Integrity is the foremost measure of character between you and me. The dictionary will define integrity as an adherence to a code of values, but even that is ambiguous. Integrity means that you will do what you say you will do and I do what I say I will do. Anything less and the bond between us begins to fray and eventually snap. When it finally breaks it’s much like the rupture of a taut Achilles tendon. The two ends will curl away from each other and must be stretched under great pressure to even come close enough to begin the net back together. There is much pain and a long period of time elapses before the bond is trusted again, if it ever is.
Well, actually there are two. I and I. You and me. Integrity is the foremost measure of character between you and me. The dictionary will define integrity as an adherence to a code of values, but even that is ambiguous. Integrity means that you will do what you say you will do and I do what I say I will do. Anything less and the bond between us begins to fray and eventually snap. When it finally breaks it’s much like the rupture of a taut Achilles tendon. The two ends will curl away from each other and must be stretched under great pressure to even come close enough to begin the net back together. There is much pain and a long period of time elapses before the bond is trusted again, if it ever is.
In leadership, whether in the church or in a secular setting, surveys have demonstrated over and over that the most important character trait in a leader’s integrity. If people are going to follow a leader into battle or into ministry they must know that the leader’s word is rock solid. They do what they say they’re going to do. Always. Without excuses. Even if it requires sacrifice on their part.
They are often misappropriated verse in the epistle of James speaks to the impact that integrity can have.
Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do. James 2:18
It is as easy to claim to have faith as it is to pound your chest and claim the solidity of your integrity. Because we do not exist in a vacuum it’s also easy enough for those around us to evaluate our claims of both faith and integrity. If we claim faith in the God of the universe and His Son Jesus Christ but live lives contrary to the obedience and character demanded of a recipient of his magnificent grace that our faith is certainly questionable. In the same way, proclamations of integrity fall on deaf ears when our actions demonstrate that we cannot be trusted. The Christian leader who finds themselves in this position also has a ministry that is over before it starts. God is not going to bless something that begins by bringing dishonor to His name.
Our hope would be to be found like Israel’s leaders Samuel. After having led Israel for decade after decade Samuel stands before all the people and lays himself bare. (1 Samuel 12:1-4) He states without hesitation that if he has wrongly taken anything from anyone he will repay. If he has cheated or oppressed anyone he will make reparation. If he has been less than honest in any of his dealings he will confess and make right any illicit bargain. “I will make it right” are Samuel’s farewell words before Israel and his God.
The people reply “you have not cheated or oppressed us,” and “you have not taken anything from anyone’s hand.” Samuel had integrity.
Two Lists Will Revolutionize Your Relationship with God
Praise the Lord, O my soul; and forget not all his benefits– Psalm 103:2
In a busy life it is all too easy to miss God at work. We can become so wrapped up in our daily lives that the sometimes subtle moves of God all around us can fade into our surroundings and we walk right by.Some will not be noticed and missed forever. Others will be sensed at the amygdala level and later, through the prompting of the Holy Spirit, will receive the full attention of the brain. We can call these ‘near misses’.
It’s certainly possible to proceed through life unaware of God at work. We can remain faithful and repentant to the best of our ability. We can just exist, naïve to what we are missing but this is a difficult position to maintain. Once the Christian has tasted the briefest experience of knowing the living, active God at this level, he is driven to experience more. This is by design in the relationship between God and human kind and it serves a purpose in the course of discipleship.To become cognizant of God at work begins to form our confidence. He has promised to be at work and we have seen him at work. Confidence builds faith. Our witness to the work of God trains us to place ever greater trust in His promises. Faith builds boldness. If God has been faithful in promise A He will be faithful in promise B despite appearances to the contrary. Greater trust, greater faith and audacious boldness lead to the fullness of life promised to the people of God.
Two sheets of paper can start the trust building exercise. On page one, list the experiences you have had that evidence God at work around you. This is an easy list to start since the first experience you have to record is your own salvation. Build from there recording moments in which you have seen God at work in your life or the lives of others. Make note of the transformation that occurred. Search the scriptures for promises that align with that experience. Write it all down and set it aside.
The second sheet of paper will contain a record of near misses, those times in which you walked past God at work only to realize it later. Perhaps it was an evangelistic opportunity or a moment in which you could have encouraged another person, brought correction for them, comforted them. We call these near misses because the Spirit reminds us after the fact that we passed by the Father without notice. This activates the Reticular nerves and we become more aware of our surroundings, seeing things that had not been noticed before.
When you have completed both lists place them side by side. Ask yourself, if God has been faithful and actively working in those instances on list A, won’t He also be faithful and active when you become more aware of the moments on list B? Of course! The witness of list A builds your confidence and your increasing confidence contributes to a deepening faith. That faith and your heightened spider-sense will transform you from being an observer to one actively seeking to be involved with the Father’s work. Now, you’re living.
image by Ana C.
