Who Are You Wearing?

The police uniform reveals identification, authority, professionalism and unity. A police officer in full dress uniform is known as one of the sharpest-looking people around. While I was in the police academy, I learned that it was my responsibility to maintain a clean and neat uniform that is in good repair and I learned to wear that uniform properly in order to convey the office of law enforcement. When police officers wear their uniform, they project command presence, respect, authority, and power. In fact, research suggests that clothing has a powerful impact on how people are perceived, and this goes for the police officer as well. The uniform of a police officer has been found to have a profound psychological impact on those who view it.

On the contrary, wearing an orange prison uniform conveys a complete different message. Orange jumpsuits are instantly recognizable for prisoners. It is a form of immediate identification with bondage, guilt, and incarceration. In exactly the same way, Paul makes the same contrast in Ephesians 4:22-24 we read…”You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires… and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” (Col 3:9-10, Eph 6:11). Paul encourages the Christian to ‘put on’ Jesus Christ and to ‘put off’ sinfulness, which leads to bondage. What we wear is an important relative to who we are. This is precisely Paul’s point in the spiritual sense; you need to dress yourself spiritually to meet your identity. From the spiritual standpoint, it kind of goes like this: when you are saved, you give your life to Jesus Christ, and He redeems you. Essentially, you give up the orange jump suit for a spotless police uniform: A complete transformation of identity! Your old man dies, and you are born again, a new man. The new man wears the police uniform and doesn’t want to wear the old jump suit on top of it because the two are incongruous. Paul says it this way, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” (I Cor. 5:17, NIV) You may say, “But I’ve got a problem. My problem is that I may be a new man or woman in Christ but I got a lot of trouble because I keep messing up. Where is it coming from?” Basically it’s coming because your new man is still connected to your humanness. You have to make a distinction between your humanness and the new man. Your new man is like a new home that Jesus lives in. On the contrary, your humanness houses your old attitudes, thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. The key is deciding daily which place becomes your hang out.

The internal conflict is like always running to the closet and dragging out the cruddy stained orange jump suit that says, “Put these on today.” That’s what your humanness is used to doing. It hangs on to the junk in our lives. It says, “Wear these. You’re the same “old man” you’re going to be forever. It is no wonder Paul says, “I’d really like to get out of this vile body.” No wonder he says, “I have to beat my body to bring it into subjection.” Paul knew this battle first hand and gave us a solution: “Instead, clothe yourself with the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ. And don’t let yourself think about ways to indulge your evil desires” Rom 13:14 (NLT).

How do we clothe ourselves with Christ? Paul says in Romans 12 that you’re going to be transformed by the renewing of your mind. That’s how you will know what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God. You’ve got to hang out with Jesus to have your mind transformed. 2 Timothy 3:16 says, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for doctrine, reproof, correction, instruction, and righteousness that the man of God may be mature, or perfect, thoroughly furnished to all good works.” In other words, you reach maturity by the Word of God and the good works result. You say, “But how do I do that?” Well, from your standpoint it is this way. You have a little knowledge and you practice it. As you practice it, you make it a part of yourself and you grow. It’s like food. You take in the Word of God, and as you eat it and devour it, it’s transformed into energy that makes you grow. The more you grow the more you eat. As you take in the Word and pray, as you practice it, it turns into energy. It feeds your new man and you mature. 2 Peter 1:5-11 (Message) explains it like this: So don’t lose a minute in building on what you’ve been given, complementing your basic faith with good character, spiritual understanding, alert discipline, passionate patience, reverent wonder, warm friendliness, and generous love, each dimension fitting into and developing the others…So, friends, confirm God’s invitation to you, his choice of you. Don’t put it off; do it now.

Make a choice daily to hang out with Jesus in the new house while feasting on His Word. If you take this challenge for the next 20 days, your new uniform will be evident for everyone, including yourself, to see. It will display identification, command presence, authority, and power, which are necessary towards a life worth living in Jesus.

Are You a Thermometer or Thermostat?

For the past two weeks, our family has been feeling the temperature rise as the hot summer months approach the beautiful island of Puerto Rico. The truth is, the more I focus on the temperature, the more heat I feel, particularly when I am checking the thermometer. This exercise got me thinking about this quote: “Are you a thermostat or a thermometer? Do you merely reflect the environment, or do you change it? –Author Unknown. The difference between the two is that thermometers tell the temperature, whereas thermostats regulate it.

