Is Your Character Growing?

growth

Your mind is amazing.  It thinks so fast you don’t know you are thinking.

Like right now.

Your eyes receive light patterns.  The patterns are sent to the brain.  The brain recognizes the patterns as words.  You don’t read the individual letters.  You don’t sound out the word.  Your brain translates the sentences into meaning without you thinking about thinking.  At the end of this article, without thinking, your brain will send a message to read what’s next.

Every day you take a thousand actions without thinking.  You make a choice and take action changing your future without thinking.   You act on what you believe is good and what is bad without thinking.   You justify to yourself your behavior without thinking.

Character is the way you structure your world.  Your inside world shows up in your external behavior.  It shows up without thinking.

We do not slow down life enough to think about our thinking.  We should.  Slow down and think about you.

Your soul is the operating system of your life.  Your character is how you program your soul.  It is the system architecture.  Your character is the patterns that come from your soul.

People structure their soul differently:  People can’t stand the tension of an open ended problem.  They must decide, even if it is the wrong decision.  Their heart is in the driver’s seat.

People feel sad and sadness guides their decisions.  Or people think someone is a bad person and they withdraw from a relationship.  Their mind is in the driver’s seat.

People have an appetite for sugar.  They eat a box of Pop-Tarts.  They repeat the pattern         the next day.  Their body is in the driver’s seat.

People want a “significant other.”  They take “the first available.”  They endure neglect, abuse, and unfaithfulness.  Their relational need is in the driver’s seat.

What if you could restructure your character?  What if you could restructure your system architecture?  What if you could restructure your soul programming?  Where would you start?  What pattern would you choose?

What if you started with the model of the happiest person who ever lived?

Jesus.

Your objection:  I’m not sure Jesus was the happiest person ever.  Wasn’t he killed?

Yes.  So?

Your response:  That doesn’t sound very happy to me.

That’s the problem.  We define happiness by what happens in a moment.  God defines happiness by what happens from birth to infinity.

We don’t know how to define happiness.  Jesus did:  Happiness is being blessed.  Happiness is life fully lived.  Happiness is satisfaction.  Happiness is being the being God made you to be.

That is exactly who Jesus was.  This is exactly who Jesus is.

The more your character is like Jesus’s, the happier you will be.  Maybe it’s time for you to slow down, think about your life, and pray to grow a character like Jesus.

 

Your Next Step…

next step

Babies go from crawling to walking.  Teenagers go from walking to driving.  Adults go from driving to praying when their teenagers start to drive.  You have a next step, no matter what stage you are in life.

You have a next step spiritually.   

It’s up to you to decide if you take or not.  If you do, you will grow your soul.  If you don’t you will experience frustration with yourself, with others, and with God.

Ever meet someone who is continually frustrated?  They did not take the next step God laid before them.

No one can take this next step but you.  Your parents can’t do your spiritual journey for you.  Neither can your grandparents.  A pastor can’t do it for you.

This is a journey you have to do yourself.  If you don’t do it, it won’t get done.

So what’s your next step?

God wants you to take that next step.  Just like he:

    • Invited Abraham to go on a journey to a new land and a new future;
    • Invited Moses to go back to Egypt and lead his people;
    • Invited David to leave the sheep and be a King.

Jesus wants you to take that next step.  Just like he:

    • Invited Peter, Andrew, James, and John to leave their nets and become fishers of men;
    • Invited Matthew to leave his tax table and follow him;
    • Invited Paul to stop persecuting him and his people and be a missionary.

Not everyone accepts the invitation to take a next step:

    • The rich young ruler loved his money more than he wanted eternal life (ever wonder what he thinks now?);
    • One man volunteered to follow him until he heard there would be no Holiday Inn for the holy;
    • Religious leaders wouldn’t follow him because they would lose their power and prestige.

What about you?  Are you ready to stop a life of frustration and start taking your next step toward Jesus?

Ready. Set.  Step toward Jesus.

