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As Christians, we tend to place a lot of emphasis on sin and adhering to certain accepted standards we believe define us as Christians.  However, too often, issues of character go unaddressed.  Some may believe sin and character issues are one in the same, but this isn't necessarily so.  For example, we could be a complete and total jerk, yet not commit a sin.  We could be rude, antagonistic, treat others with disregard, or be careless in the things we speak or do, and still never technically commit a sin.  In fact, some make liberal use of this believing it to be a kind of loophole for behaving badly, yet we still don't hear much about being a person of character.  Sin or not, these things and more aren't pleasing to God.  Not only that, but they will surely have a negative impact on us, our lives, and the world around us, even if we don't see the connection.  There are so many in the world who don't believe character matters, who believe they are somehow justified in doing whatever they choose, or who believe that the ends justify the means.  Don't take part in this.  Choose a better standard; have a spirit of excellence rather than merely trying to sidestep sin.  Be a blessing to God and to others by choosing to exemplify the character of God in your life.  Galatians 5:22-23 (NIV) But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.  Against such things there is no law.

Have you ever noticed how some people love giving advice?  I've personally encountered some who were so desperate to speak they literally could not wait for me to finish a single sentence before they began telling me all the things I should be doing.  But how can anyone speak to our situations in a beneficial manner without knowing the details of our situation, or without having the wisdom or experience to do so?  The answer is, they can't, and we should be careful with what they have to say.  We are flush with cheap advice and trite, feel-good sayings -- things that people didn't have to pay a price to obtain.  But true wisdom, and true understanding gained by experience is not always so easy to come by.  Be wise, and be discerning -- not everyone who dispenses advice has the depth of knowledge, or the clarity of sight to do so.  Remember, should we choose to follow their advice, it will be us who bears the consequences for doing so, not them.  And before you seek guidance from anyone else, seek it from God first.  May God bless you with the discernment to know what is right and what is wrong, and the wisdom to know what to receive and what to reject.  James 1:5 (NIV) If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.

Putting aside the social and political issues many find themselves embroiled in today, have you taken a moment to recognize that we generally enjoy a moderate level of peace and civility in society?  And if you can't see that, then isn't this something you would want, and would enjoy?  Unfortunately, many have either forgotten, or they haven't taken the time to see, that peace and civility don't come about by chance... they come at a price.  They come by people -- all of us -- choosing to be civil, moral and just.  There are those who are determined to lead us down a road of strife and hatred few of us have seen the results of.  If we follow, our world is going to change, and not for the better.  The peace and civility we have enjoyed will go away, and we will reap the terrible and unforeseen consequences of our actions.  Stop lashing out at others believing you are somehow justified in doing so.  Stop vilifying others, lying about others, and assuming the worst of them.  And stop allowing people to stir up strife and anger within you.  We are more alike than we are different.  Choose to have respect for your fellow man regardless of whether you agree or disagree with them; the state of our households, our communities, and our country depends on it.  Matthew 5:43-44 (NIV) You have heard that it was said, "Love your neighbor and hate your enemy."  But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven.

As we know, there are those who doubt God's existence.  In fact, there are Christians who, while they believe, still question at times.  But if I can reassure anyone, let me tell you, God exists, and He wants to have a relationship with you.  This isn't an unqualified opinion based on belief or assumption.  It's not derived from emotion, coincidence, or delusion as some might believe.  Neither is it rooted in what we've been told to believe.  This comes from someone who has pursued God for himself, who has walked with God through troubling times, and who has been very close to Him for many years.  I've seen Him, I've heard Him, and I've felt His presence... He is real.  And the best part is, you can know Him too.  No, you don't have to go to church more, or adhere to a set of rules, or meet with man's approval before He will acknowledge you.  All you really need is the desire to know Him, and the will to act on it.  Pursue God like you mean it, and keep pursuing Him.  Read about Him in His word, talk to Him, ask Him questions, and listen for His answer.  Prove that you want to know Him.  Do this and in time you will begin to perceive Him for yourself.  God very much desires to have a relationship with you, but He's waiting for you to feel the same way and act on it.  Jeremiah 29:13 (NIV) You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.

You know those little things that annoy us?  Those things that get under our skin, ruin our day, and maybe even cause us to act out in unsavory ways?  While most of us want to change these annoyances, in reality, sometimes what needs to change is... ourselves.  The fact is, sometimes God uses these things to teach us something, or to highlight character issues we need to deal with -- such as anger, envy, impatience, issues with authority, and more.  These can be tools in God's hand to mold us and shape us into the person He wants us to be.  And, escape isn't a good option.  I've known those who have tried to eradicate anything that vexes them from their life, and done so by almost any means possible, including running away from them.  Yet, regardless of their efforts, these things persisted, and even followed them wherever they went.  Stop fighting, and stop running; instead, take these things to the Lord and ask Him to highlight anything He might be trying to change in you.  Then, when He does, do as He directs; it's the quickest way to resolution.  James 1:2-4 (NIV) Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.  Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.


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