Fenton’s Friday Five

5. Best book I read this week: Divorce Remarriage by Rubel Shelley.  This book provides some great biblical insights into an emotionally complicated subject. You may not agree with all of the conclusions, but the Q/A in Chapter 8 is worth the book.  When you read it, think redemption, not regulation.

4. Best blog post of the week: Autism and the Church by Amy Fenton Lee on TheInclusiveChurch.com.

3. Best leadership insight of the week: Leaders interpret reality. Visionaries picture what could be. Leaders without vision will only tweak and improve what is. Visionaries without leadership will talk about a bright day ahead when it is raining, but they can’t stop the rain. The real change agents in life are visionary leaders.

2. Best recent “eavesdrop”: While in a fast food restaurant, I overheard a mother say to her middle school age daughter: “You are not in trouble for what you said. You are in trouble for not listening to what I said. If you had listened to what I said, you would not have said what you said.”

1. Best, or maybe most interesting, paraphrase of Romans 8:28: “All things work together for God’s glory for those who love God and who are working for His purpose of ultimate redemption.”

 Make progress today by taking a step down the characterpath.

Gary Fenton

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

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Fenton’s Friday Five

5. Recovery from bad habits, addictions, and sinful behavior always involves relationships.  Recovery obviously involves a relationship with God, but we often neglect that a relationship with God always connects us with people. The forgiven, Spirit-filled believer needs and requires the spiritual gifts of others. To live in isolation is to live in bondage.

4. Just because you are friendly does not mean you have relationships. To be friendly often describes learned personality traits. However, to be in a relationship means you have a responsibility to the person with whom you are in relationship. The previous sentence sounds awkward, but it is true.  Relationships inevitably involve responsibility. Many couples live together without being married because they want to avoid binding responsibility.  They are not in a relationship; they are in a cooperative housing agreement with benefits.

3. The dance of authentic spiritual life involves three moves:

  • Confessing sin, which means agreeing with God that you have sinned against Him, and that in Christ, you are forgiven.
  • Connecting with others who have experienced both dimensions of forgiveness.
  • Living in grateful obedience for God’s forgiveness and for His direction in your daily life. Among professing Christians, this third step is where the dance gets awkward. Many Christians try to live the obedient life without gratitude.

2. Best read of the week:  Unbroken (by Laura Hillenbrand). The movie won’t be out until Christmas, so you have time to read it before you see Hollywood and Angeline Jolie’s interpretation of it. I trust Hillenbrand’s interpretation more than A.J.’s.

1. Hope is our anticipated future reality.  As Christians, Easter is a picture of our anticipated future reality.

Make progress today by taking a step down the characterpath.

Gary Fenton

 P.S.  You are invited to follow on Twitter @CharacterPath as well as share this link (www.characterpath.com) with others who may find it helpful.

 

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Fenton Friday Five

5. Legalism is a dangerous drug for the soul. It provides you with a destructive self-righteous high which makes you feel temporarily superior to others.  However, in the process, it isolates you and alienates you from God. When you count on anything other than God’s grace for your spiritual worth and well-being, you are destroying your soul just as crack and meth damage the mind and the body.

4. When we choose to isolate ourselves from other believers, we are also isolating ourselves from the fullness of the Holy Spirit. All of us have spiritual gifts, but none of us have all the gifts of the Spirit.  We have access to the benefits of the all the gifts of the Spirit when we connect and intersect with God’s people.

3. Lessons from this year’s Super Bowl:

  • People do what they want to do. Many people waited in long lines to ride public transportation and sat outside on a cold afternoon in order to watch a very boring four-hour football game. These are the same folks who don’t like to stand in line at the post office, heat their houses in late March, cool their house on Thanksgiving in order to keep the temperature at an ideal 72 degrees, and then complain when church services last over an hour.
  •  The experience is often more important than the event. It was not a great football game, and most Super Bowls are not, but those in attendance will remember more about what they felt and experienced than what occurred on the field. This happens every day at work, schools and even church. As we seek to improve the experience, we also give an opportunity to boost productivity, increase learning, and more fully engage in worship. Improving the experience does not guarantee results, but it can eliminate barriers.
  •  Everybody occasionally has a bad day…just ask Peyton

2. The most common, negative, repetitive action (addiction) is making choices based on feelings rather than on faith. Most other addictions are the result of this addiction.

