Five Keys to the 'Packed-Life' Puzzle – REACH for a Balanced Life

Brenda Allison

Hang On

We’ve all heard the term, mid-life crisis. But what about a mid-year crisis? I’m in the middle of one. Just as in a mid-life crisis a person finds themselves in a place and wonder how they got there. I’m finding myself in such a place and I don’t particularly like it. Why? My life feels out of balance.

So what’s the remedy? I’m using the REACH principal. It’s an acronym to help me remember to ‘REACH for a more balanced life.’

R is for Review. I’m reviewing the past year. Where did I get off track? It started innocently enough. Last summer I moved to a new house. That’s where packing out my life started. As I packed my house, I also started packing my schedule, telling myself it was temporary. I thought I had to ‘pack it all in’ to accomplish everything and at the same time move my household.

E is for Evaluate. I’m evaluating how packing for my move and telling myself it was ‘only for a time’ bled over into the rest of my year. My evaluation revealed some truly great and worthy endeavors were in the mix. It started with packing my schedule with training for a marathon, reading through the Bible in 2003, various training programs at work, and getting involved in lay ministry at Church, along with maintaining my graduate school schedule and normal weekly functioning. Yikes!

This brought me to the point of A, in my REACH for a more balanced life acronym. I need to Admit that even with all the worthy endeavors, now a year later, I am ‘packing in’ vacation. If one family vacation is good, then two must be better, and pack in a graduation trip with my daughter in between the two vacations. Wrong. This is insane. Even something as worthy as vacation has gotten out of balance in my life. I need to admit I am missing the point of vacation. The ‘routine panic’ of my life has even permeated vacation planning. I need to admit the truth that my soul, my spirit need a rest. I need to be recreated; and vacation that is not a time of recreation is a missed vacation.

I am also admitting that I am packing in the food because there’s not time to plan wisely. Besides with a packed out life, there’s no time, no energy, no motivation for planning good food choices. Even the best-laid plans for exercising can go awry when one has no mental, emotional or physical energy reserves left to function on.

So if I’m going to review, evaluate, and admit these things, the next logical step in the REACH acronym is C for Care. I must care enough to make change happen. First I must care enough to get back to the Bible reading habit of 2003. After finishing the Bible, the habit has slipped from its place of priority. I need to get back on my small group Church schedule of reading and journaling. I needed to care enough to cut out the training classes at work and at church. For the time being, enough is enough. Although my work is in the fitness industry and I have been training to teach fitness classes, I need to care enough to admit that in the process of all the training, I am losing the joy of my own personal workouts.

So this leaves me with only the H in REACH for a balanced life, Hang On, while having the courage to change. Now is the time to cancel the second vacation, cut back, scale down and do what is balanced and meaningful. I must listen to my inner voice, the one that has been told time and again, ‘this is just for a short time.’ I’m admitting it has been a year now; a year of packing out my schedule. I’m admitting a packed out life is no fun.

I encourage you to taste the joy of a mid-year evaluation. I’m cleaning up my life and it feels great. Just the thought of it lightens my step, and opens up the room. I can breath easier now. The weight is off my chest. I’ve admitted what my inner voice has been telling me. My life is too packed and it has become a habit. Wish me luck. I may need it. Old habits die hard, you know.

In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps. [Proverbs 16:9]

Has your life become overpacked?  You can find the right balance when you join us at our next New Life Weekend.

Guarding Your Heart and Mind

James Hutchison

One of the biggest struggles men have is living in a world where temptation is so constant. The life that God wants us to live as men of integrity puts us at odds with Satan. The Bible never tells us to attack the forces of evil, because we are not equipped to fight in the supernatural world. Instead we are called to protect ourselves from attack.
The good news is that God does not leave us defenseless.

Paul’s letter to the Ephesians 6:11 (NIV) says, Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devils schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world, and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God so that when the day of evil comes you may be able to stand your ground and after you have done everything, to stand.

