Is Consistency Biblical?

Fair warning: this post is long and sort of abstract and sort of random. If you don’t like those kinds of things or aren’t in the mood or don’t have the time… this article maybe isn’t for you.

In the quaint little café at which I work, we have an even more quaint (quainter?) register. It is very basic and also very old, which means of course it has “character.” One of the interesting quirks about our register shows up at the end of the day when we count the drawer down. If you have counted a till before, you know this process very well. For those of who haven’t counted a till, it is very simple and I will briefly explain it. We want to start everyday with $150 in the drawer. So at the end of every day, we count the money and subtract $150, leaving us with the amount of cash we made that day. Simple, right? We then have the register print off a receipt that tells us the total for how much cash we rung up throughout the day and the two numbers should match. With our drawer, however, the numbers rarely match.

I know what you are thinking, “They either can’t count or can’t ring people up correctly.” Both comments are true and mistakes certainly happen more often than they should. When we make mistakes, however, it is typically very obvious. The drawer will be off by big numbers, such as “over $14.65” or it will be “under $18.20.” On the other hand, and these are the times I wish to focus on, we have times when the drawer is consistently off. For example, in the past it has been $3.20 under for a week straight. So that begs the question, is being consistently wrong ever right? In theory, when our drawer is off consistently, it could be said that the drawer is “correct” but we started from the wrong spot. The difference between 0 and 30, or -5 and 25, is still 30. Of course, if the drawer is under or over, it is still “off” no doubt. However, it much more favorable to have it consistently “off” than having it swing over and under with different amounts. The point I would like to make though is this: Consistently wrong still isn’t right.

The title of this post is the question: Is consistency biblical? Well of course it is, that was just a trick to get you to read this. Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever. (Amen) Inconsistency is literally impossible for God. God, by His nature, cannot change. What about us humans though? Can consistency be trusted in the hands of humans? We can’t be trusted with it. There is no doubt that we will waver, falter and be inconsistent. So what do we make then, of someone who never falters? What do we make of a situation that seems perfectly consistent? Honestly, when I see someone who appears to be perfectly consistent, I call shenanigans. Which is a simple, more polite way of saying, “Yo, I think something shady is going on here.” I’m not suggesting that we never trust someone who appears consistent. I am more suggesting that we don’t always take consistency as “right,” because that very consistency might actually be consistently “wrong.” We all have those people in our lives. At home, at church, at work—wherever, who are really good at putting on that mask. They even try to appear transparent because “that’s what genuine people do,” but even their transparency isn’t genuine.  I am also not suggesting that we strive for inconsistency. I don’t think you can define holiness, which we are called to, without using the term consistency. If I were to attempt to define holiness, the best I could muster would probably be, “Holiness is living life consistently obedient to God.”

Going back to the register at my work for a moment, the idea of it sort of bothers me. The idea that everything appears to be right (the right amount of money goes to the bank, the right amount is in the drawer) but things are actually very wrong.  You might say I am grasping at straws, but throw on your abstract hat with me here and ask the question, “What else in my life appears to be right but it is actually very wrong?” You see, your brain does this thing where it convinces us that what is wrong is actually right. Eventually, when what is “wrong” never becomes “right” the terms do a cheesy cross-fade and swap meanings. Healthy becomes unhealthy. Safe becomes unsafe. Right becomes wrong and wrong becomes right. Until something jolts us and takes us out of our world where the meanings have been swapped, it isn’t until then we realize, “Whoa… that was actually really unhealthy.”

There is no immediate answer to this problem. Eventually I think we gain wisdom and begin to ask the question, “Is this really healthy or does this just appear to be healthy?” This can be dangerous if you take it to the extreme and your whole world will feel like its crashing. (“NO ONE HAS EVER TOLD ME THE TRUTH!! WHAT HAS MY LIFE COME TO!?”) So don’t take it that far, take things slow and remember that love thinks the best. I’ve always said, the answer to imbalance isn’t imbalance in the opposite direction, the answer is balance. It’s no use to swing from the side of trusting everyone’s consistency to not trusting anyone. Find your place in the middle.  Also, understand that sometimes things that are wrong take a little time to look wrong. There is a giant maple tree in a park I used to visit often. It looked perfectly healthy, but if you went and rapped your fist on its trunk it would sound hollow. It wasn’t until a year later or so that the leaves and limbs began to fall off and it looked dead. Not every unhealthy situation will scream at you, like when our drawer is off by $18.

