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What does submission to God look like?

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Recently, I came across a used copy of John Maxwell’s book The Difference Maker, a book about taking control and personal responsibility for our attitudes. I am very familiar with Maxwell’s works as they are particularly popular in management circles,  and I have read several of his bestsellers. After skimming through a few pages, I decided to bring the book home with me.

I have to say that I loved 99% of this book. Within its pages are numerous examples of the type of person that we all wish we were, the type of person that society elevates and the media promotes. The successful and always smiling, a.k.a. the beautiful people.

You know the type I’m sure: the person that chooses to be positive and sees good in practically every situation. The person that makes a conscious decision to not allow discouragement to defeat them. The person who takes charge of the situation. The upwardly mobile fighter that will not accept the status quo.

Yes…that person. The “I’ve got it all under control” person.

Which brings me to the 1% I did not like about this book. Reading it brought me face to face with the harsh reality that I am not always the type of person I just described. Truthfully, in some ways I seem to be very far removed from it.

And therein is the problem. None of us are perfect. All of us have flaws. We all fall short at times. In reality, there is not one person alive that is always happy, always successful, always positive, always in control of every situation.

Yet most if not all of us will inevitably compare ourselves to this impossible, unreachable standard. We can’t help ourselves because the pressure is on for all of us to conform. After all, who wants to be on the outside looking in?

Maybe I’ve been in denial, or perhaps I’ve been afflicted with the ‘ostrich syndrome’. In either case, I didn’t fully realize it until now. No, scratch that. Who am I kidding? I’ve known it for some time now. I am that person on the outside looking in!

Lately, I’ve been asking myself if any of this within my grasp. Can we reach the lofty status of the “I’ve got it all under control” person, or should we even care? Is it really possible to find that place of perfect contentment? Because if the Apostle Paul learned to be content in whatever state he found himself in, why can’t you and I? [1]

My brain says that I should give myself a pass. After all, I am now retired, and as my dear wife often reminds me, there’s nothing wrong with letting myself enjoy this next chapter. In fact, she refers to it as “having joy in the journey”. No deadlines, no stress, no performance reviews, no monthly reports, no business plans, and no budgets to worry about (except for my own).

So where is this seemingly mythical place called ‘contentment’? Having enjoyed it on an occasional basis (at best) , have I have given up the fight for it and chosen instead to simply walk away into the sunset? Have I gotten sidetracked? At times I truly wonder, and the very thought that this might be true scares the daylights out of me because this isn’t who I am!

I am NOT a “just going through the motions” kind of guy!

Now you may be asking yourself what all of this is about, so I guess I should explain. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what it means to be a real servant, or follower of God. In a sense, I’m trying to better understand where I am on this journey, where I think I should be, and how I fit into God’s plan. [2]

Of course, many will say that at my age what does any of that matter. Why be concerned about where I fit into God’s plans, let the younger people deal with that. After all, isn’t that what so many do when they reach the magical ‘senior adult’ age? Why bother comparing my life to the lives of other people? Isn’t that just setting yourself up for disappointment?

For example, when I read the life stories of incredibly passionate men of God such as David Brainerd, George Whitefield, D.L.Moody, and Leonard Ravenhill, I am struck by their lack of care and concern for the things of this present world.

While it is true enough that these men had their share of faults and shortcomings, meaning none of them ever reached perfection this side of heaven, their singleness of purpose and devotion to God alone is almost ‘other-worldly’.

So I wonder, is this what submission to God looks like? If it is, I am in serious trouble, because I don’t measure up to such lofty standards.

Like so many of you, I can be pretty hard on myself, believing that if God has some sort of celestial balance scale in which we are all weighed, my missed opportunities and times of outright disobedience far outweigh any positives that might be recorded somewhere to my ‘heavenly bank account’.

In truth, I simply want to finish well. I want to come to the end of my days content in the knowledge that my last years were my best years of service to our Lord. I do NOT wish to be just another person in the pew. The thought of just going to church, singing a few songs, listening to yet another sermon, and that being my Christian “experience” makes me want to run out the door screaming NOOOOOO!!!

I want my life to count. I want others to know that I cared enough to fight the good fight. I want to be an encouragement to others, especially to those who are desperately struggling for their spiritual survival. Mostly, what I want is for my life to be an example to others of what God can do when He takes a hopeless young man and completely turns his life around. I desperately want people to know about God’s plan of redemption.

Maybe that’s what submission to God looks like!

Ron

[1] Philippians 4:11

[2] Luke 9:3

Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice”! Philippians 4:4 NKJV

I’ll take the prayer of faith any day…

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I was recently made aware of someone that has been dealing with some on-going health issues. It was nothing catastrophic, but serious enough nonetheless.

I made inquiries about their present condition and was told “They’re hanging in there”. Not sounding very convincing, I asked again and was told “They’ll be alright”. Still not convinced, I decided to probe a bit deeper as to how they were really doing.