The Fourth Fisherman by Joe Kissack
[Fade from Black] Camera pans from a calm sea to the prow of a small fishing boat. Voices speaking Spanish in the background as a man walks the beach toward the vessel. As he comes into focus, he is not dressed for fishing and appears to be looking for something. The scene turns with his gaze, sweeping the ocean and then spying a dock further down the beach, the camera follows him as he walks toward it, away from the boat. [Title]
Stories that appear separated that intertwine to lead to an intersection unexpected by the audience are a Hollywood staple. Better yet are divine stories of lives brought together by The Director. Such is the The Fourth Fisherman, the tale of four lives transformed by circumstance unforeseen when the first steps were taken. Author Joe Kissack recounts how his life of Hollywood success led him to the fishing villages in Mexico while a group of impoverished Mexican pescadores was simply trying to survive the ordeal of being lost at sea for ten months. A growing faith in God brings them together in the port town.
Kissack’s trajectory was taking him higher and higher on the success ladder. He had money, power and prestige. He was also medicating himself, burning himself out on the treadmill of the television industry trying to keep one step ahead. Though he has the outward trappings of success, he finds himself empty inside, wrestling with impressions of inferiority left by his father and the demands of trying to have it all. Ultimately, he cannot, setting the crisis stage for an encounter with Jesus.
The alternate path through life is portrayed through the lives of five Mexican fisherman who set out on a trip that soon turns bad, leaving them adrift in the Pacific for months on end. Death, hunger and despair challenge them while their faith grounds them, giving them the hope needed to continue scanning the horizon for any sign of rescue. When a ship finally sees them bobbing on the waves little energy remains in the party for celebration.
Kissack skillfully weaves these two threads together to show how God arranged for them to intersect. Though the full ending remains to be written, the story is an inspiration for those wondering about the purpose of their personal crucibles. God doesn’t waste our struggles. They serve a purpose in His larger story, and we only pray that we have sufficient awareness to see that purpose further on down our own road.
I am grateful to Waterbrook Press who provided this Advance Reading copy for review. The book will be available on March 12, 2012. Contact www.waterbrookmultnomah.com for more information.
The Lord reigns, let the earth be glad; let the distant shores rejoice. (Ps 97:1)
The psalmist declares the fundamental tension in which God’s people exist. We recognize his sovereign rule over all but struggle to understand why He doesn’t exercise it to destroy the evil that is so prevalent. Is there reason for doubt?
Fire goes before him and consumes his foes on every side. (v3)
Confidence is rooted in faith. Faith that one day, all will be restored to its proper condition. Fire will sweep away all that mars creation and out of the tempering flame will come the restored heavens and earth. Nothing, even the mountains, will stand before God in his sweeping restoration.
Let those who love the Lord hate evil, for he guards the lives of his faithful one and delivers them from the hand of the wicked. Light is shed upon the righteous and joy on the upright in heart. (vv 10-11)
Despite what surrounds us, we trust in the God whose sacrificial act demonstrated beyond question His love for us. Look through everything to see the goodness that will be the result of the change. Look to the skies and know that He is good and righteous.
The heavens proclaim his righteousness and all the peoples see His glory. (v6)
Grace and peace to you.
image uncle jerry
Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as you did at Meribah, as you did that day at Massah in the desert, where your fathers tested and tried me, though they had seen what I did. (Psalm 95:8-9)
So many moments in our lives are marked by decisions made in haste without due consideration given to our foundation of knowledge. Whether we choose in desperation, anger or confusion, we fail to take the extra second necessary to recall other similar circumstances and their outcomes. Was God present and involved, given the distance of time in your recollection?
This was the repeated failure of Israel that the Psalmist recalls. He reminds us of the incident in the desert recorded in Exodus 17 and Numbers 20. Though the Lord had shepherded His people through the wastelands by the physical presence of fire and cloud and His servant Moses, when the struggle began to wear on the Israelites, their short term memory took over and they could only remember the past hour without water. They failed to recall the unending flow of water that they had benefited from previous. In their rebellion, all of the great works of God were forgotten, replaced by distrust and self-interest.
Has your Savior forgotten you? Consider His promises and track record before allowing this kind of doubt to influence your decisions and behaviors.
Grace and peace to you.
image malec slomas
He has set his foundation on the holy mountain;
the Lord loves the gates of Zion more than all the dwellings of Jacob. ( Ps 87:1-2)
In the enormity of the Psalter, like the whole of the Bible, small sections are easily overlooked by the casual reader in an effort to comprehend the span of God’s story. Only when we devote ourselves to directed and purposeful study or on our fifth or sixth time through the scriptures do the small, powerful truths come to the surface. Such are the seven verses of Psalm 87.
