Tag Archives: Character

Voice of the Past – R. A. Torrey

THE SECRET OF BLESSEDNESS IN HEART,
BEAUTY IN CHARACTER,
FRUITFULNESS IN SERVICE,
AND PROSPERITY IN EVERYTHING

By R. A. Torrey

“Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. But his delight is in the law of the Lord; and in his law doth he meditate day and night. And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.” Psa_1:1-3.

IN these verses, God speaking through the Psalmist sets before us the secret of blessedness in heart, beauty in character, fruitfulness in service, and prosperity in everything. Are not these the four things that we all desire for ourselves? These verses tell us in the plainest sort of way how we may obtain them. They tell us that if we will not do three things and will do two things, we shall have blessedness in our hearts, beauty in our characters, fruitfulness in our service, and prosperity in whatsoever we do.

I. THE THREE THINGS WE MUST NOT DO.

The three things that we must not do are, First, Walk in the counsel of the ungodly; second, Stand in the way of sinners; third, Sit in the seat of the scornful, i.e., we must come out from the world and be separate in our walk, in our standing and in our sitting. As to our walk, we must not walk in the counsel of the ungodly; we must get our directions as to our walk from God and not from the world. We must not ask what the world does or advises, we must ask what God tells us to do. As to our standing, it must not be in the way of sinners; as to our sitting, or continuous fellowship, it must not be in the seat of the scornful. We will not dwell on these three things that we must not do for the words are so plain as to need no comment; what they need is not so much to be expounded as to be obeyed, and furthermore, if we do the two things which we must do we will be sure not to do the three things which we must not do.

II. THE TWO THINGS WHICH WE MUST DO.

The first of the two things which we must do is “Delight in the law of the Lord.” The Law of the Lord is God’s will as revealed in His Word and these words tell us that it is not enough merely to read God’s Word; indeed, that it is not enough even to earnestly study God’s Word, we must delight in God’s Word. We must have greater joy in the Word of God than in any other book, or in all other books put together. Now doubtless many of us will have to admit that we do not delight in the law of the Lord. Probably we read it, quite likely we study it diligently, but we read it and study it simply because we think it is our duty. As to delighting in it, we do not. If many of you were to reveal the exact facts about yourself, you would have to say, “I would rather read the newspaper than the Word of God. I would rather read the latest novel than the Word of God.” When I was thirteen years of age, I was told that if I read three chapters in the Bible every week-day and five every Sunday, I would read the Bible in a year, and I started out to do it, and I have read the Bible every day of my life from that time to this, but for years I did not delight in it. I read it simply because I thought I ought to, or because I was uneasy if I did not, but as for delighting in it, it was the dullest, stupidest book in the world to me. I would rather have read last year’s almanac than the Bible. And what was true of me then, and remained true for years, is true of many a professed Christian to-day. They may study the Bible every day but simply do it from a sense of duty or because their conscience is uneasy if they do not.

What shall one do if he does not delight in the law of the Lord? The answer is very simple.

(1) First of all, he must be born again. The one who is truly born again will love the Word of God. The Lord Jesus says in Joh_8:47, “He that is of God heareth God’s words: Ye therefore hear them not, because ye are not of God.” The little Greek word which is translated “of” in this passage is a very significant word. It really means and should be translated “out of,” i.e., in this connection “born of”; and what Jesus said was that the one that was born of God would have an ear for God’s word, and that the reason that the Jews did not really have an ear for God’s Word was because they were not born of God. One of the clearest proofs that a man is born of God is that he loves, delights in God’s Word. I have seen men and women pass in a moment from an utter distaste for God’s Word to an abounding delight in God’s Word by simply being born again.

“But,” some one will say, “how may I be born again?” God Himself answers the question in a very simple way in Joh_1:12. “But as many as RECEIVED HIM, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name.” According to these words the way to be born again is by simply receiving Him, receiving the Lord Jesus. The moment any man, woman, or child really receives Jesus to be to themselves all that He offers Himself to be to anyone, to be their Saviour from the guilt of sin by His death upon the cross, to be their Saviour from the power of sin, by His resurrection power (Heb. 7:25) and to be their Lord and Master, to whom they surrender the entire control of their lives (Act_2:36), that moment that man, woman or child is born again and with the new life thus obtained they will get a new love, a love for God and a delight in His Word.