1. Twitter is often verbal litter.

 Make progress today by taking a step down the characterpath.

Gary Fenton

 

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Fenton’s Friday Five

5. Intelligence and spiritual insight do not decrease the need for prayer; they increase it. Insight and intelligence can be dangerous if you do not know how and when to use them. One of the more insightful people I have known has created chaos and confusion in every organization in which he has worked or served. Insight and intelligence without God’s direction are disruptive and destructive.  However, with God’s direction, they are helpful and healing. The more intelligent and insightful you are, the more you need to pray for wisdom.

4. Best read of the week: David and Goliath (by Malcolm Glidewell). This is the most faith-friendly book written by Glidewell. The following link will help you understand why: http://www.religionnews.com/2013/10/09/interv.

3. The anti-institution rhetoric is increasing in both religious and political circles. As people observe corruption in government and in the institutional church, it is becoming popular to suggest that both government and the institutional church are the problem. Some folks see the mismanagement of  government and become survivalist antichrists. Other folks are repelled by the hypocrisy in the institutional church, so they drop out and become spiritual survivalists with no church connection. While both government and the institutional church are often corrupt, a careful study of the Bible reveals how God has created and chosen to work through institutions. In the Old Testament, God created the institutions of marriage, family, national government, and then established a very organized (institutional) community of faith. An entire tribe dedicated to the priesthood sounds like a bloated bureaucracy. In the New Testament, God created the church. While some may suggest the first century church was not an institution, there were positional leaders,  organizational principles, and strategies for it to expand and pass forward to the next generation. Sounds like an institution to me. Flaws and corruption in institutions are not adequate reasons to abandon them. If you see corruption and mismanagement in the institutional church or in government, work to reform rather than withdraw. Anarchy, whether political or spiritual, is a serious character flaw because it is the ultimate cynicism. Think twice before you sign up to march in the anti-institution parade.

2. If you don’t trust that God is working in the mundane, you won’t trust Him to do the miraculous.

1. Here is a good trinity of truths you may want to repeat to yourself before you pray:

  • God is.
  • God is present.
  • God is presently active.

May you take steps down the characterpath today.

Gary Fenton

 PS.  You are invited to follow on Twitter @CharacterPath as well as share this link (www.characterpath.com) with others who may find it helpful.

 

 

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Fenton Friday Five

5. If you do not know where you are going, driving faster will not get you there. I don’t know about you, but I have found as a “sometimes recovering” workaholic that I substitute busyness for purposeful action. Adrenalin has been my drug of choice for most of my adult life; at one time of my life, I thought it was a virtue, not a vice. I was wrong!

4. “People who have difficulty forgiving are almost always people who have difficulty really believing that God has forgiven them.” Older and wiser people told me that back during the century in which I was young. Now that I am older, I am arriving at the same conclusion. I’m not sure why it has taken me so long to get there. Do you think it could have been because it was so descriptive of me? That is a rhetorical question, so there is no need for you (family members included) to answer that!

3. To only celebrate the birth of Jesus at Christmas is to miss the more significant issue. The Incarnation, or the miracle of God becoming flesh, is the heart of our celebration, as we acknowledge not only His birth but who He is.

2. Cynicism is a value issue. Cynics overvalue self and undervalue others.

1. Most radio talk shows are located at the intersection of arrogance and ignorance. The talk show hosts are traveling at a high speed on Arrogance Avenue, and the callers are driving carelessly down Ignorance Lane. They collide at airtime, and we call the result entertainment rather than an accident. Yet this week, I learned something from one of the broadcasts. A middle school football coach said that he had stopped defining excellence as perfection but as improvement. If his players improved each week, he felt he had an excellent year because with middle schoolers, there is no such thing as perfection. The same can be said for character in adults. None of us are perfect, but we can improve. If I am on the CharacterPath, I should have improved this week. Did you?

 May you take steps down the CharacterPath today.

Gary Fenton

 PS.  You are invited to follow on Twitter @CharacterPath as well as share this link (www.characterpath.com) with others who may find it helpful.