We are called to protect our heart and our mind, in Proverbs 4:23 we read, guard your heart for it is the well spring of life,’ 2:11 says discretion will protect you and understanding will guard you, 4:13 says Hold on to instruction because it will guard your life.

So if you have not looked at the plan that you developed at Every Man\’s Battle, now would be a good time. The plan is your goal! Reflect on what you have been able to keep and what needs more attention. Don’t get discouraged by the things that continue to stop you from reaching that goal. In the book of James, he tells us that when bad things happen, not if, but when they happen that we should consider it pure joy, because whenever we face the trials of life God is testing our faith to develop our perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that we may become mature and complete not lacking anything.

Get together with your small groups, have some clean fun, and don’t get slimed.

If you haven’t attended Every Man\’s Battle yet, please click here for some information.
If you are married and have attended Every Man\’s Battle, we encourage you to attend our next New Life Weekend with your wife.

Prayer Perspective

Becky Brown

Have you ever been in a prayer meeting where someone prays like they know what they’re doing? Not that there is some college degree in prayer, but there are those who can pray in such a way that you know God is present and attentive, and when the person is done praying, they even look different! As I was growing up, the small church I attended held Wednesday night prayer meetings where we would gather in the sanctuary. Everyone would kneel at the pew, and one by one they would offer prayers, and I was allowed to hear their inmost requests presented to God. I could tell who was praying, not because I could see them, but I knew their voices and knew the loved ones for which they prayed. Of course, as a ten year old, I couldn’t wait till it was over and I could run around the church with my friends, but that experience has stayed with me because of the earnest way those people sought the Lord. And I wonder if I earnestly seek God? Do I present my inmost need to Him?

We live in a ‘satisfied’ culture. Credit card debt is a huge problem in this country and it continues to grow. With the seemingly available answer to our prayers in the form of a plastic card, do we really seek God in earnest to meet our needs? When do we really experience true hunger? Most of us use food to comfort, not to nourish, so we see the alarming rate of obesity in our society. The things we desire are determined by the commercials we see. When we go to God in prayer, even then the prayers are short, before we nod off to sleep. Our need for God is diminished by the gods we serve in our daily lives.

Prayer is the time we pause, focus on God, and receive word from Him. When was the last time you paused, focused on God, and received a word from Him? I don’t mean when someone else–your Pastor or Bible Study Leader prayed. When was the last time you prayed? My own prayer practices have attention deficit disorder written all over them! As a mom, counselor, and wife, I have so many things to do running through my mind, I get off track really fast! I have used different methods of prayer, listing requests, meditating on scripture, and patterned prayer and all have worked, for awhile. What I have realized is that it’s not how I do prayer; it’s that I do prayer!

Struggling with weight can present a real need, a need to be free from the burden that extra weight brings. When we are focused on the tasks of weight loss, prayer often is an afterthought.

There are many different books on prayer and they can be a real help in getting started. Realizing that prayer is an invaluable tool in your life is just the beginning. Begin to seek God in prayer today. If you are not in a regular prayer habit, begin by starting the day with 5 minutes of devotional reading, closing in prayer. Thank God for the many blessings in your life, present your requests, no matter how small! And seek to know His will for your life. Jesus tells us in Matthew 6:5-13 about prayer. Begin your day with this reading and start the habit of prayer!

Thoughts on Rest in Recovery

Bob Damrau

Say, ‘When’

A cartoon that recently got my attention depicted a client exclaiming to his counselor, ‘I’m learning how to relax, doctor—but I want to relax better and faster. I want to be on the cutting edge of relaxation!’ I smiled on the outside but a deeper sense of fatigue prompted a time of personal reflection. I was feeling overwhelmed by the demands of a major life transition. My behaviors appeared frantic, as if I was in a run-down between necessary activities and scheduled deadlines. I thought nothing was being done quite right and gave up on ever hearing the words, ‘You’re safe.’

