Fenton’s Friday Five

5. Loyal friends are not those who have your back, but those who will speak the truth to your face. Recently, I heard Rosalind Wiseman, author of Queen Bees and Wannabes, speak. During her presentation, she said, “Loyalty is about speaking truth to power not about having someone to cover your back.” I think she is on to a cultural character flaw. We have bought in to the gang culture which punishes “snitching.” We have deeply woven it into the corporate and government world, which punishes “whistleblowers.” A retired public official, who publicly exposed the flaws of government systems and leaders, was asked how he could expose his good friends who gave him a job. His response was, “I have told them this before, but now I have gone public because I do like them and I so hope this will help them to change.” He is a loyal friend. Never trust a friend to have your back if he has never spoken truth about you to your face.

4. With #5 in mind, here is my latest definition of loyalty: Authentic loyalty is consistent adherence to principles rather than allegiance to personalities.

3. A tragic life is not necessarily brief or painful, but it is one that has no meaning and purpose. As some medical researchers are frantically attempting to increase longevity, others are in litigation trying to get the right to end life early. So many are trying to remove the suffering of dying; so many others are trying to remove the suffering of living. While certainly not advocating seeking suffering, we need to remember that suffering does have value. Remember the words Paul wrote: Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance;perseverance, character; and character, hope. (Romans 5:3-4)

2. You never operate effectively on empty; you only run on empty. We think we will refill our spiritual emptiness by trying harder, but we are only running away from the real source of renewal.  The real source of renewal is only found in repentance and re-engaging the living Christ. Spiritual passion is not the result of pushing onward and upward but of accepting God’s hand which is reaching downward to us.

1. The living with passion paradox: Going through the motions requires much less energy than doing things with passion. However, going through the motions is more exhausting than doing things with passion.

I invite you take steps down the characterpath today.
Gary Fenton

P.S.  You are invited to follow on Twitter @CharacterPath.

 

 

 

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Fenton’s Friday Five

5. Greed is both the desire for more and being satisfied with what you have without gratitude. Everything belongs to God, and greed is a denial of that principle. Greed assumes we have the right to accumulate as much as we can. However, the truth is we have the responsibility to use as much as we can for the glory of God and the good of humanity. Lack of gratitude is the failure to recognize that it all belongs to God. You will never be grateful until you know everything you have has been given to you. When you are greedy, you think about your rights; when you are grateful, you focus on your responsibilities.

4. Listening is the most important intergenerational discipline. People who listen well have good intergenerational friendships. When you listen, you give respect, which is necessary if you desire to connect up or down the age ladder.

3. The best blog (with the best title) I read this week is: Churches Without The Broken Are Broken Churches. You can find it at: http://www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2014/september/loving-lost-churches-without-broken-are-broken-churches.html.

2. We need at least three kinds of people helping us in our character development. We need teachers to give us good information, trainers to show us how to apply the information, and coaches to evaluate and instruct us as we apply the information in real time. Coaches may contribute more to our character success. Coaches generally have personal investment in our success because they are on the team with us. Our best coaches are in the organizations for which we work and volunteer. They need us to succeed, as well as want us to succeed. Often, the best sources of information and the best, most effective trainers may have no real investment in our success. A coach, however, only succeeds if the players succeed. When it comes to character development, it may be difficult to find a coach at work, but you can usually find a good coach in an organization in which you are volunteering. And, when you are developing in character, you are helping everyone on the team, including the coach. You are volunteering, aren’t you?

1. Sometimes the best question we can ask or can be asked is, “Do you want help or do you want sympathy?” We will talk more about this on Sunday morning, September 28, at Dawson.

May you take steps down the character path today.
Gary Fenton

PS.  You are invited to follow on Twitter @CharacterPath.

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Fenton’s Friday Five

5. Self-awareness is one of the better indicators of a capacity to change. People do not change until they are realistically aware of their strengths and weaknesses. Unless people acknowledge a need to change, they will not have the motivation to change. This relates to our work habits, personal relationships, and spiritual lives. For example, we will never become a Christ-follower until we know we are sinners. We will never grow in faith until we recognize both the command to grow and our need to grow.

4. Self-awareness is very difficult when we are in a survival mode. Patients in the ICU may need to change their attitudes, but they rarely recognize it. They are using all of their physical and emotional energy to survive. Similarly, when people are in a family or financial crises, an emotional ICU, they are often the least capable of change. In the biblical story of the Good Samaritan, the hero provided stability to the victim first, rather than telling him how he needed to change his route next time or how he should always have someone accompany him. While we have the need to tell people in crisis how they need to change, hurting people need to know that they are loved before they can even recognize the need for change. Knowing they are loved can provide the stability to then hear and receive what we say about their need to change. Love and listen before you start the change lecture.

