Tag Archives: character

Where the rubber meets the road

rubber meets road.jpg

We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers and sisters.  Whoever does not love abides in death.  By this we know love, that He laid down His life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.  But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?  Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.  1 John 3:14, 16-18

John makes several statements in his book that have to do with figuring out whether you really have passed from death to life, or that you have Jesus.  I have been in settings throughout my life that urge people to simply pray a prayer, commonly known as the sinner’s prayer, and that is the proof that you are now a Christian.  In 1 John, John never mentions a prayer.  Rather, he mentions keeping God’s commandments, not practicing sin, and having love for others as ways to know that Jesus is really at work in our life.

Today’s verses are tough ones.  I gulp as I read them because I have a letter sitting next to me from someone who habitually asks for money.  I have left the letter sit, not quite knowing how to proceed.  I struggle with the adage, “If you give a man a fish…”  I want her to learn to fish and not be dependent.  Yet, this says if I have the world’s goods, which I do, then I can’t close my heart against her.  I can’t say I love God and not be generous when and where I can.

John also says in chapter 3 that we can’t hate anyone if we are a Jesus follower.  Are there people that you change walking routes if you see them coming?  I must confess that I do that occasionally.  It is time to examine my heart.  John asks the question, “How does God’s love abide in us?”  That is a good question to let rattle around in our heads.

How does God’s love abide in us?   In my job I can get so jaded by the demands of people, which as a principal includes kids, teachers and parents.  I have many people manipulating, blaming, making excuses, calling me many expletives and even sueing.  I can sit stoically while someone on the other side of my desk cries, usually in an attempt to control me.  I get it when Jesus said we are “to be wise as serpents and innocent as doves,” in Matthew 10:16.

Yet I must find a way to keep God’s love in my heart.  And I must keep a passion for His kingdom and His glory to fuel me.  I’m guessing your workplace and living space encounters aren’t much different, though the details may vary.  There are some passion fuelers that we need to make a consistent part of our lives:

  • Have consistent time in God’s Word and in prayer.   It has to be complete with a “so what?” question, that leads to application.  Our love for God, and our ability to be equipped for every good work, comes through getting grounded and centered by Him.  Jesus had to go away and pray to the Father, and consistently went to the ‘lonely places’ to do so.  If He needed it, so do we.
  • Following the model of passionate saints.  I love biographies of missionaries and of people who have done great things for God.  I find that the writings of those who lived before the 1970’s (just a ballpark date) to have a stronger metal that we do now.  My all time favorites include biographies of Jim Ellliot and the other four men who gave their lives in Ecuador, Amy Carmichael, David Brainerd, Gladys Aylward and Dr. Helen Roseveare.  
  • Worship music.  You have to weed through some of the Christian music that is a little too ‘me’ centered, but there are great songs of the faith that can fuel your passion for God and passion for others.
  • Find people who need Jesus to minister to.  One time I was giving a talk on Matthew 22:29, “You are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God.”  Someone asked how they could get their kids to not tune out to the Bible, Sunday School or church because they think they know all of those stories.  Ya da, ya da, ya da.  My quick response, so quick that I think it was from God, was to suggest that they go as a family to find people who haven’t heard about Jesus and minister to them.  Having the opportunity to tell women in jail about Jesus and the good news of forgiveness and peace with God fuels my passion.  Ask God to lead you to someone, and He will.

Back to our verses for today, “Let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.”  1 John 3:18.  May God’s love and your passion for Him fuel you today.

*Image from The Bear and the turtle – wordpress.com

 


Mind Verbs

Moses

By faith, Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin.  He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt for he was looking to the reward.  By faith he left Egypt, not being afraid of the anger of the king, for he endured as seeing Him who is invisible.  Hebrews 11:24-27

Do you have life verses?  Is it hard to just center in one or two?  Well, these verses are in my top three of verses that have been my anchors throughout my journey of faith, one which began over 50 years ago.  There have been up’s and there have been down’s.  There have been many victories and there have been some defeats.  I look back at the tough times when I just had to hang on to promises from the Word, pray and wait.  The mind verbs in these verses just ring in my head.

My experience is that the emotion of following Jesus can wear thin, even get ugly.  Good old Dr. Seuss has some wisdom in his book, “Oh the Place You Will Go.”