This downward pattern of thought is a vulnerable place for anyone, but it is especially dangerous to an individual with compulsive tendencies. The temptation to give in to a quick fix presented itself as my way to escape from feeling out of control. It would have been easy to act out and medicate the seeming negativity, but I have learned to better manage situations like this in order to prevent that kind of relapse. I brought to mind a quote from Rollo May, who said, ‘It is an old and ironic habit of human beings to run faster when we have lost our way.’

Then I remembered the Lord Jesus’ words recorded in Matthew’s gospel, ‘Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.’ Did you know that Christ spoke this during a time of increased opposition to His ministry? That acted as the reality check I needed to identify the problem, break free from the insane thoughts, and find rest within the bounds of a healthier perspective.

The earthly lifestyle of our Savior is the prime example of living a balanced life. A colleague once said, ‘Jesus–the only person ever to be charged with saving the world—never got in a hurry.’ Just prior to preaching in Galilee, cleansing a leper, and healing a paralytic, the Lord ‘went out and departed to a solitary place’ (Mark 1:35). When the disciples finally located Him they said, ‘Everyone is looking for you’ (Mark 1:37). There were urgent matters to be addressed for sure, but He knew the limits of life in the flesh.

People teetering on the edge of burnout usually spend too much time and emotional energy caring for others and too little for themselves. That happens when we attempt to outwork and under-rest everyone we know, including God. I often wonder if Jesus would be hired by a lot of churches if His work habits were well known. My favorite movie is ‘Regarding Henry.’ Harrison Ford plays a powerful and arrogant lawyer whose life is drastically altered when he walks into the middle of an armed robbery and is shot in the head. His injuries leave this character with some long term cognitive deficits. Returning to his office, Henry’s secretary offers him a cup of coffee and cheerfully says; ‘Say when,’ as she pours the milk. The camera pans from the coffee cup to Henry and back again, without a word from him. When the secretary realized her disabled boss would not respond, she finished pouring the milk, handed Henry the cup and cordially said, ‘When you’ve had enough, you need to say ‘when.” Later in the movie, Henry is fed up with his old lifestyle of sex, lies and greed, and decides to change. As he walks by his secretary he exclaims, ‘I’ve had enough, so I’m saying ‘when.” I was that character—always on, ready and in control. It wasn’t until I experienced a traumatic illness that landed me in the hospital for an entire month that I began to come to terms with the fact that control is God’s realm and I needed to cast aside my plan and take on His yolk. That’s how I learned to say when.

Getting caught up in the fast pace of life is a certainty. A lack of rest can lower a person’s resistance to the place of despair. Any plan for recovery must include an appropriate amount of R & R, and Jesus, Himself, promises to give it. He simply requires that we come to Him. There, in His presence, is where I heard, ‘You’re safe.’

Need help finding harmony and balance in your life? Join us at our next New Life Weekend.

The Truth About Trauma, Abuse and Weight: Part 1

Brenda Allison

“You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free,’ (John 8:32) is one of
my favorite Bible verses. Long after memorizing it as a child, I
learned I couldn’t know the truth until I’m willing to know myself and
vice versa. This may be a truth that you already know, but it evaded me
until taking a Life-Span Development class in graduate school.

The truth is, abuse and trauma can cause [unless you are a’resilient’ personality type] a developmental lag.

I remember as a young mother going to a counselor, feeling like there was a ‘missing link’ in my life. I was 30-something and felt overwhelmed with parenting three children and the demands of running a home and being a wife. In truth I was a ‘rageaholic’ and a food addict. After the counselor summarized my life, including things like losing both my parents in a car accident when I was 15 years of age, I remember the counselor saying, “Adolescence is a critical time for something like that to happen.’ He likewise thought it was no small coincidence that my daughter was soon to turn 15 years old.

Years later in my undergrad work, I came to better understand delayed grief reactions, yet that day I thought, ‘Big deal, so what? What did that have to do with the fact that I am a mess?’ By this time in my life I had gotten quite good at anesthetizing myself with food, or raging until I felt better. My mind was incapable of seeing the connection of what I was feeling with what I was doing. I was far too split off to know what my counselor was talking about.

