Posts Tagged ‘Character’

Persistence Or Stubbornness 

January 13, 2017

When am I exhibiting the virtue of persistence or is it the destructive vice of stubbornness?

I get in situations where I care about the organization and just can’t help myself from trying again. Even though the track record of the organization or leader is poor. Am I persistent? Stubborn? Stupid?

Jesus called persistence a virtue when a person is seeking justice. Think of the story of the woman before the judge. She was a bit like the Proverb that describes a nagging wife like a persistent drip. The judge got so tired of her coming day after day that he granted justice.

On the other hand, think of the many times God calls the Jews a stubborn and stiff-necked people.

The father of persistence is seeking what is right. Being helpful. The mother of persistence is the wish to serve God.

The parent of stubbornness is pride.

Pride puts us first, not God. When pride grabs us, we are prone to all manner of sin.

Stubborn means going my own way. Not seeking or accepting advice. Putting my self before others or the mission. I’d rather fail than admit any weakness.

Maybe in my case, there is a third way. Foolish persistence begs the advice, “Hey, wake up and smell the coffee.”

Beware the Yeast of the Pharisees

November 16, 2016


Still considering Jesus’ seemingly off-hand comment “Watch out–beware the yeast of the Pharisees and the yeast of the Herodians.”

Reporters didn’t follow Jesus around recording every word he said in hope of a “gotcha” moment where they could make him look bad. That type of “journalism” (and I use the word loosely) only happened recently in history.

No, the gospel writers took these little vignettes and recorded them because they moved their stories forward. So consider that whenever they record a comment, it is important.

So, we were looking at the spiritual meaning of the sentence, since Jesus obviously points us to the spiritual significance later.

Considering we–as in each one of us–are the “dough” in the story. And consider that yeast is a reactive agent that enters the dough, permeates throughout it, and then creates a chemical and physical change in the dough.

As we are the dough, and we are to beware letting the “yeast” of the Pharisees into us, then what does that mean?

Let’s look at how the Pharisees are represented in the gospels. They are rule followers. Empty on the inside. Remember the metaphor of the cup–clean on the outside and corroded on the inside?

Or seekers of loopholes–that is how all of us rule-followers are. How can we make the rules favor us rather than someone else?

Or lovers of comparison. “Lord, I thank you that I am not like that sinner over there.”

When we allow these thoughts and attitudes to permeate us, then our entire being is changed.

We are no longer kind, empathetic, loving, serving people of God–the sort of people who inherit the Kingdom. We become negative, cynical, separate, hard-hearted.

Perhaps we think back to Paul’s description of people of the flesh and people of the spirit in Galatians. Which do we want to be? Beware the yeast of the Pharisees lest it change your character!

How Long Does It Take To Sin

June 8, 2016

It’s only 20 minutes of his life. It shouldn’t take away from 20 years. (Sports Dad)

There are no moral giants in the story. Must be a story about real life. Privileged athlete takes advantage of girl. Has sex. Walks away.

His point of view–so what? It’s just sex.

Her point of view–I’ve been physically and emotionally violated.

The philosopher Ken Wilber once wrote, “Civilization is a race to overcome testosterone.” There is much to think about there.

Look at King David. A warrior-king. Doesn’t get any more “manly” than that. He saw a woman. An attractive woman. The hormones spoke, David listened. How long did it take out of his life to commit a sin that kept on giving? 20 minutes?

20 minutes with a woman led to murder of her husband and many of his own soldiers.

Some people have somehow gotten the idea that women are objects and think it is Biblical. Don’t know how they got that. The Old Testament records a time of warriors. The stories prize strong men who could fight against enemies. Yet, look at the stories of strong women, full of faith, who also led.

Paul, whom many cite as the philosopher of subjugating women, is often misread. As Andy Stanley put it in the recorded Your Move talk from last weekend said, “They didn’t read the verse before it” regarding the verse about wives being submissive to their husbands.

Quick test–who knows the verse before?

This is a story about men who think that women are only objects, not real people. Who think they only exist for their pleasure. It’s a story fed by pictures, TV, movies.

