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Category Archives: Character

The intersection of faith and life

Yesterday afternoon I had a difficult and disappointing phone conversation that was the culmination of five months of dialogue with an insurance company. I was angry about my perceived mistreatment. Why did they put me through a five month ordeal if this was going to be the outcome? Why did they make me jump through so many hoops if it was going to turn out this way? It’s not fair! I want justice!

I decided to blog about the encounter. I would catalog their many and varied sins, and broadcast my slights for all the world to read and heed. I would do my best to shame them.

Then I remembered I recently gave our church leaders a handout on how to deal with criticism and complaints. If I followed my own instructions regarding the guidelines of Matthew 18:15, I needed to deal with the company privately rather than publicly. I was also reminded of what I taught while in Russia last month. I explained to the pastors and leaders that Romans 12:19 instructs us not to seek revenge, but rather to leave it in God’s hands.

Rather than tell the world, I wrote a letter to the company expressing my frustration. Rather than attempt to publicly embarrass the company in a blog post, I wrote this post confessing my embarrassment at discovering I am still rather self-centered, selfish, proud, and ill-tempered when I don’t get my own way. SIGH!

Romans 7:15, 24-25 (ESV)    For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate…Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!

 
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Posted by on April 22, 2017 in Character, Personal growth, Scripture

 

Introverts Speak Out!

At a TED talk in 2012, author Susan Cain delivered a powerful and helpful address on “The power of introverts.”

In a culture where being social and outgoing are prized above all else, it can be difficult, even shameful, to be an introvert. But, as Susan Cain argues in this passionate talk, introverts bring extraordinary talents and abilities to the world, and should be encouraged and celebrated.

You may not agree with everything she says, but her thoughtful presentation will make you think about the issue. As an introvert myself, I found it very encouraging.

 
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Posted by on April 20, 2017 in Character, Personal growth, Videos

 

How much character do I need?

How many of us agree with Betty’s husband, Bub? How many of us opt for Calvin’s approach? We may agree that adversity builds character, but we would much rather gain character the easy way. We give mental assent to James 1:2–4

“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”

We just wish the process could be easier and less painful.

 
 

Heart shaping experiences

Most of us respond to trials like my friend, Calvin.

calvin-hobbes-character-self-esteem calvin-hobbes-character-building

However, trials are one of the vehicles God uses to shape our character. Hannah More (1745-1833) expressed it this way:

Affliction is the school in which great virtues are acquired and in which great characters are formed. It is like a spiritual gymnasium in which the disciples of Christ are trained in robust exercise, hardy exertion and severe conflict.

We do not hear of military heroes in peacetime, nor of the most distinguished saints in the quiet and unmolested periods of church history. The courage in the warrior and the devotion in the saint continue to survive, ready to be brought into action when perils beset the country or trials assail the Church, but it must be admitted that in long periods of inaction both are susceptible to decay.

James 1:2–4 – “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”

 
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Posted by on September 29, 2016 in Calvin and Hobbes, Character, Quotes, Scripture

 

Materialism derails the pursuit of holiness

As I was reading 1 Timothy 6:2-16, I was struck by the relationship between materialism and holiness. On the one hand, godliness linked with contentment is very beneficial (6). On the other hand, if you do not reject materialism, you cannot pursue holiness (11). The two are inseparably tied together. Materialism will derail holiness every time.

Paul begins the section in verse 2 by describing teachers who promote false doctrine. Instead of presenting ideas in accordance with the teachings of Christ, they present things that divide people and cause them to argue over insignificant issues. In fact, they use their platform as a means of getting rich (5).

Rather than pursuing material gain, Paul exhorts his readers to blend godliness with contentment (6). Rather than pine, chafe, and grasp for what we do not have, we need to be content with what God has provided. Instead of being consumed with get-rich-quick schemes (9), we are to be satisfied with having our basic needs met (8). The love of money and the pursuit of more will cause people to wander away from sound doctrine (9-10). When I read those verses, I can easily picture the faces and names of friends who have fallen into that trap.

