It’s just the way I am

In the last few years, I’ve gotten really interested in the Meyers Briggs Personality Tests. I never used to put a lot of stock in personality quizzes, mainly because I thought they stereotyped people too much. But as I’ve gotten older and met more people, I’ve started to learn the value of having a basic knowledge of the different personality types.

No, you can’t (or at least you shouldn’t) label people. It doesn’t do much good because everyone is different. And putting people in a box limits their potential and can possible stifle your relationship with them (John 7:24). That being said, when it comes to getting to know someone, you have to start somewhere.

Example? I test as an INFJ, although that N is only 50% (because I’m 50% S). If you know MBTI, you understand. But my actual personality is closer to an INFP. But since I was raised by a family of Js, I have a lot of J tendencies that I’ve pushed to the forefront of my personality. The organization. The scheduling. The planning. The punctuality. And the perfectionism.

I don’t fit neatly in the INFP box either. And, honestly, when it comes to personality tests, very few people are perfect matches, and even the ones who do have their own quirks and eccentricities that make them who they are (Psalm 139:14).

But I hear something every now and then when I’m talking personalities with people. The phrase: “It’s just the way I am.” You’ve heard that right? I’m sure you’ve even used it once or twice. I have. And there’s some truth to it.

I have wide shoulders and a broad back. I’m built with a large frame, and even if I ever get down to where my BMI tells me I should be, I won’t be dainty. There’s nothing dainty about me. But that’s just the way I am. That’s the way I’m made. I can’t change that.

Personality wise? I’m an introvert. That doesn’t automatically make me shy, but it means being around crowds of people wears me out. I recharge by being alone. And I’ve always been that way, even from childhood. I like being around people, but I reach a saturation point where I’ve got to get away. That’s just the way I am.

But do I have to stay just the way I am? What if “just the way I am” is an excuse I use to protect myself or to avoid doing something I don’t want to do? Ever thought of it that way?

Physically speaking, I can’t change the way I look. God built me this way, and I’m perfectly content to stay this way (Isaiah 64:8). But my personality (I think) is a different issue. No, I can’t change who I am as a person, and that’s not what God asks of me (Jeremiah 1:4-5). But I also don’t think I should hide behind it either.

Let’s say God tells me that I need to go talk to someone I don’t know. It would be so easy to remind God that I’m an introvert, and I don’t like talking to people I don’t know. And that’s true. Some days I would rather put my own eye out than walk over to a stranger and strike up a conversation. But if God tells me to do it, shouldn’t I do it? If God tells me to do it, won’t He give me what I need to make it happen? (Psalm 107:28-30)

That’s what’s He’s promised. Over and over again, He tells us that we can do things we think are impossible. And if it’s just us trying to do them, they are impossible. But with God, we can do it. (Matthew 19:26)

No, your personality isn’t something to overcome. Understanding your personality is a vital step in learning who God made you and what you can do for Him. But if you turn your personality into an excuse or use it to avoid obeying God, you’re asking for trouble.

So, yes. Take the tests and quizzes. Get to know what it means to be you. Understand why you operate the way you do, why you think the way you do, and embrace it. You’re unique and individual, and God made you that way because He has a plan for you. But that doesn’t mean you can’t rise above your personality and its limitations.

You may be an introvert, but that doesn’t mean you can’t talk to strangers. You may be a hardcore S, but that doesn’t mean you must lack empathy. And if you’re a full-on J, that doesn’t mean the sky will fall if you’re late for a meeting because you stopped to help someone. And so on and so forth.

Labeling our personalities is helpful, but when we start using them as reasons why we aren’t doing what God has called us to do or living how God has called us to live, all we’re doing is offering excuses. And that never flies with God.

God invented personalities. He knows what you’re capable of doing, and—what’s more—He knows what He can do through you.

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Copyright 2015 AC Williams LLC

Don’t be afraid of commitment

While I was camping in the wilds of Colorado last week, I woke up in the middle of the night and had to go to the bathroom. At home, it’s pretty easy to get out of bed, tromp downstairs to our 100-year-old home’s single bathroom, and then return to bed. But when you’re camping?

