Posts made in January, 2016

To Be Pleasing

Posted by on Jan 22, 2016 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

Any time we dive into the realm of our motivations, the waters can be pretty murky. It’s difficult to discern why we do what we do. Still, it’s well worth the time and energy to consider what most compels us to live in the way that we do.

For just a few moments, let’s think about the part “pleasing the Lord” plays in our overall motivation. What does it mean to be pleasing to the Lord? Is it possible to be dis-pleasing? To what extent should the idea of pleasing the Lord determine how we live? And most importantly, what is it that fuels a person’s desire to please the Lord in the first place?praying-29699_640

There is a tendency within the church at large to take one of two positions which are assumed to be mutually exclusive. The first is that once we are in Christ – subjects of God’s kingdom – we are pleasing to the Lord at all times, no matter what. There is a sense in which that is true, but that conclusion doesn’t paint a complete biblical picture.

The second is that once we are in Christ – subjects of God’s kingdom – we are pleasing to the Lord only as long as we are obedient. It is assumed that when we are disobedient, we are utterly displeasing to the Lord and in some degree of peril until we confess our sin, repent and renew ourselves to Him. This too has threads of truth, but lacks an adequate representation of all that is true of those who have trusted in Christ.

The problem with these two views is that they minimize (view #1) and exaggerate (view #2) the effect of our obedient and disobedient choices. These views are also rooted in an assumption that God is limited to one or the other responses to our attitudes and actions.

The Bible, however, presents another explanation of God’s posture toward His people in the midst of their daily decisions.

God is actually capable of feeling pleasure and displeasure with His children simultaneously. Here’s what I mean …

On the one hand, having trusted in the sacrificial death of Christ for the forgiveness of our sin, we are forever justified and viewed by God as if we had never sinned and as if we had always done what is right. This is the glorious (even scandalous) reality of having been saved by grace, through faith, not as a result of works (Eph 2:8-9). We are ultimately pleasing to the Lord – and therefore subjects of His kingdom – not as a result of our performance, but as a result of placing our trust in the loving performance of Christ on our behalf.

But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” (Lam 3:21–23)

If we are faithless, he remains faithful— for he cannot deny himself.” (2 Tim 2:13)

On the other hand, it is possible to be displeasing to the Lord without jeopardizing our justified standing before God. If that were not the case, we wouldn’t have the following passages in our New Testament (all of which are written to justified believers) …

Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.” (Eph 4:30)

So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.” (2 Cor 5:9–10)

From the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.” (Col 1:9–10)

Those who have entered the kingdom of God by grace through faith do not live according to His commands in order to find ultimate acceptance, but to please Him in the here and now, and experience the blessing of uninterrupted fellowship with Him.

It is the fact of our acceptance – His unwavering pleasure over our adoption into His family – that fuels our desire to please Him moment by moment. Gratitude for the assurance we have in Christ makes our daily obedience a sacrifice of thanksgiving rather than an attempt at appeasement.

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Coachable

Posted by on Jan 11, 2016 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

whistle-1525647-639x426One of the great joys of my lifetime has been coaching my kids in their wide array of sports. I started when they were little bitties in Gymnastics, and I’m still at it today in the wonderful world of high school Ultimate Frisbee. It’s been a challenge to be Dad and Coach at the same time, but I wouldn’t trade it for being in the stands. We’ve made some great memories, pushed through intimidating obstacles, grieved painful losses and celebrated euphoric victories. We’ve shared some incredible experiences we’ll get to cherish for years to come.

As much as I’ve enjoyed seeing my children and their teammates realize some of their physical potential, I’ve gotten just as much – if not more – satisfaction from seeing their character develop. What a blast watching qualities like dedication, integrity, teamwork, and endurance emerge like diamonds from the crucibles of practices and game day performances.

With character in mind, I’ve noticed a fascinating phenomenon in the attitudes of players toward their coaches as they grow in age. Grade school kids respond to their coach much like the game “Simon says.” They struggle to keep up, but they give a lot of effort trying to just do what coach says. In middle school, self-awareness floods in and the athletes are as interested in how they look as they are in what they’re told to do. By the time high school rolls around, a lot of athletes have enough of a handle on their sport that they begin to believe they really know what’s best (maybe even more than their coach!).

