Matters of the Heart: Character

Good EggGod, I invite your searching gaze into my heart. Examine me through and through; find out everything that may be hidden within me.  Put me to the test and sift through all my anxious cares.  See if there is any path of pain I’m walking on,  and lead me back to your glorious, everlasting ways—the path that brings me back to you.  —Psalm 139:23-24  (The Passion Translation®. Copyright © 2017 by BroadStreet Publishing® Group, LLC.)

#Character issues disqualify us from promotion by God far more often than lack of talent, geographic advantage, education, or even resources. Can God trust me….you….us? God wants to use us to fulfill His purposes in the earth. Some of those purposes are big, some are small. In either case, we need to be reliable and trustworthy to the One who created us, just as much so as if He were calling on us to be the next Billy Graham! Even if we perceive ourselves as little fish in a big pond, our character still matters very much to God!

We can choose to be assets or liabilities. How? By honest self-examination and surrender to God. David did this. He invited the Lord to search him, to try his heart, to uncover any wickedness. We know David had a fall, from which he recovered…but his fall was not an ongoing character issue that became his identity. He remained humble and repentant before God, and God honored that. We need to ask ourselves, in the neighborhood, the church, our family, our school/workplace…what are we known for? The reputation that precedes us, yes, can be tarnished by the lies/misconception of others…but how often is the origin for our tarnished reputations our own words and actions (or inactions)? I don’t want people to say of me, “You’d better steer clear of Lisa…she will stab you in the back, she’s lazy and unreliable, you have to walk on eggshells around her because she’s so easily offended, you can’t believe a word she says, don’t say anything in front of her that you don’t want spread all over the place, she won’t finish what she starts…” On and on.

If in our dramatic laments about why things aren’t going right for us, it’s always the other person’s fault, it’s probably not.😉 If we hear rumors about ourselves that are unsavory, it’s a great time to evaluate what we need to change and then go to God for help. Those character flaws CAN be healed if we will own up to them and work on them. Left undealt with, we are driving through life with bad brakes and it eventually will catch up with us.

Lord, help us to be very honest with You and ourselves. You know our weaknesses and You also know our willfulness. Your strength is made perfect in our weakness when we lean on You to help us. Our will, however, is sure to get us in trouble if we rebel from aligning with Your will. Jesus, over and over, submitted His will to Yours; and He was the example for us to follow.

Reveal to us, Holy Spirit, when there is an ugly nature in us that needs dealt with. Whether it’s lust, infidelity, pride, unforgiveness, spite, cruelty, intimidation, prejudice, a lying spirit, dishonesty and cheating, a talebearer, a betrayer, a spirit of laziness, rebellion, hatred, insecurity, negativity, undisciplinedness, grumbling, jealousy, or fear—we lay our entire selves on the altar and ask You to sanctify us and purge us of anything unholy that would cull us from kingdom usability and trustworthiness. We renounce and reject any spirit that would attach itself to us and defile the pure gifts You have given us. We will not make excuses or blame others or be offended over Your attempts to prune away what disqualifies us. When we represent You in the earth, may we represent You well. Help us never to bring reproach on Your name, Your family, Your kingdom!

May it be said of us, even by those who don’t necessarily like our personality quirks or the way we look, “Blessed is he/she who comes in the name of the Lord!” Conform us to the image of Your Son. Fill us with a refreshing overflow that lifts the atmosphere in every room we enter. Make us fit for the kingdom—assets and not liabilities! And Lord, help us to reverse undesirable reputations whether or not we earned them. Make us willing to prove ourselves and to submit to those You would place in our lives as mentors and leaders. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Mirror, Mirror

It is so critical that we put our attitudes and hidden heart issues on the altar, and become so immersed in the Word that we aren’t blind to undealt-with sin and/or weights. We can have every potential to do great things—even have had prophetic words spoken over us about our gifts elevating us to leadership or notoriety—and negate the prophetic word through pride, narcissism, jealousy, or fear. Instead of being angry at those we perceive to hold us back, and instead of being envious of others who possess our same potential, we must deal with that pesky hidden man of the heart. If there are unforgiveness issues stemming back even to our childhood, or healing that needs to happen when we release those who’ve hurt us, we must do the work. If we fail to do so, we will taxi the runway back and forth but never gain the momentum to get off the ground. Still more tragic, we risk imprinting our character flaws on our children by forcefully living vicariously through them, by repeating abuses on them that we experienced, or by failing to desire success for them that exceeds our own. Even very good people can be trapped in a holding pattern, mind you…disqualified over things that could be fixed!

