Character

Reflecting the attitude, mindset, conduct, and passion of Christ

A. Discerns and Follows the Leading of God

The writer of Proverbs penned, "9 The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps" (Prov 16:9 ESV). The prophet Jeremiah said about the human heart, "9 The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?" (Jer 17:9 ESV). I recognize the reality of my own fallen state and proneness to error. The plans I make could unknowingly lead me to failure. But, the Lord my God has the purest and truest heart and mind of all. For this reason, I seek after him every day in prayer, asking for him to lead and direct my life and schedule for the day so that they may align with his plan and purposes for me as closely as possible. I understand his written word to be his self-revelation in which he specified his good and perfect will. As such, l petition for the illuminating and empowering work of the person of the Holy Spirit as I study it daily so that I may understand God's ways and what he wants for me better today than yesterday and better tomorrow than today and be enabled to live them out in my daily life within my faltering and frail body of flesh and bone and blood.

Read about the ways I have followed God's leading in my life by viewing My Spiritual Journey.

B. Passionate for God and Compassionate toward Others 

Growing in theological and experiential knowledge of God's loving nature, character, and action has become the whole pursuit of my life. One evidence of that fact is my choice to concentrate my academic studies of my Ph.D. program upon the doctrine of God and particularly his nature of love as a triune God—three in one and one in three—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. As I come to know his love more deeply, I pray all the more fervently for the Holy Spirit to pour it more fully into my heart (Rom 5:5). This pneumatic transforming work in me capacitates me to see others with God's eyes and love them more. Part of my passionate pursuit of God is my lifelong dedication to love people in such a way that they will be compelled to love God as well. I stand up in the pulpit every Sabbath morning because of my commitment to love people; the most loving thing to do for them is to lead them to know and love the triune God of eternal love.

C. Loyal to Christ and the Mission and Beliefs of His Church

When God gifted and called me to a lifelong ministry of preaching and teaching his word (see My Spiritual Journey), I understood that he expected me to do that within the context of the end-time remnant of the body of Christ (which I understand to be the Seventh-day Adventist Church) for the purpose of helping to accomplish the unfinished mission of proclaiming the everlasting gospel of Jesus Christ and the warning of the three angels' messages (Rev 14:6–12) "to those who dwell on earth, to every nation and tribe and language and people" (Rev 14:6 ESV; cf. Matt 24:14; 28:18–20) to prepare people holistically (i.e., mind, body, and spirit) for the return of the Lord. See my personal and professional Vision and Mission StatementsSince I received that divine commission at fifteen years old, I never saw myself doing anything else with my life vocationally.

Evidence of my loyalty to Christ and the fulfillment of the missio Dei (i.e., "the mission of God") in the setting of the Seventh-day Adventist Church can be seen in the commitment of my time, treasure, talents, and body temple to receive undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral degrees that are useful for nothing else professionally but the call that God placed upon my heart. Additionally, my devotion to the truth-filled teachings of God's word as outlined in the twenty-eight fundamental beliefs of the Seventh-day Adventist Church can perhaps be tangibly seen in my decision to receive a specifically Seventh-day Adventist education when it would have been much cheaper (maybe even free) and more convenient to get formal ministerial training and theological education from a different university or seminary. Yet, I wanted to develop a richer understanding of the Scriptures theologically within a Seventh-day Adventist philosophical framework. See my the sixth of my Core Values expressed as discerning truth.

D. Faithful to Biblical, Moral, and Ethical Principles

One of my personal and professional Core Values is authentic integrity. See my Core Values.

I take a deontological approach for understanding how one is to know whether a particular choice is required, forbidden, or permitted. This means that I believe that there exist moral and ethical principles that are absolute, normative, and universal that determine right and wrong. As such, these principles of ethics and morality derive from a source external to the agent, namely the nature and character of the God who is love (1 John 4:8, 16) as divinely revealed in the Bible. The clearest and simplest expression of these principles can be found in the Decalogue that was written by God's own finger as a transcript of his character of love (Matt 22:34–40). This is that standard by which all of humanity is judged as having lived righteously or wrongly, being righteous or wicked.

