A better way to honor change

Do not let sin control the way you live; do not give in to sinful desires. Do not let any part of your body become an instrument of evil to serve sin. Instead, give yourselves completely to God, for you were dead, but now you have new life. So use your whole body as an instrument to do what is right for the glory of God. Sin is no longer your master, for you no longer live under the requirements of the law. Instead, you live under the freedom of God’s grace. Romans 6:12-14

There is something my youngest pokes fun at me any chance he can for saying-“The ‘p’ in pastor doesn’t stand for ‘perfect.’”He repeats it anytime he recalls some slip of tongue in the car in the past at an inept driver, any transgression deemed unbefitting of someone “called” to lead a flock from the past 10-13 years of his life. “I know. I know. ‘P’ in pastor doesn’t stand for “perfect.”

Why have I had to say this so many times until it’s almost some ridiculous mantra repeated at dinner? Because, yes. I struggled with road rage for a number of years, and my children were witness to it. During those moments, a range of 4 letter words would flow, and my kids reminded me they were not appropriate. But what bothered me most? Even after I was “reformed,” started waving instead when someone flipped me off, and stopped cursing when someone cut me off, was that they just never let me forget it. Hence the need to remind them that the process of sanctification, was a process. Even for pastors.

Paul even reminds the Roman church of this in Chapter 6, in his letter to them, reminding them of where “perfection” comes-through their new life in Christ.

But how many of us are like my children at times? Continuing to bring up the used-to’s? The behaviors before Jesus came in and cleaned up that mess, before we fully surrendered, and handed over all those sinful practices to Him? Are we just not willing to let it go? That person whether pastor or not, may have truly decided not to let sin control them-whether it’s cursing or something else, but we won’t stop bringing up their old desire to do so-so we deny the work of the Spirit in their lives, look past what God has done to move them through a process of change, and fail to celebrate the new life that has been born. They start to believe…well, they will just never be “perfect” enough for you.

There is a better way. Paul also talks about it to another church. The church in Corinth, when he talks about something else we view as perfect by the world’s standards-love. In 1 Corinthians 13, Paul describes perfect love-Christian love. He says, this type of love does not keep a record of wrongs (v5). In addition, this “perfect” love, never loses faith and is always hopeful (v7). So, someone loving and celebrating new life, displaying Christian love; would not harp on another’s flaws, but would rejoice in the making new.

Are we walking this better way-with others or even with ourselves? Focused on the making new, in the dead life we were removed from when Jesus called us out of those ways into something better? If we are still holding onto the old, can we let it go, so we can truly help others move forward in the Christ-like “perfection,” and ourselves as well?

Because He certainly did. And He expects us to as well.

Be Honest with Little

“If you are faithful in little things, you will be faithful in large ones. But if you are dishonest in little things, you won’t be honest with greater responsibilities.  And if you are untrustworthy about worldly wealth, who will trust you with the true riches of heaven? And if you are not faithful with other people’s things, why should you be trusted with things of your own? No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other; you will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and be enslaved to money.” Luke 16:10-12

Do you know a shrewd manager? Kind of like the one Jesus was talking about in Luke 16? Someone who is dishonest and lacks integrity at work, and then doesn’t seem to understand the dire consequences when they finally get caught? Maybe they even appear successful way up there at the top, but their success is only appealing by the standards of the world, and was won through dishonest means.

What exactly does it look like to be dishonest and untrustworthy with worldly wealth?

Maybe it is climbing to the top of that company ladder, and stepping on anyone you can on the way up. Or owning a business, skimming money off the top, or using it to exploit others for your personal agenda. Anything God deems sinful that we may do to gain funds. Gambling. Sexual exploitation. All to acquire that material possession. That house. That car. That girl. That guy. That love. All the things we think money can buy.

Earlier this week in our kitchen, our youngest was “joshing” his sister about something that happened at school. It’s what middle school brothers do to their high school siblings. It’s a fact of life. To her, this was considered a lie. Though to us-it was simply a joke. To which she began to debate how she had NEVER, EVER told us a lie. Which, in fact…is true. She had…actually not. Aside from pranks and jokes, neither really had.

