God has really been pressing me on my character.  I know the word character is not in the Bible (KJV) verbatim, but the entire word of God speaks about what God expects our character to be.  My friend it is our character not our natural abilities, God-given skills and talents, or even our spiritual growth and development, oh no God is concerned about our character:  how we treat our fellow man, what and how we hold things in our heart, are we honest or do we take advantage and manipulate people and situations for our benefit, do we have a simplistic view of God and how He relates with man, these and so much more as it relates to our character God is very concerned with. I like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in his “I have a Dream Speech” he said these words,  “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”  Now Dr. King could have used any thing else instead of “be judged by the color of their skin” this was an issue that was at the heart of the civil rights movement, but please notice Dr. King wanted people not to be judged by the color of their skin or anything else, the criteria to judge someone was their character.  This is the same criteria God will use to judge us when we stand before Him.  God will not judge us according to the number of songs we have written and dance (Michael Jackson found this out) to, how much money or land we had, or how many houses or cars we owned. I wonder why we go so hard after these earthly things and neglect investing in our character?  We always go after the things we think are important and will benefit us.  Many Christians think a good character is of little to no value, but my friend they are dead wrong.  It is our character that God is gravely concerned with not our personality or our outward looks.  It is the inward man God focuses on and wants to see us develop, but we seem to put in little effort in developing a Godly character.

This character issue touches every area of our lives.  I have seen this truth over the last 48 years of being a Christian. Now I will be honest I have not had the best of character all of my life, but I see the importance and desire for this transformation to happen in my heart and mind which will manifest outwardly in my character.  I have seen this in the lives of people I considered to be mentors and fathers in the Lord, but in time and in the end I have seen the true character of these folks manifest and I was greatly disappointed.  I have seen so many areas of my life where I have allowed these folks to persuade me, where I followed their advice and retrospect it was to my disadvantage.  Please be very careful in the people you commit yourself to.  Jesus never committed Himself to anyone, only the Father had Jesus’ total reservation of commitment.  Even in prayer we must be careful here. I remember when I pastored in Germany many Bishops, teachers, preachers, pastors, mighty men of God who would come to our church (mainly to collect money to take home) and want to pray over me, well I said no.  I did not know them from Adam and they would get offended this also called a separation at times between my associate pastor (a Nigerian) and I, but that was okay because Paul in 1 Timothy tells us, “I charge thee before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, and the elect angels, that thou observe these things without preferring one before another, doing nothing by partiality.  22Lay hands suddenly on no man, neither be partaker of other men’s sins: keep thyself pure.”  (1 Timothy 5:21-22)   That also means we should not allow someone to lay hands on us.  I have shared before in a few other articles about a wonderful (I will still call him my friend because I still love him and I hold no anger in my heart towards him) friend we have known for over 30 years, but got offended at me and God and has broke off our relationship. Can you believe he even stopped sending me his newsletter? (since 1996 before we moved to Germany)  I know why, he has been writing about us (Karen and I) to his (and our) friends.  That is okay there is nothing else he can get from us because he has sucked our relationship bone dry. After all he said it is okay to talk about someone as long as you do not use their name.  Is this right?  No my friend I do not believe that is so.  He has separated himself from me, my family, and the many people who would come to our monthly home group meeting quoting Scripture to justify his separation like, “Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them. 18For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple.”  (Roman 16:17-18)  Please know when you have to quote Scripture to justify yourself and your actions you are dead wrong. I am kind of puzzled though, I know he cannot be talking about me here, well I do have a big belly, but my “good works and fair speeches” have deceived no one. My heart is still towards him and sharing the Gospel message as we have done around the world for many years.  But I am not surprised his parting shot to me was to tell me how he would come down to our home and share the word of God and sometimes not get any money.  His character speaks loud and clear of his true heart condition for money and not so much for the sharing of the Gospel. After all out of our mouth speaks our heart. But we all are like this at times right?  I know often I am.  True character is not concerned about what they will receive in exchange for service to God, but is concerned about how much of service they can be to God.

