MY WAY

My personal preferences are a good servant but a lousy master.  They can serve me well but when I become a slave to my preferences I serve no one else.

While sitting in a class (which I wasn’t super excited about in the first place) I found my critical heart becoming increasingly nit-picky.  It began with the subject matter.  Before the speaker even opened his mouth, I had attitude.  As he began to teach I found him as well as his presentation to be distasteful.  Soon I found myself getting up to leave the room.  I needed a break to regroup and regain some perspective before I could head back in.  What I began to realize was, that while critical thinking is vital to true discernment, a critical heart suppresses the Holy Spirit.

My personal preferences are a good servant but a lousy master.  They can serve me well but when I become a slave to my preferences, I serve no one else.

  • My way is right
  • My point of view is right
  • My perceptions are right
  • My thoughts are right
  • My counsel is right

If I believe my methods/preferences are right then, by default, the methods/preferences of others are wrong.  I am setting myself up as the standard by which all other things should follow.  It’s a throne position.  I am exalted in the process of expressing my preferences as truth at the expense of others.

When I am controlled by the narrow view of my personal preferences, there is no room for the way of others or their viewpoints, perceptions, thoughts or counsel.  They cannot be heard in my presence.  I become the authority.  My way becomes the standard by which all things should be perceived, thought of, stated, done and counseled.  I am teaching others my way while I myself remain unteachable.  I do not hear others because I do not listen to others, therefore I cannot learn from others.

It’s a “my way” approach to even the most menial of tasks which are meaningless to the big picture.  Process, not people, is first.

Have you ever found yourself grumbly in everyday circumstances such as:

  • Folding laundry – Do you refold or instruct others how to fold laundry.  Even worse, when you are helping someone else fold their laundry, do you fold their way or your way?
  • Loading the dishwasher – Ever reorganized the dishwasher?
  • Making the Bed – Which side of the top sheet faces the bottom sheet?
  • Toilet Paper – Under or over?- Have you ever changed the roll position…at someone else’s house?
  • Bible Study – Morning, noon, night? And with what method? Inductive, Deductive, SOAP?

The answer is probably “yes” for most of us.  Are any of these things a big deal in light of eternity?  I think most of us would say an emphatic “no.”  And yet, when someone disrespects/disorders our preferences, how do we respond?  Does emotion well up inside of us?  When we believe that our ways should be everyone’s ways we have lost site and control of our preferences.  They rule us, we do not rule them.  There is  no freedom to waiver from them.  We must now adhere to them and enforce them upon others.  In a sense, we are saying, “This is the way, follow me.  If you do not adhere to my way, I will correct you.”  There is a rightness/wrongness but not a righteousness to this way of thinking.  We are in bondage and we put others in bondage to our way of thinking and doing.

So often we measure the good, sufficiency, adequacy or maybe a better word is value of something based on our own preferences.  We evaluate situations and circumstances as if everything about it revolves around us.  Food, temperature, hotels, restaurants, smells, neighborhoods, communities, schools, classes, people, teachers, conferences etc., are assessed by our own personal palate.  It seems our ability to enjoy and appreciate something is based on what we like or dislike.  How many times have you gone to a restaurant with rave reviews only to be disappointed?  Your personal preferences were not met there.  We cannot fathom how people considered it a good place to have dinner!

So, what’s the difference between a fair assessment and a biased one; an assessment that is just or one that is critical because of personal preference?  What is real and what is preferred?  How do we determine if something is good?

We must sort through our own personal preferences, as one sorts through puzzle pieces; by color or flat-edged pieces.  A good puzzle worker sorts first.  How often do our personal preferences get confused with the really important facts?  Before we assess a speaker, program or a class, we must ask ourselves, “What is my measuring stick of value?  Do I have a gospel view?”

The gospel is the picture of self-sacrificing love in action.  For God so loved the world… it was good for the world that Jesus should suffer for it’s sin but not so comfortable for Jesus.  It was greater love.

