Time to Renew

It’s that time of year again…my birthday is coming up and I will need to visit the Secretary of State’s office to renew my license plate tag; this year, my driver’s license also expires, so I have to renew that as well.

This is not a pleasant process– I will wait in line, answer questions, and have a photo taken.  I will write out a check or have money debited from my bank account (ouch).  I may have to wait another week or two for the new driver’s license to be sent out, and then I will have to live with the horrible photo for a few years. What a drag!  I often hear people complaining about the process–it’s a time-consuming, costly, bureaucratic nightmare, or it’s just an annoyance.

Except I don’t really “have to” do any of those things.  Being a licensed driver is not a life or death matter.  The law says that I must possess a valid license in order to drive, but thousands of people drive every day with no license, or a suspended or expired license, and “get away with it.”  Others choose not to drive, and do not carry a license or state-issued photo ID.

car side mirror showing heavy traffic
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But I choose to go through the annoying process because of the benefits.  Driving is a privilege– one denied to many who can’t afford, or can’t operate a vehicle.  Renewing my license brings much-needed revenue to the state, so they can (attempt to) maintain the roads, bridges, and traffic-related signs and lights that we use every day.  Renewing shows my commitment to obey the laws and authorities that govern (the roads in and around) my city, county, state, and nation. Renewing my license gives me an opportunity to register (or confirm my status) as a voter.  It even gives me the opportunity to learn patience and people skills!

All this to talk about another kind of renewal…

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.  (Romans 12:1-2  NIV)

The Apostle Paul speaks about the “renewing of your mind.”  In renewing my license, I am conforming to the laws of the land.  This passage is not telling me to break the law; it is calling me to transform the way I view the world, the way I process the world, and the way I allow my thoughts to shape my behavior.  Instead of thinking about the license process as an inconvenience– I need to weigh the inconvenience against the benefits I receive from having a valid license.  Instead of focusing on the negatives around me– fear, hatred, selfishness, complaining, greed, lying, etc., I need to focus on how I can respond in hope, love, compassion, encouragement, generosity, and truth.  And I need to depend on the work of the Holy Spirit to transform the way I think about the world, about myself, and about God.

action asphalt automobile automotive
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There is a lot of ugliness in the world, lately; but there is also a lot of beauty.  There are urgent needs, but there are also abundant resources in Christ Jesus.  There are hardships, but there are also moments of peace, healing, and hope.

It’s time for renewal!

Finally, brothers, whatever things are true, whatever things are honest, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue, and if there is any praise, think on these things.  (Philippians 4:8 MEV)

Arise, Go Forth, and Conquer!

I love quirky motivational posters.  A friend of mine once had a poster with an awkward looking duckling– wide-eyed and still fuzzy–with the caption,

“Arise, Go Forth, and Conquer!”

yellow duckling on gray dirt
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The phrase comes from Tennyson in Idylls of the King, but it is reminiscent of phrases given to Joshua as he prepared to lead the Israelites across the Jordan and into the promised land.

Joshua 1:2-3 (NKJV)   “Moses My servant is dead. Now therefore, arise, go over this Jordan, you and all this people, to the land which I am giving to them—the children of Israel. Every place that the sole of your foot will tread upon I have given you, as I said to Moses.

God tells him several times to “Be strong and courageous..” (Joshua 1:6), “Be strong and very courageous.” (Joshua 1:7),  “…be strong and courageous.  Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9)

When I think of being strong and courageous, I don’t usually think of ducklings!  I think of hero bodybuilders or armored knights of old…people who are prepared to crush and conquer and face an army.  Yet God repeats the phrase to Joshua, including at last the command to “not be terrified; do not be discouraged..”, which indicates that Joshua was close to terror and despair, rather than filled with hope and adrenaline.

blue and red superman print tank top shirt
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And little wonder.  Joshua had to be experiencing a slight sense of Déjà vu.  About forty years earlier, he had been part of the group of spies sent to scout out the promised land…spies who had come back terrified and discouraged.  The entire nation was ready to rebel against Moses and even God.  Now, forty years later, Joshua was to try again– this time as Moses’ replacement, a new leader for a new generation already prone to complain and rebel.

Some days I feel a little like Joshua– facing walled cities, giants, and feeling totally inadequate to the task.  Some days it even feels like a struggle to “arise”, let alone going forth to conquer.

brown tabby kitten on green grass
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And then God reminds me…”Every place that the sole of your foot will tread upon I have given you, as I said to Moses.”  It’s not that God is literally leading me into the promised land as I go to the grocery store or face a difficult customer at work or walk around the neighborhood.   But, figuratively, He is helping me win battles against temptation, discouragement, anger, and bitterness.  He IS with me wherever I go, and He wants me to trust HIS strength and wisdom to triumph.  I become “more than a conquerer” (Romans 8:37) when I stop trying to fight in my own strenth and rely on His.  My strength may be minimal, my motivation questionable, and my wisdom lacking, but I can waddle confidently into battle, knowing that the victory is certain!

boy child clouds kid
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This is also true for my pursuit of prayer– My prayers are often flighty, inadequate, sporadic, and even grudging.  I keep a prayer journal, and that can help with motivation, discipline, and even praise, but it doesn’t guarantee that I will draw perfectly near to God or follow Him with total faithfulness.  The more I rely on MY efforts, the more I am fighting to replace God’s strength and wisdom with my own.  God doesn’t want me on the sidelines, or sleeping in– He wants me in the game.  But the outcome doesn’t depend on my ability or my performance (or my lack of feathers!)

animal beak blur close up
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