I have seen this character truth play out in the churches we (as a family) attended.  Remember the character of any given church will always reflect the character of the pastor and the people. I am reminded of a non-denomination church (that was started in our home) in Henry Country outside of Atlanta, GA that went United Pentecostal Holiness after we left for Germany.  My three sons (Dave, Dan, and Joshua), Clyde Waldron (the pastor’s father), and I literally raised the walls of the building we were building to meet in, everybody else was busy that week.  I have never seen such a group of people that grumbled, bellyached, and complained yet God worked in the lives of our children, Karen, and I preparing us for ministry in Germany.  God can work in our lives anywhere if we give Him opportunity.  God expects us not to retreat from God’s standards even to save the world.  But this is what the church (especially in America) has done.  We have compromised the truth of the word of God to pedal a humanistic, prosperity message, we have jazzed up the hymns (what a supreme insult to the writers like Fanny Crosby and Horatio Spafford) to make them more enjoyable to the younger population instead of telling them the true history how the hymns were birthed out of great loss and hardships.  We have dumbed down true and honorable service to God, by making everything a ministry.  After all everyone in church must be doing something for God, right?  No everyone (in church or not) is to be allowing God to work on their character.  This is God’s grand goal in our life to allow God to conform our character into the same character and image as was in Jesus Christ God’s precious Son through the transforming power of God. Not allowing God this opportunity and right of way has everything to do with a lack of character in our lives.  Presently, Karen and I go to a solid non-denominational church here in Jacksonville the message is usually right on (the message of the cross) and their music is not too humanistic or self-seeking like most churches, but I cannot believe (like most non-denominational churches) they have a “them verses us” thinking.  Not everyone else is wrong, but everyone else needs to be like us and if not then there are probably going to hell.  It is the absolutes of the Gospels (the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ – saved by God’s love and grace) that must be followed and agreed upon not the optionals (outward adorning, doctrines and rituals of man, church traditions and ordnances), but sadly most churches have made the optionals the absolutes and the absolutes the optional.  And again this is because of lack of a Godly character in the people.  I thought we are one Body, one Spirit? Paul taught us, “With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; 3Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; 5One Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.”  (Ephesians 4:2-5)  Whatever happened to those verses (from the Bible) in the church today? I guess we think there is going to be a black and white section in heaven or a denominational or non-denominational selection.  What are we doing? We are fracturing the Body of Christ for political and financial gain in the world.

Now after reading this article many Christians would say, Dave Stahl you are being too critical (I have heard this before) with regards to the Christians and the church, God is in control.  It does not matter all we have to do is just keep loving the Lord and people and things will work out fine, well it is true we must keep loving the Lord and people, but God expects much more of His children than this Pollyanna, lazy attitude.  God expects us to speak the truth in love so that people will grow up in God and become able to shoulder some responsibility and accountability. Paul scolded the church folks at Ephesus when he said, “But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ:  16From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.”  (Ephesians 4:15-16) But this is not what we find in most churches, who wants to grow up when we can stay a baby and get by with messing our spiritual pants?  No responsibility, discipline, or accountability just do and say whatever we want to do and say.  Well this is not God’s intention for us.  God’s intention is for us to grow up and come to a place of maturing where we can join with Him in the yoke and plow the field of life together.

As I said recently God has been pressing me on my character and as He presses us our spirit is always more attuned (if we allow it to be so) to what the Holy Spirit is bringing into our lives.  Here are two statements by two wonderful friends in my life that the Holy Spirit quickened to my spirit when I heard them.  We had Pastor Victor O. Foster (Senior Pastor of Ecclesia Ministries in Richlands, NC) and His lovely wife over for dinner last week-end and as we were talking he said, “listen not to my words, but look at my life.”  What a profound statement about character.  Words are cheap and often clumsy, but our life is the truth about ourselves.  And then today while at the gym I was sitting in the sauna talking with Mr. Russell (a retired SGTMAJ from the U.S. Marine Corps) and he said, “I have gotten much further in life with manners than with money.”  How simplistic, but oh how true.  We think money is the key that opens unto us the abundant life Jesus talks about in John 10:10, but not so my friend it is the silence of the heart before God and the character of Christ knowing we are ever becoming like the Father. Money my friend cannot buy this, but a Godly character can.