Attentive and All-In

Building character is a lifetime endeavor with an endless variety of beautiful attributes to consider.  To start this new year, we will focus on two traits clearly evidenced in Jesus’ life:  attentiveness and an all-in commitment!  The verses we will use as a foundation of these traits are Hebrews 2:1 and Colossians 3:23.

Hebrews 2:1.  We must pay the most careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away.

Colossians 3:23.  Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters,

Hebrews was penned for the Jewish Christians in Jerusalem facing persecution. The book lays out the superiority of Christ that inspires faithfulness even in the midst of suffering.

Colossians was a letter to the Christians in the city of Colosse, where false teachers were planting seeds of doubt about the deity of Christ.  Colossians expounds on the sovereignty of Christ and aids in clear focus.  Both passages, like all Scripture, benefit Christians of every age!  Let’s see how they relate to our lives today.

Being attentive–paying careful attention–to the Truths of Jesus Christ gives us strength to press on.  The Scripture speaks to being attentive to the Gospel Truths that fulfilled and built upon the Jewish teachings the believers knew so well.   The writer was calling readers to recognize that Jesus Christ offered all that they pursued in other ways before.  He is the fulfillment of all we seek as well…religion, education, careers…all pale in light of what Jesus delivers.  Being attentive to all Christ offers is key to finding and staying on course.

Attentiveness is protective as well since other Scriptures remind us that we have an enemy prowling about seeking the chance to devour us!  Learning to be attentive as a

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habit bears dividends in secular as well as spiritual matters.  Often-time we know what is right and take for granted that ‘knowing is enough.’  We know we need to study, to eat well, to exercise…but we don’t attentively tend to those things.

We forget that coasting only happens when one is going down-hill.  Failure to be attentive often takes us far from where we intended.  Being attentive keeps us from drifting away into areas we never planned to go.

What might God be nudging you to be more attentive to?

Being all-in is a rare thing in this age of multi-tasking!  The Book of Revelation quotes the prophet Daniel with words that speak volumes in this day:  “knowledge will increase and many will run to and fro.”  There is more to take in and more to do than any one person

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Freestone Willson Stephen B Whatley

can manage.  Jesus spoke to Martha with words we call need to hear:  “But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her.” 

There are a number of ways to look at being “all-in” and as always, Jesus is the One to turn to.  Contrary to popular theology, Jesus wasn’t all in to loving on folks and healing all.  He loved and He healed because He was all-in to His father’s plan.  Jesus did everything He did because it was the will of the Father.  We need to be ‘all-in’ in the same way.  “Thy will be done” must be where our buy-in rests!  Another necessary aspect of ‘all-in’ is living fully present.  God defines Himself as the “Great I AM.”  God is present…in the moment, and we need to be as well.  

At this moment in time, are you all-in to the will of God for your life?

 

 

Determination & Endurance

Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and set down at the right hand of the throne of God.  Hebrews 12:2.

Determination and endurance are ingredients of any significant accomplishment.  Every worthwhile endeavor will include the temptation to quit!  Making an effort to do well, to

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improve is an uphill climb.  Coasting only works when you are on a decline.  Scripture is full of fellow believers who inspire us to be determined to endure.  If your passion for goals you set is dwindling away, consider some encouragement from the Word.

Remember Joseph: sold off by his brothers, lied about by a sinful woman and forgotten by those he helped.  He lived so consistently for God even a pagan ruler declared, “Who can find anyone like this man, one in whom is the spirit of God?”  Joseph’s confidence in God’s power and goodness never faltered.  It guided him and he shared it with his brothers (his betrayers) to calm their fears about his taking retribution.  Joseph’s endurance flowed from his determination to honor His good and all-powerful God.

That same determination was expressed by Paul in 2 Corinthians.  Paul said, “I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.  Paul was determined that his focus would remain on the love that led Jesus to the Cross.  That is a determination that will hold us on course!

Remember Esther:  a Jewish orphan girl chosen as a candidate for the role of Queen of the massive Persian empire.  She was one candidate of many–and not being chosen would doom her to an empty life.  She determined to honor those in authority over her and that surrender garnered her favor in the eyes of King Xerxes.  Even then, determination was necessary.  Circumstances forced her to risk it all–including her life–to help God’s chosen people, her people, the Jewish nation.  Her determination earned her (and her family) lasting honor.  Even today, Esther’s determination is celebrated every year with the Feast of Purim.

God does great things with determination that focuses on Him.  Jesus, Himself, had focused determination all his days on this earth.  Luke 9:51 tells us, “As the time approached for him (Jesus) to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem.  Determination doesn’t take us on the easiest road.  It takes us toward the purposes and plans of God.

We all have many places to practice determination but our primary determination must be to seek God.  In every activity, in every conversation, we must be determined to seek God.  He will bring good to us and those around us when we do that.  God promises us the strength we need to seek Him.  When we set our will to do that, His goodness and power works on our behalf.

Indeed, we can do all things through Christ…we can mount up on wings of eagles.  Determine to do so!

