Faithfulness...what a wonderful character to have ... The verses out of Lamentations 3 tell us about God's great love for us.   (New Living Translation) 22 The faithful love of the LORD never ends!   His mercies never cease.  23 Great is his faithfulness;       his mercies begin afresh each morning.

I love the fact that God's love is faithful and his compassion for us never ends.  Knowing this should give us a reason to be faithful to those that we are associated with each day...we have someone that loves us so much.   Each morning when we get up to go about our day, we don't have to worry about the faults of yesterday...because His compassion for us is new everyday.  Before our feet hit the floor we can determine to have a good day by being thankful for the faithfulness of our Lord and the knowledge that He is there to provide all we need.

I used to go to a church where the song, "Great Is Thy Faithfulness" was sung many a Sunday morning.  The words from that great old hymn that stick with me and remind me to not worry about even my very life... "All I have needed, thy hand hath provided.  Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord unto me."

We should live our lives with the Character of Faithfulness.  We should have compassion for others like the example we see in our faithful God.  There should never be a time when we withhold compassion from someone...we should wake up every day with a love in our heart for others.

Let's start with the opposite of goodness.  Evil, cruel, ruthless and depraved are just a few of the words that describe those that have never understood or implemented the character of goodness in their lives.

We would all do well to start our day with a cup of goodness with a splash of humility.  Incorporating some of the previous characteristics such as kindness, love and patience into our lives will produce goodness.  It is the reason others want to be around you.  They see something in you that is rare in the world we live in.  They see someone that tries to do the right thing and treat others with dignity and fairness. 

I have been around some people who I wouldn't characterize as evil or depraved...but they just haven't learned how to put selfishness behind them as they've grown into adults.  Therefore, when they are faced with a time when goodness should shine through, they instead allow their own needs and wants to cloud the way things should be.

I will end with a quote by Audrey Hepburn..."For beautiful eyes, look for the good in others.  For beautiful lips, speak only words of kindness.  And for poise, walk with the knowledge that you are never alone."  Now that is words to live by and if you do...I think that would be what I call a "cup of goodness".

We are all familiar with the phrase "random acts of kindness".   Have you ever been a part of being kind to someone for no reason?  I'm talking about being kind even if you get nothing in return kind of kindness?

I think of the movie "Pay It Forward"...one of my favorite movies of all time.  It was amazing to see how when one person decides to try to change the world by doing 3 acts of kindness.... it can turn into something bigger than your mind can wrap around.  Check out this video...

I don't like to call it random acts...it should really be normal acts of kindness, because that is the way we should live our lives.  Do you live your life in such a way that others are better because you are here? 

The Character of Kindness is a really big thing...how is it going for you?
We may not admit it, but, most of us ask God for patience and expect to have it right away!

"God grant me patience...and I want it right now!"

Again, character, doesn't just happen...it is built every day of our lives.  And this patience can be difficult...most times it is very difficult.  God never promised us that life would be easy, but promised to grant us the grace to get through all the trials we face.

In the King James Version of the Bible...Patience is referred to as long-suffering.  I believe thinking of patience as long-suffering helps us understand that it is not a quick fix.  It helps us realize that we may have to go through some "stuff" as we develop true patience....but it is worth it to have that character flow through our lives.  If you are someone that angers quickly and can't for the life of you understand why some folks just don't see life the way you do...then as Bill Engvall (the comedian) says..."here's your sign". 

This is quite possibly something everyone in the world has to work on...the reason being there are so many different scenarios everyday that requires having patience.  It would be so easy to just flare up and let people have it...but just imagine the peace within your family at home or at work if you took a step back and just let patience do it's work in you. 

I will say to all of you...this is not something that I have mastered in my life...but I am definitely working on it.  As this picture says ... I haven't mastered it "yet"!  Who knows...maybe tomorrow...I'll be so patient...ya'll won't be able to stand it!  LOL  All joking aside, I do desire to have the character of patience displayed daily in my life.

