Category Archives: Authenticity

Inside-Out


My youngest son often puts his shirts on inside-out. Not a big deal. I’ve done it when I was in a rush to get somewhere. But even when I tell him he is inside-out, he doesn’t care. He’s content to go around all day with his shirt tag announcing that he can’t dress himself.

I was thinking about my son as I read Matthew 23 this morning, because Jesus also liked to turn things inside-out. In the passage, He is dealing out the “seven woes” to the teachers of the law and the Pharisees, and He criticizes them for “cleaning the outside of the cup or dish” while the inside is full of nastiness. To drive home His point, He compares them to freshly painted tombs filled with dead men’s bones. They look good on the outside, but they reek of death inside.

He challenges them to clean up their insides first, because when the inside is clean, the outside will become clean, too. Jesus is saying that if they will change their character, their behavior will follow. If they change their WHO, their DO will soon match.

I’m guilty of making the same mistakes as the Pharisees sometimes. I clean up my behaviors, because I want to be seen as a godly Christian. I want people to think highly of me for the way I follow God. But the problem is that it’s difficult to keep the act going when I’m not on stage. Behind the curtains with my family and even more in private moments or times of stress, I step out of character, and I find myself leading two lives. A “hypocrite” (the Greek word for “actor” that Jesus used to label false spiritual leaders) like the Pharisees.

I’ve tried outside-in for years, and it doesn’t work. Who I am has to change first, and this means changing my heart. It’s got to happen from the inside-out.

I find this clean-up project to be exhausting, but the great news is that I don’t have to do it alone. Jesus is ready to roll-up His sleeves if I invite Him to join me. And honestly, I can’t do it without Him. Jesus is the Project Manager. He plans the work and works the plan. I’m just the assistant, and I have two main roles: invite Him onto the worksite each day and follow His directions.

Inside-out work is exceedingly slow and exceedingly difficult. It never goes as fast as I want it to, and it always requires lots of challenging situations that Jesus uses as a tool to shape my character and a test to reveal the quality of my heart. It’s a project that won’t be done until I join the Project Manager in heaven, but I’m encouraged by this Scripture:

“Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 1:6)

Maybe my son is the one who has got it right. Pay less attention to how you look on the outside and more attention to being the right person on the inside. Wear your shirt inside-out every once in awhile, and you will find that life is a lot more fun when you don’t pretend to be someone you are not.

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Filed under Attitude, Authenticity, Change, character, Christ, christianity, comfort zone, comparison, deception, discipleship, discipline, growth, heart, Jesus, modeling, obedience, performance, Religion, righteousness, rules, sanctification, spiritual disciplines, Spiritual Growth

The Genuine Article


The Royal Canadian Mounted Police are world-renowned for their ability to spot counterfeit currency.  They undergo hour after hour of training in the Academy to help them identify the frauds.  By the time a new Mounty graduates, he is able to distinguish a counterfeit bill in an instant.  What’s unusual about their training methods is that in all the hours of instruction, a Mounty never sees a counterfeit bill.  All the training is spent entirely on studying authentic currency.

Why?  Because by becoming experts in recognizing the genuine article, they can easily pick out the pretenders.

What if we had the clarity of the Mounties when we were interviewing candidates to fill positions on our teams?  We could easily separate those who were qualified from those who weren’t.  Our problem is that we don’t know what the genuine article looks like.  Sure, we have a general idea, but that’s much too vague to be of use when we are sitting across the table from a professional interviewer (someone who’s read the books, anticipated your vague and overused interview questions and practiced her answers in front of a mirror).  We rely on gut feelings, but too often they disappoint.  What we need is clear and specific criteria that surface the best candidates.

And where can you find clear and specific criteria?  For tactical skills and knowledge (i.e., negotiation skills, time management skills, analytical skills, etc…) study the job.  What does a person in this position have to be able to do to be successful?  What does he need to know?  For personal characteristics (i.e., integrity, ability to deal with conflict, willingness to learn or to work with a team, etc…), study high performers.  What makes them successful?  How do they handle challenges?  How do they respond to change?

Throw out interview questions like,

  • “What are your strengths and weaknesses?”
  • “Where do you want to be in five years?”
  • “Tell me about yourself.”
  • “What was your favorite subject in school?”
  • “What hobbies do you have?”
  • “Why should I hire you?”

They are old, tired and tell you very little.  Instead, ask questions that are strategic and well-thought out to determine if the person has what is required:

  • “Tell me about a time when you had competing priorities.  How did you deal with the conflict?”
  • “Describe a time when you had to make a decision with insufficient information.  What did you do?”
  • “Share with me a situation in which you found you had to execute a decision that was unpopular.  How did you handle it?”

The Mounties know a counterfeit when they see one, because they know what’s required for authenticity.  If you want to be able to separate the “counterfeit” from the qualified, don’t worry about all the ways an interview candidate might try to fool you.  The tricks and techniques of the dishonest candidates will change faster than you can keep up with them.  Know what you are looking for, and the pretenders will be easy to recognize.

