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JOE LaGUARDIA: God is calling us back to the heart of the gospel

Photo by Howard Reed

Photo by Howard Reed

Decision time: Do we cut entitlements, raise revenue, or both? That is the major question that Congress is wrestling with in the federal budget crisis of late.

The question does not reveal the complexity of the issue so much as it reveals the vast array of values that make up the decision-making process within two diametrically opposed political parties.

Not just any values, but core values: the basic foundation -- the heart -- that informs all other decisions related to spending and saving. And when there is no agreement on the core values, paralysis ensues.

Truth is, in this unstable economy, all of us have to decide which values will inform our future. With limited resources, we must choose what is most important, who is most important, and what relationships are most sacred.

We may have dozens of values, but only three or four rise to the top at the end of the day.

I would argue that knowing our own, unique core values is an important step in knowing our very purpose in life. I learned this at a very young age when I was trying to figure out who I was and why God created me.

At first, I tried to mimic people I admired. When that didn't work, I tried to be all things to all people. That soon failed, and I was finally forced to focus on what God had in store for me apart from all of those outside influences.

I was a person of many values, but I had to discover which ones grew out of the core of my being.

One of my mentors helped along the way. A late professor of mine echoed his favorite author, Frederick Buechner, when I asked him how I knew for sure what God wanted me to do in life. He said that the answer exists where my deepest passion meets the world's deepest needs.

So, when I started praying about those things that I was most passionate about, certain core values started to emerge.

For one, I found that I had a passion for people. I value hospitality as a spiritual discipline, an ancient tradition of welcoming "the least of these" as if I were entertaining angels unawares.

I also learned that I had a passion to learn about and teach God's word in order to spread the Gospel. No wonder why writing yet another column for you, dear reader, is still as thrilling as ever.

Another passion is to follow Christ by exploring creative avenues for worship and spiritual growth, be it through writing, art, or by practicing a variety of spiritual exercises.

What are your core values? Your answers will help you find true north and guide your decisions so that Christ can use you to your greatest potential.

Unfortunately, so many of us have become so lost in a world of misdirection, we have thrown up our hands in resignation and simply follow the crowd. We give into the drones and talking heads, and we look to others to figure out what we believe, what we consider important, and how we should spend our money.

Only when we focus on our relationship with God in a sold-out commitment to him and him alone will he save us from our penchant to mimic others and the world. Only then will he lead us into the liberating vocation that makes each of us uniquely beneficial in Christ's body of believers.

Not unlike Congress, we are not without some responsibility in repairing much of the damage in our national, spiritual deficit God is calling all of us back to the heart of the gospel, to the heart of what is most important in life.

Only by focusing on Him will we discover what that is in our own unique way.

The Rev. Joe LaGuardia is the senior pastor of Trinity Baptist Church, 301 Honey Creek Road, Conyers. Email him at trinitybc3@bellsouth.net or visit www.trinityconyers.org.