Your Character House

Son, today I begin teaching you how to build a house.  I will teach you how to choose the timber, how to cut it and work it and how to join it so well you create a strong and lovely structure, fit for your future bride and a happy family.

It will take me years to teach you all I know, and you will learn by working alongside me, assisting me, observing what I do and listening to my instructions.

In time, you will have all the skills you need to build a fine house for the young bride of your choosing.  And, you will remodel and expand it over time, for your growing family.

With the skills I shall teach, you will be able to rebuild the whole thing if ever a disaster should destroy it or sweep it away.

Shoddy Building

You have seen the gaps in the walls and the leaks in the roof at Jake’s place.  You have seen the problems at the Garrard’s place.  Those families are cold in winter, wet in the rain, unhappy in the heat and uncomfortable most of the time.

When a house is built badly the whole family suffers.  The builder can take an easy day or get a quick fix to a problem, but the consequences will impact others and last for years to come.

I will teach you to build carefully and well.  It will take more time and it will be physically harder than a hasty job.  If you don’t do it right, you, your lovely bride and your children will live with the results of selfishness and laziness for many years to come.

I want your children to be proud of you and pleased with you.  I want them to honour you.  But first you must decide to honour them, even though you don’t know them yet, by making the right choices now.

Character

And son, the same is true of the invisible house you live in.  Every day you are building your character house.  If you build well your future will be blessed.  If you build a poor and shoddy structure, you will live with the consequences for the rest of your life.

Every day you face choices about obedience, diligence, truthfulness, repect, patience, self-sacrifice, and a host of other character issues.  When you choose wisely and stick with those choices over the weeks and years, you build a solid wall or a sturdy frame in your character house.

In years to come that sturdy character house will give you strength under trial, protection in hardship, honour from others, security for the future and peace in times of storm.

Tearing Down your House

Every time you choose to lie, be selfish, resent others, give in to anger or jealousy, speak sharply, react, steal, reject the truth, or any other thing that is against godly character, you tear timbers from your character house.

You will create gaping holes in the walls, leaks in the roof, uneven beams, teetering frame and other major problems in your house.

And, what is worse, you can never leave that house.  You take it with you wherever you go.  You take it into your future, into your marriage, into your family, into your career and into everything else you do.

You will suffer cold drafts of fear, the dampness of doubt, the aches of regret, the shame of your shoddy work and the pain of defeat.  You will feel the cramped limitations of your laziness and the smallness of the world you have built for yourself and your family.

Character Pain

You have seen how the Magrans argue, even in public.  You have seen how Rordan’s children run from his anger.  You have seen sadness in old Mrs Gray’s eyes.

People you know are trapped in painful houses they built for themselves.  They live with disappointment, limitation, agitation, loneliness, false accusations, loss of self control, foolishness, vain ideas, and so much more.

Each of them built those unhappy places for themselves.  They each now live with the hasty, selfish choices they made years ago.

Don’t be like them.

Choose Wisely

Anyone can shelter under a pile of sticks.  But no one wants to live there.  Gracious rooms filled with lovely things, are not found in a pile or rubble.  It takes time and effort to create such a home.

And while you build a family home with your hands, you build your character house with your heart.  You build it by choices.  They are often hard choices.  You build by each choice to do right and to silence the selfish, lustful and evil thoughts that lurk in your heart.

So choose wisely, my son.  Build well.  And let me guide your hands and your heart as we work together on the wonderful future God has for you.

Character and Values

I spoke recently to High School and Uni Students on the topic of Kingdom Culture. Christians live “in the world” but are not “of the world”. Yet they are impacted by and pressured into the culture of the world. That is why care needs to be taken to understand and to live by the culture of God’s Kingdom – Kingdom Culture.

Seek the Kingdom

Jesus Christ told us directly that we are to seek God’s Kingdom and not to be distracted by the things that the people in the world are distracted by.

“Take no thought, saying, What will we eat? or, What will we drink? or, How will we be clothed? (For these are the things the Heathen seek) for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things will be added to you.” Matthew 6:31-33 (Jesus Christ)

God is King

While the idea of the “kingdom of God” sounds somewhat old fashioned it simply means that God is King. You Seek the Kingdom of God when you make God your King. In the Kingdom of God, God is King and God’s Will Wins.