To assess fairly we must think beyond what we like to what is real, whole-group and gospel centered.  We must have a wide lens view that takes in the whole horizon.  We must see the big picture and give grace to minor details that are not important in fundamental ways.  How would it change the way we evaluate situations, tasks, people, speakers etc. if we saw them in light of the gospel rather than ourselves?  What if, instead of being critical, we look for the good?

I’m not saying we should turn a blind eye to sin.  Matthew 18:15 is very clear about what to do if we see a brother in sin, as is 2 Corinthians 10:5 as it addresses arguments and lofty opinions or anything that sets itself up against the knowledge of God.

When we align our personal preferences with the Word of God and measure them by the call to love one another, we are not only God honoring vertically but we are God honoring horizontally.

Philippians 2:3-8   Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.  Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.  And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

Do nothing from selfish ambition but in humility, look around you.  People are wounded and struggling to survive one day at a time.  Can we find enjoyment in what others enjoy?  Can we give an honest evaluation of a situation based on the needs of others being met?  Can we remember to measure goodness based on what God says is good and not on our own comfort, preference or level of needs being met?

Jesus is the Son and all things revolve around Him.  It is through Him that all things are held together.  His ways are higher.  His thoughts are for all as well as the individual.  He humbled himself by taking on the form of a servant for a lost and dying world of which we are just one of many in that category.

I can have preferences, but my personal preferences are not a measuring stick I can use to determine right or good.  My unit of measure must be higher than myself.  When I measure myself against a Holy God, I am humbled and brought low.  His glory is all I see.  This is true and right perspective.

Isaiah 55:8-9   For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.  For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher that your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.

God’s thoughts and words for us are found between the front and back covers of the Bible.  He has established a true and better way, as His ways are perfect.  Let us choose to be wise thinkers in our assessments and use the Word of God as our system of measure.

Freedom from the bonds of our personal preferences is a gift to those around us!

 

 

 

 

The Cost of Sacrifice

You and I are going to pay for it. Somehow, in some way sacrifice, by definition, is going to cost us something.

Have you ever offered to help someone, given someone something, used your gifts and talents to bless someone, volunteered in places that you don’t love or gone completely out of your comfort zone for the sake of another?  There might be a need you’re willing to fill.   You choose it.  You have an idea of what that will look like and how much you are willing to give.  Your heart desires to be generous with whatever you give.  And then…something happens.  The need is greater than first presented which transitions into the sacrifice being greater.

Let’s say you volunteered to spend the day helping a neighbor do yard work.  You know you have a free day and while you’d rather spend it doing anything else, you offer up that day to help them.  That’s definitely a worthy sacrifice.  But what if, while they appreciate your weekend offer, they really need you in the middle of the week.  You have a job.  You CAN take a day off but do you really want to waste a vacation day on something that doesn’t even benefit you?  Of even great consequence, what if you have used all your vacation time and you would have to take the day unpaid?  Now we’re talking sacrifice!

The disciples left everything to follow Jesus.  (Mark 10:28)  They were sold out for Jesus and yet, they didn’t really understand what “everything” meant.  They knew it cost them their jobs, possibly their friends and family and even their reputations but it wasn’t until Jesus was arrested did they realize it could cost them their lives.  It was at the restoration of Peter (John 21:18) that Jesus assured him that it would cost him his life.  The price of following Jesus was ultimate.

That wasn’t what they thought they signed up for in the beginning.  They followed a man who they came to understand and believe was the Son of God who preached a gospel of Grace, who loved and cared for people, who performed miracle upon miracle for the good of the people and glory of the Father.  This was more costly than they had anticipated.

Merriam Webster defines sacrifice as the surrender of something for the sake of something else.  Sacrifice does not have a payback or reward.  When we truly sacrifice, we have no expectation of personal gain.  It’s not a barter system.  It’s a selfless act for the sake of another.

When the need is great the sacrifice is great.

2 Samuel 24:24  I will not offer burnt offerings to the Lord my God that cost me nothing.

As the story unfolds, David commands that the people be numbered.   In that, there was sin.  He had chosen a consequence that, up to that point, cost him nothing.  Neither he nor his family paid the price for his sin.  The plague and the pestilence had been visited upon the Israelites and 70,000 were dead.  When David beheld the image of the Angel of the Lord, battle ready with sword in hand, he dropped to his face before the Lord.  The reality of his sin had penetrated his heart.  He pleaded to God to spare the Israelites and to let him and his family bear the burden of punishment.  Again, up until this point he had chosen a consequence that cost him nothing.

