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)

Success and Distress

It’s easy to ignore God when life is good, but He sure seems appealing in the middle of a storm when life is going sideways.

Jonah knew a thing or two about that. He’d rebelled against what God had told him to do and made a run for it in the opposite direction. But through a series of unusual events, Jonah’s actions caught up with him at sea. He was thrown overboard and swallowed by an enormous fish. Jonah himself described the life-altering incident this way: “In my distress I called to the LORD, and He answered me … When my life was ebbing away, I remembered You LORD, and my prayer rose to You…” (Jonah 2:2, 7). Notice when Jonah remembered God: it was during distress. I can’t think of many people who remember God during their success, but I know plenty who do during their distress.

When you are drowning, you need a life preserver. When there’s a storm, you need shelter. When you’re hurting, you need a comforter.

God allows storms in our lives for a variety of reasons, and one of them is to draw us closer to Him. And like when the disciples crossed the sea and a storm arose threatening to sink them we need to remember, as they did, that Jesus is in the boat and thus in the middle of the storm with you. 

I have learned that I experience Jesus better in the valleys than I do on the mountaintops. Sure, I appreciate Him when things are good, but I need Him when I’m low. David walked through the valley of the shadow of death and said, “I fear no evil because You are with me.” In the same way, I decided long ago to trust God in all situations when I have nothing else to trust but Him. And, even when there are other alternatives that I might lean towards to fit the current life situation I am facing, I still trust in only Him. 

To trust God regardless of your circumstances, remember two things when you are caught in a storm.

First, God’s presence is with you, no matter how alone you may feel. 

He is always with you. Mark wrote in his gospel, “A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped” (Mark 4:37). Notice this wasn’t just a spring shower; it was almost too much for the small boat and the frightened disciples (some of whom were seasoned fishermen) to handle. But even though the circumstances seemed too much to bear, the disciples were not alone. Mark states, “Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion” (verse 38).

So many people think that they wouldn’t be going through their struggles if God were really with them. But that’s simply not the case. Having Jesus in the stern beside you doesn’t mean the storm won’t rock your boat. It just means the storm won’t sink you. Never forget: He’s with you, both in the spring shower and in the worst tornado imaginable. 

Second, not only is God with you in the storms, He will also use them for His purposes in your life.

No matter how terrible it may seem in the moment, God always has a higher plan and a good purpose because He loves you more than you can imagine.

Think about the story we’ve been talking about. Who decided to take the boat ride? Did you even notice that detail? It was Jesus. After teaching, Jesus said, “Let’s go to the other side.” Why did He plan this short trip? Because He knew that on the east side of the lake there was a man in need. So He loaded up His buddies and started the journey to go help this suffering person. And since Jesus was God in the flesh, He knew the storm would come. Going in the storm was always part of His plan. 

Don’t miss this: The disciples didn’t experience the storm because they were out of God’s will. The disciples experienced the storm because they were in God’s will. Their ordeal wasn’t some accident, some freak event that took Jesus by surprise. He knew the storm was coming. And He knew it would serve a higher purpose in the lives of those He loved.

Now, you might be asking, “Did God cause the storm?” That’s a great question, and a fair one. You might ask that about some area of your life or about someone you care about. Did God cause me to lose my job? Did God cause me to get depressed? Did God cause this bad thing to happen? We need to be honest and admit that brilliant and sincere Christians passionately debate this question. Does God cause everything to happen, or does God simply allow some things to happen?

Some say that God never causes anything bad to happen. Since God is a good God, they suggest that He causes only good things, and all bad things come from our evil opposition. Others argue that God is so big and sovereign that He rules the whole universe and causes everything that happens on earth and in heaven.

Honestly, I don’t know. I’m not God. I can’t tell whether God causes the storms or just allows them. But one thing you can count on is this: God always uses storms. When we love Him and we’re pursuing His purposes, He’s always working things out for our good (Romans 8:28).

When we recognize this truth, we can decide ahead of time that no matter what happens, no matter what life throws at us, we’ll trust God.

If you know that God is always with you and that He uses everything for your good, why are you so afraid?

Simply trust Him!

God’s Ultimate Over Your Immediate

Here is something we all need to keep in mind: “You will very likely overestimate what God wants to do through you in the short run. But you will very likely underestimate what God wants to do through you in the long run.