The person proceeded to say “well, they don’t like to profess anything negative”. Of course, I immediately recognized this as classic word of faith (WOF) teaching because one of their beliefs is that your words have creative power, and you can bring negative things into your life just by speaking them.

My response? I told them that I believed in professing the TRUTH, in telling it like it is. If I feel great I’ll say so. If I feel sick I will say so. Saying “I don’t like to profess anything negative” doesn’t do one thing to mask the pain and discomfort when that’s what I’m feeling.

If you want to drill down to it, it’s actually dishonest to do this!

I’m paraphrasing here, but WOF adherents believe that if you speak positive things like blessings and prosperity, blessings will be coming your way shortly. However, speak anything they interpret as being negative such as pain, disease, or sickness, and bad things are coming upon you.

Now, the purpose of this post is not to do a comparative analysis of all that’s wrong with WOF theology. I simply want to point out that the scriptures do not teach what the WOF adherents believe as it pertains to sickness or disease. For example:

Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord.  And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.   James 5:14-16

James is recognizing that there are sick people among the congregation. Why didn’t he launch into the benefits of positive confession if indeed that is all that is required? Or why didn’t he scold the people for confessing negative things like sickness, or for their apparent lack of faith?

Instead, James says to call for the elders of the church to pray for the sick. He did NOT say to call for the elders to speak a positive confession over them. He told them to pray a prayer of faith.

Could it be that James knew what he was talking about? Well, I’d like to believe he did! While James apparently did not become a believer until after the resurrection1, he had no doubt seen the power of prayer up close and personal.

What he did NOT see was a Sermon on the Mount about the benefits of a positive confession. Nor did he ever see Jesus admonish a grief stricken parent for their lack of faith, or for speaking negative words.

What he DID see however was the power of prayer in action.

And that my friends, trumps a positive confession any day of the week!

Be blessed!

Ron

1 John 7:5, Acts 1:14, 1 Corinthians 15:7, Galatians 1:19

He That Has Ears to Hear…

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He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches“.

Seven times in the first three chapters of Revelation, we read this particular phrase following a personal message from the Lord to each of the seven churches in Asia Minor.

 

Seven_churches_of_asia_1

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Jesus had a unique, personal message to deliver to each of these churches. To one was sent a message of encouragement, while to another a message of strong rebuke.

A couple of churches were admonished because they tolerated the teaching of a false gospel. Still another church was told to strengthen the things that remain,because they were about to die.

Whatever their unique situation was, Jesus called them out to receive his special message. Along with the message was the admonition to hear what the Spirit was saying to them. In other words, listen up because I’ve got something important to say to you!

Listening to the Spirit of God is something that receives a lot of emphasis in the church today. Rather than trusting in the sufficiency of scripture, many believe that God is speaking to them by using other means of doing so.

This is part of the reason why there are over 40,000 Christian organizations today. Everyone is hearing from God (they say), yet everyone is hearing something radically different!

Umm..is God the author of all this confusion? Nope!

For God is not the author of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints.       1st Cor. 14:33

Of course, we understand that God can and does speak to us in many ways. But here’s the kicker: God will never speak to you in any way, shape, or form that contradicts Scripture.

So that we’re clear on this, I’ll say again: if you believe God has impressed upon you, given you a dream or a vision, or communicated to you by any other method something that is not in agreement with Scripture, you have been deceived.

Which brings me to the gist of this particular post. Why is it that Christians are so willing and able to hear the enemy’s voice, to accept it without question, yet struggle to hear what thus says the Lord?

For example: according to Genesis 1:26-27, we are taught that we have been created in the image of God. No evolving from a blob. No crawling from the depths of the ocean. Created, formed, and fashioned in the image of God. Psalm 139:14 also says that we “are fearfully and wonderfully made“.

fearfully and wonderfully madeConsider for just a moment the complexity of our physical bodies. In all of the world there is nothing so incredibly amazing as the human body, a fact that speaks to the power and might of the Creator. Every aspect of our bodies, all the way down to the cellular and DNA level, paints a picture of just how fearfully and wonderfully they are made.

In spite of this, there are a number of Christians that question, that doubt, and just outright don’t believe this. This same group of “doubting Thomas’s” however appear to have no problem believing the devil when he whispers to them that they are stupid, ugly, worthless, and altogether unlovable.

I know so many Christians living in or near defeat because they have bought the outright lies of Satan. Always discouraged, almost depressed, little joy, even less hope. How in the world does this line up with the Abundant Life Jesus promised in John 10:10?

It bears repeating: why is it that some Christians are so willing and able to hear the enemy’s voice, to accept it without question, yet struggle to hear and receive what thus says the Lord?

Has society conditioned us to accept the negative as normal and forgo any hope of the positive? Does a negative confession seem more natural than a positive confession? If so, we are spending far too much time listening to the wrong voices.

I know a better way!

Maybe it’s high time we put on our spiritual eyes and ears and begin again to see and hear what the Spirit says to the churches. The Word of God, after all, is the Word of LIFE!

He who has an ear, let him hear!

Be blessed,

Ron