The Death of Independence

Everyone longs for a sense of independence. My children each went through a phase where we would try to help them, and they would respond with, “By self.” They wanted to do everything for themselves with no help from dear old mom and dad.

That childhood longing for independence never seems to fade. Teenagers wait for the day they have a car and the freedom to do things on their own. Young adults look forward to moving out of the house and having their own schedule. Then they look forward to their own job, money, home, and family. The faint echo of “By self” carries us into life as an adult.

The problem is that these independent, head-strong people come to Church. This is the place where we are challenged to “die to ourselves.” Our world is no longer about what we want, but rather about the cause of Christ. It is no longer I that lives, but Christ who lives in me. To be a faithful Jesus follower, you must submit your will to his, and his purpose supersedes your desires. One question that stretches our faith is, “What do I need to surrender to Jesus?”

This issue discovers a new arena for us to grow when we come together as a Church community. Now I must submit my will to Jesus but also for his body. We are called to surrender our will to Jesus for the good of the group. I find that most people find it incredibly challenging to give up their desires for the Church body. They want independence in their connection with other believers.

A couple of examples, people want to park in whatever space they want to park. Don’t tell me to park away from the building so our elderly and guests can have the most accessible spots. Also, people want to sit wherever they want to sit. I encourage them to sit near the front so that late-comers and guests can have the back rows. These are just a couple of the long list of things that each believer can do to make their Church better for guests and those with special needs. And yet, much of what I tell people falls on deaf ears.

I believe that one of the steps on your journey of spiritual growth is the death of independence. It is the silencing of those juvenile cries of self. Maturity is asking yourself if this what Jesus wants me to do and the best thing for his body. Jesus told his followers to take up their cross daily. Today is another one of those days. This weekend is one of those weekends.

The Legacy of Faith

Your legacy is something you leave behind for the next generation. For you, this might be a financial gift or a pile of possessions. I want to suggest to you that there is something spiritual that you can leave behind as well. I believe your life can touch the lives of numerous people for the kingdom of God.

What I have noticed lately is that most people’s journey with Jesus looks less like a highway and more like a collection of country roads. People do not walk a straight path with God from the day they meet Jesus until heaven. There is not one person who influences, teaches, and instructs them on the ways of faith and serve as their primary mentor.

Instead, most people grow in their faith by walking one road and then taking a right turn on another and then a left turn here and on and on. Their path winds through multiple Churches throughout their life. They receive direction from numerous individuals over the journey. There was that one Sunday school teacher, that elder, a preacher, a traveling teacher and a myriad of other influences. Step by step, people mold our lives in meaningful ways, and some of them never know it.

All of us have a legacy of faith that was left to us. We are the result of people giving of themselves to others for Jesus sake. It is always interesting to walk back through our lives and see the twist and turns that brought us here. With each move, there was often someone who pointed us the right direction to go.

All of us are also leaving a legacy of faith. We are helping people move closer to God in our own small way. If you allow God to use your life, you will have an impact that leads others toward eternity. You may never see a person move from non-believer to heaven-bound saint, but you might be able to point them down the proper path for the next mile. Your legacy will be that of someone who helped others move closer to Jesus.

The Problem with Invisible Boundaries

The issue is that they are invisible. No one is sure where they are located without a marker.

My neighbors and I share an imaginary line between our homes. They mow and take care of the grass up to the location where they believe it exists. I do the same.

This arrangement works well for us because I have decent neighbors. They are not trying to take extra property for themselves, and they are not doing anything to hurt our relationship. We all get along and have no real issues.

This situation will only become a difficulty when one of them does something to harm my life and well-being. If they become destructive to my property or cause issues to my family or me, then I will have to reinforce the boundary and make sure they stay on their side.

Your heart and mind function in the same way as your property. There are numerous areas in which you have no problems, so no clearly defined boundary is needed. When something infringes on our good nature, then you must respond. This can be difficult to do as the dividing lines have been blurred for so long, we might not remember where they are located.

I guess that your biggest spiritual struggles are connected to places where the boundaries are unclear. Is one cuss word too many? Are two or three drinks too much? Is talking intimately to a member of the opposite sex okay if you are married? Is one sexual image too many to view? Is it a good idea to miss worship two or three times a month? The list goes on and on.

One way to improve your life is to develop clearly defined lines of behavior. Sometimes a surveyor and a secure fence will prevent issues from happening in the future. Invisible boundaries are fine until they are not.

The Problem with Young People Today

Is the same problem it is has been since the beginning of time.  They lack the experience that brings knowledge. 

They only see the beginning of things.  They do not envision the end of the road.  They don’t wholly comprehend where some of the paths in life lead. 

For example, young people rush into drinking alcohol because they have never sat with a 50-year-old alcoholic who has lost everything.  Their spouse has left them, and their children despise them.  Their pain is greater than the years they have spent pursuing pleasure. 