(2) In the second place, in order to delight in the law of the Lord we must feed upon it. Jeremiah says in Jer_15:16, “Thy words were found, and I did eat them ; and thy word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of mine heart.” The reason why many do not delight in the Word of God is because they do not eat it. They read it ; they skim over it, they smell of it, but they do not eat it, and yet they wonder why they do not delight in God’s Word. What would you think if some day some friend came to visit you who had never eaten strawberries, and you should get for him a dish of our wonderful California strawberries. You tell him how delicious they are and set them before him you are called away but in an hour or two you come back and you say to your friend, “How did you like those strawberries?” He replies, “I did not care for them. I have seen many things that I have enjoyed more.” In surprise you say, “What, did not care for them?” “No, they seemed very ordinary to me.” For a moment you are puzzled, and then you say to him, “Did you eat the berries?” “No,” he answers, “I did not eat them. I smelled of them and I have smelled many things that smell better.” Well, that is the way that many, even of professing Christians treat the Word of God. They just smell of it, they skim over a few verses, or many verses, or many chapters, but they do not stop to eat a single verse. They do not chew the words, swallow them and assimilate them. Oh, how different the Word of God becomes when we really eat it. Take for example, the most familiar passage in the Bible, the verse that most of us learned first of all, Psa_23:1, “The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.” It sounds beautiful even when we merely read it, but how sweet it becomes when we stop and ponder it, weigh the meaning of the words, chew each word in it. When we ask ourselves first of all, “Who is my shepherd?” And then stop for a while to meditate upon the fact that it is JEHOVAH who is our Shepherd. Then ask ourselves, “What is Jehovah?” “My Shepherd.” And then stop and think what is involved in being a shepherd and what it means to have Jehovah as our SHEPHERD. Then ask ourselves “Whose shepherd is Jehovah? My Shepherd.” Not merely the Shepherd of men in general but my own Shepherd. A stranger entered a Presbyterian Church one day and was shown to a pew. The congregation rose to read the 23rd Psalm. A young lady sitting next to him, handed him one corner of her Bible as they read. As they read the first verse, he took a pencil out of his pocket and drew a line under the word “My.” When the service was over, the young lady said to him, “Do you mind telling me why you drew the line under the word My?” “Well,” he replied, “The Lord is my Shepherd. I was wondering if He were yours.” Next dwell on the word, “I,” then on the word “shall” with all the certainty that there is in the word then on the word “not” then on the word “want” and ask yourself all that is implied in the statement, “I shall not want.” Ah, the old familiar verse becomes so much sweeter as we eat it, chew and chew it and swallow it and digest it and assimilate it. If we thus eat different portions of the Bible day by day we would soon find a joy in it that we find in no other book. The only word that would express our relation to the book would be “DELIGHT.” The second of the two things that we must do is “meditate in the law of the Lord day and night.” These words tell us how to study the Word and when to study it.

(1) First, How to study it. “MEDITATE” therein. We live in a day in which meditation is largely a lost art. It is largely a lost art in all our study. We send our children to school, they are not allowed to think; they are simply crammed and crammed we cram them with physiology, biology, psychology and all the rest of the ologies ; until they themselves become mere ape-ologies for real thinkers. We try to see how many branches we can cover in a few years and how much of each branch we can cram in. A child in the Grammar School grade has twelve studies; a child of thirteen will be set to writing a criticism on Tennyson’s “In Memoriam.” This is a good way to develop conceited fools, but it is no way to develop thinkers. Set a child of thirteen to criticizing Tennyson’s “In Memoriam” and by the time she is eighteen she will be criticizing the Word of God itself. But cram, cram, cram, is the word of the hour in modern education. If our children studied fewer subjects and really studied and mastered those they did study, they would know more and be of more use in the world. But it is in Bible study especially that meditation is a lost art. We try to see how many chapters we can study in a single day. We get up a chart that covers the whole plan of the ages and all of God’s dealing with men, angels and devils, from the eternity back of us to the eternity before us and expect to master it in thirty minutes or an hour. This is an excellent plan for making ourselves think that we are very wise; it is a miserable plan for getting the real nourishment out of the Word and the real honey out of the rock. We should not so much say, “I will read so many chapters in a day,” as “I will spend so much time each day in really studying and feeding upon the Book.” Sometimes we will give to a single verse, or a single word, that will arrest our attention, all the time we put into Bible study that day. There is no greater enemy to successful study than hurry, and this is especially true of Bible study. One night I was teaching a Bible class in Minneapolis. A travelling man from New York, a very active member of St. George’s Episcopal Church, dropped into my class. He had to take the train for the Far West soon after the class and I walked down to the station with him. As we walked he said to me, “Tell me in a word how to study my Bible.” That is a pretty large contract to put into a single word, How to study the Bible, and I replied, “If I must put it into one word, that one word would be Thoughtfully. Think on what you study; look right at it, weigh it, weigh every word, turn it over and over and over meditate upon it.”