First, it was freezing. Either low 40s or high 30s, so I had lots of layers on, and lots of layers always make it more complicated to navigate when you’re bundled up inside a sleeping bag. But I didn’t just have my sleeping bag. I also had a gigantic fluffy TARDIS blanket that I’d cuddled up with inside my sleeping bag because even with all my layers on, I was still freezing. Second, once I managed to get out of the sleeping bag, I had to put my shoes on, unzip the first layer of my tent, unzip the second layer of my tent, and get up off the ground. I needed my flashlight too and my extra sweatshirt. Once all that was accomplished, I still needed to hike then 1/8th of a mile (or so) to the vault toilets.

That was just to get there. Getting back into the sleeping back took just as much work. The lesson I learned? No matter what you’re doing when you’re camping, whether it’s sleeping or cooking or walking or even getting up at night, it takes commitment, because everything you do takes 10 times the work.

Copyright 2015 AC Williams LLC

My tent set up at Happy Meadows Campground, west of Colorado Springs, CO

Today’s verses are Colossians 3:23-24.

Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people. Remember that the Lord will give you an inheritance as your reward, and that the Master you are serving is Christ.

Our world today is scared of the word commitment. Granted, it is a scary word and an even scarier concept–to be devoted to a principle or an ideal or a person or a company. It takes a lot of trust and a lot of forgiveness sometimes, and it takes a lot of work. A lot of work.

Being committed to something, person or object, requires that you care about it more than you care about yourself and your personal ambitions. Being committed means that you’re not selfish. When you’re willing to go all in for someone or something, it means that no matter the cost, you’ll do what’s necessary.

It’s important to do what God says matters, but there isn’t really a Bible verse that says what job you should work or what career you should pursue or what college degree you should get. God’s given us each our own skill sets and dreams and desires, so we each need to do what we think He’s calling us to do as individuals. The end goal just should be to glorify Him in all that we do.

See that word? Whatever? Whatever you do, do it like you’re working for God. Whether it’s work or church or family or friends, whether it’s your relationship with your parents or your kids or your spouse, whatever you’re doing today, do it the way God says is right. Maybe it doesn’t make sense to you. Maybe you think it will open you up to ridicule or make you a target. But if God says it’s right, do it. It doesn’t matter what people say.

That’s what being committed means. You do it even if it isn’t fun. You do it even if it means more work for you. It’s not about what you’ll get out of it. It’s about how much glory you can give God before, during, and afterward, trusting that the reward God will bestow is worth far much more than anything you can earn down here.

God’s looking for people who will do what He asks. You can ask questions. You can have doubts. Just don’t give up. Don’t let the amount of work facing you convince you that it won’t be worth it. God makes everything worth it.

The flag of Texas at the Dallas Arboretum, Dallas, TX

Obedience is better than sacrifice

I’m independent. I like my freedom. I like being able to do what I want to do without having to ask anybody for permission, without having to clear my schedule with anyone else, without having to juggle my life to suit someone else (unless I want to). And apparently I’ve always been that way.

Turning 31 yesterday brought up some old stories of when I was little, and I always get a little nostalgic when it comes to birthdays. I can’t say I struggled with authority when I was little, but I certainly had my own opinion about how the world should work. I’m so thankful my parents taught me to respect and obey authority. Why? Well, the Bible shows a direct connection between obedience to authorities and the blessings you receive.

I ran into a bit of an incident last night at the Judgement House dress rehearsal. I’m not going to go into details because there’s no point, but suffice it so say some people decided that they were going to do things their own way rather than obey the authorities who had been put in charge over them. And things like that always irritate me because Judgement House isn’t about getting our own way. It’s not about being cool. It’s not about getting to hang out with friends. Judgement House is a declaration of war against our enemy, and it burns me up to see people not taking it seriously.

