Friday, March 30, 2012

Modesty: The Character and Content of the Heart

When we talk about modesty, more often than not, we are talking about appropriate clothing for women. Modest is the term we use when we talk about appropriate or inappropriate clothing. If we think an outfit is appropriate, then we say it is modest. But if we think an outfit shows too much skin, we call it immodest. However, this isn't all that modesty means. Yes, it does have to do with proper clothing, but like all other things in the Bible, what's inside matters more than what's outside.

Modesty is important because it is about the condition of your heart. Without modesty, your relationships won't function in a Godly manner. If your heart is not modest, then pride and arrogance and selfishness will be your downfall. If you want your friendships and your relationships to be Godly and Christlike, then you have to approach them with humility and you have to commit to purity. If you want servant romance, you have to have a modest heart.

So is your heart modest? I think to answer that question, we need to know what it means to be modest. One definition of modest in the dictionary says, "having a moderate estimate of oneself." Another definition says, "free from taint of sex." And yet another says, "not making excessive claims about oneself." I believe that to be modest means to have humility and purity. I think that to be modest means you are humble and authentic, and free from impurity.

Modesty isn't just about clothing. It all comes down to your heart. It's about the character of your heart; it's about your principles, your purity, and your attitude. When we talk about modesty, we shouldn't just be talking about whether or not someone is showing too much skin. The focus should be more on the heart than the skin. As important as it is to dress appropriately, even evil women can dress appropriately. I have met women who hide very twisted and dark hearts behind a very lovely and attractive exterior. The emphasis has to be on the heart, because physical appearances can and will lead us astray.

1 Samuel 16:7 says, "But the Lord said to Samuel, 'Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.'" Isn't this so true? Man looks at the outward appearance. We look at people and judge them by appearances or impressions. We tend to overlook the content of their heart. But the Lord looks at the heart. He doesn't look at the things we look at. And that's why it is so dangerous to get caught up in appearances: they don't matter to God. He looks at the heart.

And because we as Christians should be pursuing Christ, we too should look at the heart. We should avoid making judgments by appearances and impressions, because these do not matter to God. The character and content of your heart are what matters.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Honor: Fight Like A Knight

When I hear the word honor, I first think of medieval knights. I think of how they valued things like honor and valor. These guys live and died, fought and killed for their own honor, and to honor the king they fought for. Their lives were based on honor. Everything revolved around honor. They would act only if it would bring honor and glory to the king or lord that they served. It was everything to them.

I don't think it is much different when it comes to relationships. And that's why honor is the third quality of servant romance. Honor has to be one of the key qualities in your relationships, or else the relationship will fail. And why is that? Why is honor so important? As a friend of mine once told me, if you can't honor someone, you can't love them. It's important because if you are constantly dishonoring the other person, you're basically committing relationship suicide.

I think that almost everything about a relationship should revolve around honor. If what you do is honoring, then it's good. But if it's dishonoring, then don't do it. Think about it. Things like being sexually active, viewing pornography, or even gossiping are dishonoring to the person you are in a relationship with. It degrades and dishonors them. If you have sex with someone, not only is that dishonoring to that person, it is blatant disregard for God. And if you gossip about someone or if you're mean to someone, that's dishonoring to them because it isn't respectful.

I think that honor is basically respect on steroids. Remember that respect means to treat others as important people and to treat others how you want to be treated. Honor basically means to have high regard and respect for someone. It takes respect to a whole new level. To honor someone is to go above and beyond simple respect.

I am trying to honor my future wife as much as possible, even though I'm single and have no idea who she is yet. I know that being a husband is a big job and it takes a lot of work, so I take my education, my job, and my leadership roles very seriously because I want to be ready for it. I do things like choose to stay sexually pure in mind, heart, and body because I want to honor her in that way. I want to show her my loyalty and my love by not only staying faithful during marriage, but before it.

I want to show respect for my future wife now by being faithful. I want to honor her by growing up to be a young man that she deserves. But I don't even know who she is yet. So what about the people that I already know? How can I honor my friends, my co-workers, my teachers, my superiors at work, and even those I don't get along with? I try to treat others the way I want to be treated. That's just important to me that I do that. The Bible tells us to do it, so it's important to me. And I don't know how you feel, but I want to be honored by my peers. I want to be honored and respected, so I try to treat other people that way. It doesn't always happen because I'm human and I make mistakes, but it's something to strive for.

In Luke 6:31, Jesus says, "Do to others as you would have them do to you." I think this is what it all comes down to. Treat others in the way you want to be treated. I want people to be patient with me. I want them to be kind to me. I want my friends to be humble, and not prideful. I want them to have respect for me. I want them to be selfless, thinking of others before themselves. I want others to be forgiving of me when I mess up. I want them to be honest with me, because I hate being lied to. And I want them to be committed to our relationship. If these are the things I want from other people, then this is what I should expect from myself. I want to be a servant leader. And honoring other people is a key part of that.

