A Change in Paradigm

When you think of a funeral and what Bible passages are read most commonly, which ones come to mind? Today’s reading of Psalm 23 most certainly is in the top few. When I hear this verse, I picture a person walking down a dark path lonely with a light up ahead. I’m not sure this would be the mental vision God would want me to have about death. As I read this verse more closely, what stuck out to me is that it is “the valley of the shadow of death” in Psalm 23:4. We, who are still living, are in the “shadow of death.” This is where we have fears, anxieties, and worries that cause us stress. This is when we need his “rod and staff” to “comfort me.” This is when I need to “fear no evil” and my soul needs restoring by laying in “green pastures” and by going “beside still waters.”

Revelation 21:4 tells us, “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be morning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” When I die, I want my funeral to be a celebration that I’m living in Heaven in perfect peace worshiping the only King forever. I want a band playing songs of praise with everyone standing and worshiping Him reminding all there of the joy they can have in eternal life through confessing their sins and belief in Him and His resurrection! They don’t need to be sad for me…I’m not in a dark valley standing there by myself lonely. I’m experiencing a joy we can’t even imagine on this Earth worshiping Him in a similar way to how I hope they are at that moment.

The first part of Psalm 23:8 says, “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life” telling us maybe Psalm 23 is more appropriate for a baby dedication, a first communion, a baptism, or even a wedding. We can live in perfect peace throughout our life because the second part of Psalm 23:8 says, “and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” When we fix our eyes on that which is eternal (the only thing that matters), we will have comfort and respite from the challenges in this life.

Here is the song 10,000 Reasons by Matt Redman which was sung at my wife’s great uncle Lee Dexheimer’s funeral. It reminded me we will experience a peace that passes all human understanding just like Lee did that day and still is today, forever and ever. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DXDGE_lRI0E

Grateful

Our reading is Numbers 11.

Today, we learn about how God was not pleased with some of the Israelites striking them with a plague when they complained about only having manna to eat and no meat. We know from Romans 8:1 that now, “There is no condemnation for those are in Christ Jesus.” However, we see here He does not like ungrateful words and an ungrateful heart and prior to Jesus paying the price for our sins, and He took action against some of them for this.

First, the Israelites complained back in Exodus 16:3 that they had no food to eat and would starve in the desert and would rather be back in slavery after wanting to be freed for years. Now, after God provided them with manna from the sky to eat daily (Exodus 16:4), they have the audacity to complain that they had meat when they were in Egypt and would rather be back in slavery (Numbers 11:4-6 and Numbers 11:18). Really?!

It is easy to be quick to judge the Israelites lack of gratitude, until we take a closer look at our own heart and thoughts. How quickly do we forget about an answered prayer and go on to the next thing or even worse get a prayer answered and say things were better before like the Israelites. We want a change in career..now we’re not happy with our boss and want a new career..or even back to the old one. We pray to have a house to call our own and to stop renting…now we want a bigger house. We are lonely and pray for a relationship or marriage…now we are contemplating a divorce thinking our current marriage can’t be fixed. We pray to have children of our own…now life is just crazy and we never have time for ourselves. We pray for healing from a medical issue…now we complain about the medical bills. I can easily hang my head in guilt over many similar items in my own life.

God makes it very clear that it is absolutely alright to ask God for what you want as Jesus clearly tells us this in Matthew 7:7-11. In fact, He wants us to pour out our hearts to Him and trust and come to Him for what we seek. However, we have to search our heart to find our motivation…is it for His glory or our own? Paul states in 1 Corinthians 6:20, “for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” Jesus also teaches and models for us in Luke 22:42 that it is fine to ask God for what you want as He asks for the burden of the cross to be removed from Him, but He also teaches and models how we should ultimately want God the Father’s will to be done and not our own.

So, how do we improve and soften our heart to have an attitude of gratitude? One thing I’ve found very helpful is to start a journal or notebook to write down each morning 3 things you are thankful for that day. No matter how bad things are we can ultimately find things to be grateful for. I’ve heard it said that it’s impossible to be stressed and be thankful at the same time. Maybe there is also a song or something else which puts your heart and mind in a gracious state? At the end of this post is one that does this for me, Grateful by Elevation Worship.

Ultimately, we go to the living Word in Bible for the best way to do this which we are told in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 which says, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” No matter our situation, we all can be thankful that He gave His life on the cross for us and conquered the grave and through admission of our sins and belief in Him we can do the same and spend eternity in Heaven with no pain and problems regardless of what hardships we face today in this short life on Earth.

