Integrity Deficit – Part Three

Let’s look at four serious benefits of living a life of integrity. While there are many more, these are some of my favourites:

1> You’ll walk closely with God.

Think of it like this: If I can clearly impart my family values to my children, and they choose to live their lives according to those principles and values, then obviously, this will increase our harmony with each other. On the other hand, consider what would happen if I clearly shared my important values with my children, and one or more of them decided to go their own way, contrary to what I had taught them. Now, of course, I’ll still love that child, but certainly their choices are going to interfere with our intimacy, our communion, and our ongoing fellowship. Our relationship with God follows a similar dynamic. When you live according to His values, you’ll naturally walk with Him, enjoying His presence daily.

2> You’ll have divine GPS.

Proverbs 11:3 says that “the integrity of the upright guides them.” When you allow integrity to lead you, you don’t have to guess what’s right. Decisions become much easier when they’re based not on what you think you can get away with but on what’s right in God’s eyes. It’s the difference between following your best guesses on how to reach your destination versus using a first-rate GPS that tells you how to proceed every step along the way. We must allow our integrity to guide us.

3> You’ll feel constant peace.

This is the benefit that means the most to me. When I lay my head on my pillow at night, I don’t ever lie there worrying, “Man, I sure hope nobody finds out what I’ve done today.” When you live with integrity, you’re not constantly looking over your shoulder, fearful of getting caught, wondering how long it will be until you’re found out. When you simply do the right thing, you abide in constant peace. There’s no fear, guilt, shame, or regret; just peace.

4> You’ll gain trust, respect, honour, and influence.

If you want to lead and inspire your family and friends, be a person of integrity. If you want great children, be a parent of integrity. If you want influence in the business community, be a person of your word. When you live with integrity, people will follow you and honour you. They’ll listen when you speak. Over time, they’ll even begin to seek out your wisdom and advice. Such is the legacy of integrity.

The benefits of integrity may seem obvious, yet they remain out of reach for many people, including those who should be the best examples — Christians. One of the most common complaints I hear from people outside the church is that Christians are a bunch of hypocrites, clearly a problem since a hypocrite is the opposite of a person of integrity.

Hypokrites, the Greek word that we translate “hypocrite,” means literally “an actor or stage player.” In the tradition of ancient Greek drama, each actor played several different roles. They used a different carved wooden mask for each of the various characters they were playing. Maybe you’ve seen the smiling comic mask alongside the frowning tragic mask used as symbols for the theatre or to represent drama in general. When an actor in ancient Greece needed to switch to a different character, he simply picked up a different mask and held it in front of his face. It was as simple as that.

I think many of us do exactly the same thing. For each social circumstance we find ourselves in, we present ourselves in the best possible light, even if it’s not honest, accurate, or authentic. We calculate who we think someone wants us to be, and then we select the appropriate mask to play that part for them. But it’s only a mask. It’s not who you really are; it’s just who you’re pretending to be.

It may be hard to see it in yourself, but each of us lacks integrity at some point or other. But it seems like we can always justify our pet behaviours, whether it’s by calling them “little white lies” or telling ourselves that we’re protecting the feelings of others. But consider how God looks at our “little quirks.” While Jesus openly welcomed repentant prostitutes, adulterers, and other vile sinners into His Kingdom, He was relentless in condemning hypocrites. Here’s what He says in Matthew 23:25-28:

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean. “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.”

Jesus exposed them for what they were. He essentially said, “You fakers. You play actors. You have zero integrity. You put on your game face and you look religious. You look nice and righteous on the outside. But inside, your heart us absolutely filthy with sin.”

It doesn’t make any difference if people appear to be righteous. What matters is to be pure on the inside. Woe to you if you lack integrity, full of hypocrisy. We must start with what’s inside us, allowing Christ to transform us, and then our actions will follow suit. Through Christ, we clean the inside of the cup before we move on to the outside. We sacrifice our selfish, deceitful, ego-driven impulses on the altar of truth so that our behaviour reflects God’s righteousness. Integrity starts from the inside out, not the outside in. 

Integrity Deficit – Part Two

With integrity we see a consistency of character. A person of integrity is the same no matter where he is or who he is with. One of the best examples of a person of integrity is the biblical Samuel, from the Old Testament.

