Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Character Formation

In some ways life is a test to see what you are made of deep, down inside. The thing called character. Character is determined by what you do when no one is looking. It is related to integrity, living in alignment with what you believe to be true. If self-discipline is the first key to mastering the art of living, character is the offspring of self-discipline. Doing the right thing at the right time (self-discipline) day in and day creates a life that is true to your values (character).
The test of character is pressure. What do you do when you are under pressure to act? What kinds of decisions do you make when everything is on the line? Which way do you go when no one is looking? How do you react when everything is going wrong? These are the common pressure points in life that test your character.
So, how can you be sure that your character is being formed in a Christ-like way? It has to do with your values. The most important part of character formation is knowing the core values that guide every decision of your life. When it comes to developing Christ-like values there are three things of supreme importance:
1.     The Bible
2.     The Holy Spirit
3.     Absolute Clarity
The Bible is God’s revelation to humankind. It is God’s love letter to us, giving us guidance in how to live our lives in such a way that God is glorified.  This is what we were created to do – to bring honor and glory to God. So, the first step is to read the Bible daily. Consume its wisdom. Live and breathe according to its world view. This is what the Psalmist meant when he started his book of song by saying – “Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, but whose delight is in the law of the LORD, and who meditates on his Law day and night” (Psalm 1:1-2). 
The Holy Spirit is the second key in developing Christ-like values. Jesus told us that the Holy Spirit would guide us into all truth and remind us of His words (John 14:26).  So the Holy Spirit is the voice of Jesus past and present.
Once you discover the values of Jesus by studying the Word of God and listening to the voice of the Holy Spirit who dwells within you, then you can begin to see clear guiding principles for living your life. There are many things in the Bible that are open for varying interpretations. It’s important to remain open and flexible in much of what we believe God is saying through his Word. Your job is to interpret his Word the best you can and in light of that, love God and love others with all our heart.  That being said – there are certain core biblical beliefs – what I will call irreducible minimums – upon which you should build your life. I am talking about the rock solid core beliefs that Christianity is built on. These become your foundation, and the specific values upon which you live your life.  These should be clear and unchangeable. Only then can you live with absolute integrity and character.
Mastering the art of living requires a balanced life. Living your life with integrity (true to who you are on the inside) is the key to a balanced life. It will build a character that is essential for a successful life.

Monday, November 7, 2016

The First Step -- Self-Discipline

For lack of discipline they will die, led astray by their own great folly.
-- Proverbs 5:23

If I had to identify the first key to mastering the art of living it would be self-discipline. Brian Tracy, in his book No Excuses, defines self-discipline as "the ability to do what you should do, when you should do it, whether you feel like it or not." It's the ability to think of the long term. It's the ability to eat dinner before dessert. Self-disciplined people are more concerned with the positive, long-term consequences of their behaviors, than with personal enjoyment and immediate gratification.

The bad news is that self-discipline is very hard for most people. The good news is that self-discipline is a habit, and like any habit it can be formed at any age. The more you practice doing the necessary thing, at the right time (which is usually NOW!), even though you don't feel like it, the stronger you will get, and the easier it will become.

Self-discipline requires three things:

1. Desire. I can't make you want it, but if you want to master the art of living I think I can point you in the right direction.

2. Hard Work. There are no short cuts. Everything worthwhile in life comes with a price. You have to be ready to work hard every day.

3. Clear Vision. You have to know what you are chasing after in life and why you are chasing it. Goals, priorities, and a plan for a balanced life are important. But even more important is for you to know The Why?

If you can get this right it will bring a host of incredibly rewarding consequences. Not only will you start to get balance in your life, but you will also begin to feel yourself growing in character and integrity. You will find yourself becoming less anxious and more confident in the future that God has for you. In the following weeks I want to share what the Bible says about how this works.

It's going to be a great journey!