2021 – Focus on God’s Purpose

Bob Weighton celebrated his 112th birthday during the Coronavirus outbreak in 2020, which meant he wasn’t able to have a party or be with friends. That’s a shame, because on that day Bob became the oldest living man on earth. The Guinness World Records organization sent him a certificate, and newspapers hailed him in heroic terms. Friends sang “Happy Birthday” from a distance while Weighton, a former missionary school teacher, listened on his balcony.

“I can’t say I am pleased to hear that the previous record holder has died, but I am pleased that I’ve been able to live so long and make so many friends,” he said.

When asked about the virus, he said, “It’s bizarre. I’ve never experienced anything like coronavirus before. I’m a bit frustrated, but then again I’ve been in situations where you just had to accept what was happening.”

Then he summed up the wisdom of a 112-year-old: “There is nothing we can do about it so you might as well do what you can. Never mind about the things that you can’t.”

That’s the key. Focus on what you can do. There’s plenty you can’t do, but there’s one thing we can all do: we can follow God’s deep desire for us to grow into the image of Jesus Christ. Paul said, “I press on. That I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me” (Philippians 3:12).

That is God’s ultimate purpose for you and for all of us. Of course, He also has an individual plan for your life and for mine. But seriously, consider God’s ultimate purpose for your life — that you may become more and more like His Son, Jesus Christ. Romans 8:29 says, “For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son.”

John Bray was Dean of Chapel at Indiana Wesleyan University. He and his wife were popular with students, and his chapel messages were full of life and truth. Then Bray was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. The onset of symptoms led him to resign his position, but he simply continued looking ahead. He continued moving forward.

“Everyone gets a diagnosis of some kind sometime in their life,” Bray told the campus newspaper. “There’s no reason I shouldn’t.”

He told his students he is not asking why. “I can’t change what’s happened to me, so why is not a pivotal question in my life. Now, ‘how will I glorify God in the midst of all this?’ That’s at the heart of almost every major decision a Christ-follower needs to make.”

Speaking of his disability, Bray said, “Even this, that I don’t like, is designed to shape me more like Christ.”

That is the voice of someone who has grasped onto God’s purpose for his life, and no matter what comes at him, he will not let go.

Matt Mooney is a professional basketball player who, like every athlete, tries to excel at his sport, with its victories and setbacks. He’s also a dedicated follower of Jesus. “I know God has a great plan for me. I trust in Him. His purpose for me is to glorify Him playing the game.” 

He said, “I can’t take the game of basketball with me to eternity. The only thing that is eternal is God and Jesus. I realized that years ago. When I started really focusing on my faith, I realized no matter how I played, good or bad, God still loved me and I still had my salvation intact.”

Pastor Rick Warren wrote, “Your spiritual transformation in developing the character of Jesus will take the rest of your life, and even then it won’t be complete here on earth. It will only be finished when you get to heaven or when Jesus returns.”

When God looks at you and evaluates you, He wants you to become more and more like Jesus, to follow Him closely and to emulate His life so that Christ is seen in you more and more. That only happens as you put your focus on Him. 

2021 – Be Who God Called You To Be! – Part Two

When you think about it, there’s no story in the Bible without a little fear and excitement. God always calls us into the unknown. I have never seen one single story in the Bible where God enters someone’s life and says, “You know what? You’re doing great. Just keep doing what you’re doing.”

No. He always calls his people to new levels of obedience, if not a new direction entirely. God enters Paul’s life and everything changes. God enters Jonah’s life, and everything changes. God enters David’s life, Moses’s life, Mary’s life. The list goes on and on. He’s a disruptive God. Even Job, who actually was doing great, had his life changed when God intervene. No one is safe.

I think Jacob got to do physically what we get to do daily, and that is wrestle with God.

In 2005, Steve Jobs (co-founder of Apple Computers) gave a commencement speech at Stanford University. He shared with the students a profound practice that he did daily. Every day, Steve Jobs looked in the mirror and asked himself the question, “If today were the last day of your life, would you want to be doing what you’re doing?” He then observed, “Whenever the answer has been no for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.”