But the words of the Psalmist tell us not merely how to study the Word but when to study it, “DAY AND NIGHT.” Many people are asking, “Must I study the Bible fifteen minutes every day, or a half hour a day or two hours a day?” “Day and night,” replies the Psalmist. This, of course, does not mean that we should be sitting with an open Bible before us every moment of the day and night. But it does mean that having had some regular time for Bible study, that after that time for Bible study is over we should carry away in our mind and heart what we have studied and meditate upon it as we go about our business, our household duties, or whatsoever we have to do. Oh, how much lighter and pleasanter the drudgery of life becomes if we go about it with the Word of God in mind and heart, meditating thereon in the midst of our wearing toil. I know of nothing else that will keep one in such perfect peace and abounding joy in these days of war and gloom and agony as meditating on the Word of God day and night.

III. THE RESULT.

And now what will be the result of our separating from the world in our walk, in our standing, in our sitting and of our delighting in the law of the Lord and meditating thereon day and night?

1. First of all, we will have blessedness in heart. “Blessed is the man,” says our text that “walketh not/etc. The Hebrew word translated “blessed” is a very peculiar word in the Hebrew. It is not a participle at all, but a noun and a noun in the plural. Literally translated it would be “blessednesses of the man,” i. e., how manifold and varied is the blessedness and happiness of the man that does not do these three things and does do these two things. This world knows no joy so varied, so full, so manifold, so wonderful as the joy that comes to the one who is separated from the world and who meditates on the Word. I know all about the joy that comes from reading good literature; I have been a passionate devourer of books from early childhood. When I was a boy. I would get a book and hide away in some corner and devour it until my mother would come and say, “Oh, Archie, why don’t you take your gun and go out hunting?”

But all the joy that I have found in the study of the best literature, in the study of science, in the study of philosophy, can never for a moment compare to the joy that I have found in meditating on the Word of God. So sweet has that joy become that oftentimes I am tempted to say that I will read no book but the Bible. I remember one night the first winter I was in Chicago. I had been very busy that day, answering my correspondence, and teaching in the Bible Institute in the morning, studying in the afternoon, and preaching that night. I got to my house late, after 11 o’clock, pretty thoroughly tired. I sat down for a little while to find rest in Bible study before I went to bed. I was reading the Bible through in course and had reached the last book in the Bible. In those days I did not care as much for that book as for other books sometimes I had even been tempted to wish that the book was not in the Bible, but as that was where I was in my reading the Bible in course, I began reading the 11th chapter of the book. When I reached the 15th verse, The kingdoms of this world shall become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and he shall reign for ever and ever, such joy swept into my soul as I took in the meaning of the words that I do you know what I did? Of course you do. I shouted aloud. I was not brought up to shout in meeting. I was brought up in the Presbyterian and Episcopal churches. I never heard anyone say “Amen” except where it came in the regular place in the service until after I was in the ministry, and the first time a man said “Amen” when I was preaching it so upset me that I nearly lost the thread of my discourse. I cannot shout to this day in public, but, oh, when alone with God and His Book sometimes such a joy sweeps into the soul that nothing but a shout will give relief.

2. Second, we shall have beauty of character, “He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water.” What is more beautiful than a well-watered tree in full leaf, the maples and the oaks and the beeches in the East, our palms and pepper trees and umbrella trees here in the West? Well, the one who refrains from doing the three things mentioned above and does the two things mentioned will be just like that tree in full leaf. His character will be full of beauty. If we had time, I could show you from the Word of God how every grace of character is the result of Bible study. The Psalmist says in Psa_119:9, “Where withal shall a young man cleanse his way? by taking heed thereto according to thy word.” In the 11th verse he says, “Thy word have I hid in my heart, that I might not sin against thee.” Nothing else has the power to keep a man from sinning and nothing else has the power to adorn a man with all possible graces of character that the study of the Word of God has.