Final Exam

Today’s reading is Genesis 22.

Starting at the end of Genesis 11 through today’s reading we learn about Abraham’s life. As I reflect on his life told in these chapters, one of my biggest observations is that Abraham consistently heard the Lord speaking to Him, and then He trusted and obeyed. This occurs many times, but we first see it in Genesis 12 when Abraham is living in Haran and God tells him to go from his country and he will make him a great nation and bless him to be a blessing. It is amazing to me that he obeyed for 2 reasons. First, he was already 75 years old and moving back then didn’t just mean calling Two Men and a Truck or hopping in a car! Secondly, Genesis 13:2 tells us he could have been content because he already had much livestock and gold. Often, it’s harder to trust God when you already have everything you need and feel like you have everything to lose and nothing to gain. However, we must continue to stretch ourselves like Abraham did to have faith and trust and obey. Faith is never a “stay’..it’s always a “go.” If you stay, you don’t need faith and you can’t grow to be all God’s called you to be.

Although it may seem like Abraham had everything, the Lord continued to stretch Abraham to trust in Him with faith, and there were challenges. The biggest challenge being Abraham and his wife Sarah’s inability to have a child. However, God kept his promise to Abraham and Sarah that they would have a child, and they did at Abraham’s age 100 and Sarah’s age 90. Now, we see the final exam or test God gives Abraham. God tells Abraham to offer Isaac as a sacrifice. Those of us who have children, can you even imagine? Not to mention the fact that Isaac was the miracle son they had waited for. I can’t even imagine what Abraham must have been thinking. We see in verse 22:1, Abraham says, “Here I am.” He does not ignore God when God is asking him to do something He really doesn’t want to do. Some of you may say you have never heard God speak to you. Well, you may not have heard the audible voice of God, but all of us have heard that little voice in our head saying things like call a certain friend, check in with your child, buy that lady’s meal, take that new career path, join a small group, begin going to church again, spend more time with me in the Word or prayer. Do we stop, listen, trust and obey like Abraham? Or do we completely ignore it thinking of all the barriers and go on busily with our day. I have also observed in my life and the life of others that when we spend more time with the Lord in His Word, prayer, and in church He speaks through those mediums giving us clarity as to the right direction and actions to take. Ask yourself, am I even giving myself an opportunity to hear the Lord speak to me in those ways? Then, am I showing faith and taking action with trust and obedience to Him. or am I just going on quickly to the next thing in my day?

We know that God does not let Abraham sacrifice Isaac. Again, the Lord speaks and Isaac says, “Here I am.” God stops Him from doing so as he takes the knife to kill Isaac. God could have asked Abraham to sacrifice his riches or many other things but God knew he truly had Abraham’s heart when Abraham was willing to give up what was most important to Him in Isaac. This was the final exam so to speak. This was the final test for God to see that Abraham truly trusted Him, and that He alone was enough for Abraham. Once Abraham showed Him this, God tells him in Genesis 22:17 he would not only get to keep his 1 son in Isaac, but he would have offspring numbering as many stars in the sky and sand that is on the seashore. As pastor and author Mark Batterson says, “You can’t out give God.”

As I read this I ask myself, is God enough? Would I give up everything for Him? God may not ask us to give up everything, but I don’t think there is any question He wants our heart..and not just some it…all of it. Lamentations 3:22-23 tells us of His steadfast love and that his mercies are new every morning. In the same way He shows His favor upon us which He doesn’t have to do, we must show our gratitude for his saving grace on the cross through our trust and obedience and giving Him our whole heart today and every day, even in our old age until we leave this Earth, just like Abraham did. He is enough.

Angels We Have Heard..in Brooklyn??

In July of 2017, I had the opportunity to go on a mission trip doing street ministry with Spread Truth. This was something I had never done before and stretched my comfort zone. Our first day was on parks where you are typically approaching people that are seated, and let’s just say the first guy we approached was about as rude and mean as you could be and I thought to myself..”well…it can’t get any worse than that. It can only get better, so let’s move on and go to the next one!” The rest of the day resulted in some great conversations where the Holy Spirit was at work. Day 2 was a different assignment standing on the sidewalks in the streets of Brooklyn as people passed. To say we were off to a rough start was an understatement. For nearly an hour we could not get anyone to even stop to talk to us as they busily hurried to wherever they were headed. We were very discouraged to say the least, and then came a conversation with Thomas King, a name and an interaction I will never forget.

