Sunday, October 12, 2014

Character and Personality

Personality and character are not the same thing. Everyone knows that, yet the two things often get confused. Personality is something we are born with. Character is developed through the choices we make. When a teenager decides he does not want to be like his parent, it should be, and usually is, the parent's character that he wants to avoid. If he is like him in personality, he cannot help it. He can, however, be different in character.

It is exceedingly common to watch young people who strongly avow that they will not be like their parents make the same choices their parents did and become very much like them in character. This is partly because they are already like their parents in personality, and the personality influences the choices a person makes. It is our interests, desires, likes, and dislikes (in other words, our personality) that makes certain choices easier or harder.

Our choices are also influenced by the example our parents model before us. Nonetheless, we can stand back and say, Yes, I like the same things my mother likes. I laugh at the same kinds of things she laughs at, and I laugh the same way. There is nothing wrong with that -- but I am going to choose to do some things differently than she. I am not going to laugh at a filthy joke even if it strikes me funny, and I am not going to repeat it even if I want to.

If we don't understand the difference between personality and character, we might think that because we have a bent a certain direction, we have no choice in the matter, but this is the opposite of the truth. Making choices against your natural inclination is at the very root of good character. The more we exercise the opportunity to make right choices in the face of personality preferences, the stronger we become. This doesn't change our personality. We were born with that, and God gave it to us. It is guarded by our choices, but it isn't changed. There is no sin and no shame if it similar to one or the other of our parents -- even if they are wicked.

You may not want to look like your mother, but if you do, you can't help it. You may think like her and have a lot of interests in common with her, but you only act like her if you choose to. I personally am blessed with a mother I am happy to look like, and in many things I act like her also. I thank God for a mother who has made it easier for me to make right choices in many areas where another person may need a higher degree of character to overcome both inclination and example. Nonetheless, I will give account before God for each choice I have made in life, whether to be more like her or less. My personality, however, and my looks, will not come into judgement.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Public Prayer

A reader who generally appreciated my post on praying in the name of Jesus suggested that public prayer is different. I agree. In order for a Christian to be faithful to His Lord when he prays in public, it is necessary for him to audibly name the name of Jesus.

Most prayer, however, is not public. By far the greater portion of the prayers a true Christian prays are made in secret with no other hearer than God himself. In these private prayers, whether prayed in lengthy chunks during a time set apart for prayer or uttered quickly throughout the day, the name of Jesus will undoubtedly come up, but the one praying need not feel a compunction to end the prayer with any certain phrase.

Prayer with intimate friends will be the next most common type. Where there is a bond of fellowship around the Lord Jesus, His name will certainly come up, but there should be no need for a rule about placing it at the end of a prayer.

The one time when there may be a temptation to leave out the name of our Lord Jesus, when we are praying in public, is the one time when there is a call to be especially careful to verbally make it clear that the prayer is prayed in His name. This may be done throughout the prayer, but it is wisely added at the end as well, that at the close no scoffer or unbeliever can doubt that this was a Christian's prayer to the Christian's God. It is comparatively rare for a Christian to pray thus in public. Not many of us have frequent opportunities to pray at political assemblies, business conferences, family reunions, and the like, where the ungodly may be present. Nonetheless, when we do have that opportunity, let us make it very plain whose we are and in whose name we pray.

Preachers who cross circles and preach in unfamiliar places and who want to distinguish themselves from the man-pleasing, ear-tickling sort of preacher may find it useful to adopt the custom of adding a phrase to their prayers that intentionally includes the name of Jesus. Those who do may also want to make it clear that they are referring to
the Lord Jesus Christ of the Bible
There are many "Jesus"es these days and many "lord"s. Saying "in Jesus' name" may distinguish a person from the liberal modernist of 100 years ago who spoke of "the Christ" as an idea, but who knew nothing of Him as a person. It may also distinguish them from the modern ecumenical who speaks of the fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man, but who ignores the issues of sin and the cross and avoids the name of Jesus. But it will not distinguish you from the worldling who grew up saying, "What would Jesus do?" without the vaguest notion from the Bible of what He would do. Many people speak of "Jesus" without thinking of the fact that He is the Son of God, the King of Kings, and the Lord of Lords, and that He has a double claim on our lives: one for having created us, and a second for having redeemed us by His blood. Let our language reflect not only that we believe in Jesus, but that we know
who He is

Monday, August 18, 2014

True Surrender

Sinless was our Lord’s request
    To have the cup pass by Him —
    The cup about to try Him —
Knowing He must face the test;
Knowing He must drink the cup,
    The hour being nigh Him,
    And God could not supply Him
Righteous means to pass it up.

