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Casting the right shadow

Abraham Lincoln said, "Character is like a tree and reputation like a shadow. The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing." We all have a reputation - that shadow of our character - some of us better in some ways than another, but we all have our "bad stuff" we'd rather nobody ever associated with us! A reputation is the "estimation" we have of someone simply by what we observe, or don't observe, in their performance / behavior. It is only an "estimation" as scripture clearly reminds us we cannot really know a man's heart - only God can truly see "into" a man's heart. We see the shadow - God sees the roots.

Don't lose your grip on Love and Loyalty. Tie them around your neck; carve their initials on your heart. Earn a reputation for living well in God's eyes and the eyes of the people. (Proverbs 3:3-4)

We "earn" a reputation - growing like a shadow we can see it is not given to us! We gain it by the various ways we behave. We are reminded today of the need to "earn" a reputation for living well in God's eyes - and in turn, the eyes of the people around us. Shadows are 'cast' - they aren't just there. I never really thought about "earning" my reputation in God's eyes before - maybe because I was so focused on the reputation I was earning in the eyes of others. I kind of relied on my reputation being what God saw when he looked at me through the eyes of Jesus! Yet, I know there is the whole other side to my reputation God wants to focus on - that which is founded in good character.

This is not an invalid perception - God DOES see me as he sees Jesus. He sees me through the sacrifice of Christ as a new creation, redeemed, made whole and holy. Yet, he looks for evidence of a life-change - the very stuff which makes up a reputation! In other words, God wants to see my actions reflect his grace, my attitude reflect his love, and my commitment reflect his tremendous loyalty toward me! I cannot think of any particular "thing" we can do which lends to what God has done in our lives by his grace - but I can think of a whole lot of ways we can "reflect" this grace to a hurting world around us! When others look at our response to trial, do they see our commitment to remain steadfast in our faith, or a wavering and inconsistent wishy-washy faith? When they see our response to unkind words, do they see a reflection of God's love by our "release" of our offender, or our own desire to "get even" with the one who has offended us?

Look at how God asks us to gain a reputation - by never losing our grip on love and loyalty. As we consider this important point, we cannot discount the next portion of the passage as the "how-to" which lends to the means of never losing our grip. He says it is in how well we allow God's love to "engrave" our hearts and how close we keep him in our day's activities. Something which is bound around our neck is always close at hand. I wear a small silver chain with a little dove on it around my neck. This was a gift from my daughter, but it really reminds me of the fact I am never without the Spirit of God in my life - close to my heart, guiding my actions, influencing my choices. Now, it serves as a reminder to my mom when she is confused as to who I am that I am the "real" daughter she is seeking. She thinks there are many who claim to be me at times, but when she feels that evidence, she is put at ease.

You don't have to wear a necklace to "bind love and loyalty" around your neck, or give evidence of who you are in Christ Jesus. It is a symbol of the closeness we need to maintain to God's Word, his Spirit, and the protection both provide in our daily walk. Why the neck? In connects the heart to the mind. Neither is able to stand alone. Cut the brain off from the supply of oxygen and blood from the heart and lungs and it isn't able to function as it should. Cut the brain off and the heart and lungs are useless organs no longer able to sustain life. So, God's Word and his Spirit "tie together" the mind and the heart - so each functions well, responds consistently, and can be relied upon to not misdirect the rest of our body! Maybe it is time to "overhaul" our reputation a little. We begin by "binding" the right stuff in the very middle of what gives us the greatest trouble with our reputation - our heart and our mind! The shadow cast when we do is mighty! Just sayin!

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