3. Third, we shall have fruitfulness in service. “Bringeth forth his fruit in his season.” Do we not all long to be fruitful Christians? So many of us are fruitless. The great secret of being fruitful is intelligent study of the Word of God. The Apostle Paul in writing to Timothy in 2Ti_3:16 says, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness. That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.” The Revised Version says, “complete, furnished completely unto every good work.” How? Through what the Apostle has just said, through the study of the inspired Word of God. A man may study everything else in the world, psychology, philosophy, pedagogy, and even theology, but if he does not study the Word of God he is not fitted for real work for God. He will have no measure of success in winning souls. But a man may be quite ignorant of other branches of knowledge but if he really studies and understands his Bible, he will have all the knowledge one needs to be a fruitful Christian and an efficient winner of souls.

4. Fourth. There will be one other result of not doing the three things and doing the two things, and that is prosperity in everything: “whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.” Are we not all seeking for prosperity ? There is no other way to get it than the way laid down in our text, but this road to prosperity is safe and sure. No one ever walked it without becoming prosperous in whatsoever he did. This, of course, does not mean necessarily that he will have what the world calls prosperity. He may not become a rich man, but he will have real prosperity in everything he undertakes. Some years ago I preached in Chicago a sermon on “The Power of the Word of God,” or “The Advantages of Bible Study.” I had in my congregation that morning a young man who was leading a rather defeated life. He was a Christian, but not a very effective Christian. He was a married man with a small family of children and was getting $12.50 a week. His work required him to get up at two or three o clock in the morning to go on the market to buy for the house for which he worked. As he listened to the sermon that morning he made up his mind that instead of getting up at two o clock or three o clock in the morning, he would get up at one or two o clock in the morning in order that he might have a solid hour for Bible study before going to his work. He came on in his Christian experience by leaps and bounds and he came on in his business relations too. “Within a year he went into business for himself. The first year he made $5,000 in his business, the next year I have been told that he made $10,000, and some one has told me that the next year he made $15,000, and he has gone on advancing from that day until this; but that is not the best of it, he came on in his Christian character and in his efficiency in Christian service. He is to-day one of the most used laymen in Chicago, identified with and a leader in every aggressive movement that is taken up by the Christians of the city, a tower of strength in his own church, a generous giver to the work of Christ at home and abroad, with three sons and one daughter following in his steps. “Whatsoever he doeth prospers.”

Now I am not saying that if anyone will begin to study the Bible an hour a day he will spring from $12.50 a week to $5,000 a year, but I am saying, and what is better, God’s Word says it, he will have real prosperity in everything he undertakes. Do you want blessedness in your heart, beauty in your character, fruitfulness in your service, and prosperity in everything you do, then stop walking in the counsel of the ungodly, stop standing in the way of sinners, stop sitting in the seat of the scornful and begin to delight in the law of the Lord and meditate therein day and night.

 

 

From “Morning and Evening” by C. H. Spurgeon

“The sweet psalmist of Israel.”
– 2Sa_23:1

Among all the saints whose lives are recorded in Holy Writ, David possesses an experience of the most striking, varied, and instructive character. In his history we meet with trials and temptations not to be discovered, as a whole, in other saints of ancient times, and hence he is all the more suggestive a type of our Lord. David knew the trials of all ranks and conditions of men. Kings have their troubles, and David wore a crown: the peasant has his cares, and David handled a shepherd’s crook: the wanderer has many hardships, and David abode in the caves of Engedi: the captain has his difficulties, and David found the sons of Zeruiah too hard for him. The psalmist was also tried in his friends, his counsellor Ahithophel forsook him, “He that eateth bread with me, hath lifted up his heel against me.” His worst foes were they of his own household: his children were his greatest affliction. The temptations of poverty and wealth, of honour and reproach, of health and weakness, all tried their power upon him. He had temptations from without to disturb his peace, and from within to mar his joy. David no sooner escaped from one trial than he fell into another; no sooner emerged from one season of despondency and alarm, than he was again brought into the lowest depths, and all God’s waves and billows rolled over him. It is probably from this cause that David’s psalms are so universally the delight of experienced Christians. Whatever our frame of mind, whether ecstasy or depression, David has exactly described our emotions. He was an able master of the human heart, because he had been tutored in the best of all schools-the school of heart-felt, personal experience. As we are instructed in the same school, as we grow matured in grace and in years, we increasingly appreciate David’s psalms, and find them to be “green pastures.” My soul, let David’s experience cheer and counsel thee this day.

