Tag Archives: character

WHO WAS THIS ADAM GUY?

If we read literature of any kind we can’t escape references to Adam and Eve, Abraham, and Moses, Delilah and Bathsheba, Mary and Joseph. Who were these people? OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

All these and many more inhabit the Scripture’s story line. Depending, of course, on your view of Scripture they may be historical or mythological.

Personally, I believe that Scripture is the most comprehensive and accurate record of history that we have. Unlike Zeus or Ulysses, these were real people. There is far more proof for the Bible’s authenticity than for ancient Greek or Roman writing. But more important, the lessons they teach us about life, for good or ill, are of inestimable value.

Character defines who we are more than our stature, ethnic background or hair colour. And our family and the people we hung out with have influenced our character for good or ill. In this series of blogs, I invite you to hang out with Bible characters. Let their livDSCN2176 - Copyes impact you for good. Learn to embrace their good qualities and avoid their mistakes.

Of course, if your character is already perfect [tongue firmly in cheek] you might want to follow these blogs just to bone up on universals embedded in Western culture. Allusions to the ten commandments, the good Samaritan, Bathsheba, Samson, and so on.

Consider first Adam, who–as indicated by Jesus Himself–was not a type or symbol of humanity but a real person. God created Adam in His own moral image and gave him responsibility to steward the resources of earth at a time when the environment was ideal. “Then God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good” (Gen. 1:31). “The Lord God planted a garden eastward in Eden, and there He put the man whom He had formed”(Gen 2:8).

Within the godhead, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit enjoy a loving and expressive relationship with each other. God knew, “It is not good that man should be alone” (Gen. 2:18). And so He created Eve as Adam’s companion to somewhat replicate the divine interaction of the persons of the godhead. Alexander Whyte in this book on Bible Characters describes Eve as “sweet, warm, tender, wistful, helpful, fruitful—a love full of 00008_s_15amtvyymk0021nice and subtle happiness.”

Loving relationships form the foundation of human experience. We were created to relate to others not to live as loners. In relating well to one another, in marriage and in other human relationships we reflect the image of God in us.

As divine image-bearers Adam and Eve possessed qualities that reflected on a limited scale divine qualities. Their intellectual ability qualified them to communicate and investigate. Their creative ability enabled them to originate things and value beauty. Their administrative ability prepared them to wisely care for the world. Their moral image enabled them to be and do righteously. “God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good.”

We should celebrate the amazing potential that God has created within us. That potential should move us to use our abilities to bless the places where we live. As a children’s song tells us, “God don’t make no junk.” As image-bearers we should honour and respect all people. Racism, prejudice, and arrogance are clearly sub-human, evil.

Adam and Eve were placed in an idyllic garden where they could enjoy fruit from all the trees except one–the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. One prohibition! They had free will to choose to obey or not. They faced thousands of positive, attractive, nutritious options. Delicious fruits. Only one temptation. WOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAhat did they do? What will we do with all the healthy, constructive, godly options that we enjoy? Will we choose obedience or will we be drawn to harm ourselves by choosing hurtful options?

Satan slithered into the garden and temped Eve. He said, “You shall not surely die for in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil” (Gen3:5). She “saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate…gave to her husband” (Gen 3:6). Temptation exerts a powerful appeal to us by enticing us through the lust of the flesh (an appeal to our physical appetites), the lust of the eyes (an appeal to something we want to possess) and the pride of life (something to enhance our ego). Let us ask the Lord to help us recognize temptation in these three areas and resist its downward pull.

Eve chose to disobey the one command God gave her. Adam knew it was wrong but yielded to Eve’s offer of the fruit. Both broke God’s command. But when asked by God what they had done they pointed their fingers instead of accepting blame. Eve blamed the serpent, Adam blamed Eve and God! Adam said, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me of the tree and I ate.” Eve said, “the serpent deceived me, and I ate.” (Gen 3:12,13)

DSCN4987 (2)Both Adam and Eve played the blame game. Eve blamed the serpent. Adam blamed Eve. Part of the fallen nature that we inherit includes the propensity to blame others for our sins and weaknesses. Our parents. Our education. The government. The environment we grew up in. The church. Our friends. God. If we would mature spiritually, we need to stop blaming others and accept personal responsibility.

From Adam and Eve we learn about our need for relationships; the fantastic potential enshrined in ever human; the importance of obeying God’s commands; the need to make careful, moral choices; and about our propensity to blame others for our sins.

(Further articles, books, and stories at: http://www.countrywindow.ca –  Facebook: Eric E Wright –   Twitter: @EricEWright1  –  LinkedIn: Eric Wright )

 

What Leads to Good or Evil Conduct; Nature or Nurture?

Why do some people display compassion and kindness while others act out a selfish, even evil agenda? Is the good a result of the natural temperament of the person or the nurture they received from their parents or community?