We had been clear that lying was not tolerated. Lying created a number of problems. For the person lying, and for many others involved. If it involved an action in addition, those actions often had potential consequences. Many that could lead to moral and spiritual dilemma. Integrity may come into question, and trust among others can become broken, taking a long time to repair. One small lie, often leads to bigger lies-as our need to make up for the smaller one we told becomes greater. We see no way out of the huge hole we dig from the first untruth.

We had trusted them when they had told us things, because they had been truthful with even the smallest of things. When they had something to share whether big or small, we were certain whatever came from their mouth would be the truth. Because it had been spoken so frequently prior. If the opposite had been true, we may have had doubts.

Though lying may be a small example, it plays a part in how others will deem us trustworthy and honest in relationships. Regardless of how we handle money, the ways in which we handle our words and our responsbilities to people; whether we honor our word, and keep our promises will also go a long way in whether others will find us a person of integrity and honesty or not. Do we make promises we cannot keep? Do we borrow something and never return it? Do we take something without permission, or steal and pass something off as ours? We may not be dealing with money, essentially, but we are certainly not dealing in a manner that is trustworthy.

God’s character is genuine, true, and honest. This is the character he desires we have as well, as he made us in his image, and desires we be good. If we are to be holy as he is holy, our aim should be to walk in the way that is honest and faithful to truth, and not deceitful in our dealings with others. Not lying to others, and not crooked in the way we handle our finances in an effort to come out on top. We must be people of our word, and most importantly-people of His Word. Honest, faithful, true, and trustworthy.

Masks of Deception

We refuse to wear masks and play games. We don’t maneuver and manipulate behind the scenes. And we don’t twist God’s Word to suit ourselves. Rather, we keep everything we do and say out in the open, the whole truth on display, so that those who want to can see and judge for themselves in the presence of God. 2 Cor 4:2 MSG

I have spoken about this before here: My youngest has never understood the concept of Halloween. Even in our desire for him to indulge in the holiday festivities; he simply refused to put on a costume. If there was a time he dressed up, he had to be as close to a character he recognized, and would not dare wear a mask. Many years he simply went to events as “Hunter.” His philosophy being-he had no pressing reason to be anything other than himself. Wouldn’t he be given candy anyway? Why “trick” others into giving it him?

From an autistic lens, I began to see his point.

The world has sold us a big fat lie: You must present yourself to it as someone other than who God intends you to be in order to get your needs met.

It’s why we deceive the aging process with fillers, Botox, filters, and injections. Tricking others into believing we are younger than we are, smoother, or that our forehead wrinkles don’t exist.

It’s why we post our “highlights.” So we can trick people into thinking we are happier, have more money, our marriages aren’t crumbling, and our kids aren’t making poor choices.

It’s why we don’t discuss our struggles with other people.

It’s why we wear our masks on every other day after October 31st. These masks may not be the scary ones like evil, murder, robbery, or any other punishable crime. No, these masks look more like skimming time from your co-worker while you post all about your crummy job on Facebook. It’s the hurtful words you say about a friend as soon as she leaves the table to go home. It’s the ways in which you don’t support another person’s success, because they are doing what you wish you were. It’s that plastic smile you paint on, when you feel like crying. It’s that word “fine,” you speak when you are anything but.

Those are our masks. And we don’t need a holiday like Halloween to wear them and to deceive everyone around us. We put them on most everyday. And expect people to hand us what we want.

We deceive others this way. We deceive others into believing that believers have it all together. That we don’t struggle. Our painted on “smiley” masks that hide our struggles can deceive the hurting seeker into believing they have to be perfect before they can have Christ. And on another note, when we paint on goodness, and hide poor behaviors such as gossip or malice, we let others know that maybe Christ isn’t so attractive after all.

