Saturday, February 26, 2011

Character: A Spirit of Meekness

Here is a wonderful definition of  meekness:  strength under control!  Jesus exemplified this characteristic and as we become transformed into His likeness, it will be evidenced in our lives as well.  Let's consider what meekness looks like in Scripture.  The book of Isaiah introduced us to Christ long before He walked on the earth, and Isaiah 53:7 says this:  "He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth..."  At any point in Christ's earthly journey, He could have accessed and utilized His divine powers and ended His sufferings; His decision not to do that is meekness! 

Meekness is not a human response; it is a divine fruit of the spirit which offers special blessings.  Our beloved Savior's call to take his yoke of meek humility upon ourselves comes with a promise--rest for our souls.  Paul tells us that our ability to instruct others requires this characteristic, and James admonishes readers to meekly receive God's Word which delivers us.  Clearly a spirit of meekness will affect our very salvation and the salvation of others!  Perhaps the most glorious blessing of meekness, though, is God's view of it--a meek and quiet spirit is precious to our great God!  Allowing this spirit to flow in and through our days is of value to God Himself.

The key to pleasing our Father, to embracing Christ's yoke and heeding James' admonishment is revealed by Peter's explanation of Jesus' actions:  '...He entrusted himself to him who judges justly.'  Faith in God's power and love is the only way to respond with meekness to the injustices of life.  Our reaction to unfair accusations and cruel, evil intentions is self-righteous anger and retaliation.  Throughout Scripture we are called to love in the face of evil just as Christ loved us in our sinfulness.  God has given tremendous examples of His children who lived with meekness.  We can learn from the lives of Moses, David, Jeremiah, Stephen and Paul; but we trust in the risen power of Christ--our perfect example--to fill us with His Spirit. 

Family Chat:

How do you usually respond to unkindness or lies about you?

What kind of results do you get?  Is your heart at peace? 

How does your usual response affect your view/relationship with God?  How about the other person's view of God?

What are some of the blessings God promises to those who live with meekness?
Psalm 22:26; 37:11; 147:6; 149:4; Isaiah 11:4; 29:19

How did these Bible characters demonstrate meekness?
Moses (Numbers 12:3); David (2 Samuel 16:11); Jeremiah (Jer 26:14); Stephen (Acts 7:60); Paul 2 Tim 4:16

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Character: A Spirit of Trustworthiness

Jesus was reliable; from his earliest days, he knew--and expected others to know--what he would be about.  When separated from his family at the conclusion of a religious celebration, he asked his distraught parents, "Why were you looking for me?  Didn't you know where I would be?"  Every activity and aspect of Christ had an inherent integrity which made Him wholly trustworthy.  In 1 Corinthians 4:2, Paul exhorts believers of the need to be found faithful--to be trustworthy.  That word is the essence of Christ's life: to be 'faithful' meant to be steadfast to one's Word and promises, to be worthy of belief and to be a believer.  Christ was all of those things and as His servants, we are to be the same.

Those who walk this life journey with us need to be able to trust us.  Our words must be fulfilled in our actions.  Our promises must be certain lest those we walk with draw a conclusion that our belief in Jesus is not trustworthy either.  Throughout scripture we have examples of faithful, trustworthy characters.  Daniel's detractors were unable to accuse him because he was so trustworthy and never negligent to his duties.  Joseph had the complete trust of those he served--whether the prison guard or the pharaoh--because he was trustworthy.  Living the Christian life is about 'how' we live not just what we do: growing into the likeness of Christ will involve a character that resonates trustworthiness. 

Such a character trait must be intentionally integrated into every activity of our life.  In our world, there are so many opportunities to do good things and be busy for the Lord.  Yet, we are only vessels of clay and can not do all things well.  We are to be busy about good things, but we must never allow ourselves to be so busy we can not be faithful in all that we do.  We are to do all things for the glory of God and if the activities we choose are so excessive that this key spirit of reliability is lost, we fail to bring Him glory.  We also fail to evidence another aspect of faithfulness:  right-focused belief.  Our belief must be in God's power and provision, not our own productivity.  Solid belief in our Lord, will help us live in a way that others will believe too!

Family Chat

Can people trust you to do what you say you will do?

How do you feel when someone promises something and then does not follow through?

What should you do if you make a hasty commitment and then have to withdraw?

Verses to read and discuss:

A few of the examples of faithfulness in scripture:  Luke 2:49; Nehemiah 13:13; Daniel 6:4

What does Jesus say about being faithful?  What do scriptures say about the blessings of faithfulness?
Matthew 24:45-46; Psalm 101:6

A key trustworthy part of our life is?:  1 Timothy 1:15; 2 Timothy 2:11; Revelation 21:15

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Character: A Spirit of Diligence

Do you ever feel weary and doubt-filled?  I do, but we do not need to!  As we look at Christ's character--the character we are predestined to be transformed into--we see more than diligence, we see zeal!  Isaiah 59:17 says Jesus wrapped himself in zeal as a cloak.  We need to wrap our spirits in the same way--Jesus must be our covering and our motivation. 

