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?!

“Well done, my good and faithful servant!”

Today’s reading is Matthew 6:19-21 and Psalm 79.

Matthew 6:19-21 could not be more fitting for today. I’m always amazed at God’s timing which makes me know there are no coincidences.

Last Tuesday April 24th, this Earth lost an amazing lady in Mary Ellen Bandy. Mary Ellen was my grandmother, but to me, and many others, she was Memaw.

Today would have marked her 94th birthday.

Memaw did not have monetary wealth when she passed away. Instead, her treasure was her wonderful heart she gave to the Lord and to others as Matthew 6:21 says. She laid herself up for treasures in Heaven by giving her life to the Lord and serving others in same the way the Lord served us.  Rev. Mark Doane said, “Mary Ellen did not talk about her faith very much, but she lived it!” As the famous song says, “…they’ll know we are Christians by our love..” Others seeing our love by our actions is more important than anything we say. People will be drawn to Christ when they see our genuine, peaceful, and caring heart we have through a relationship with Him. They will want what we have.

Memaw left an amazing legacy for us to follow, and I’m confident when she entered Heaven the Lord greeted her with a big hug and said, “Well done. my good and faithful servant!”

Happy birthday in Heaven, Memaw!

Here as an excerpt from her eulogy last week…

Memaw was just so memorable..she wasn’t just our Memaw..everyone knew her as Memaw. I have received messages from many over the last few days who may have only met her once… but they remembered her and specific things like maybe having a beer with her or talking about the Cubs or Illini. Her dad gave her the nickname “Pee-wee” because she was small, and my great Aunt Sister, Uncle Roy and their side of the family continued to call her that which was neat… but there was nothing tiny about her personality and how she lived her life! People just didn’t forget her.

Like Chad said..she NEVER missed a game..not a one..and you could always hear her yelling “Easy does it..now..Easy does it!” to whoever was on the free throw line! She was the first person I called when the Cubs won the World Series, and I’m so happy she lived to see it. She always had the Cubs game on when I called her. One of my most special memories is watching the Cubs with her and Papaw and singing Take Me Out to the Ballgame. I learned to golf by her taking me a couple times a week to Oak Leaf starting at probably 7 and can still hear her little sayings on the course. My Mom is a great cook..and I’m told I have Memaw to thank for that as well because she apparently couldn’t boil water before she was married. Thank you, Memaw! I was, and still am for that matter, skinny enough growing up. I can only imagine how bad it would have been if Mom couldn’t cook!

Memaw truly left an amazing legacy and example for all of her family to follow and continue. I believe we are called to glorify God through our life and Memaw absolutely did this.

Many of the Psalms speak of singing praises to God with Psalm 98:4 specifically saying…

“Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth; break forth into joyous song and sing praises!”

Let’s just say Memaw was not known for her singing voice, but she didn’t care! She wasn’t singing to please you..she was singing for her Lord and Savior and to Him…. her voice was awesome though…because it was praising and glorifying Him. There is a great lesson for all of us in that. She had confidence in who God made her and lived for an Audience of One..caring only what He thought.

The book of Acts talks about how the first Church cared for the needy and widows. They served each other in the same way Christ served us. Memaw lived her life in the same way much like the first church did. She would make meals for events like today, and she made costumes for the church play up until just a few years ago. She volunteered with the Red Cross after Papaw passed serving in LA after an Earthquake and the Great Flood of the Mississippi in ‘93. She would do anything for you and give you the shirt off her back. Uncle Tim tells the story of one of his classmates, Ruthie, who was always dirty and unkept. When Uncle Tim came home from middle-school one day and told Memaw he didn’t think she had a dress for the dance..which is pretty neat, Uncle Tim…Memaw promptly went to her house and asked her parents if she could take her shopping. Not only did she buy her a dress and shoes, but she even brought her over to their house before the dance to clean her up and do her hair and dress her. Talk about going above in beyond! My Dad also told the story about how there was a man named “Little Butch” in the small town they lived in, Hindsboro, IL, who likely had mental disabilities and didn’t have any family..let alone any money. What do you think Memaw did…she always made sure “Little Butch” had a gift and food for Christmas. I wonder who the “Little Butch” is in my life I should be helping? I know I see my Dad continuing her legacy and helping widows and others in need, and Dad…she was and is very proud of you.

My Dad’s letter to her on her 90th birthday highlighted 6 lessons she taught him which I wanted to share…

  1. The greatest legacy any of us can leave to our children…raising him and Uncle Tim to believe in Jesus as their Lord and Savior. Memaw always said..”if you can find time for all the other activities in the week..you can find time for church!”
  2. Treat all people with respect..we are not better than anyone else regardless of race or ethnicity.
  3. Always stand up for what is true and honest..even when it’s difficult.
  4. Help the downtrodden and the poor as I previously shared.
  5. Stand up for yourself and never let people walk on you. The confidence I previously spoke of.
  6. Give to the needs of your family, friends, and your church before yourself.

One of my favorite sayings which Memaw lived out is, “Being humble means thinking of yourself less, not thinking less of yourself!”

 This was how Memaw lived and taught us to live. What an amazing legacy of servant leadership and loving God she left to us! I will do my best to carry on that legacy and example for Deklin, Reese, and Hudson.

Memaw….I will end by saying to you the same last words you said to me on Sunday..”Love you more than you’ll ever know.”