 

Spiritual Liars by A. W. Pink

I came across this in my reading and knew I had to share it.

Spiritual Liars
Arthur Pink, 1937

“Remove from me the way of lying” (Psa_119:29). How we should be humbled by such a prayer as this, for it is evidently an appropriate one for all the Lord’s people. The fact that it is not only recorded in Holy Writ—but here in the 119th Psalm, rather than in the prayer of a particular individual on some special occasion, plainly intimates this.

There is nothing in all the Old Testament of wider latitude and of more general application, than the various petitions found in this Psalm—each of them is pertinent to the experiences and exigencies of all the saints, and the one now before us is certainly no exception, no matter how hesitant we may be to acknowledge the truth of it. Reader and writer alike are spiritual liars, guilty of dissembling before both man and God.

There are different kinds of lies; some are spoken—others are acted; some are intentional—others involuntary. We often pretend to be what we are not, and are indictable with much formality. We are guilty of making promises to God which we break; of uttering penitential confessions while our hearts are hard and unaffected; of asking for spiritual blessings for which we have no felt need; or returning thanks for mercies which have made no impression upon us. All of this is a species of abominable dissimulation.

When we are convicted and made conscience of the same we cry, “Remove from me the way of lying!” Below is a message recently sent to two dear souls who enjoy little assurance; may it please the Lord to make the same a blessing unto others of His distressed family.

“Remove from me the way of lying.” How well suited is this petition to the quickened child of God, who is often made painfully conscious of how much insincerity and hypocrisy is mixed up with his worship, supplications, repentance, and thanksgivings! When an honest heart examines his religious life, reviews his prayers, and ponders his character and conduct, he perceives how little reality and how much dissimulation characterizes all his spiritual exercises, until at times it seems that he himself and all pertaining to his solemn profession is only a sham. If it were not so it would be quite useless for him to pray.

“Remove from me the way of lying.” Observe how strongly this is expressed—not simply “deliver me from lying,” but “the way of lying”—a regular course, a confirmed habit.

Now the very fact that we find this petition so well-suited to our case, supplies clear evidence that we must be among those who are enabled to see themselves in God’s light, for no Satan-blinded and sin-deceived soul feels and knows himself to be a spiritual liar.

Moreover, the petitions which the Spirit of Truth has so graciously recorded in this 119th Psalm are most obviously neither designed for nor suited, to those who are dead in trespasses and sins. Should not this very consideration at least revive the spark of assurance which so often waxes dim in your breasts? Furthermore, the very fact that you can, from the depths of your soul, feelingly pray, “Remove from me the way of lying” is clear proof that you are not among those who love darkness rather than light. You want to be genuine with God, to be delivered from all insincerity, and this evidences an honest root amid the rank weeds and thistles of deception and formality.

Perhaps you answer, I follow you thus far—but alas, I have not the ear of God. Countless times have I confessed to Him my lack of sincerity, and begged Him, (in substance at least, if not in those identical words) to “Remove from me the way of lying”; but so far from my prayer being answered, I am conscious of increasing unreality in my devotions.

Thank God that you are so conscious, dear brother and sister—if God had given you up “to a reprobate mind” (as He had the sovereign right to do, and as He has countless millions of our fellow creatures), then you would be quite unconscious of “the deceitfulness of sin,” quite indifferent to the unreality of your devotions. I ask you, frankly, Is it not so? Yet, perhaps, that hardly removes your difficulty.

But this does, “Remove from me the way of lying,” like many another prayer, awaits its answer until the life to come! We were born in “the way of lying”—it is the very sphere in which “the flesh” lives, moves and has its being; the way of lying ends only when the flesh itself is removed. Until then, the quickened soul is burdened, exercised, shocked, plagued, grieved by it—by the unreality and formality of his devotions—and that very grief finds expression in this prayer which is so well suited to some exercises of soul.

