Character

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Happy New Year!

 Goals are what most people focus on at the beginning of a new year. As I was praying about what to write, I felt I should discuss character. For without good character, success means nothing.

 Character has to do with the mental and moral qualities distinctive to an individual; a person’s good reputation. Synonyms are: integrity, honor, moral strength, moral fiber, strength, fortitude, backbone, resolve, grit, willpower, reputation.

 In the bible, there are several places that tell us where strength of character comes from.

 1 Corinthians 1:30 says that Jesus is our wisdom, righteousness, holiness, and redemption. As believers in Christ, we get strength of character through our relationship with the Lord. It’s in our DNA. We grow in it as we grow in our knowledge of who we are in Christ. God is holy and we are too because we are in him.

 Trials and troubles help form character as we endure through them. Enduring means we continually put our trust in the Lord through tough times. As we trust him, it develops strength of character in us. Romans 5:3-5 and James 1:2-4 attest to this. When our faith is tested, endurance grows. As our endurance is developed, we become strong in character and ready for anything. It’s going through those tough times with joy because of our trust in the Lord. We have joy and peace in believing. True character development comes through faith in God.

 In Matthew 13 and Mark 4, Jesus tells the story of a farmer planting seed. In it, he speaks of different types of ground the seed is sown on. The seed that lands in the gravel is like a person who hears God’s word and instantly responds with enthusiasm. Because there is no character, when the emotions wear off and difficulty arises, they have nothing to show for it.

How often do we hear something, get excited about it. and when it gets difficult, stop going in the right direction? It happens at this time of year all the time. We make New Year’s resolutions and don’t keep them. The gyms are packed in January. After that, the numbers continually go downhill because people don’t endure. They give up. We all do it. We decide we are going to improve, but don’t want to pay the price for the improvement. When we do stick to it and pay the price, the benefits far outweigh the cost. We accomplish something and good character is built in us.

I want to encourage you to endure through the hard, difficult times. When you do, good character is developed and it makes for smooth traveling. Proverbs 11:5

Generosity

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What is something God cannot do without? According to 2 Corinthians 9:7 in the Amplified translation, he can’t do without “a cheerful, joyous, prompt-to-do-it giver whose heart is in their giving.”

Christmas is a time for giving, as we all know. Sometimes the purpose of our heart is not to give. Sometimes we give because we have to. Have you ever given somebody something because they gave you something? Many times I’ve heard people say they needed to send someone a Christmas card because one was sent to them. OR how about buying someone a gift because they bought you one?

God’s not looking for us to give without having heart. 2 Corinthians 9 talks about allowing giving to be the purpose of our heart. It exhorts us to give not because we have to and not to give reluctantly, half-heartedly, or unwillingly. It should be a main part of the purpose for living.

God’s nature is to give and if you are a Christian, it’s your nature too. John 3:16 is the most familiar verse in the world. What does it say about God? It says because he loved, he gave. This doesn’t mean we only give to people we love. God gave to us while we were in a vile state, as sinners. God didn’t love that about us, but he loved us and wanted us to be part of his family. The only requirement for it was to receive his son, Jesus as the Lord of our lives. It was to receive his gift.

When someone is given a gift, they can receive or not. They can decide to use it or let it sit on a shelf. It’s the same with the free gift of God in Jesus Christ. We can receive him and allow him to make a difference in our lives, or hear the truth and let it sit dormant somewhere, or say “No, I don’t want this gift.” It seems crazy for us to do either of these things, but we do.

When my husband, Robb, first received the Lord, I said, “No thanks. I’m a good, religious person. I’m not like you.” Then I saw the change God made in Robb’s life. He was a completely different man. It was faith in God that changed him. I realized I needed what he had. He had a relationship with God that I did not have, although I was religious.

Let’s get back to allowing giving to be the purpose of our heart. When we have God’s nature in us, we can give to people we don’t want to because it’s the purpose of God’s heart to be a giver. Our purpose should be to give, not because we have to, but because we get to. What a joy and privilege it is to give to others! 

During this Christmas season allow God’s love to control you so the purpose of your heart is to be a giver like he is.

MERRY CHRISTMAS TO ALL!

Gratefulness

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Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. For me, it paves the way for Christmas. I love to give, but being thankful puts me in a frame of mind to be more giving.

I think it’s really good to focus on being thankful before the Christmas season begins. Thankfulness gets us to thinking about what we have and how blessed we are all year long. Then we won’t be disappointed when we don’t get what we want and we won’t become self-centered. Gratefulness paves the way for being a giver.

Grateful people are giving people even when they don’t have a lot. They give of themselves as well as give what they have.

There are lots of benefits to being a thankful person. Here are a few I’ve found.

Grateful people are happier.

Gratefulness improves our relationships.

Gratefulness improves our health. 

