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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

“Why can’t people just be nice…?”

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That was the comment I received from my wife this morning as we were out enjoying a nice Christmas day walk, relishing the sunshine and warmth of 73°. Sorry, I couldn’t resist…IMG_20180612_055103

I had asked her if she had given any thought yet to 2019, and if there was anything she had hopes for in the coming year. True to her nature as the kindest, most gentle person I’ve ever known, she just wants people to treat one another with kindness.

As she pointed out to me, there is so much anger, malice, and evil in this world today that Christians can’t just talk about love any longer, but must demonstrate love for one another.

Listening to her this morning, I was reminded of a preacher by the name of Paul who gave us an entire chapter on the importance of love. You can find this amazing teaching in 1st Corinthians, chapter 13.

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.

 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.  Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.  1st Corinthians 13:1-7   ESV

Understanding that Paul was given great faith and power, whereby he did many great miracles, only serves to heighten the importance of his teaching about love.

You see, Paul the Apostle understood that the foundation of the Church was love. Going back to John 3:16, we know that to be true because of these words that Jesus spoke.

For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life”.

Jesus came because of love, served God and man in love, and ultimately gave his life out of love for you and I. Jesus is the head of the Church, and he built, and continues to build his Church on love.

To treat people with respect, to love them as Jesus does, or as my sweet wife would say “just be nice”, requires us to walk humbly before the Lord. It requires us to live our lives in daily submission to Him who gave his best for us.

I hope that going forward all of us will see the importance of being nice, treating one another with respect, and living our lives in a manner that brings honor to our God.

Be blessed,

Ron

 

A Tale of two Paths

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The Path you have chosen.

The Path that has been chosen for you.

path

Photo by Alex Iby on Unsplash

I’ve always been somewhat envious of those who carve out their own career path in life. Of course, I suppose all of us do this to a certain extent, whether intentional or not.

I’m referring however to those individuals who are driven to the point of mapping out their lives, setting specific goals, and then working their tails off to achieve those goals.

I’m sure you’ve heard someone talk about how all they ever wanted to do was to accomplish this or that, and years later they finally realized their dreams.

There’s something very special about a person who can maintain such discipline, especially from the perspective of a lot of us who don’t seem to have that specific gene in our DNA.

goals

Photo by Estée Janssens on Unsplash

When I was much younger, I too thought I had my life mapped out. I dreamed of making a career in the outdoors as a professional bass fisherman. If that didn’t work out my back up plan was to be a writer, a dream I still wish to pursue.

As is often the case however, things didn’t turn out the way I had envisioned. A little thing called LIFE got in the way, and I said goodbye to fishing and hello to a real job and real responsibilities.

In spite of the twists and turns, the ups and downs, and a few “falling off the cliffs” thrown in for good measure, one day God came knocking on the door of my heart.

And I’ve never been the same since.

It was obvious right from the start that God had another plan for my life. If you’ve ever sensed that God has called you to a higher purpose, then you understand what I’m saying.

When you sense that call, your perspective on life changes because you come to the realization that you are part of something much bigger than anything your own plans could ever accomplish.

When you yield to the call, you are relinquishing control of your destiny and placing it firmly in His hands. And when you take that final step of submission, that’s when it hits you: Someone much higher and much greater than you has had a plan for your life all along.

heavenly sky

Photo by Jakob Owens on Unsplash

This is not to say that allowing God to call the shots is always an easy thing to do, because it is not. There is a lot of fear in letting go of the reigns, and I have observed (and learned) that this is actually a work in progress.

Yet there is also a great calmness that comes over us when we allow the Master to take control. A peace that passes all understanding is how Paul referred to it when preaching to the Philippian church.

And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.  Philippians. 4:7

Perhaps you’re in a place where your life plans are just not working out the way you thought they would. Who knows, maybe you’re at the point where you’re ready to start over with a brand new plan.

If you are, I pray that you will give God an opportunity to show you the plan that He has for your life. Give Him the chance to show you the difference between you charting your own course, or carving your own path, and Him choosing the best path for your life.

I guarantee you that you will not be disappointed!

Be blessed,

Ron