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Filed under Authenticity, Decision Making, Discernment

KISS


During World War II, President Franklin D. Roosevelt once came across a poster from his Civil Defense authorities that read,

“Illumination must be extinguished when premises are vacated.”

F.D.R. was incensed. “Why can’t they just say ‘put out the lights when you leave?’”

At diverse times, one endeavors to overawe personages by employing one’s sophisticated nomenclature, but there are sundry rationale for refraining from this compulsion.

  • It’s difficult to understand. When you communicate, your main goal should be getting your message across.  Even if the other person understands the words you are using, she might have to unpack them before she gets your meaning.
  • It often leads to miscommunication. Mainly for the reason above.  Your audience may go away scratching their head or ready to charge up the wrong hill.
  • It makes you sound either silly or full of yourself. Most people are not impressed with your high-sounding vocabulary.  They are irritated by it.
  • It can be interpreted as an attempt to hide your insecurity. If you are feeling insecure, don’t use big words to cover it.  The technique is somewhat overdone.

Speak clearly and concisely.  Your audience will appreciate it.  Simple words can be powerful and influential.  Consider Abraham Lincoln’s famous Gettysburg Address.  Before he delivered it, a man named Edward Everett spoke for two solid hours using all sorts of important-sounding words.  Does anyone remember them?

Lincoln, on the other hand, spoke only ten sentences, and 74% of the words were only one syllable long.  Yet Lincoln’s words are inscribed on his memorial and in our hearts.  We memorized them as school children  (There’s a reason we didn’t memorize Everett’s speech.  School children cannot memorize words that are five and six syllables long!)  Simple is supreme.  When in doubt, remember the KISS formula: Keep It Simple & Synoptic (uh…  Keep It Simple and Succinct… No, ah… Keep It Short & Saccharine… Hmmm… Keep It Sanguine and Sedulous… Er…)

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Filed under Authenticity, communication, public speaking, speaking

Taking a Stand


I’m an expat living in Thailand, and I believe that this requires me to change certain behaviors that are normal and comfortable to me in order to be culturally sensitive.  When the Thai national anthem or the king’s song plays, everyone is supposed to stand (including foreigners) out of respect.  If I hear either song, I stand.  It’s a sign of respect to the country that is allowing my family to live on its soil.

In the mornings when I’m in town, I walk the kids to school, and my habit has become that I sit for half an hour or so doing my quiet time in the school’s courtyard.  At 8:00a, the large Thai school across the street from our school plays the national anthem.  I always stand, but many times, I’m the only one.  The other foreigners typically continue their conversations, and even the Thais working at our school only stop what they are doing occasionally.

Standing is a simple gesture, but when you are the only one doing it, it’s easy to feel foolish.  I look around at everyone doing their own thing, and I wonder, “Am I over-doing this respect thing?”  “If no one else is doing it, maybe it’s not really expected.”  “I wonder if they are laughing at me.”  “Maybe they are thinking that I’m being pretentious.” “Does it really even matter if I stand or not?”

After all, there are plenty of excuses for not standing.  The music is a little hard to hear.  It’s not  playing at our school.  We aren’t Thai.  The Thais don’t even stand sometimes.  No one seems to care.  I’m having a conversation.  I’m tired.  My leg hurts…

I had an experience like this today, and I spent some time thinking afterward.  Being a Christian is a little like standing for the Thai national anthem.  When you take a stand for God, you will often look foolish to the world around you.  You are standing for music they may not even be able to hear and for reasons that they don’t particularly understand.  Even some of the Christians around you aren’t taking a stand for God.

It’s easy to second-guess yourself. “Am I being too strict about the movies my kids watch and the music they listen to?”  “Am I naive to think my kids could possibly make it to marriage without having sex?”  “Am I throwing my money away when I tithe to the church?”  “Am I being pretentious by claiming that there is only one Way into heaven, and His name is Jesus Christ?”

These doubts and questions are part of the cost of taking a stand for God.  If it were easy, everyone would do it, right?  Of course, God could strike down anyone who didn’t take a stand, but He doesn’t.  He doesn’t, because then EVERYONE would stand.  They wouldn’t be standing because they loved the Lord; they would be standing out of fear and compliance.  Those aren’t the types of followers God is looking for.  He loves us too much to force us to “love” Him back.

When you take a stand for something, you have to be willing to pay the price.  Without cost, there is no sacrifice.  As King David said when Araunah offered him his threshing floor, oxen, wood and wheat for free in order to make an offering, “No, I insist on paying the full price. I will not take for the LORD what is yours, or sacrifice a burnt offering that costs me nothing.” (1 Chronicles 21:24)  The value of the sacrifice is tied to how much it costs you.

The foolishness you sometimes feel when taking a stand for God is part of your sacrifice.  But you can take comfort in this Scripture:

For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength.

(1 Corinthians 1:25)

One day, every stand you took for the Lord will be seen for what it was –  wisdom, love, honor, respect, readiness, strength, adoration, devotion, courage, faith…  Insist on paying the full price.

Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be men of courage; be strong. Do everything in love.

(1 Corinthians 16:13-14)

 

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Filed under Authenticity, christianity, comfort zone, commitment, Compromise, culture, faith, obedience, parenting, priorities, sacrifice

My Dad’s A Speeder, Officer!


My friend and his family were headed to the mountains to ski one weekend.  They were making the trip with another family from their neighborhood, and everyone was excited about getting to the slopes.  Excitement turned into anxiety, however, when my friend noticed the red, flashing lights of a police car in his rearview mirror.  The police officer pulled both vehicles over and went to my friend’s car first.

“Sir, are you aware of why I stopped you?”

“Yes, sir, officer.  I was speeding.”

From the back seat came the vociferous voice of his five-year-old daughter, “My daddy’s a speeder, Officer!  He speeds all the time.  I tell him not to but he does it anyway.  You should arrest him, Officer.”

The police officer looked down at his ticket pad and began to chuckle.  “Wait here for a minute,” he said and returned to his squad car.

While the officer was at his car, my friend’s wife tried to convince her daughter to be quiet.  Despite the possibility of a ticket, my friend told his daughter, “No, it’s okay.  I was speeding, and I shouldn’t have been.”

A few minutes later, he returned and knocked on the daughter’s window.  When her parents lowered it, the officer asked, “Young lady, is your daddy a speeder?”

“Yes he is.  He does it all the time even though I tell him not to.  You should take him to jail!”

The police officer gave my friend’s daughter a police badge sticker and told her to make sure her daddy doesn’t speed anymore.  To my friend he said, “You know, it’s been a long time since I laughed at a traffic citation stop.  You’re off the hook for this one.”

Between the two families, a daughter’s candidness saved them over $500 in fines.  I guess honesty does pay.

(S – A special thanks to Sydney Epstein for keeping her daddy honest.)

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Filed under accountability, Authenticity, character, family, funny, guilt, humor, Just for fun, parenting, rules, submission

On Solid Rock


I have a friend who once had his house jacked so that it was supported by bedrock rather than clay.  He shared with me that his house is now all “womperjawed” (yes, he’s from Texas).  Not a thing in the house is square – but it’s solid.  His house had been founded on clay so long that everything had shifted over time.  In fact, much of it was square before he jacked it, because it had all shifted together.  It looked good and felt comfortable, but it wasn’t solid.

When my friend made the decision to jack the house to found it on bedrock, he gave up the comfort and aesthetics he had before.  His house doesn’t look as good as it once did, but now it’s solid and will stand the test of time.

What a great analogy for what happens to our lives when we accept Christ and anchor our lives to the Rock.  When we accept Christ, the people around us  start to realize that we don’t have it all together like we used to pretend that we did.  Our flaws begin to show, but we can rejoice in that!  God doesn’t waste anything.  He uses our flaws as much or more than He uses our strengths to accomplish His purposes.  We can afford to be vulnerable with people and let them see how “womperjawed” we are, because we’ve got a solid foundation.

“Square” is overrated.  It’s better to be a mess with a message than to be “perfect” without a prayer.

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Filed under Authenticity, belief, Change, christianity, Salvation, sanctification

The Elephant in the Room


elephant-in-room

Ever had the experience of having an “elephant in the room?”  It’s what happens when there is something big and disturbing that we all know about but won’t discuss.  We stress over it; we pretend it’s not there; we go to great lengths to maneuver around it… all because we don’t know how to deal with it.

It’s Christmas, and many families will be gathering together to celebrate the holiday while simultaneously trying to step around the elephants that have accumulated in their relationships. Hoping for peace on earth and goodwill toward each other, they will bite their tongues as they enjoy Christmas dinner.  And doing their best to ensure a silent night, they will stick to only the safest topics for conversation.

Isn’t it exhausting?  Wouldn’t it be nice if we could all just be honest about the elephants?  And have we ever stopped to think about exactly how much elephant maintenance is costing us? The longer an elephant is allowed to stay, the more trust he eats.  The more trust he eats, the bigger he gets and the harder it is to get rid of him without doing some major damage to the relationships.

What if we sacrificed some of that peace and silence to do some important and needed work on our relationships this Christmas?  What if we prayed for God’s healing before our guests arrived or before we went over the river and through the woods to Grandmother’s house?  What if we humbled ourselves to be the first one to say, “I’m truly sorry,” to those who feel hurt?  What if we decided to put some forgiveness under the tree?

Maybe we could save our money this year, and purchase a gift that will only cost us our pride and the risk of stepping out of our comfort zone (and maybe a thrown plate or two).  Wouldn’t it be worth it?  Even if it ends in disaster (and I’m aware that it’s a good possibility with some of our families), the attempt would be precious to God, and there is no way to know how He will eventually use your sacrifice.

Blessings to you and yours!

Merry Christmas!

Michael


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Filed under accountability, agape love, Authenticity, Challenges, Christmas, comfort zone, communication, family, Interpersonal, love, overcoming obstacles, Relationships