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Intentional or Actual

But I need something more! For if I know the law but still can’t keep it, and if the power of sin within me keeps sabotaging my best intentions, I obviously need help! I realize that I don’t have what it takes. I can will it, but I can’t do it. I decide to do good, but I don’t really do it; I decide not to do bad, but then I do it anyway. My decisions, such as they are, don’t result in actions. Something has gone wrong deep within me and gets the better of me every time. It happens so regularly that it’s predictable. The moment I decide to do good, sin is there to trip me up. I truly delight in God’s commands, but it’s pretty obvious that not all of me joins in that delight. Parts of me covertly rebel, and just when I least expect it, they take charge. I’ve tried everything and nothing helps. I’m at the end of my rope. Is there no one who can do anything for me? Isn’t that the real question? The answer, thank God, is that Jesus Christ can and does. He acted to set things right in this life of contradictions where I want to serve God with all my heart and mind, but am pulled by the influence of sin to do something totally different. (Romans 7:17-25)

The truth is - we all need something more. We know what is right, but we somehow keep doing what is wrong. I like the way Paul puts it - sin keeps sabotaging our best intentions. Sabotage is just an underhanded interference from some force. When Paul says sin keeps sabotaging our best intentions he is simply stating there is some "interfering" force which makes our "best intentions" a little feeble at best. Maybe the most telling point in this statement is the idea of sin counteracting our intentions. Intentions are nothing more than mental determination - they aren't really totally connected to the heart and often not connected to the spirit. We make all kinds of "mental determinations" in life - the truth is that we actually act on very few! The point - "...I obviously need help!" Truer words could not be spoken! We don't have what it takes - this is why we keep failing! We make all kinds of mental commitments - but these commitments can get easily misplaced or sidetracked when something else takes over that space in our minds. We can only "think" so much about a commitment we have made. Use will-power to avoid the chocolate bar in the refrigerator and you will find you have made not much more than a mental commitment. You spend so much time thinking about the chocolate bar, but thinking about the chocolate bar doesn't keep you from desiring it! The problem with mental determination is the "space" that determination must occupy in order to be marginally effectual in our lives. I have found I get distracted pretty easily - so mental determination is not the best way to "fix my fix".

Our decisions don't result in the actions we hoped for because of some "internal" influence "comes along" and distracts us from our commitment to our decisions! Tell me you haven't been on this trip yourself! You have heard me say this before, but it bears repeating: The loudest voice gets our attention the quickest. The problem is that God's voice is still and small - oftentimes quieter than that 'loudest voice' we are listening to right now! So, if we are to listen to the right voice, we need to learn where it is we hear it the best - I assure you it is not in our mind! Our mind is one mess of a jumbled up bunch of voices - sorting these out takes some work! Our heart, on the other hand, is quite closely connected to our spirit, so the best place to hear God's voice is when we draw near to him in our heart and allow him to enter into our spirit. We don't find answers to our failures in any better source than in his presence. Failure is just an open door to bring us to a place where we move from our minds into our hearts and spirit. Somehow failure gets us out of the clouds - there is not as much attention turned toward the mess in our minds, because we find ourselves humbled and hurting. This is the place we end our 'intentions' and God begins his 'work'. Humbled hearts and hurting souls are his business! 

He delights in taking the pieces we are left with and putting them back together again. The thing is - he doesn't put them together in quite the same order again, though! We tried putting the pieces together OUR way - each time finding ourselves humbled and broken. Maybe it is because we weren't meant to find the right "fit" for the pieces - only he was! I guess we all need to hear these words now and again. It saddens me to think we have to fall in order to hear them, though. Yet, even in the failure, there is a redemptive quality. Remember, when the failure is an open door for God to begin afresh in us what we could not do through "mental determination", we are gonna see change - real change that gets us out of 'intentions' and into 'actualization'. Just sayin!

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