Hopefully, we learn from experience to choose the better part. Otherwise, we will relive our negative experiences over and over again and never resolve our issues so we will be able to move forward. The key to personal progress is seeking light and truth. The very emptiness inside us that draws us in to become self-centered acts as the catalyst to motivate us to turn to God. If we truly seek God, we will find Him, and He will convert us to become more like Him.

In this process of learning by the things we suffer, the Savior eliminates and offsets the consequences of our wrong choices. He lifts the burden (guilt) of our sins and also heals the effect (injury) sin has on us and on others. That is the miracle of the atonement. As we come unto Christ, he heals our souls by filling the void inside of us with his love. However, we must turn from a self-centered life to look out and up to God.

Consequently, whenever we respond to the void inside (a need for validation and control) instead of following light and truth, we pull in and away from God and His happiness. Are our actions being motivated by a fear of not being good enough, not being valued, or not being in control? If so, we need to let go and turn our hearts over to God so He can fill them. It is the only way to heal our souls. Otherwise, we will continue to live with our same old issues being expressed in a variety of ways. We progress toward God by facing our fears and not reacting to them. Instead, we need to choose goodness (light and truth) and let go of our fears. We need to respond to the inner voice that tells us to do what is right. As we follow that inner voice, we will learn to better recognize its promptings over time. However, we must first try to obey God’s commandments, which are similar to a parent calling to his child to get out of the street because a car is coming. Otherwise, how do we expect to recognize the whisperings of His Spirit if we ignore the warnings that He gives us?

God wants us to draw closer to Him. Once He has our attention, He will often whisper His will to us so that we will need to listen intently and draw closer to Him in order to understand the things that He whispers to us. As we draw closer and closer to God, we are thus able to understand His will more and more, and in the process, we become more like Him. As we come unto the Savior and follow him, we have more peace and happiness in this life, and after we leave this phase of existence, we will become joint heirs with Christ of all that our Heavenly Father has (see Rev 21:7). This is a much better outcome than seeking validation in our own way.

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