I’d say, whenever the answer has been no for too many days in a row, you’re probably not hearing God’s voice. Or you’re not responding to His leading. Because He isn’t silent. He’s quite loud once you want to hear. I just don’t know if you want to hear Him. I think this is why Jesus often said, “Whoever has ears, let them hear.” Of course, everyone has ears, but only a few use them.

Have you ever heard the Holy Spirit referred to as the Comforter? That’s such a funny name to give the Holy Spirit. Talk about misleading! Sometimes I think that name is just an inside joke they giggle at in Heaven, because here’s the truth. In all my life, no one has asked me to do more uncomfortable things than the Holy Spirit!

He’s always got something new for me to do, and it’s rarely safe, easy, or convenient.

However, over the years, the Holy Spirit’s direction has become less scary and more exciting. Not because there’s no risk now. If anything, the stakes are higher. The difference is that I’ve seen His faithfulness. I’ve even seen His ridiculousness. I’ve seen His show up, and I’ve seen Him show off.

I feel like God is slowly but surely trying to make us comfortable in the uncomfortable. Our plans and God’s plans don’t always line up. But maturity comes when we trust His ways more than our wants. 

When was the last time you felt God calling you to do something that scared you but also got you a little excited to see how your obedience could play out?

This generation will continue abandoning the Church if the Church continues to abandon the mission. But show me a church led by fearful, exciting obedience, and I’ll show you a church full of young people forming new heroes. 

2021 – Be Who God Called You To Be! – Part One

There is an author I have been recently introduced to. He has written a number of Christian books on loving others as Jesus loves us with the slant towards loving the non-believers into the Kingdom (the word we all hate: ‘evangelism’) I have taken a liking to him because he is simply being himself and being real. And young people are drawn to him.

There’s an idea floating in the church that you have to dress really cool, be up to date with pop culture, use all the new slang, maybe get some tattoos, and then maybe you’ll be able to connect with young people for Jesus. But this author is breaking all the rules. He’s just being unashamedly, unapologetically who God’s called him to be, and it’s a breath of fresh air for young and old alike. But the really religious people find him hard to swallow.

Another author I read a lot of wrote about this first author I mentioned:

“A few years ago, some friends and I had the privilege of grabbing lunch with him. And by that I mean he put his phone number in the back of his national bestselling book, so I called him. (Talk about making yourself available for people to join your life.) It was one of the coolest experiences because he told me something I’m never going to forget. Let me preface, however, by saying that he is a husband, father, bestselling author, public speaker, the director of Restore International, a lawyer, a professor, and the honorary consul of the Republic of Uganda. He’s also fifty-eight years old. 

Baffled by the amount of work he does for the kingdom, I asked, “…how are you able to do so much? It’s inspiring. But honestly, I don’t know how you get it’ll done at your age.”

“I don’t sleep,” he told me without missing a beat. My friends and I laughed because we thought he was joking. He continued, “No. Really. I don’t sleep. Lat night I slept for five hours and got my first call from Uganda at five in the morning.” He smiled and then said three sentences I will never forget. “I want to die exhausted. We have eternity to rest. Until then, let’s do things.”

He continued… 

That statement was so incredibly simple yet so incredibly profound, It wasn’t inspiring because he works so hard and doesn’t sleep. It was inspiring because he’s a fifty-eight-year-old man who dares to sacrifice his sleep and comfort for the greater cause. I have never in my life heard an older Christian say anything remotely close to “I want to die exhausted” for the gospel’s sake. A statement like that is seen as irresponsible and audacious. But I think the church needs to redeem the word audacity. Sometimes what the world calls audacity, God calls childlike faith.

My comment…

So, as I read all this and more I personally related to this man’s heart. There is so much to accomplish for the Kingdom and yet so few bothering to fulfill the call that is on every believer’s life. And, it seems the older a person becomes the less they are willing to step out in faith and risk their comfort and safety and security. I think that is seriously sad. And not biblical.

Here’s what I do know. When Christians have outlandish, outrageous faith, it reveals cultural Christianity for what it actually is: boring and ineffective. That kind of faith is contagious. And when it’s coming from an older Christian, it’s inspiring. It should make young people think, Man, I want to have that kind of faith at that age. What will it take for me to live like that when I’m older?

