justbarelymadeit

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Category: Perspective

On Christian Character

“I think you may judge of a man’s character by the persons whose affection he seeks. If you find a man seeking only the affection of those who are great, depend upon it he is ambitious and self-seeking; but when you observe that a man seeks the affection of those who can do nothing for him, but for whom he must do everything, you know that he is not seeking himself, but that pure benevolence sways his heart.” – Charles Spurgeon, 1876

Understanding the character of those around you profoundly shapes your view of the world. This is intimately connected to understanding your own character as well. One cannot look at someone else’s failings or accomplishments without seeing themselves in regard to that. I truly believe this. When I encounter a man of low character, I usually do not think myself higher than him. I often find myself first asking, “Where is that weakness in me, and what should I do about it?” I don’t always follow through with actionable items, but sometimes I do. I think Character is one of the easiest things to fake, and hardest things to prove.

In the Western Evangelical church we often assume church membership equates to character, but sadly it does not. The church is nothing if not filled with broken sinful people. In some senses, that’s ok. Christ did not come to call the righteous, but instead the sinners (Mark 2:17). In other senses though, it can lead to a lot of pitfalls for those who are not wary.

In my experience, working with people seems to be one of the easiest ways to learn about their character. I have often found myself finishing an interesting spiritual conversation with a religious coworker only to turn around and be treated badly by them. It leaves me a little boggled, and confused. Though I do know, that once this happens I now have a quick and firm response for the next time they wish to give me moral or spiritual advice:

“I do not wish to discuss moral or spiritual matters with you, as you have shown through your character that any advice on the above from you will either be false or toxic.”
While this does well to protect me from fools, it is only the first step. From there I must then ask myself about my character, and where my shortcomings are, in hopes that I may avoid hearing this same thing from another. Worse yet, that I may avoid failing my God.

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Dealing with Death and Our Immortal Moments

I simply cannot shake thoughts of Robin Williams from my mind. Over and over I am drawn back to look for more information on his death and the events leading up to it. Each time I am brought to the verge of tears, and I cannot help but wonder why I care so much about a man I never met. He was like a childhood friend to me, and he was my parents age. I felt like I identified with and knew Jack, or Peter Banning. I saw that child inside of him wanting to explode out and I felt like that too. Except that I was a child. It probably made more sense for me.
This has placed me on a trip of nostalgia and thoughts on the past. I look at the years behind me and picture each one of them like a death. I love and smile about them but ultimately mourn for each and every one of those that will never come again. I watched Hook again to commemorate Williams’ death, and I almost shouted bangerang right here on my couch. I cranked up my old dance music from the 90s for my boys who must have really thought their father looked the fool cutting a rug in the kitchen while they ate their dinner (except Wyatt, he really thought I was cool). And as I listened to Heaven by DJ Sammy, I stopped dancing and stopped smiling, and the mourning down deep welled up and I began to feel hopeless for my future, sensing futility in moments, as they like the others will all die. I wanted to cry again, it was crushing. A dark pall had settled over me with the advent of Robin Williams death, and it was persisting.
Then I saw my boys, watching me, grinning. Squeaking. Growing. Having their own immortal moment right now that they would one day mourn. I wonder how my own father felt about 25 or so years ago as he ambushed us and ran roaring down the forested hill with his deadly stick gun, my brother and I scrambling out of his way, screaming. He must have loved creating that immortal moment for us, all the while mourning the death of his own. I go to bed tonight with a heavy heart but a much more understanding spirit. It is not for me to live in a moment forever, but rather to create those immortal moments for others.

Doubt’s Irrelevance to Truth

A silly thing, doubt, when dealing with truth. As daunting or terrifying as doubt may seem to a besieged soul, when broken down and measured for its worth, it comes up lacking. When one is gathering facts for a case or presentation, one rarely if ever asks opinion or feeling. Despite what Hollywood crime dramas would have us believe, it isn’t hunches or doubts or even gut feelings that lead to understanding or resolutions. It is something else entirely. What that is can vary depending on the situation, but what we can be sure of is that it isn’t hunches, feelings or doubt.
I remember speaking with an atheist friends of mine on the subject of existence and origin, and I spoke of there needing to be a source of all things. His response, which resonates with my doubts as well as much of modern thought was, “Couldn’t it all just have been by chance? What if it was?” I stopped, annoyed, and said, “Yes, of course it could have , but what bearing does that have on truth?” He laughed and our conversation drifted onto more benign subjects. ‘Whats ifs’ and ‘could haves’ are not what is and what was. Interjections like that are good for speculation or challenging thought, but definitely not for establishing truth or faith.
So why do we let it dominate so much of our structures of belief? Why do we experience doubt and then assume its reality as if it is ours? We must learn to put doubt in its place and not allow it to establish its false brand of truth for us. Rather, we should trust in God’s Word for our truth and in His hope for our strength to realize that truth in our lives. Doubt, while powerful, holds little relevance to truth and it is time we realized that.

Disappointment’s Role in Doubt

How many times have heard the story of a Christian leader who confesses to some dark sin, or worse yet, is found out without confession? Sometimes it is someone you recognize, someone you respect, or even someone who you know. How disappointing, you had thought better of them and here they are, letting all of Christendom down, especially in such a public and damaging way. That disappointment can lead you into a whole host of doubt filled thoughts. Why, if that person can fall or show a lack of sanctification, then who else hasn’t confessed or been caught yet? Questions even begin to arise like “are there any genuine Christians out there?”
One very important response to this thought process is to be self-reflective, rather than other critical. Unless you are involved directly in the event there is little directly that you have to do with the situation. Thus, little is gained by dwelling on it for long. Instead, use it as a reminder to look at your own life and with the mindset of “there but by the grace of God, go I!” or perhaps even, “there am I, help me Lord.” Use it as an opportunity to approach God rather than doubt Him.
Disappointment can come in many other forms as well. Anytime an expectation is dashed or not met, a shocked frustration is sure to follow, and you will be tasked with sorting out all of the fallout. A supposed Spiritual certainty unfulfilled, a door closed when you really wanted it open, a period of spiritual dryness when what you craved was renewal. All of these can lead to thoughts of frustration and doubt. But, many can be addressed by changing our perspective. Looking at God’s grace and provision in what He has given you instead of entitlement in what He has withheld or neglected to give you. Realize you do not understand everything and trust in the One who made all things and sustains all things.

Stephen Mattson

Inspiration. Faith. Christian Culture. Writing.

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