Remember that ministry and impacting others with the Gospel of the Kingdom and the love of God is a marathon and not a short sprint. 

Our walk with God and our daily lives is really a series of small decisions that we make and choices that come along that don’t seem to be life-changing or earth-shattering. Just small every day choices and decisions that will determine the future that we will have. The impact we will have. 

There were two brothers – Esau and Jacob. Esau was the oldest and he was a hunter. He was, of course, his father’s favourite. And because he was the oldest son he was given very special treatment as he would be the heir to his father when Isaac died. He came in one day from hunting and was seriously hungry. He made one small decision that impacted the rest of his life and the history of the world as we know it. He traded his birthright for a bowl of stew. After all, he was hungry and was not thinking long-term or even short-term repercussions of this one decision.

The same is true of us. We generally have short-term vision and think only of the immediate need or want. We make decisions based on our feelings and current situation without much thought – if any thought – about what will change in the future because of this one small decision or choice that we are making in the immediate – the now! So, really we need to let the Holy Spirit guide us in every minor and major decision of every day.

Paul told us to “let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves. The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires” (Galatians 5:16-17 NLT). As God’s Spirit guides us, we won’t be seeking the bowl of stew, another Oreo cookie, or a scoop of ice cream. The Holy Spirit replaces our lower, self-serving, demanding desires with God’s higher, Kingdom-serving, selfless ones.

Think about this for a moment. For centuries God’s name has often been tagged by the patriarchs who loved and served Him faithfully. You’ve probably heard God referred to as “The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.” If you pause and reflect on the story we mentioned above, you’ll see something that will stop you in your tracks.

Esau was the older brother with the birthright. When Jacob tricked him into giving away his birthright, Esau traded the ultimate for the immediate. If he hadn’t made that devastatingly destructive shortsighted decision, throughout history you would have heard God referred to as the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Esau. Esau lost his standing.

You’ll be wiser. I know you will. When faced with temptations, you’ll look beyond the moment. You’ll remember that patience is better than power. Self-control is more important than conquering a city (See Proverbs 16:32). You’ll choose God’s ultimate over the immediate. You’ll never trade your birthright for a simply bowl of stew. You’ll no longer sacrifice your destiny for distorted or daily desires.

As you realize how much God has planned for you to do in this world, I pray you will live with a long-term perspective – a Kingdom perspective – making decisions that will honour God and propel you forward over time. You sacrifice your own ego-driven agenda in order to experience the perfect timing of God’s plan and purpose for your life. Instead of demanding that you want now, you’re often infinitely better off waiting. Proverbs 16:32 says, “Better to be patient than powerful; better to have self-control than to conquer a city” (NLT).

Living with patience is better than muscling forward to demand what you want before the time is right. Self-control often unlocks the door to blessings that are longer lasting and more meaningful. Patience comes from knowing you already have enough of what you need the most because you are God’s child and He knows what you have need off even before you ask. And He has given to you all that you need certainly to life and to godliness. 

 

Breeds Of Belief

There is a difference – a distinction – between believing in something and believing it

You can believe in airplanes – but be afraid to fly

You believe that airplanes are a good thing

But do not believe that thy will carry you safely to your destination

In the same way, there is a big difference between believing in God and believing God

James reflected this truth when he wrote:

“You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that – and shudder” (James 2:19)

Demons know God its real, but obviously, they don’t serve Him

For many people today they try hard to believe in God without fully believing God

There are at least three types of faith on the spectrum between “believing in” and “believing”

I think that I have experienced them all!

1> The first kind of faith is held by the person I would call a casual believer

Such a person believes in God but has not fully surrendered to Him

He may be a church attender

He could be a very moral person

He most likely is kind and generous

BUT, even though this person believes in God, he lives his life as if God doesn’t really exist – He would be a Christian atheist

These people – casual believers – appear to be Christians

They pray a polite prayer at Thanksgiving and Christmas family meals

They attend church on Christmas and Easter

They tell you they are “thinking about you” during difficult time

But these same people

Don’t let God affect their spending habits

Don’t take God into consideration regarding the movies they watch

He doesn’t keep them from swearing – using God’s name in vain

He not involved when they fudge on their expense reports

Gossiping, Stretching the truth, telling a white lie

They believe in God, but they still do whatever they want

2> The second kind of faith is that of the convenient believer

This is the person who waves the Christian flag whenever it involves a potential benefit.