That’s not the story of people living under grace. Who value every human being as a person God created and loves. Every woman who is someone’s daughter.

That’s not 20 minutes of “slipping up” that would have been ignored if not brought to light. It’s 20 minutes that proves character.

Leadership Through Mentoring

January 22, 2016

We think of a leader as someone who has many people reporting to them. Maybe 10 or maybe hundreds. We picture them out front of the infantry leading the charge.

Surprisingly, often a leader is someone without an official position, yet they exert influence and direction through their ideas, conversations, persistence, relationships, and character.

But we are still thinking about influencing many.

Great leaders often are also great mentors. They find someone coming along with potential and begin to nurture them. Think perhaps of Mr. Miyagi in the “Karate Kid.”

Think back in your life. People came into my life, often briefly, who guided me often without my even knowing it at the time. There was my first supervisor at Airstream, John, who put me in positions to learn. Then Jack came along. He did things for me to get me promoted into increasingly important roles, but I never realized it at the time. Awakening came later, but not too late.

Lately there has been someone where we share from our varied experiences.

When you mentor someone, it should be intentional on your part. But with full knowledge that you are not a teacher just taking knowledge from your brain and trying to enlighten the mentee. Rather, mentorship grows with a relationship. As you work together or have conversations, often it’s just a question you ask or a point you think that they should think about that works. You have to let them grow at their pace. Force does not work.

The quality of character counts for much. Paul, the apostle, described both in 1 Timothy and in Titus a good leader.

  • Not violent
  • Blameless
  • Not accused of debauchery
  • Not rebellious
  • Not arrogant
  • Not quick-tempered
  • Not greedy for gain
  • A firm grasp on the Word
  • Trustworthy

I get a picture of a strong, yet gentle, person. Quiet in demeanor. Observant of others. Passionate with being overly emotional. Intelligent and wise. Concerned for the welfare of the other before even his own.

Gosh, I’m describing myself—-I wish. Perhaps I’m describing you. If so and you do not have a younger person you’re mentoring, find one. Pray intentionally. God will provide someone.


From Theology to Practice

January 19, 2016

Andy Stanley last weekend talked about putting some motion in your devotion.

He captured it well.

Every time I dig deeply into either the Gospels to see what Jesus really teaches, or into the letters which were advice to the new disciples, I come to the same conclusion–the preponderance of the teaching focuses on how we live day-by-day, minute-by-minute.

I’ve been reading, studying, and contemplating on Paul’s letter to the Ephesians.

Some scholars think Paul didn’t write it because the tone is a little different from the rest of his letters. It sure sounds like Paul to me. I go with some scholars who say it was probably more of a sermon than a letter. After all, Paul was firmly in the rabbinic tradition.

Some scholars dissed the letter because they thought it was used to justify the power of priests 1,700 years ago. Maybe so, but I don’t see that today.

Paul begins where he always begins, with the history of God’s relationship with the Jewish people, the breaking of the relationship, and then, most importantly, Jesus coming to teach, die, and be resurrected. Paul’s theology begins and ends with the resurrection. That changed everything for him.

Just as in Romans, though, Ephesians teaches that once we settle on God’s grace through the death and resurrection of Jesus and our acceptance through faith, then the most important thing is how we live. Romans ends with practical advice; Ephesians ends with practical advice.

Part of our spiritual discipline, or spiritual practices, involves how we act. By the way, James who writes from a different tradition supports this thought. Be ye doers, he said (in 16th Century English).

But I digress. Today when you get dressed and head out to work or wherever you go, how are you going to act? What will you do? Will people see what you do and say, “There goes a disciple of Jesus”? Or, will they say, “There goes another one of those Christians who can preach belief but acts as if they’re the only people on Earth.”

I wrote yesterday about how I was once (?) book smart and common sense stupid. How hard it is for us to translate what we know into what we naturally do! But that is our task as set out by God. We may know. We may believe. But could anyone tell by watching?

Leadership: What Do You Look For In People

December 11, 2015

When you are building a team for your business or task at church or for community service, what do you look for? A warm body? Particular skills? Relatives?

