John Ortberg's book The Life You've Always Wanted is a great start to something we all need ... resetting, rethinking, reexamining and renewing. These are things that God's Word draws us to magnetically. Every mistake is a teaching moment. Every victory is a lesson in seeing God's hand in the triumph. Ortberg rightfully points out that spiritual disciplines are paths to the vast universe of good things God is doing and will do in our lives. These 'rules of life' allow us to become the living trees that bear the fruit of the spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control). So ... how do we start?
I believe we start by a means of sorting the things that are worthwhile and the things that should be a lesser priority in our lives. I like the way The Message states Mark 8:35-36. "Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to saving yourself ... your true self. What good would it do to get everything you want and lose you ... the real you? What could you ever trade your soul for?" That passage is a great starting point for sorting out the things in life that are healthy and unhealthy. I think on this passage often, especially when I am confused by my reactions, my intentions and my inclinations. It is a resetting, rethinking, reexamining and renewing passage because it gets me off my stuff and onto God's stuff (always a healthy thing). It starts my day in a good direction.
There is a theme in this passage. It is the theme of asking yourself what God wants. It is all about trusting God's purpose of leading you a life that would bring out your true self and your true design. In the song So Will I one of the lines says "If creation still obeys You, so will I." I sing the lyrics and forget that obedience. Because obeying God is beginning a new life of following His order, not mine. Obeying God's plan means learning to see and follow Him. Obeying God's plan means seeing past discomfort and my feelings so I can see His greater and more perfect purpose. Obeying God's plan means I see the snare and trap described in Mark 8:35-36. That snare is 'want' ... a little word among other words. Some versions say 'gain the whole world.' But it means the same thing ... that I can't begin living the life I always wanted until I allow God's 'wants' to trump 'my wants.' Because direction is important. There is a huge tree down across the back yard of the parsonage. It is exactly parallel to the house. The tree fell in a SSE direction. If the tree had fallen directly south it would have fallen on the back of the house where Lee was sleeping (or trying to sleep) during Michael's pass through Abbeville. Direction made a huge difference for us, but that difference is magnified in life. Every time I read Mark 8 I am reminded that the beautiful fruit of life ... the good things God plans for me ... are bound up in words that Jesus used often ... "Follow me!" Not tradition. Not what makes me feel good. Not what gets me excited and riled-up. Not eloquent speeches. Not my political party. To start my journey with Jesus I must examine my own motives, alter my errant direction, follow my Savior and put aside my wants in favor of God's wants. It will be a great place to start. Randy