To venable (verb): To randomly muse upon this and that.

Archive for the ‘Character’ Category

Pig-Head or Snowflake

Criticism comes in the normal course of life. Criticism comes in seeking to serve the Lord. There should be no surprise that if the master suffered criticism then won’t that be true of his servants as well? So we read in Matthew 10:24-25:

A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. It is enough for the disciple to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household.

But what do we do when criticism comes? Are we “pig-heads” or “snowflakes”?

Pig-Heads say “Stuff you with whatever you say, I am going to do it this way and if you don’t like it you will have to lump it.”

Snowflakes says “If you have said it, it must be right. I must do what you say straight-away. I will do whatever you say, yes sir, no sir; three bags full sir.”

So where do each of us sit with these responses. I suggest we are all somewhere on a spectrum here between pig-heads and snowflakes.

But how should we respond to criticism. I have written about how we should respond to a rebuke here. I post some further thoughts;

  • Always listen to what the person has to say. Seek calcification if necessary, but don’t pursue every detail ad nauseam.
  • Listen courteously and thank them for their observations which have very likely not been easy to deliver.
  • Consider what has been said and pray over it.
  • Seek advice and other counsel from those you trust.
  • Consider who has made the criticism and of what character, wisdom and maturity they are.
  • Respond and adopt the observations which you think are legitimate.
  • Reject those which you believe do not hold up.

Then move on with your life.  We need to embrace something of Paul’s attitude: But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead I press on towards the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.(Phil 3:13b-14).  Continually revisiting what has been said can keep you from the task in hand which is to serve God and be for Him.

 

Zechariah

Zechariah was the father of John the Baptist. In Luke 1:5-12 we see him presented as a godly, God-sensitive man. He is:

  • Of Godly Character: It is recorded of him, and his wife Elizabeth, that they were both righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord (Luke 1:6). Righteous very likely refers to their justified state on account of their faith. And they lived out their faith in full obedience to God’s commandment and statutes.
  • Enduring Difficulty. His wife could not have children and therefore they had never had the joy of bringing forward a new generation to serve the Lord. Childlessness was culturally shameful as well and spoke of curse. The Word says that Elizabeth  was the cause of their childless state (see v7). But Zechariah would not give her up for another. He was faithful to his commitment.
  • Faithful He continued his ministerial call to be a priest in spite of the pain of having no children. Faith prevailed over his problems.
  • God-sensitive. In v9-10 we see how Zechariah was granted the great privilege of presenting the incense offering in the temple. This was the high-point of his career. This could only ever happen once in a priest’s career and now he was undertaking it. Yet at that moment he was diverted by the intervention of God in the appearance of the angel. The remarkable thing is that Zechariah gave up his religious service to acknowledge that God had come. We observe how Zechariah was troubled when he saw him, and fear fell upon him (Luke 1:12). Experiencing the awareness of God was more significant than the high-point of his religious service. I fear many of us, and our churches, are more concerned with religious performance over and against a living awareness of the living God.

Pulling all this together here we find a man who was godly, persevering and faithful. Such people are sensitive to the workings of God. I wonder, and this is only speculation, if on previous occasions angelic messengers had appeared to an incense offering priest, but they had ignored such because of the thrill of religious service.

How easy it is for this to happen with us. Are we spiritually sensitive to discern the difference between keeping religious activities going, important as that might be in a church, and the Lord appearing among us?

Ultimately it is only those who are godly, persevering through difficulty and faithful in service that have the spiritual antennae to spot when God is coming through His Spirit. Oh that I might be of such a character.

Bark And Bite

So you tell me that their bark is worse than their bite. And I tell you that that may be all well and good, but I am just experiencing their bark and that is very loud. Them sinking their teeth into me is not my primary concern at the moment.

The Bible says that A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger (Prov. 15:1). And as for the servant of the Lord he must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness (2 Tim 2:24b-25a). We learn immediately from these scriptures that your bite matters. In fact many people will be long departed from you before the effects of any bite are experienced, whether that bite be flesh devouring or a mere graze. They will be long gone because your bite will have frightened them off. 

Your bite might actually have transpired to be beneficial to the recipient. However, your bark prevented any healing balm from coming from the bite

Whether our words are those of exhortation, correction , rebuke or encouragement they should be gentle. They should be heard and received as words coated in love. They might not be palatable because they deal with issues that go to the core of our being, but the words should come with kindness.

Moreover, gentleness is part of the fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:22b). An unpleasant bark is not in accord with a Spirit emanating character. They are more like the works of the flesh.

You Must Have Time With The Lord

This is essential for the Christian; you must have your personal time alone with Him. You put your life in peril if you do not. Church fellowship is essential and we need to be experiencing that to grow in the Lord. Worshipping in the family at home  must also be there in our schedules. But we must not neglect being in the secret place with the Lord.

You have to find out what works for you. You may be able to operate on a spontaneous basis, whereby in the natural flow of life you are having space to worship the Lord and be with Him. However, for most of us, I suggest, that this is not the case, We need to be more disciplined. we need to set aside a specific time to be alone with our Father and our Lord Jesus. Regular habits are normally good in this respect.

And if your Quiet Time or personal time with the Lord is becoming dull and lacklustre then mix it up. Try whatever works. Try reading a few passages of good Christ centred books. The Puritans are good here and Richard Sibbes is always a good place to start. Try prayer lists. In all this make sure that your prayings and worshippings are Bible framed so you must have the Word.

