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Entries in surrender (2)

Wednesday
Apr172013

good intendifications 

Good intentions. We all have them. Mine usually revolve around learning something new, applying it to my life, making myself better, and then using that growth to help other people. It sounds pretty simple when I put it down on screen like that. Makes me wonder why it sometimes feels so hard

The thing is, good intentions are essential to improving your life. You have to have a plan. It's unavoidable. You have to know where you're going if you have any hope of getting there. That's intention. And if you want your destination to be good, the steps you use to get there have to be good. Good intentions. No one makes a good meal from a bad recipe or bad ingredients.

The reason it sometimes seems so hard is because our own good intentions aren't enough. We can't see the road far enough ahead, and so we can't know when things are going to get dicey or go south or veer to the side. That's why it's important to temper our intentions with wisdom and faith and the strength of the Holy Spirit.

Wisdom will get you further than almost any other tool in your box. King Solomon was given a choice of anything he wanted. "Just ask," God said, "and it will be yours. No strings attached. Tell me." Solomon could ask for immortality, or the wealth of every nation, or control of all the lands of the Earth. Instead, he asked for wisdom.

God was so impressed by the request, He gave Solomon greater wisdom than any man who had ever lived, or would ever live. And funny enough, because of that wisdom Solomon got all of that other stuff anyway! Plus more and more and more than he ever could have imagined before.

One of the culminating works of that wisdom is the book of Proverbs in the Old Testament. It contains wisdom beyond measure, a treasure unequaled on Earth!

Dave Ramsey—radio host, author, financial and business leadership guru, and solid Christian man—says in his Financial Peace University course, "There are 31 chapters in the book of Proverbs. If you read one a day, in a month you'd have the equivalent of a Masters course in finance." 

Beyond that, Proverbs can give you a daily dose of wisdom that will change every aspect of your life, from money to relationships to running a business to achieving better health. Go to BibleGateway.com and type "Proverbs" into the search engine. You can pick any translation you want, including plain ol' modern day English, and start learning more and more and more about God's power in every aspect of your life. 

It should be noted, also, that Solomon's quest for wisdom was not limited to spiritual works. He not only studied the writings of Godly men, but the wisdom of other cultures as well. He poured over texts from ancient cultures, and used his "discerning heart" to find God's wisdom hidden there. And then he applied that wisdom to what he knew of God's Word, and used it to structure and live his life.

Remember, according to John 1:1-18, God's Word not only predates the written works, but was present in the very beginning of creation. In fact, God's Word was God Himself! And that Word became flesh, which we know to be Jesus Christ. 

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning.

John 1:1-2

The Word isn't just contained in the pages of your Bible. You can look all around you, at the whole of the world, and if you apply your discerning heart through prayer and study, you can see God's wisdom everywhere. Learn and grow from it. 

Faith seems to be one of those enigmatic concepts that confounds and infuriates people (me included). My own struggle with faith is that I haven't had a clear definition of it in my head and heart. I want to believe, and I want that belief to empower me, but I seem to always forget about faith when it comes down to the grit and grime of my day. 

Faith is more than just "belief." It is belief, but also trust. Above all, though, faith is obedience. 

To start building more faith, you start with wisdom. Start looking at the world around you, studying books and films and even television shows with an intensity for digging wisdom out of every crevice where you can find it. 

The act of looking for and discerning wisdom in everything, studying everything and praying for increased wisdom, will feed your faith and bring some added benefits as well. Proverbs 21:21 says:

Whoever persues reighteousness and love finds life, prosperirty and honor.

Proverbs 21:21

As you start seeing God's Word all around you, and start seeing the results of it in your daily life, your faith starts to increase. And it only takes a wee bit of faith to do a great deal. It's a seed, and it grows as it is nurtured and cared for. That nurturing comes from pursuing righteousness and love. It comes from seeking wisdom.

The Holy Spirit is the ingredient I was missing most when I was struggling to get a grip on my life. And, when I find myself struggling again, I can usually trace the struggle back to my movement away from the Holy Spirit.

When Christ died, He told His disciples that he would be moving on, going back to His place in the Kingdom of God. But He would send another to be with us. 

16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever—

John 14:16

That advocate is the Holy Spirit. The third person of God Himself. He dwells with us, in us, all around us. The Holy Spirit is the source of wisdom and the power of faith. Empowered by the Holy Spirit, we can do anything!

But we have to invite Him in. He's there, waiting on the edges, waiting for us to say, "Take it. Take control. I surrender." And once He's invited, He smiles, rolls up His sleeves, and gets to work.

Trouble is, we can uninvite Him. We see all the good stuff happening and we say, "OK, great! I'll take it from here!" And we plow into His work, making a real mess of it all.

Or worse, we see things going a different way than we might have planned or wanted and we yell, "NO! This isn't what I want! I'm taking over!" And then we jump into the muck and get ourselves nice and dirty, and lose sight of the fact that God sees further down the road than we do. We're stuck here, wallowing in the mud puddle, when God was just trying to get us through it so we'd have a smoother, easier path on the other side.

