Saturday, March 22, 2008

February 18, 2008

A "God with God" moment

This weekend I’ve been spending long hours at my mother’s bedside. She is in the final stages of her long battle with lung and liver cancer. It’s times like this that begs the question: what is important in life? And how will you maintain that priority when so much of life tugs at you to deviate from your life mission?

Last week I laid before you the thought of pondering and then setting what I called “Life values.” The purpose that they serve is that they assist you in making decisions not upon situations but according to godly values that are determined before a decision needs to be made. I gave to you the fist two foundational values last Monday:
1. Transformation: I believe in the power of a transformed life. I will never forget where I have come from; a sinner saved by grace. However, with the empowerment of the Spirit of God, I will not allow my “past” to prevent Christ from fully reshaping His image within me.
2. Integrity: I will display before all people my transparent self. I will not worry about what I can not control. Rather, I will work on what I can control; first and foremost myself.
Ironically (or maybe providentially) as I spend so much time in the house in which I was raised, this week’s value expresses how I want to honor God and express my priority to others in my home:
3. Home: I will make home a non-negotiable priority; I will succeed at home first. May I always point my wife and children towards Christ and may they reciprocate.

Friends, last week I had to make a decision. Do I stay in Marion and teach classes, grade papers, and attend meetings, or do I go home to be with my parents; with a grieving father who is watching his life-partner of 56 years slowly pass from one life to another, and to be with my mother gently whispering into her ear all the final words a son longs to say to a loving mother? Now that was an easy decision; fully supported by friends and administration here at IWU. But how about when the issues are not so black-and-white, when there are competing issues which seem equally valid and God honoring. How do you make these decisions?

Here is my example. Angie and I were married. I was in the beginning stages of writing my dissertation. She was working 9-5 financially supporting the family. I was Mr. Mom, caring for two pre-teens by day, writing my dissertation by night. One evening we had the wonderful opportunity to entertain a world renowned New Testament scholar for dinner at our home; his name is Martin Hengel. He had taught at the University of Tubingen (Germany) for many years and at the time was the top of the academic world for New Testament research. As we were passing pleasantries before dinner, he inquired about the topic of my dissertation. I told him I was researching on the “presentation of the Gospel of Mark in a first century oral culture.” His interest was immediate and he asked question after question on my approach. During dinner, he boldly asked (in front of Angie), “Why do you not come to Germany and spend six months researching the subject under my tutelage? [FYI, in my mind, that would be like a youth pastor being asked by Rick Warren to come to Saddleback Church to learn about ministry.]
As you can imagine, this was all I could think about for the next several weeks. I was mentally trying to figure out how our children could be cared for in my absence. I was also thinking how impressed people would be seeing Martin Hengel as a mentor and as an academic reference. One night [lovingly I might add], Angie asked how and when my priorities changed? She asked, “Since when does your resume take precedence over our children? She simply wanted to know when my values had changed. As you can imagine, I tried to “persuasively” convince her that this is a once in a life-time opportunity. Moreover, I argued, just find one of my academic peers who would disagree with this “self-made study abroad” program. Her words were simple, “I agree. It’s a wonderful opportunity. But is it more important than the value you place on caring for your children while we are in school together? While I work, you promised to put them first.”
After wrestling with God for several hours, I knew that she was right. My value, my Home priority was that I will always win at home first. This allowed me to see this offer not as an opportunity to be self-promoting (nice resume, Dave) but rather as an occasion to show my children they are the most important people in my life.

Remember the passage of scripture in the Sermon on the Mount, “For where your treasure is there your heart will be.” This is Matthew’s way of substantiating his argument that worldly accolades and material possessions will surely disappear (Just ask my mom today) but what remains are the kingdom values upon which shape your life decisions. As for me and my house, “I will succeed at home first.” Friends, how do you place a value on family, friends, and relationships? Can you word it in a way that will assist you in making some of the most difficult decisions?

Your mind and wisdom is what we seek.
Not to be smart, but to be a reflection of Christ in a world bent on success.
Would You reorient our values to appear just a bit more servant-life than self-serving.
For the sake of Your kingdom.

Now, Go with God.

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