 

Every Journey has a Starting Point

 

Every journey has a starting point:

  • Every relationship began with a conversation.
  • Every job had a first day.
  • Every change in behavior had first uncomfortable moments trying something new.
  • Every building started with an idea.
  • Every degree was preceded by a first day of class.
  • Every trip to Disney started by pulling out of the driveway.
  • Every divorce started with a question.
  • Every meal began with a recipe – some of them even written down.
  • Every career started with curiosity.
  • Every sermon starts with the realization that Sunday is coming, ready or not.

Look in the Bible.  People there have starting points too:

  • Noah had to cut the first board to build the ark.
  • Abraham made to take the first step to go to the land God showed him – telling Sarah they were moving.
  • Moses had to throw down his rod to find out God’s power.
  • Joshua had to march around Jericho seven days to find out God would fight the battle.
  • Ruth had to sneak up to the threshing floor and lay down beside Boaz to find out if he was interested in marriage.
  • David had to take the first step out from the Israeli lines of battle to meet Goliath.
  • Solomon made his first decision before he was known as the wisest man who ever lived.
  • Peter, James, John, and Andrew had to take their first step away from their boats to follow Jesus.
  • Paul had to confess he believed in the Jesus he thought he was a fraud before he could become a great missionary, theologian, and evangelist.

Too many people, I think, only focus on the finish line. They are overwhelmed before they begin, and feel defeated.  They never start the journey of transformation.

Jesus didn’t ask you to take a next leap.  He invites you to follow Him and that starts with a next step toward Him.

So what’s your starting point?  What’s your next step?

  • Decide for Jesus.  Decide to follow him.
  • Talk to someone about your decision for Jesus.
  • Be baptized.
  • Spend time getting to know Jesus.
  • Learn to do life in community with believers.
  • Learn to love people.
  • Learn to love enemies
  • Make friends who will be there at 3 AM for you.
  • Heal your hurts.
  • Call a counselor.
  • Tell someone the truth about your world.
  • Grow character habits.
  • Pray for a minute.
  • Read one story in the Bible every day.
  • Give something.
  • Tell someone your story.
  • Do an act of kindness.
  • Serve in a systematic way.

You have a Starting Point.  You have a Journey.  You have a next step.sp-background

Let’s get started.

What Would it Take to Change Your Mind?



change

If you are a life-long Clemson fan who bleeds orange, what would it take for you to become a die-hard, crow at every touchdown, South Carolina Gamecock fan?

If you are a staunch Republican, who believes in small government, low taxes, de-regulation, and individual freedom, what would it take for you to become a big government, tax the wealthy, regulate business, and protect the environment liberal Democrat?

If you are passionate about the Second Amendment, own 183 guns, four gun safes, and load your own ammunition, what would it take for you to become an enforce the waiting period for purchase, ban assault weapons, buy back the handguns, anti-gun advocate?

If you grew up on a ranch, love the open range, think filet mignon is what we will eat in heaven, cowboy, what would it take for you to become a vegan, anti-ranching, card carrying PETA member?

If you grew up a staunchly Jewish, committed yourself to become a man of righteousness, were meticulous about keeping every rule and law given by God, sat at the feet of the famous rabbinic scholars of your day, were given an opportunity by the people you admire to make your name by persecuting people who you were convinced were heretics, what would it take for you to turn your back on everything you ever understood about God, your culture, your teachers, your career opportunities, your definition of what it meant to be a ‘good person,’ follower of Jesus, who you thought was a heretic?

This is the story of Paul.  One day on a road to Damascus (yes, the same one in the news today), he saw Jesus.  When he realized Jesus was alive, not dead, Paul’s world fell apart.  Everything changed.  He believed in the one he once was convinced was the enemy.

Paul must have known that his old friends would think he had gone crazy.  He must have known that some would be so angry, they would try to kill him.  He must have known that his old heroes would now speak his name with contempt.

None of that mattered.  All that mattered was Jesus.

Paul changed his mind.  Paul changed his life.  Paul changed his eternity.

I don’t think any sane person would make a change like that for a myth.  I don’t think anyone would change their mind like Paul did just so they could perpetuate some interesting teachings.

In fact, I’m pretty sure the only thing that would ever convince me to change my mind like Paul did would be a clear call from God.

Which is exactly what God gave Paul.  It is exactly what God offers you – a clear call to change your mind, and decide to follow Jesus.