Two visions of the world are in view here. The Lord loves Zion, where He has chosen to make His home in the temple and become the centerpiece of their lives. His people would move toward Him in this arrangement. His Presence stayed in the Temple and worship required immediacy to that location. The psalm looks forward, however, to a time when His Presence would touch those far beyond Zion. It points to a time when Gentiles would we welcomed into the family, brothers and sisters who would acknowledge Him and cease their hostility toward Him. So it was written and so it has become.
Grace and peace to you..
image andrew mace–
I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life. This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to His will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of Him. (1 John 5:13-15)
But, you say, how can we know the will of God?
It is at this juncture that many who take to their knees find themselves at a loss. They desire to ask of the Father but are disheartened because they cannot find within themselves to say that they know the will of God. This confusion derives from the difference between the hidden and revealed will of God. Yes, the Father has a plan and outcomes that are hidden to us but prayer is not driven by this. God does not play guess a number games with His beloved.
If you know the revealed will of God as it is unfolded in the Scriptures, you know the parameters of prayer. He has revealed what is good and has expressed His will that we stay within the good. This revelation however is not apprehended simply by turning the pages of the Bible. In order to understand the full expression of good, the path of revelation must be lighted by the Holy Spirit. Words on a page become embedded truth under His guidance.
We are commanded to pray and to petition within His will. Unanswered prayer should not sway us from our task, it should drive us back to revelation to gain a firmer grasp on the purposes of God. Return to your knees with greater vigor and a deeper devotion and know that an answer will come.
Grace and peace to you.
image by Dia
It’s easy to say ‘don’t be afraid’ and an entirely different thing not to be afraid, isn’t it? We trust in our unseen Father and in the grace that he extends to us. We’re challenged when something that can be seen and touched offers an alternative confidence. Which path will we follow; the one that leads to Cross or the path of our own making?
God knows our mind, he knows when we’re considering the alternative. Despite our outward appearances, where we try to make the world believe we have not doubts, God knows our heart. Can we embed it in our hearts such that we can walk fearlessly into the darkness that surrounds the Cross?
But the Lord has become my fortress, and my God the rock in whom I take refuge. (Psalm 94:22)
We can process that statement, even repeat it to others but can we get rid of our doubt? Confidence replaces doubt as we grow closer in our relationship with God. The more time we spend with Him, the more we hide His word in our hearts, the more we see His truths in action, the more we will know that,
"For the Lord will not reject his people; he will never forsake his inheritance. (v 14)
We will walk toward the Cross He ordains for us without fear..
When I said, “My foot is slipping, your love, O Lord, supported me.
When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought joy to my soul. (vv 18-19)
Grace and peace to you.
Hear me, O God, as I voice my complaint;
protect my life from the threat of the enemy.
Hide me from the conspiracy of the wicked, from that noisy crowd of evildoers. (vv 1-2)
The psalmist hides much of the depth of this psalm in the Hebrew but the English reading expresses the trusting relationship between the victims of the wicked and God. They will be attacked publicly but fear nothing that the earthbound can do. Their trust is rooted in the long term. God will prove the righteous true.
All mankind will fear; they will proclaim the works of God and ponder what he has done.
Let the righteous rejoice in the Lord and take refuge in him;
let all the upright in heart praise him! (vv 9-10)
This psalm embraces familiar territory. As Jesus reminded his disciples (for all of history), we will have trouble in this life. The strength we show, rooted in our trust in the Lord, will demonstrate His strength to an unbelieving world.
The end of one year and the initial days of a new one often find churchgoers hearing a new vision for the church over the coming year. Some pastors will place the imprimatur of God on their statements, saying “God has directed us in this direction” while others will be less humble in their choice of pronouns, suggesting ‘I’ or ‘We’ view this direction as the way forward for the body. All well and good, whichever attribution is selected. Charisma or at least enthusiasm in the voice can deliver the message effectively.
As long as no one looks back.
If the pastor is delivering an annual vision for the upcoming year shouldn’t it be preceded by a review of the results of the previous vision. How did it turn out? Have we arrived at the destination you pointed us toward? What went wrong? If I am hiking through the forest on a trail that was previously mapped out for me and someone comes up to tell me he sees a new way to reach our destination, shouldn’t I ask how he arrived at my location? God is consistent. He has set things in motion and the story has remained the same as far back as we have kept track. Looking back to see where we’ve been should be the first action before a step is taken.
Vision casting is risky. Vision casting in the Church is riskier. To say that the Lord has given a new vision for this year or this pastor or this incarnation of His church should always be more than an impression. To say that He has forgotten the old vision in favor of the new should always cause us to stop and ask if we were faithful to the last one.