If you took time to read my daydream/random train of thought… it’d be sweet if you took the time to comment and engage in a conversation!

Feel free to e-mail any and all comments or feedback to brandoncarleton@gmail.com or you can contact me through twitter: @bcthegeek

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Posted in Life

A Few Thoughts On Self-Doubt

“I don’t have what it takes.”

“I don’t have the abilities necessary to complete this task.”

“I am a giant screw up, I am going to screw this up too.”

If you are a human being, you probably have had thoughts like these. If you have, I have good news for you: you’re not alone. As simple as that sounds, sometimes we don’t fully understand the idea. You see, there are some struggles we will all have to contend with and we don’t have to face them alone.

My wife and I are beginning the journey of planting a church. Considering the fact that neither of us have never before planted a church, there are some moments of self-doubt. Luckily, God ordered past events to ensure that we had this helpful little book called the Bible. If you ever struggle with self-doubt, take confidence in the fact that God is a terrible talent scout. I know that sounds blasphemous, but if you don’t believe me just look at His track record.

God needed someone to go talk to the single most powerful person on the planet and demand something ludicrous. Who He chose to do it: Moses, who had zero self-confidence and a speech impediment.

God needed a fearless leader to lead 300 Israelites in battle against 135,000 Midianites. Who He chose to do it: Gideon, who was found hiding and scared for his life in the middle of battle.

God needed someone to be a strong foundation to build his church upon. Who He chose to do it: Peter, who denied any and all association with Jesus three times.

God need someone to be the bomb-est missionary of all time and to write half of the New Testament. Who He chose to do it: Paul, who was famous for murdering Christians.

These are the easy targets but if you open up your Bible you will find many more. God is famous for picking the least likely candidates to do amazing things.  Take heart that it doesn’t matter if you have what it takes, because God does.  What it comes down to is knowing that God is the one doing it. If you are willing to be used by Him, then God has what it takes and “it” is you.

Posted in Life

Living Like Jesus

Some quick thoughts on living like Jesus.

If your only friends are Christians, you aren’t living like Jesus.

If you live in a Christian bubble, you aren’t living like Jesus.

They say, “show me your friends and I will show you your future.” That wasn’t the case with Jesus because his identity was not based on who he was around. His identity never wavered, it never changed. He was rooted in the Father. This is how we need to be!

If we want to live like Jesus, we need to have friends who aren’t Christians and we need to have our identity rooted in the Father.

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The Ministry of Small Talk

When I was younger I worked for Best Buy selling TV’s. I really didn’t enjoy that job at all, but one of the perks was the break room. In the break room they had these big comfy couches and a 60” TV with every movie channel under the sun. I would enjoy taking my fifteen minute break, lounging on the couch and catching a few minutes of a movie. (I have seen only 15 minutes of so many movies.)

A year or so after I started working at Best Buy, there was a guy hired on who was named Jason. He was a few years older than me and he seemed like he was a pretty nice guy. One day, I went to take my fifteen minute break and Jason was sitting down in the break room. The first thing I noticed was that the TV wasn’t on, which was very strange. The second thing that I noticed was that Jason was sitting at one of the tables, facing the TV, but he was reading his Bible. When I walked in, he didn’t look up or acknowledge me at all. I proceeded to sit down and turn the TV on, hoping to catch fifteen minutes of a random movie. As soon as I turned on the TV, Jason made an audible sigh of annoyance and then rotated his chair away from the TV screen. Two things then became clear to me. One, Jason was the one who turned off the TV. Two, I am pretty sure Jason was angry with me for interrupting his Bible reading.

I came up with two theories to explain this scenario, although I am not sure which one is accurate. One guess is that Jason could care less about evangelism, coworkers, or anyone for that matter. His main concern is reading his Bible. The other idea I had was that this was Jason’s workplace evangelism strategy. He though that by openly reading his Bible while on break at work, he could maybe spark a conversation. I am still unsure about which one was Jason’s intended goal, all I know is that it had a very negative effect on me. I immediately felt judged, condemned and not worth his attention. I did find it impressive that he had the guts to read his Bible on break, but he was making everyone else feel like a nuisance while he read. I cringe when I think about how many of my coworkers, who were unbelievers, walked in to the same scenario on different days!