Someone once said, “If the size of the vision you have for your life isn’t intimidating to you, there’s a good chance it’s insulting to God.”

And just to be clear, a big vision doesn’t need to be moving to another country or having a large platform. It just has to involve doing something that scares you a bit, but excites you a ton. The younger generation wants to be disciples by older men and women who walk in a little fear and excitement when they respond to the Lord. 

More next time…

Recent News

As we enter the first full week of the New Year 2021 my thoughts turn to behaviour and lifestyle.

As a leader I realize that I can’t lead what I don’t live. In other words, my actions can speak louder than my words and nullify what I am saying. As a leader I can’t ask my people to do what I am not willing to first do myself.

As believers we should take the start of a new year to examine what is it we believe as Christ-followers and then see if how we live lines up with what we say we hold to be the truth. Again, often the way we live, the way we speak, and the way we behave can speak louder than what we say we believe deep in our hearts. One contradicting the other. Our talk and our walk must line up. What we believe on the inside must effect and even transform how we live on the outside – in our family, at work, in the community, and even in the church fellowship itself.

This is a question of integrity. Living what we say that we believe. Leading in a way that shows what we truly believe.

We are flawed, weak and broken people being put back together by the grace of Jesus. That is all our God has to work with. Even the apostle Paul, after being transformed by the grace of Jesus, was still in awe that God would use “the worst of sinners to accomplish heavenly purposes” (1 Timothy 1:15).

So, how do we live (and lead) with integrity when we are broken vessels?

Continue Reading…

 

Blogs for the week of January 18th to 22nd, 2021

Monday the 18th – “Look Around and Meet a Need”
Tuesday the 19th – “Time to Plant a Tree”
Wednesday the 20th – “Be Who God Called You To Be – Part One”
Thursday the 21st – “Be Who God Called You To Be – Part Two”
Friday the 22nd – “Focus On God’s Purpose”

 

These can be found at www.ralphhoweministries.com

You can also sign up and have them automatically delivered to you email inbox every weekday

 

Introducing….

We are introducing “Transformation Ministries” which has just begun ministering after months of preparation and prayer. This is another but separate outreach of Ralph Howe Ministries which is now entering its third decade of ministry.

As a result of a number of prophetic words received since October, 2015 Ralph, along with a number of young leaders from several nations, has formed this ministry to take the Gospel, which is the power of God unto salvation, to the next generation. This ministry will be transforming lives as they plant churches and open safe centers for those who are looking for freedom and a new way of life.

Transformation Ministries will be raising up and training young leaders who are willing to “go and make disciples of all nations.” This ministry will find, train, mentor, and release young men and women who serious about Jesus and are wanting to make a major difference in this world desiring to see lives transformed by the power of the Gospel.

Transformation Ministries will also be focused on ministering to those between the ages of 16 and 36 as it plants house churches on university campuses in the nations where Ralph has already established his ministry. And, it will be planting house churches for young people in cities and towns where the next generation is not yet being impacted with the Gospel.

Transformation Ministries is focusing on seeing young lives totally and supernaturally transformed by the power of the Gospel and then equipped and released to touch the lives of other youth around the world.

As a registered charity in the nation of Canada we are reaching out to nations of the world with the powerful, transforming message of the Gospel.

 

Ralph Howe Ministries is run completely from donations. Expenses such as airplane travel, web design and management and visa documents come out of these givings. Your donations also help to support many young families as men and women all over the world obey God’s command to reach the nations with the gospel!

If you would like to give to Ralph Howe Ministries, simply click the Donate button on the right of the home screen.

2021 – Time to Plant a Tree

There is an old Chinese proverb that says, “The best time to plant a tree was twenty years ago. The second-best time is now.”

And I would say that the best time to have told your friends and neighbours about Jesus was 20 years ago. The second nest time is now.

When I was first saved and born again there was a move of the Holy Spirit that was setting people and churches on fire for God. Back then (late 1970’s) you would hear things like this:

    • “Be on fire for Jesus!”
    • “Invite all your friends to Church!”
    • “Tell everyone you know about Jesus!”
    • “Change your school with the gospel!”
    • “Make Him know on and off the playing field!”
    • “Be a cry on the hill, different than others!”
    • “Be salt and light in your community!”