There has been a consistent theme to my reading and conversations this week. It has been around people.

Andy Stanley says that you should look for who before what. Look for good and talented people first. Then figure out what to put them to work at.

Google looks for curiosity.

An interview I heard on the radio with the head designer at Go Pro talked about learners. When asked about her own learning, she said it’s the people she hires. They are learners. When they learn something new, they want to teach it.

Chuck Price, leader at Campus Crusade and a friend, says to hire character. You can teach skills. You can’t teach character.

When I’ve hired or brought people into  teams, I look for a basic skill set. I want people who can teach me something. I’ve learned the hard way to not hire people with agendas. Especially when that comes with weak character.

Family and friends? Be careful.

Personality also counts. It depends a little on how customer-facing they will be. But still, they must fit in with the team. Avoid people who are negative, arrogant, or, on the other hand, weak and timid.

Hiring is a major decision. It’s game changing. Make a wrong hire and you can destroy an organization, business, or committee.

Take is seriously. Make it first priority when you have to hire or are building a team.

I like the philosophy of these characteristics: Character, Curiosity, Learner.

I Am A Disciple-Or At Least Try To Be

July 15, 2015

Reading my Facebook stream trying to understand “Christian” would leave you puzzled. In fact, I bet that you could read your own Facebook stream of news and be puzzled.

Some whom you know to call themselves Christian seem like the most loving, gracious people. Some, on the other hand, seem to be disputatious, quarrelsome, judgmental, cynical, in other words, someone whom you would not really care to hang out with. Or—even to be labeled the same.

That has been a problem for many years.

For example, did you know that there was a preacher/politician named John Calhoun in the early 19th Century in America who wrote books “proving” that black people (the slaves at the time) were not really human beings. And he used the Bible to prove it.

Andy Stanley addresses this problem in his latest Your Move series. He points out that Jesus and his followers used a much more specific term—disciple. We know what a disciple is. The definition of Christian is open to debate. But a disciple is a follower of a teacher who tries to emulate everything about the teacher.

That is one reason I like to develop spiritual practices in my life and try to lead others to develop these practices. The correct spiritual practices help us try to become a true disciple of Jesus.

You know, Jesus, the one who told his disciples (John 13:34), “I give you a new commandment, to love one another.”

There are people who may self-identify as a “Christian” but who certainly do not appear to be living out Jesus’ last commandment.

So, I have preferred the term “follower” or the term “disciple” for most of the past 45 years. Like many, I shy away from describing myself as Christian.

Maybe if more of us followed this advice from Dietrich Bonhoeffer, we wouldn’t be so ashamed of the term:

Christianity means community through Jesus Christ and in Jesus Christ. No Christian community is more or less than this. Whether it be a brief, single encounter or the daily fellowship of years, Christian community is only this. We belong to one another only through and in Jesus Christ.

Character Development

May 18, 2015

I spent all weekend at a youth soccer tournament. Players ranged in age from 8 to 18. Parents ranged in maturity from 2-yr-olds to mature. Typical spring in Ohio, as well as much of the US.

My job was to recruit referees and assign them to games. I devoted many hours last week doing both of those. 

During the tournament, I check to assure that all the referees showed up and to cover for those who didn’t. This was a great weekend. The only problem was one I created by not doing the proper math about when one game ends and when another begins and how far the fields were from each other. I started the game as referee and then turned the game over to the assigned guy. 

That’s because once the tournament play begins, I become the appeals court for referee problems. I travel from field to field watching and evaluating and giving tips for improvement to the entire group of referees. I also travel around settling disputes. 

Sometimes referees need some extra instruction. Or I have to move them around to avoid situations. Sometimes coaches or parents get into arguments and I try to settle things down.

It is a joy in life to contribute to the development of so many young people. I have devoted the last 25 years or so developing young referees. They may not always last as referees, but through the process, I try to teach them life skills of observation, decision-making, handling people, confidence, and communication.

