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TITLE: Sit, Talk to Me: Chp1 - Foundations ... Where do we Start?
By Hiram Claudio

This is the first chapter of a book I am writing. It deal with many of the common, though deep and troubling, challenging issues we all face in life. My goal with this first chapter is to lay the ground rules or the foundations of how any of life's issues should be faced. Thanks for your time!
“Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”

Matthew 6:31-34

It really does seem that life is harder today, doesn’t it? Every generation faces unique challenges. This prompts each one to believe they have to address issues previous generations hadn’t seen.

And yet, it seems fair to say that the current day in which we live is unparalleled. Because of our technological advances, we face issues that quickly become global. Information from anywhere in the world can be anywhere else in the world in moments. Subsequently, we process our daily lives with amounts of information previously not thought possible.

So whether we are dealing with specific difficulties that arise in our lives or just trying to navigate what now passes for a normal day, ours is a unique time. Our world is one filled with unrest on so many levels. From political battles, to financial turmoil, to international strife, finding a stable place, even mentally, can be tough. And yet, when problems arise close to home, in your family or in your heart, they can captivate your thoughts unlike anything else.

So we face our issues and try to find solutions that quickly move us to better days. But problems never occur in a vacuum. Its always important to understand the context of the issue that you are facing. Its good to have some understanding of how you came to find yourself in a present dilemma. Knowing the journey into a mess can be very helpful to not only finding a way out but to hopefully creating safeguards to prevent returning to the mess again.

But understanding the context of the problem is not the only vital element. It is crucial that we also examine what is the context of truth for us. What is it that we believe? What do we accept as truth? What things or behaviors are allowable or excusable? How do we explain confusing things that arise? Before any problem can be answered, we need to understand the overall context that will end up framing the answer. This will say a lot about what possible solutions can be considered.

For example, let’s say you believe that if you do the right things, do your best to serve the Lord and follow His teachings as best you can, that your life will be blessed abundantly. Most reading this would probably agree. But what is the context or definition of ‘blessed abundantly?’ Does that mean your life will be free of any challenges? If so, what happens when challenges arise anyway (notice I didn’t say if)?

When we face issues, how do we approach them? Is solving the immediate pain all that matters? Is our initial focus to look externally to assign fault, doing all we can to avoid the notion that part of the problem in my life could … me? All of these questions, and a few others, are key in understanding the context from which you see not only life’s issues but life in general.

Truth is, most people have tried to lay wholesome foundations in their lives. It really is the norm to want a moral, decent life. So we tend to embrace godly principles of how to treat others and of what is most important to us. However, when problems arise, especially deep ones, we can still be shaken. There are moments that can cause us to question things we have held close for many years.

In those times, it can be helpful to ask why. Many experience having long standing, and solidly biblically based, life standards get tossed aside when certain difficulties appear. Having things go deeply wrong externally can bring us to discard truths we have held internally, in some cases, since childhood. They can force a question … were these life principles, the ones we thought we built our life upon, truly our foundation? Were they what I was building my life upon or … was something else more important?

I believe that when issues appear, whatever the foundations are in our lives become evident. We might attempt to convince others, and ourselves, that difficult circumstances changed what we once held dear. But closer to reality is that the troubled times unmasked them. Problems don’t often create weakness in us but instead reveal weakness that exists. Challenging circumstances, crossroad decision moments tend to provide unique glimpses into how we view life. They provide visible evidence of otherwise hidden things; like our perceptions of good and evil, right and wrong. They expose how we see ourselves and … how we see God.

Please don’t misunderstand me. I’m not saying when difficulties arise, that seeking relief or an immediate solution is bad. But since these issues tend to reveal shortcomings or cracks in the foundation of what we believe, it is important to address those as well. Fixing the immediate problem may not address the deeper issue. Now I know, when we get into a bind, our levels of frustration and irritation rise very high. But I wonder how much of the irritation we feel is actually caused by the existence of the problem? I wonder how much is because of the way we look at life? Are we taking a bad situation and piling onto it a bad view of life as well?

This all comes down to a simple question. What are the highest principles in your life? What is the source of all truth? What are your deal breakers? And when issues arise, the question further becomes … what can you take? What can bring you down?

1 Corinthians 10:13 states, “No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.” Everyone of us faces things in life that could bring us down. To ‘temp’ means to lure or to entice, to try or to test. And we are told this is a common component in the human experience. It is normal.

But the portion of this scripture that can represent the greatest challenge is where we are told that with every temptation there is “a way of escape.” This is the ‘no excuse’ clause for Christians. Its interesting to me that we often exhort one another to be strong and stand firm in the face is temptation (and this is good to do). Yet here, the strength that is lauded is called “a way of escape.” Sometimes, strength is measured not by what you are able to take but what you refuse to remain part of. Not by what you choose to endure but what you choose to flee. In Christ, I always had another choice to make.