Today with my feet firmly planted in my middle years, I can see things my former blinded eyes had no knowledge or understanding. I do not write as someone who has mastered the way, but as someone who has been walking it, though often clumsily, for several decades of my life. I have seen darkness, but I have glimpsed a little light as well. I see a lot of people out in the world that are literally traumatized by things that have happened to them in their past and they are psychologically deficient. That is not an insult; it’s a fact. And yet they are trying to function in everyday life and cannot understand what is wrong or how to stop the madness.

The truth is sometimes you get hurt so bad, that you simply can no longer function.

That’s what it means to be traumatized, to have something so awful, so unbelievable, and so unspeakable happen to you that it literally throws you into a state of psychological damage. Trauma can cause you to be unable to function properly in relationships. That doesn’t mean you don’t function, and it doesn’t mean that you aren’t out there in the world attempting to function. We see the results in people’s lives of Satan’s dirty work; only he could author the forms of abuse and trauma many have lived through.

To be continued . . . .The story doesn’t end there. Part One has been the bad news; the truth part. Where’s the freedom part of ‘the truth will set you free?’ Here’s a preview for next month: I write this today to encourage you that freedom is a reality; it’s the best part of my story. It’s the best part, the good news; the freedom part of knowing truth. God wants us to function normally. He is Jehovah Rapha, the God who healed me. My life has changed. . . . .

The Truth About Trauma, Abuse and Weight: Part 2

If you have been a victim of abuse and are reading to make some healing choices, we would consider it our great honor to help you.  Please join us at our next New Life Weekend.

Maintaining Vibrancy in our Devotional Life

David Mackey

Growing up in the church, a constant theme was the importance of a daily devotional life. As I recall this came in one basic outline: Read the Bible daily every morning and pray. There seemed to be little variation in this edict, only a variation in how much of the Bible one read. Reading more was always better. Basically this was the quest and I failed miserably. For many years I rarely succeeded for more than a few days in a row following this type outline. And when I did read, many times, it was just reading’ there was nothing vibrant about it.

Good news!! Vibrancy can be experienced. I finally did discover that vibrancy could be found in one’s devotional life. What hindered me for so many years? Perhaps several things but I believe a primary hindrance can be found in one’s heart. Consider the heart. The heart is that part of our being in which we find our beliefs and values residing. In the church you often hear phrases like ” invite Jesus into our heart,’ and ”believe with all your heart,’ etc.

When it comes to our devotional life, what do we believe, or what value does a devotional life have? Consider just one belief that might hinder vibrancy. It might go like this, ‘God demands I have a devotional life in obedience to Him and in order for Him to keep me from relapse.’ Variations of this belief might be, ‘It is my duty to maintain a disciplined devotional life.’ Or ”without a disciplined devotional life I will not please God so he will not keep me from falling.’ There are many such beliefs that could hinder vibrancy. What would happen in one’s life if we believed that God does not REQUIRE a devotional life?! Rather God INVITES us to have a devotional life. What would a devotional life be like if we believed that the purpose of this invitation is deep intimate relationship with Him rather then a tool to prevent relapse? How would ones vibrancy change?

God, the almighty creator of all things, invites us to know Him as ‘Abba,” Aramaic for ‘Daddy’ (Romans 8:15-16). Jesus, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords calls us brother and friend (Mark 3:35 & John 15:14). If we believed we are invited into this kind of relationship, our devotional pattern might be different and lead to a great degree of vibrancy. Our devotional life may be more akin to pursuing friendship, brotherhood, and sonship. Vibrancy in these earthly relationships is not found in obedient, disciplined habits. Rather it is found as we pursue those relationships regularly and in many different ways. When we desire relationship with our friends, brothers, and Daddy we find unique ways to be in close contact. We don’t allow our busy schedule to hinder us. If we made this belief change, there will also be a change in how we pursue intimate relationship. Rather than one disciplined daily habit we likely will add many creative and changing ways to stay in touch, throughout each day. Consider some ideas listed below:

Read small amounts of scripture several times a day.
Write and pray your own Psalms.
Pray Psalms from scripture that express your heart’s joy and sorrows.
Include worship and praise music in your listening habits.
Read the worshipful writings of early church fathers.
Schedule a weekly 2 to 4 hour time to just meditate, listen, and pray.
Schedule personal weekend retreats.
Find a church whose emphasis is worship and relationship.
Read a different translation of the Bible.
Listen to the Bible on CD as you drive throughout the day.