The problem is that the devasting fall of humanity into sin has left all of us totally depraved and enslaved to the power of sin and death. Thus, not even one of us in this sin-sick condition can keep God's law (Rom 8:7). However, the prevenient grace of God that unlocks the deadened will enables the human agent to choose God and purpose in his/her heart to follow after his ways. Jesus died to provide a substitutionary atonement for human sin. Those who repent of their sin and accept him by faith are justified (i.e., pardoned) through double imputation of their sin to him and the perfect righteousness of his active and passive obedience to them. The Holy Spirit was sent to regenerate the believer and transformatively empower him/her to live in faithful obedience to the moral and ethical principles of love summarized in the Ten Commandments of Scripture so that Christ's perfect righteousness may also be imparted to him/her.

All of this is to say that the deeper my experience of redemption is, the more spiritually able I will be to live faithfully the biblically moral and ethical principles of God's loving character. Therefore, my capacity to live a biblically moral and ethical life of authentic integrity and love with others (i.e., fruit) is directly proportional to the quality of my connection to Christ, the true Vine (John 15:1–17). It is for this reason that I try to abide in Christ in every moment and spend time regularly strengthening my connection to him through the practice of spiritual disciplines as described under Evangelism in subsection A. A stronger spiritual life means a more faithful life of moral and ethical integrity.

E. Humble, Trustworthy, and Honest

An important value of my generation, the Millenials, is authenticity and sincerity; we can "smell" hypocrisy a mile away since many of us were reared in families and a society where we witnessed it often. Some of us have gotten on the "hamster wheel" of repeating the "sins" of the past. For me, authenticity is simply being honest about who one really is and living out his/her true self transparently both in public and in private, concealing nothing. This is easier said than done in a world where sin exists, which heightens the risk of getting hurt. That is why living in this way requires humility, vulnerability, and a great deal of courage to take the risk. Thus, many of us continue secretly to hide away parts of our true selves in order to protect them from the potential danger of being injured in one way or another by others. So, we live in the world, pretending to be someone who we really are not. And pretenders cannot be trusted.

As a sinner, I know a fall short often. Nevertheless, one of my own core values is authentic integrity (see my Core Values). The older I get, the longer I walk with Christ and the more my wounds of the past heal into scars that slowly fade away in time. The more my life is hidden with Christ in God, the more I come out of the darkness of my shell into the light of the world. This maturation process has given me a growing feeling of being comfortable in my own skin. With this has come greater courage to take the risk of vulnerability and humility by living more honestly and transparently with myself and others. As I grow into a more sincere and authentic me, the less pretending I do and the more trustworthy and dependable I become for others. 

F. Discerning, Open, and Impartial

My experience in increasing education has also more fully developed my more critical thinking skills and discernment. Having a greater capacity for evaluating things more objectively helps me be more impartial in the ways that I relate to the world, my church, family, and myself.

Ever since my spiritual "detour," I have been open to hearing other ideas and perspectives. That part of my experience helped me to realize that my own humanity can also unintentionally embrace wrong perspectives. To read about this "detour," see My Spiritual Journey.

G. Motivated, Disciplined, and Resilient

I tend to be a well-disciplined person. An example of this is my intentionality to address issues of appetite and wellness by meeting with a health coach once a month to discuss my progress, update/add to my holistic health goals, and receive added accountability for sticking to them. Taking time for this kind of self-care equates to a healthier me and, as a result, a more resilient me in my personal life and professional ministry.

I also tend to be a highly motivated individual to realize the goals associated with my calling that God has given to me. This is evidenced by my concurrent pursual of higher education with the fulfillment of my call to full-time pastoral ministry in the Knoxville Grace/Lenoir City church district.