I almost did something. I almost said something. But someone gave me great advice many moons ago: Never write a letter when you’re angry. Same thing applies to dealing with people. Don’t deal with people angry because people aren’t you’re enemy. And while part of me wanted to go all righteous on these other people and how they flipped the authorities off, the other part of me reminded my traitorous brain that I’m not that much different from them. I understand the urge to buck the system all too well. I understand the deep, yearning sensation to go against the grain, to tell the powers that be that they’re morons, to do my own thing because it’s easier and–let’s face it–my way is better.

Anybody else been there? Well, you’re not alone.

The flag of Texas at the Dallas Arboretum, Dallas, TX

The flag of Texas at the Dallas Arboretum, Dallas, TX

Today’s verses are 1 Samuel 15:22-23.

But Samuel replied, “What is more pleasing to the Lord: your burnt offerings and sacrifices or your obedience to his voice? Listen! Obedience is better than sacrifice, and submission is better than offering the fat of rams. Rebellion is as sinful as witchcraft, and stubbornness as bad as worshiping idols. So because you have rejected the command of the Lord, he has rejected you as king.”

The first king of Israel was a guy named Saul, who was set up to be the king because he looked kingly. And he did a pretty good job starting out, but it wasn’t long before he was eaten up with insecurity. And people who are ruled by insecurity make very unwise decisions. And soon, Saul was doing his own thing his own way. Because his way was better. God didn’t get it, and it wasn’t like He’d do anything about it. So Saul was free to do as he pleased.

Not so much.

The High Priest at the time, Samuel, delivered this message to Saul. And it was something that I needed to remember before I turned my righteous indignation against someone else who was thumbing their nose at authority.

Obedience is better than sacrifice.

Think about that. Think about what that means. Obedience is better than sacrifice. Doing what God tells you to do is better than giving up something you think will make Him happy. Ouch. That’s where I get stuck because I don’t have a problem sacrificing. I can throw time and energy and finances at every God-cause that comes my way, but just because I’m willing to do all that doesn’t mean that’s what God has asked me to do. I mean, none of those things are wrong, especially if you’re doing them for the right reasons. But what is that one thing God has told you to do that you haven’t done? Are you just sacrificing things for God to make up for it?

I’m sorry to say, it doesn’t work that way. Obedience is better than sacrifice.

I’m not always that good at obedience. I want to do things my own way in my own time the way I want to do them, and I don’t like having to wait for God, having to think like God, having to do what God would do. But the plain and simple truth is that blessings come from obedience. Saul disobeyed, and God rejected him as king.

So who is the authority in your life today that’s causing you a headache? Who is the authority that you don’t want to obey? The authorities in my life are there because God put them there, and disobeying them is tantamount to disobeying God (with the exception of when they ask you to act contrary to how the Bible says to live, but that’s a different topic).

Stop fighting it. Stop sacrificing for it in vain; it’s not fixing the problem. Obey. Just do it. You don’t have to understand, and you sure don’t have to like it. But blessings will follow, if not from your direct authority then from God Himself.

Trees along the road to the Microsoft Campus, Redmond, WA

Dying to live

 

The trees up here are all changing colors, which is a nice difference from home. And I couldn’t help grinning from ear to ear as I walked yesterday looking at the trees and all their brilliant shades of yellow and gold and red and orange. Natives probably thought I was bonkers.

But the one thought that kept circling my mind is the irony of autumn, because we ooo and ahh over the changing colors of the leaves even though that means the trees are pretty much shutting down for the winter. They’re going to sleep so they can wake up again in spring.

I think autumn is one of my favorite symbols of the new life we have in Jesus as Christ followers.

Trees along the road to the Microsoft Campus, Bellevue, WA

Trees along the road to the Microsoft Campus, Bellevue, WA

Today’s verse is Galatians 2:20.

My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

Death isn’t something we really like to think about. It’s usually surrounded by sorrow and tragedy, but death is a part of life. And as a Christ follower, death is something to look forward to. Jesus said time and time again during His stint on Earth that if people wanted to follow Him, they had to die to self.

What does that even mean? Die to self? Be crucified with Christ? They’re very beautiful pictures, but from a practical standpoint, what do they mean?

Practically speaking, at least the way I understand it, it means to say no to what your old self would have done and say yes to what Christ is telling you to do, what the Bible says to do. It means to live the way the Bible says. It means to conduct your business and your life as though you were Christ’s representative on Earth–which, actually, you are.

