Monday, June 30, 2008

What Pleases God

I'm a pretty compliant person. Given a set of rules, as long as there is nothing "immoral, unbiblical, or unethical" about them, I'll probably follow them. If someone says we should do something as long as it follows the same guidelines, I'll probably go along (despite the stress that sometimes achieving the goals of others sometimes causes.) At the heart of it, the reasons for my compliance are probably a mix of desiring to do the right thing and wanting to make others happy. The first one is right, I'm not so sure about the latter.

The reason living your life to please others is so challenging is because, just like our own desires, what others want keeps changing. Change your behavior to accommodate one set of demands, and you'll probably find that the contentment with that change along is short-lived. Maybe our shifting desires comes from the "God-shaped hole" we each have - trying to find something, anything to fill it. Maybe they come from the fact that a lot of us are driven to achieve, and sometimes that drive carries over to those we love. I don't know. I do know that living to try to make other people happy is the short trip to a stressed life. It's a goal that can never fully be achieved.

Thankfully, God's desires are not so fluid. He simply delights in "those who fear Him, who put their hope in His unfailing love." (Psalm 147:11) In other words, God's pleasure is manifest when His creation acknowledge Who He is, and trust in Him for their salvation. That which pleases the Father's heart doesn't change with the shifting winds. He rejoices when we rightly recognize Him.

The sad truth is that while pleasing God through humility may at times be challenging, its still quite simple. And yet most of us will spend far more effort trying to figure out how to please those we aspire to be, then we ever will pursuing the delight of our Creator.


Thursday, June 19, 2008

Inconvenient Truth

I have a memory of the first time I was faced with a decision to tell the truth. There was a shower mat in the bathroom that my sister and I shared. Somewhere along the way, the suction cups at the bottom of the mat had mysteriously begin disappearing and it didn't take Sherlock Holmes to figure out that either me or my sister had begun pulling them off. Because the memory sticks out so clearly in my head and because I can get bored easily, I think it was probably me. The strange thing about the memory is I'm not completely sure what I said although my guess is that I probably tried to skirt the truth for as long as I could. I think I eventually confessed, but if not, I guess now I have. What I do remember is the sense of importance that I felt was attached to the decision to the the truth or to lie. It's a moment that comes back to me every time negating the truth seems like the easier option.

Since that moment, I've been what many people might consider a staunch defender of the truth. I take deception rather personally, probably more so than I should for ultimately its God that's grieved as a result, not me. As I've gotten older I've learned that truth-telling needs to be coupled with discretion, but that truth and justice always stand on the same side. Being vulnerable and being willing to admit things that inconveniently mar the image that we've established for ourselves is the shortest path to humility. And humility is necessary to serve God.

What I've also learned though is that un-truths are never isolated events. The telling of a lie creates a phenomenon where un-truths are multiplied, sometimes quite unconsciously as people believe that the information we've passed on to them is true and they share it with others or make decisions on its basis. Any compromise of God's law has its price and the price of a lie is often the destruction of relationship. Truth is necessary for trust. Without either, relationships fail.

The good news is that God has made a way that despite our compromises of truth, we can be reconciled to the Truth. In this forgiveness, we find the ability to restore relationships with one another because we recognize that we've offended the perfect God to a far greater degree than someone else could ever offend us. This truth may destroy our self-inflated ego, but the peace of reconciliation is worth it.

The truth is often inconvenient to our objectives and our desires, but its never so to God's. Maybe if we trust His ways a little more we wouldn't find telling the truth quite so inconvenient.

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Sunday, June 1, 2008

The Work We're To Do

From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work. - Ephesians 4:16

I don't have the best body. No, I'm not talking about the fact that Elle McPherson and I have little in common. Although that's true (at least as far as surface appearances would foretell), my body just has a habit of not being able to do all the things I want it too. It started when I was younger, the weak ankles that I inherited from my grandmother would result in Ace bandage wraps more often than I care to admit. And although running miles upon miles has caused my ankles to strengthen, my muscles, ligaments, and joints still have their challenges. A large part of this is because I internalize things and my body pays the cost. It's not the worse thing in the world; after all when my body needs a break it means the rest of me slows down too, but given the choice, I'd rather everything function at a little more optimal level.