Father, help us not to be our own worst enemy. You are fully-aware of even what we don’t see about ourselves–those damaged, flawed, or underdeveloped matters of character that we haven’t yet recognized or owned-up to. We will stop blaming others for our lack of success and begin to look inwardly, with humility and a quick-to-repent heart, for what needs purged from our character. Even if we don’t aspire to promotion of some kind, coddling wrong attitudes and negative emotions is a behavior not pleasing to You; and as badly as we want not to feel like a failure in our destiny, we want to find favor in Your sight even more. As David prayed after his hidden sin bubbled to the surface, likewise create in us a clean heart and renewed right spirit. See if there be (expose) any wicked way in us; and after the diseased element in our hearts is purged, restore the joy of our salvation. May we bear good fruit—30, 60, 100-fold, unhindered by toxic emotions, attitudes, and behavior.

You discipline those whom You love…and we know You love us too much to leave us messed-up. We don’t want to be those Your Word speaks of whose neck becomes hardened from having to be chastised often. Help us get it right, to learn and be willing to change. Remove the blinders, and after we’ve seen ourselves without the wax coating, make us whole—perfect and entire, lacking nothing. Give us courage to allow ourselves to be overhauled from the inside out. We ask in Jesus’ name, Amen.

Foolishness: The New Wisdom

silhouette-boy-pointing-finger“But God’s angry displeasure erupts as acts of human mistrust and wrongdoing and lying accumulate, as people try to put a shroud over truth. But the basic reality of God is plain enough. Open your eyes and there it is! By taking a long and thoughtful look at what God has created, people have always been able to see what their eyes as such can’t see: eternal power, for instance, and the mystery of his divine being. So nobody has a good excuse. What happened was this: People knew God perfectly well, but when they didn’t treat him like God, refusing to worship him, they trivialized themselves into silliness and confusion so that there was neither sense nor direction left in their lives. They pretended to know it all, but were illiterate regarding life. They traded the glory of God who holds the whole world in his hands for cheap figurines you can buy at any roadside stand.”  Romans 1:18-23 MSG

Remember in the children’s book, The Emperor’s New Clothes, how an entire kingdom of people got caught up in an important social figure’s delusion because those folks didn’t want to be judged in a negative way?  The pitch to this con was that, only the wise, intelligent people in the kingdom were able to see the clothes.  In wearing them, the emperor could separate the educated from the fools.  And out of fear for their reputations, their positions, the people pretended to see the imaginary fabric.  They went right along with the whole charade, and even applauded, ooh-ed and ahh-ed as their proud hero paraded down the street in nothing but his skivvies. It took an innocent little child to call out the absurdity of the situation...”But he’s not wearing any clothes!” If you’ve never read it, you should. The storyline is shockingly parallel to the hour in which we live.

We live in a 21st Century realtime version of the Emperor’s New Clothes, where no one wants to admit that the status quo is out of hand. How we want the acceptance of others, so we choke down any and all ridiculous demands that a few make in order to garner favor.  If you disagree, you might even be sued by your government and lose your business license.  The issues splattered across the headlines as we speak would be funny if they weren’t so tragic. Oh, it’s not popular to contradict the absurd ideals fabricated by our pop culture…no doubt I’ll be met with some shrapnel for saying so. But not even our culture sticks to its own ideologies for longer than a season or two, or until they get bored because it’s not obscene or unreasonable enough. Our appetite demands that our movies be increasingly filthier, our language coarser, our crimes more violent, our rights more invasive of other people’s rights. Our “emperor” of the modern world isn’t a man or woman; it’s the desire to dominate the majority; to win the argument, to create the illusion that our ideas are more relevant than truth itself. It’s a thought system and it stinks in our Creator’s eyes because we reject truth for a lie and we do it without batting an eyelid.