All of the above are tools and activities that can be used to know and hear God. Vibrancy will be found when done with the purpose of intimate relationship with God. Don’t miss the point. Disciplined and daily devotions should be developed in a believer’s life. This seems to be especially true as we continue to win the battle. If this discipline is rooted in obedience and approval from God, the disciplined devotional life can easily become a routine of our mind. If, however, our purpose is toward a brother and friend relationship with Jesus, a son relationship with the Father then our devotional life will be quite different. It can be vibrant and it will likely grow as we discover creative ways to pursue God through out each of our days.

For more help on this topic see Being Christian: Exploring Where You God and Life Connect.

Working Through Hurts in a Relationship (part 4)

Dottie Pickett

Forgiveness and Freedom! As you may know, I’ve been writing a
series of articles on Working Through Hurts in Relationships.  The
steps I have already covered include: identifying your feelings
surrounding the situation, looking at the situation and person who hurt
you in context, and finally, examining how you may have contributed to the problem. The fourth step in working through hurts is forgiveness. I believe that we as Christians talk about forgiveness a lot, but often don’t do the work of forgiveness.

Forgiveness is one of the main things that sets Christianity apart from the world. The world says don’t forgive unless the other person is sorry for what they did. God says forgive no matter what (Mt. 18:21&22, Col.3:12 &13). God knows that forgiveness equals freedom for those doing the forgiving. In the world’s way of forgiveness, our freedom depends on another person. I love what Anne Lamott says about un-forgiveness, ‘it’s like drinking rat poison and waiting for the rat to die.’  When there’s un-forgiveness we almost always suffer more than the person we are not forgiving.

Some people use forgiveness as an avoidance tactic. They forgive people without giving thought to what the person did or how it affected them. In the Steps to Freedom in Christ’ by Neil Anderson, there is a wonderful forgiveness prayer that reaches deep into one’s heart rather than glossing over painful feelings. The prayer goes as follows:

‘Lord, I forgive (name the person) for (say what they did to hurt you) even though it made me feel (name all the painful memories and feelings).’

Once you have dealt with every offense that has come to your mind, and you have honestly expressed how that person hurt you, then concluded by praying:

‘Lord, I choose not to hold any of these things against (name) any longer. I thank you for setting me free from the bondage of my bitterness toward (name). I choose now to ask you to bless (name). In Jesus name, amen.’

I really believe that leading people into forgiveness is probably the most significant work that I do as a therapist. In my practice, it often seems that the person that my clients have the most trouble forgiving is themselves. I know there is little else that makes Satan happier than when we play God and hold things against ourselves or others.
(II Cor.2: 10 &11)

Just because we’ve made the choice to forgive someone, doesn’t mean we should automatically plunge into trusting them again. (John and Henry make an important distinction between forgiveness and trusting.) Certain boundaries may need to be set so we don’t continually get damaged by the same people over and over.

Let us walk together in the freedom of forgiveness. God bless you.

On our own we cannot forgive–this is a work of God’s Spirit in our hearts.  If you need some help forgiving the painful hurts in your life, we invite you to join our Forgiving the Unforgivable group at our next New Life Weekend.

The Meaning of Stress and How to Live with Less of It

Julie Davis

‘Life is stressful.’ It seems that this is a common statement nowadays. We go about our daily activities accepting traffic, late appointments, long lines and noise as a part of life. Unfortunately, heart attacks, migraines, depression and addictions are also a part of life, and many research studies have concluded a link between stress and these physical ailments.