Let me give an example. Two young Canadians from the Ottawa Valley, both ending up in uniform in the Middle East, illustrate this conundrum. One, John??????????????????????????????? Maguire under his new name, Abu Anwar al-Canadi, travelled to Syria to join the Islamic State’s (ISIS) war on the west. The other, Dillon Hillier after a tour of duty in Afghanistan, has voluntarily paid his own way to Iraq to join the Kurdish Peshmerga militia in their fight against ISIS.

John Maguire, aka Abu Anwar, joined the Islamic State to spread terror in Syria and Iraq. He praised the two attacks on soldiers in Canada and urged more acts of terror. Dillon Hillier joined the Kurdish militia to stop the Islamic State’s advance and atrocities. Both grew up in similar communities, went to similar schools, and both seem to have had normal childhoods. Abu Anwar’s high school friends saw nothing to indicate an affinity for Islam or extremism.

Why the difference in these two? The only clue might be found in the divorce of John Maguire’s parents and his move to live with his grandparents. Did the breakup of his family push him into bitterness toward the west? Was it a failure of nurture? It’s hard to say.

Certainly, the influence of parents constitutes a crucial element in a person’s moral upbringing. “Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged”(Col. 3:21). “Children…’honor your father and mother’–which is the first commandment with a promise–‘that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth’”(Eph. 6:1,2). A balance of loving nurture and wise parental training generally produces successful and moral adults.

And yet, Cain, who murdered his brother Abel, came from the same family. Arguably, being the first children after Eden, they grew up in a nurturing environment and even shared the same DNA. Why then the difference?

SunriseClearly, the space-time fall of Adam and Eve from innocence led to the twisting and distortion of all their progeny. “Sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, in this way death came to all men, because all sinned…for all have sinned and come short of the glory of God”(Rom 5:12; 3:23). One of the most basic facts of humanity is that every one of us has been born with a sinful nature. Our nature is twisted so that “all of us [live to gratify] the cravings of our sinful nature and [follow] its desires and thoughts”(Eph. 2:3).

Four things contribute to helping us curb our sinful and selfish propensities. The first is parental nurture. The second brake on our sinfulness is the community in which we live—the values our community teaches and the deterrent that our society’s police provide. If brought up in North America we will have a strong entrepreneurial bent, a revulsion against cruelty, a desire for social justice, and an expectation of personal freedom. If however, we grow up in the North West Frontier of Pakistan and Afghanistan we will be shaped by that society’s view of hospitality—a good quality—but also by an honor system which would require us to exact revenge for slights to family or community. If we imbibe Islamist rhetoric such as found in Syria, Iraq or Yemen we might tend to feel the need to destroy non-Muslims.

The third brake on our sinful tendencies is conscience. If it has not been distorted by contrary cultural or family training, conscience will innately arouse a sense of what is right and wrong. Paul explains that even non-Jews who don’t have training in the law of God “show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts now accusing, now even defending them”(Rom. 2:15). This is why many Muslims know in their hearts that killing infidels or raping women is evil. Conversely, we in the west also know, when we listen to our consciences, that indiscriminate bombing or polluting the environment or using prostitutes or exploiting cheap labour is wrong.

The Fourth, and most powerful brake. Since neither parental nurture, nor community values, nor conscience can totally conquer our sinful natures, we need something more powerful. We need God to change our hearts and minds. As Jesus said, “You must be born again…of the Spirit.” (See John 3:5-21). Jesus Christ died upon the cross to conquer our sinful natures and deliver us from the judgment our sins deserve. That conquest occurs when we are converted, born again. How does this happen?

New Sugar Maple leaves unfurlingIf we would be born again, we must pray to Jesus Christ, confessing our sins, asking him forgive us, to cleanse us from sins’ pollution, to change our propensities, and to give us new hearts of love and devotion to Him and His will. From that point on we will give ourselves to follow the guidance he gives us in the Scriptures.

Fortunately, many people around the world, including Muslims, are hearing this call and responding to its good news. Has this been your experience?

Sometimes Life Is Like A Swamp

Sometimes life is like a swamp: boggy, muddy, wet, full of biting insects. Can any good come out of these times of distress?

??????????????????????Swamps may appear pretty in the spring when clothed in marsh marigolds. But many consider swamps as useless land, good for nothing. And so, for centuries we have been draining swamps and bogs to create more tillable land or to enable buildings to be erected. Millions and millions of acres have been reclaimed to gratify our human view of progress. For example, the Florida Everglades have been reduced from eight million acres to just two million.

Like much else in our created world we have failed to understand the importance of conservation. In this case, in losing wetlands, we lose their incredible capacity to act as sponges filtering out harmful pollutants. We also lose their effect in absorbing flood waters. And so we harm ourselves.