Fast forward a few years and you don’t hear those kinds of comments any more. The Great Commission to go into al the world and make disciples” is seldom taught on and few ever hear about it from the pulpit and church classrooms. Today you’ll be hard-pressed to find people in the pews who are sharing the gospel with their neighbours (if they even know them), who are changing their workplace for Christ, and who are using their talents to impact the city.

It seems that the older we get and the longer we have known Jesus, the safer we live. But Jesus never called us to live safe, secure, and comfortable lives. Safe faith isn’t biblical faith! It seems the longer we have known Jesus the less likely we are to tell our neighbours and friends about Him. 

Now, let’s comment on the fact that young people are leaving the Church. Those who are in the age group called the Millennials are leaving the Church in substantial numbers. Stay with me as these two different streams of thought are really one. I will link them up in a minute.

Research has found that 70 percent of young adults leave the church at or about the age of nineteen. I am often asked “why has the younger generation abandoned the Church?” My answer is that I think the older generation has abandoned the mission of reaching the lost. So, the Millennials see a Church that has no purpose and no vision or goal and thus leave it because to them that means the Church is irrelevant. 

Statistics also show that among Millennials the number of them sharing their faith on a regular basis is increasing. They no longer attend Church but they are still in love with Jesus and more determined than the Church to share Him with others.

These studies are basically saying there is a mass exodus of young people from the Church, but they are sharing their faith more than ever once they’re out. It’s as if they’re graduating from the Church but not necessarily abandoning the faith. It seems this younger generation see the need for this dark world to know Christ but does’t see the Church as a viable way to make that happen.

It seems that the young people share because they have nothing to lose. But the older we get the less we share Jesus because we have more to lose – reputation, position, income, wealth, authority, friendships. 

It’s a lot safer to just be a believer and not be a disciple maker. Then you can agree but not do. There’s less risk involved when we just agree with Jesus. We abandon the mission because it costs us too much — our time, our resources, and especially our convenience. 

Have you ever noticed that older people don’t usually have scabs? Think about it. Scabs are what you get when you’re young. You get them on the playground from running too fast, jumping too high, or playing too hard. But as you get older, you don’t attempt anything that could give you scabs. Because our bodies have more to lose if something goes wrong.

Again, it seems that the older you get the safer you live. It seems that this is true of our faith journey also. It seems we have restricted the fun and powerful glory days of our faith to our youth. 

Francis Chan once spoke about his frustration with this notion. Both of his parents passed away in their forties, so it taught him to number his days. He talked about how he never knows if this is his last day before meeting Jesus. But instead of letting this sobering reality paralyze him, he’s allowed it to ignite his faith. He said, “It just doesn’t make sense to me. If you’re close to seeing God, why are we living such a safe life? And what the heck are we saving for? We go backward in the church, where we do crazy things when you’re eighteen, and then we start to live safer and safer every year.”

So, no matter what age you are, consider this: if today truly was your last day, what would you do with it?

I can guarantee that whatever you’d do, it wouldn’t be safe. It would involve meaningful risk. Whether it was restoring a broken relationship, telling that loved one about Jesus, or fulfilling an item on your bucket list, it wouldn’t be safe.

Time to plant a tree … 

2021 – Look Around and Meet a Need

Many years ago I heard a phrase that has stuck with me ever since. The phrase was, “Find a need and meet it.” Good advice then when I first heard it and still good advice today. Often in the Church we see people struggling to determine the calling on their life. What is it that God wants them to do? Of course, they are thinking about being a pastor, an evangelist, a teacher of the Bible… But, they have no idea how to really find out what it is God wants them to be doing. 

Well, it is simple really. Live life to the fullest engaged with others and the real world. As you engage with and embrace life you will find a need and meet it. Then, in the process of helping others, you will sense, feel, and discover what it is that God is calling you to do. That one, unique thing that you were created to do. Often you will find this ‘one thing’ almost by accident as you live life and meet a need.

A true story….