An attitude of gratitude causes us to be more optimistic.

Gratitude increases our ability to appreciate and enjoy the good things in life.

1 Thessalonians 5:18 states it very simply – “No matter what happens, always be thankful, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.”

God wants us to be thankful. He’s given us everything in Christ Jesus. What more can we ask for? As we think about all he has done for us, it should cause us to be grateful from now and throughout eternity.

I want to encourage you to keep a gratitude journal. Every day write down at least one thing you are thankful for. You can write more than one if you like. It will help to keep your perspective on the good report. It will make your life better in every way. It will bring you great peace.

Shame

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All of us have experienced shame of one form or another. It may have been in a minor way (which actually is embarrassment), like having your pants split in public, or in a major way, like something really bad you did from your past. NO matter what, we all deal with it.

The truth is Jesus bore our shame. He wiped our slate. He made us righteous in him. We are his masterpiece. As we embrace what God’s word says about us, it enables us to stand tall knowing who we are in Christ and whose child we are.

Romans 10:11 is a powerful affirmation of this.

Rom. 10:11 “NO ONE WHO BELIEVES IN HIM SHALL HAVE REASON TO FEEL ASHAMED.” Weymouth

Rom. 10:11 Scripture says, “Whoever believes in him will not be ashamed.” God’s Word Translation

Colossians 1:22 says that we are blameless in God’s sight because of the blood of Jesus. This means we are innocent of wrongdoing, without guilt, faultless, above reproach. With this there is nothing to be ashamed of. When God looks at us he sees Jesus.

Recently, I saw a movie about a girl who was a little chunky and did not like herself. She fell and hit her head. As a result of the fall, she began to think she was pretty. She walked confidently, faced people and challenges, and went after her dreams as a result of the change.

When we come into a relationship with the Lord, we change our thinking. We renew our mind to what God says about us in his word. Shame leaves because we embrace what God says.

Shame keeps us from walking confidently.

Shame keeps us from pursuing our dreams.

Shame makes us shrink back.

In Christ the shame is gone. It’s been lifted.

We can do all things through Christ which strengthens us.

We are more than conquerors because of God’s love for us.

We are without fault.

We are blameless.

We are God’s masterpiece created in Christ.

We are fearfully and wonderfully made.

We are made in God’s image and likeness.

No matter what kind of shame tries to come our way, we have the antidote. It is a Father who loves us and has written many wonderful things about who he created us to be. We look and act just like him.

We have the ability to stand with confidence before shame or any negative thought that comes our way and declare,

“NO SHAME FOR ME. I AM FREE.”

 My prayer is that we would believe what God says about us so we can walk free from any shame.

Listening to the Holy Spirit

Did you ever think you were supposed to do something & you didn’t?

Has the Lord ever spoken to you about something minor and you dismissed it?

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. There have been a number of times when a thought came to me to go in a particular direction, call someone, do something now, etc. and I didn’t do it.

For example, one day I was driving home from downtown and the thought came into my head to take the Dan Ryan Expressway vs. Interstate 55. I took I-55 because it was the way I usually take. There was a lot of traffic. What should have taken me 35-40 minutes took me an hour and a half!!!! I never checked to see what traffic was like on the Dan Ryan, but I’m sure Holy Spirit was trying to show me a better way. Obviously, this wasn’t a life threatening decision, but it could’ve been. Sometimes the Lord reroutes us in order for us to avoid an accident. We never know what could have happened had we gone another way, but God does. We only need to listen and obey.

When I go shopping for people, I always pray and ask the Lord to lead me to the right item for the person and for a good price. He always comes through for me. Before I started praying, I did not enjoy shopping. I would go from store to store thinking I would discover something better at the next store and leave the mall empty-handed.

God cares about everything in our lives.

He cares about the little things. As we listen when He tells us something minor, it is training to hear and obey concerning the big decisions in life. Each step in life leads to another. Oftentimes, we do not understand how little steps prepare us for big ones.

Think about a baby. When a baby begins to walk, they take small steps, are not stable and kind of waddle from side to side. The more they walk the more proficient they get at it, until the time comes when they are balanced and fast. It takes practice. The muscles have to be used. When they are used it becomes natural for the muscles. It is no longer a consciously learned response.

It is the same concerning listening to the Lord.

He is always talking to us. He doesn’t speak loud. He is a gentleman. His voice is soft and clear. The other voices in our head are usually loud. God doesn’t get down on us when we don’t listen. He encourages us to listen next time.

Hebrews 5:12-14 tells us that as we use God’s word our senses get exercised to discern good from evil. Following the Lord takes practice. As we follow we get better at listening and then our actions follow.

-- Linda Thompson


CONFESSION 

The Holy Spirit leads and guides me into all the truth and shows me things to come.

However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come. - John 16:13


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