Generally speaking, growing young athletes tend to move from a place of great dependence in their early years to that of independence in teenage years. It’s as if someone told them that the goal was to become so good at what they did that they no longer needed a coach. Where did that idea come from? What is the allure of self-sufficiency?

In my life, it was about self-protection, self-promotion and a desperate search for significance (there’s a great book by that title). I wanted to be somebody, and I thought superstars were those who grew beyond a need for anyone. Simply put, my outlook was rooted in pride.

On the flipside, have you ever tried to coach an arrogant athlete? Or offer input to a teammate who has an inflated view of themselves? It’s next to impossible. Pride undermines the whole nature of the coach/athlete relationship … a relationship based upon need and assistance. Where there is no sense of need, there is no receptivity.

You probably know where I’m going with this.

You and I are coachable to the degree that we are aware of (and willing to admit) our need. And, as you might have expected, this applies not only to athletics, but also to spiritual maturity. The heart of a “coachable” person is eager for input regardless of how much knowledge they have acquired. Their assumption is that they can always improve, and so they soak up feedback like a sponge.

By the way, I’m not talking about accepting input without discernment. That would be just as foolish as rejecting input of any kind. I’m talking about giving genuine consideration to the observations offered us in hopes of gaining additional insight into ourselves and the next right steps toward greater maturity.

Tell-tale signs that I’m NOT receptive are defensiveness, blame-shifting, excuses, denial, minimizing, change of topic or dismissiveness. These are all strategies for preserving my pride and avoiding the need for change. They give me the feeling of control while stunting my growth and isolating me from the people who can most help me realize my potential.

One of the greatest models of coachability I’ve seen was a professor of mine, Dr. Howard Hendricks. He taught at Dallas Theological Seminary for over 50 years, wrote prolifically, personally discipled several of the most influential Christian leaders of our day and taught the Bible to literally millions of people over the course of his lifetime. And yet, if you or I were teaching in a room where he was present, he would be on the front row, taking copious notes in hopes of growing in his faith.

I would argue that Prof’s far reaching influence was directly tied to his humble willingness to receive input wherever it might be found. And that’s exactly what we find in the Scriptures …

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.” (Proverbs 1:7, ESV)

“When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with the humble is wisdom.” (Proverbs 11:2, ESV)

“One’s pride will bring him low, but he who is lowly in spirit will obtain honor.” (Proverbs 29:23, ESV)

“… Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.’” (1 Peter 5:5, ESV)

Instead of striving to grow out of our need for coaching, let’s humbly surround ourselves with wise truth-tellers who will faithfully and graciously speak the truth to us in love for our good and God’s glory.

Who in your life has modeled a coachable spirit? What have you learned from their example?

 

*seen also at http://tri4him.com/blog/; Tri4Him is an international body of Christian triathletes united in sport and spirit.

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Psalm 13: Hide-n-seek

Posted by on Jan 9, 2016 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

Some days it feels like God has left the building.Searching1

Those are the days when things aren’t going the way I’d like. I can handle a few of them at a time, but long stretches of suffering feel more like hide-n-seek with God than an episode of Father knows best. “Surely, if God were here with me, life wouldn’t be this hard!”

The truth is, my earthly circumstances are poor proof of God’s presence or absence. He has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5) … good days or bad. If God seems distant or absent, it must be me, blinded by the sad reality of living in a sin-wrecked world.

Rather than looking for God as if He were missing, I’m always better off looking for the gift of growth He promises with His presence (Romans 8:28-29). Those gifts are often hard to see and even slower to arrive. But when they do, I find myself thinking, “It’s just what I needed.”

God truly has dealt bountifully with me.

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Honing the Heart

Posted by on Jan 6, 2016 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

heart-693390_1280The empty nest is fast approaching for my wife and me. Our last of four will fly the coup in about a year. We absolutely love our kids and enter this new season deeply connected with them and grateful for the journey we’ve shared together. But it hasn’t always been a walk in the park.

First cries, first lies, rebellious no’s and dinnertime throws all made for some disheartening days. We started out believing that if we could just find the right technique, our kids would joyfully comply with our every wish. I know, pretty naïve. But so much of what we had seen and heard related to parenting was mostly about technique and behavior management.

It’s OK, you can chuckle at our expense. But if you’ve been there, standing at the edge of the parental abyss, wondering how you (and your child) are going to make 18 years together, you might be reaching for a tissue. We went through plenty of boxes … that is until we changed our focus.