Maybe our youngest had a point. Can’t we have Christ anyway by coming to him as ourselves? Can’t we be in communion and fellowship with each other without a mask? Without pretending we are someone else for the day?

Try it. Drop your faulty expectations that you have to have it all together, and come as you are. As God intended you to be. Drop the mask the world expects. That plastic smile, those expectations and disappointments you hide behind, and simply be yourself before others today. Genuine. Honest. Truthful. No deception underneath. Nothing but who He intended.

What Example Are You?

And you yourself must be an example to them by doing good works of every kind. Let everything you do reflect the integrity and seriousness of your teaching. Teach the truth so that your teaching can’t be criticized. Then those who oppose us will be ashamed and have nothing bad to say about us. Titus 2:7-8

Family game night. It’s a family bonding time that can be a pain for one, because he just wants to play Xbox, but secretly…deep down we may still love the fact that our teenage daughter begs us to still indulge. Surely it’s her desire to come out on top. Maybe it’s her desire to search for the coolest or silliest game in the store (though mom enjoys this, too). But family game night is never without laughs, debates, and some surprises.

There are quite a few interesting games out there, and our latest one has been one called “Hot Seat.” The person in the “Hot Seat” is the lucky one who picks a random card with a category or scenario listed, and everyone including the one in the “Hot Seat” must choose what the player would say.

Recently one of my cards was “what would my tombstone say?” or something like that. Kind of morbid. Answers rolled in like “Here lies a coffee lover,” until some were more like “something about Jesus…something about the Bible.”

Which got me to thinking about example. What the people around us see in us. What impact and impressions our daily interactions leave.

What are people going to say about us? Will it leave them shamed? Or justified?

In the second chapter of Titus, Paul writes to the elders of the church, not specifically to pastors; but to those considered to be of an older generation. He encourages them to be mentors to those who are younger and coming to faith. An example of champions of Christ and his character-living it out in their daily lives and interactions.

We don’t have to be elders, pastors, teachers, leaders to uphold this as our standard of living. It should be our highest calling as believers and followers of the Son of Man. As parents. As grandparents. As citizens within our communities. As walking, talking, representatives of his likeness in our neighborhoods, grocery stores, workplaces, and pews.

If someone were to place you in the “Hot Seat,” and then have to answer the question, “What would be on this person’s’ tombstone?” What would they say? Would the card say something about Jesus, or something about coffee? Would it shame you? Or would they be justified?

If your living example is the example of Christ-like character. Integrity. Actions that match your words. Honesty. Love. Gentleness in speech, even when truth must be spoken; and patience, then your example is one that probably has impact that has reached farther and wider than you can imagine. Someone may have said something sideways, and your character has spoken words that has put them to shame.

However, if you speak eloquent words, but do otherwise. Deal in ways that are contrary to the words of Christ. Hold on to bitterness, or speak falsely about your neighbor, the words spoken may just be justified. It may be a good idea to check-in with one of those elders Paul spoke of in Titus 2, and have someone hold you accountable. Not to judge you, but to help move you towards the path of integrity, honesty and the Christ-like character we are called to demonstrate as an example to others.

I’ve looked to “elders” for support, for reflection, for growth. We all need this. And I’ll testify that it makes all the difference in being one whose witness leaves an example of the person I realize I was, and the person I am becoming and continue to strive to be.

Which example are you?

Known by Your Fruit

The Fruit of the Spirit’s not a coconut
The Fruit of the Spirit’s not a coconut
If you want to be a coconut
You might as well hear it:
You can’t be a fruit of the Spirit

Cause the fruit is
Love, joy, peace, patience
Kindness, goodness, faithfulness
Gentleness and self-control
Love, joy, peace, patience
Kindness, goodness, faithfulness
Gentleness and self-control

This is how my kids, and probably any other kid who has grown up attending church camp has learned how to memorize the fruits of the spirit as listed in Galatians 5:22. Not a coconut. Not a banana. Not a cherry. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Say them as fast as you can. With no room for breathing.