Thomas, who we later would learn was age 93, was standing by a bench, and we approached him to hopefully tell him the Gospel and change his life..instead…he changed ours. He encouraged us immediately and told us to look at the faces of every person that walked by. He said they were all filled with stress, anxiety, and worry…he said, “What they all need is Jesus!” If they would just remember and lean on the words of Isaiah 26:3, they would not be so troubled. He then told us the words of this verse from memory..

You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.”

Isaiah 26:3

Not only did this emotional pep talk fire us up like a coach before a big game to remind us that people needed what we had and we had to go back out there and push through the rejection, challenges, and disappointments we had experienced and tell them about what they truly needed….which was Jesus, but it was also a great reminder that fear, anxiety, and stress all come from selfish thoughts and concerns about ourselves. 1 John 4:18 tells us, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.” When we are focused on Him and his perfect love for us given on the cross and we know His love shown in this way means we will spend eternity in Heaven with Him and that is all that really matters, we will be in “perfect peace” as Isaiah 26:3 says.

It’s hard to describe our feelings as Thomas captured our hearts and minds with his words of wisdom. Sadly though, Thomas told us than many younger than him, including his church, did not listen. He told us he was recently recognized by his church for his years of membership there, but they would not give him the opportunity to speak when he asked. This saddened me because not only did it disappoint Thomas, but his words had so much impact on us that we did not want him to stop speaking and others would be missing out on his wisdom. Job 12:12 says, “Wisdom is with the aged, and understanding in length of days.”  How many times do we miss out on the opportunity to learn from our elders by not asking them or not listening to them and discounting their credibility which should be gained, not lost, with age?

Hebrews 13:2 reads, “Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.” I don’t know if Thomas was an angel, but I do know that his words cut sharp like a knife at exactly the right time when we needed it and reminded us that what we were doing was not about us and we needed to re-direct our fear to focus on Jesus and His perfect love which every person who walked by needed. As we head into 2019, we hope and pray that it will bring us many blessings, but it will undoubtedly also will bring us challenges. Let’s commit to being prepared to face those trials because our minds will be fixed on Him and His perfect love, and we will trust in Him which will give us “perfect peace.” We have faith He will give us exactly what we need when we need it..just like He gave us Thomas King.

We Can’t, He Can…and to Him Be the Glory!

“Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power at work within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.”                 Ephesians 3:20-21

These verses were read in our church a few years ago. These were verses that changed my life, and I hope I can use to change the lives of my children and those I help lead.

My Dad always said, “You can find time to do everything else to do in the week, so you can find time to go to church on Sunday.” Truth be told, I think these words were first the words of my late grandmother, Mary Ellen, who passed earlier this year. At our firm, we have a saying called “Don’t miss the assembly.” It means, don’t miss a development or learning session because one thing said there could impact you greatly. Our retired managing partner, John Wright, would always say, “You’re either green and growing or ripe and rotting.” Over the past few years, church has become something I look forward to because I love the time of worship and the opportunity to praise Him. But, it’s always been something I have needed like putting gas in the tank each week. It seems like the message is always something we need at exactly the right time which I don’t think is any coincidence. And every once in a great while, something is said that changes your life.

Many of us are lucky enough to be raised in good homes with good values where parents taught us to think of others first and to not think too highly of ourselves. Don’t be cocky or arrogant…be humble. However, we often confuse what humble means. A few years back I also heard it said that being humble means thinking of yourself less, not thinking less of yourself. When we think less of ourselves and what we are capable of and when we lack confidence in what we can do and in our future, we are really showing a lack of confidence in God and what He can do. This verse tells us we can’t, but He can. It’s not our power, but “HIS power within us.” This is why we should be confident…not because of ourselves, but because of Him. And…He “is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine.” Yes, challenges will come and life won’t be easy. Bad things will happen. This is not the prosperity gospel I’m speaking of. But, there is no need to worry about the future. He’s got this. And He will do more through and with you (even when you’re in really bad situations) than you ever expect or could ever think you are capable of. And when great things happen in life, Ephesians 3:21 makes sure we keep our priorities right. He gets the glory…”forever and ever!” As my pastor growing up, Rev. Richard Harre once said, “We can be calm, confident, and courageous in our Lord, Jesus Christ!”