One Sunday afternoon in 1771, a man named Valentin Haüy ducked into a restaurant in Paris for dinner. He sat near the stage, and the show that evening featured blind people in a comedy routine. They were objects of ridicule and cruelty. The act was designed to make fun of their blindness. Deeply offended, Haüy began to develop a burden for the blind.

Sometime later he spotted a sightless street urchin who was begging for coins outside a Parisian church. Giving the boy some money, Haüy was amazed to see the boy feel the raised markings on the coins to distinguish the amounts. That gave Haüy an idea. Why couldn’t books be written with raised letter, like images on coins? Why couldn’t people learn to read with their fingers? Haüy took the boy off the streets, offered him food and shelter, devised a plan with wooden blocks and numbers, and taught the boy to read. In 1784, Haüy started the world’s first school for blind children. It was in Paris, and one of the first teachers was the blind boy rescued from the streets.

But that’s just the beginning.

Several years later, another boy named Louis was born in the village of Coupvray, France. His father was a farmer and harness maker, and as a toddler Louis loved watching his father work with leather tools. But tragedy stuck in 1812 when three-year-old Louis was playing with a leftover strap of leather, trying to punch holes in it. His hand slipped, and the sharp tool punctured and put out his eye. An infection set in that spread to the other eye, and little Louis ended up blind in both eyes for life.

A local minister names Jacques Palluy loved the boy and began visiting him to read to him the Bible. Seeing the boy had a good mind, Father Jacques determined he should receive an education. So at age ten. Louis was enrolled in the school Haüy had established in Paris, where he proved to be a brilliant student.

Eventually Louis began teaching other students in the Paris School for the Blind. He studied Haüy’s method of reading, and he also became aware of a system of military communication developed by a French army captain that allowed soldiers to communicate in the dark by running their fingers over a series of dots and dashes. Though still a teenager, Louis Braille began adapting these systems into a program of his own; in 1829, at age twenty, he published a little book on the Braille method of reading.

The school resided in a damp building by the River Seine. It was cold and unhealthy, and the food and conditions were poor. Louis developed tuberculosis, but he continued working on his system of reading, which began catching on and soon was being exported around the world. As his health failed, Louis said, “I am convinced my mission on earth has been accomplished, I asked God to carry me away from this world.”

Think of the chain reaction of that cascading dream. One man developed a burden for the blind when he saw ridiculed actors on stage and a begger boy on the streets. He was just going about his normal, every day life and was impacted by something he experienced and this led him to seeing a need and meeting it. We call that having a ministry. His burden led him to establish a school and attempt a system of reading. Then a local pastor developed a burden for a blind boy in another village (saw a need and met it) and taught him the Bible and longed to send him to a school. That blind child, Louis Braille, developed a burden to improve and to expand Haüy’s work. The world was changed, and as a result, millions of sightless souls have experienced the joy of reading the Bible and other books for themselves for almost two centuries.  

So, as believers we should simply live life to the fullest and along the way be sensitive to the needs of others. When we spot a need, step in and work to meet it. You will then be ministering in compassion as Jesus did and using your talents and skills to meet the need that you encountered. This is real ministry. 

Sometimes I’m Afraid I’ll Fail

Everyone faces a fear or two in their lifetime …

One fear that I have faced a number of times over the last 50 years has been fear of failure … looked a little different each time

          • Fear of not being able to live up to my ordination vows
          • Fear of failing to be adequate enough in my first parish
          • Fear of preaching
          • Fear of starting an independent church
          • Fear of overseas ministry and the unknown over there after communism fell
          • Fear of not honouring the Name of Jesus
          • Fear of pushing too hard and burning out

Here’s one that is still there behind the scenes digging at me on occasion Read more

2021 – Time to Let God Out of the Church – Part Two

God is a wise investor. He is not going to waste His investment on a body or a world that is destined to pass away. His money is on the part that’s going to last forever, the soul, the spirit, the inside person. But as Christians, we turn it around. We spend our time, energy, and resources on the outer person. Think about it. Most of our prayers have to do with our health, our wealth, and our social life. And when we experience a setback or grow impatient, we ask, “God, where are you?”

At the same time, we fail to pray for the things that will benefit us for eternity. If God answered all of our prayers, our character would suffer because in most cases, our prayers center on the removal of the very circumstances He is using to conform us to His image.