Follow Me

Today’s reading is Luke 9. A few years ago our small group studied a series called Follow by Andy Stanley. He talks about how Jesus said, “Follow Me,” approximately 23 times in the Gospel. A mentor of mine would always say that “repetition is the mother of learning.” So, if Jesus says those words that many times, we should probably take note. Ever since we covered Andy Stanley’s study, it always jumps off the page when I read Jesus say it like He does in Luke 9:23-25 and Luke 9:57-62, and I underline it in my Bible.

I believe many keep their distance from Christianity because they believe it is just a bunch of rules to abide by. We live in a society today that tells everyone to just do whatever they feel like, so if they believe all Christ does is make you follow rules then they will not be drawn to Him.

Jesus does not say to do X, Y, and Z and then you can, “Follow me.” He doesn’t say learn the Scriptures, change these habits, get your life in order, and then, “Follow me.” He just says, “Follow me.” Jesus only wants to see our faith and trust in Him. That is what amazes me so much about the disciples. They just left their lives upon Jesus invitation. Jesus did not pick guys that were scholars and had their lives together. He picked regular people like you and me. Earlier this week in Luke 5:27-28 He asks Matthew who was a tax collector to, “Follow me.” Tax collectors were Jewish outcast because they were Jewish, but collected taxes for the Roman government. Andy says they could only hang out with other tax collectors because even the worst sinners wouldn’t hang out with them. Yet, Jesus still called Matthew to follow Him and then he even hangs out with Matthew and his tax collector buddies after. While the occupations of all 12 disciples are not known, it is believed that most were fishermen or tradesmen of some kind. They were not set apart already because of their occupations or previous works before Jesus asked them to come along for the ride.

You may be thinking to yourself because of my earlier comments that the Bible and Christianity does have “do’s and don’ts” so to speak. Yes, it does because God knows what is best for us, and He knows that often what feels good at the time will eventually cause us pain later at some point. Jesus doesn’t lead with this though because He knows that by following Him our hearts will be changed, and we will stop sinful habits (Luke 12:34).

Jesus also knows we are not perfect, and we will still sin and lose faith at times. I know daily God answers prayers that could have altered the course of my entire life if they were not answered. Prayers for safe travels for family, favorable news from an uncertain doctor’s appointment, that a big meeting goes well, and the list goes on. Yet days, hours, or even minutes later I’ve forgotten already, and I’m anxious or nervous about something else! The disciples were no different though, and they even saw Jesus’ direct acts firsthand. Not only did they leave their regular lives to follow Him, but in Luke 9:1-6 He instructs them to leave and take nothing with them as they go to tell others about the Kingdom of God and heal others which they did. Then, in Luke 9:13 right after that, He instructs them to give five thousand people something to eat, and they say they don’t have enough food wondering what they should do. They didn’t even say, “Jesus can you come up with some food like you’ve done before…please perform another miracle.” They just doubted. Yet again, He delivers. Not only does Jesus always satisfy…He even leaves us with leftovers (Luke 9:17).

As we go into this week and think about our own lives and hopefully look to share the Gospel with others, let us not just share the love of Jesus with others we think are ready. In Matthew 19:16-22, a rich young man asks what good deed he must do to have eternal life. Most in our society I believe are wondering the same or think if they do more right then wrong they will earn the favor of God. But, Jesus tells the man there is only One who is good. Let’s make sure they know that they must only do one thing to go to Heaven…follow Him. He gave them, and all of us, that open invitation to do so not only with His words, but with his arms wide open on the cross.

 

How to control your tongue

Today’s reading: Numbers 20; Psalms 58–59; Isaiah 9:8–10:4; James 3

May 11th, 2016

At some point a Christian begins to understand what he thinks, says and does are important to his Father and LORD. At this point that same Christian realizes how wretched he is and how great God’s mercy is.

When Jesus showed up everything changed for the Israelites. The word had become flesh and their judgement was now staring them in the face, no longer to be hidden behind the false teachings of the pharisees. His sermon on the mount made clear that no one was getting away with appearances anymore. The pharisees with all their rites and rituals, were false. Following them, striving to be like them and seeking their approval, righteous in the eyes of man, was a lie. God knows your heart and Jesus came to make this clear by showing us all; what you think matters.

Our thoughts are a battleground. We have victory in Christ to the degree that we have a single eye for Him. To the degree we pursue Him and Him alone, shunning the false promises of this world and placing His promises in our constant focus. This is a result of a true belief and understanding of God’s word and it allows us to worship Him in Spirit and in truth. I have come to believe that taming a tongue starts with taking thoughts captive.

From today’s reading James teaches us a lesson in this area. He starts by warning us of the power of the tongue. How it controls the course of our lives. Know this truth:

Behold also the ships, which though they be so great, and are driven of fierce winds, yet are they turned about with a very small helm, whithersoever the governor listeth. Even so the tongue is a little member, and boasteth great things. Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth! And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell. – James 3:4–7

James takes particular interest in rebuking the reader of how we use our tongue with our fellows.

Therewith bless we God, even the Father; and therewith curse we men, which are made after the similitude of God. Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not so to be. – James 3:9–10

James then puts rounds out this lesson by shining light on the truth of the difference between heavenly wisdom and world wisdom of the devil:

Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you? let him shew out of a good conversation his works with meekness of wisdom. But if ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the truth. This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish. For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work. But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy. And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace. – James 3:13–18

If we are to believe the Word as truth, the question then becomes; where is your tongue taking you?

taming the tongue

God may our heart’s desire and trust in You and You alone and may our tongues always lead us in Your ways. May worldly wisdom be kept far from us along with envy and strife. May Your wisdom fill our hearts pure, peaceable, gentle, easily intreated, full of mercy, good fruits, impartial, and whole in truth. May we make peace with all.