It is noteworthy perhaps, that there are parts of my body that function extremely well. My heart for instance is in tip-top shape (again - miles of running.) But my heart, although a muscle can't do the job that my shoulder muscle is assigned when my shoulder muscle decides to spasm. They are of the same nature, yet have very different roles, and unfortunately, I can't supplant the job of one for the task of another.

Its the same way in the Church. The job that one person has been given can't be done by someone else. We each must complete the task, whether seemingly menial or significant that God calls us to do recognizing that each task, when a godly task, is significant because of its heavenly origin. We sometimes want to argue with our role - we fear God has given us too much or too little, or He's asked us to do something for which we are ill-equipped. None of this matters. Our job is to complete our function because without it, the rest of the Body can't complete theirs.

And when we do that we may feel that God has called us to do too much and feel that we will not have the wherewithal to accomplish His mission. The words of another may comfort us. "I'd rather burn out than rust out" said James Young Ferguson. And he's right. Burning out is better because our job is to be a light and if we're burning, we're definitely shinning. The other thing to remember is this - things only gather rust when they aren't being used. If we're being used, rust isn't a concern, for our constant service will prevent the stagnation that allows rust to flourish.

God's called us to do things for His kingdom. Are we?

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A Greater Love

I just got a puppy. He's adorable and a rascal, makes me laugh and sometimes makes me want to scream. While anyone who has had a puppy knows what this like, the purpose of this little treatise isn't to advocate the trials or the triumphs of owning a dog. Instead, its to talk about the sudden change in priorities that can occur within just a moment of time. All of the sudden my crazy schedule isn't so any more.

Those who know me know that I tended to go from one activity to the next. This is surprising since I'm an introvert, but for one reason or another I tend to be involved in a lot of things. I rarely realize how crazy my schedule is until I start describing it to someone else and they look at me with big eyes. Somehow, it just seemed normal to me.

But all the sudden my normal has changed. No longer do I feel compelled to be involved in everything because there's an 11-week old little dog who is, at this time, quite dependent on me. And it's important to me that my rambuncious puppy grows up into a well-behaved dog. My priorities have shifted.

And the thing is, I tend not to mind it. The work, the change in schedule, is worth it because there's a greater vision in mind. I don't want to have to be teaching my 5-year old dog how to behave, I'd much rather do it now. However, the work and the inconvenience that I somehow manage with my dog, I sometimes balk at when it comes to the service that God has me do. I want it to be on my own schedule and I want it to work according to my plans, and sometimes it doesn't. Sometimes its hard and trying, and frankly very discouraging. But just like my dismay at my puppy's behavior doesn't make me abandon the work, neither should disappointment in people's response to the things of God. After all, the work isn't for them anyway.

We are willing to make all sorts of things a priority in our lives and we sacrifice much to ensure that our priorities are achieved. If God's purpose in our lives was the most prominent priority in our lives, maybe we'd be a little more willing to deal with inconveniences and a little less concerned about its impact on us.

"It's amazing how non-Christians put our love and commitment to shame because their love for idols exceed our love for God" - Dr. Mike Fabarez, June 1, 2008


Give to Receive

A lot of us have heard the saying, "it's better to give than receive." Just like "cleanliness is next to godliness" and "the love of money is the root of all evil" these maxims have a ring of Scriptural authority. The only problem is none of them are accurate quotations of Scripture. Instead, Acts 20:35 quotes Jesus as saying, "it is more blessed to give than receive."

This may seem like a minor point - after all most of us when equate blessing with goodness, so if it is more blessed to give than obviously that is better. But, while I believe this is true, I don't believe that it rightly encompasses why giving is good Its not just because it teaches us to share, which is a character trait that all mothers would deem admirable. Instead, giving is good because when we give, we actually get. We get God's favor, God's blessings, and we are draw closer to the ideal of becoming more like Christ. After all, who gave more than the One who abandoned heaven and took on the trials of the world, all for the sake of those He loves?

The problem is, those of us involved in Christian service sometimes are blinded by the inconveniences and the personal challenges that service often affords. We don't see what we are getting because we are grudgingly doing the things God has told us for the sake of others. We complain about the toll that service takes on us, without recognizing the benefits it affords if only we'd receive them. We give not accepting that which is given in return.

We should give; of our time, our resources, our possessions and our life, because God tells us to do so, and as people who love Him, we should do the things that please Him. But in doing so, we should also recognize that God's commands are always for our benefit. This is no less true when we are blessed through our giving.

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Better Things Ahead: June 2008

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Better Things Ahead