A favourite author of mine writes, “When we ignore what’s happening on the inside we lose all power to change what we do on the outside in any meaningful way. We rearrange rather than change, and in so doing, we never become the transformed person God calls us to be.”

Every day, eager investors scope out the trading floor on their national stock exchange looking for tips. In addition to doing their own research, thorough analysts watch certain key people to help determine if a stock’s value will change. Sometimes the least little flinch can cause a flurry of trading. If it looks like someone knows something, its catch’s people’s attention.

In your life and in mine, the Consummate Trader has spoken. God has purchased a million shares of your inner person. That should tell you something. The question you should be asking is not, Why doesn’t God do something? But, What is God up to, and how can I get in on it? If God’s main concern is your character, that should give you a pretty good idea about where to place your focus. After all, God isn’t just going on a hunch. He has insider information.

God wants to transform us … from the inside out. And, the first step to joining Him in His work is to see and understand what He has been up to since the day you were born. Once you see what God has planned for your character — and why — you’ll be more motivated and better equipped to get in on it.

No passage I know summarizes it better than Philippians 2:12-13 (NKJV) “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.” 

In this passage the apostle Paul stresses a couple of things. First, he tells his readers that God is working inside them. It doesn’t get much plainer than that! Second, he tells them that this work is going on right now. The verb is in the present tense. It’s happening now. It was happening when Paul wrote it. And it was still going on when his readers finally received the letter. God is at work.

This is noteworthy since Paul wrote to a group of people, many of whom he didn’t know. They might have written back, “Hey, Paul, you don’t even know me … How do you know what God is up to in my life?”

The fact is, God is at work in all believers. That means you. It’s present tense. It’s constant. When you’re tempted, give in to temptation, or tempt someone else, God is still at work. While you’re busy working, juggling your children, or dreaming about your true love, He is still at work. He has purchased His investment at a price, and He is making certain that it goes up in value. He won’t give up. 

So, it is time to tear down the false separation of secular and sacred. It is time to let God out of the Sunday morning box most believers have put Him in. It is time to move past seeing Jesus as Saviour but not accepting Him as Lord of your life. It is time to let God be a part of your every day life and thus not limit Him to what happening in the building we call church. Let God out of the Church and into your life.  

2021 – Time to Let God Out of the Church – Part One

Too often we leave God in the Church and don’t invite Him into our every day life. It’s good to meet with Him and worship Him on Sunday for an hour or so, but we really don’t want to invite Him into our daily lives. In other words, great that He is our Saviour but we have not made Him Lord of our life – our every day life. 

Because of this many Christians can’t make sense of what God is doing or not doing in their lives. He seems absent from the daily details and the grind of life. Because of this they have adopted a worldview known as dualism. In this belief system, life is divided into two categories: the religious and the secular. The religious side includes all situations in which God is perceived to be interested or directly involved, such as charitable activities, acts of service, and benevolences performed in the Name of God.

All the other activities are then lumped into the secular category, which can include work, community, recreation, friendships, and family, to name a few. Secular then becomes the catchall for everything that is not directly related to their religion. It is a place where people put the parts of their lives that they determine are not of interest to God. As far as they’re concerned, He doesn’t want access to them, nor do they concern themselves with surrendering these parts to Him.

A person governed by the philosophy of dualism gives a portion of his or her life to God but maintains control of the rest. He does his part when it comes to religious duties, such as attending church, but he fails to take an active role in conforming his whole life to the image of Christ.

Life does not work that way. God is not satisfied just selling eternal fire insurance. He is actively interested in every aspect of our lives. He wants to transform us from the inside out to reflect the character of His Son. But when a person consciously or unconsciously chooses a dualistic approach to life, he locks God out of portions of his life. As a result, he can never make sense of the circumstances of life. God appears as a distant, uncaring Creator. Life is governed by luck and random chance.

Most people who adopt a dualistic worldview do so by default. Since they can’t see evidence of God in their circumstances, they assume He is not there. Why? Because they’re looking in the wrong place. They’re looking on the outside while He is busy on the inside. That’s not to say He is not active in our circumstances –  the outside, regular, every day world. But generally, His work externally is a means to an internal end.