We are to flee the trap of materialistic thinking (11). Generally, we equate materialism with money and affluence. I think we can broaden the definition to include grasping for anything that is tangible—experiences, consumer goods, relationships, promotions, careers, travel, and more. One reason why materialistic thinking is so attractive is that we are lulled into thinking that today is all there is. Since this life is all there is, why sacrifice today’s experience, family relationships, vacations, comfort, or pleasure for a future reward that we are really not sure is worthwhile, let alone certain? Why live by faith when today’s sight is so attractive and tempting?

As Paul goes on to point out, it’s not enough to merely avoid the pitfalls. We also need to replace those pursuits with healthy alternatives. Rather than chase after affluence, materialism, and the pursuit of more “stuff,” we are to pursue holiness—the qualities of righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, and gentleness (11).

Lest we think this will be an easy switch, Paul lets us know we are in a battle. We are to “fight the good fight of the faith” (12). Holiness is difficult to obtain. Righteous living is a challenge. We are in a war. It is a fight, a battle. What makes us think it will be easy?

We will be successful in these endeavors if we remember that (a) God is with us—“I charge you in the presence of God” (13); (b) he will make us successful—“who gives life to all things” (13); and (c) we will one day stand before him—“keep the commandment unstained and free from reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ” (14).

If we truly believed God was watching, if we truly believed we are in a spiritual battle, if we truly believed eternity and eternal rewards are at stake, wouldn’t we want to live holy lives? We have been deluded into thinking that today is all there is, that tomorrow doesn’t really exist, and if it does, it doesn’t matter and is not worth the effort.

Our perspective and our lifestyles would change if we truly believed what we claim to believe. We need to stop playing according to the world’s rules, and strive to become holy people.

 

 
 

What does humility look like?

The Blessing of HumilityBook Review: The Blessings of Humility: Walk Within Your Calling, by Jerry Bridges

Humility is neither valuable nor practical in today’s world. Besides being unwanted, humility is impossible to achieve in a world that prizes assertiveness and dominance. Author Jerry Bridges seeks to dispel these notions in his short volume, The Blessings of Humility: Walk Within Your Calling. The book is a series of devotional thoughts on each of the eight qualities found in the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:1-12).

At the outset, the author lays down four key principles:

  • All Christians are meant to display these characteristics. They reflect qualities of a normal Christian life.
  • The characteristics are not meant to be reflective of our personalities, or temperaments, or even spiritual giftedness. They are similar to the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23), the results of his work in our lives.
  • Our progress in growth in these traits does not determine our acceptance with God, either in our eternal salvation or in our day-to-day standing with him.
  • We are dependent on the Holy Spirit for any progress we make.

The strength of the book is found in the author’s lifelong conviction that “The Bible is meant to be applied in your everyday life.” While he takes time to unpack the meaning of each characteristic, he spends the bulk of his discussion describing what the qualities look like in daily life, or how to practice them. He also explains the benefits of living a humble life.

The book includes a discussion guide for personal or small group use. Being just over 90 pages, the book can be easily read in a couple of hours. The real benefit will come by reading it a second time and pondering how to practice the qualities in your own life.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the Tyndale Blog Network http://tyndaleblognetwork.com/ book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

 
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Posted by on May 16, 2016 in Books, Character, Quotes, Scripture

 

Quotes on Character

Craig S. Keener – “God produces in us character that is like his character. God’s character includes love, joy, peace, enduring patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, meekness, and self-control. The more we depend on his grace at work in our lives, the more these aspects of his character will become our own character in him.”

D. L. Moody – “Character is what you are in the dark.”

Thomas Paine – “Reputation is what men and women think of us. Character is what God and the angels know of us.”

Max Lucado – “A man who wants to lead the orchestra must turn his back on the crowd.”

George Washington – “I hope I shall always possess firmness and virtue enough to maintain what I consider the most enviable of all titles, the character of an honest man.”

William Penn – “Right is right, even if everyone is against it; and wrong is wrong, even if everyone is for it.”

Abraham Lincoln – “I desire so to conduct the affairs of this administration that if at the end, when I come to lay down the reins of power, I have lost every other friend on earth, I shall at least have one friend left, and that friend shall be down inside of me.”

Martin Luther King, Jr. – “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”

Robert Freeman – “Character is not made in a crisis—it is only exhibited.”

 

 
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Posted by on January 16, 2016 in Character, Quotes