God’s purpose for stress:
Stress was designed to keep us motivated. Before grocery stores, motels, and clothing outlets, stress from nature and physical needs kept us working fields and animals in the summer so that we would be clothed, fed and sheltered in the winter.

Man’s abuse of stress:
Most of us do not have to worry about our next meal or clothes on our back, yet we are more stressed than ever. Modern society applies a lot of pressure to look, feel, think and behave certain ways. We strive to live longer, maintain beautiful bodies, drive faster cars, raise perfect children and manage successful careers; and we stress ourselves out in the process.

The cost:
There is nothing wrong with wanting a comfortable life; but at what cost? Every choice we make has an emotional, physical, spiritual price tag. We work long hours, take care of others, focus on what we don’t have; and the cost is neglect of God, family and our health.

Reclaiming serenity:
God doesn’t want us to live all stressed out! We can’t do his work when we are tired, sick, or depressed. So how can we reclaim God’s gift of peace and serenity? Here are some tips that may help. If you find yourself unable to de-stress on your own, if you can’t pull out of ‘the blues’ or if you worry constantly, you may need to find a pastor or therapist to help you.

(Call 1-800-NEW-LIFE to find a counselor in your area or to schedule an over the phone appointment with a Christian coach).

Stress puts the body on ‘red alert,’ ready for action. Without exercise, a revved up adrenaline system taxes the immune system causing sickness and disease. Find an activity you enjoy and get to it!

With modern technology, most of us are far removed from growing and living things. Gardening, bird watching, grooming a horse, and playing with the dogs are all ways to re-connect with nature.

Not only drink a lot of it, but lay in it! Studies show that soaking in a hot bath can relieve stress up to 60 percent.

Learn to play a musical instrument. Even at the beginner level, playing the piano or guitar or whatever will calm you down (at least it may make you and others around you laugh!).

Learn to say this valuable word.

Most people are living in the past (sadness, guilt, depression) or living in the future (stress, anxiety, worry). What about right now right here? ‘Carpe diem, seize the day,’ is as sound a philosophy today as it was 1,000 years ago. We must learn from the past and prepare for the future, but living is right now, right here.

Having good relationships ensures you will have social support, which is critical in reducing stress. Listen to people, be more empathetic, more tolerant. Involve yourself in family, church, activity groups.

Serenity Prayer:
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I can not change; the courage to change the things I can; and the wisdom to know the difference.


The Other Side of 'The Father Wound'

Joe Dallas

Much has been said, in recovery circles, about the ‘Father Wound’ ‘ that is, the effect a poor relationship with Dad can have on a man’s future. On the one hand, I can say without hesitation it’s all true. If there is one single element I’ve found in common among the men I’ve counseled, it’s the proverbial ‘Father Wound.’ And yet, now that I’m facing the challenges inherent in fathering a son, I’m painfully aware of the other side of the story.

It was so easy, sixteen years ago when I married my wife and inherited a stepson, to talk about what fathers should or shouldn’t be. I was new to the game, the proud step-father of a lovably energetic five year old boy. Huge mistakes, mostly mine, hadn’t yet been made. His adolescence was years off, so our days were playful and I was his hero, snatching him up after school for bowling, football games and junk food. No wonder it was so easy for me to look critically at older fathers. I was determined never to become one.

Since then, the boy I loved has become the man who’s forgiven me. We jumped into the power struggles and mutual rage every father/son relationship is doomed to, and I careened from rigid strictness to cold fury to indifference, depending on which battle we were fighting. We weathered some tough years, re-bonded, and today I couldn’t be prouder of him, or of us, when I see the outcome.

Dad is that enormous figure
assigned to us
who will probably, for better or worse,
affect us more profoundly
than anyone else in life!

But happy ending or not, I know there are things I said and did to him that were damaging, and can’t be undone. To some degree, they’ll affect him and the way he sees life and people. So like all sons, he could write his own book, delivering a rather mixed report card to the old man. I know, too, that what I didn’t say or do, and should have said or done, can’t be compensated for. In short, I understand more than ever how difficulties between fathers and sons come about.