Today’s shameful headlines will be upstaged by tomorrow’s stunts by the popular and powerful, and folks will go right along with outright lies to keep from being labeled closed-minded, bigoted, or archaic. Just so you know, I’m not talking about prejudice, hate crimes, civil rights, or social injustice here…I’m talking about the most basic, common-sense standards that have been flipped on their ear. And the crowd cheers “Bravo! Beautiful! Amazing! Superior thinking!” Hey, if celebrities are touting these far-fetched ideals as relevant, true, and not to be questioned, surely it’s got to be right…right? The fabric is only invisible to the intellectually-inferior. Plus, if you won’t concede to their logic, then you’re not only an opposing view–you are now a bad person. You lose sponsors. Others sever ties out of fear of losing popularity or status. Businesses pull contracts and relocate to get away from association with you. You may even wind up in court or on the unemployment line.  This isn’t really a demand for respect, for acceptance…it’s our twisted society’s way of saying, “You WILL do what we want, and you WILL like it.  Or else.”  And it’s being endorsed by our leaders just so they can garner more votes.  There, I said it.

We don’t even realize we’re going along with it just to appease someone else’s demand for the last word, (and to save our own reputations from ridicule). We’ve gotten so good at playing along that we even think we see the emperor’s imaginary clothes. And somewhere off in the distance, the “spinner” of the imaginary covering is laughing all the way to the bank. Will it take another child, oblivious to modern society’s uber-relaxed ideas of propriety, to blurt out the truth and wake up the deluded masses?

Pray for our nation. There are no words to describe some of the things that have elevated themselves to even be issues among us. Said cautiously and with love…but as honestly as I know how. I’d be really faking it right now if I pretended not to see how embarrassingly exposed we have become as a people. God, please snap us out of our blinded condition. It’s beyond humiliating; it’s becoming dangerous.

Lockjaw!

zipping-mouth-shut

When I was a very small girl, I stepped on a rusty nail while playing around a stack of old wood.  I’ll never forget Sue Sammons having to hold me down as I screamed bloody murder, when Doc White plunged that tetanus shot into my behind!  Oh yes!  That day, Doc White was fifteen feet tall, had fangs and werewolf claws, and that syringe was as big as a cannon!   Mom told me, “If you don’t take the shot, you’ll get lockjaw (tetanus)!”  At the time, lockjaw didn’t seem like such a bad alternative; but alas, I was outnumbered!

Sometimes it would be nice to have selective lockjaw.  We’ve become a society who so values a good comeback or “diss” or insult; and in honing our skills, we’ve become quite the verbal bullies.  I want to address the issue of what’s coming out of your mouth.  It’s so easy to fire off a good insult, but why do we have such a hard time firing off compliments?  What’s WRONG with us?  Do we honestly feel as if our sharp tongue makes us appear intellectually superior to the person we’re cutting down?

The memory of you will go on long after you’re gone.  So think about this:  would you rather be merely tolerable or actually loveable?  To those people who surround you daily, I challenge you:  be someone they cherish instead of having to put up with!  Being nice is a deliberate action on our part.  We can sputter and spout off and gripe about all that’s wrong, or we can be considerate, kind, and sow love seeds.  You fall into one of two categories, whether you realize it or not.  You’re someone people look forward to being around, or you’re someone they dread.  You either make people feel poured into, or you drain their very spirit with your presence.  I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be someone for whom folks cringe at the sound of my voice on the phone, or dodge running into me in the grocery store or on the street.  I don’t want them to think, “Oh mercy…I wonder what it’s going to be THIS time?”

Life’s too short to wallow in that mess!  Even if you’ve been an old “sourpuss” your whole life, you can start today.  Just as you’re getting ready to spew off an insult or a grouchy word at someone, I want you to stop and think of something good about that person.  If it’s nothing better than, “Your hair’s parted straight,” then you pay that person a compliment instead of letting him or her have “what for.”

What comes out of your mouth is what’s been rolling around in your heart, so you’ve got to begin filling your spirit with good thoughts and not just everything that’s irritating or wrong.  The Word says this:   “Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse.”  (Phil 4:8 MSG)  Sure, it’s so easy for us to let that sarcasm fly…but don’t you do it.  Not today.

