Sunday, October 5, 2008

Seeking Higher Values

Making Godly decisions is not as easy as it sounds. For, first you have to “find God’s will” (which sometimes seems elusive) and then you must apply it to your life situation. Well, I had wrestled with this for years…until Angie and I came up with what might be termed as a value-driven-decision-making tree. In actuality, it’s a series of real life issues which we have made agonizing difficult decisions on over and over again. Thus, by sheer repetition (and often by trial and error) we determined to base these life situations on scriptural concepts. We simply listed out the issues of life that have direct bearing on our everyday life. Then we have carefully crafted a definition of them regarding their value to us as we follow Christ. Finally, we ranked them according to importance, so that the higher will actually “trump” the lower.
OK, too abstract, I know. First let me list them. Then we will see how each one, properly defined, functions for us. Here they are:
  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) but 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; I will work on what I can control; first and foremost myself.
  3. Home: I will make home a non-negotiable priority; I will succeed at home first.
  4. Relationships: I will love the Lord our God with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength, and love my neighbor as myself. My “neighborhood” begins with my wife and children. It then extends to my current place of ministry, Indiana Wesleyan University and to my local church, College Wesleyan Church. It then expands as I seek to live in love and harmony with the rest of the world.
  5. Ministry: I will pursue personal holiness for the purpose of building up the Body corporately and enhancing the spiritual life of others personally.
  6. Spiritual Disciplines: I will be a man of “one book” but constantly search for truth as revealed throughout God’s creation and by His children. I will seek divine guidance in everything and walk in the Spirit continually.
  7. Decisions: I will not live a life of regrets; I will risk a more comfortable life for the hope of living a more full life. The easy road is a poor teacher. I will not fear failure; I will apply creative responses to those failures.
  8. Finances: The funds and material possessions of life are just “things.” I will not allow their pull to be a chief decision maker in my life. Moreover, God is the ultimate owner, I am merely His caretaker.

When you look at the whole list, you will see that I value the reality of transformation above all else. The possibility that God can and does change a person’s heart is primary in the way I operate in this world. Now, that may be a bit naive I know, for I end up offering grace and mercy, when apparently its unwarranted. But , all one has to do is to read a few of the parables of Jesus to discover that when the Sower throws out seed, he throws it everywhere, even in places it does not grow well (Mark 4, Matthew 13). You must decide if Jesus is simply wasting seed or is this reckless act of seed-distribution another way of Him showing us that He values the lost? Moreover, the reoccurring references in scripture of God’s passionate desire to restore our fallen/broken image (2 Cor 5, Eph 2, Col 3, Rom 6)is His supreme s value of transformation.

Thus, I try hard to view people who sit in my classrooms or in front of me at church or in the checkout line at Wal-Mart with their full potential in mind. I am convinced (in part through my own personal pilgrimage) that God can graciously grip someone’s heart and (re)make them into the Image of His Son. So, I assume the best for these folks, and I will treat them accordingly. Now this in no way means you simply love-and-hug everyone regardless of their actions. Sometimes there are clear consequences to their actions…but I am convinced God wants to transform them. It’s my value because I see it as Jesus’ value. So, Angie and I liberally apply the principle of grace as we practice the #1 value of begging God to transform lives all around us.

As a clear contrast, let’s look at the #8 value; finances. Transformation is #1 because it’s about people. Conversely, finances are on our list because it’s about things. Oh, yes, finances are necessary. Just try to register for classes without them. Just try to ask your girl-friend’s father for her hand in marriage without a job or at least a glimmer of financial independence. Hear me carefully, you are charged by scripture to be a good steward of your finances…but in the end, I simply see finances as a means to an end; never the end or to be considered the highest value. Finally, you will have to answer the question, “Into what will I invest the most energy; people or dollars?” It may not win the acclamation of your father-in-law; but you just may win the approval of your heavenly Father.

Can You instill a hunger in us not just for food but for what You value.
Can You give us insight into ourselves to reject our lesser values.
Can You give us discernment into Your Word to adopt Your greater values.
Can You give us love for Your World and Your people; so they become our overarching value.

Now, “Go with God.”

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