And more than ever, while I stress the need to examine our wounds and deal with whatever anger we may have towards Dad, I also see and stress the need for a forgiving heart.

There’s a time for anger, and I’ll wager you’ve been reluctant to recognize, much less legitimize, yours. I remember too well the first time I admitted to myself how enraged I was with my own father, and how blasphemous and childish I felt. But it was a crucial beginning. Dad is that enormous figure assigned to us who will probably, for better or worse, affect us more profoundly than anyone else in life. So your relationship with him may well play into what you’re dealing with now, including your anger. ‘Be angry, and sin not’, Paul advised. (Ephesians 4:26) It’s allowed. If you were wronged, you were hurt; if you were hurt, your anger is justified. So let it come.

Then, in due time, let it go. Because as surely as you need to express and resolve your anger, there’ll be someone else, someday, who’ll need to do the same with his anger towards you. And you, like all of us, are subject to the laws of sowing and reaping.

Be sure to sow forgiveness while you can. You will, unquestionably, be grateful it’s there to reap when you need it.

For help with forgiveness and anger please join us at our next New Life Weekend.

Slave to Creditors

Excerpted from Every Man Ministries by Kenny Luck

There was a time when I needed an overhaul. It happened about 10 years ago when I was a credit-card company’s dream customer! My gold card fed my appetite for all sorts of ‘needs.” Clothes, birthday and anniversary trips, and lavish dinners out were all benign events for which I supplied perfect justifications. Christmas gifts, home improvements, and repairs on my snazzy foreign sports car became part of my lifestyle. And just as reality should have slapped me in the face, additional lines of credit would mysteriously arrive.

I started to earn more money, but I also started to believe my own rationalizations regarding my finances. I trusted our credit cards more than I trusted God. I certainly didn’t have the faith to believe that if we gave our 10 percent, He would make the other 90 percent work for us. So I gave less to the church and spent more on myself. I refused to deny my family any desire. I ignored my wife, Chrissy’s urgings to tighten our financial belts, which only accelerated our insidious spiral into financial bondage. All of the turmoil caused tremendous amounts of anxiety that remained invisible to outsiders but was visibly and verbally incinerating our home and marriage at the end of every month.

10 years ago I was a
credit-card company’s
dream customer!

One night, following a lively discussion with Chrissy about our messed up finances, I happened to open my Bible. My eyes fell to these words: ‘The borrower is servant to the lender’ (Proverbs 22:7). Seven words, seven tons of impact. I was a slave ‘ to my creditors. I had also enslaved my family because of my inability to say no to myself. Worse, my character deficiency had moved God away from the center of my life and replaced Him with financial anxiety. This was a form of idolatry. That truth kindled my repentance and a desire to change, which I confessed to my wife.

I also sought help from friends. Not financial help, but prayer and counsel regarding our precarious financial situation. I can remember weeping in front of my close friends after I disclosed that we had rung up twenty thousand dollars in credit-card debt. I was embarrassed in every way, but I was past caring. I was determined to do what it took to get honest with myself and with the mess I had created. The only way I knew to accomplish that was to humble myself before God, my wife, and my buddies and ask for their help. I remember saying, ‘Whatever it takes, Lord.’ Simply put, if that meant living with one car, so be it. If it meant giving to the church when it made no sense, I would give. If it meant submitting myself to an austere monthly budget for two years to get out of debt, that too, was what I would do.

 I became the RICHEST of all men
because, deep inside,
I was committed to the course!

That day, the last major bastion of control fell into God’s hands, and His victory was both humbling and liberating. Although I was awash in debt, I became the richest of all men because, deep inside, I was committed to the course.

What bastions have you erected against God’s goodness and blessing in your life? Most men can name them in a nanosecond Gad has already been speaking to them, convicting them that their priorities are seriously out of line. God’s message, and mine, is that those walls have to fall ‘ for the sake of His kingdom.