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…

 

LOVE BELIEVES THE BEST

There is a sizable gap between what the Word of God says about love and how I actually live out that love for others.

 

The battle rages on.  The struggle between the prideful ruler and the humble servant.  The rub between what feels good and right and what is righteous.  It is not a wrestling of two individuals but of one; an internal struggle of being my own god or bowing to the only Wise God.

I want to tell you I struggle with  believing the best of others.  I want to believe the best of others but I assume to know heart and motive.  I want to say that it’s because I am observant, discerning and often right in my assessments; therefore when I see questionable behaviors I know what people are thinking, how they are feeling and what motivates them.  I like the idea of promoting my strengths.  It’s a curse to be so darned discerning!  I’m pretty sure that’s  not the path toward anything good and while sometimes I may be right, being right is not the issue.  The real struggle – my real issue – is love.

1 Corinthians 12:1-7, 13, 14:1a    If I speak in tongues of men and angels but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and have not love, I am nothing. 3 If I give away all I have and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have  not love, I gain nothing. 4 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it his not arrogant or rude.  It doe not insist on its own way:  it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 13 So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.  14a Pursue love,

It’s love.  Without love we are a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal; lots of talk but nothing more.  He says we are nothing and we gain nothing.

I look at this beautiful, poetic description of love and I wonder, “How do I get there?”  This love is not my nature!  This love is outside of my skill set:  This love goes beyond my own ideas of love and calls me to a higher love that does not rely on my own senses and sensibility.  It is counter-intuitive.  I think things.  I know things.  I sometimes believe what I think without really knowing fully as God fully knows.  My mirror is dimly lit.

There is a sizable gap between what the Word of God says about love and how I actually live out that love for others.  Knowing that I will never love perfectly does not disqualify me from the race nor should it discourage me from entering it.

1 Corinthians 9:22-27   Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize?  Run in such a way as to get the prize. 25 Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training.  They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. 26 Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. 27 No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.

No runner can endure or gain speed without practice.  I need practice.  I need to practice love with the purpose of learning to love others the way God loves me.  I need to practice to make it my nature.  It takes consistent discipline to not only believe the best of others, but to love them in all the ways God has called me to love them.

The practice happens in the battle.  Love cannot be rehearsed outside of being in relationships and situations that require love.  It is a battle to catch those thoughts (2 Cor. 10:5) and remind myself that only God knows heart and motive.  It is a battle to replace those thoughts (Phil. 4:8) with loving, beneficial thoughts.  It is a battle worth fighting.  Thinking fuels my heart; if I think wrong, I believe wrong, therefore I feel wrong.  Believing the best of others inspires right feelings about them and toward them.  It inspires love.

And love believes the best of others.