A Few Personal Rules

Tim has been preaching foundational grace-gospel for ten months straight now. It has brought, and is bringing, a revolution into the lives of those who have ears to hear.

He has, in the last ten months, touched on terms such as "rules" and "lists", and there were some few who took him literally, taking offense as if Tim was aiming his entire emphasis on the fact that they personally loved to make lists for themselves.

Little did they know that what was being preached was not all about "their" lists or "their" rules, actually. What was being taught wasn't about making lists in some literal, letter-of-the-law, Pharisaical sense.

(The Pharisees complained, "This man Jesus said 'Tear down the temple, and I will raise it up in three days!' " Those religious ones were forever misunderstanding Jesus' words, because they were open to being offended.)

Little did these few know (nor did they truly seek to understand) that the idea of "your list" or "my list"....whomever's "list"...actually dates back to Harvest Church messages from ten or more years ago. In a defining set of messages, the concept of "the list" was forever fixed in the minds of Harvest Church saints:

"And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses, having wiped out the handwriting of requirements (i.e. "THE LIST") that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross."

We learned, a decade ago, that we are to be imitators of God, and take our personal "lists" that we secretly hold over our relationships, and (in order to have sweet, continuous, right relationships) do the same thing to our personal lists that Christ did to "the" list: move it out of the way, and nail it to the cross.

The text was out of Colossians 2, and those messages became part of the DNA of a whole church. It saddens me, all the quiet, zealous but misguided lists we have, full of good-seeming personal preference ordinances, that get in the way of love and friendship.

This is where the term "the list" came from - any old-timer at Harvest will be able to explain that to you, if you care enough to ask them.

Having said that, I love to make lists. I live by them. I solidly believe that without a list, no one can be productive. I believe that an empty schedule equals an empty life, and a full schedule demands that we make lots of lists, because no one can keep all those details in his or her head. I have a list of potential Christmas gift ideas, lists of household chores, a grocery list, a phone list, lists of my lists, and a list called my "front-end list".

A "front end list" is a list of a zillion appealing things that I'd like to get done. Right now, this includes things like planting some pansies, painting a shelf, a few sewing projects, some new recipes I have not yet tried, and finishing my first watercolor painting. I keep a front-end list so as not to let myself get stuck and unhappy. When I begin to feel dull or peckish, I can pull out this list, and jump into a brand new happy project, big or small, and get the creative juices flowing instantly. Sometimes we don't need a nap, so much as we just need a new something to do.

I also have a few rules...personal rules. I don't hold you to them, I hold myself to them, as much as any flawed human being can hold herself accountable to her own unique, personalized standard. In this sense, "rules" and "lists" are not at all opposed to grace!

My rules?

1) Honor my father and my mother. Old fashioned stuff, timeless, Biblical, and necessary. We all have baggage where it concerns our parents, some more than others. But I have never...never...seen a man or woman lightly esteem their mother or father and wholly prosper. They may make money, but they don't prosper. A lack of honor towards parents, to hold parents up to criticism, is to ultimately hold all legitimate authority in light esteem, and you will become seriously self deceived in all things spiritual.

The eye that mocks his father, And scorns obedience to his mother, The ravens of the valley will pick it out, And the young eagles will eat it.

The light of the soul is the eyes...no honoring of parents equals no light, no understanding, no sure direction. I don't care how old you are, or (short of extreme abuse) what your parents have done, please consider finding ways to honor them. Love them. Include them in all the details of your life. You don't have to - you get to. One of my rules is that I honor my parents. (I happen to have incredible parents, but we had our share of dysfunctional moments early on. I was not an easy child to raise.) This rule has served me well, prospering me at every turn.

2) Value continuity. There is something to be said for the continuity of staying with the same traditions at Christmas, staying with the same spouse, staying with a best friend through thick and thin, staying with a morning or evening routine, staying with the same great perfume, staying with the same church....just staying in general. Sticking and staying. It alarms me deeply, how willing some people are to utterly destroy continuity in their lives.

Continuity is costly, but its rewards are comforting and profound. God created our souls to depend on continuity in some areas, not resorting to change for the sake of change. It is generally unhealthy to jump marriages, jobs, relationships, churches, or ships. Ride it out. Things always get better, and where else can you look back over years and years of memories, memories both good and bad, but from that place of faithful continuity?

Proverbs 24:21 "My son, respect the LORD and the leader; Do not associate with those given to change."

Putting confidence in a man or woman who does not value continuity ("an unfaithful man") is like having a bad tooth, or a foot out of joint, Proverbs says. When you most need that foot to work, or when you most need to chew that bite down, you will suddenly be in intense pain. It is most important for parents and leaders to value continuity. Sheep and children need to know that some things will never change - things like the love of a parent or shepherd.

3) Never own more than you can use, and can consistently care for. This is one I need to revisit, but it is a maxim I have lived by. I have gotten rid of as much "stuff" as I have bought or received. We have given away a car (it was old, but still a favorite of my husband's), truckloads of clothing and shoes, dishes, pots, pans, a puppy, school supplies, books, and to a lesser extent, money itself. (I could still use more money, but that is to be the lot in life of the wife of a pastor who isn't on television.) We typically don't re-sell it - we just give it.

I try not to own anything I don't know to be useful or believe to be beautiful. Ahem. Time to clean house again.

I live by a few more "yea, verilies", but this post is way too long now. Silly rules, some of them, but they define me, and they have been most healthy for my life, and have actually energized and enabled my growth in grace.

Never, ever keep some kinds of lists and rules. But always, always keep the right kinds of lists and rules. And know which kind your pastor is referring to, and if you don't know, ask him. That way you don't spend your time being unnecessarily offended.

Make sense?
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