I think it’s interesting that we have to die before we can really live for something. Like the trees, if we want to live again in spring, we need to die in autumn.

If you have chosen to believe in Christ, you are a new creation. The person who you used to be is gone, and God has given you a new life now. So you don’t have to make the same old choices you made before. You can start over, just like springtime.

So the next time you see a tree blazing in the brilliant colors of autumn, remember that if you follow Christ, you’re dead to yourself and alive to live for Him. And with Him, you’ll never die again. 

View from my hotel room window, Chicago, IL

God wants to bless you a lot!

I didn’t plan to post this morning because last night went so late, but I had a thought in my head that wouldn’t leave me alone. So if this is rambling and strange and disjointed, blame it on a late night and no time for coffee yet this morning. =)

View from my hotel room window, Chicago, IL

View from my hotel room window, Chicago, IL

Today’s verses are Ephesians 3:14-20.

When I think of all this, I fall to my knees and pray to the Father, the Creator of everything in heaven and on earth. I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God. Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.

We ate at a pretty swanky restaurant last night. Usually folks just call it Joe’s, but its full name is something like Joe’s Seafood, Steak and Stone Crabs. It was nice. When your servers all wear fancy suits with bow ties and take fifteen minutes describing the menu, you can usually tell it’s a pretty upscale kind of place.  What they did that was different from other swanky places was that when you ordered crab legs, they actually brought them out, showed them to you, and then they broke the meat out for you. So all you ended up with at the end was a big plate of truly delicious crab.

And that was followed by another round of crab claws. And that was followed by blackened Madagascar shrimp the size of my hand. Followed by wedge salads the size of my head, covered in egg and bacon and onion and avocado and tomato. Followed by entrees that ranged from bone-in filet mignon to seafood. I ordered sole, mainly because I was curious about it. But the waiter put the wrong order in, and I ended up with parmesan coated halibut instead. So he gave me the halibut AND brought me the sole too. And then he brought out two slices of key lime pie. And everyone ordered a round of coffee and cappuccino.

So. Much. Food. I couldn’t eat it all. And it just kept coming.

The really ironic thing about my meal last night is that the wrong parmesan halibut was actually better than the mushroom sole I ordered. It was so cool because I didn’t expect any of it. I knew we were going to a nice restaurant. I’ve been to nice restaurants before. Usually they’re very stuffy and proper, and while the waiters are normally pretty gregarious they don’t go beyond what’s needed to make a good impression. This place was amazing. And it didn’t hit me until I got back to my room at Midnight (ugh) that God wants to treat us that way too.

I think we have this idea of God as a benevolent genie in the sky, sometimes. He’s there to grant our wishes, and when we hit that third wish, we can’t ask for anything else. Or we don’t want to bother Him with our petty little problems. Or we don’t want to always be asking for stuff because when the day comes that we really want or need something from Him, He’ll remember that we’re low maintenance and grant us our request by default because we haven’t asked for anything else.

Is that really how God is? I don’t think so. Check the verse again. God has unlimited resources. And He is able to accomplish more through us than we can even imagine. Does that sound like a God who will stop at three “wishes” granted?

God wants to knock us off our feet with His love and goodness. He wants to bless our socks off. He wants to give us so many blessings that we can’t carry all of them.

And I’m not saying that God hasn’t already blessed us. absolutely not! We’re the most blessed people in the world. If you woke up this morning, you’re blessed. If you have family that loves you, you’re blessed. If you have a car to drive and a job to work and food to eat, you’re blessed. But while I’m thankful for those blessings, God doesn’t want to stop there. He wants to give us more. He wants to bless us exceedingly above what we can imagine.

We just have to let Him. And sometimes blessings don’t come the way you think they will, but they come. Sometimes they’re not easy to accept, but if you accept them, you’ll find yourself way better off than you ever thought you could be. And the beautiful thing about God’s blessings is that they keep coming and coming and coming, even though you’ve done absolutely nothing to deserve any of them. If you show yourself faithful with what you have now, God will bless you with more.