Peace Be With You

Today’s reading is John 20.

At what point do you believe something to be true? Do you have to hear it from a certain family member or friend? Do you have to hear it from a certain news source or just hear it multiple times?

We read today the well-known story of “Doubting Thomas” who would not believe until He saw Jesus even though 10 other of what have to be His best friends, which He spent time together with Jesus in the Holy Land observing miracles first-hand, said He was alive. I’m really glad we are continuing to focus on the words of Jesus because it caused me to look deeper into some of His other words here outside of Him telling Thomas to stick his fingers into His hands and side.

Many times, we ourselves face pain and problems in our life and struggle with where to turn, or we know those who face problems with relationships, family, careers, money, or health and can’t figure out where to turn. As Mary Magdalene goes to the tomb and sees that Jesus is not there, she goes outside and weeps. Jesus then appears to her and says in John 20:15, “Woman, why are you weeping? Who are you seeking?” Later, in John 20:22 when Jesus appears to the disciples the first time He says, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” He says in John 20:19, “Peace be with you.” And again, here in this same chapter in John 20:26 when He appears 8 days later to the disciples a second time He starts by saying again, “Peace be with you.” At first glance in reading this it seems as though He’s wishing for them to have peace, but upon further reading I believe He’s telling them that “Peace” is with them and “Peace” is Him. He asks Mary why she’s weeping and who she’s seeking because “Peace” is right in front of her! How many times is “Peace” right in front of us yet we don’t seek Him, we don’t see Him when he’s right there like Mary didn’t, or we don’t accept Him when He reaches His hand out? He could be right there in front of us, but as He says in John 20:22, it is up to us to “Receive the Holy Spirit.”

Pastor Mike Baker of Eastview Christian Church says, “Seeing is not believing. Believing is seeing.” We must focus on the miracles right in front of us and the reasons the Gospel is true rather than the reasons it’s not. People often put more faith in reasons not to believe than reasons to believe. Are we more aware of the ways He’s working in our lives or more aware of the reasons we think He’s not? Are we more in touch with His presence in our lives or more focused on why we think He’s missing? Do we concentrate more on our blessings which come from Him or do we concentrate more on what we don’t have but want? Let us stop weeping and seek Him, see Him, accept Him, and “Receive the Holy Spirit” when He reaches out His hand.

 

The Truth

Today’s reading is John 8.

Jesus says in John 8:44, “You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.”

Even Christians, often have trouble acknowledging the Devil’s presence in our lives and in the world. However, the Bible does not. In fact, the Devil or Satan is mentioned 90 times in the Bible. Jesus calls him the “father of lies” here which makes complete sense due the fact that the first sin started with his lie in Genesis 3:5 when he told Adam and Eve they would be like God if they ate the fruit. This is the first lie that Satan still tells us today…you are God.

This may seem silly, but when you take a step back it’s not too difficult to see in our own life and in the world today by what is found to be socially acceptable. Primarily it rears its ugly head when God tells us to do whatever “feels good” and that others should be able to do the same. We trade temporary satisfaction for joy and peace which God knows will come from following Him and restraining from what He calls a sin in the BIble. The “father of lies” also then furthers this lie by others telling us (which we then believe to be true ourselves) that we are judging others when we call what God calls a sin a sin and “that is not the Christian thing to do.” When we call a sin a sin and at the same time acknowledge that we ourselves are sinners as well needing forgiveness and that one sin is not worse than another sin (except for blaspheming the Holy Spirit) and all sin separates us from God, that is not judging..it’s speaking the truth.

The 2nd lie Satan tells us is God does not love you. Even when we acknowledge God exists and know that He sent His Son to die on the cross for us, this lie can subtly bind us from experiencing joy and most importantly keep us from truly being at peace through complete understanding God’s love . Up until the last few years, I found myself wondering at times if something didn’t go my way if it was because of a entirely unrelated sin I committed recently. While sin does have consequences in our lives and God often doesn’t stop the consequences, God does not make bad things happen to you because of something you did. Romans 8:1 says, “There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Romans 8:31 then says, “…If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son but gave Him up for us, will He not also with Him graciously give us all things?” God is not against us. He does not punish us for sins. He says here in John 8:11, “Neither do I condemn you.” He does also then say,” …go and from now on sin no more.” He came with both grace and truth.