Then step out of your mental gloom for a moment, into the warm sunshine of the clear implications of this verse, and thank God for having placed in your hands, yes, and put into your mouths—such a prayer as this, which, because it is so well suited to your case, denotes that you are entitled to make use of the same; which, in turn, proves you belong to that quickened company who are painfully aware of the plague of their own hearts.

 

An Interesting Quote

As I was reading today I came across the following quote, and it got me to thinking:

“Curiosity is often reprehensible. It is the fault of many to wish to pry into matters which they had much better never know. But there is one direction in which inquiry is never out of place. We can never be too anxious to know about Christ, the reasons of His movements, and the explanations of His doings (1Pe_1:10-12). Here anxious interest and casting about for light are not only legitimate, but necessary to our proper instruction, comfort, and salvation (Jam_1:5). But just here it is that the human heart is most sluggish. People spend their lives searching into questions of political and domestic economy, finance, commerce, agriculture, education. They toil and experiment touching the character, relations, and classifications of rocks, metals, soils, plants, insects, reptiles, animals, birds, and flowers. They explore and labour, at every expense and inconvenience, to make and test theories about the world. They rummage the darkest histories of the past, and exhaust their powers speculating upon the phenomena of human life, and perplex themselves about a thousand things in reference to which the best wisdom is as useless as it is scanty. But when it comes to the great and mighty movements of the Lord of all, the incarnation of Jehovah for the redemption of a world labouring under the curse of sin, and those moral and spiritual administrations, without which all the universe must be as nothing to us, they have no inquiries of living interest to propound. And to many an energetic sage and earnest searcher in departments not a thousandth part the account of this, the wronged and burdened Saviour is compelled to say, “I go My way to Him that sent Me; and none of you asketh Me, Whither goest Thou?” And especially in times of affliction, when the good Lord seems to withdraw Himself, and leave us to ourselves and our weaknesses, does the Saviour find occasion to complain of the deadness of men, paralyzed with their griefs, when they ought to be inquiring of Him about the reasons and objects of them. He has His explanations for all our days of darkness, and an antidote for every pain or privation we suffer, if only we had the faith and interest to ask after it. But the human heart is such an inveterate doubter, and so ready to give way before what is afflictive and dark, that we often miss the very consolations which are at hand, just because we are too dull and despondent to make the requisite inquiry” (J. A. Seiss, M. A.).

What did it get me to thinking?   The first thing I thought was how true this is of people, and then I thought how true this is of me.  Especially those last six lines!  I can’t tell you that I’ve fully digested all that these lines have brought to my mind, but I can see the light of truth shining through them, and I can see myself in them.  Perhaps, you can, too.

From “The Word For You Today” by Bruce Christian – Give Your Children These Four Things

    Something every parent should give their kids.

GIVE YOUR CHILDREN THESE FOUR THINGS

     Give your children these four things: (1) Instruction.  “Do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them slip from your heart as long as you live.  Teach them to your children” (Dt 4:9 NIV).  It is not the responsibility of the government or the school system to instill character and convictions in your child; it’s your job!  And God will hold you accountable for it.  (2) Correction.  “Discipline your children while there is hope” (Pr 19:18 NLT).  Children who know how far they can go are relieved of a great burden.  Knowing your authority will stand gives them security.  When they learn that no really means NO, they’ll be able to say it to others, and to their own impulses.  (3) Blessing.  “Joseph said to his father, ‘They are my sons’…And he (Jacob) said, ‘Bring them….and I will bless them.”  Old Testament parents laid hands on their children because they believed the blessing of God was transferrable.  If nobody did this for you then start a new tradition,  for with God’s blessing comes peace, long life, and prosperity (See Dt 28).  That’s why the enemy has attacked you so often; he’s trying to break the link through which the blessing of God comes.  Don’t let him.  (4) Example.  A great preacher once looked into the crib of his infant son, and prayed: “Lord, if ever You made a man, make me one now.  Let my life, my example and my prayers mold him into someoneYou can use.  And, Lord, let me die twenty-four hours before I say or do anything that would cause him to stumble.”

A Thought on Criticism and Trust

     Have you ever wondered as you listen to people how they got their views?  How their worldview developed, what kinds of things must they have experienced that would cause them to think, act, and say the things they do?  Sometimes, I can’t help it, I wonder do they have any sense of how they’re coming across; any idea of the kind of impression they’re making as they go about their lives. 