Toward the end of his life, Samuel recaps his record of faithful service before the Israelite people:

Here I stand. Testify against me in the presence of the Lord and his anointed. Whose ox have I taken? Whose donkey have I taken? Whom have I cheated? Whom have I oppressed? From whose hand have I accepted a bribe to make me shut my eyes? If I have done any of these things, I will make it right.”“You have not cheated or oppressed us,” they replied. “You have not taken anything from anyone’s hand.”

(1 Samuel 12:3-4 NIV)

At the end of his life, Samuel stood before his entire community and said, “Have I lived a life of integrity? If I’ve ever wronged any of you, just tell me, and I’ll make it right.”

And they answered him, “No, you’ve always done the right thing. You are a person of integrity, Samuel. You’ve been faithful.”

At the end of my life, I want to be able to ask the same question and get the same response. I want my children, my grandchildren, and generations of Howes after me, to be able to do exactly as Samuel’s community did. At the end of my life, I want to be able to say honestly, “Here’s your free shot. Did I do what I claimed I would do? Did I practice what I preached?”

People may even answer, “Well, we didn’t like your sense of humour or the way you dressed or your style of ministry. But, yes, you are a person of integrity. All the things you said you believed you actually lived.”

Another biblical man of integrity was David, perhaps made more credible because he failed big time and tried to hide it but in the end couldn’t live with himself. He offers another picture of what integrity looks like. In one of his psalms, David asks, “LORD, who may dwell in your sacred tent? Who may live on your holy mountain?” And then catalogs the traits of such a godly person (Psalm 15:1-5):

Lord, who may dwell in your sacred tent?

Who may live on your holy mountain?

The one whose walk is blameless,

who does what is righteous,

who speaks the truth from their heart;

whose tongue utters no slander,

who does no wrong to a neighbour,

and casts no slur on others;

who despises a vile person

but honours those who fear the Lord;

who keeps an oath even when it hurts,

and does not change their mind;

who lends money to the poor without interest;

who does not accept a bribe against the innocent.

Whoever does these things

will never be shaken.

David asks, “LORD, who gets to enjoy your continued presence? Who gets to walk with you and fellowship with you?” In each case, the answer is the person who lives a life of integrity, and the promise is that “whoever does these things will never be shaken.”

When we live this way, we will never be shaken! Do you realize what an incredible statement that is?

So, the question remains: Are you a person of integrity? Be really honest with yourself. And, if there are some areas where you could do better, where your walk and talk don’t line up … decide today to make some changes. You may be able to make the changes on your own or you may need someone to walk with you through them. But, the bottom line is simple: do what it takes to be a person of integrity.

Integrity Deficit – Part One

Isn’t it tragic that we live in a world where people are more shocked by a display of integrity than a lack of it? More and more often, people seem surprised when someone does the right thing instead of when someone fails the morality test. This inversion is a sad indictment of how corrupt and self-absorbed our culture has become. Our ethics are determined by what we want and when we want it. It is all about us.

Integrity is living what you believe. It is walking on the outside what you believe on the inside. As Tony Dungy so brilliantly stated, “Integrity doesn’t come in degrees: low, medium, or high. You either have integrity or you don’t.” Integrity is living with all aspects of your life lining up into one whole.

You don’t have to look far to find a story about people who lack integrity. Maybe it’s a professional athlete everyone looks up to. He’s the best at what he does, but on top of that, he selflessly gives of himself to some charitable organization that’s making people’s lives better. Then one day the news comes out: he had a whole other sordid secret life that we never knew about.

Some politicians do this same thing. They run for office on a platform to make things better, and one day we discover they’ve been living covertly s though they’re above the law. It even happens to Christian leaders – pastors, ministers, evangelists – who preach God’s Word but are taking drugs, visiting prostitutes, or embezzling from their churches. They are living without integrity. They are not ‘integrated’ or functioning as a unified whole. They live contrary to their beliefs. They say one thing and live another.

All of these things are so “normal” that they don’t really take us by surprise anymore. It’s only worse, it seems, when the same thing happens to a close friend. You thought you knew them. You loved them, trusted them, and then boom, the curtain falls and you see the mess that was going on all along behind the scenes.