3. Christian missions do not begin with our taking the initiative toward a lost and hurting world; it begins with understanding that God took the initiative toward us when we were lost and hurting. Mission initiatives are the inevitable response of people who understand grace.

2. Do our mission efforts really produce results? Read the following from the April 19, 2014 edition of The Telegraph (a respected U.K. publication): “In 2010 there were more than 58 million Protestants in China compared to 40 million in Brazil and 36 million in South Africa, according to the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion and Public Life.  Prof Yang, a leading expert on religion in China, believes that number will swell to around 160 million by 2025. That would likely put China ahead even of the United States, which had around 159 million Protestants in 2010 but whose congregations are in decline. By 2030, China’s total Christian population, including Catholics, would exceed 247 million, placing it above Mexico, Brazil and the United States as the largest Christian congregation in the world, he predicted.”

1. Favorite link of the week: read and reflect!  http://www.pbs.org/johngardner/sections/writings_speech_1.html

May you take steps down the character path today.
Gary Fenton

PS.  You are invited to follow on Twitter @CharacterPath.

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Fenton’s Friday Five – Labor Day Edition

5. Spiritual cynicism is distrusting anything you cannot fully understand.  A spiritually sensitive Christian passionately pursues knowledge and understanding but also leaves room for mystery. If we only worship God because of what we understand, we will not experience the awe of worship.

4. Six days you shall labor” may be the most ignored thought in the Ten Commandments.  I doubt this truth is what you wanted to hear as you make your plans to “veg out” on the long Labor Day weekend. Some Christians rationalize that they are keeping the fourth commandment, “remember the Sabbath by keeping it holy,” by showing up for an hour at church each week. They often totally ignore that the same commandment instructs us to work 6 days. We are not commanded just to work 40 hours a week or have a 9 to 5 job for 5 days a week. The biblical command is a six-day workweek. While you would expect a “workaholic” who needs to recover to say this statement, I assure you that this is not a “Forgo Your Day Off” blog sponsored by the SSOA (Sweat Shop Operators of America.) Of course we need time away from our places of employment for rest and recreation and spending more time with our families. Spending more time at the office, the store, or in front of the computer is not necessarily a virtue, but many perceive work as something to be avoided if possible.

Work is not a necessary economic evil that is only required as long as you need money. This command is unrelated to income but is directly related to holiness. In the creation story, God commanded Adam to work in the garden He had created (see Genesis 2:15).  To work is to engage in that which glorifies God and benefits man. This can be done as a volunteer as well as a paid employee. Avoiding work, responsibility, and constructive engagement will increase boredom. As a society, we appear to be on the way to recreating ourselves into meaninglessness. By all means engage in recreation, but don’t expect your recreation to provide meaning and fulfillment in your life. We are created to work with our mental and physical gifts for six days. Stay engaged in serving and you will keep this commandment. Tim Keller has great additional insight on the Christian view of work and vocation in his book Every Good Endeavor. This is a very good read for Labor Day as you will be “working your mind” when reading this book.

3. When reading and thinking about the “wrath of God,” you may want to mentally substitute the words “justice of God.”  When we use the word “wrath” today, we generally associate it more with a desire to punish rather than a desire to make things right or just. God’s wrath is always both just and redemptive, while frequently our wrath is only  punitive.  We should not and cannot eliminate the concept of wrath of God but we need to understand it in the Biblical context.

2. Now is the time for all good Southerners to talk college football. Familiarity with football terminology is necessary to communicate in our part of the country this time of the year.  One of the better football analogies I saw this week is found in the Dawson Library display window:

KICK OFF YOUR GAME PLAN

GO DEEP in the Word

WIN others to Christ

HOLD THAT LINE in defending your faith

TAKE A KNEE in prayer

HEAD FOR THE GOAL LINE with a life lived for Him

1. The character you have tomorrow will be determined by the choices you make today.

Gary Fenton

You are invited to follow on twitter @characterpath


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Fenton’s Friday Five

5. The most dangerous blog post of the week was written by Ann Coulter who accused the missionary physician who contracted Ebola of Christian narcissism. While I often agree with her political insights and am occasionally entertained by her wit and over-the-top sarcasm, this time she entirely missed the point of Christian missions. We minister to the poor and impoverished in the name of Jesus because of the command of Jesus, not to promote a particular political philosophy or because it is practical. Christian missions and ministry are to some extent impractical. We are taught that the poor will be with us always, and yet, we are to minister to them. Christian missions and ministry are never political or economic strategies; they are intentional acts of obedience to a holy God. Coulter provided more ammunition to those aiming their verbal guns at Christian missions. But simply ranting and raving over Anne Coulter’s ranting and raving is not enough. This week, support the work of international missions through prayer and giving.