     I can’t speak for them, but I can speak for myself.  When I look at myself and my relationships with other people, I often wonder what kind of impression I’m making; what other people might be thinking of me.  How do I come across?  Do I come across as being someone who’s judgmental, arrogant, and know-it-all? 

     I like to think I know myself, who I am, but I know that I have blind spots, and sometimes I fail to see what others see when they look at me.  I’d be less than honest, if I said I didn’t care, but when it comes right down to it, I don’t care nearly as much about what people think of me as I used to.  I’ve learned over the years that trying to please everyone, trying to change to fit someone else’s idea of who I should be, just doesn’t work.  The only thing trying to please everyone, and changing to be what someone else wants you to be, gets you is a lot of disappointment, anger, and heartache.  It’s the surest way I know to be miserable.

     Now, I’m not saying that we should just tell everybody to drop dead, and go to you know where if they don’t agree with us, or think there might be room for us to improve, but rather than just dismissing them out of hand, that we at least give a differing viewpoint an opportunity for examination and contemplation.  I have a rule-of-thumb that I use when listening to criticism – especially when it’s directed at me – that I always (as much as I can) look at the person giving it.  Opinions matter when they come from people who matter, and I mean people who matter to you.  Now maybe that doesn’t sound very nice, but when it comes to our lives, our souls, our minds, and our hearts I don’t think just anybody’s imput should be taken as 100% fact.

     Remember that motive matters, so before you take something someone says into your heart, mind, body, and soul, I believe it’s okay to ask the questions: why are they saying this, and what are they hoping to get out of it?  We have to remember that not everyone we meet, not even those closest to us, always have the best intentions.  It never hurts to look at who benefits from what is being said to you.  Is the fact that someone loves us a good test of criticism?  Not always.  Just because someone loves you doesn’t necessarily mean that they won’t lie to you, or mislead you; that they won’t use you to get what they want.  It should, but sadly, it doesn’t always.  Still, it’s a good place to start. 

     It really boils down to who do you trust.  Trust is something we give too readily to most people, too willingly, and we do so to our peril.   Your trust is the most precious gift you can give to another.  Nothing, and I mean nothing, you have, will ever have, or give is more precious than trust.  Nothing you ever recive in this world, no amount of money, will equal the wealth you’ll have in this one – this single one- possession you’ll own if you’re lucky enough to have it.

     And this is why, I believe, that our trust is the thing that God cherishes and treasures above all else that we, as human beings, can give. 

Here’s some food for further thought:

 “Duties are ours, events are God’s; When our faith goes to meddle with events, and to hold account upon God’s Providence, and beginneth to say, ‘How wilt Thou do this or that?’ we lose ground; we have nothing to do there; it is our part to let the Almighty exercise His own office, and steer His own helm; there is nothing left for us, but to see how we may be approved of Him, and how we roll the weight of our weak souls upon Him who is God omnipotent, and when we thus essay miscarrieth, it shall be neither our sin nor our cross.” 

Samuel Rutherford, quoted in Prodigals and Those Who Love Them, Ruth Bell Graham, 1991, Focus on the Family Publishing, p. 106.

One day, while my son Zac and I were out in the country, climbing around in some cliffs, I heard a voice from above me yell, “Hey Dad! Catch me!” I turned around to see Zac joyfully jumping off a rock straight at me. He had jumped and them yelled “Hey Dad!” I became an instant circus act, catching him. We both fell to the ground. For a moment after I caught him I could hardly talk. 

When I found my voice again I gasped in exasperation: “Zac! Can you give me one good reason why you did that???”

He responded with remarkable calmness: “Sure…because you’re my Dad.” His whole assurance was based in the fact that his father was trustworthy. He could live life to the hilt because I could be trusted. Isn’t this even more true for a Christian? 

Tim Hansel, Holy Sweat, 1987, Word Books Publisher, pp. 46-47.

A Thought on Character Assassination

     As I’m sitting here in front of my computer, I’m thinking about all the things I’ve seen today that I could write about.  I’ve seen a good many things that I haven’t liked, and if I were to go into detail about all of them there’s a good chance this post would be entitled “The Never Ending Post.”  There’s simply so much to choose from anymore when it comes to seeing things I dislike.  Knowing though that I can’t write about everything, I’ll write about this one thing that I didn’t like.