To seek the Kingdom of God we seek to have God rule over our own lives, including our lifestyle, values, attitudes, thoughts, decisions, disciplines, and so on. Once God’s rule is clear in our own lives we can then be led by Him to establish His kingship in other areas where we have influence or impact.

Kingdom Culture

The Culture of God’s Kingdom involves three areas to look at. They are the cultural values that reflect God, such as Love, Faith, Holiness, Selflessness, Joy, Humility, Peace, Forgiveness and such like.

It also involves Living by God’s Standards as revealed in God’s Word (the Bible) and Christ’s Teachings.

And it also involves the need to be Unpolluted by Compromise, so we remain Separate from the World and Sin.

Character and Values

Kingdom Culture can be described in terms of your “character” and your “values”. These two things are separate and yet related.

Character looks at HOW you Live your Life, or, in other words, What you are Living BY.

Values look at WHY you Live your Life, or, What you are Living FOR.

Godly Culture involves you living the right way, living by the right things, but also living for the right reasons and objectives.

Character

Looking more closely at Character, remember that it is all about HOW you Live and What you live BY.

The way you live your life could reflect such things as: Greed, Selfishness, Opportunism, Discipline, Sensuality, Pride, Jealousy, Spite, Love, Humility, Faithfulness, Impatience, Anger, Violence, Patience, Self-Control, Laziness, Insecurity, Fear, Self-Determination, Self-Importance or many other character qualities.

Character describes How you travel through life, the mood you are in, the way you respond to challenges, and the tone of your lifestyle.

Values

Looking more closely at Values, remember that it is all about WHY you Live and What you live FOR.

What you are living for could be centred on such things as: Money, Fame, Pleasure, Revenge, Impressing Others, Serving Others, Holiness, Glorifying God, Career, Self-Fulfilment, Leisure, Getting Ahead of Others, Doing your Best, Being Respected, Getting Your Own Way or one or more of many other things.

Values describe Why you travel through life, what motivates you, what satisfies you, and what keeps you going.

Right Character and Right Values

It is possible to have good character, knowing how to do things the right way, but having wrong values. You could be very disciplined, respectful, sacrificial, wise and faithful, but use those good character qualities to serve your lust for success, fame, importance, revenge, or other wrong motivation.

In that case you would have good character but bad values.

Alternatively, it is possible to be sold out to serving God, blessing others, building God’s Kingdom and showing respect to your leaders, but to have such poor personal discipline that you are totally unreliable and unable to effect the things you want to do. You could be too lazy and undisciplined in mind to read God’s word, pray for any length of time, remember your commitments, and so on.

In that case you would have good values but poor character.

That case is reflected in Jesus’ disappointment with the disciples on the night Jesus was betrayed. Jesus saw that their spirit was willing (the right values and motives) but their flesh was weak (poor character to follow through on their good intentions).

Serving the King

A good servant of the King needs to have good character and good values.

You cannot be lazy or selfish, and you cannot be a thief or a liar. You need to be trained to be hard working, faithful, diligent, attentive, denying yourself and so on, and to use those disciplines of character for the right reasons.

How do you stand in terms of Character and Values?

Maybe you need to allow God to invade your life and to train you in godly character and godly values. Maybe you need to ask Him to do that, so you can be a good soldier of the Cross.

The Heart of Your Child

It is vital that you train the heart of your children. However it is popular to ignore this essential process and give in to shallow alternatives. Since many young parents have not thought these issues through I am penning these notes as a guide to parents.

The Heart of the Matter

The most important part of your child’s development is the training of their heart. While we may not be aware of what is going on inside other people, including our children, the Bible tells us that God looks on the heart.

“But the LORD said to Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the LORD sees not as man sees; for man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.” 1Samuel 16:7

God’s prophet, Samuel, did what people naturally do. He looked on external things. God accurately accused men of taking notice of external things – “man looks on the outward appearance”. That is why people have to take ‘first impressions’ seriously and why image is such a big deal for worldly people. It should not be so for those who love and follow God, but sadly appearance and image is a major focus of some churches today.

