Encouragement for a lifelong journey of faith

Tag: character

March 31, 2019 – Sharing is a matter of character

Today’s Bible readings

The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. — John 17:22-23

Thieves must give up stealing; rather let them labor and work honestly with their own hands, so as to have something to share with the needy. — Ephesians 4:28

Forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap; for the measure you give will be the measure you get back. — Luke 6:37-8

A Story I Can't Resist Sharing- Sexy Financial Smarts | Let's Talk ...

More thoughts for meditation

It is hard to select readings from the Bible about money, since there are at least 2300 verses about money, wealth and possessions in the Bible. If God is all about making things right, how we deal with money must be a main subject. If we are going to participate in his cause, we’ll need our character to conform to truth and love when it comes to money.

The church has become such a money-making spectacle in the United States! — as if the topic of money was not hard enough without that! The televangelist Kenneth Copeland is reportedly worth over $100 million! Even Inside Edition feels his excesses are a worthy story for their show! Mirroring the mistrust Americans have developed for their corrupt leaders, many Christians assume their church leaders are probably not worth their contributions and their churches are overstuffed institutions living off people’s hard-earned incomes. You’ve probably heard that story in one way or another.

So building a character that can handle resources in Christ, starts with seeing how the topic is tainted – Inside Edition might run up and point a microphone at us and expose our weaknesses! Nevertheless, how we use our money is a sure indicator of whether we are acting out of our true self in Christ, or not — Jesus famously said, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matt. 6:21). Most of the time, if we have a $20 bill in our hand, a choice is being made. That might be why our creditors love paperless, automated systems, so we never see that money at all and can’t figure out what is going on! We like not knowing, too, since being responsible is a pain.

We want to develop the character of a sharer, like God. So we need to ponder what we are doing and decide what we want to do. As today’s readings show, that character includes: 1) Assuming Jesus in in me making me one with God, 2) Changing my behavior, accordingly, like making sure I make enough money to share with others, 3) Trusting that when I give it has meaning both in the giving itself and in what is generated by it.

Suggestions for action

Consider this: If someone were to do a little sketch of you as the basis for a character in their new novel, would they describe a sharer?

Do you have a sense of what kind of character you would like to build with Jesus, or have you bought the idea that you are pre-wired and you just need to discover yourself?

What character-developing discipline in regard to money should you institute? Try doing one thing every day until Palm Sunday. It could be, “I am going to give someone money every day (or something scarce) and see how I feel and how they respond.”

Today is John Donne Day! Meet with the libertine poet who became Dean of the Cathedral at Celebrating Our Transhistorical Body.

February 21, 2017 — Defeated

Accepting Ourselves Realistically: Conversations with Paul Tournier

In recent months as the political landscape in the U.S. has become increasingly hostile and the notion that we must all be winners has taken center stage yet again, my mind has been drawn back to the wise teaching I received years ago in reading the works of Swiss physician and psychotherapist, Paul Tournier.  Tournier was a devout Christian working in the mid-twentieth century. He brought psychological insight to his study of the Bible and of people.  Over the next nine days, we’ll sample his gentle and wise understanding from his book, The Strong and the Weak. Pray as you consider these ideas and let’s ask God to help us find Jesus in these days of strife around us and often within us as well.

Today’s Bible reading 

When people work, their wages are not a gift, but something they have earned. But people are counted as righteous, not because of their work, but because of their faith in God who forgives sinners. — Romans 4:4-5

More thoughts for meditation

Defeated. How often have I heard that word spoken by those who come to tell me of their sufferings! Crushed by all the misfortunes which have broken them, they feel that these things are somehow inevitable. They expect catastrophes…What is even more tragic is that they are crushed even when someone seeks to help them with kindness and love. . . [these acts of kindness] humiliate them. . . weak reactions become more pronounced and more numerous just when they are beginning to feel that their condition is being understood. . . thus the weak can be crushed by criticism and censure, and by understanding and kindness. . .

There is probably a certain basic and inborn. . . sensitivity which predisposes the person to weak reactions, and which in turn is aggravated by them. It is a vicious cycle. . .This he must indeed accept, and take into account in the organization of his life. For if he rebels against his nature, if he flouts it by exposing himself to excessive physical efforts or acute injury to his feelings, he will see the reappearance of the train of weak reactions, to which he remains predisposed. But though such people cannot alter their temperaments, this does not mean that they are fated to defeat, as they often feel themselves to be. It is the vicious circle of weak reactions which gives them that impression, and if they learn how to break it they will become reconciled to their sensitiveness…