I want you to pray this with me:  “Lord, I’ve been guilty of letting my emotions rule me.  I’ve done it so long that I’ve just let it get out of control.  Today I ask for Your forgiveness and help.  I don’t want to be someone whom my loved ones fear, dread, dislike, or even hate.  Please help me to leave a better legacy than what I’ve been leaving.  I surrender my heart and my mouth to You today.  I will meditate on Your Word, I will guard the gateways of my eyes and ears so that I don’t feed on violence, prejudice, hatred, and negativity.  I WILL think on the beautiful and not the ugly, and with Your help, I will speak life words and not death!  If necessary, do to me as You did to Balaam who, every time he opened his mouth to pronounce a curse on Your people, found that blessing is all that would come out.  Help me to find absolutely no pleasure in tearing down people with my words.  I ask You to lay conviction HEAVY ON MY HEART.  I want to please You, and I want to feel peace instead of frustration.  I want to stop injuring the people I love with my words, attitudes, and actions.  Most of all, I don’t want to embarrass YOU, displease You, or misrepresent You before a lost world.  Holy Spirit, speak loud and clear to me today so that I won’t miss Your voice.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.”

“Take control of what I say, O Lordand guard my lips.”  (Psalm 141:3 NLT)

Wash and Wear

I don’t buy many dry clean only garments these days, since I’m no longer working in a corporate workplace where suits are the dress code.  To be honest, on top of the fact that it gets expensive to maintain something you wear really often, I sweat a lot!  No offense to those who prefer or who must wear formal clothing on a regular basis…but I just flat-out like the concept of stuff that can handle going into the soapy water and taking a good scrubbing as often as it needs it.  And while I don’t doubt that all those chemicals do the trick too, I’m just a wash-and-wear kind of gal.  My needs are pretty simple, so goes my choice of apparel (smile).

I’m so glad that God’s grace provides for us a good washing when we need cleansed from being out in that dirty world.  We can’t wrap ourselves in plastic and walk around to keep our clothes clean, and we can’t be out there without being exposed to some things that need scrubbed off of us when we come back into His presence.   We can live a holy life among a lost world, and we can persevere not to allow the influence of darkness stain our garments; but in truth, each day we stand before the Lord in need of new mercies.  We hear and see things that can bend our thinking and tarnish our purity.  Even in times when we’ve not sinned, our spirit can still pick up the stale odor of the world from just having passed through it—kind of like walking through a shroud of cigarette smoke outside the grocery store (a personal pet peeve of mine!).

God has made provisions for our continual cleaning and re-cleaning.  He knows that we’ll encounter constant challenges to our faith, constant pressures to compromise, subtle foxes spoiling our vines from beneath where we don’t always see them.  Jesus prayed that to the Father about this very thing ON OUR BEHALF!  He said, “I’m not asking you to take them out of the world, but to keep them safe from the evil one.”  (John 17:15 NLT) He knew that we need to remain here to be His influence in the earth, and that special provisions would need to be made in order to keep us holy in spite of our surroundings.

Our Lord is the master of cleaning our dirty laundry.  He can lift any stain, press out any wrinkle, and remove any lingering odor of unrighteousness.  He paid an awful price to make possible this holiness we can so freely wear, and He did it not just for our benefit…He intends to present Himself with a perfect, flawless Bride, and she’s not going to have one speck of soil on her wedding garment!  When we allow Him to use the soap of grace, applied against the washboard of loving discipline, and rinsed in the water of the Word, we come out as pure, forgiven, and sanctified as if we’d never been dirty in the first place.  New mercies every single morning!

Don’t dodge the washtub today, and don’t wear those stinky clothes another moment.  You’re not doing anyone a favor by trying to get one more day’s wear out of them!  Step into His presence, receive His forgiveness, and experience the clean of the one true High-Efficiency Washer—Jesus!

“…Christ loved the church and gave himself for her. He did this to make her holy by washing her in a bath of water with the word.  He did this to present himself with a splendid church, one without any sort of stain or wrinkle on her clothes, but rather one that is holy and blameless.  (Ephesians 5:25-27 CEB)

©2012 Lisa Crum