When I read that peace didn't mean that you were in a place where there was no noise, trouble or hard work...but in the middle of those crazy times...you can still be calm in your heart.....I actually started to cry.  I read it to Bobby and teared up again.  It is so powerful to me!  I haven't always felt that kind of peace...but I do now and it is a powerful thing to have that calmness even in the midst of a not so calm life.  This doesn't mean that I don't feel the pang of hurt when others are not kind and it doesn't mean that I am always calm...it just means that I have a calmness...a peace within my heart.  So cool!

Where does that kind of peace come from?  Consider this scripture from John 14:27..."Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world gives, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid."  The peace that gives you that calmness in your heart comes from God.  It is important that you are in a genuine relationship with God.

When you don't feel that peace in your life ...the kind "that passeth all understanding" - it is time to get your heart and mind on Christ so that He can "guard your heart and mind."  Just meandering around in this world and always putting your needs before others will not give you peace.  Oh...you may be happy for a time, but that happiness will fade unless you add more things.  And before you know it, when you can't have those things, you start feeling that life is unfair and you guessed it...quite the opposite of having peace.

Having peace in your life .... don't you want that?  I know that I have been on both sides of that calmness of heart and I for sure favor being at peace.  At one point in my life, I felt hopeless and all peace was gone...that was a terrible place to be.  I had gotten away from the will of God and I stayed in a state of turmoil within my heart.  Believe me when I say there is something better...and God wants that for us.  He left us His peace for us to have... not to ignore and live life in a selfish soulish way.

Take the Character of Peace with you everywhere you are!

Count it all Joy!  You say...yeah right...you don't know my life and what I'm going through...I'd like to see you count this stuff I'm going through as joy!  Have I always done this?...no...but remember character is something you build...still working on this section of my house:-)

So how do you make lemonade when life gives you lemons?  Let's think of another of those promises I love so much in the scriptures.  "The joy of the Lord is my strength."  Oh...so that's where my strength comes from huh?  If you try to face all the obstacles that come your way in your life in your own strength...at some point you are going to get exhausted and discouraged....definitely not joyful.  We should all realize that the joy that only comes from knowing the One who gives joy is what you need to face everything.

This is not to say you won't have bad days...those are a part of life.  It's not to say that you won't be sad at times...sad things happen.  What it means is that you can face those bad and sad times with the assurance that you don't have to be strong...God will be your strength and give you joy even in the midst of those times.  Thank goodness for that kind of joy...in that case...I count it all joy!

Since we just finished our series on "Love Is"...It's kind of fitting that the first character we uncover is love.  We'll begin by studying the fruits of the spirit. In our love series, we learned that we not only need to know what love is...we need to be aware of what love is not.  Recognizing fake love is what helps us understand what real love is.

When I used to work at a bank,  they would have us study the real currency so we could recognize a counterfeit.  That is exactly how you can recognize when someone is not genuine in their love...by comparing it to the kind of love that is displayed by God (real love).  His love is a selfless love that loved you even when you didn't love Him.  Loving someone by building them up...and helping to meet their needs without expecting something in return from them... is what I'm talking about.  You will get something in return....because good things don't go unnoticed...but that is not your motivation for helping them.

If you ask most people if they know what love is...most will say that they do!  But what they know is what's been seen in movies and television.  If this is what they base their definition of love on...it is going to be off!  Those couples on the "big screen" throw that word around so easily...they say "I'm in love with John"...I can't live without John, (etc).  What is actually being shown is a counterfeit love...what they are portraying is really lust.  We can fall into that trap of thinking that kind of love will last, when in all actuality  it may not even be love.

Love can be hard work...it means that you are being that person that loves others first...We basically need to display the Agape type of love as explained in this picture. 

I pray that I always display that kind of character...the Character of Love.

"Good character is more to be praised than outstanding talent. Most talents are, to some extent, a gift. Good character, by contrast, is not given to us. We have to build it, piece to piece -- by thought, choice, courage, and determination." H. Jackson Brown

Beginning a new series and this one is a doozy!  We will learn the importance of having good character in our lives.

Can someone have a good character and then lose it?  I say a resounding yes!  Character is not something that you wake up one day and all of a sudden you have it.  It is not something that just accidentally happens or surprises you by showing up in your life. 