Jesus says in John 8:12…”I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in the darkness, but have the light of life.” We all seek truth. That is what the world is looking for…truth. We find truth in the Word. John 1 refers to Him as the Word, and here in John 8:31 He says, “….If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” Acting on how we we “feel” and the world telling us its ok for others to do the same will not set us free. This is what the “father of lies” tells us. But, Jesus tells us in John 8:34, “..Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin.” Sin (which is what God tells us is sin in the Bible..not the world) does not set us free as Satan tells us…it imprisons us. Jesus says again in John 8:36, “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free in deed.” Read the Word. Run to His loving arms and be free. There you will find what we all need to have peace and joy…you will find truth and love.

 

The Cure

Today’s reading is Luke 20.

As I read the Bible I’d like to be able to compare myself and say I’m like some of the heroes of the Bible such as Abraham, Moses, Joseph, David, Paul, or even some of those in the New Testament who by faith believed that just by touching Jesus’ cloak or by Him saying the words they, or a member of their family, would be healed. Unfortunately, I find I’m much more like those in Luke 20 who try to challenge and question Jesus and have selfish, impure motives. Here in this chapter we have the chief priests and scribes who question Jesus’ authority to which Jesus tells the parable of the wicked tenants and later says is Luke 20:45-47 that they exalt themselves and take advantage of others. We also have in this chapter spies sent by the chief priests and scribes who try to test Jesus and ask if they should pay taxes or not, and we have the Sadducees asking Him an irrelevant question about whose wife someone will be in the afterlife.

Instead of just trusting in Him and having peace in the fact that he defeated Satan and sin through his resurrection and will permanently defeat Satan and sin through His second coming foretold in the book of Revelation, I find myself trying to figure out at times why God is letting certain things happen in my life and in the lives of others around me and why He lets the terrible things we see on the news in the world around us happen. This questioning of Him and asking why is clearly Satan impeding and getting us to focus on the problem, not the solution…Jesus!

In his book, The Grave Robber, Mark Batterson discusses how miracles are happening all around us, but we don’t focus on them, we focus on problems. He discusses that we may feel like we are sitting still right now but the Earth is spinning on its axis at 1,000 miles per hour and the Earth is hurtling through space at 67,108 miles per hour which is not only faster than a speeding bullet but is 87 times faster than the speed of sound. He jokes that even if you didn’t feel like you did much today you traveled 1,599,794 miles through space! He asks, when is the last time we thanked God for keeping us in orbit or said to God, “Lord, I wasn’t sure we would make the full rotation today, but You did it again!” He talks about how the biggest miracle we see daily is really our own life. There are chemical interactions that must take place perfectly in our body every moment for us to be alive and that our brain is performing 10 quadrillion (I didn’t even know that was a number!) calculations per second. We aren’t just surrounded by miracles each day he says, we are one. Just look in the mirror.

This helps us clearly see that when we lose sight of God in our lives, we focus on all the bad things happening and ask why. We focus on the irrelevant like those in Luke 20, as opposed to looking at the miracles he’s performing this very second. And most importantly, this keeps us from focusing on being thankful for the greatest miracle He performed which was sending His perfect Son to die on the cross and to be raised to life to permanently defeat Satan and our sin bringing us back together with Him and giving us eternal life which He didn’t have to do.

Help us focus on You. Jesus…you are the Cure!

Hills and Valleys

Today’s reading is Luke 8.

Does it ever shock you how much worry and how little faith the disciples often have have during their time with Jesus? They worry about having enough food for the crowds of people and themselves multiple times, they are scared when Jesus walks on water thinking He is a ghost, most run away in terror when he’s captured by the authorities, and here in Luke 8 they are scared during the storm before Jesus calms it. In Luke 8:25, Jesus even directly says to them, “Where is your faith?”

A great brother in Christ and myself were just discussing the importance of being humbled through challenges, disappointments, and perceived failures (at the time) in life. Let me be clear these things are never fun. I don’t like them for myself, and I don’t wish these shortcomings on anyone. However, when we observe things closely we can often find that when we don’t face challenges we can become distant from God, not giving the glory to Him and not being a servant leader for Him and to those around us. How many times do we see celebrities and the greatest athletes making poor choices in actions and words that are all about them? I believe it’s often because they have not been humbled to realize that while they have likely worked hard to get to where they are, they would not have accomplished what they have without the people around them, the organization they are within, or even the time they were born and live in (Malcolm Gladwell talks about this in his book Outliers). They often don’t give others credit for the help they received and first and foremost to the One who put those people around them, to the One who put them within that organization/sport/profession, and to the One who brought them into the world at this perfect time to accomplish what they have. They don’t feel like they “need” God.