This person is quick to talk God-talk if it might help seal a business deal or score a date

They will speak “Christianeze” if it helps them to get a promotion

This person uses God to leverage a situation for personal benefit

Their life is a mess as they do whatever they want to do whenever they want to do it; and when it reaches crisis mode they call the pastor

3> The third type of faith belongs to the committed believer 

This is the kind of faith Jesus calls us towards

The road to committed faith is paved with personal abandonment and self-denial

Life ceases to be about is – and it begins to be all about God

The committed believer doesn’t waver because of the crowd and what others might be doing

He isn’t moved by other people’s opinions

He is a Christ follower all the time – complete obedience and faithfulness are his goals

A 99 percent commitment to Christ is not enough

So, what kind of faith is yours?

Casual belief – you are a good person who believes in God, but doesn’t let your faith dominate your life?

Convenient belief – living right when someone’s watching, or when it might benefit you, but doing your own thing when you want?

Committed belief – wholly devoted to the One who’s wholly devoted to you

Theodicy

You may be familiar with the cliche “Life is hard; God is good.” Maybe you’ve even said it to help get you through difficult times. If so, you’re going to appreciate knowing that it is more than a cliche. It’s a strong and solid theological truth. If you’re like me you are going to be encouraged by the fact that some really smart people who were here before us have wrestled with questions such as, If God is good, then why if this happening? Why is injustice allowed, and why does life have to be so hard? Why are children starving the death in Africa?

Philosophers and theologians refer to their conclusions on this topic with the complicated-sounding word theodicy (pronounced: thee od-euhsee), which is the name given to the study of how God’s goodness exists alongside the pain, suffering, injustice, and inequality of life.

Our problem is that we tend to assume that if life is hard, then God must not be good. But it’s not an either/or scenario — it’s both.

Life is hard; God is good.

Here are five statements that pretty much summarize the deeper reasoning behind Life is hard; God is good:

      • Although evil is an undeniable part of the world, the existence of evil cannot and never will cancel out the existence of good
      • Human beings don’t have to offer explanations for why evil is allowed to exist, only that it does. And by the same rules of reason, good exists as well
      • In the same way that Adam through disobedience opened the door of undeserved hardship for all of us, Jesus through obedience opened the door of undeserved favour for all of us
      • The fact that we experience undeserved consequences for someone else’s sin is now trumped by the fact that we experience undeserved favour for someone else’s righteousness
      • God’s undeserved goodness is not just equal to the undeserved hardship. It is surpassing in greatness

The evidence of these two realities is front and center in our lives every day. But what’s most important is which reality we choose to live our life from.

People who live from the “life is hard” reality see everything from that perspective. Sometimes when people are living from the “life is hard” reality they don’t even want to hear the good news. They have already decided that good news is not their reality. If you’re talking about something positive or something good, they usually wait for a chance to quickly turn the conversation back to the “life is hard” reality. It has become such a way of life for them that they don’t usually realize what they are doing.

The contrast between the two perspectives is so stark that it makes it difficult for people who choose to live in one or the other reality to get along. It’s like oil and water —the two don’t mix. You see things differently. You talk about things differently. You approach problems differently.

The presence of problems doesn’t mean the absence of God. In the natural realm we know that the presence of clouds doesn’t mean the absence of the sun. The clouds may temporarily block it, but the sun is still there. Even when you can’t see the sun directly, you can see it’s light as evidence that it’s there.

It is the same way with God’s goodness and favour. There are times we may not be able to see those attributes, but that doesn’t mean they’re not there.

When we don’t get the job we wanted or the person we were dating breaks up with us, we’re often quick to assume God’s favour and goodness is far away from us. But in time we come to realize that God was actually doing us a favour. He was saving us from hardship and struggle we would have had if we stayed in that relationship or got that job we thought we wanted.

So there you have it – Theodicy.

Now you know.

The Perfect Storm

The disciples were following Jesus wherever He went, assisting Him in all His ministries. They were listening to His Word and helping Him preach and share the Gospel of the Kingdom, yet they found themselves being tossed up and down by a storm and in real danger of drowning. The disciples were learning a difficult lesson – one every believer must learn: we can find ourselves in the middle of God’s perfect will and in the middle of a perfect storm at the same time!