Little yellow bug on a big yellow sunflower at Safe Haven Farm - Haven, KS

No wonder my heart is glad

We have a lot to be thankful for. We have so many good things. Even on our worst day, even when we are experiencing stress, even when we are overwhelmed with all the tasks we have to accomplish or our responsibilities, we still have more than enough good in our lives that we should be thankful.

So why are we grumpy? Why are we focused on the negative? Well, it’s human nature. But if you follow Christ, you aren’t subject to your human nature. You have two natures now, and you also have a choice which one to listen to.

I love the Psalms of David because so many times they speak to me in a way regular Scripture doesn’t. Whether it’s because they are mainly about praise or maybe because David was a fellow artist, I don’t know. But the Psalms incorporate statements that rock my world.

Little yellow bug on a big yellow sunflower at Safe Haven Farm - Haven, KS

Little yellow bug on a big yellow sunflower at Safe Haven Farm – Haven, KS

Today’s passage is Psalm 16.

Keep me safe, O God,
for I have come to you for refuge.

I said to the Lord, “You are my Master!
Every good thing I have comes from you.”
The godly people in the land
are my true heroes!
I take pleasure in them!
Troubles multiply for those who chase after other gods.
I will not take part in their sacrifices of blood
or even speak the names of their gods.

Lord, you alone are my inheritance, my cup of blessing.
You guard all that is mine.
The land you have given me is a pleasant land.
What a wonderful inheritance!

I will bless the Lord who guides me;
even at night my heart instructs me.
I know the Lord is always with me.
I will not be shaken, for he is right beside me.

No wonder my heart is glad, and I rejoice.
My body rests in safety.
For you will not leave my soul among the dead
or allow your holy one to rot in the grave.
You will show me the way of life,
granting me the joy of your presence
and the pleasures of living with you forever.

So much of our attitude comes from our perspective. If you focus on the negative in every situation, you’re going to have a negative attitude. Granted, if you only focus on the positive, you’re going to annoy the crap out of anyone you talk to and you won’t be realistic or relevant to anyone. Why? Because we don’t live in a positive world. And being falsely happy and cheerful all the time isn’t helpful or encouraging. We can’t ignore the negative elements in our world, but we don’t have to focus on them.

David had issues. He had troubles in his life. Where do we even start with the troubles in David’s life? Even this Psalm starts out with him asking God for protection, asking God to be his refuge. But then it quickly moves into praise. David talks about his relationship with God, who God is to Him, what God has done for him.

And that’s what we need to do too.

Recognize that God is our refuge. He is. He’s our shield and the One who protects us, and as the days grow darker that protection will be very much needed.

But He’s more than just our refuge. God is our joy. Every good thing we have comes from Him. He is our future and our heritage all at the same time. And the good things He has given us now pale in comparison to what’s coming. And as we wait for that day, He won’t leave us. Ever.

No wonder David’s heart was glad. And our hearts should feel the same way. If they don’t, stop focusing on what you don’t have or what you don’t like or what has made you unhappy and focus on the God who is both your protection and your light. Think about what He’s done, think about what He’s doing (because He’s never still), and even if the day is dark and your life is full of struggle, you’ll be okay because as long as we can see Him, we can remember what we’re living for.

Moonset at Safe Haven Farm - Haven, KS

How much do you trust God?

I’m ready to go home. Anybody else ever feel that way? When it just seems that the whole world is falling apart? No matter who won last night, I’m positive the lack of civility would have continued either way.

I have to say, I was shocked by a lot of the despair I read, and while I will admit that I’m rather disappointed at the choice the country has made, I’m not too worried. In fact, I’m a bit excited. Because the closer our country moves toward socialism, the more our country embraces their selfishness and indolence, the closer we get to the end. And when the end finally gets here, all of this grief will be over.

It won’t be easy to live through. And the very patriotic part of my spirit is grieved for what America has become, but God doesn’t make mistakes. Do you think last night’s outcome surprised God? No. And that encourages me. And it helps me face today with positivity and excitement. And you should too, no matter if you’re disappointed or not.

