I love the ocean! I'm quite sure God called me to preach, teach, and go to the beach. My first time in the ocean, with my parents watching on the beach, was memorable. I noticed that my parents had moved the umbrella and towels about fifty yards down the beach. I thought they were trying to lose me. I looked again and saw that the hotel had also moved down the beach. Then I realized that I had moved. I had drifted and I didn't even know it.
The Bible teaches that we must continually renew our mind. Otherwise, we drift in our thinking and, eventually, our living. We must be in a constant state of renewal. That usually involves getting away from our daily lives to think about how we live. We must evaluate where we are going.
When our outside actions differ from our inside feelings, we are out of congruence. When we pile and pile bricks onto a wheelbarrow, it topples. As we continue to stuff and stuff our emotions, we fill the wheelbarrow to overflowing. What happens when the last brick is added? It can be just a simple comment by another or a small annoyance, but it causes the wheelbarrow to overturn from the weight! AAAAGGGGH! We crash! Your husband, wife, kids look on in wonder — they were the last brick.
We need meditation, not rumination. We don't think and dwell on the negative nor do we meditate like the New-Ager contemplating in the lotus position. That is not meditation — that's weird. Meditation is being quiet and slowing down long enough to absorb God's Word. Let Him talk to us. Listen to His Words. Satan likes the crowded busyness of our lives. He loves the busyness and confusion when we jump at every email or text message, and miss the call of the Almighty.
Trying to fill our cars with gas as we drive by the pump doesn't work very well. Can you imagine circling and circling the pump but never stopping? But going round and round with God, telling Him we need His power but not slowing down, leaves us empty. Eventually, we use all the power we have and run out of gas — that's burnout. We all know of friends that burned out. They were in the ministry but they divorced, opened up a hot dog stand, or just ran naked in the woods. They ran out of gas. One moment they appear clothed and in their right mind, and the next moment they are bent over barking like a dog. It's almost as if they missed His path and found the psychopath.
Renewal — rejuvenation — positions us to receive the comfort of God and clarity from God. It's the process of making clear the path we are to follow. It's a time to look in His Book. His Spirit will guide our path. A missionary hired a guide to take him into the jungle. When they arrived, the guide used his machete to cut the brush. The missionary inquired about the path, and the guide responded, "I am the path."
Following Jesus' path is a process. There will be disappointments and mess-ups. It's slow going. Just as we collect trash in our homes, we collect trash in our lives. We have to take it out on a regular basis. Unless we do, the trash stinks up our houses and our lives. The difference may not be evident today or tomorrow, but next week or next month we will see the difference. Coaches say that a football team is not made or broken on the two-yard line with two minutes to play. Teams are only revealed. They are made or broken in the summer when the players run along the same roads day after day, getting into shape and learning the plays. The crisis, the tight spot in the game, reveals how much they have already practiced and learned.
Renewal is the time to practice and learn the plays God has for us. Let me sum it up. I took my kids to see The Empire Strikes Back. Do you remember when Luke Skywalker met Yoda, his teacher and mentor, in that gloomy and dismal place? As Luke Skywalker landed his ship, it sunk in the mud, and Yoda was teaching Luke how to use the Force. He tried to follow Yoda's instructions but he still sank in the mud. The spaceship just sat there in the muck and mire. Finally, Yoda looked at Luke and said, "Luke, you are trying to use the Force and you can't use the Force. You have to let the Force use you." Luke caught on and was able to remove the spaceship from the mud. Now that's Hollywood psychobabble, unless you understand that the real Force is Jesus.
Renewal is changing from head-knowledge to heart-knowledge. Jesus understood it very well. He said, "Not my will, Father, but Your will be done." It's about renewing our faith — not redirecting our effort — and finding His peace and path. Let's not wait until we are stuck in the mud to begin renewal.
Charles Lowery is a member of First Baptist Church, Bossier City, Louisiana, founder and president of Lowery Institute for Excellence, and is in a fulltime speaking ministry. You may contact Lowery Institute at 800-723-9025 or www.CharlesLowery.com.