I no longer believe there are bad characters, I do believe there is sin, which is quite another matter…We are all sinners—equally sinners: the decent, honorable, respectable folk equally with those they despise; and cruel, unjust, proud parents equally with the children they crush with this talk of bad characters. In the true perspective of sin they would show the child that the weaknesses from which he suffers are common to all, even if they hide them under strong reactions. This would help the child to take heart and mend his ways. If, on the contrary, they treat him as a black sheep, they give him a terrible feeling of spiritual loneliness, of being bad whereas the rest are good. In this guilty solitude he has reactions which bring down upon him ever more humiliating reproaches. Such are the circumstances, the physical conditions, and the psychological chain of cause and effect in a person’s life which result in the same universal sin taking the form of smug self-satisfaction in one, and weakness of character in another. Seen in the light of the Gospel, the former is worse than the latter!” (pp. 41-62)

Suggestions for action

The basis of our ability to accept ourselves realistically (open to who we actually are, not who we wish we were; open to our weaknesses and our strengths; open to our weak reactions and our strong reactions and all that lies beneath them) lies in our acceptance of God’s gift in Jesus making the way for us to have the love we need now and for eternity. If we tell ourselves (as we so often do) that we must earn this love with our faithfulness/goodness/etc. we miss the gift that would free us to live fully as ourselves connected to reality. Take a few minutes today to consider the ways you attempt to earn your way. List them. Let yourself wonder what life might be like if you stopped earning and accepted that you aren’t going to measure up to any standards. In the quiet, imagine Jesus coming to you and taking hold of your list and tearing it up.  Remember this image throughout your day.  

 

September 9, 2016 – Profitable for everyone

Today’s Bible reading and an excerpt

Read Titus 3

I desire that you insist on these things, so that those who have come to believe in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works; these things are excellent and profitable to everyone. But avoid stupid controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels about the law, for they are unprofitable and worthless. After a first and second admonition, have nothing more to do with anyone who causes divisions, since you know that such a person is perverted and sinful, being self-condemned….And let people learn to devote themselves to good works in order to meet urgent needs, so that they may not be unproductive.

More thoughts for meditation

The Bible tells us a lot of practical things as we become acquainted with all the people who make up the stories and accounts. But more, the Bible strengthens our hearts as we learn about the character of the people who bring honor to God through their work. The world and its work keep changing, and it is no wonder that the Bible does not give us the specific directives we sometimes want concerning what to do or where to do it.  But the virtues of honesty, diligence and trust are never made redundant, and the Bible instructs us in cultivating these virtues at every turn. They are the soulful tools that make what we do “profitable for all,” which is the goal of our love.

Biblical instruction about living as Jesus calls us to live must be applied in the workplace.  Life and work are not separate, but rather work is a part of a whole life.  Like our proverb says:

Life in Christ is one whole cloth. As we participate in and love “the world,” we bring redemption from the Kingdom of God to our society. Jesus is Lord of all, so we have repented of separating “sacred” and “secular.”

When Jesus says, “Let your light so shine before [all] that they may see your good deeds and glorify your father who is in heaven” he is not limiting this to life “at church” or in the family.  It is the whole of life, including our work.  We are who we are in Christ wherever we are.

When Paul says to Titus, “Our people must learn to devote themselves to doing what is good,…” (3:14) this also applies to our daily work.  Paul is also quick to note how our character will be exactly what brings us trouble in our daily occupation. The Lord seeks to create a people who will bear the image of God and display the Spirit’s glory in all the creation, at work and at play. Transforming grace works powerfully in us through the Spirit, and we are given many ways to discern how to live this new life in the world. We learn our devotion, day by day, and one of the ways it is honed to profitability is by constant friction with “stupid controversies” and “quarrels about the law” and people who cause “divisions.” The people who cause these things are in the workplace and in the church, perhaps in your family. The work of multiplication, reconciliation, healing will all be especially opposed.

The Psalmist says that God’s word is a light to his path. Much of our path lies in labor; we are grateful that light shines there as well. We need to attend to how we attend to the light, in all the ways God reaches us.

Suggestions for action

Pray: Stir my devotion. Make what I do profitable for all.

We often avoid thinking about our troubles. We don’t want to “go there.” But often naming them is the first step in the kind of attending that allows us to be attended to.

Start with the workplace. Name the places and people where your character as a Jesus follower rubs up against things that are not of the Lord. Don’t try to solve all your problems, right now, don’t be your own answer. Present them to the Lord and listen. But, for sure, be untroubled in the presence of Jesus.

If you are involved in multiplication, reconciliation, healing or some other soulful work, name the opposition. They are people. Naming is not damning, it is just acknowledging what is happening. Again, don’t immediately solve the problem. Present these people to the Lord and listen. Read Paul’s words to Titus again and listen.