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I have said for years that Christians need to know what they believe and why they believe it. We do not have the privilege of living in a culture that is biblically literate, much less one that will stay with you long enough to expound upon a core doctrine of Christianity without getting distracted because they are Instagraming your conversation. So we have to be prepared to not only share what we believe, but why we believe it.

Have you ever thought about that in the context of your own personal life? What things do you stand for? What things make you angry when you hear about them? What things keep you awake at night because you can’t do anything about it? What qualities do you admire in leaders, role models, friends, and family? What character flaws drive you insane to the point that you can’t be around “that person?” Have you ever sat down and thoughtfully worked through your own person core values and principles?

Unless you are super amazing or have been challenged in this area before, chances are you are like me and think, “Huh, I haven’t thought about that before.” I’ve thought about it in terms of an organization, but not really sat down and ask, “What is my life about? What things do I stand for? What qualities do I want to exemplify in my life?”

Before I get into a few tips for doing so, let me first explain why I think this is important for you to do personally. First, we all have core values that we innately live by even if we don’t know it. Have you ever walked into an establishment and immediately thought, “I don’t belong here” or thought “This place is for me!”? It’s probably because there was something there that resinated with you on a subconscious level that you have yet to articulate. But what if you could articulate it? What if you could actually talk with someone about your core values and why you agree or disagree with someone(thing) based upon those values?  

The second reason I think it’s important for you to do so, is for the simple fact if you don’t know what drives you, then you’ll eventually run out of steam. If you put a 17th century person in a modern vehicle and said “Drive!” – how far would they go? That’s right, as far as that tank of gas would get them. Although I’m sure they would slam into the nearest tree before doing so. The problem for them would be that they have no idea that the vehicle requires gasoline to run. That gasoline is like a core value. Similarly, if you don’t know what floats your boat, fills your cup, gets you jiven, energizes you, and likewise what discourages you, bothers you, or keeps you up at night – then how do you ever expect to get where you want to go in life?

When you have clearly articulated your values and core behaviors that you live by, decisions become a lot easier don’t they? Do I take this job or that job? Do I borrow money to buy this item or save up for it? Do I homeschool my kids or put them in public school? Do I break up with this person or are they “the One” for me? Do I forgive them or do I hold a grudge? When you’ve defined your personal core values (and maybe some family values you live by as a family) the foggy waters of decision-making become much clearer.

So how do you do it? Here are a couple ideas that I have found from numerous sources that have helped me:

  1. Think about people that you have looked up to as models throughout your life. What types of behaviors did they engage in that made you want to be like them? What do you remember most about them? If you could sum up aspects of your experience with them what would they be? What did you learn from them? This is a great starting point to find out what qualities and characteristics are valuable to you.
  2. Write a eulogy for yourself. Okay, I realize this sounds quite dark and dreadful. But seriously think about it. What would you want your spouse to say about you if you died? What would you want your kids to say about you? What would friends say about you? I promise this exercise will start bringing into focus your core values and what you want to be remembered for very quickly!
  3. Ask your friends and those closest to you for feedback about your behavior. Ask them questions like: What qualities do I exemplify most often?  What characteristics do I show on a regular basis? Are there areas of my life that you think I need to clean up? Wow! Are you ready to open yourself up to constructive criticism? Are you ready to hear the types of behaviors that shine through in your everyday life? Maybe you will need to do this one very carefully and prepare emotionally for it. You may be disappointed afterward, find fresh direction, or be pleasantly surprised.
  4. Last, and most importantly, take time to pray and reflect. Find a quite place. It’s so easy to be swamped by electronic devices, phone calls, emails, Facebook notifications, and pictures of food that need to be Instagramed – slow down, take time, meditate, reflect, and pray. Ask the Lord to guide your thoughts. Open the scriptures and investigate what qualities Jesus showed that stand out to you. What about other Bible characters that you admire – what values stand out to you that you can adopt for your own life?

I hope that you take time to figure out what your values and core behaviors will be. Why? Because I want you to succeed in doing what God calls you to do. And that becomes more clear as you clarify the values and principles that motivate you to move forward.

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I was sitting on the couch watching the rain hit the window, and had the random thought, “If we walked away from our house, set up a high speed camera, how long would it take for it to crumble to the ground and disentagrate back into the earth?”  I wondered what events would take place to bring about its slow destruction?

First, I thought that would be sweet to see!
Second, I wondered if those same events applied to our own lives and how we succeed in life as followers of Christ. I think they do, and here are some ideas:

1. Damaging Events
Imagine a window becoming damaged. Over time, the outside elements begin wearing away at the break until a hole appears. It eventually gets larger and larger and the elements infect the integrity of the houses structure. Mold and fungus grows, insects and animals move in. These damaging events in our lives, are things like weaknesses and predispositions to behave or believe certain things – especially things that are untrue. This damage can be done by relationships that affect our lives – sometimes without us even noticing. These behaviors, beliefs and relationships become destructive to our lives, allowing outside influence to rattle the integrity of our lives.