Character is something you build...brick by brick everyday of your life.  The most important layer in this house of character is the foundation.  The foundation is none other than your relationship with Jesus.  If you are NOT building your life on Him and his principles, then no matter what you build your house with ... it will fall with the slightest wind of challenge that blows.  I am going to get gut honest with you here when I say that there was a period of time in my own life where I failed miserably in this character building.  I allowed "stuff" to come between me and the life that I knew was right.

Just having that strong foundation isn't enough either...let me explain.  You can have that assurance in your heart that you are a child of God, and you can hear the preacher preach about having character and what it means...but that will not give you good character.  What it takes is applying the fruits of the spirit every day...when you stop doing that...your character suffers.  Just because I went through a rough patch in my life, doesn't mean that I couldn't rebuild on my strong foundation...just the opposite and that is exactly what I continue to do everyday.  I rebuild everyday because it is an ongoing process.

As you have probably guessed...we will be studying the fruits of the spirit and how they apply to building good character.  As we expand on this subject...we will look at other characteristics that everyone should seek to have in their lives.  

Thank you for being a part of the study...feel free to make comments when something has touched you.

Faith...Hope...and Love!

Faith is one of my favorite words…I learned an acrostic of it many years ago … Faith = Forsaking All I Trust Him.  This means that I do not depend on what I see…it means I forsake those things and put total trust in what I can’t see.  Right now as I look around me, I can only see what’s directly around me…I have no way to look into the future and see what is there.  It’s like looking through a tiny hole in a fence and only seeing what is directly in front of me.  I don't know what else is to the right and to the left because I am only seeing what is in front of me.  I do know God in his infinite wisdom can see the big picture of my life...that is why my faith is in Him...I trust Him. 

 It is faith that moves those mountains in my life and it is faith that produces miracles that I could only dream of without Him…but…Faith is not the greatest.

Hope is putting my confidence in what I can’t see…Hope is not just for what is out there in the future, but for the here and now.  Hope gives us joy in our lives right now because we know what we have been promised.  Hope is what helps us when we have others against us.  We can only have hope because God is the anchor that keeps us stable.  But…Hope is not the greatest.

What about Ali?  Is he the greatest?  He sure told everyone he was!  I sorta pulled that one outta left field didn’t I?  LOL    Actually in boxing, in his day, he was the best.  Now that you think about it…he said things that were not as though they were and then…he got in the ring and proved he was right.  Kinda reminds me of faith….now back to the lesson at hand…

Faith Hope and Love and the greatest of these is love.  What makes love the greatest?  The answer lies in God.  God is not faith…God is not hope…Love is the greatest because God is love.  Love is the reason for God sending his son into the world to make life better and give us a hope for our future.  We are to live out that love in our lives…if love is so important to God, and he is the very essence of love, then it is very important that we implement it in our lives every day. 

Are you living out love in your day to day life, or just when you go to church?  You need to have faith … the "forsaking all" kind of faith.  You need to have hope…the kind that has your confidence in God…but more than any of these…You need to have a genuine…true…honest Love.

Below is the Love Chapter that we have been studying…

1 Corinthians 13

New International Version (NIV)

1 Corinthians 13

 1 If I speak in the tongues[a] of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast,[b] but do not have love, I gain nothing.

 4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

 8 Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. 11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

 13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

When I first thought of this phrase...love never fails...I thought of the words of Jesus when He said..."I will never leave thee nor forsake thee."  Wow!  His love NEVER fails...He will always have my back...knowing this is so powerful!

When there seems to be no hope...He is our hope!  When there seems to be no way...He is our way!  When it seems as if everyone has left us or turned their back on us...He is with us!  See what I mean?  Powerful!  This is all because Love never fails and He is the very definition of that kind of love in our lives.
Can we get this deep in our spirit, so that we can draw upon the strength of that phrase?  Love Never Fails...having the assurance of never being without a hope for my future.  The Bible is full of promises, but if we don't believe those for our lives...they are just words.  This is a promise to me...love never fails...God is good for what He promises...His Word never fails. 

There may be situations in my life that have been difficult and may in some ways still difficult...but I have the calm assurance from God that His love will never fail me and He wants the best for me.  He has my back because He loves me and because I love Him and believe His promises...He will make sure my faith will not come back to me void.

Remember... real Love Never Fails!