4. Best article of the week is by Dawson’s Ginny Bourland in The Alabama Baptist. The “Back to School” front-page story is a must read for every parent and grandparent. I am not promoting this because I am Ginny’s pastor, but because it is a powerful and needed statement for the body of Christ.

3. The news about Christians being persecuting is both concerning and convicting. Most of the response is motivated by concern, but I am personally convicted that I have not consistently prayed for the persecuted church. I have occasionally shot up some “drive-by prayers” when I have read a touching article or viewed an emotional news story showing the suffering of Christians. I am committing to pray every day for Christians who are physically suffering for the gospel, and I invite you to join me.

2. My 2014 fall resolution: “The quality of my life will not be determined by the record of my favorite college football team.” I usually wait and make that resolution after their first loss, but it is spiritually healthier to do it before the season. I know what you are thinking…and no, I am not preparing myself for a bad season by my team.

1. Is greatness a legitimate ambition for the believer in and follower of Jesus? The answer will be revealed at 8:25 a.m., 9:40 a.m., and 11:00 a.m. on Sunday at Dawson!

 May you take steps along the characterpath today.

Gary Fenton

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Fenton’s Friday Five

5. Insecurity in our relationship with God leads to instability in our walk with God. Students of family dynamics frequently connect emotional security to the stability of the family. Healthy Christian assurance is founded more on being secure in our relationship with God in the present than being certain we will go to heaven when we die. To live the bold and risk-taking life requires confidence in God’s presence now, not just the assurance we can depend on God eventually.

4. Authentic community is not just about “hanging out together” but about “hanging in together” during tough times. While from 2005-2008 the American church needed the clear call to be a community rather than only an institution that came from the “emergent church,”  many of their examples sounded more like Bubba and the boys living out Springsteen’s “Glory Days” than engaging in intentionally-formed community. A community requires its members to accept responsibility for each other. Unless you are praying for and ministering to each other, going to church with friends to listen to your favorite worship music and preacher is not building Christian community. Attending church is like being a football fan, and actually participating in the life of the church is like being a football player. Fans hang out together; teammates hang in together.

3. If you are praying for smaller government, I suggest you begin by praying for moral and better government. Small, immoral government is still bad government.

2. When we avoid the people of God, we ignore the Spirit of God. God’s presence is manifest in His people. It is interesting that people are reading more religious books than ever; however, in our country, the church seems to possess less power than ever. Do you suppose it has anything to do with Christians gathering less for corporate worship? I do…but you would expect that from a pastor.

1. If you only read the Bible for comfort, you are missing its primary purpose. We will talk more about this Sunday at Dawson.

 

 

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Fenton’s Friday Five

5. Instead of asking God to bless your plans, ask God (and trust Him) to build your plans. Far too often, we plan, and then immediately prior to implementing the plan, we ask God to bless the plan. When God is involved in the planning process, He creates plans that will build His kingdom, and He recreates us. God often uses the planning process to change us rather than using our plans to change others.

4. Engaged listening is more than just hearing the words people speak. It is understanding their intent, passion, and purpose as well. If you are angry, disinterested, or frustrated, you very well may miss what someone is attempting to tell you. Praying before you listen is as important as praying before you speak.

3. If your self-worth is dependent on what someone thinks about you, you have allowed him or her to become your god. Whomever or whatever you allow to be our god will control you. As Christians, our self-worth should be the direct result of knowing that we have been created in the image of God and that our character and conduct are being recreated through the Holy Spirit in the likeness of His Son. Knowing who we are in Christ is the key to healthy self-esteem.

2. If you have not read it or if you read it a long time ago, I encourage you to read (or reread) Basic Christianity by John Stott. I am reading it again this summer. Summer is a good time to review some of the basics and reflect on how they renew your soul and apply to your life now.

1. Best quote of the month: “Be where your feet are.” This quote is from a church member describing the importance of being engaged in the present. Our past is forgiven and our future is secure, so there is no reason not to engage and embrace this moment.

Make progress today by taking a step down the character path.

Gary Fenton

P.S.  You are invited to follow on Twitter @CharacterPath.

 

 

 

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Fenton’s Friday Five

5. The Bible tells us what we need to know not what we want to know. This is one reason we don’t read it daily. If Scripture told us what was going to happen next, we would read it faithfully. Instead of telling us what will happen next, Scripture teaches us what we need to become and do in order to handle whatever happens next.