"Not my will but Thine be done"
     He prayed in resignation;
    Our goal is imitation
Of the prayer of God's own Son.
Those who claim no will at all
    Lack Biblical foundation
    And hold a deviation
From our high and holy call.

God’s not seeking empty hearts,
    But those whose hearts aspire
    To something even higher
Than a granted wish imparts.
Men may feel a preference still,
    While yielding each desire,
    And making an entire,
Full surrender of the will. 

Drops of blood our Savior shed,
    Though yielded in submission
    To His ordained position —
And the cross that lay ahead;
Men may also yield control
    To God without condition,
    Surrend’ring each ambition,
“In an agony” of soul. 

Luke 22:42 & 44

Friday, August 8, 2014

Praying in the Name of Jesus

Those who know me well know that when I posted about praying in the name of the Lord Jesus, I did not mean uttering the words "in the name of Jesus" at the end of the prayer. This is a fine thing to do, but it is as open to abuse as any religious practice if the emphasis is put on the outward form rather than the heart of the matter.

If we are "in Christ"; if we are His disciples; if we have His interests at heart, we will pray in His name. We will pray for things He wants as much or more than we do. And when we pray for things that are for ourselves, our only plea will be that we are Christ's, and He has promised to give us all things. We know that we deserve nothing, and all we have is through Him. Thus we ask for it in His name --- whether we use the words or not.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

The Power of Prayer

Prayer is powerful -- but only as powerful as the person you pray to. Our God and creator who spoke the universe into existence and sent His Son into the world as a redeemer is all-powerful, loving, and good. He has promised to hear the prayers of His people. He has placed some conditions on answered prayer, and He is rarely on the same time table as we, but we have His word that He will hear us, and we know He is able. Thus, "The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much."

Prayers made to saints, guardian angels, ancestors, or a vague higher power may be powerful too --- as powerful as the demon who receives them. The devil is not all-powerful, and he does not promise to answer prayer. He certainly gives no assurance that he has our well-being at heart. Nonetheless, the devil has real power, and if it suits his purposes, he may answer prayer in a mighty and powerful way.

When we pray, we must be very clear who we are praying to and in whose name we pray. If we pray in our own name to anyone who has power to help us, we may get an answer, but it may not be from God. Those of us who love the Lord Jesus pray to the Father in His name. We know the power of that prayer, but its power is not in itself. The power is in the one true God to whom we pray. He is not only all-powerful. He is also holy and good. Let us be careful not to confuse our honor to Him for His goodness in answering our prayers with what the world gives to prayer itself without defining who is being prayed to. Let us make a distinciton between "the power of prayer" and the power of God to whom we pray in the name of His Son the Lord Jesus Christ.

Sunday, July 27, 2014


You’re running from your troubles,
      But trouble comes along —
‘Cause when a person’s running,
      It’s usually him that’s wrong.

It may be something little
      That no one really knows,
But anywhere you run to,
      That little trouble goes.

Do what you can to shake it,
      It will not let you go,
And all the while you’re running,
      It’s likely just to grow.

Why don’t you turn and face it
      And grab it by the root?
Don’t think you can outrun it —
      Just give the thing the boot!

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Discerning the Will of God

The will of the Lord is for you to do right —
To honor His Word and to walk in the light,
There’s no need to fret about finding His will;
He’s spelled it out plainly for you to fulfil.

What town you should live in; your house and your car —
And whether to move or just stay where you are,
The job you should get and what projects to start
Are rarely the issues most dear to His heart.

Your sanctification’s His primary goal;
Your spiritual health and the state of your soul,
So flee fornication and lusts of the eyes —
Away with all anger and malice and lies!

Be filled with the Spirit, not drunken with wine,
For this is our loving Creator’s design.
And work with your hands all the while it is day
To bless other folks and to earn your own way.

The will of the Lord doesn’t change over time,
Or blow with the wind and adjust to the clime.
The counsel of God remains steady and true —
What stood long ago He means also for you.

To author confusion is not His intent.
He means what He says, and He said what He meant,
So open the book He has placed in your hands.
Then read and believe — and obey its commands.

It’s never God’s will when a verse twists or bends
To justify sin or your own selfish ends,
But when at face value the Bible you take,
It still gives you freedom some choices to make.

The path that you choose must allow you to do
The things that are written — and strengthen you too,
To add to your faith every virtue and grace
That helps you to run and to finish the race.

If you are not able to keep the Lord’s Word,
Your view of His will is undoubtedly blurred.
How much you have prayed doesn’t matter a scratch,
If what the Word says and your actions don’t match.

Acknowledge the Lord by obeying His voice
And making the Bible the base of your choice.
Trust Him, not yourself, and He’ll guide and protect;
Your choices He’ll honor; your steps He’ll direct.

~ Nita Brainard