David did as the Lord instructed and went to the threshing floor of Araunah to build an altar to the Lord to avert the plague from his people.  When he offered to buy it, Araunah told him to take it and the oxen and wood for the fire.  That’s when David told him he needed to pay for it.  David’s statement in 2 Samuel 24:24 was clarifying.

What a powerful visual!  Do you see it?  The picture of laying it down for the good of others and the glory of God is displayed on the canvas of 2 Samuel 24.  David had to pay for it.  You and I are going to pay for it.  Somehow, in some way sacrifice, by definition, is going to cost us something.  We have example upon example of people in the Bible who  sacrificed everything for the good of others and the glory of God.  Jesus is our greatest example.

Ephesians 5:2  And walk in love as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. 

When we offer our time, talents and resources to aid another, we are ultimately offering it up to God as a service and sacrifice to Him.  We serve God by serving others.  When He is our audience it becomes our delight to serve.   In this there is eternal value; for the good of others and the glory of God.

Greater love demands greater sacrifice.  How great is your love?  How great are your sacrifices?

Greater love has no man…

 

Growing Together

God doesn’t need us to do His work for Him but He invites us to share in His good work.

I used to think of mentoring as an end of life endeavor: after I’d lived, seen and heard it all, I would pour it out on a younger woman. I even prayed to God, “Grow me up to be a woman of wisdom.” I hadn’t yet come to the truth that God’s word is living and active. I wasn’t supposed to wait until I was ready but I was to be made mature.

To whatever degree, mentoring is about my mentoree AND me. As God is refining me, He has put me in a relationship with another woman so that I can continue in my humility and vulnerability and thereby point to the beauty of Christ, embracing His transformational love and grace. Being a mentor keeps me at His feet listening for His voice, reading His word, and conforming myself to His will.

And I have discovered a wonderful aspect of mentoring: this younger woman is sometimes my Ebenezer in the sense that she reminds me of what God has done in my life as I walk with her through hers. I recognize that God alone is able to shepherd, protect, teach, rebuke, encourage and grow my younger sister in Christ into a mighty warrior for His kingdom. We are spurring one another on to love and good works.

So, what’s my point? There is no magical age, no arriving at a perfect moment in time to mentor another brother or sister in Christ. In all honesty, God doesn’t need us to do His work for Him but He invites us to share in His good work. “Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” so that not only can you bless another with your service but so that you can be blessed with: greater knowledge and intimacy with Jesus, seeing the transformational power of God in another’s life, and witnessing God’s faithfulness to His children down through the years.

“For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is names, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith – that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” Ephesians 3:14-21

Imitate Me…

1 Corinthians 11:1 Be imitators of me as I am of Christ.

1 Corinthians 11:1   Be imitators of me as I am of Christ.

Imitate, mimic, copy, watch me and do as I do, be as I am. I am following Christ.  You follow me; I follow Christ, therefore, you follow Christ by following my example.  Paul is so confident in his walk with Jesus that he is willing to say, follow me.

1 Corinthians 4:15-16   For though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers.  For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel.  I urge you then, be imitators of me.

Paul clearly draws a line between guide and father.  A guide can lead you through something and point you in the right direction but a father is personally invested.  You are his, he is yours. A father’s care is beyond guide.  It is also, protector, guardian, authority, parent, caregiver and caretaker  – all motivated by love.

Philippians 4:9   Whatever you have learned, received, heard or seen in me – practice these things and the God of peace will be with you.

Paul is saying here, not only observe and learn but put it into practice. Make it your habit to do these things.   And what’s the payoff?  Peace!

So what about you?  As a mentor are you comfortable saying to your students, “Follow me as I follow Jesus?”   Are you living a life worthy of the gospel?  Phil. 1:27-30    If not, then what? Do you dumb down your mentoring to make yourself the standard by saying, “If I am not doing it then I cannot require someone else to do it.” or  are you willing to follow Jesus in a way that you are confident brings honor and glory to God and you would be fully confident saying, “Imitate me as I imitate Christ.”