You’ll pass the whole gang and you’ll soon take the lead. Wherever you fly, you’ll be best of the best.  Wherever you go, you will top all the rest.  Except when you don’t. Because, sometimes, you won’t.  I’m sorry to say so but, sadly, it’s true that Bang-ups and Hang-ups can happen to you.  You can get all hung up  in a prickle-ly perch.  And your gang will fly on. You’ll be left in a Lurch.  You’ll come down from  the Lurch with an unpleasant bump.  And the chances are, then, that you’ll be in a Slump.

When you get in the slump, or when you are at forks in the road, facing value decisions, temptations, opposition, or  the wait of faith, get these mind verbs front and center.  Verbs are action words, like run, skip or hop.  These are mental actions words.  What we are anchored on determines how we choose at the many junctures we face.

Refuse.  Moses refused to be known as royalty, even though life would have been a lot easier.  Choose.  Moses chose to be mistreated rather than to to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin.  Consider.  Other words  for ‘consider’ are to think carefully about, to contemplate, to deem or to judge.  There’s the value judgment part–you have to weigh which thing pleases God, which doesn’t, or what has more eternal implications.  Moses deemed that the scorn of being a God follower was better in the end.  

Look.  Moses was looking ahead to the reward.  Looking ahead demands short term self denial and not immediate gratification.  It’s called delayed gratification.  One day there will be a reward for that.  See.  Moses somehow saw Him who was invisible.  That God revelation had to have started even before the burning bush, and it continued throughout the difficult days of getting to the Promised Land.

 


Troublemakers

negative energy

As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice,  have nothing more to do with him.  Titus 3:10

There are verses here and there that tell us what God thinks about people who stir up drama and division.  Here are a few of them:

I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid.  For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites.  Romans 16:17

There are six things that the Lord hates, seven that are an abomination to Him; haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers.  Proverbs 16:19

Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all offenses.  Proverbs 10:12

Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.  See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no ‘root of bitterness’ springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled.  Hebrews 12:14-15

Are you starting to get the picture?  Being divisive is driven by bitterness and hatred and it needs to be kept in check.  Otherwise, it is like a cancer that spreads and takes others down.  It must be dealt with.  Paul tells how to handle someone who is a spreader of drama and contention: warn them twice and then, if it continues, have nothing to do with that person.

Actually, Paul tells about a few different types that we are to have nothing to do with.  In 2 Timothy 3:5 he wrote to avoid people that hold to the form of godliness but deny its power.  In Ephesians 5:3-7 Paul lists a bunch of things, including foolish talk and crude joking, along with greed and sexual immorality, that if believers exhibit them to stay away from.

Peace and purity in the body of Christ are big deals.  It might seem radical to have nothing to do with people that spread strife, and some might call it unloving.  But creating and maintaining an atmosphere of peace honors God and promotes spiritual growth.  

Think about your own handling of something that doesn’t go your way, or of trying to work together in a group.  Are you the one who resorts to ‘taking your ball and going home?’  Do you back stab, manipulate or undermine decisions?   Do you have unresolved bitterness that you need to take care of so you can sow peace and not drama?  Do you have a “friend” who is constantly stirring up trouble that you need to have a critical conversation with?

“Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace.  And be thankful.”  Colossians 3:15

 


Handle with Care

But reject foolish and ignorant arguments, knowing that they breed quarrels.  The Lord’s slave must not quarrel, but must be gentle to everyone, able to teach, and patient, instructing his opponents with gentleness.  2 Timothy 2:24-25 HCSB          

     gentleness quote.png

Proclaim the message.  Persist in it, whether convenient or not.  Rebuke, correct and encourage with great patience and teaching.  2 Timothy 4:2  HCSB

 

Let your gentleness be evident to all.  The Lord is near. Philippians 4:5 NIV

We’ve been studying 2 Timothy in our women’s Sunday school class.  One of the challenges was to memorize 2 Timothy, which I took on.  Surprisingly, it only took me about a month to get it.  As I’ve memorized it and reviewed it since then, the verses about gentleness have echoed in my head over and over.

It must be something God wants me to develop, because I keep getting many opportunities to put gentleness into practice.  One of the responsibilities as an Elementary Principal involves dealing with parents.  Over the last few months, I have had a few parents who have been unreasonable, irrational and argumentative.  Sometimes it seems that they are just waiting to jump on someone, and the minute the slightest issue comes up, they pounce.