The most gratifying thing in these tournaments is the development of coaching. Coaches used to know little about the game, didn’t teach anything during practice and then figured they could get the kids to do what they didn’t teach them simply by screaming at them–and at the referees.

Now, I see coaches teaching basic skills, then team building skills. They give instruction during the game instead of berating the kids. Sure, they get upset with some calls. We all do. Sometimes I do even when I’m evalutating a referee. That’s life. The bad coaches are becoming scarce.

We need to practice this same character-building effort in the rest of life. Is there a child or young adult who could use a mentor? Intentionally seek out people like that. Invite them for coffee or lunch. Build a relationship and nurture tham. I have few greater joys in life than seeing people grow.

Have you found a mentee today?

Maintaining a Tranquil Mind

April 20, 2015

Everyone felt the stress deep inside. A large group of people needed to stay together as they navigated an airport in a foreign nation. None had been through that airport recently. But navigate they must in order to board the next plane taking them home.

The first plane landed at one end of the airport. The plane carrying the group over the Atlantic was scheduled to depart 50 minutes later–from the other end of the airport.

Some people in the group were reasonably fit and could make a fast walk/run. Others were challenged by one of a variety of physical conditions that would slow them down.

Upon arriving at the gate, which no one really knew was the gate, the group was divided and then shuttled from one queue to the next and back again.

At times like this, one needs to have practiced the wisdom of Proverbs so that it is deeply imprinted on the soul–“A tranquil mind gives life to the flesh.” (14:30)

We made it, of course.

And then made the JFK connection and arrived home safely.

I was part of a group that vacationed on a Danube River cruise from Nuremberg to Budapest. Ten days. Tired at that point. That’s why I reposted 10 days worth of blogs–which I guess didn’t get picked up by the email app. I’ll have to check that out. I tried to write ahead, but ran out of time.

International travel is a growth experience, if you choose to approach it that way. You pick up pieces of new languages. Experience other cultures. Learn that people are people no matter where you go. Good, evil, mostly good.

And with a little stress at the end, you learn about your character in the response to it.

This is where self-awareness enters.

I know that I can mostly maintain the tranquil mind. When things are out of my control and I have no knowledge of the system, I get quite snippy about perceived lack of good policy and procedure–especially at airports. But then I can settle back into the state of tranquility.

Nice to be home again. But I do miss Nuremberg and Budapest–two of my favorite cities.

Andy Stanley—New Rules for Love, Sex, Dating

April 13, 2015

How many people have lost career, families, respect due to sexual passions run amok? How many marriages have you seen that just never got started off right?

Andy Stanley’s latest book, “The New Rules For Love, Sex & Dating,” is targeted at single people of all ages, but the wisdom works for all of us—even those like me who are many, many years past the subject.

Stanley is one of the best communicators in the Christian church today. I listen to him every week. He talks about focusing on making better decisions in order to live a better life. In other words, he’s not like the generation that was in charge during his (and my) youth that stopped at “thou shalt not” moralism. He applies teachings from the Bible much as common sense rather than finger pointing.

This book talks of relationships, treating people well, and how to handle those powerful emotions of “love” and sex. I single out the word “love” partly because we are just past Valentine’s Day where love is celebrated as an emotion. Stanly emphasizes, much as I always do, love as something you do, not always as something you feel.

I especially appreciate his descriptions of the elements of love that Paul the Apostle discusses in 1 Cor 13. Especially he defines patience and kindness as decisions. Of course, that is true. You decide in the moment that you will be patient in the situation. You decide in the moment to act with kindness toward another.

Decisions, though, when repeated lead to habits. You develop through your repeated decisions the habit of patience or kindness. It becomes a part of who you are. You become patient and kind, and by extension, loving.

Oh, and for sex—don’t do it. Well, don’t do it outside of marriage. His most powerful teaching, as well as the hardest, is for those who have left or are leaving a sexually active relationship that is floundering. Take a year off. Do not date for a year. Take time to be the person that the person you are looking for is looking for.

[DISCLAIMER: I received this book from North Point Publishing in exchange for this review. There was no guarantee what my review would be, though.]