When author Gary Thomas and his wife considered buying a house, they prayed diligently for God to guide them. If it wasn’t His will, they figured He would close the windows of opportunity.

The window did not close, so they proceeded with their purchase. Five years passed, during which they enjoyed their home and the blessing of God. Then the economy entered a tailspin, and the house was suddenly worth less than they had paid for it. They wondered why God hadn’t stopped them from making a bad investment. They had prayed. They had listened. They had not heard “no.”

As Gary’s wife was seeking God one day, she heard His answer: Have you considered the possibility that I wanted you in that neighbourhood to minister rather than to bolster your financial equity? That insight caused them to rethink their questions about God’s guidance. They realized it was all about lives touched for Christ rather than value earned from holdings. Now the question was, did they trust God enough to follow Him down a path with no financial profit, but with great spiritual profit?

Christ doesn’t ask us to take up our portfolios and follow Him; He says to take up our crosses. Comfort is not a factor. But He does promise that the way to grow into the image of Christ is by trusting and obeying in all circumstances.

As in the case of Gary and his wife, the will of God is not always crystal clear. But on that day by the Sea of Galilee, God’s will couldn’t have been clearer to the disciples: Jesus had said, “Let’s go!” They didn’t call a meeting to deliberate; they didn’t pray; they didn’t seek counsel from others. God’s will has been right there in front of them, so without hesitation, they got into the boat. And now the thing that loomed right in front of them was death.

This unexpected peril was something new for the disciples. So far, following Jesus hadn’t been overly costly – little more than quitting their jobs and getting a bit of carping and criticism from local religious leaders (Mark 3:22). But they had faced nothing life threatening. In fact, it had been just the opposite: they were close associates of the most popular person in Galilee. They’s been welcomed in small towns as heroes. This movement of God was working; and all systems were go. 

Then came the perfect storm. It certainly raised some questions.

Many people believe faith is some kind of insurance against high blood pressure and heartache. Trust God and you’ll have no worries. But a great paradox of Christianity is that trusting Christ does not keep the storms away. In fact, sometimes it pushes us into deep and turbulent waters.

Jesus faced a perfect storm when He rode into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey. He knew what He was about to face – unthinkable torture and death – and He dreaded it. In the garden He cried out, “O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will” (Matthew 26:39). He was fully aware of the storm He was heading into.

The disciples in their tossing boat weren’t cognizant of these underlying spiritual issues. Fear gripped them, pushing aside all concerns about being in the will of God. But they were about to learn a priceless lesson: there is security is the heart of God’s will. Storms are not punishment for lack of obedience; oftentimes they are the result of obedience! Those men were in that storm because they had jumped in the boat when Jesus said, “Let’s Go!”

You will follow Jesus in a storm someday. And you will learn that, although it may be overwhelming, it’s the safest of all places to be. 

It Was One Of Those Days

It was a cool and overcast day after a number of fairly warm and sunny days. My office has four large 4 feet by 4 feet windows and so when it is sunny it is an amazing place to work. But, when it is overcast it can be less inviting. But it is a window on my world. I have a great view of all that goes on on my crescent as I can clearly see in three directions. So, because of the weather – light snow and then rain and cool – I spent the day writing blogs and researching a teaching that was for the weekend. A teaching on worry.

During the day I related to a few people on various social media apps. I don’t normally do that. Yes, I contact my own people who are part of the church I attend. And, I answer emails. But, the rest I leave alone as I want to stay focused on what I am writing and researching. However, I spent my early morning coffee listening to the governor of New York speak about the Covid-19 virus and, on a personal note, the fact that his brother (a CNN personality) had just been diagnosed with the virus. I have been impressed with the man’s leadership of the State of New York and even more impressed by his leadership qualities that day … especially when compared to the President, my own Prime Minister and others. So, I made a Facebook entry about my personal observation (something I don’t do often on my personal Facebook page)

Well, the bell kept ringing most of the day with reactions to what I wrote. I would like to say all positive and everyone agree with me. Not so! Interesting. Meanwhile I received an unsolicited “forward” by someone I know in Ohio. Political issues about congress. Which I did not read. Then one from the province east of mine about the connection between the Coronavirus and 5G. An unwanted video forwarded to me which I did not watch. Then another one from the same province about a dream they had and a video to watch (which I did not follow up on). By the way, I am not anti-social. I simply don’t have the time nor the interest to read, watch, or listen to everything that people send to me when I didn’t ask for them. 