While these parents are chipping and chewing, these verses keep playing in the background.  I want to spit back and show them the holes in their thinking and actions.  Then there’s the part about not engaging in quarrels and rejecting foolish and ignorant arguments.  I call it “picking my battles.”

I don’t think that I am the only one who has to deal with argumentative, unreasonable people.  We all do.  How we deal with them reflects what is inside and Who we belong to.  One of the fruits of the Spirit, as listed in Galatians 5, is gentleness.  That means that as the Holy Spirit is alive and at work in us, gentleness comes out like an air freshener.  I wish it was just that easy.  There is an aspect of me diligently working on gentleness, or any other fruit or character trait that makes me more like Jesus than like my old, grumpy self.

I pray in the morning to put on kindness, compassion, gentleness, humility and patience as listed in Colossians 3.  But I still have to consciously be gentle in my interactions with difficult people.  It’s kind of like if someone else finds a job for you, answering a prayer for employment and money to pay the bills.   You still have to get out of bed each morning and go to work.  And once there, you have to fulfill the job expectations.  We have a part to play in the process.

So it is with gentleness.  God works in me as I call upon Him as I daily keep in step with the Spirit.  In Jerry Bridges’ book called “The Practice of Godliness,” he recommends memorizing verses about the character issue that you are working on. Hence, the above verses to memorize and to put into practice.  God, work Your gentleness in and through me today, in Jesus’ name!


More on fighting the good fight of faith

Benaiah the son of Jehoiada was a valiant man of Kabzeel, a doer of great deeds.  He struck down two ariels (mightiest warriors) of Moab.  He also went down and struck down a lion in a pit on a day when snow had fallen.  And he struck down an Egyptian, a handsome man.  The Egyptian had a spear in his hand, but Benaiah went down to him with a staff and snatched the spear out of the Egyptian’s hand and killed him with his own spear.  These things did Benaiah the son of Jehoiada, and won a name beside the three mighty men.   2 Samuel 23:20-23

Benaiah-600x600.jpg I stumbled on this quirky account the other day in my Bible reading.   It has caused my mind to go in many directions.  Here is this guy who probably wasn’t on the motivational speaker circuit.  Benaiah just did mighty things.  He struck down two of Moab’s mightiest warriors and a handsome Egyptian.  And he followed a lion into a pit on a snowy day and killed him.

In 1 Chronicles 11:23 the story about the Egyptian is told as well, adding the detail that he was 7 ½ feet tall.  So Benaiah killed a giant and was a lion chaser.  That’s a pretty good resume.  Because of his exploits, he got to be one of King David’s body guards.  We might not have giants and lions to contend with, but we have figurative ones that are just as daunting.  Benaiah didn’t run away from danger, he took it on and won.  I want to be that kind of person.

I’ve often thought that when David fought Goliath, he might have looked right over his nine foot tall head to see a mighty angel that was twenty feet tall, or even God almighty who is taller yet.  He didn’t see the size of the enemy, just the size of his God.  When the twelve spies went into the Promised Land, ten of them came back saying there were giants and called them to not take the land.   Caleb and Joshua didn’t have their eyes on the giants, but on their God who was bigger than the giants.  In fighting against the world, our flesh and the devil, we need the same view of our big God.  We need a mindset that sees the sufficiency of God rather than the size of our opposition.

Also, in a study done about grit by Angela Duckworth at Harvard, she found that the most prominent contributing factor in successful people wasn’t how smart, talented, or rich a person was.  The biggest factor was grit.  Grit is a dogged determination that never quits.  Grit is the bounce that enables us to get back up when we’re knocked down.  To fight a good fight we need faith, we need grit.

Finally, to fight the good fight,  we need obedience.  That’s how we can call it a ‘good’ fight, and not a dirty one, a crooked one, or one that took short cuts.

I want to be a lion chaser, one that kills giants, not a quitter, a coward or a cheater.  How about you?


Fight the good fight!

…Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness.  Fight the good fight of the faith.  Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.  1 Timothy 6:11-12

So we are to pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness and gentleness.  What does it look like to pursue those things? We have to run after them, like we would pursue a dream, or a love relationship.  If we love something or someone, we’re going to pursue that person or thing.  In the midst of running after righteousness, godliness and the rest, the key is to run after God.