Don’t worry. I can’t do that either. I actually usually have to look them up. Or my kids remind me they are not a coconut…and proceed to sing me that song. But, you know…however they remember is alright by me.

Coconuts. Bananas. Cherries. Fruits. Yes. Sweet like kindness. Gentleness. Patience. Until they rot, and then we don’t think of them in quite the same way. And I can guarantee we have encountered some rotten fruit.

In our fruit drawers at home, we can usually detect the rotten culprits right away. They are the lemons or the oranges that are a tad bit green. They are slightly moldy, growing an unsightly fungus that we must remove before we taint any others. Before that fungus spreads. 

But what we don’t often see. What often do is pick up a perfectly good fruit, bite into and find it rotten on the inside. Pretty stinkin’ disgusting. The fruit looked good. What happened? Well as settings go, our fridge environment wasn’t quite right. And if we kept that pretty green apple around that moldy lemon for longer than we intended, well…the inside became rotten, while the outside still looked good.

It can be that that way with us at times. We can hang out with fruit that may not be spirit-filled. We may look really good on the outside. But on the inside-we aren’t filled with those things he intended. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. The gunk that has been left to linger around us-the coconuts, the bananas, the moldy lemons and oranges…they start to rub off on us. Not on the outside, maybe. But they start to impact our hearts. And the goodness, it isn’t so ripe anymore. God takes a look on the inside, and he starts to see parts that are not a reflection of ripe fruit.

Jesus speaks of this in Matthew 7:15-20, and it can be a pretty harsh, yet very honest and truthful teaching when thinking about our witness and our character as believers:

Beware of false prophets who come disguised as harmless sheep but are really vicious wolves. You can identify them by their fruit, that is, by the way they act. Can you pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistle? A good tree produces good fruit, and a bad tree produces bad fruit. A good tree can’t produce bad fruit, and a bad tree can’t produce good fruit. So every tree that does not produce good fruit is chopped down and thrown into the fire. Yes, just as you can identify a tree by its fruit, so you can identify people by their actions.”

In other words here, Jesus is letting his disciples know, as believers who are filled with his Spirit we cannot profess to know him, to be filled with his love, and show hatred to our neighbor. We cannot profess to be filled with kindness, and then become irate when something is demanded of us. We cannot profess to be filled with joy, and grumble through our days. We cannot claim to be an apple tree, and produce coconuts.

You will be known by your fruit. May it be sweet, and not one to be turned away from, or thrown out because it has grown rotten, and is in danger of infecting the others. May it be the ripest fruit. Known for love, kindness, patience. Known by all as an example of Christ.

In Your Anger

I love to read the Psalms. Yes, they are poetic. Beautiful. Full of emotion. But I also love to read them, because I find that David was all up in his feelings at times as much as I find myself most of the time.

Case in point:

Arise, O Lord!
    Rescue me, my God!
Slap all my enemies in the face!
    Shatter the teeth of the wicked! Psalm 3:7

Why do I resonate with this? Because I realize many of you may not operate this way. Your natural response may be to freeze and do nothing, and run away from people. My reaction to injustice or hurt is to fight. It always has been.

I was always sassy. Have been since a little girl. I spoke up. I was loud. If something was sideways or not right…I pointed it out. And if I wasn’t heard, I may have likely punched things. I tried not to punch people, so I was the girl who kicked and punched holes in walls. Nothing was off limits. Brick walls, car windows.

I know what it feels like to feel so stinking mad, like things were so unfair… you want to punch something. I’m a bit tamer now. Still sassy, but I don’t punch holes in things. No. I hold onto anger. Until it eats me up inside.

Like David, who yes…wrote some beautiful Psalms, I can get blazing mad. And let’s just be real-when we are mad, or someone has hurt us, what do we often want? Revenge. And maybe a good punch in the teeth may feel like that to us. May feel like a bit of justice, but it isn’t what God has in mind.

Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. James 1:19, NLT

He has something more like that in mind. Less like punching people in the teeth. Less like punching out hurtful words on an email, social media post, or text.

Sure, we may all want to do these things, but they don’t show Christ in our moments of anger. We may all want to give someone a piece of our mind. Put them in their place. Have the last word, and tell them all about themselves, but it does nothing but tell them about ourselves when we start doing anything that reflects the opposite character of Christ in these heated moments.

If I really did punch someone in the teeth, who would see Christ in me? Even if they did deserve it? If I tapped out what I really wanted to say back in a text; what I really thought of their character in that moment, would they see Christ in those crafted out messages? Probably not. Surely their friends would get the screen shot, though, So my response must be one to reflect the Savior I profess to follow.

Yes, I want to in the moment say what I really feel. I want to speak my angry words. And tell people what I think of them in the moment when they have hurt me.

What I am called to as a child of God is stop. Think about what I am about to say. Let the other person finish speaking. Because let’s be honest, we don’t really listen. We listen to speak. We listen to answer. We don’t fully listen before we jump in with a response. And decide if what they said even needs to be responded to right away, or at all.

And if it does needs to be responded to, do so when you are not angry. Because anger can cause you to respond in ways you normally would not if you are calm. Remember our opener and David? Let’s respond after you have sorted through all your punching in the teeth feelings.

Scripture is clear that anger is OK. Anger is an emotion that God has given us to spur us to action. To help us to recognize and take action against injustice, but it can cross the line towards sin if we use it as a way to justify our words and hurtful actions towards others in conflict and daily interactions. In fact, Ephesians 4:26 warns “not to sin in your anger.” So, it’s likely we will come across things that will make us angry, but how will we deal with them? Like Christ, or like the world?

It’s time to listen more than we speak. To start holding our tongue a bit, or tapping it on the back of our teeth, if we feel like desire to punch someone in their’s. It’s time to decide if we need to respond and be a part of every debate. Are there some conflicts we can sit out? It may even be time to stop texting and simply picking up the phone and calling. Or if we have been hurt, maybe tap out the response you would really like to give, the one that would make you feel good, the one with ALL the things you want to say-then delete that whole paragraph, and send a Christ-like response instead, and then simply move on.

Because this is what God would want-more listening, less speaking, and whole lot less sinful anger.

The Golden Rule

The Golden Rule. Do you remember the first time you heard it? Maybe it was spoken by a parent as you were picking at a sibling. Maybe a teacher as they were listing the classroom rules. Maybe somewhere along the way you just heard it. Believed it to be a long-standing societal rule: “Do unto others as you’d have them do unto you.”

The Golden Rule. You know it now, right? But where did it come from? Your parents? That teacher? The government?

Luke 6:31. It was spoken by Jesus to his disciples along with some other commands.

Jesus’ call to “do unto others as you would like them to do you,” was a call to treat each other with the same kind of love and respect we would in fact treat ourselves, but also spoke to the way we treat those who may not treat us with kindness.

“If you love only those who love you, why should you get credit for that? Even sinners love those who love them! And if you do good only to those who do good to you, why should you get credit? Even sinners do that much! And if you lend money only to those who can repay you, why should you get credit? Even sinners will lend to other sinners for a full return. Love your enemies! Do good to them. Lend to them without expecting to be repaid. Then your reward from heaven will be very great, and you will truly be acting as children of the Most High, for he is kind to those who are unthankful and wicked.” Luke 6:32-35,NLT

I encourage you to go back and read these verses replacing “sinner” with the words “the world,” since we are encouraged to be different from “the world.”

Not expecting we are to be treated as the elite, but we treat others as if they are, expecting nothing in return. Putting out the kindness, compassion, and love we want to see in the world, because we have a duty as believers in Christ to be His reflection of those things in it. And showing it not just to those who love Him, or who we love; but who don’t know Him and who could not care less about us. So that they know His love, and see it reflected in us in a world that shows anything but.