But the one that blew me out of the water was a comment by a believer whom I know stating that Governor Cuomo was not a good leader because he threatened to close down the churches and synagogues if people gathered to worship. Permanently close them. 

Now, I believe the rule is that you can’t have a gathering of believers of any religion if the number coming together is over 50 -10 – 5 or 2 depending on the place where you live. This rule is to prevent larger groups of people coming together and thus spreading the virus faster. It is a matter of social-distancing. It also means all concerts, sports events, and political rally are also now not happening. So, no one is picking on the believers or those that are religious. It is simply a general, across the board rule to see if we can slow down the spread of the virus. And, although I did not see the specific announcement – there is no way according to the United States constitution that a government could permanently shut down the church. 

Do I smell panic here? Do I sense a conspiracy theory (or two or three) arising? I mean other than the one that this is a God-thing to remove the excess population on the planet. Had you heard that one? Or the one that says … Well, never mind. We have all heard them, right?

On a similar note: I was amazed that a number of pastors of large churches – several whom I would know by name – actually encouraged their people to come and worship in spite of the rules and recommendations. Wow! Now that’s good for our reputation as thinking believers. Not! And, I noted that one well-known pastor from Florida was even arrested for doing so. Good for the authorities. 

Is it just me or has the spirit of stupid been released upon the world. Folks, this is not a game. People (several whom I know) have gone from healthy to dead in a week. Let’s take this seriously shall we. Let’s not spiritualize the epidemic. Let’s use our common sense and follow the medical advice we are all hearing – advice every decent doctor is giving. And, let’s pray for those who are on the frontlines of fighting the virus. Let’s not distract attention away from what we can all do to slow the spread down.

And, by the way, believers … instead of all the conspiracy theories and dreams and visions and whatever – Let’s use this opportunity to share the love of Jesus and boldly tell others about the love of God and the salvation from sin that He offers to each and every person who believes. Let’s not get sidetracked and miss the opportunity to practically care for those in need and speak to hearts that are open.

Let’s represent Jesus in a practical and sane way and take advantage of the situation to bring people into the Kingdom. 

Stop Worrying

As we continue to face major changes in the way we live life due to the Coronavirus commonly known at Covid-19 … I am noticing how many people are worried about what is happening and what they should be doing. This is natural when you think about it. Jobs are being lost. Family income is being effected in adverse ways. Stores are closing. Schools and universities are closed. You can’t go out for coffee or a meal. Life as we know it has been abruptly interrupted. And, the level of concern and worry has gone up.

So, repeat after me: Hakuna matata. It means “no worries. You might think I’m kidding around or that I’ve watched The Lion King one too many time, but that is basically what the Bible says! Look at what Peter writes:

“Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7)

When Peter tells us to cast all our anxieties on the Lord, he means that we should take all of what bothers us in this world and what worries us and what gives us ulcers, and we should toss them into the mighty and waiting hands of the Father.

This includes every fear, worry, anxiety, or misgiving we may have about presenting the gospel and receiving rejection. I say this because it is a good time to be speaking to others about the Lord and eternal life. With people dying daily from the virus in almost every country of the world people’s hearts are open and the world is looking for hope. So, it is a great time to speak up and let others know that you are a born again believer. Ad, what exactly it is that you believe.

Are you nervous that the people may say no? Don’t worry about it. Cast your anxiety on the Lord. Are you anxious that a relationship might be ruined because you opened your mouth and told someone about Jesus? Hakuna matata. Give your distress to God.

Because, trust me, He can handle it. He created the world in seven days (technically six: He took a breather on the last one). He split the Red Sea in two. He raised His Son from the dead. I think He can handle a stomach full of butterflies not to mention the effects of the Coronavirus we are all suffering through.

Stop wasting time and energy fretting about how it’s going to turn out. Give every twinge and ounce of nerves to God and do what you have been called to do! Not just during the current crisis we are all involved in and facing daily. But, even after everything returns to normal or near normal, continue to trust God with all the things that worry and concern you. Be free. 

Researchers tell us that 95% of life is out of our control. So, stop worrying about and being anxious over everything that is happening. Focus and concentrate on the 5% that is within your control and move on with life. Leave the other 95% to God, our Heavenly Father. He is still in control and is very capable of taking care of things if we just let Him do so.

Stop worrying!