4. For Christians, praying for our national leaders is a priority. (I Timothy 2)

3. Notifying your social network of a politician’s sins is less likely to bring revival than confessing your own sin to God. Unfortunately, our Christian subculture assumes that sending and forwarding e-mails about the spiritual and moral failures of government leaders are virtues. By our practice, we have changed the words of the African American spiritual from “It’s me, it’s me, it’s me, O, Lord, standing in the need of prayer” to “It’s he, it’s he, it’s he, O Lord, standing in the need of prayer.”

2. Societal change that is not based on spiritual transformation will only change who profits from the corruption. In a democracy, electing good leaders to represent the will of an unrepentant and rebellious people may bring a temporary uptick in morality but not a long-term turnaround of character.

1. To criticize the government for misusing our money while refusing to tithe God’s money is a contradiction. “Did you hear about the politician who treated our tax money like it was their own? Don’t they know tax money is our money?” “Did you hear about the Christians who treated God’s money like it was their own? Don’t they know all money and possessions belong to God?”

Make progress today by taking a step down the character path.

Gary Fenton

P.S.  You are invited to follow on Twitter @CharacterPath.

 

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Fenton’s Friday Five

Below are five questions that can help both your character and your soul:

5. Generally, do I emotionally react or thoughtfully respond to what happens to me? Reaction rarely leads to redemption or healing. While thoughtful response may not resolve everything, it is certainly a bridge to progress.

4. If your mind could only expand with thought calories, would it be healthy or would it be on life support? As we become more selective about what we eat, we should also be intentional as to what we allow in our mind. We need to carefully limit what we see and read to that which is healthy for or challenges our mind, soul, and spirit. Let’s begin a crusade for a diet of the mind! But, we can’t take credit for it; Paul started it in Philippians 4:8. Look this verse up, and read it again and again as you plan the menu for your mind.

3. Am I hoping for societal reformation or genuinely praying and working for spiritual revival? Most of us are unwilling to do the hard work of revival: genuine confession, authentic repentance, and the daily spiritual disciplines needed for change. We would rather vocally push leaders to reform our society through political programs. We call yelling at the politicians “political activism.” Spiritual revival, however, requires us to bare our souls before God in prayer rather than posting our preferences on Facebook.

2. Am I angry about too many things for too long? When you allow anger to stay for a prolonged period of time in your heart and soul, it will lead to destructive action.

1. Am planning on going to church on Sunday, or I am planning to participate in corporate worship on Sunday? There is a difference, and we will talk about that next time.

Make progress today by taking a step down the character path.

Gary Fenton

P.S.  You are invited to follow on Twitter @CharacterPath.

 

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Fenton Friday Five

This week’s Fenton’s Friday Five is directed to parents of children by guest blogger, Danielle Bell. Danielle is not only a high-energy Minister to Children, but she is also a lady with a deep and contagious faith. 

5. be still - the hectic month of may leaves many families weary and worn from schedule overload. so instead of allowing the calendar to dictate every moment of summer, why not carve out days where, as a family, your calendar is empty and you learn to be still? “be still and know that I am God.” – psalm 46:10 don’t over-schedule your summer where ”doing” dictates the days. if we are constantly crowding our days with activities, how will we and our children ever learn to simply be still and sit at our Savior’s feet? as a family practice the difficult discipline of being still.

4. creation’s classroom - get outside. literally stop and watch the sun set, run through a field, sit in the morning sun, and walk through the woods. my favorite is to lay on my back on a calm, clear night and stare at the stars. “the heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands.” – psalm 19:1 create special moments outside this summer to point your family to the Creator. no indoor classroom can hold His glory!

3. screen free - we have become a people addicted to screens – tv, phone, computer, gaming devices, tablets, and more. set aside hours or days where the entire family commits to being screen-free and promises to be truly present in the precious moments of summer.

2. laugh and let go - when is the last time you truly let go and laughed? this summer, ask God to give you grace to quickly forgive, the joy to laugh and move forward, and the love not to judge and jump to conclusions. don’t allow the little frustrations of family to rob you of the gift of your times together.

1. intentional conversation - sit longer at the dinner table. ask specific questions on long car rides. look for “divine appointments” in the day to speak of Jesus and His great love for us. at bedtime, talk of eternal things, share concerns, and questions. the key to all of these is to wait for the answers and to really hear what your family is saying. allow the slower pace of summer to provide you with time to discuss what really matters with those you hold most dear.

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