That is the Golden Rule. Lived out. In us. Through us. To others. Daily.

How can you be a reflection of it today?

To The Young: You Have Influence, Too

Don’t let anyone think less of you because you are young. Be an example to all believers in what you say, in the way you live, in your love, your faith, and your purity. 1 Timothy 4:12, NLT

Today’s post on Christian character is for the younger folk. Those growing up and learning how to navigate the nuances and social expectations of the world. It can be difficult to walk the thin line between what the world expects, and what your faith demands. These things are in constant conflict, and we, as parents, just don’t often know what this is like.

We, of course, know what it is like to be teens. It is hard. We have all walked the line between the expectations of the world, those of our elders, our own, and what we know to be right, or even wrong. We just didn’t have the internet, or phones at our fingertips to document our every move. If we had bullies, we could retreat to safety at home, and leave our bullies at school. Turn them off until the school bell rang the next day. And if we took a picture or someone did find something out about us, we didn’t have a tribe of people calling for us to be “canceled,” or jumping in on the smear campaign because it was the “cool” thing to do. Things really were just “different.”

I talked about integrity yesterday, and it doesn’t just apply to adults. It’s the same concept no matter your age. Are you who you say you are at home, and out in the world? At church and with your friends? Do you show Christ everywhere, or just at church?

You may be young. You may be influenced by social media. You may even be triggered by the mixed messages from the things you see from it’s sources, or the people you follow. Feel you don’t measure up.

However, you still have an influence on the world around you of which you may not be aware. Especially when you let others know you believe in Christ. There will be expectations of you. Yes, even when you are young. Even on your social media profiles, and no…it won’t feel “fair.” It will likely feel like it’s one more expectation someone has of you of which you will never measure up, but it is the most important expectation. It is the one God has of you.

He does not expect you to be without a few mishaps. A few blemishes. A few bruises. What He does expect of you is to put aside the world’s expectations. What Facebook. Instagram. TikTok think for a bit, and worry about what He thinks. Walk in the way He expects. And remain honest and true to His ways. A person. A young man or woman of integrity.

No matter how young (or old) you are.

The Path of Integrity

People with integrity walk safely, but those who follow crooked paths will slip and fall. Proverbs 10:9

What exactly is integrity? We often throw that word around. Use it to describe people who do or even don’t possess it.

A person said to have integrity is someone described as having a moral compass that does not waver. They aren’t one way here, and one way there. They are honest in all dealings, speech, and they are the same in every place they go. Not shape shifters.

Evidence of shape shifting came to mind to me earlier in one of the places I don’t particularly care to be. Airports. I enjoy flying. Well, let me rephrase this: I enjoy being on the plane. Book in my lap. Taking a nap. As it seems everyone else does, too. You know…enjoying your ride in the “friendly skies” as the slogan goes.

But something happens once those feet hit the ground, I suppose. We become a little less friendly. I didn’t complain about my less than friendly experience waiting in line at the Starbucks kiosk, because the complaining would not have changed the experience. I simply told my family that I was going to walk in the way that showed the world something different on this trip instead.

I said “excuse me.” “Thank you.” “Have a great day.” “Go ahead of me.” Things that just seem less commonplace these days in all our rushing along our paths.

Seems so simple. Such an easy thing to do. But if I were to have to answer the question are you the same in the pulpit as you are at home? Are you the same at work as you are at the airport? Are you the same on Sunday and on Friday? I want the answer to be yes. I want all my paths to be straight. I want to be considered a person of integrity.

There are a number of ways in which we can veer off the path of honesty and integrity and walk onto one that is crooked and intended to cause destruction. We will talk about some of those in later posts. One easy way is in our simple acts of unkindness. The simple ways in which we treat the people we meet on a daily basis, while professing to honor Christ. While professing to be a loving people, yet planting our feet in the ground and walking into places with unfriendliness. If someone were to pass by you in the checkout line on a Monday, what would they see? Would they see you smiling and saying “thank you” to the cashier, or grumbling because she bagged your groceries incorrectly.