So if the lack of integrity is clear, what is true integrity? Here’s a simple definition: Practicing integrity means that your behaviour matches your beliefs.

That’s all there is to it. All the parts of your life seamlessly form one united whole. There are no secret compartments or double lives. What you say actually matches what you do. Your lifestyle is integrated. Your private life matches your public life, with no surprises. What other people see is that they get no matter what the setting in which they meet you. You may have heard the term defined  this way: “Integrity is what you do when no one else is looking.”:

Just to clarify, personal integrity is not the same thing as your reputation. No, your reputation is who other people think you are. Your integrity (or lack thereof) is who you really are.

God’s Word tells us, “The integrity of the upright guides them, but the unfaithful are destroyed by their duplicity” (Proverbs 11:3). How true. Just think of all the people who were destroyed when their house of cards – built on the shaky foundation of deception – came crashing down. I think many segments of society are being destroyed today by the duplicity of leaders, even entire organizations, who claim to believe one thing, yet practice something else. 

Some biblical examples next time (Part Two)

There Are No Part-Time Disciples 

If you claim to be a Christian, then the questions of “the meaning of life” is already solved and answered for you! The purpose of your life is to share the Gospel of the Kingdom and the redemptive qualities of Christ (Matthew 28:19). You ARE in the ministry. 

Galatians 2:20 reads, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” There is a vital truth to what this verse states. It is no longer YOU who lives, but Christ who lives IN you. Meaning, it’s no longer about your agenda, your desires, and your needs. If you call yourself a Christian your agenda is now filled with an all-consuming calling from Christ Himself.

So, your current situation and workplace are your personal mission field. Why? Because you can reach people a church can’t. You’re on the front lines! You might even have a better opportunity to reach people than a missionary or church professional does. Don’t let anyone tell you that full-time ministry can only be found within the confines of a church building. God is bigger than four walls and a steeple. 

God has put the people around you in your life for a reason. Find out what that reason is, and make it your mission to empower their lives with Christ. Jesus will always supply you with the necessary tools and weapons needed to conquer anything that comes in your path. 

Work at a grocery store? Perfect. You have the opportunity to share and reflect the love and servanthood of Christ to dozen of customers a day. Work for a restaurant? Awesome! Use your time at work to share your testimony with your coworkers, or even share a reflection of Jesus’ kindness to each person who walks through your doors. If you really look, there are endless possibilities for anyone who is looking to be a full-time disciple of Jesus Christ.

Your job title doesn’t matter, but the way you use your time does. Stop letting people tell you that working for the government or for your company isn’t God’s plan for you. Stop allowing the opinions of man to keep you from being a light to your current workplace (Matthew 5:14). Just because you may not have a seminary degree and a position serving in a local congregation doesn’t mean you’re not in full-time ministry.

Jesus Himself wasn’t paid by a church. He was a carpenter who used His everyday knowledge of work and carpentry to relate to the people He was surrounded by. Yes, men like Paul and Peter dropped everything to follow the plans of Jesus, but don’t forget about the thousands of other people who stayed where they were in order to be a light where it was needed.

The New Testament couple Priscilla and Aquila are perfect examples of this. Acts 18:2-3 tells us:

“And he found a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had commanded all the Jews to leave Rome. And he went to see them, and because he was of the same trade he stayed with them and worked, for they were tentmakers by trade.”

We see that both Priscilla and Aquila were tent makers who helped Paul on his apostolic journey by allowing him to live and work with them in order to provide for himself. Their regular work flowed seamlessly into their ministry – a ministry that happened to help during one of the most critical points in Christian history. Tent makers, Yes! But, history makers as well!

So, step out and start vocalizing what God has put on your heart. If you’re not willing to do it where you are, what makes you think you would do it somewhere else?

This ideology of every Christian embracing a lifestyle of full-time ministry has the potential to transform the world from the inside out. It’s a possibility that could truly reach the far ends of the world for the sake of the Gospel. Imagine if everyday people, working everyday jobs, meeting everyday customers, all shared the extraordinary salvation given through Jesus Christ. The potential is limitless.