What if we became knights of honor? What if we started to fight for honor in the same way that medieval knights did? How different would our relationships be if we valued honor as much as knights did? I challenge you to learn to honor your friends, family, and everyone else in your life. Extend your servant leadership to include honor. Honor others in the way you want to be honored. Fight for honor like a knight.

Romans 12:10 says, "Honor one another above yourselves."

Friday, March 16, 2012

Value: Loving the Potter By Loving the Pots

How do you make someone feel valuable?

This has been a question that guys have been asking for centuries. We want to know how to make girls feel important, and we want to know how to tell girls how much we value them. For some guys, it's hard to express our feelings and show that we care. But this is a question that isn't restricted to how men treat women: it's a question that applies to every kind of relationship. As the owner of a small business company, how can you make your employees feel valued? As the pastor of a church, how can you make your church family feel important? As a little league baseball coach, how can you show them that they are worth something? As a parent, how can you show your children that you care?

I believe that the first two qualities of servant romance- respect and value- are intertwined and interrelated. I believe that respecting someone and valuing someone are very similar. To respect means to treat others as if they are important. That means you treat those in lowly positions with the same regard as those with in high positions. You give equal respect to everyone, and you respect everyone. But respect also means to treat others the same way you want to be treated. The definition of value is very similar. To value someone means to treat someone as if they are worth something- because they are.

So how do you show people that you think they are worth something? Ultimately, it's all in how you treat them. To make someone feel valuable, you have to make them feel like they are important and uniquely gifted. You have to make them feel like they can contribute and be beneficial. And you've got show them that you care about them enough to invest in them.

The best example of this in all of history is Jesus Christ. Think about it. He loved His followers enough to die for them. That takes value to a whole new level. In John 15:13, Jesus says, "Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends." Not many leaders in history have died to save their followers. But Jesus did. And He took it to a whole new level.

If you want to be like Christ, then make your friends, your peers, your family, and everyone else in your life feel valued. Don't make the mistake of taking them for granted- you never know how much time you have left with them. Also, don't make the mistake of thinking you are better than someone else. God values all people the same, and it's disrespectful to God to be disrespectful to others. If you're not convinced, then read Matthew 25:31-46. It's the parable of the Sheep and the Goats, and the point Jesus gets across is that how you treat people is really how you are treating God. If you don't value the pots, you don't value the Potter. And if you don't value the creation, you don't value the Creator. So if you want to love God, then love the people He died for.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Respect: Treating Others How You Want To Be Treated

When it comes to relationships and friendships, respect has to be one of the foundational qualities. In other words, respect needs to be one of the cornerstones of a friendship or a relationship. Why? The answer is simple: If you don't respect the other person, you won't have much of a friendship or relationship with him or her. In order to have a good relationship with someone, you have to respect that person. Whether it's a friend, teacher, coach, parent, youth pastor, girlfriend, or co-worker, your relationship with that person will be terrible if you don't respect each other.

Now what exactly is respect? You may or may not know this, but Jesus gave us the definition of respect. In Luke 6:31, He says, "Do to others as you would have them do to you." I believe that to respect someone means to treat that person how you want to be treated. That is so crucial to servant romance that I will repeat it: To respect someone means to treat that person how you want to be treated. So the question now is, how do you want to be treated? Chances are that you want to be treated with honor, dignity, and respect. You want people to be patient with you, kind with you, humble towards you, respectful of you, selfless for you, honest with you, forgiving towards you, and committed to you. If you want to be treated that way, treat others that way. The saying goes, "If you want a friend, be a friend." The same is true of respect. If you want to be respected, then respect others.

So respect is very important. Guys should respect girls, and girls should respect guys. When one doesn't respect the other, it can get pretty nasty. But what are some ways you can be respectful? In other words, what are some down-to-earth ways to apply respect to your relationships? The answer is pretty simple: Guys should be gentlemen, and girls should be ladies. Respect can be formed in the simplest of ways. If you want to respect someone, then be polite, be chivalrous, and be kind. Treat that person how you would want to be treated. But it can also get complicated. Sometimes, the best way to respect someone is to give them privacy or to leave them alone. When someone is having a bad day, they may not want to hang out with you or talk to you or even text you. And you should respect that. Remember that respect means treating someone how you want to be treated. If you like being left alone on bad days, or even if you don't, do what they want and thus show them respect.