As most of you know, I am a retired police officer. One of the most valuable lessons I learned as a police officer was keeping myself centered and present when coping with every situation. Many lives, including my own, depended on my ability to gauge and regulate my inner world and outer surroundings. Honestly, this is not an emotionally controlled ability but an incredible act of the will. When I perceived danger of any kind, my emotions exploded with 4th of July fireworks due to an adrenalin rush to my brain. In these situations, I had to reach deep within myself to remain self controlled, thus de-escalating an already unstable and highly volatile climate. Essentially, I had to choose between being a thermostat or thermometer.

As a thermostat, I can be the change in a dangerous climate by using different strategies or resources that could neutralize an explosive situation. These strategies and resources included separating domestic partners, listening to an outraged citizen, making an arrest, or taking control of an out-of-control person through the appropriate use of force. These strategies were behaviors taught to me by seasoned police officers. On the contrary, as a thermometer, I could also be changed by the climate by overreacting emotionally or escalating force to an already blazing incident. In these instances, officers have the potential of doing more harm than good. I learned very quickly that how I engaged a crisis was always up to me, I always knew in the back of my mind that my actions would later be measured by a higher standard than the average citizen. In other words, I had no excuse because I was expected to perform above standard even under the most extreme circumstances.

You might be asking, “Stephen, how did you manage under such extreme conditions?” Simply put, God’s grace made the difference in my life and career as a police officer. You might say, “How does God’s grace relate to the notion of changing from a thermometer (externally driven) to a thermostat (internally driven)?” Grace is God’s own self-imposed bias, persuaded by His love for you, that downloads into your being unlimited celestial energy that you don’t inherently possess or deserve. Grace empowers you, transforms you, and makes an eternal difference. Grace installs special software into your being that enables you to become an agent of change, just like Jesus. My testimony through life and death is simply Jesus.

Grace is universally available to whoever is willing to receive it from Jesus Christ. Hebrews 13:25 says, “May God’s grace be with you all.” To everybody! It is available for you right now. You might be living like a thermometer because that’s all you know but more is available to you even if you’re living the darkest night of your soul. Grace shines the brightest in the dark. Jesus stands ready to download celestial energy into your very being that will transform you into a thermostat, if you just ask and believe Him for it. Remember, if you’re in Christ, the will of God will never take you where the grace of God cannot sustain you.

So, again, a “thermostat” changes the climate by regulating it, whereas “thermometers” are changed by the climate. How is grace helping you build your internal thermostat? Do YOU know that you can change your beliefs, thoughts, and attitudes by rewiring your mind with the Word of God? God’s Word is grace fuel that powers your thermostat, which in turn regulates your thoughts, speech and behavior. The difference will always be your choice: Will you be a catalyst or an inhibitor?

Ultimately, you and I make the difference! Grace can empower you to become the change (thermostat) you want to see in your world or you can choose to be changed (thermometer) by every external circumstance that comes your way. It will always be your choice. It will never really matter what the ‘temperature’ is—you might be surrounded by blazing flames of trial and hardships—but you’re internal thermostat can remain 70 degrees and sunny because of God’s grace. Remember, it may feel good at the moment to become a thermometer (externally driven) by ratcheting up your crazy to match another’s crazy—you may even get your way by doing so—in the end you have given your power away to another.

How can I change?

Know the difference: Thermometers tell the temperature whereas thermostats regulate it. You can adjust to your climate or regulate it.

Pray to God & believe the Promises of God over the areas of your life that require change.

Pay attention to your self-talk and increase your self-awareness. When you hear yourself saying,
“I have no choice,” step back and remind yourself that you always have a choice even if it’s just your attitude. Remember No choice is still a choice!

Look for an accountability partner.

Create SMART goals:
Specific: Who is involved? What to accomplish? Reasons, purpose, benefits.
Measurable: Establish concrete criteria to measure your progress
Attainable: It must be important. You can attain anything you set your heart.
Realistic: You must be willing and able to do it.
Timely: Time frame. T can also stand for tangible—A goal is tangible when you can experience it with one of your senses, that is taste, touch, smell, sight or hearing.