And the “way of escape” is there so we can “bear it.” We are given the way out so we can remain firm and strong in the convictions that form our godly foundations. It is provided so that we won’t be … “overtaken.” When we embrace the escape from temptation, we are doing much more than just avoiding the consequences of a poor choice. We are making statements. We are declaring that which we refuse to accept as truth, as comfort, or as relief. Even if the poor choice temptation offers feels good.

What a Christian truly believes about this verse, and ones like it, shape the foundations that guide one’s heart. And they will impact the various problems that arise in our lives as well as the solutions we’ll be willing to consider. It is vital for me to establish this right from the beginning given the nature of where this book travels. I know that many deal with very real pain, both physical and emotional. And relieving that pain at any cost, especially when it has been prolonged, can seem permissible. But one foundation block I will build upon as we deal with very real issues is the flaw in that thinking. And the major flaw is that one phrase … at any cost.

This truly is a battle. And, as so many have written, this battle begins in our minds. Proverbs 23:7a reads, “For as he thinks in his heart, so is he.” We need to understand how vital our thought life is to our ability to navigate victoriously through life’s difficult seasons. To coin a phrase from a current movement in today’s news, our foundation thoughts … occupy us. They are more than just present, they take up residence and, as this verse declares, will define us. The bottom line is that whatever occupies you will eventually consume you. Idle thoughts tend to not stay idle if left to themselves. That’s why the Apostle Paul, in 2 Corinthians 10:5, teaches us “casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.”

There is a common phrase used when someone is trying to get you to focus and stop daydreaming. The phrase is … ‘get your head out of the clouds.’ While focusing one’s thoughts is good, when it comes to where your mind and heart travel, I want to suggest you ignore this advice. I want to encourage you to actually keep your head in the clouds. Colossians 3:2 tells us to “Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth.”

This verse is not license to forget the realities, or responsibilities, of our daily lives. Yet, at the same time, we need to also remain mindful of where our purpose is. It is not on earthly things but on accomplishing heavenly things while here on Earth. With this as a foundation principle, your approach to addressing the difficulties that arise will be very different than one who looks at this world, and this life, as all there is. This isn’t a call to be ethereal loons who are incapable of being relevant in today’s society. But our standard approach to everything in life, especially life’s challenges, must be based on ideas that perhaps won’t find comfort in this world.

Paul further elaborates on this thought in a letter to the church at Philippi. “Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.” – Philippians 4:8. When your thoughts are occupied with these things, your whole outlook falls in line. This becomes especially vital when issues begin to mount in your life. Meditation is not something that just happens to you. It’s an intentional act you must choose.

This is how foundations are constructed. And these foundations shape the context from which our truths form as well. This context provides the insight we use in dealing with everyday situations and how we interpret life when the sun is not shining. In this book, I’ll attempt to be very straightforward and not oversimplify very real issues. But, I also will not avoid the plain truths either, ones that are often … simple. We often discard God’s simple precepts, saying they don’t apply or aren’t relevant, when what we are actually doing is overcomplicating the things we are going through.

I will try to be fair in addressing various challenges that many face. But I will also look back to the foundation blocks that should be a consistent part of our Christian experience. So, in dealing with any issue, here are the premises from which I will proceed:

1. In every situation, there’s a way out. A key premise to resolving any problem you find your life in is that … is can be resolved. No matter how much of a mess it is, the Lord can take any collection of ashes and turn them into beauty.

2. Not only is there always a way out, there’s always a godly way out. All too often, we try and fix things in our lives by means that do nothing but make them worse. God can restore order in your life. And He doesn’t need to create more chaos to do it. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6). His way IS the way … and the way out too.

3. Jesus can be followed. We often agree that the Lord’s ways are best but feel it’s not possible to follow them. Nonsense! The strength the Master provides is real. He has promised to always walk with you. This is key. The Christian life was never intended to be a solo flight. Additionally, we were never meant to drive. We are to … follow.

4. The stuff the happens inside you is more important that the stuff that happens on the outside. Don’t get me wrong, the different things that can swirl around us matter. But what happens on the inside matters more. When troubles come, what happens to our foundations? Do they stand firm? Or do they crumble? Dealing with the outside situation is important. But facing the turmoil going on inside you is just as vital, if not more so.

5. The highest purpose in my life is to love God. The wonderful thing about this is that we can do so many things in life that help fulfill this purpose. The point here though is that any action we take, any step in any direction, needs to be evaluated against the question, ‘does this demonstrate that I love God?’ Especially since Jesus said, “If you love Me, keep My commandments.” (John 14:15).

This is our starting point. These are the foundations upon which any solution will be built, from which any issue will be discussed. So let’s deal with some real issues, shall we?
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