The point of respecting someone is to show them how important they are. So get out there and show your friends how important they are! Treat them how you want to be treated.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Wisdom Is The Key

If you want to know whether or not something is appropriate or inappropriate, okay or not okay, or good or bad, you will need wisdom to discern between right and wrong. Being wise means that you will be able to understand and discern what you are supposed to do, and also what you're not supposed to do. To be confident and secure in your convictions, boundaries, and beliefs, you will need wisdom to understand what is right and good for you. Wisdom is what helps you make the right decision.

Proverbs 3:3-5, 9-11 says that "...if you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding, and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God...

"Then you will understand what is right and just and fair—every good path. For wisdom will enter your heart, and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul. Discretion will protect you, and understanding will guard you."

I put emphasis on verse nine because that is what we are looking for. When we say we want to know what is right or wrong, or appropriate or inappropriate between the sexes, we are really asking what is right and just and fair. We are asking what rules and what convictions are good and beneficial. And the only way to know that is to have wisdom and discernment. Wisdom has to be the source behind your decisions on what your convictions and beliefs are, otherwise what you decide will be unwise and faulty. Remember that Proverbs 3:5 says, "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding."

So before we begin to look at what the five qualities of servant romance are, I encourage you to pray for knowledge. I encourage you to read the first four chapters of Proverbs, and to search the entire Bible for words of wisdom. I invite you to begin seeking wisdom with me. It's a journey that I started several months ago and I haven't had a boring moment yet.

I don't want any of my beliefs, values, or convictions to be based on opinions or theories or rules; I want them to be based on wisdom and on the truth. I don't want to conform to or agree with what the world says or what man says- unless it agrees with what God says. What God says trumps all. Romans 12:2 says, "Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will." If you want to know what God's will is on anything, then don't conform to the wisdom of this world.

Wisdom is the key to understanding everything. Proverbs 3:21-24 says, "My son, preserve sound judgment and discernment, do not let them out of your sight; they will be life for you, an ornament to grace your neck. Then you will go on your way in safety, and your foot will not stumble..."

Monday, March 5, 2012

Servant Romance: A Different Way To Look At

Have you ever thought about applying servant leadership to the area of romance? It probably isn't the first thing that comes to your mind when you think of servant leadership, but believe it or not, servant leadership and Christlike romance have a lot in common. I don't know about you, but when I think of a servant leader, I think of a leader who is patient, kind, humble, respectful, selfless, honest, forgiving, and committed. I think of a leader who loves those he leads and empowers them to do great things. I think of a leader who generates a lot of results and has strong and lasting relationships with his associates. I look at this type of leader and it just makes sense to me that this same style of leadership has to be the best way to treat the person you're interested in. In fact, I think it's the best way to treat anyone, whether stranger, acquaintance, friend, family, or lover.

Lately, I've been giving a lot of thought to how Christian teenagers and young adults of the opposite sex should treat each other. I've been asking a lot of questions like, Is it okay for me hug a teenage girl? Are side hugs more appropriate or just a cop-out? Why do some people come up with so many rules for teenagers that restrict how they can physically interact? I even had a reader comment on a recent post and ask me what I thought the proper conduct and rules should be for how the opposite sexes interact. I'm glad this reader asked because it got me thinking about what my standards are, and just as importantly, how to decide what my standards need to be.

The real question that I and many others are asking is: What should my convictions be? Like I said, I've given this a lot of thought this past weekend and am proud to say that I think I've come up with the answer to that question.

And so I'm going to start a new series called Servant Romance. It's a concept born from combining servant leadership with romantic love. Not only will this series cover how to interact with a boyfriend/girlfriend or a fiance, it will also cover the Christlike way to interact with friends of the opposite sex. In Servant Romance, there will be five key qualities that I will constantly be referring to. As with the servant leadership series, each quality of servant romance will be covered in its own post. Those five qualities are:

  • Respect
  • Value
  • Honor
  • Modesty
  • Purity
I'm very excited about this series and can't wait to share what I've discovered with you! It's opened my eyes to new way to view and to treat the opposite gender. I hope it will impact you just like it's impacted me.

There's one last thing I want to note. If you are someone who thinks the best way teenagers of the opposite gender can interact is if they follow strict rules or a bunch of dos and don'ts, then I ask you to keep an open mind because servant romance does not rely on rules or regulations. Our relationship with Christ is free from laws and rules and checklists, so it only makes sense that our relationships with other people are the same way. Jesus said that the greatest thing we could do is to "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind" (Matt. 22:37). There's nothing better we can do with our lives than to bring him glory, honor, praise, and attention. But do you know how to do that? How can we bring God glory, honor, praise, and attention? To answer that question, we have to understand the second greatest command that Jesus gave us. Do you know what it is? Jesus said that the second greatest command is to "Love your neighbor as yourself" (Matt. 22:39). Christ says it again in John 13:34 by saying, "Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another." If our relationship with Christ doesn't depend on a check list, man-made rules, or a bunch of dos and don'ts, what makes us think that our relationship with others is any different?