Some questions to ponder today: Does God have your heart?  Does He capture your affections, your time, your energy, and even your daydreaming?  What does capture your affections, if it’s not God?  And what do you need to get rid of that is stealing away your attention and devotion?

boxing glovesHere’s the fight part:  It is a fight to drive away the competing attention getters and to be able to flee sin, bad company and bad habits.  I was just talking with four women in jail about this.  They know about Jesus and want to follow Him, but the difficulty for them is to abandon the old life, especially because they don’t have the resources to just move to another community and to start all over.  We talked about Hebrews 12:4 that states: “In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.”

We also talked about Matthew 5:30 where it says, “If your right hand causes you stumble, cut it off and throw it away.  It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into Hell.”  Now that’s a fight.  Jesus’ call on our lives is a radical one, not ho hum.  For some people it is really a big switch to go from walking like a child of darkness to one of light.

We are at war with the world, Satan, and our own flesh.  The ‘world’ belongs to this world, and Satan is the ruler of it, according to John 14:30 where Jesus says, “The ruler of this world is coming.”  Satan is the father of lies and our enemy.  He seeks to steal, kill and destroy, according to John 10:10.  We can’t just “go with the flow” because the world’s flow goes the opposite direction of godliness and righteousness.  Finally, Peter writes in 1 Peter 2:11 to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul.”  Have you ever felt that civil war?

              Three things to think about in the fight that counteracts the world,                                         the flesh and the Devil:

  1. The Word renews our mind, and so does the Holy Spirit (Romans 12:1-2 and Titus 3:5).  Get into the Bible and stay in it.  Call on the Holy Spirit to empower you and to fight the flesh battle for you.
  2. Take your thoughts captive.  That’s 2 Corinthians 10:3-5.  Don’t be lazy about it.
  3. Learn and remember who you are in Christ.  Ephesians 2:3 says that we once were children of wrath, but that’s not who we are anymore.  We are children of the King and His Spirit lives in us.  1 Corinthians 6:11 tells us we used to be swindlers, drunkards, revilers, etc. but now we “have been sanctified, and justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”

Fight the good fight of faith.  Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called.

 


God’s Gym

train

Train yourself for godliness, for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.  1 Timothy 4:7-8

I belong to a gym.  I haven’t always put time into working out, but have made it a habit the last few years.  There are times that I’ve driven away from working out thinking about how much time I’ve put into the gym that week compared to how much time I’ve put into studying the Bible and praying. Or thinking about how much time have I put into doing something for the Kingdom that has eternal value.  It doesn’t always match up, like my time working out far outweighs my time in the Word.

As a culture, and as a Christian culture, I would bet that most of us could say we put more time into bodily training.  There are times when I needed to put more time into bodily training, as I let things get unbalanced the other way and my health and weight suffered.  While getting in shape and trying to be healthy is a good goal, training for godliness is an even better goal.  It not only helps us in this life, but “also for the life to come.”  In other words, there will be some sort of reward or value gained by becoming godly.

I have a pretty good idea of what it would take to get in tip top physical shape, whether or not I ever actually get there.  But how to get in spiritual shape is another question.  How do we train ourselves for godliness?  Paul gives  some ideas as you continue to read in 1 Timothy 4.  “Toil and strive,” “Command and teach these things,” “Devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching,”  “Do not neglect the gift you have,” “Practice these things, immerse yourself in them,” “Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching,” and finally: “Persist in this.”

In other words, becoming godly doesn’t just happen.  In 2 Peter 1:3-4, Peter wrote that, His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness…by which He has granted to us His precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature.  God has given us His power to live a godly life and He has given us His very great promises so that if we walk them out, our character becomes more like Jesus’ character.  

Peter continued in the verses following that to say: Make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love.  For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.  2 Peter 1: 5-8.  

We don’t talk much about self restraint, godliness, and toiling, striving and immersing ourselves in godly character traits.  We need to.  It holds value for this life and the one to come.  If we are godly, we will be effective and fruitful.  When we train for godliness, it doesn’t look the same as training for a 5K.  Instead, we call on God’s divine power, we stand on His very great promises and we practice self control, persisting even through discouraging times, brotherly love and affection.  We don’t neglect our spiritual gifting and we take great pains to practice obedience and to teach it to others.  

Finally, developing good habits are a way to build good character.  For instance, Hebrews 10:24-25 reminds us not to neglect meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another.  Our habits are one of the most important things about who we are.  Build good habits into your daily and weekly routine that point to the list in 2 Peter 1, just like exercising and eating well points to good overall health.

It’s time to get to God’s gym.