Focused on Purpose

Whether we are riding a horse, driving a car or trying to get through the school year, the same truth applies: where your eyes are sets the course of your path. If we spend a lot of time looking at what we ‘can’t do’ or the things that we would rather do or all the terrifying possibilities, we won’t accomplish all God would have us do. We need to fix our eyes on TRUTHS from the Word of God and trust Him to help us over the rough patches.

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“Can’t” is a detour with a huge PIT. When our eyes focus on what we can’t do, we miss the path to what we can do. Can’t will keep us from a struggle but it will never strengthen us or accomplish our purpose. Can’t is a word we need to shorten to can. Focusing our eyes on what we can do will help us get where we need to be.

“Want to” is another powerful force; the human will is where most ‘want to’ comes from. God gave us free will. The greatest gift we can give to God is to surrender that will and echo the words of Jesus to our Father, “Not my will but thine.” When we accept the purposes of God as our own, great and mighty things come from our lives.

“Fear” is the last detour we’ll consider how to avoid. Fear goes by many names…sometimes it masquerades as ‘common sense;’ other times it hides in ‘comfort zones.’ F.E.A.R. is often just ‘false evidence appearing real.’ The bottom line of the matter comes straight from Scripture: anything not of faith is sin. Faith and fear don’t live on the same street.

Setting our eyes on the purposes of God will take us beyond our abilities, give us new desires and call us outside of our comfort zones. Let’s choose God’s purpose as our own. Refuse to focus on ‘can’t’ and ‘want’ and see what God will do!

Let’s Look Like Jesus: Wisdom

I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father most glorious, would give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation through knowing Christ fully. (Ephesians 1:17)

Christ’s spirit of wisdom and revelation infuses the Christian’s character. Christ demonstrated this spirit in all of His human interactions. He saw, listened and comprehended from His Father’s viewpoint. Jesus looked beyond the circumstances presented by those who came to Him and focused on their spiritual needs. He shared the Father’s interests in individuals –and a character built on Him will evidence that same association.

As Ambassadors for Christ, our natural reactions to those we encounter–whether sweet compassion or abrasive frustration–should never be the source that motivates us to action. We are not to be amateur Providences and change people’s lives according to our feelings. God’s ways are not our own; He has measured the weight He puts upon every person. What may seem excessive and unfair from the human perspective may be just the weight needed to save their eternal soul. Alternatively, what may appear to be tremendous blessing in a person’s life may be a curse blinding them to their need for Jesus. As Christ’s Ambassador, we need to share the reason for the hope with which we live and allow Him to guide in every interaction!

We need His Spirit to give us deep understanding of situations and the Truths of God that will speak to hearts. We receive discernment to help us intercede for others–never to judge them. The wisdom of God is pure, peace loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere (James 3:17). As we listen to the hearts of others through the Spirit, He will give us words that encourage others and reveal His beauty. He may impress upon our hearts the need to provide direct help or He may simply burden us to pray and love. As we heed His guidance, we will learn more about Him ourselves and grow ever closer to His likeness! Might we each increasingly embrace the Spirit of Wisdom and Revelation He offers so freely!

Let’s Look Like Jesus: Prayerful

The prayerful spirit of Christ offers a shining facet to our transformed character! Christ’s commitment to communing with the Father is a design we must emulate. Despite being God incarnate, Jesus Christ demonstrated a high priority on prayer fellowship with God, the Father.

Scriptural accounts show Christ seeking private prayer time throughout His earthly life. He arose before down and climbed mountains to be alone with the Father. He walked away from crowds of seekers to commune with God in heaven. He chose fellowship with His father over sleep on some nights. Private times of intimate communion with the heavenly Father under-girded the earthly walk of Christ. Such an example by the One who creates and sustains all life should impress on us our desperate need. Prayer must have a higher priority in our lives than our comfort, our service and our physical needs.

The communion of Jesus and the Father was not restricted to private times, though. Prayer was an integral part of Christ’s every day. He instructed His disciples on ‘how’ to pray. He prayed for His followers through the ages. Sometimes He prayed for the benefit of listeners. The scripture records indicate a prayer life that was as ‘real’ and natural as the human conversations in which He engaged. Indeed, Christ’s prayers are often in the midst of human dialogues. Clearly, the presence of the Father was as much a reality to Jesus as the people with whom He walked each day. This reality of continual prayer must thread throughout our own lives.

In the Garden of Gethsemane prayers, Jesus reveals communion in the deepest sense. The Son’s cries enter directly into the Father’s love. God’s love answers with angelic delivery of divine strength that enables Jesus to complete the purposes of His life. Prayer is not a divine wishing well. Prayer is entering the essence of God. Prayer is receiving the Father’s love and power to accomplish His plans and purposes for our lives.

Science and illusions of self-sufficiency often veil miraculous answers to prayer in the western world. Our unchanging God was—and is—a miracle worker. When you seek the Lord in prayer, expect Him to reveal Himself in you and through you.