They take considerable risks in many areas of life because they have never seen someone lose everything.  They have never been witness to the destruction that comes with taking the wrong road.   

The first steps of the path we take are always fun and stimulating.  When you do not see any immediate consequences, we can begin to think there are none.  Unfortunately, many of the paths that people tread lead to dark and awful places. 

Wisdom is the ability to think through the possible conclusions to the choices you are making.  It involves asking yourself, “Where does this behavior lead me in the coming years?” 

Honestly, there is no problem with young people today.  They suffer from the same issue anyone can face.  Anyone can live with short-sightedness.  It is dangerous to think that nothing bad will ever happen to us.  You don’t have to be young to make foolish decisions. 

The way of the wisdom is for anyone willing to look far enough ahead to be sure they are on the right path. 

Most People Do Not Care About Foundations

Rarely do people drive out their friends to show them the foundation that was just poured for their upcoming house. Your friends and family don’t care about concrete forms, cinder blocks, and drainage plans.

No one has ever invited me into their home and immediately bragged out the foundation of their house. No, they usually show off big kitchens, walk-in closets, and elegant bathrooms.

Nothing is appealing about a foundation, and no one really cares. That is until there is a crack. When the ground settles, shoddy workmanship is exposed, or a natural disaster causes a failure in the foundation, then nothing could be more critical.

While no one talks about it, brags about it or shows it to their friends, the foundation is the most crucial part of a building. If it goes, the whole structure comes down. The kitchen, the closets, and the bathroom have no value on top of a shaking foundation.

The same is true in life. The things you build your life upon are not always exciting, but they are essential. Fancy homes, expensive vacations, and lots of recreational toys mean little when the foundation of your life is crumbling.

What God offers us through our faith in him is not always flashy and will not impress many people. The real question of your life is not, “Is it appealing to others,” but rather, “Will it stand firm when the ground shifts and the storms come?”

More Church Leadership Thoughts

Back on March 8th, I shared some Church Leadership Thoughts from a consultant named Dave Jacobs. Dave spends numerous hours working with Churches all over the country from different denominations through coaching calls. After most of these calls, he then posts a “coaching takeaway” for a group of pastors on social media. Here are ten of the best ones I have read over the past few months. They apply far beyond just Church leadership, and I thought you might learn something from them too. Enjoy.

  1. If there are problems that need dealing with, you can deal with them now or deal with them later. Problems left until later have a tendency to grow into bigger problems. You choose.
  2. In the absence of information, people will come to their own conclusions, and sometimes those conclusions are the conclusions we wish they didn’t come to.
  3. Pour yourself into your best people. Give some of yourself to the rest but only your best to the best.
  4. When faced with relational conflict, or any frustration with a leader, begin by asking yourself, “Is there any way in which I have contributed to the problem?”
  5. The test of our spiritual maturity is seen in how we handle the boring, unexciting, monotonous routines of life.
  6. We must become comfortable with having uncomfortable conversations with people.
  7. We all make mistakes. When your mistake affects someone else, admit to them you made a mistake. Don’t beat yourself up too much; it does very little good. Learn and move forward.
  8. One of the jobs of a leader is to help those they lead to face reality.
  9. Before you can think outside of the box you must understand what’s inside of the box … and why.
  10. Whenever someone’s behavior is “out of character” that can mean something is going on with them that you don’t know about. Find out if that is true before you deal with the behavior.
  11. The older you get, the less time you have to recover from mistakes. God designed us to get wiser as we get older. If you don’t get wiser, then all you get is older.
  12. Don’t blindly believe everything the “experts” tell you, especially if they have a book to sell.

My New Definition of Love

The Bible often speaks of love. It is a word that often endears women and confuses me. Our culture likes to talk about it as a feeling. It is something we “fall” into and out of depending on the circumstances. I usually remind people that Biblical love is an action. It is not something you say or feel but rather something you do.

A few weeks ago, I wrote down a line in my notebook that has become my new definition of love. “Love is making other people’s lives better.”

I think this definition is so understandable and useable.

What does it mean to love your spouse? It means you do everything possible to make their life better. You give to them, you ask about their thoughts and feelings, and you do work that helps them.

What does it mean to love your neighbor? It means you work to make their life better. You help them out when needed. You speak kindly while not gossiping. You do little things that they appreciate.

What does it mean to love your enemy? It means that despite your differences, you continue to seek their best. You do for them what you would like people to do for you.

I think it is a simple definition and it probably isn’t original to me. I do believe it is a practical idea that when implemented, can help to improve all our relationships. So, this week, when you think of how you love someone, ask yourself, “what am I doing to make their life better?” If you can’t come up with anything, then maybe you need to reevaluate your definition of love.