     I was watching a news program (I won’t say which one) in which they showed a story about Nancy Pelosi threatening to disclose information she had concerning  GOP candidate Newt Gingrich.  Now, I’m not here to talk about Nancy Pelosi or Newt Gingrich, but rather about the issue of character and ethics.  Rather the lack of them in this case.  I don’t know Nancy Pelosi or Newt Gingrich personally – only through their public lives as portrayed by the media – so just like everybody else, I only know what I see from how they’re portrayed by the news.

     As far as I know, the media hasn’t taken to putting words into the mouths of the people they cover – though I think some would if they could – so I know that Nancy Pelosi did indeed threaten to reveal information about Newt Gingrich she obtained as part of a group investigation into  Mr. Gingrich’s ethical practices years ago.  I’m no expert, so please don’t take what I say as 100% fact, but I believe that Mr. Gingrich was absolved of most if not all of the allegations against him.  If I’m incorrect please let me know.  The thing I do know is that she would be in violation of the ethics laws of the senate to reveal what she knows.

     I have my own opinion about these people as, I’m sure you do, but I found it distasteful that she would go on national t.v. and essentially threaten to blackmail someone.   Am I the only one who sees something wrong in this?  When did it become okay for people – especially people in public – to come on national t.v. and suggest wrong-doing on the part of someone; to make charges against someone’s character without proof, and – in Mrs. Pelosi’s case – knowing that to do so would be breaking the law. 

     What’s worse is the fact that the media doesn’t even try to confirm facts anymore, nor does anyone.  It saddens me greatly that we now live in a society where people are guilty until they’re proven innocent.  We don’t like someone – for any reason – all we have to do is make something up, just suggest, imply, intimate, that something is askew, and, if it’s our aim to hurt or damage someone, then we’ve accomplished our goal.

     Take, for instance, the story of Herman Cain.  As of today, I have not seen one shred of evidence that Mr. Cain is guilty of anything, other than perhaps bad judgment.  Yet, I have heard political pundits on t.v. say that he is guilty of adultery.  I have not seen any evidence put forth that would convict him in a court of law: no times, no places, no receipts, no witnesses, nothing more than inference, innuendo, suggestion.  I don’t know the man, but I do know that he deserved more than what he got from the media. 

     We live in a country where it’s easy to assassinate someone’s character with nothing more than the power of suggestion, and this saddens me.  There have been too many people ruined, damaged by the carelessness and irresponsibility of others to look for the truth and nothing else.

From 2000+ Illustrations (Source Unknown)

     Great wrongs happen by degree. 

Tracing Character to Its Source

During a thunder storm that contained high winds, a giant oak tree was blown down. The tree was thought to be in perfect health; that is, from outward appearance it seemed to be in good health since it was almost perfectly shaped and full of green leaves. However, the massive tree could not withstand the stress of the high wind because of deterioration on the inside. What started as a tiny corruption at the center of the tree had spread until that tremendous tree was so weakened that it was toppled by the wind.

One may reach a point where he forsakes God altogether. It is because he (like the tree) has decayed on the inside. Perhaps the deterioration started with a little lie or one small drink of beer or forsaking the assembly to go fishing or camping. Long before our feet carry us where we ought not go, and our hands do what they ought not do, the desire is in our hearts (Psa_119:9-11). With pure hearts we will be able to stand the stress of temptation and the stress of everyday living.

 

From Illustrations & Poems selected by Wayne Augden (Source Unknown)

     Character is developed not by the things that happen to us, but by what we do with the things that happen to us.  It’s what we take from our circumstances, and how we use what we experience to benefit ourselves and others that reveal our character. 

Building a Noble Character

In a great cathedral in Europe, there is a window made by an apprentice out of the bits of stained glass that were thrown away as worthless refuse when the other windows were made; this is the most beautiful window of all. You can build a noble character for yourself, in spite of all the hurts and injuries done consciously or unconsciously by others, with the fragments of the broken hopes, joys and the lost opportunities that lie strewn about your feet. No matter how badly others have hurt and marred you, they cannot prevent you from building a beautiful character for yourself; conversely, others by their best work cannot cause you to build a beautiful character. The fine character of your father or mother is not yours; you’ve got to build your own.