 

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Fenton’s Friday Five (Early Edition)

5. Is it possible that the enthusiasm for shopping on Black Friday is not rooted in materialism but boredom? Waiting in line all night, the adrenaline rush that comes when the doors open, and securing merchandise at a reduced rate (winning) while others have to pay more (losing) has some similarity to getting the best tickets to a music concert or attending an athletic event in which your team wins. If Black Friday is driven by a lack of meaning as much as greed, it may suggest that instead of ranting about how those greedy, secular merchants are destroying Thanksgiving and Christmas, we need to address where and how we find the meaning of life. During the holidays and football season, it is a good time to intentionally interact with your children and grandchildren about the meaning of life. This means you will be speaking to them about the claims of Jesus who said, “I am the way the truth and the life.” Black Friday shoppers and Saturday football fanatics both may be attempting to fill their life with the same hollow grail rather than with the Holy God.

4. Best read of the week: The Good of Affluence (by John R. Schneider). It is not a light read, but it is enlightening. It is like most books and some medications in that you don’t have to swallow the whole dose in order to benefit.  You won’t agree with all of it, but it will stretch your thinking. It is a response to the popular, simplistic approach that suggests people with possessions are bad while those in poverty are virtuous. It gets to the heart of the matter, which is our hearts.

3. Winter is too much work! For years, I have not enjoyed cold weather and the dreary overcast days that often accompany it. While cold weather can make life slightly more complicated (very slightly here in Alabama) by adding an extra layer of clothes, I think my dislike for late fall and winter is the result of my emotional laziness. On days filled with warm sunshine and gentle comforting breezes, it is easier for me to be aware of the goodness of God. Yet, God is no less good during the first cold snap than on a bright June morning. I have to be more intentional in my thinking and in choosing to be aware that the quality of my life has little to do with the temperature. Living the life of joy requires work and effort of the mind and heart. My dislike of winter may reveal more about my spiritual character than it does about my physical sensitivity to temperature change. Whether your preference is summer or winter, make sure that the character of your soul is not determined by the comfort of the season.

2. Last week while eating dinner with a friend, I heard a great thanksgiving prayer: “God, Creator of life and Redeemer of our broken lives through Christ, thank you. Amen.”  Sometimes the simplicity of our faith gets lost in the multiplicity of our words.

1. During this Thanksgiving season, I am thankful that you read this edition of the Fenton Friday Five. Listening, whether through hearing or reading, is a gift you have given me.

 May you take steps down the characterpath today.

 Gary Fenton

PS. Follow on twitter @CharacterPath.

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Fenton’s Friday Five

5.  It is becoming quite fashionable in the Christian suburbs to bemoan the number of young people in the inner cities who are wasting their lives through cocaine, crack, and gang violence.  But wasted lives are not only the property of the inner cities or the young.  There are many folks living in the suburbs, enrolled in good schools, and participating in small group Bible studies who are wasting their lives in pursuit of comfort, convenience, and peer acceptance.

4.  To be grateful for what you have already experienced is a healthy human response.  To be grateful for what you will experience before you receive it is a faith response.

3.  There is a children’s health care crisis.  In many communities, the number of specialists in one area of children’s health is declining rapidly.  Let’s state that another way:  there is a spiritual health care crisis.  In many churches, the number of people volunteering to teach preschool and children’s Sunday School and Bible study is declining.  In the last month, I have received many e-mails and forwarded articles about the physical health care crisis.  However, no one has sent me anything about starting a campaign to solve the spiritual health care volunteer issue.  Hmm…

2.  The person who deliberately practices praise will be more likely to practice moral purity than the person who does not practice praise.

1.  The Christian faith, by its very nature, leads us to excellence in every area of our lives.  Mediocrity is only acceptable to those who do not understand what God has done for us in Jesus.

May you take steps down the characterpath today.

Gary Fenton

P.S.  Follow on Twitter @Characterpath.

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Fenton’s Friday Five

5. Several years ago two counselors wrote a Christian market best seller, Happiness Is a Choice. Just listening to the conversations of many Christians, I think it is time for a sequel, Discouragement Is A Choice. We live in difficult times with challenging circumstances and many are choosing to be discouraged while blaming their discouragement on their circumstances.   As believers in and followers of Jesus, we are led, influenced, and empowered by the One who dwells within, not by what happens around us. People of Christian character are not only those who avoid sin but also those who chose to live the encouraged and encouraging life.

4. Cynicism is contagious because by its nature, we are attracted to it. Cynicism is built on the assumption that we know reality better than other folks. In the crevices of our fallen souls, we all want to think we are smarter than others because we assume they have fallen further than we have. If you are intelligent but lack humility, you will be a cynic, and you will have a significant character flaw.