Let’s Look Like Jesus: Integrity

Character is said to be ‘who we are when no one is looking.’  It is about integrity to our core beliefs.  As Christians, our life is Christ, so we ought to look Him.  We can’t do that if we don’t know Him well!  This series of Let’s Look Like Jesus is all about examining Character.  We began with humility…recognizing and embracing our limits.  Today, we consider what integrity to our identity looks like

 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.  Galatians 5:22-25

Integrity of character is the essence of the One who is Truth, but it is a fading attribute in this sin-damaged world. Disposable marriages, bankruptcies in Fortune 500 companies and situational ethics make the concept of intrinsic, lasting value increasingly elusive.

The Greek word for Truth encompasses the concept beautifully: ‘unveiled reality lying at the basis of and agreeing with an appearance.”

Jesus Christ is the expression of God’s character in all He says and does. The alignment of our lives with the Word produces a Spirit of Integrity in our character as well. A Christian demonstrating Christ’s spirit will be inherently trustworthy: a person who says what they mean and means what they say!

Genesis to Revelation speaks to this aspect of Christ’s character for His is the nature of the eternal, unchanging God. The character of Christ is unadulterated; it is the way to the Father. Christ reveals God in His manner of living: seek to know and do the will of the Father. Every account of Christ’s words and works found both their root and expression in the desire of God. The integrity of the pathway to God is clear in the character of Christ.

Christ’s character speaks of truth in the same manner. Just as Jesus commended Nathanael for his forthright speech, the words of Christ are not always politically correct or syrupy sweet. Jesus’ words ‘simply’ conveyed truth. Every word He spoke flowed directly from the Father’s desire to redeem a dying world. On the other hand, Satan’s words are often tempting and appealing for he masquerades as an Angel of Light. The father of lies used words to deceive people–to obscure truth.

Jesus lived with authenticity:

truth could be seen, heard and felt in His presence.

Completing the picture of integrity in Christ’s character is intrinsic life. As Creator and Sustainer of life, Jesus is life. Simple fleshly life is an incredible gift but only a shadow of the truth of real life! In an incomprehensible truth, God became man that He might die the deserved death of man. That sacrificial death on the Cross opened the doorway for the fullness of life God always planned for mankind. Jesus Christ is life through and through. The life of Christ dwells within every believer–true, eternal, holy life!

The transformation of our character into the likeness of Christ allows His glory to flow into every mundane aspect of earthly life. Integrity is beautiful when the core is Christ. Integrity matters–and it will make us look different from the world!

How can we look like Christ?

The plan for believers in Christ is that we be transformed into the image of our Savior.  More than two decades after surrendering to God, I realize more and more how much work God still has to do in me!  The only way to know what God is doing in my transformation is to know more about the One whom I am to become like.

We are to be a source for the world to see God…I want people to see Him more than me.  God is worthy of our total dedication to know Him more and to reveal Him more.  As we learn more of His traits and practice them in the details of our lives, His purposes are accomplished.

Below is an incomplete list of Character Traits of Christ that I want to see more of in my life.  It makes a great Perpetual Prayer guide to go through each month.  Years ago, I began using it as a guide for praying for my children but quickly realized I–and every other child of God–needs the same prayers.  May it bless you as your pray through it.

1. Humility—willingness to submit.   James 4:10

2. Reverence—fear of the Lord.   Proverbs 9:10

3. Purity—desire to be clean.   Matthew 5:8

4. Purpose—wisdom to set goals.   Proverbs 4:25

5. Simplicity—an uncluttered life.   Romans 12:8

6. Commitment—dedication.   Joshua 24:15

7. Diligence—willing to work hard.   II Peter 1:5

8. Servanthood—desire to help others.   Galatians 6:9,10

9. Consistency—be faithful, reliable.   James 1:8

10. Restoration—ministry of healing.   Isaiah 61:1,2

11. Assurance—deep faith in God.   Hebrews 10:22

12. Availability—willing to go.   Isaiah 6:8

13. Loyalty—zeal for fidelity.   Ruth 1:16

14. Sensitivity—open heart.   Luke 10:30-37

15. Compassion—love in action.   Mark 8:1,2

16. Tenderness—willing to weep.   II Kings 22:19

17. Maturity—capable of growing.   Hebrews 5:12-14

18. Holiness—Christ-like actions. I Peter 1:16

19. Reliability—dependable.   I Corinthians 4:2

20. Authority—capable of commanding.    Matthew 16:19

21. Revelation—learn to listen.   Ephesians 1:15,18

22. Self-denial—willing to sacrifice.   Luke 9:23

23. Confidence—strength of the Lord.   Philippians 4:13

24. Integrity—truthful.   Romans 12:17

25. Repentance—willing to change.   Luke 3:8

26. Trust—fearless reliance. Psalm 125:1

27. Submission—choose to yield. Ephesians 5:21

28. Teachability—humble enough to learn. Titus 3:2

29. Prayerful—longing to wait.   Isaiah 40:31

30. Unity—respect for others.   1 Corinthians 1:10

31. Generosity—desire to give.   Matthew 10:8

Another great tool that aids in transformation is knowing God by Name.  My devotional book, Fixing our Eyes on God is one such tool.  The glory of God transforms!  Seek Him.