On the flip side of this, we read later in Luke 8:43 where a woman who had a bleeding issue for twelve years who could not be healed by any physicians went to Jesus believing she could be healed if just touched His clothing which she did. She was humbled by her sickness. She had nowhere else to turn but to Him. Jesus says to her in Luke 8:48, “Daughter, your faith has made you well, go in peace.” Check out James 1:2-4 and James 1:12 for how trials help us grow and shape us into the person He wants us to become. James 1:6 specifically says, “But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of seas that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.” What a great example she was of having faith without doubting! Is God not giving you what you want right now? Are you being humbled right now through challenges? What is God trying to teach you in this season of life? Are you FULLY relying on Him, trusting in Him, and believing in Him to bring you through these challenges? Or would He say to you like He did to the disciples in Luke 8:25, “Where is your faith?”

In closely observing this occurrence of Jesus calming the storm, I find it interesting that Jesus is the one that suggests they get into the boat to go to the other side of the lake. Yet, He doesn’t say why, nor does it say what they did when they arrived after the storm. In fact, it just says in Luke 8:26 they sailed to Gerasenes. Did Jesus have them go out into the boat just so they could see His miraculous powers to calm the storm so they would grow in their faith and trust in Him? Although the disciples lacked faith often during their time with Jesus, this time of growth helped them become so unbelievably complete in their faith and trust in God that 11 of the 12 (Judas Iscariot not in the 12) of them were killed for their faith later. They went from running away in fear when He was captured and killed to risking it all for Him shortly thereafter. They became perfect and complete in their faith through all these trials lacking nothing and spreading the Good News to others so that you and I would know it today. There is no doubt they are being greatly rewarded in Heaven.

Let us pray the following prayer…

“Lord God, in times of challenges and valleys let me raise my eyes to You, the One who sees me there and will bring me out. Please help me to be perfect and complete in my faith and trust in You, lacking nothing. When I’m on the mountaintops, let me give You all the praise and glory knowing that You are the source of all good things. You are the God of hills and valleys. Please help me remember Your words that those who want to be first shall be last by living my life as servant leader to You and others around me. Thank You for modeling this through Your death on the cross so that I am forgiven for my many shortcomings and can live with You in eternity. I love you. Amen.”

 

Integrity

Today’s reading is Mark 12.

As we continue to take a close look at the words of Jesus, He tells us here that the greatest commandment is to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength in Mark 12:30, reaffirming what Moses said in Deuteronomy 6:5 after delivering the Ten Commandments. He then states in Mark 12:31 the second greatest commandment is what some refer to as the “golden rule” which is to love your neighbor like yourself. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that a few verses later in Mark 12:38-40 he calls out the religious scribes who talk the talk, but don’t walk the walk and truly live their lives for God warning of their condemnation. This is a good reminder for all of us to take a look at the true condition of our heart. How do we know the true condition of our heart?

This week our son came home from kindergarten and asked his mom and me if we knew what integrity meant. Taken a little bit back by this from him asking this at a young age we asked, “What is it buddy?” He said, “My teacher says it’s doing the right thing, even when no one is watching.” Albert Einstein said there are 5 levels of intelligence in ascending order: smart, intelligent, brilliant, genius, and the highest form which is simple. This is not the textbook definition of integrity, but I believe it’s the simplest and the right one. We should all ponder this question,” What am I doing when no one is watching?” This shows the true condition of our heart. We need to fully examine ourselves to know the condition of our heart which God already knows. As the scribes were doing, any of us can paint a picture we want others to see by writing for devotional like this, serving as an elder or even as a pastor, volunteering, going to church and saying the right things. But, does your heart and follow up actions show you are doing these things for the right reasons? Do you truly love Him? You know. God knows.

As I write this, we are talking about repentance as part of our Joshua 24 study and Eastview Church. If we are not living the way we want to live, the great news is at any time we can turn away from sin and run into God’s loving arms. We must acknowledge our sin and specifically and then take action to change what we are doing. The even better news is that 1 John 4:19 tells us He first loved us before we loved Him by giving His life on the cross for the forgiveness of our sins. Do you believe this? If so, despite past wrong doings, you can go live your life with integrity for Him today and every day without any guilt of past wrong doing. Is there any greater feeling than that?!