We've been given free will, and it's been both a blessing and a curse. We're free to say, "No thanks, I'll take care of this on my own." Or we're free to say, "I surrender, God. Please, fill me with your Holy Spirit. Please lead me to your righteousness and your love."

It's an invitation we have to make over and over, because we keep revoking it over and over. 

As we search for wisdom, as we increase our faith, we must also remember to invite the Holy Spirit, to surrender to Him, to give Him the decision making power in our lives. We have to reaffirm it, over and over, because it's always our choice. 

It's not easy sometimes, to turn it all over. Especially since we often can't see what's going on, where it's all going, where the "good stuff" lies. All we tend to focus on is the bad, the hard, the painful. We forget that none of this lasts forever. We only see what's happening right now, and can't even imagine it getting better.

But it does. It can. It will. 

Good intentions aren't enough, though. Not ours, anyway. A remarkable life, filled with joy and prosperity, comes from surrender to the intentions of God. We can live our Intended Life. The steps are easy. They just look hard.

If you want to live your Intended Life (notice how I keep capitalizing it? almost like a brand or something), God has it all mapped out for you. If you need help, need a nudge, need advice or consultation or just someone to complain to, drop me a note. Use my Contact button, up top, or leave a comment below. We'll work through it together. I'll pray for you and with you. I'll give you whatever advice I have, and share with you whatever God has taught me. We can be a strength to each other. 

God has an Intended Life for you. His intentions are better than good. He has a plan and a power, and He's inviting you to be a part of both. 

Thursday
Mar142013

strengthification

Fingernails are dirt magnets.

It doesn't seem to matter how often I clean them or trim them, minutes later I could do it all over again. I keep diggin' the dirt out, and it keeps fillin' back up. That mental image? That's yours for free ... I'm not even going to charge you for that.

So the way analogies work, this is the point where I compare cleaning your fingernails to your daily life, your efforts to improve yourself, your relationships, etc. You ready for that? I know you are! Because you are a person who admires honesty, character, and the earnest pursuit of change for the better. I've always liked that about you.

It's true. Just like our fingernails, our lives are constantly in jeopardy of filling back up with the junk and garbage and dirt we just spent a large amount of time and resources removing. We struggle for months to quit smoking, and on one stressful day we pick up a pack and start again. We stick to our diet for weeks before that plate of cupcakes appears and we find ourselves covered in icing. We commit to spending an hour every day doing a Bible study, praying and meditating on God's Word, but THIS morning there's a lot of chatter on Facebook or "I'm THIS close to finishing this book!" and we set aside the thing that we know, deep down, will benefit us more, help us grow into the better person we mean to be.

We're all a bunch of failures.

Hey, it's a harsh truth, but it's still a truth. We, in and of ourselves, are powerless to resist the things that bring us down. We need to rely on something bigger than ourselves to give us strength. Community leaders may lean on the spirit of the community. Political leaders may rely on the unity of their staff. Alcoholics Anonymous refers to it as "a higher power." Christians turn to God.

I almost typed "it doesn't matter what you choose," but I don't believe that's true. I believe that the ultimate strength comes from God. But I do recognize that there are other sources of strength. They may not be unlimited sources of power, and eventually they (like your willpower) will run up short. But they're a bigger reserve of strength and power than relying on yourself. They're necessary. They're VITAL.

We who want to better ourselves, we spend a lot of time digging the dirt out of our fingernails. We have tools and tricks that keep us as perfectly manicured as we can manage. We're always on the hunt for new ways to improve what we're doing. And that? That's all good. That's perfect, actually. Exactly as it should be.

But don't forget the more important resource: Look for the power that is greater than yourself. I recommend God, because I've always been a "go straight for the top" kinda guy. But whatever source you choose, whatever works best for you at this moment in time, just make sure it has as much respect for you as you have for it.

It does you no good to rely on your community if your community doesn't know who you are.

You can't rely on your political staff if they all have separate, personal, self-directed agendas, working at cross purposes to each other and to you.

You can't rely on your co-workers or your teammates for strength if they all think of you as being a self-centered problem, always talking about and thinking about your own issues and never being a part of the group.

We humans don't have enough personal strength or willpower to hold out for long. We need refuge from storms, and beds to rest our weary heads. Look for those in your life. Nurture them. Rely on them, more than on yourself, and you'll always have more strength than you can use.

And one last thing, because I truly think this is the most important strength you can access ... regardless of your beliefs or your past experiences or the opinions of your friends and family, this Wordslinger highly recommends turning yourself over to God. Surrendering to Christ, accepting His strength, that's the surest way to become unbeatable, indestructible, undeniably strong.

If that makes sense to you, but you don't know how to do it, or you could use a little guidance, you can contact me and I'll help. We'll talk, and I'll tell you all I know about it. And maybe you can share some things with me that will teach me a thing or to as well! We'll be a strength for each other in pursuing the greatest success of all time. I could definitely use a strength like that. How about you?