Agnes Grey by Ann Bronte

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The main character of the book, Agnes Grey, works as a governess for two wealthy families.

The first family never discipled the children and even encouraged cruel behavior toward animals.  I found it difficult to read through this section, as it broke my heart.

The second family was better; however, they had no regard for the feelings of others.  They were snobbish, selfish, and viewed money as more important than character.

Agnes Grey was a religious woman and tried to teach moral values to the children she was instructing.  At one point of the book she said, “The end of Religion is not to teach us how to die, but how to live; and the earlier you become wise and good, the more happiness you secure.”

The book does have a happy ending and is worth reading.

 

The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis

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Screwtape is a demon and he is writing letters to his nephew, Wormwood.  The letters are meant to help Wormwood, who is fresh out of Tempter’s College, in his endeavors to prevent people from becoming Christians.  In the end Wormwood fails and is eaten by the more successful demons.

The advice given by Screwtape was potentially effective, but it was also subtle.

  • Church members can be used to keep people away from the Gospel, especially if they behave rudely or practice immorality.
  • Family discord, lack of self-examination, and critical thoughts toward others will promote a self-righteous attitude.
  • Keep people away from prayer or have them use memorized superficial prayers that can be repeated without meaning.
  • Keep people focused on themselves and their own problems to promote selfishness and prevent charitable behavior.
  • Keep people focused on personal feelings.
  • Teach people to reverence religious objects, so the object replaces God.
  • Teach people to view the past as happy and peaceful.  Teach them to view the future with dread and hopelessness, so they will believe not even God can save them from certain destruction.
  • Create anxiety to prevent people from focusing on God.
  • Promote hatred for those who are different from them and hatred for enemies.
  • Promote malice towards the people around them and keep benevolence out of their minds.
  • Increase temptation during times of struggle, so sin appears to be the best way to elevate depression and inner turmoil.
  • If people desire to attend church, help them find one that focuses solely on friendship and self-help topics.
  • Teach people to live two parallel lives.  Sunday is for church, but during the rest of the week there is no thought of God.  This will allow them to live in sin, but still feel self-righteous.
  • Lull people into the path of wickedness, “Indeed the safest road to Hell is the gradual one – the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts.”
  • Don’t allow people to be rooted in a church, “if a man can’t be cured of church going, the next best thing is to send him all over the neighborhood looking for the church that ‘suits’ him until he becomes a taster or connoisseur of churches.”
  • Promote discord in the church, so the members are arguing over petty things, then they will be unable to teach the gospel with any effectiveness.
  • Encourage false spirituality among the people.

 

The Brook Church – Why I Attend

I live in Alabama, so there is no shortage of churches in the area.  There seems to be a church on every corner.

A little over a year ago, I started attending The Brook Church in Madison, Alabama.  I keep going back for several reasons.

I have been able to make friends there.  I enjoy the services and being involved with the children’s ministry.  I love attending the missional community groups that the church sponsors.

Those things are great, but they are not the main reasons I think The Brook is the best church for me.

I continue to learn new things when I attend church on Sunday and during missional community group meetings.  I also feel inspired to be a better person.  I am constantly growing and trying to improve myself.  I want to be willing to forgive others and be willing to apologize when I have done wrong.  I want to be honest and have moral integrity.  I want others to see me as someone with good character traits.

I still have areas of my life that need improvement and I make a lot of mistakes.  However, I am always trying and The Brook is helping me to achieve my goal of being a better person and a better Christian.

 

 

Positive Character Traits

In Matthew 12:22-50, Jesus has a lot to say about character.  For example,

  • A tree is known by its fruit
  • Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks

Webster defines character as the mental and ethical traits of a person.  Those traits could be positive or negative.

Positive character traits that I try to incorporate into my life include:

  • Humility
  • Kindness
  • Loyalty
  • Honesty
  • Integrity
  • Generosity
  • Gratitude
  • Patience
  • Compassion
  • Friendliness
  • Dedication

I don’t always live up to my goal, but I learn from my mistakes and try again.

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Make a Friend Day

It’s Make a Friend Day, so I decided to post a few tips on how to make friends.

  • Be willing to help others, even if it’s not convenient for you.  One day you will need help and it will be an inconvenience to other people.
  • Be willing to forgive and remember nobody is perfect.  One day you will need people to forgive you.
  • Celebrate the successes of other people and resist jealousy.
  • Comfort people in times of failure or need, without gloating or belittling them.
  • Be a trustworthy person.

Basically, be the friend you want your friend to be.

Cute dog friendship photos to celebrate Make a Friend Day

Ben is the large white dog.  He is a Great Pyrenees and weighs over 100 pounds.  Buddy is the black dog.  He is a Beagle/Rottweiler mix and weighs just under 50 pounds.  Both dogs are two years old and, as you can see from the pictures, they are best friends.

Be Good Inwardly and Outwardly (Matthew 5:21-6:4)

Yesterday, I talked about living a life of righteousness which involves more than just following a set of rules and checking off a list of requirements.  A life of righteousness comes from a pure heart.

When I read Matthew 5:21-6:4, I see that idea continuing and advice on how it should be played out in our life.

The law teaches us to not murder and it teaches an eye for an eye when seeking retribution for a wrong done to us.  However, Jesus wants more from us.  Jesus teaches us not to be hateful, angry, or insulting.  Instead, we should seek reconciliation and forgiveness.  This applies to our friends and to our enemies.

The law forbids adultery, but Jesus teaches a lustful heart is evil.  We should avoid things that lead to lust, if we want to live a righteous life and have a pure heart.

Jesus also condemned those who practice spirituality and charity to impress others.  Doing good to bolster your sense of self-pride, will not win any points with God.  Jesus wants us to do good out of a sense of love and compassion.

Living a life of righteousness is more than behaving a certain way when others can see us and it is more than just following a list of requirements.  Living a life of righteousness starts in the person’s heart and then it is demonstrated through their actions.

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