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Now that I’ve sung along to one of my favorite jams and had my healthy holiday latte (mmmm, mmmm, good), here is my recipe for a positive life filled with positive outcomes that leave an inspirational legacy…and remember to pour the secret ingredient of God’s love generously throughout it all:

1) Substitute Submission for Selfishness…Yields Joy
The problem with modern medicine – and our mindsets regarding most problems in life – is that we look to minimize or eliminate the symptoms instead of the root cause. No matter how many times you treat the symptoms, they will keep coming back unless you address the root cause as well. When I look back upon my life, I can trace the source of all my problems, poor decisions, and misplaced priorities back to one thing: selfishness. In living for myself, to make myself happy, life became mostly full of temporary, superficial enjoyment and the continual search for pleasure, with little to no wisdom. Try to think of any evil, and trace it to its root cause; more than likely, you will end up with a desire to please self over God and others.

coupleGod created and gave us His good and perfect gifts because He loves us and means for us to enjoy them…to have pleasure within His sovereign, righteous, and protective will. Enjoy a glass of wine, but do not drink in excess and don’t drink at all if it might make someone around you stumble or if it would worsen an existing disease. Enjoy a piece of cake, but do not eat in excess or obsess about it, or eat it at all if it might make someone around you stumble or if it would worsen an existing disease. Have an abundant sex life…with your spouse only…in a faithful marriage…and do not allow any external thoughts or temptations to infiltrate that sacred union of body, mind, and spirit. Indulge in buying that unique dress that you love, but sacrifice on a couple other indulgences and save up if necessary to buy it in cash, maintaining good stewardship over your finances so you do not go into debt. In all these examples, we see a pattern developing: a balance between earthly enjoyment and divine wisdom. In all things, we must listen for God’s still, small voice and understand/seek His Word (the Bible) to receive the proper guidance and achieve the proper balance. Remember that God’s answers to what you want may not always be “yes.” Learn to embrace the “no” as a shield of protection and the “wait” as a time of preparation for the part you will play in God’s complete plans and purpose for the highest good of all God’s children. Sometimes, you will be blessed directly, beyond your wildest imaginations. Other times, you may have to go through a hard circumstance so that someone else can be blessed…but that trial will become a blessing to you also.

gloryKnowing that God’s thoughts and ways are higher and better for our own good than our own, we must learn how to submit ourselves and sacrifice our selfish desires to Him and His will in attitudes and acts of total obedience and surrender. Blind obedience (obeying even though we don’t understand or know what will happen) will always be better than disobedience with complete awareness and understanding. We do so much to avoid the pain of life. Our addictions only attempt to ease or mask the pain, but fail miserably, resulting in even more pain and continuing the vicious cycle. It may be counterintuitive, but I believe the best road to stopping the cycle is to welcome and embrace the pain when it arrives at your doorstep and moves into your guest room for a time. Again, Jesus said if we are to follow Him, we must take up our cross and follow Him, embracing the cross as a purposeful and painful means to a hopeful and glorious end.

focusOne day, a struggling friend had said, “It’s just too easy…all you have to do is say you believe in Jesus and you’re saved? It just seems too easy.” My internal response was one of slight shock…easy? I don’t think so! I’ve only walked with God for a few years so far and it’s been anything but easy! For several reasons…but I’ll mention two of the most important ones here. First is that, as Jesus warned us, the world is against us. Christians should be committed to standing up for God’s truth. As I’ve done so over the years and witnessed others do the same, I have been stunned at how – in almost a supernatural way – we have experienced sudden, overwhelming, and sometimes violent hatred and opposition from others. You constantly feel torn between doing/speaking what you know in your soul is right versus what the media and everyone around you tells you is right. Secondly and even more importantly, speaking the words doesn’t matter if you don’t also believe it in your heart. You must be moved, brought low, rocked and shattered to your very core, by the love of Jesus in order to surrender yourself, your life, your dreams, your plans, your all to Him. That submission can take place only by the exchange of real love between Jesus and you. But once that glorious submission does take place, God and His love begin to work in you. You can stop focusing on self and stop doing to please self. Instead, you can start just being a being of God’s love.

loveWhen you take time to breathe, to appreciate and be aware of your existence moment to moment, and to become a vessel of love, gratitude, and grace, your doing and works of love will overflow into the world and it will never be the same. And because your works are born from the source of love, they will grow in greatness as your heart swells in love…and you will never be the same. Always remember that the purpose of life is holiness…becoming increasingly holy as we walk through the mountains, valleys, forests, waters, and storms of life to realize the deepest desires of our heart. To walk that walk humbly with our Creator, we must submit ourselves to Him and His will…step by step in blind obedience. As we have faith in and trust our Lord who picks us up when we stumble and often carries us on that journey, we experience that permanent, deep joy in our souls…the one only He can provide.

Look for “Gimme, Gimme, Gimme…I Need, I Need, Part 5: Stillness vs. Striving” to be posted soon! Enter your email address on the left to follow this blog and be notified of new postings.