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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Fenton’s Friday Five

5. Best quote of the week: “People respond more to vision than need.” A Romanian pastor made this statement regarding how the movement to overthrow the Communist regime in his country gained traction in 1989. The Christian faith is about vision. “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth” is not wishful thinking but a passionate agenda for those who are experiencing spiritual transformation.

4. If you have no unfulfilled dreams for the rest of your life, there is no “rest of your life.” Your life, in some ways, is already over. Dreams do not keep you young; they keep you vital.

3. Best article I read this week: http://nytims/1uxlQtU.  Even though you may not agree with some of the opening assumptions, make sure you read the last three paragraphs. It will remind you that there are no solutions to major issues in life without love. Love is not an emotion to be felt but the Christ-centered life to be lived. The Christian faith is never irrelevant in solving global issues. Unfortunately the message of the Christian faith is often ignored by the political leaders when attempting to solve problems. The irony is that often these same poltical leaders have used the language of the Christian faith to help them get elected. Everyone wants to talk like Jesus, but few want to walk like Jesus.

2. More people watched the NFL draft this week than ever before. The Johnny Manziel factor was a major reason for the record television audience. His fans wanted to see which team they should cheer for next year, and his detractors wanted to see who became their new least favorite team. Here, in the collegiate football capital, we determine our professional football loyalties because of the personalities of the performers. While this is fine for recreational loyalty (I realize that some think it is a religion, but it is only a recreational game), don’t allow personality preference to determine your life principles. Just because a strong and winsome personality says it does not make it true. Base your values and life principles on revealed truth, not on revered personalities.

1. Knowing your purpose and position in Jesus is the foundation of Christian patience. For the Christian, the purpose of life is to glorify God, and the position in life is child of God.

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. 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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