Since God looks on your child’s heart it is essential that you make it a key focus on your attention.

The Heart of Your Child is Exposed by What Comes Out

Jesus had much to say about what comes out of the heart. He said that we are defiled by what comes out of us. He then listed a bunch of things that find their source in the human heart.

“The words which come out of the mouth come from the heart; and they defile the man. For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies” Jesus Christ, Matthew 15:18-19

Jesus is pointing here to both the words people speak and the motivations that lead them to do evil things. So wise parents will be attentive to the spontaneous expressions from their children and also from the behaviour patterns the children display.

A winning smile on the face of a child can be deceptive. Sweet words of promise and nicety may be a cover for wrong intentions. In the same way that adults can be expert at this level of deception, some children know how to play up to their parents’ expectations.

Key Lessons For the Heart

The heart is troubled by the presence of foolishness, which Solomon warns us is bound in the heart of every child (Proverbs 22:15). So it is important for each parent to respect the particular process that God prescribes for removing that foolishness. The prescribed process is to use the rod of correction on the child.

Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction will drive it far from him.” Solomon, Proverbs 22:15

Obedience is a key test of the child’s heart. If a child refuses to obey then they have foolishness. So getting the child to promptly obey the parent is a key heart training process. This involves them submitting to the parent’s authority. In that process they learn to fear the Lord, giving respect to God’s requirement that they obey their parents.

Games and Tricks Don’t Train the Heart

Some parents think that they are doing quite well if they get the desired action from the child. But it is not the action that is the most important. What is important, as we saw earlier, is the heart of the child. God does not look on the outward evidence but on the heart.

If you instruct a child to eat their food and the child is reluctant to obey, then a matter of the heart has been exposed. The child’s rebellious or independent attitude is a more serious matter than the nutritional value of the meal.

Many parents, however, become distracted with the external element, getting the food into the child. They can completely miss the much more serious issue of the child’s heart. Clever parents can resort to games to get the child to eat. “Let’s pretend that the spoon is a train and your mouth is a tunnel. Let the train into the tunnel.”

Such games may be fun, but they set the parent and child up for future pain. The child’s heart is left in a rebellious state, even though all the food is eaten.

The same is true when a parent tricks a child into doing the right thing, or fitting in with the parent’s plans. Games and fun, cute as they may be in the hands of clever parents, have no place in testing or training the child’s heart.

The most mature and complete heart training is evident when there is every reason to disobey or to get away with doing wrong, and yet the person insists and persists in doing what is right.

Tough Choices Make for Strong Character

When parents rescue their children from tough choices they undermine the child’s character. Tough choices make for strong character.

The child who must stand by his post, while others get to do fun things, or taunt him, or who is otherwise suffering in order to be there, will develop much stronger character than the child who is given every opportunity to cheat on their character.

False compassion can prompt some parents to remove the tough choices and hard situations from their child’s life. Such emotion is called ‘false’ compassion because it is not true love at all. It masquerades as compassion but it harms the child, so it cannot be real love.

You are Allowed to Play Games

Please note that I am not saying every moment of your child’s life should be a tough moment with tough choices. There is plenty of room for fun, games and play. You are welcome to play ‘aeroplanes’ and fly the food into your child’s mouth or to make cleaning up the room into a fun race against the clock.

The tough choices are made at strategic moments and are then built upon. But once the tough moment is past it is time for celebration and enjoyment of life. The problem will come when your child is never challenged to learn and their heart is not trained.

Insist that they Learn

Parents, be diligent to ensure that each of your children has learned to obey you, to submit to authority and to fear God. You will need to remain attentive to their heart, through what they say and how that is backed up by the attitudes and actions.

Insist that they learn the lessons. Don’t give in, just because they are crying, or complaining. There is much more at stake than their temporary responses.

Yesterday is Gone

The Beatles made a huge hit singing “Yesterday all my troubles seemed so far away”. And others waxed poetic about how “Yesterday’s gone” and how they remember “Yesterday when I was young” and so on.

