Thursday, July 7, 2011

Okay God... You've Got My Attention... Now What? -10 Ways to Stay on the Right Path

Okay God... You've got my attention... now what? This is a question many of us have asked at some point in our lives. Especially those of us who have had a season where we've run from God; or maybe we weren't running away from him... we just weren't running TO Him.

It seems like God has a unique way of taking us in our distracted state and waking us up, and that happens in all sorts of ways: Changes in life, tragedies, death of someone close to you, or by God revealing Himself through his Word or another believer you come in contact with.

God has a way of showing us when we're on the wrong path and gives us the ability and strength to get on the correct path.

This past week, I was visiting my Mother in law in the hospital in Dallas, Texas. During my visit, I was introduced to a young man named Steven. Steven was 23 years old and had been abusing drugs since he was 13. He was addicted to heroine and did so much that it shut down the part of his brain that operated his legs. Steven is incapable of walking today and is going through extensive rehab to strengthen his legs with the hope of walking again.

I spent about an hour talking to Steven. We talked about God and we talked about Steven. He is confident that he's been on the wrong path for a long time and has a desire to do things differently. I explained that he wasn't capable of changing himself and then went on to show him that only through the power and supernatural strength provided by God himself would enable him the ability to change his life. It was encouraging to hear Steven conclude our conversation by saying, "When I get out of this chair, able to walk again, and my feet hit the ground, I want them to land on a brand new path... a path leading to Jesus."

You see, this was a PATH CHANGER for Steven.

Maybe you can relate to this story. You say, "I've experienced a path changer of my own and want to get on the path leading to Jesus." That's a great place to be, but without knowing where to go or what to do, it's going to be difficult to stay on that path and ultimately arrive at that destination.

If you know Jesus personally, but need some practical advise on choosing the right path and staying on the right path, here are a few things I would strongly suggest:

1. Transplant Yourself-
If you're going to be successful in living your new life in Christ, you've got to remove yourself from your old environments and stay away from the things that have trapped you in the past. You've probably got some hangouts that need to be erased from your memories. It's difficult to be a new person in an old environment and if you try it, what you'll discover is your old environment will change you before you will change your old environment.

2. Clean out the Pantry-
It's impossible to diet and lose weight if your pantry is full of cookies, candy and sweet treats. Sometimes you have to be willing to get rid of the things you've loved in order to get healthy again. If you've been on the wrong path for a while, there's a good chance you weren't there alone. You've got some friends, friends that you've loved, and the truth is that they don't need to be friends anymore. You've got to make some changes, and by removing these specific people (negative influences) from your life, you'll be setting yourself up for success in this new journey.

3. Don't Fly Solo-
If you want to increase your chances of staying on the right path, then avoid walking it alone. If you decide to fly solo, there's a way better chance of you crashing and burning. Solomon talks about this same thing in Ecclesiastes chapter 4. He says we were built for community. We were built to encourage one another and challenge one another and when you're a part of a Christian Community like that, it will allow you to grow faster and become deeper in your faith. Is being a member of a church a requirement for living a rich life in Christ? No, but if you want to live your life wisely and biblically, Christian Community shouldn't be an option for you.

4. Get in a Good Routine-
Disciplining yourself isn't an easy thing, but when you get on the right path, you've got to retrain your mind and body and create a new normal. On the wrong path, it's easy to become lazy and apathetic towards anything of sustenance, but when your feet are following Christ on the right path, it's a necessity to develop a good routine of things that build you up and prepare you for life. Here are the things you need to make a part of your every day life:

Prayer. Reading the Word. Service. Worship.

And let's be honest. You're probably not going to serve every day. There may be days when you don't read your Bible and that doesn't mean you should get frustrated, hang your head and quit. This isn't something you should become legalistic with, rather, it's a guide that leads to personally discipline. But make it a priority in your life to spend daily time doing these things; when you do, you're moving towards Jesus and building yourself up the way God intended.

5. Did you look at Porn Today?
What!?! Why are you asking me that? Because without me asking you the tough questions, you'll live your life free of accountability and that freedom will generate sinful things in your life. Here's the deal... if you're going to grow in Christ and stay on the right path, you have got to have good accountability surrounding you. You need to have a partner; someone who you trust; someone who is older in the faith that will keep you in check (I would suggest once a week). And here's the kicker, they have to ask you the toughest questions you can think of and you have to agree to them and yourself that you will always be completely honest. Dishonest accountability isn't accountability at all. If you are going to stay on the right path, this has to be a part of your life.