Moonset at Safe Haven Farm - Haven, KSToday’s verse is 1 Peter 4:19.

So if you are suffering in a manner that pleases God, keep on doing what is right, and trust your lives to the God who created you, for he will never fail you.

The problems facing America right now are about to get a lot more complicated. And the obstacles in the path of true believers are going to become more difficult to overcome. The further away our society moves from the ideals it was founded on, the more difficult it’s going to become to be a Christian.

Let me rephrase that: It will become very difficult to be a Christian who believes the Bible.

You think it’s hard now? Wait.

But in waiting, remember that this is supposed to happen.

I believe the Bible. So when the Bible says in Romans 13, that all authority is ordained by God, that includes President Obama. I don’t agree with any of his politics or his programs or his approach to just about anything, but he is the President of the United States, and I will respect him. If you say you follow Christ, now’s the time to prove it. If you say you follow Christ and you didn’t vote for Mr. Obama, respect him anyway because he is the one God wants directing America right now.

I don’t have the time to go into it in depth, but Daniel 4 recounts a time in Babylon when King Nebuchadnezzar had a dream, which was to serve as a warning. Basically, the king had been doing some things he shouldn’t have been doing, and God was going to strike him mad until he understood a very simple fact: “The Most High rules over the kingdoms of the world and gives them to anyone he chooses.” (Daniel 4:25)

We’re in a tenuous position in our world. This blog isn’t intended to be political, and I apologize for three straight blog posts with political undertones. But this was important. And today, I think it’s more important than ever to focus on the real question: How much do you trust God?

Do you trust Him enough to keep following even when He makes no sense? Do you trust Him enough to believe that He knows what He’s doing when we can’t see the light at the end of this tunnel? Do you trust Him enough to jump when He says jump or to wait when He says wait?

How much do you trust God?

If you need some encouragement along those lines, maybe you’ll find it where I did this morning in 1 Peter 4. What’s beautiful about Scripture is it rarely requires commentary. Commentary can help, but honestly the Bible can speak for itself.

1 Peter 4 (The Message)

 Since Jesus went through everything you’re going through and more, learn to think like him. Think of your sufferings as a weaning from that old sinful habit of always expecting to get your own way. Then you’ll be able to live out your days free to pursue what God wants instead of being tyrannized by what you want.

You’ve already put in your time in that God-ignorant way of life, partying night after night, a drunken and profligate life. Now it’s time to be done with it for good. Of course, your old friends don’t understand why you don’t join in with the old gang anymore. But you don’t have to give an account to them. They’re the ones who will be called on the carpet—and before God himself.

Listen to the Message. It was preached to those believers who are now dead, and yet even though they died (just as all people must), they will still get in on the life that God has given in Jesus.

Everything in the world is about to be wrapped up, so take nothing for granted. Stay wide-awake in prayer. Most of all, love each other as if your life depended on it. Love makes up for practically anything. Be quick to give a meal to the hungry, a bed to the homeless—cheerfully. Be generous with the different things God gave you, passing them around so all get in on it: if words, let it be God’s words; if help, let it be God’s hearty help. That way, God’s bright presence will be evident in everything through Jesus, and he’ll get all the credit as the One mighty in everything—encores to the end of time. Oh, yes!

Friends, when life gets really difficult, don’t jump to the conclusion that God isn’t on the job. Instead, be glad that you are in the very thick of what Christ experienced. This is a spiritual refining process, with glory just around the corner.

If you’re abused because of Christ, count yourself fortunate. It’s the Spirit of God and his glory in you that brought you to the notice of others. If they’re on you because you broke the law or disturbed the peace, that’s a different matter. But if it’s because you’re a Christian, don’t give it a second thought. Be proud of the distinguished status reflected in that name!

It’s judgment time for God’s own family. We’re first in line. If it starts with us, think what it’s going to be like for those who refuse God’s Message!

If good people barely make it,
What’s in store for the bad?

So if you find life difficult because you’re doing what God said, take it in stride. Trust him. He knows what he’s doing, and he’ll keep on doing it.