We also disrupt the balance of creation by destroying the habitat for algae, zooplankton and all the higher creatures that feed on them. Wetlands create OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAan ideal environment for a host of creatures from snails to salamanders, frogs and lizards. Swamps create an ideal home for many birds and mammals: herons, ospreys, rabbits, otters, bobcats, deer, beavers, raccoons, and black bears.

Admittedly, swamps also harbor insects such as mosquitoes…but these feed a wealth of birds as well as annoy us.

Swamps can be viewed as a metaphor for difficult times in our lives. We’re journeying through sunlit fields of ripening grain, singing as we hike along shady forest paths and then suddenly we plunge ??????????????????????into a swamp. The ooze sucks at our shoes. Mosquitoes feast on our face and necks. A snake slithers across our boggy path.

Life has been good. We’re healthy and strong. Our children act like cherubs. Our pay cheque swells. We holiday in Rome and Venice. Friends multiply. Then suddenly the climate changes.

A child falls sick with a life-threatening illness. We are demoted at work. The catalytic converter on our car needs to be replaced. The washing machine packs it in. We develop headaches. Sleep eludes us at night. The doctor is mystified. The chiropractor can’t help.

Why Lord? Why so much all at once? What have we done to merit a swampy experience? The whys reverberate in our minds. The heavens are as brass. Silence from above. We suffer anguish without understanding purpose or cause.
We may need to remind ourselves that, like swamps, there may be a myriad of good effects hidden from our superficial sight.???????????????????????????????

Painful swamp experiences bring to the surface the pollutants that lurk unacknowledged in our characters: impatience, arrogance, doubt, laziness, aimlessness, tenuous grasp of God’s purposes, and self-confidence in place of trust in the Master. Trials and suffering give us a chance to acknowledge our terrible flaws and sins and bring them to the only one who can forgive and heal us.

Swamp experiences teach us to empathize with others in similar circumstances. God is the one “who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God”(2 Cor. 1:4).

???????????????????????????????Swamp experiences, if we bow to Christ in submission, give the Holy Spirit opportunity to reform our character into the image of Christ. Out of bad, even evil, He makes a host of good to arise. “We rejoice in our sufferings because we know that suffering produces perseverance, perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us”(Romans 5:3-5).

But Lord, we are frail. Help us to remember you are always with us and help us to be a blessing to others for your glory.

Fallen Leaves and Learning Patience

November winds and rain have torn most of the leaves off our trees. The maples and aspens, the ash and ironwood stand stark and bare. Only the oak, beech and, of course, all the evergreens cling to their leaves.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe fallen leaves will increase the humus that enriches the forest soil in the years ahead. A wise neighbour has a sign by the road, Leaves Wanted. He obviously understands the potential that too many of us waste. He must be a patient man.

The production of humus and compost takes time, lots and lots of time. The production of character takes even more time—and patience. Sometimes we are too impatient with our children or with ourselves. Why am I making the same mistake again? Why haven’t I yet learned to trust God, to stop being anxious, to give thanks in every circumstance, or to know unshakeable peace?

Our impatience is understandable. We no longer have to churn our own butter or knit our own sweaters. We have fast food, lightning fast Internet, smart phones, and twitter. We want things and we want them yesterday. Could this omnipresent pressure to speed things up be one component that leads to failures in so many marriages and the low level of social discourse?

As someone has said, almost everything comes to those who wait. But we don’t want to wait. We want things to happen now, fast…including the development of our children’s character and the change in our partner.

However, Scripture is clear. “The fruit of the Spirit is…patience”(Gal 5:22) and OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERApatience is a crucial component of character. We don’t learn patience without going through difficulties over a period of time. And patience expressed over a long period of time is called, perseverance. “We also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us” (Rom. 5:3-5). We’ll never see God’s love poured through our lives without developing character and that doesn’t come without persevering through trials.

Which of God’s promises do we want? More faith? More peace? More joy? “You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised”(Heb. 10:36). “Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him” (James 1:12).

05-07-2007-10-12-28-171Patience is needed in every sphere of human endeavour and in every relationship. As we develop character marked by “compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience” we are able to “bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another”(Col. 3:12,13). Isn’t that one of our great desires, to live in a community where we all get along?

Humus takes time to develop, so does patience. Let’s give each other time.

Grit & Character trumps IQ

Kids need grit rather than IQ or self-esteem to succeed. Interesting review of Paul Tough’s book, “How children succeed: Grit, Curiosity and the Hidden Power of Character” in last Saturday’s Globe and Mail from Toronto. Kids need to learn how to manage failure and adversity. IQ is not character. Just what we saw in the background of many convention speeches in US. And hello, duh, the Bible has been saying it for millenia. “We rejoice in in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance, perseverance character…” (See Rom. 5:3,4 and other texts.) “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything [in character]” (James 1:2-4).