Yesterday’s Hold

The reason “yesterday” has such a hold on people’s lives is that we all carry the past into the present and beyond that into the future. Yesterday is the time we sowed certain things into our lives and today we reap the harvest. So yesterday is a powerful component of ‘today’ and it will still be making its presence felt when we get to tomorrow.

The Catholic Church teaches people to go to confession to deal with the sins of yesterday. Someone sneered at the habit of some who sin during the week and look for forgiveness in the confessional on the weekend. They said it was like sowing wild oats all week and then praying for a crop failure.

The Hindu faith respects the baggage of yesterday as karma, which we carry not only through this life, but into future lives which Hindus believe they will face. Gautama Buddha, who rejected the Hindu teaching of reincarnation, went so far as to say that we cannot remove our Karma even in a thousand lifetimes.

Yesterday’s Debris

Here are just a few of the things we bring with from yesterday, even though yesterday is gone.

We bring our disappointments from yesterday. We face disappointments with others, such as our parents and family. But we also face disappointments with ourselves.

We bring our broken relationships from yesterday. Once we have offended someone else or they have offended us that damage remains, often throughout life. Family reunions and community life become tinged with the hurt and offence that we feel toward others and they feel toward us.

We bring our compromises from yesterday. Once we have compromised our values and character that becomes a weak spot for us from that time on.

We bring our slaveries from yesterday. When we give in to sin, such as anger, pride, jealousy or lust, that thing enslaves us and it controls us throughout our lives.

Today’s Harvest

It is also true, as the Bible teaches, that our actions and choices involve us sowing seeds in our lives. A seed not only remains, but it germinates and produces a whole crop. So when we sow something into our life, we are setting up a harvest in the future.

Today’s harvest is filled with the fruit of the things we planted yesterday. If we planted selfishness, pride, anger, greed, violence, self-pity, wilfulness, addiction, lies or other evil things, we will have an evil harvest today.

If we planted forgiveness, faith, love, trust, humility and the fear of God then we will have a much better harvest today than others might have.

Yesterday is not ‘Gone’

While the songs might say, “yesterday’s gone” it isn’t true. Yesterday has passed, but it has not ‘gone’. Yesterday lives with you today.

Just as yesterday’s piano lessons undergird today’s musicianship and yesterday’s studies undergird today’s understanding, yesterday’s moral choices undergird today’s character.

Transforming Yesterday

“You can’t go back in time” is one way to look at it. “What’s done is done!” might be your way of dismissing the past. But there are powerful ways of unlocking the past and transforming yesterday. Let me briefly outline two of them.

Confession of Sin is a powerful way to unlock and transform yesterday. When you repent of the choices you made in the past God is able to set you free from the debris and consequences of those choices in the present. You can actually get a crop failure, even though you sowed lots of wild oats.

God can go back in time. While you are stuck in the time-space continuum, God exists outside of time. So He is able to go back to your past and make Himself present, bringing healing to things that are part of your yesterday that has ‘gone’ from you.

A Testimony

A friend of mine named Malcolm visited a lady who had chronic problems. When he prayed for her she had a vision of a baby crying in a cot. She realised that she was seeing herself as a tiny baby. She sensed the extreme distress of the baby and it connected with the pain that kept surfacing in her life.

A spirit of intercession came on Mal and he began to weep for her. As he did she saw in her vision that the door to the baby’s room opened and Jesus walked in. Jesus lifted the baby into His arms and as He did the woman felt all her pain and torment drain from her life.

It was as if Jesus was able to go back in time to the entry point of the woman’s troubles and resolve them, even though that was now many years past.

Saying Good-bye to Yesterday

If yesterday has brought its bad baggage with it into your today then be encouraged to say “Good-bye” to that stuff. You can remove it forever by confession and by asking the Lord to unlock and heal your past.

The Steps to Release, which I have written about in my books and in other posts, will be helpful in this process.

