Thursday, May 31, 2012

Interests of Others

Philippians 2:4 (NIV)
 not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. 

I can’t say I’m overly equipped for the task but my wife is overdue for an evening out with her girlfriends and so this leaves me on deck for a ballet recital dress rehearsal for our five year old.  The questioning glares of the moms backstage leave no doubt that I’m out of place.

I’m sure Ivy would have rather had her mom here for this but I can tell she also likes having me experience this part of her world and it’s clear she needs the moral support. So I’m facing my fear of bows and ribbons and in true male character I soldier on.

Still, I feel significantly under-equipped and tellingly out of my element.  It’s my love and care for her that keeps me focused on her needs and concerns on this nerve-rattling but important evening.

I’m reminded that this is just what love does.  Whether it’s for a friend or a neighbor or a daughter, love looks to the needs and concerns of another at our own inconvenience and expense.

This kind of love is the reality of the Christian experience.  It’s the substance of our faith as we trust in a Savior who gave Himself for us even though we didn’t deserve it.  Coincidentally this kind of love is also the foundation of strong relationships. 

Hebrews 10:24 (NIV)
 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds,

Friday, May 18, 2012

The Inside of the Cup

Matthew 23:26 (NIV)
Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.
A conversation that Jesus often had with the Pharisees had to do with their hearts.  He was constantly challenging them in areas of hypocrisy.  This was because their tendency was often to worry about what others saw on the outside and neglect greater sins of the heart.  They wanted to look holy and practiced their righteous deeds publicly for others to see.
At one point Jesus told them that it was like they were washing the outside of the cup but that the inside was dirty - It’s a gentle warning for all of us.  We should take care and make sure we’re not like the Pharisees practicing outward righteousness only to look good in front of others.  When I read about Jesus’ interactions with these men it causes me evaluate my own heart and check for hypocrisy and it makes me want to maintain a clean heart before God.  I want to let God point out anything in my heart that needs attention.
It’s a danger with all of us to worry more about how we appear in our Christian walk to others while neglecting the more secret sins of the heart but the heart is really what God sees and nothing can be hidden from Him anyway.  So let us take note and let God investigate even the private struggles in our hearts. 
Psalm 51:10(NIV)
 Create in me a pure heart, O God,
  and renew a steadfast spirit within me.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Written on your Heart

Jeremiah 31:33 (NIV)
“This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel
 after that time,” declares the Lord.
“I will put my law in their minds
 and write it on their hearts.
I will be their God,
 and they will be my people.
When I was a kid growing up in church I remember lots of discussions in our youth group that could all fit under the heading; "How Far is too Far?"  We were all asking, “At what point have I crossed the line into sin?
Many of those questions applied to dating and the opposite sex as well as other moral issues.  As I grew older and matured I began to realize that we were really concerned about how much we could get away with and still be okay.  Like a young boy playing in a camp fire we wanted to know that we hadn’t yet gone so far as to be burned.
Now in my adulthood I have a couple of observations.  First, it seems we were asking the wrong questions.  Perhaps it would be more appropriate to ask, “How closely with God can I walk?”  Or, “How far away from sins door can I stay?”  We certainly weren’t asking those questions.
Secondly, I’ve learned that we already know the answers to many of the things we question.  Like I often tell my children, “If you are asking the question you might already know the answer.”  If you are God’s child then you have the Holy Spirit constantly guiding you in what’s right and wrong.  So if there’s a moral issue that you are questioning today consider whether your real query has to do with its rightness or your willingness to do what’s right. 
Romans 2:15(NIV)
 They show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts sometimes accusing them and at other times even defending them.

Friday, May 4, 2012

The Gamer

Proverbs 3:11-12(NLT)
 My child, don’t reject the Lord’s discipline,
  and don’t be upset when he corrects you.
 For the Lord corrects those he loves,
  just as a father corrects a child in whom he delights
My son Andrew is what you’d call a gamer.  He loves to spend his time on the computer playing games with his friends.  They talk by video and play games of various kinds together and are constantly building something, blowing something up or scheming to take over some virtual empire.
Often times I glaze over as he begins telling me about some distant world venture where he faced certain death yet he and his friends managed to escape unscathed.  For me, hearing about these adventures is synonymous to listening to an unlearned foreign language.  One thing I can understand clearly is that he's quite excited about this challenging and fun activity.
Ultimately, I want Andrew to develop in a wide range of skills and interests, not just this one.  So we’ve intentionally limited his play time in the virtual realm and encouraged other activities like reading and physical activity outdoors.  We’ve also placed a timer and a list of expectations including rules like; “Homework must be done first,” next to the computer.  All this is with the goal that he should work toward self-management and self-discipline.   So if he steps outside of the guidelines he loses time on the computer – simple concept, so you’d think. 
God works with us in in similar ways to help us follow His guidelines.  He gently instructs us and encourages us toward righteous living and ultimately He works in a way that allows us the freedom to follow or not follow.  He wants us to be self-motivated toward obedience.
Sometimes I find this guidance easy and at other times I feel rather adolescent in my faith.  Still because I love Him I want to learn to follow and obey.