I wonder how much more effectively he could have spent his fifteen minute break. Imagine if instead of shutting people out and keeping to himself with his bible, he took time to talk to people. What if instead he spent time building relationships and getting to know his coworkers?

Just some thoughts… What do you guys think?

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Posted in Life

Selfies

Warning: I might offend you. If I do, I’m sorry. My goal is not to make fun of you or make you feel inferior in any way. This is an honest attempt to get to the bottom of why this(my) generation takes selfies at such a high rate.

The original intention of a photograph was to capture an image worth remembering, to memorialize something, someone or an event. So this obviously raises the question: Is a picture, or multiple pictures, of you in your bathroom displaying your outfit for the day worth memorializing? Of course the answer is no. I have a few things to say to the young men and ladies of the world in regards to taking selfies:

To all the young ladies out there: STOP IT.

You’re Beautiful. I am sorry you don’t hear it more often. I know you’re thinking, “Not me,” but yes, you. I know what you’re thinking now, “But you have never seen me.” You’re right, maybe I haven’t, but I don’t need to: You’re beautiful. If the question is: “If I put a picture of you side by side with a picture of super model, would you look the same?” The answer is no. If the question is: “Are you ridiculously beautiful, in your own unique, God designed way?” The answer is yes. You are a prize to be had. I know you are worried no one else thinks so, but trust me they do.
It is extremely vain. This one might hurt a bit, but have you ever considered how prideful it is to constantly post pictures of yourself doing nothing? Again, I am sorry you don’t get complimented often enough, but the answer isn’t selfies. The answer is finding your self-worth in Christ and feeling His love and approval. I get it, sometimes you need to see how your outfit looks, but that is what mirrors are for. And if you don’t have a mirror, that’s fine too. You can take a picture of yourself, but it doesn’t have to go on Instagram.

To all the young men out there: STOP IT.

You’re cool. Or tough, or sexy, or rugged, or whatever it is your going for. I know you have to compete with guys around you. I know you think if you don’t show others how cool you are, no one will ever see it. This is counter-intuitive though, when you think about it. People only know you are cool because you told them? That’s not very cool at all.
It’s extremely vain. Okay, it’s man to man here so I can be a bit more blunt. If I see one more picture of you flexing your abs in the mirror I think I am going to puke. You are showing off, plain and simple. You know when you see a girl with a short skirt and a really low cut top and you think, “Someone is desperate for attention.” That is exactly what is happening when you post selfies. I get it, you worked hard for that six pack. You are proud of the hard work you put in, but it doesn’t need to go on Instagram. I understand the celebrity you look up to probably posts pictures of himself, but that doesn’t make it any less prideful when you do it.

At the end of the day, male or female, we post selfies out of our insecurities. We are aching for approval. We want people to know how beautiful we are or how “cool” we are. We need others to know that we are worth something. If you call yourself a follower of Christ, I pray that you realize you are worth more than you know. You are worth an amount more than a million selfies could accomplish. Let’s take it upon ourselves to learn how to compliment one another. Let’s learn how to uplift and not tear each other down. Most of all, let’s learn that our identity lies in Christ. We were wonderfully and fearfully made. We are God’s handiwork. He created us perfect in His sight! Open your Bibles and read just how much God loves you. I pray that as Christians we can come together to end the insecurity epidemic of this generation.

Peace out.

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Junior High & Deodorant

If you serve in youth ministry, no matter the capacity, you are aware of the many challenges that face this generation. There are hot button issues that, quite frankly, just stink.  They are “the pits” to deal with, as the saying goes. I do feel though, out of the myriad of issues, there is one big issue we all face:

How do you tell a junior high boy that he needs to start wearing deodorant?

It’s natural. It’s biology. At some point in life, every male starts to have a pungent odor that begins to permeate his world.  Albeit there are some mitigating factors, such as showering, doing laundry, not having 6 dogs and 2 cats. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that, it just doesn’t help) So I will concede that the sole culprit isn’t always the arm pit. I posed the question to people with various positions of influence and experience. I asked pastors, pastors wives (usually the brains of the operation), youth volunteers, actual doctors, authors, coaches, I did not filter these responses whatsoever, so that means there might be a few you wouldn’t want to use. But then again, teenagers are different (undoubtedly lovable, but unquestionably weird) so maybe a different or weird approach might be best. Use your best judgment to decide which approach is best for you and your student. Some methods are straight forward, some gentle, some aggressive and some passive aggressive, hopefully one of them actually works.  Here are the responses along with a few of my own ideas, in no particular order:

The Walgreens

“Randomly” be shopping at Walgreens and “randomly” remember that you have been meaning to pick up a stick of deodorant. Then follow it up by nonchalantly asking what brand he prefers. (To take it a step further, before hand purchase a $15 gift card.  And say, “One stick is only $5, why don’t I buy you a stick while we are here! The whole gift card can go towards us not stankin.”)