3. I recently heard a speaker say, “The biggest issue that western civilization faces is the overwhelming desire for instant gratification.” I think he was right. Children born out of wedlock, drug and alcohol addiction, obesity, school dropouts, couples living together outside of marriage, many divorces, and excessive personal debt are all symptoms of the desire for instant gratification. Patience may be the most neglected virtue of the 21st century.

2. What do college football stadiums on Saturday and churches on Sunday have in common? Many people in attendance do not understand what is happening; they attend primarily for the experience. Many folks who attend college football games openly admit they are not students of the game; they just know enough to know whether their team won or lost and they enjoy the being with friends at the game. Many people attending church can’t call themselves students (disciples) of Jesus; they think they just know enough to get them to heaven when they die and they enjoy being with their friends at church.

1. And lets revisit that cynicism thing: Since cynicism has been perfected into an art form by the television sitcom, we are going to have to be very intentional about removing it from our lives and our homes.

May you take steps down the characterpath today.

Gary Fenton

PS.  Follow on Twitter @Characterpath.

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Fenton’s Friday Five

5. Character is more related to wisdom than to knowledge. Wisdom is a gift from God.  However, it is also a “received gift” meaning that we can chose to ignore it, refuse it, or apply it.

4. Greedy living is the opposite of graceful living, and therefore, ungodly living. If we only share our possessions with people who deserve them, we are not following God’s model.

3. Passion that results from preference rather than principle is passing. This week I have not had any passion for following college football. This week I have followed college football as closely as I normally follow college ice hockey. (Do they still have college ice hockey?) The reason for my recent lack of interest in college football is that last Saturday my team of preference, the Oklahoma Sooners, lost to the University of Texas. I am not a Sooner fan based on principle but on a preference I developed in my childhood. Perhaps that is why so many Bible-belt, professing Christians live without passion. Their faith is a preference developed in childhood rather than a principle. Teaching the principles of the Christian faith to children will help them live the Christian life with passion when they are adults.

2. Greedy givers grumble because they have to give, and generous givers are grateful that they get to give. I can’t think of one generous person I have known who had a negative spirit or attitude.

1. While reviewing some old notes this week, I ran across a quote from a book I read eight years ago: Seeking first the kingdom means “revising the way we see people, situations, and priorities as the way God sees them, and inviting the Holy Spirit into our relationships to infuse into our thoughts and actions two key elements of leading like Jesus—forgiveness and grace.” (from Lead like Jesus by Blanchard and Hodges)

I invite you to take steps on the characterpath today.

Gary Fenton

P.S. Also, I invite you to follow on Twitter @CharacterPath.

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Fenton’s Friday Five

5. Purpose precedes healthy passion, excellence, and meaning. When I read or hear that a novel, movie, or concert is “Christian” my first thought is rarely, “The quality will be great.” Instead, I think it will not be offensive to families. While we do need to protect our families, we also need to reclaim “excellence” as a Christian virtue. Whatever Christians do, it should be done with passion, excellence, and meaning. Those will only occur when we know what the purpose of life is. The purpose of life is to reflect the character and nature of God as revealed in Jesus, the Christ. One reason mediocrity is so often associated with Christians is that we assume the purpose of life is a three-step process:  survive, enjoy, and then go to heaven.  But our purpose is not in surviving until we enter the kingdom in heaven; rather our purpose is conducting our life in ways that give evidence that we are currently living in the kingdom from heaven.

4. The most interesting book I re-read this week: Made to Stick (by Chip Heath and Dan Heath). This book is almost seven years old. I skimmed it when it was new, but I went back and re-read most of it this week. This is a great book for educators, leaders, and communicators.

3. The best story on the Internet this week is found at: www.telegram.com/article/20130929/COLUMN01/309299933/0&template. If you are old enough to remember Bob Cousy of the Boston Celtics, it is a great read.  If you are married, it is a must read!

 2. Spiritual intelligence is the most neglected form of intelligence; it will be increasingly so if we fail to understand and teach a Christian worldview. Teaching your children right from wrong without teaching a Christian worldview is similar to teaching your child how to add and subtract without teaching them how to count.

1. Knowing God is more important than knowing what God wants you to do. I wish I had realized this early in my Christian life.

May you take steps down the characterpath today.

Gary Fenton

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

 

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