In order to embrace the fullness of what Jesus is calling us to, embrace the mission of using every moment available to share your faith in Christ. There are no limitations on where God can work.

So, know this: Jesus is not hiring part-time disciples. While this may discourage you in the beginning, I would encourage you to allow it to fuel your purpose in life. Stop, take a deep breath, and make today the day you start using every avenue available in every place, no matter how mundane, as a way to share the hope, grace, and salvation of Jesus Christ. Trust me, it’s worth every moment. 

Choosing a Mentor

Personal growth should be the number one priority of all believers who are serious about following Jesus and reaching their divine purpose in life. Since I began my walk with the Lord over 43 years ago I have had a series of mentors.
At first, I simply grabbed hold or anyone who was willing to impart information into my life. This was good as I was a young believer and gained a great deal from other more mature believers and leaders. But this was a scattershot approach. Although I learned a lot I did not achieve the traction that I had hoped for. Then I figured out that I needed to focus my growth on my areas of personal strength: relationships, communications, teaching, and the gifts of the Holy Spirit. When I did that, my effectiveness in growth started to increase. Most of my early mentors were authors whose books I devoured.
Through one of my mentors I started to learn to glean from what I was studying. Resources have little value unless you can pull from them the essentials that you need. That meant learning that I didn’t have to finish a book simply because I started it. I could read only the portions that I needed and deemed important at the time. I learned how to take useful notes, gather quotes, and, most importantly, reflect on what I was learning. I often summarized what I learned and wrote follow-up points inside the front and back covers of a book that was significant and life-changing for me. And, I learned to collect, categorize, and file stories and quotes every day. I also put into practice anything I learned at my earliest opportunity.

Read more

A CRITICAL BALANCE

In John’s Gospel we saw last week that Jesus was a safe person….

Someone whom people were drawn to
Someone whom people trusted
Someone who invited others into His life
Someone who listened and understood when others shared
Someone who accepted others regardless
John 1:14 “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.”

Read more

Interpersonal Traits of Unsafe People

We want to continue speaking about relationships. We just finished a short series on the inner character traits of an unsafe person. Now let’s look at the the interpersonal traits of an unsafe person. In other words, the relational trends you will see when in relationship with an unsafe person. Personality traits (see the previous blogs) describe “who we are,” interpersonal traits describe “how we connect.” These interpersonal traits are about how people operate in relationships, how they move close or pull away, and how they build up or destroy.
1> Unsafe people avoid closeness instead of connecting

Read more

THINKING OUT LOUD – About The Church

The Church – is God’s people gathered together

God’s people – born again believers / disciples

The Church – is empowered to be a witness

Acts 1:8 … “you shall receive power and be My witnesses…”

The Church – is here to complete the task Jesus began

Luke 19:10; Matthew 28:19-20

The Church – is to preach the Gospel of the Kingdom everywhere

Matthew 24:14

The Church – is to demonstrate that the Gospel is true Read more

Christian Fellowship

Jesus is currently building His Church

Matthew 16:18 “On this rock (revelation) I will build My Church…”

He is doing this through planting new expressions of the Gospel in every nation

A major move in most nations towards house churches

He is also revamping any existing church – regardless of their size, shape, or tradition – through shaking it so that only the essentials remain Read more

Rome – Penetrating World Structures

God is bringing us back to the biblical pattern for the Church. He is preparing a new wineskin for a new move of His Spirit which will bring many into the Kingdom. Some say, we are being prepared for the end-times harvest of souls for the Kingdom.

The Church has tried following man’s ideas, but man’s ways have not produced results and has resulted in a lot being done in the flesh. We have been faithful but somewhat fruitless. God is bring us into a new season when there was will be a return on His investment and much fruit will be seen. Following God’s plan the Early Church moved in a continuous time of harvest that reached the known world in one generation. We can learn from their example.

A key element in the success of the Early Church, as we have seen, was the establishment of apostolic regional centers. They were placed strategically by the Holy Spirit so they could have the greatest impact in spreading the Gospel of the Kingdom and in training, equipping, and releasing the saints to expand the Kingdom to the end of the then known world. Apostolic centers were not randomly placed. God planted them where they would have the greatest impact to penetrate the world for His Kingdom. Read more