Living Christians are always God’s presence Christians. No time in the presence of the Lord means death to your soul and impoverishment in spiritual desires and worship.

And of course our Lord Jesus sets the pattern here. He was so keen to spend time with his Father that he would get up early to make sure it happened. Perhaps that is what you need to do (and me). You need to be thinking about getting up a bit earlier and having time in His presence.

I have written about personal devotions at further length here if you are interested.

Humility

I am left musing upon the lack of humility that there is around. There is plenty of faithfulness, a good amount of giftedness and ample supplies of knowledge. Yet I am left wondering about the quantity of humility that is seen amongst the people of God.

This key spiritual attribute should be palpably in evidence among us. After all humility is at the heart of our faith. It is such because humility pulses through everything concerning our Saviour coming from glory into humanity and enduring the cross for us. We read in Philippians 2:5-8:

 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross

Without humility there is neither incarnation nor salvation.

Moreover, how can it be that the true Christian is anything other than humble. We are after all so incredibly blessed. We have come to realise, through God’s enlightening grace, how bad we are. We have been so blessed by God through the cross of our lord Jesus, notwithstanding all of our badness. Being totally undeserving of that blessing because of our sin we now have acceptance in Christ Jesus. And now being so wonderfully provided for through the saving work of our Lord and Saviour, how can we be anything, but humble?

After presenting the truths of how the God of glory rescues destitute sinners and brings them into such blessing according to the Lord’s eternal plan then Paul moves into exhorting the Ephesians believers to live worthy lives. And so he says:

I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 

At the heart of his exhortation is the call to humility.

Humility is seen in a spirit of self-effacing, setting oneself in lowly way. It is seen in the honouring and exalting of others.  So Paul says to the Philippians 3:2b in humility count others more significant than yourselves.

I wrote about a man who visited Feltham last year here. If there was anything that was the secret of this man’s attractive demeanour it was his humility.

And this all leaves me pondering upon myself. How much do I display this beautiful grace?

Oh and I must remember that there is one place which it is key to visit in order that humility will be cultivated in my life. When I go to Calvary and the cross of my Lord Jesus then there is only one reasonable outcome for my character; humility.

And perhaps that’s why there is so little humility it is because we are so little at the cross.

Noah Is Obedient

Amidst all the sin and degradation described in Genesis 6 we come across a man who found favour in the eyes of the Lord (Gen. 6:8b). His Name was Noah. Noah was a man who knew the gracious favour of the Lord undeservingly upon his life.

This grace was thereafter reflected in a life of obedience. It is striking how he was a man who moved in obedience to the call of God. So we see these statements.

  • Noah did this; he did all that God commanded him (Gen. 6:22). This was after the Lord had given the specification for how the ark should be built.
  • And Noah did all that the Lord had commanded him (Gen 7:5). This was after the Lord had given Noah instructions about his entering the ark.
  • Of clean animals, and of animals that are not clean, and of birds, and of everything that creeps on the ground, two and two, male and female, went into the ark with Noah, as God had commanded Noah (Gen 7:8-9). This is the comment upon Noah entering the ark.
  • They went into the ark with Noah, two and two of all flesh in which there was the breath of life. And those that entered, male and female of all flesh, went in as God had commanded him. And the Lord shut him in (Gen. 7:15-16). Again in going into the ark Noah has done all he was called to do.
  • Then God said to Noah, “Go out from the ark, you and your wife, and your sons and your sons’ wives with you. Bring out with you every living thing that is with you of all flesh—birds and animals and every creeping thing that creeps on the earth—that they may swarm on the earth, and be fruitful and multiply on the earth.” So Noah went out, and his sons and his wife and his sons’ wives with him (Gen. 8:15-18). In Gen 8:13-14 we read how the earth had been dry for 57 days. But Noah would only move when God said.

And so it must be with us. We must move in obedience to the holy will of the Lord. Blessed people are obedient people. It is of course that way around. The error that many religions peddle is that obedience leads to salvation. This is a lie. No! It is rather the case that blessing leads to obedience.

Those who find favour in the eyes of the Lord by being granted faith to believe in the Saviour who is Jesus Christ the Lord, display such in the ensuing obedient life. We can talk and talk; we can profess and profess some more, but all is meaningless unless there is obedience.

Charachter

I saw a physiotherapist earlier in the year. She looked like a physiotherapist should look. She was slim; she wore loose fitting, but discreet medical type clothes. She was clean and her personal hygiene gave no cause for distraction. She looked the part. Her presentation “fitted the bill” for what her calling was. As a result I was put at ease concerning her treating me for my ailment

This leads me to consider the issue of how much we reflect in our lives, of what we profess in being Christians. Now, if the physiotherapist did not present in a certain way i would question whether she was a proper physiotherapist. Similarly there are expectations people have about how we present as Christians. As Christians if we present as miserable, stroppy, complaining, angry, bitter and a miscellany of similar attitudes then we deny our profession.

And when we contradict our profession in this way we give a certain message to people. And that is that the Christian message, that we profess, is not able to change lives for good.

A Christian living a life which is not commensurate with our calling is a deterrent for others coming to experience the medicine of the soul which our Saviour dispenses. Moreover, when we speak of the gospel of grace people will not hear because of the noise of our graceless lives.

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