I want you to live in the freedom with which Christ has made you free. I want you to be able to say, in all reality, that Yesterday is Gone! Keep all that is good from yesterday and unlock and remove all that is bad. Once you’ve said “Good-bye” to yesterday’s rubbish you will have an even better future to look forward to.

The Tyranny of Time

I have had the privilege of learning about time management from some well respected exponents on the subject. Yet my own time management has never been exemplary. Consciousness of time and tasks can become burdensome reality to many. So time management is a pretty important issue in our lives, especially for those who wish to be high achievers and who need to squeeze all they can out of their available time.

A Time Management Question

Here’s a time management question for you, to help you reflect on some of the philosophical issues of harnessing available time.

“There is never enough time to get everything done, so what are you going to do?”

Now, before you launch off with off-the-cuff answers, let me refine the question a little for you. Let’s image a scenario in which to address this question. Let’s imagine a situation where a person does not have a boss. Maybe they are running their own business, or just managing their life without having to be told what to do, such as a salesman might do.

The point of removing the boss is to have a situation where the person must make their own decisions about time management. If a person is overloaded with work given them by a boss they can always revert to the boss and let the boss solve the problem. I am creating a scenario that does not have that option.

The Scenario

So, we are considering a person trying to achieve various things, but with never enough time to get everything done. Let’s assume that by the end of each day there is at least one more task on the list than there had at the beginning of the day. This just goes on each day, ad infinitum. There is just not enough time to get everything done.

Now, if you were in that situation what would you do?

The Options

One possibility is that you could kill yourself trying to catch up. Since there is never enough time to get everything done (as is my starting premise), there is the option of becoming totally buried and burdened by the tasks. You could, for instance, just spend every waking moment chasing the list of things to do, pushing through them like a galley slave rowing across the ocean.

Some people chose this option. They become a pawn to their workload, ever struggling upstream against it. The work eats up their life and their time and their energy and just about everything else.

Is that how you face your workload?

Alternatively you could just give up. You could realise that the task is undo-able and just not bother trying to do it. “Why bother?” No matter how hard you try you can’t tame the demands, so you will have to leave many things undone. If you have to leave anything undone, then why should you have to do anything at all? Why not leave it ALL undone?

Some people lean toward this option. These are the minimalists. They do as little as they can get away with, because they have lost all heart for the tasks. They feel defeated by the challenge and just can’t face pressing on at all.

Two Extremes

Those two extreme positions stand in contrast to each other. Yet they summarise the limits of our choices. Your approach to the things you have to accomplish will be somewhere between complete slavery to the tasks and complete abandonment.

Some of you are workaholics, completely enslaved to the “To Do” lists in your life. For some that is the secret to their success. For others it is the treadmill that will consume their lives.

Others are work-refusers. They avoid tasks like they avoid leprosy. What they have to do they do as quickly and casually as they can. If they can get out of a task they will go out of their way to do it.

Time is Not the Issue

In either of the extremes which I have drawn out of the simple scenario the issue is not a matter of time-management. The issue is that of heart attitude. It is a character issue.

We are not measured by what we achieve or how clever we are at managing the time allotted to us. We are measured by the “who” that we become along the way.

If you become a slave and elevate tasks above the rest of your life, then that is the “who” that you have become. If you become slack and defeated, then that is the “who” that you have become.

The first issue, then, is not how to do more work, or how to get more things done. It is not a matter of priorities, routine, best practice or time and motion studies. The issue is “Who are you?”

What kind of person are you? Do you know diligence? Do you have a faithful spirit? Do you make wise choices? Are you compulsive? Do you let work or other people’s demands rule your life? Have you given up on things? Just how much have you given up on?

Become a Better You

As you become a better you, by developing godly character, doing things as if for God and not for yourself, you will be better able to manage the issues of your life.

Your workload is an issue of your life. It is not your life. Your time is an issue of your life. It is not your life.

Your character IS your life. WHO you are is what your life is all about. You will face eternal consequences for who you are, not for the way you managed time or processed work.

My advice? Become a better you. Call on God’s grace to transform you and your attitudes and character, until the tasks and choices that confront you are met by someone with godly wisdom and divine grace.