Integrity. It’s in the big things, and the small things. And even the small things determine if our paths grow crooked and destructive.

Today, don’t just make it a mission to remain friendly while your in the “skies,” or in the pews. Make it a mission every time you have your feet planted on the ground, and every time you have people who could very well be watching you.

April Bible Reading Plan: How is Your Character?

Jesus.

I wanted this month’s plan to be about Jesus, because that’s what Easter is really all about. Not candy. Not baskets. Not bunnies. Jesus. And his sacrifice for our salvation. 

And all things do point back to him. As they have in so many discussions I have had about character recently, and the way we choose to live. The choices we make. Both the wise and unwise. 

I have thought about how to appropriately study Jesus this month. Most will study his miracles. His death. His resurrection. And those are all so important, as they pave the way for someone to seek salvation. Yet, with that salvation comes something. A new way of life. A new way of life that many may not quite understand. Know how to walk, or to be ready for. 

Since you have heard about Jesus and have learned the truth that comes from him,  throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception. Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy. Ephesians 4:21-24, NLT

The making new means a change occurs instantly. Yes. Sin is wiped clean. But new habits begin to form. Those old desires are beginning to shed because of the presence of the Holy Spirit. A shift in character should develop. And we start to look different, have a desire to make different choices. Our journey with Jesus begins as he develops our Christ-like character. 

Some of the development takes a little longer. It’s harder to shed. But it’s necessary if we want to reflect his light. 

If our intended goal is to be like him, we develop a different character. A character that reflects his. We “walk it like we talk it,” as they say. So this month’s reading plan is focused on just that-walking in that character-Christian character.

Let’s start.

Because this is where many believe the journey begins. With the way you look. And that belief goes WAY back to Jesse and his boys. 

This was on display as my husband and I were preparing for my second ordination meeting a week or so ago. As we sat waiting, a couple came out ahead of us. He had this idea to play “guess who is the pastor” between the two. The man or woman of the couple. It was clearly the man. He looked like he had been through the ringer, and I knew that look. I knew exactly what that “look” felt like. The look of defeat. Then came this question: “Which one of us do you think they think is the ordination candidate?” My response was easy. He had on a tie. I was not under dressed. But my tattoos were showing, and come on…I am a woman. “You. They think it is you. You are a well dressed man. I am a woman.”

Appearances mean something. And we ALL judge them. We judge clothing. We judge whether someone is good or bad based on the markings they have on their skin. We judge another’s abilities based on their appearance. Stature. Build. Looks. We are fortunate that God does not do this.

I was reminded of this again recently when the story of David’s anointing was mentioned. in 1 Samuel 16. God sends Samuel to the house of Jesse, father of 8 sons, to anoint the next King. God warns Samuel not to be deceived by stature, build, or outward appearance: Don’t judge by his appearance or height, for I have rejected him. The Lord doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart. 1 Samuel 16:7, NLT

Samuel arrives and Jesse’s seven sons are parading around the house, trying to impress Samuel; doing all they can to prove they are most certainly the chosen. There is one missing. The runt. Out serving in the fields. The one chosen by God to be anointed king.

God chose the smallest of the litter to be the one. The one who was forgotten, who Jesse didn’t even mention, but who had a heart after God, and was serving. He chose that one.

And that is what He sees. He does not see your size, and goodness knows there are many times I have felt like nothing but a runt of a woman, with a twang of a voice, misunderstood, and unworthy because of it. Seen for the markings on my skin, and not for my abilities, but knowing without a shadow of a doubt that God sees beyond any of these things to the gifts I use to serve Him.

That is what we look for in others as well. Beyond the clothes. Beyond the pitch or tone we don’t quite like. Beyond the tattoos we just don’t quite get, or we would never get. Not your thing? Ok. But is Jesus? Does he have your heart? Does he have theirs? Then that is what matters. The only that matters to God, and what should matter to us, too.