Who And What Do I Have To Be To Be A Discipler?

Matthew 28:19-21        Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.  And surely I am with you always, to the end of the age.

Have you ever wondered if you have what it takes to be a discipler?  Do you have your Bible memorized?  Do you have to have a sinless walk?  Do you have to have the gift of wisdom or discernment?  Do you have to have some level of education?  The answer is an astounding NO!

There might be many qualities that will help you be a discipler but the thing you need first and foremost is to be, yourself, a disciple of Jesus.  Do you spend time with Jesus so that you know Him more deeply?  Do you talk with Him?  Do you allow Him to transform you; your thoughts, your attitudes, your actions into the likeness of Himself?  A disciple of Jesus is the only disciple for Jesus.

You don’t have to know all the answers.  You don’t have to have all the good advice.  In fact, it would be better if you didn’t.  By emptying yourself of you, your knowledge, your power, you will be depending on the One He has sent. You will be trusting in the work and power of Jesus Christ.  You will be living the example of keeping your eyes fixed on Jesus and thereby pointing them to Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith.

Hebrews 12:1b-2a      And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.

Let us be, first and foremost, disciples of Jesus so that we can point the way for others!

 

 

 

Who Knew??

1 Thessalonians 2:7, 8, 12    But we were gentle  among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children.  So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us.  For you know how, like a father with his children,  we exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you to walk in a manner worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory.

I loved the idea of being a mom.  My heart was full of fear, trepidation and excitement as I awaited the birth of my first child.  My head went from wondering what this child would look like to who he would become as a person.  It was all very exciting!  However, in my imaginings, I skipped the middle part; the years of training up that would shape and mold this person into who he would become.

I had no idea it would be so hard and yet I had more children!  Where were those sweet little  angels I had conjured in my imaginings?   Instead, I gave birth to children with a sin nature and a disposition much like my own.

I was in for a battle that God had clearly prepared me for but that I had not seen coming. But because of my love for them, I fought for them with consistency and discipline even when it would have been easier to just let them do what they wanted.  I fought for them on my knees.

I read every parenting book I could get my hands on,  I poured over the Bible looking for answers. As they got older we discussed the hard decisions and choices and consequences of choosing poorly and the rewards of choosing well.  I talked with them even when I knew they weren’t willing to take my sage advice.  There were days when I wanted to resign from parenting.

The same was true for me with mentoring.  I loved the idea of mentoring.   I imagined my mentoree as a young woman, eager to learn, willing to take steps of faith, sucking up the Word of God like a sponge and becoming a mature, passionate Christian.  Again, I skipped over the middle part.

Who knew the battles that would ensue for the righteous raising of others?   Who knew it would require so much time on my knees?  Who knew the agony and powerlessness of watching another walk down an unwise path? Who knew that through these relationships, my faith and reliance on Jesus would increase and my understanding of his grace and mercy would  multiply?  I did not know then and what I know now is less than I will know tomorrow.

Here is what I do know:  I grow.  Others grow.  We grow together.  God is faithful to the parent, to the child, to the mentor and to the mentoree.

3 John 4   I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.

Oh the joy!!

 

The Servanthood of Mentoring

1 Corinthians 3:5-7                                                                                                              What then is Apollos? What is Paul?  Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each.  I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth.  So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.  

1 Corinthians 4:1-2                                                                                                                This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God.  Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found faithful. 

Whether you are new to mentoring or are a well seasoned mentor it is important to remember that a Mentor is a position of a servant.   And who is it we serve?  According to the  text, we are servants of Christ.  We serve Jesus by serving others…teaching them to be followers of Jesus and practicing spirituals disciplines that draw them into intimate, transforming relationship with Him.  We exercise faith and humble ourselves, sharing our experiences, struggles and weaknesses and through this, revealing the counter-intuitiveness of God’s strength being made perfect in our weakness.

Philippians 2:4-8                                                                                                                     Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.  Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

Let us be imitators of Jesus and empty ourselves of pride by taking on the position of a servant!