Pick a Fruit…

 

fruit

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.  Against such there is no law.”  – Galatians 5:22-23

Read these verses and it is easy to get overwhelmed.  I once graded myself on each fruit using the A-F scale.  Let’s just say my self-grading showed I needed to go to the remedial fruit of the Spirit class.

The fruit of the Holy Spirit is what shows up in our lives as God works.  What if instead focusing on every fruit and being overwhelmed, we focused on what we needed right now?

For example:

  • If I am dealing with an annoying person in my life, I need to ask God for the fruit of love (You know, that whole ‘love your enemies’ thing).  I can start by praying for God to bring good to that annoying person.
  • If I feel stuck in a rut, I need to ask God for the fruit of joy.  Maybe he will open my eyes to the joy he is bringing through his work in the world.
  • If I am struggling with a destructive habit or an addiction, I need to ask God for the fruit of peace.  All destructive habits and addictions start with a lack of peace in our souls.
  • If I am feeling overwhelmed, like there is too much life and not enough me, I need to ask God for the fruit of patience.  Patience comes from trust that my God has me and will help me get done everything he asks me to do.
  • If I am struggling with anxiety or depression, I need to ask God for the fruit of kindness.  Anxious and depressed people are not kind to themselves.  As you fill up with the kindness of God, he teaches you to be kind not just to others, but to yourself.
  • If I struggle with money (and who doesn’t), I need to ask God for the fruit of generosity.  I only win over money, my wants, and my desires, when I let go.  Generosity is an expression of faith –that God will supply all my needs through Christ Jesus.
  • If I am stuck in a dead-end job, I need to ask God for the fruit of faithfulness.  The way to advance is to be faithful in what I do, as if I am doing it for Jesus.
  • If I am struggling with my temper, I need to ask God for the fruit of gentleness.   To live a gentle life is not to be a weakling, but is to gain control of myself so my strength is used wisely, not harmfully.
  • If I feel like I am drifting through life, I need to ask God for the fruit of self-control.  Most people who drift through life aren’t lacking direction; they are lacking self-control to move in the direction they need to go.

Imagine you are standing with Jesus in the spiritual fruit section of his gift store.  Think about what’s going on in your life.  What fruit do you need to ask for?

 

 

21 Weird Things About Hell

 

 

People have wrong ideas about hell.  Here are some teachings of the Christian faith you may not know:

  1. God doesn’t send people to hell.  They choose to go because they don’t want to be in His presence forever.
  2. There will be a lot of religious people in hell because they knew about God, but they did not know God.
  3. Satan is not in charge of hell.  He is one of the occupants, experiencing the torture of his own fragmented self.
  4. Hell is a riot – because no one can agree.
  5. You want to see hell in miniature?  Look at someone torn apart by addiction of any kind.
  6. People in hell blame other people for not giving them enough information.
  7. People in hell blame God for putting them there.
  8. The fastest way to hell is denial.
  9. In every story Jesus told about hell, no one asked to get out.
  10. Hell is the continuation of your fragmented soul forever.
  11. The fastest way to hell is denial.
  12. Why is hell a place of fire?  Because fire dis-integrates.  Hell is a place of dis-integrated souls.
  13. Hell has no mercy, no love, no grace, no forgiveness, no beauty, no joy, no gentleness, no self-control.
  14. There are degrees of hell, just like there degrees of soul separation/fragmentation.
  15. There is no time in hell.  So while heaven is a place of joyous discovery, hell is a place of frozen self-centeredness.
  16. There has to be a hell.  To force someone to have intimacy with you is rape.  God will not rape your soul.
  17. The sin that blinds most people to the danger of hell?  Self-righteousness.
  18. Any who is happy about people going to hell is in danger of going themselves.
  19. The frustration of hell for those who are there is they experience the reality they choose and their limited power to change it.  People in hell might be still trying to fix themselves.
  20. God doesn’t want anyone to go to hell and paid the highest price so people could have a choice.
  21. People still choose to be away from God in spite of God’s offer of grace.  As Dallas Willard said, “Hell is the simply the best God can do for some people.”