There are so many distractions which sap this aspect of our character.  Our eyes become mis-focused on results or roadblocks, and our diligent work grinds to a halt.  We forget that we are not the producers of results but we are to diligently press on.  We forget that we do not hold the future but we must hold onto faith in the One who does.  We forget that like Jesus, we have the Holy Spirit and the very power of God, to empower us as we go about doing good and healing those under the devil's power (Acts 10:38).  We are not to fixate on our path or our production, but to persevere and work diligently that God may produce the increase He has planned through our lives.

God promises great things with 'simple' diligence.  Diligent hands: rule, bring wealth & satisfaction.  Persevering in God's ways brings us to the promised inheritance and never fails (2 Peter 1:10).  So what are the ways we need to focus on when life seems overwhelming?  Let's just pause in 2 Peter and be renewed. 

  • We start with our faith.  Faith in God's existence, His goodness and His presence! 
  • We add to that goodness---right actions. 
  • To faith and right living, we are called to add knowledge.  We must seek to 'know' God in the details of our days. 
  • Knowing precedes self-control; we must do what we know, learn more and then discipline ourselves to obey that as well. 
  • Godliness is our next 'doing':  it sounds daunting but it is natural.  It means worship the amazing God we know!  When we truly see Him, we can do nothing else. 
  • The last two seem so easy that many non-believers regularly replicate them:  brotherly kindness and love.  Brotherly kindness is more than helping someone that we might feel the warmth of having done a nice thing.  It is the love for the brotherhood of Christianity that propels us to encourage as part of our 'like common faith.'  It is Jesus-centered giving and may never be known as coming from us. 
  • Finally, we are to love as God loves...agape love.  Love that puts the needs of the others before ourselves.  It sometimes is 'tough love' that feels so painful; but it is the love that we must press on to achieve.  Christ's diligence revealed that love and produced eternal life.  We must let our character emulate the same diligent love!
Grow not weary in well-doing but press on and allow His life to flow unhindered!

Family Chat:

What makes you want to give up?

How do you get beyond it?

Where can we look to find inspiring examples of folks who pressed on?

What did Jesus say motivated Him?  John 2:17; 4:34; 9:4

Are we to rely only on our own power and vision?  Acts 10:38; Eph 6:10; 1 Cor 2:5; 1 John 4:4; Psalm 91:1-3; Proverbs 3:6

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Character: A Spirit of Simplicity

The still small voice of God is easily drowned out by the noisy demands of daily life. Palm pilots, cell phones, text messages…technological conveniences become tyrannical rulers. We allow ourselves to become victims of the world and believe the deception that we cannot control the craziness of our calendars. The truth, though, is that we are the creators of the chaos by refusing to establish priorities for our time. The minutes of our lives are a precious, ever-depleting resource. We are to be wise stewards of those minutes. A key to that stewardship is cultivating a godly character which rejoices in simplicity.

Simplicity is not simple to cultivate in a world with a ‘have-it-all’ mentality that demands multi-tasking. Yet it is not about unplugging from the world either. A life lived with simplicity produces results in a world shattered by colliding desires and demands. Heartbreakingly, it is becoming a lost art. Clarity and goal-directed living are the hallmarks of a simple life. Simplicity is as much the antithesis of an aimless, uninvolved life as it is an antithesis of a scattered, chaotic life. Simplicity refuses multi-tasking and focuses on the task at hand. It is not laziness, nor is it distractedness. Simplicity will not sit and do nothing, nor will it text one friend while having lunch with another. Simplicity is about whole-hearted engagement with the world…one person, one activity at a time.

Cultivating simplicity requires establishing priorities for your attention. There is a wonderful illustration often used in time management classes. A glass jar is filled to overflowing with sand, pebbles and finally rocks. Nothing more can be added and not all that needs to fit can do so. A second jar…empty is brought alongside. The larger rocks are placed into the jar, then the pebbles, then the sand and finally a carafe of water is poured into the jar. ALL fits. Our lives are exactly like that. Rightly ordering our life’s priorities will allow everything to fit. We will not be overwhelmed; our hearts will have peace that reigns and our lives will bless others.

Family Chat:

What fills the time in your day?
Are there things you wish you often feel bad that you have not done?

What's wrong with putting stuff off until tomorrow? James 4:14
How do we learn to value time?  Psalm 90:12
Does it matter how we use our time?  1 Cor 7:29-31; Eph 5:15-6