2. Infestation Events
Infestations are those things that slowly eat away at us on the inside. Imagine what an unattended termite infestation would do to your house? These events are like bitterness, unforgiveness, vengeful thoughts, pride, an unrepentant heart. These are the “termites of our lives.” (Maybe a good soap opera title?) They eat away at the structure of our souls, slowly destroying them. If not dealt with quickly, a kingdom of wickedness can fester in us that can eventually play a major factor in the destruction of our lives. And it often takes place below the surface, unseen by others and even ourselves.

3. Catastrophic Events
These events are huge. They are the tornados, hurricanes, and wild fires that threaten to completely wipe us out in one fell swoop. These catastrophic events can’t be planned or stopped, they just happen, and they are big when they do! These events are things like experiencing the death of a loved one or dear friend, losing your job unexpectedly in a career you’ve had your whole life, having a spouse just up and leave without any word. These events have the potential to wipe us out, and sometimes the only thing we can do to save ourselves is to hide in the storm shelter and wait for it to be over so you can begin to rebuild…maybe in a better location? maybe with stronger materials?

4. Time Events
Everything is subject to disentegration (such a cool word!) and decaying over time. Given enough time the structural integrity of this house will become compromised and it will fall apart and decay – even if none of the previously described events takes place. It might take longer, but it would happen. Events (1) and (2) could happen as a result of (4) taking place like a window becoming weak and cracking (this begins a damaging event), but (4) would happen even if they didn’t. Given enough time, the house would fall apart. The simple fact is that we are unable to remain at a constant level of structural integrity without proper maintenance. Be it our intelligence, generosity, emotional stability, faith/trust, relationship with God, our job, our marriage, our health, our finances – you name it, it applies. Given time, these things fall apart without proper maintenance.

Maintenance is simply the process of keeping something in healthy condition.

Maintenance is rarely, if ever, fun and entertaining. I don’t know anyone who gets excited because a pipe has burst in the wall and now they have to shuck out money and time to repair and maintain their home. I don’t know anyone who gets excited about fixing a broken window. But we all do it. Why? Because we know the results that a lack of maintenance will incur. A home in poor, weak, and unsatisfactory condition.

In your life, what events have occurred that require some time to maintain? To bring it to a healthy condition? Are their internal infestations that have taken root in your life? Some unforgiveness that has festered into downright bitterness and hatred? It may even require some money to maintain. If you need to receive professional help because your emotions are not stable, or your marriage requires some counseling – aren’t those things worth maintaining? Even though disciplines like prayer, Bible study and regular church attendance and service aren’t always glorious and wonderful, isn’t it worth maintaining a healthy relationship with God? What you don’t intentionally set out to maintain and improve, will ultimately grow unhealthy, fall apart, and decay. After enough time, you’d never even know it was there.

I waded through a rough timeline of the time Jesus was crucified today. When we think about the crucifixion and the time Jesus spent on the cross we usually imagine it to be a fairly short time. Nail him to the cross, He dies, put Him in the tomb. Done deal, let’s get ready for Sunday.

 
But by waiting through and actually contemplating the time that our “Scape-goat” spent paying for my sins and yours on a Roman crucifixion beam – it was gut wrenching. To think of the hours that the Logos, the creative/rational/mind of God, by whom, for whom, and through whom all things were made, spent on an old rugged cross – hours and hours feeling the most excruciating pain. No wonder we’re already talking about “Sunday is on it’s way” before the ninth hour even hits.
 
My challenge to you is to stop and reflect on the wonderful thing that Good Friday truly is. 
 
In His book, “Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man,” author Marshall McLuhan, a Canadian philosopher of communication theory, makes a very profound statement : “The medium is the message.” The medium…is the message. Let me illustrate. In scenario A, I write my wife a wonderfully beautiful love letter and email it to her. In scenario B, I write the same letter with the same words, but instead, I hand write it on paper and lay it on her pillow for her to discover before she goes to bed. The medium (the email/hand written letter) is the message (how much I love my wife). The medium, the way in which I choose to communicate my love to my wife is expressed far far more in a hand written letter, isn’t it? It says as much, if not more, than what is actually on the page! It communicates that I took time, effort and planning to express my love. It demonstrates that I have thought through (because you have to think much more slowly when writing than typing) my words with precision and taken time to actually FEEL what I’m writing and not merely emblaze the message in a Tweet or email at 100 words per minute. The medium is the message.
 
Now translate that to what Christ did today, Good Friday. The medium is the message. God chose to become one of us. Immanuel, oh take a moment to ponder that meaning. To become truly man – to feel emotion, hunger, betrayal, pain, the joys of sitting at a meal with friends, the hardship of work and toil, the anxiety of stress. What does the medium (the Word become flesh to take our curse) say about the message (His great love for us)? Reflect on that today. The way in which God went about fulfilling His plan of salvation says as much as the actual message itself doesn’t it? He didn’t take shortcuts, He didn’t take the easy way out – He took the time, He took the pain, He took the cross – for you and for me.
 
No sin goes unpunished. In a culture that highlights only God’s love but does not also emphasze His wrath and judgement, we cannot hope to grasp how wide and deep and long the love of Christ is without considering the judgement that should have been OURS, but was placed on one who was innocent in every way that we are guilty.
 
So take time to endure Good Friday. Yes, Sunday is coming and I look forward to it! But don’t pass up an opportunity to reflect on the message that is shown us through the medium – Christ become man, to take on the curse of God, for us who were far from Him. 
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