6. Have Clear Goals-
Now that you're on the right path, it's a good time to reevaluate and set some goals for your life. Where do you want to be a year from now? What would you like to accomplish? Set some spiritual goals-where you would like to be in your walk with Jesus... What you would like to accomplish for the Kingdom of God... Also, set some personal goals (in keeping true to the path you've chosen). Now, you want to live your life in a way that moves towards those goals. Now remember, they're just goals. Just because you set a goal doesn't mean it's God's will or that it's a new mandate in Scripture. Your goals need to serve as a guide, to keep your focus on this new path. It's the carrot you put in front of the horse to get him moving in the right direction. Only this time, you get to decide what the carrot is.

7. Make Wisdom the Guide for Your Daily Decisions-
When you were on the wrong path, you made a ton of decisions, and most of the time, you probably didn't have a rhyme or reason to why or how you made those decisions. Now that you're on the right path, you need to make decisions a little more carefully. Instead of shooting from the hip, you now need to begin asking the question, "What is the wise thing to do in this situation?" before making your decision. When it comes to relationships and dating: She's hot... really hot, but she's not a believer, she frequents bars and dance clubs, her friends have bad reputations... but did I mention she was hot? Is this a girl you should date? "What is the wise thing to do?" Let wisdom guide you and don't forget to consider where you're trying to go. What are your goals (spiritually & personally) and does this decision lead me toward those goals or does it send me in another direction? Let wisdom be your guide in your relational decisions, your educational decisions, your financial decisions, etc. When you consider how you spend your time or money or energy, make sure you make wise choices and make those decisions on purpose, not flying by the seat of your pants.

8. Fill in the Pot Holes-
There aren't too many things that frustrate me more than pot holes. It's like you're going down the road and it's smooth and it's comfortable and all the sudden, out of nowhere, you find yourself hitting a huge pothole conveniently located right under your nose. It's much easier walking down this new path, if you'll fill in the potholes now and not wait until you hit them. What are the pot holes in your life? What are those things that constantly get you, time and time again? For some, it may be pornography. Guys tell me all the time, "I can't escape it. Porn gets me every time." And the more I talk to them, the more I discover that they haven't removed the pot hole of porn from their life. They have a computer in their room without any blocks or accountability software. They have smart phones with a browser that isn't protected. They frequent places where they are drawn to lustful images, etc. If you're going to be set free and stay on this path, you've got to eliminate the pot holes in your world. If overeating is a pothole, get rid of the overabundance of food in your pantry. If materialism is a pothole, give your stuff away; become more giving. If sex is a pothole, break up with your girlfriend/boyfriend, because they're obviously not on the same path you're on and trying to stay on. Eliminate the potholes if you're going to stay on the path.

9. Even if you hate School, Never Stop Being a Student-
If you're going to grow or learn, you've got to be willing to be a good student. Just because you've chosen the right path doesn't automatically make you an expert on Christian living. It means your heart is right and God's got your attention... you have great intentions. Now is the tough part; Execution of those good intentions. You've got to learn and develop in your faith and in your walk and there's certain things you can do that will expedite this process. 1) Read Good Books-there are ton of good books out there that will encourage you and guide you on this journey. Some of my favorite authors right now are: Leadership: John Maxwell, Andy Stanley, Jim Collins. Living the Christian Life: Andy Stanley, Gary Thomas, John Piper, Charles Stanley, Ed Young. Marriage: Gary Thomas, Eggerich, Gary Smalley. 2) Ask Good Questions-you're going to have a lot of questions on this journey. When they come to your mind, ask them. I would encourage you to keep a journal and write things down when they come to your mind. Make sure you get the answers to these questions; it's essential in your spiritual growth.

10. Make it an Ongoing Conversation-
The Bible says, "Pray without Ceasing." That means your conversation with God should be continuous. It's an incredible thing to think about the God of the Universe desiring our hearts and minds. He wants us to "commune" with him; to walk with him and talk to him. He desires that. Make this a part of your life: Start a conversation with God first thing in the morning and don't say AMEN at then end. Continue that conversation throughout your day and speak to God as if you're speaking to your best friend. He listens to and answers your prayers. It's hard to stray from the right path, when you're continuously speaking to the God who created the path. Make Him the focus of your conversation, your thoughts, and your life.

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