Now please don't misinterpret what I'm saying. I'm not saying there shouldn't be guidelines or restrictions. There are some God-given commands pertaining to how the opposite genders interact that we should follow since they are from God. Can you think of any? The most prominent in my mind is to be pure from sexual immorality. Now this makes sense because sex is designed to stay inside marriage. Thus, any sexual actions outside of marriage are not what God wants and thus are sin. So yes, there are some rules, and we need to follow these rules. Rules like these are there for our benefit. If a rule is there to protect us, and if breaking that rule is sure to result in negative consequences, then that rule is good and it is good to follow it. Sex is a perfect example of this type of rule. But if a rule does not really protect us from anything, and if there's not a guarantee that negative things will come if that rule is broken, then that rule is useless and pointless, and it doesn't need to be followed. For example, if a youth pastor told his youth group that the young men and women in the group will not be allowed to hug, I would definitely say that rule is a joke. Why? Because it doesn't actually protect you from something (whereas abstinence protects you from STDs, heartache, guilt, shame, childbirth, sin, etc.) and it doesn't bring about negative consequences (who doesn't like a good hug?!).

So as we look at how servant leadership and romance combine, keep an open mind. I've learned a lot of new things and redefined some of my own personal boundaries and convictions just by evaluating what purpose my convictions serve and also where I got my convictions from. I promise that if you keep an open mind and an open heart, you'll be amazed at what you find.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Forgiveness Isn't Easy

Forgiving someone who has wronged you is far from easy. When someone treats me bad, I want to turn around and treat them worse. I want to turn around and give them a taste of their own medicine. Our natural instinct is an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.

When I was a child, my parents taught me that if I broke one of my brother's toys, I needed to buy him a new one or pay him back for it. That is fair and perfectly logical.  But when someone breaks one of your toys and won't or can't make it up to you, what do you do?

The Bible tells us to forgive those who do us wrong. It also says that we will be forgiven by God as we have forgiven others. But what exactly does it mean to forgive? If you remember the definition of forgiveness from the servant leadership posts, you'll know that forgiveness means letting go of resentment when wronged. The dictionary says that to be resentful is to have anger, bitterness, or ill will. Those feelings are what Jesus wants us to let go of. He doesn't want us to harbor anger, malice, bitterness, evil intentions, or ill will against other humans. None of those feelings will help us further the kingdom of God, so it's best to ditch them and leave it in God's hands.

But we don't always do that. When an injustice is done, we as humans have a tendency to want to take justice into our own hands. But that isn't what we should do. The Bible says that revenge belongs to God and God alone and that we shouldn't take it into our own hands. Romans 12:17a, 19 says, "Do not repay anyone evil for evil... Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: 'It is mine to avenge; I will repay,' says the Lord." In other words, God is saying that if we leave revenge up to Him, He will make it far worse for the offender than we ever could. After all, who would you be more scared of: a finite human being who can only inflict temporary pain, or a mighty, angry, wrathful God who can bring you pain both in life on earth and in eternal life?

So if we should leave the revenge up to God, what then should we do? Just ignore what happened and move on? No, that's not the answer. When someone does something bad to you, it's not like you can just erase it from your memory and move on with your life. There are some feelings- such as sadness, grief, anger, and bitterness-  that you will feel after something bad happens. Those feelings are natural and it is okay to feel them. It's okay to feel those emotions, but what you do with them is a different story. Let's say someone rapes your sister. It's okay to be angry. But it isn't okay to kidnap, torture, and murder the rapist. Or for example, let's say your fiance breaks up with you for another man. It's okay to feel sad. But it isn't okay to let grief or depression rule your life, nor is it okay to take your own life because you don't want to live without her.

In Matthew 18:23-35, Jesus tells the parable of the unmerciful servant. It's the ultimate example of true forgiveness (or lack thereof). Jesus says, "Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand talents (that is, millions of dollars) was brought to him. Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt. The servant fell on his knees before him. 'Be patient with me,' he begged, 'and I will pay back everything.' The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go.

"But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii (that is, a few dollars). He grabbed him and began to choke him. 'Pay back what you owe me!' he demanded.  His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, 'Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.' But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. When the other servants saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed and went and told their master everything that had happened.

"Then the master called the servant in. 'You wicked servant,' he said, 'I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?' In anger his master turned him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed. This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart."

Such is the forgiveness God wants from us. He wants us to forgive others just as the king in the parable forgave his servant. Even if that person owes you dearly, even if he wronged you severely, even if he took something very precious from you, God wants you to forgive that person just as He has forgiven you. Forgive as you have been forgiven.