Let’s face it. It’s a lot easier to focus on career, family, and friends. At least we can see how all that works. We can see when we’re making progress or when something needs attention. But real life begins on the inside, where God is always at work. The danger for you and for me is that we’ll miss out on what He wants to do — all because we measure His love and activity by an external standard that totally ignores the focus of His work. And all along, if we’re believers, He is inside pushing, pulling, working, to create something wonderful from the inside out. 

All of us have wondered at times why God doesn’t do more to fix our problems. But our human eyes often fail to see that God isn’t rushing to change our circumstances because He is concerned with a much more serious problem — our character.

While you struggle with the woes of this world, God’s main occupation is preparing you for the world to come. The focus of what God is doing in your life takes place in you, not around you. And for good reason. 

More next time… 

 

Personal Character in 2021

There has been a shift going on for the last decade or two. It has not always been noticeable but there is a definite shift in the way people today, regardless of the nation they live in, are thinking.

One researcher did a study of American self-help literature covering a 200-year span. He observed that literature written during the first 150 years focused on developing what he called the “character ethic” as the foundation for success in life and in relationships. In essence, success in life was defined according to virtues such as honesty and integrity and the golden rule. In sharp contrast, literature written in the last 50 or so years focuses on what he termed the “personality ethic”; that is, success is defined by a person’s ability to achieve, improve performance, and simply get ahead.

The subtle change in the definition of success caries with it some devastating consequences to our perception of character. If honesty and integrity are no longer highly sought-after values, a shift occurs in our moral and ethical framework. If virtue is no longer the objective, then what you are isn’t nearly as important as what you do. And how you think means nothing compared to how you feel.

Suddenly, the ultimate goals are position and achievement. The first priority is personal fulfillment. So what we’re really saying is that right and wrong are now determined by what helps or hinders our progress. And if we’re totally honest, right is defined in terms of what moves us towards our goal. Wrong is defined as anything that gets in our way.

When achievement takes precedence over character, a new code of ethics has been introduced:

    • If the family stands in the way of someone’s career, then the family is sacrificed.
    • If honesty impedes the accumulation of wealth, then deceit becomes the norm.
    • It’s right to steal if stealing means progress.
    • It’s right to claim another person’s idea as your own.
    • If cheating means winning, then cheating is right.

When personal fulfillment takes precedence over character, a new moral standard is introduced:

    • If it fulfills me, it’s moral.
    • If it doesn’t meet my needs, it’s immoral.
    • Self-control is renamed self-denial and is considered unhealthy.
    • If cheating on my spouse makes me happy, then unfaithfulness is moral.
    • If an unexpected pregnancy threatens my career or social goals, then abortion is not only an option; it is the right thing to do.

Meanwhile, we invent an endless stream of subconscious rhetoric to justify and qualify our actions in our minds:

    • “This isn’t immoral, I need this because….”
    • “How else am I suppose to compete?”
    • “I just can’t seem to stop…”

There was a time in the Church world when men and women made the development of character a top priority. But somewhere along the way, the focus shifted … following the trend that was evident in the secular world. The Church was and still is no longer a counterculture but became a sub-culture of the everyday society and world in which we lived. Almost a mirror-image with a thin ‘Christian’ veneer. We lost our bearings. Christians stopped emphasizing the inner person and began to measure success by what they saw on the outside. So, we experienced this personal war – the inner person against the outer person. And as the outer person has prevailed, the outer person is establishing a new, acceptable way to express the faith which is totally not biblical. 

Choosing in 2021 to take up the pursuit of character – becoming more and more like Jesus – will mean choosing to stand against the prevailing culture. You won’t fit in. Not only won’t you not fit into the society and neighbourhood in which you live. But, you most likely will also not fit into the normal, every day life of the local church. You are simply not going to get much help or even encouragement from the outside. 

But, as you will soon find out, character has rewards that far outweigh anything you may be forced to give up along the way. 

Let’s reclaim “character” in 2021 as something important that we need to focus on and work with so that we truly live life in a manner that is biblical and honours the Lord whom we follow and serve.