Blog Post

Write a blog post about it and hope that one of your students stumbles upon it. (Not my goal as of now, but who knows what the future holds)

Say It With Your Eyes

Buy a stick. Wait for the right moment. Silently hand it to him. Look him straight in the eyes, with a look in your eyes that says, “please.”

Gift Basket

Buy a gift basket with various sticks and sprays.  Give it away at youth group as a prize. (The trick here is to manipulate the game so the student you want to win, actually wins.)

The Passive-Aggressive Over Apply

Carry a stick around with you in your book bag or keep one nearby. Continually ask this student to “go grab your stick” and keep reiterating, “I just like to keep it fresh, ya know?”

The Ladies Man

When talking about girls with this student, tell him your “secret” to “winning the ladies” is a certain brand of deodorant. Then ask him what brand he uses and gently insinuate that the particular brand he uses (or doesn’t) could be the problem.

The Peyton Manning

Tell him to go long and throw him a pass. He catches the football, only it’s not a football, it’s a stick of deodorant.

The Death Threat (Not Recommended)

Tell him scientists are proving that if you don’t wear deodorant you are likely to get cancer.

The Gas Mask (Not Recommended)

Put on a gas mask whenever you have a conversation with that student. When they ask why, put a car air freshener around their neck.

WWJD?

Tell the story of when the lady put perfume on Jesus feet. If we want to be like Jesus, we need to smell good too.

___________________________________________________________________________________________

Believe it or not, I also got some very good responses and this is an amalgamation of them:

The Right Way

Pull him aside, don’t embarrass him in front of others.  Speak the truth in love. “Let your gentleness be evident to all.” (Phil. 4:5) Tell him it’s better coming from you now, than someone else later. And have some with you so he isn’t self-conscience for the rest of the night.

Or you could pray that it works itself out somehow, as one person responded:

“I haven’t cracked that code.”

Feel free to e-mail any and all comments or feedback to brandoncarleton@gmail.com or you can contact me through twitter: @bcthegeek

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The Long Book of Jeremiah

I will be honest:  Jeremiah depresses and quite literally scares the hell out of me. I have been reading a chapter a day for the last 46 days and I am just now beginning to understand this book’s importance.

There is one overly abundant and intentionally redundant(or so I think) point that Jeremiah makes throughout the chapters: God hates sin. He absolutely hates it. More than we hate #YOLO or swag, or when we pay $5 for a latte and it tastes like garbage–God hates sin. If you don’t feel like you understand how much God hates sin, read slowly through Jeremiah and it will be clear.  Here is a small sample of God’s sentiments, in reference to the day His patience runs out:

“But that day belongs to the Lord, the LordAlmighty—
a day of vengeance, for vengeance on his foes.
The sword will devour till it is satisfied,
till it has quenched its thirst with blood.”                                                                                                                                          -Jeremiah 46:10

It would be pretty terrifying to be one of God’s foes on that day. What’s just as scary is that God still feels that way today. He is eternal, He cannot fluctuate, He cannot change. God still hates sin and that is exactly what makes all the “lovey-dovey” New Testament stuff not so cuddly. If God never sent His Son, we would still be in the mess that Jeremiah found himself in. But Christ did come, and with His death also came the idea of, “satisfaction through substitution.” God’s anger still exists, but His wrath has been satisfied by Christ’s substitution for us.

Whether it was intentional or not, I suppose I will never know, but this depressing book dramatically sets up the beauty of what Christ did on the cross. The only way to properly satisfy His own wrath was to take the punishment Himself. (Read that sentence again.) The more I understand this, the more I will fully understand God’s grace, love and forgiveness.  All three of which are necessary if I want to love others the way that Christ did.

Feel free to e-mail any and all comments or feedback to brandoncarleton@gmail.com or you can contact me through twitter: @bcthegeek

Posted in Life