Category Archives: deception

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

Frog in a Pot


When you put a frog into a pot of hot water, it immediately jumps out.  However, if you put the frog into a pot of cool water and then slowly increase the temperature, the frog’s body will adjust to the rising heat.  By the time he realizes that it’s getting hotter, he will no longer be able to jump out, and he will die.

Sometimes, we are the frog in the pot.  If someone came to us and said that they were going to radically and negatively change our environment tomorrow, most of us would jump out of the pot.  That’s not the way it typically happens, though.  The changes creep up on us and overcome us before we realize they are happening.  What started as just an extra assignment or two is now a full-blown project that is draining the life from us.  What started as a favor for a friend is now an obligation that makes your blood boil.  What started as a small concession to the other side is now the advantage they are using to turn the heat up against us.

Be aware of the small steps that precipitate a changing environment around you.  If you hear yourself saying, “Well, just this once….,” check the temperature of the water.

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Filed under Change, deception, Denial

Your Right-Hand Man


Everyone wants to have a right-hand man (or woman), right?  Someone you trust implicitly.  Someone who will cover for you in a pinch and make decisions just as you would have made them.  Someone you can groom to be your successor when the inevitable promotion opportunities come rolling in.

The expression “right-hand man” (as well as the tradition of seating the guest of honor at the right hand of the host) originated from times when leaders had to worry about assassination on a daily basis.  Before the days of explosives and automatic weapons, the easiest way to assassinate a leader was to have the person sitting to his right grab his sword arm and hang on, rendering him relatively helpless so that others in the room could then kill him.  If you were a leader, it was in your best interest to put the person you most trusted next to your sword arm. Since most people are right-handed, the “right-hand man” came to be synonymous for someone you could trust with your life.

Leadership can be a lonely role.  Having a right-hand man (person) will encourage you when things get rough.  A trusted “second-in-command” can keep an eye on your blind spots and warn you when you’re stepping into dangerous territory.  If you don’t have one, it’s never too late to develop that person (or to look for someone with the right qualities to fill your next open position.)

(Interestingly enough, the word “sinister” originally meant “on the left.”  Maybe that’s where we get the idea of “hold your friends close but your enemies closer.”)

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Filed under character, conflict, deception, delegation, leadership, management, Protection, Relationships, trust

Sowing and Weeping


Jacob was a trickster.  He tricked his older brother into selling his birthright (i.e., a double portion of his father’s inheritance and leadership of the family) for a bowl of stew!  Then he tricked his father into giving him the blessing that was meant for the eldest son, the very same brother.  Here’s how it went down.

Jacob’s mom, who liked him best, overheard Dad tell brother Esau to cook up a special meal…it was time for the “I’m about to die blessing.”  Esau had been waiting for this for years.  It had the power to transform his life.  He put on his hunting clothes and headed for the deer blind.

Meanwhile, Mom let Jacob in on the circumstances and shared her plan to steal the blessing.  While she cooked dinner for Dad, she had Jacob dress up like a goat (since Esau was quite hairy) and put on his brother’s best clothes.  Then, dinner in hand, Jacob went in to his dad and pretended to be Esau.

Dad, being blind and hard of hearing because of his age, couldn’t tell the difference between the boys without closer inspection.  He beckoned Jacob closer so that he could check for fur and get the smell of him (Esau was a bit gamey).  Jacob with his goat fur and Esau’s clothes passed muster and proceded to get blessed.

By the time Esau arrived with his dad’s favorite meal, it was too late.  These types of blessings weren’t the kind you could reload and refire.  They were one-shot wonders of the most potent variety.  Esau was understandably furious and ready to murder his younger brother, so Jacob grabbed his knapsack and headed for safer territories.

This led him to Uncle Laban’s (on his mother’s side of the family).  Now trickster-ing ran in the family.  Jacob had it.  His momma had it.  And her brother really had it.  Jacob was about to get a spoonful of his own medicine.

As soon as Jacob arrived, he fell head over heals for his cousin, Rachel.  He was so convinced of his love for her that he offered Uncle Laban a deal.  Seven years of shepherding work for the hand of his daughter.  Uncle Laban had already married off his sister to Abraham’s wealthy side of the family.  Maybe this marriage could bring some folding money his way.

Uncle Laban consented.  Jacob worked his tail off.  Seven years passed.  The marriage date arrived, and Uncle Laban threw a huge party – lots of drinking, then more drinking, a few belly shots, a pitcher of mojitos and a mind eraser or two…  Suffice to say, Jacob was hammered, sloshed, tanked, blitzed, bombed, wrecked, three sheets to the wind…choose your euphemism.

Uncle Laban led him to his tent, then sent his daughter in so that they could consummate the marriage.  Because she was dressed up in her sister’s wedding garb and wearing a wedding veil, and because Jacob was blind drunk, it’s a little understandable that he didn’t recognize that he had the WRONG SISTER!

No joke.  Uncle Laban pulled a fast one and wedded Jacob (the marriage night was the equivalent of a ceremony) to his older daughter Leah instead of Rachel.  The next morning, Jacob fumed, he ranted, he raved…but there was nothing he could do.  He was hitched.

He worked out a deal with Uncle Laban to work seven more years for Rachel’s hand and took it in advance this time.  But Uncle Laban continued to be a thorn in Jacob’s side until he made his getaway two wives later (that’s four total if you’re counting).

Are you sensing any irony in Jacob’s misfortune?  His mom has him dress up and pretend to be his older brother so that he can steal something precious from his blind father.  His uncle has his oldest daughter dress up and pretend to be her younger sister so that she can steal something precious from blind-drunk Jacob.  I’d say he got what he had coming.

Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. (Galatians 6:7)

In other words, if you plant good seeds, you’ll get a good crop, but if you plant bad seeds…  The principle of sowing and reaping means that good deeds are repaid – and usually with abundance.  You plant one seed in the ground, and it grows into many new seeds.  But the principle works both ways.  Bad deeds are also repaid.  Hosea said it like this:

They sow the wind and reap the whirlwind. (Hosea 8:7)

When we try to get some bad deeds past God, we often get back much more than we bargained for.

Jacob did.  Sisters competing with each other for sons is no picnic, and four wives instead of one is not the lottery that some men might think it is.

Rachel did.  She never saw her favorite son again, never met her daughters-in-law, never held her grandchildren.

Uncle Laban did.  Jacob eventually bested him in the trickster competition and made off with the largest part of the flock, both Laban’s daughters and all twelve of his grandchildren.

Sometimes we sow and reap; sometimes we sow and weep.

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Filed under Abraham, christianity, deception, Esau, jacob, Leah, marriage, Rachel, sin, Sowing and reaping