We were spending so much energy (with the best of intentions) trying to point out what our kids needed to stop and change, we were failing to affirm them for the things they were doing well. Fortunately, someone told us, “Catch your kids doing stuff right.” That little piece of advice revolutionized our outlook as parents. We still had boundaries and consequences, but we made it our aim to celebrate every positive thing we could find.

I’d love to say revival swept through our family and we launched a reality show called “Heaven on Earth.” It didn’t, and we didn’t. But life got a whole lot sweeter around the Waldron house.

Despite the positive vibe we were feeling, another issue emerged that I want to focus on for the remainder of this post. It truly is the most important thing parents could ever address with their kids, but also the thing we most need to address in ourselves. I’m talking about the attitudes of our heart.

Years ago, Kimberly and I came across a resource that shaped our philosophy of parenting as much as anything (second, of course, to Scripture). Tedd Tripp wrote a book in the mid-90’s that was a huge breath of fresh air amid the countless parenting manuals on “behavior management.” It’s title – Shepherding a Child’s Heart – speaks to what most parents long to do, but feel ill-equipped to do as a result of a lifelong focus on performance rather than relationship.

It’s not that performance is irrelevant. It’s just that performance (obedience) is the fruit of relationship, not what forges relationship. Good works come after the reception of genuine spiritual life; they aren’t the means to getting it.

In fact, the Apostle Paul took several opportunities in his letters to the early churches to put “performance” in its proper place. In one instance, he lists glorious behavior, all reduced to noise when done without the motivation of love.

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.” (1 Corinthians 13:1–3, ESV)

Pretty astounding, huh! Angelic language, prophetic power, mountain-moving faith and even martyrdom; all meaningless apart from a right attitude rooted in love.

Jesus also confronted misaligned motives lurking in the hearts of Israel’s most religious elite.

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and the plate, that the outside also may be clean. “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness. So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.” (Matthew 23:25–28, ESV)

We all have this remarkable ability to do what is right and good on the outside while harboring spiritual heartburn on the inside. We can actually learn to perform outward obedience, but do so with tainted motives, and ultimately undermine the quality of our actions before our omniscient heavenly Father.

So, whether parenting, coaching, managing or mentoring, it is vital that we make a big deal about attitudes of the heart, confident that God’s transforming work in all of our lives truly moves from the inside out.

Perhaps that was what Solomon had in mind when he urged his readers, “Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.” (Proverbs 4:23, ESV) I’ve learned that nothing requires more attentiveness, more awareness in my life than the activity of my own heart (thoughts, emotions, intentions, etc.). And nothing gives me greater assurance than the promise, “God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” (Romans 5:5, ESV)

My prayer, then, for you (and myself) is, “that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.” (Ephesians 3:17–19, ESV)

*seen also at http://tri4him.com/blog/; Tri4Him is an international body of Christian triathletes united in sport and spirit.

 

 

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Crowded Loneliness

Posted by on Jan 4, 2016 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

Isn’t it strange … we’re more connected than at any other time in history, yet generally more isolated than at any other time in history.

london-1018629_1280Culturally, we’re a mass of lonely people naturally drifting apart … The Loneliness Epidemic, blogger Seth Godin (April, 2013); Bowling Alone, Robert Putnam (2000)

Often our response to pain of this kind is to seek RELIEF … something or someone that temporarily pleases the senses (commonly illegitimate counterfeits), thereby dulling the pain.

“Pain Relievers” provide an experience of EXHILERATION. What’s your drug of choice?

  • Danger/Risk (adrenaline)
  • Sensual Indulgence (5 senses)
  • Mood-altering substances (drugs or alcohol)
  • Virtual Reality (fantasy-land)

Pain relievers are pain DECEIVERS … When we seek to mask the pain of loneliness, we fail to experience the sufficiency of God’s grace given to help in our time of need (Hebrews 4:16); and we diminish the actual brokenness that comes with living in a sin-wrecked world. No amount of worldly distractions changes the reality sin’s curse (Gen 3).

“The heart of the wise is in a house of mourning, but the heart of fools is in a house of pleasure.” (Ecclesiastes 7:4)

When loneliness comes, we have a choice … Relief? Or Renewal?

The goal in our loneliness, then, isn’t to dull the pain, but to engage our relational need and God’s comforting presence (available to us in His word, His Spirit and His people).

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