Thursday, August 30, 2012

Thoughts About Integrity

If you found a wallet laying on the sidewalk, would you return it to its owner? If one small lie on your income tax form would save you thousands of dollars, would you lie? If you had the opportunity to cheat on a test and no one would ever know about it, would you cheat? If you could have sex with a stranger and your spouse would never know, would you try to get away with it? The way you answer these questions reveals whether you are a person of integrity or not.

One of the greatest needs in the church today is for people who have integrity. Why do successful ministers fall? It is because of a lack of integrity. David Shipley said, “In the Charismatic movement, we have produced visionary heavy weights, and character bantam weights.” You can get to the top by relying on your gifts and talents, but only integrity will keep you at the top.

Integrity is the most valuable character trait you can have. One of the richest men in America, Warren Buffet said, “In looking for people to hire, look for three qualities: integrity, intelligence and energy. And if they don't have the first, the other two will kill you.”

What is integrity?
The dictionary defines integrity as “adherence to moral principles; soundness of moral character; honesty.” William D. Lawrence explained, “Integrity is the integration of one’s life around his core values.” John Maxwell said, "Image is what people think we are. Integrity is what we really are."

Integrity is doing what is right when no one is looking. Integrity is doing the same in secret as you would do if everyone was looking. It is important to be on guard when you are not in the spotlight. Don’t give yourself little treats when you are out of town or out of the public eye. Thomas Jefferson said, “Whenever you are to do a thing, though it can never be known but to yourself, ask yourself how you would act were all the world looking at you, and act accordingly.”

Integrity is the foundation for a successful man, organization, society, or nation. Andrew Carnegie said, "A great business is seldom if ever built up, except on the lines of strictest integrity."

Your integrity will define your life. Any fruit your life produces will be measured by your integrity or lack thereof.

Skill is not enough, you also need integrity. “And David shepherded them with integrity of heart; with skillful hands he led them” (Psalm 78:72). We need both integrity and skill. Some have integrity but no skill, others have skill but no integrity.

Integrity takes a lifetime to build and a second to lose. Reputation takes your whole life to create, but it can be destroyed in a moment.

Integrity is keeping your word, even when it is hard. If it down comes to keeping your word versus keeping your money, let the money go and keep your word. Money can be replaced, but integrity, once lost, is gone forever. Peter Scotese said,
"Integrity is not a 90 percent thing, not a 95 percent thing; either you have it or you don't."

Integrity is taking a stand for what is right, even when it is unpopular. Abraham Lincoln observed,  "I am not bound to win, but I am bound to be true. I am not bound to succeed, but I am bound to live up to what I light I have. I must stand with anybody that stands right, stand with him while he is right and part with him when he goes wrong."

Make up your mind that even if no one else has integrity; you are going to operate in integrity. Oswald Chambers wrote, “To see that my adversary gives me my rights is natural; but…from our Lord’s standpoint it does not matter if I am defrauded or not; what does matter is that I do not defraud.”
Integrity is doing what is right, no matter what. Martin Luther King Jr. preached,
 “The time is always right to do what is right.” George Eliot
wrote, “Keep true, never be ashamed of doing right; decide on what you think is right, and stick to it."
My relationships will be helped or hindered by my integrity. No one can remain neutral in the presence of a man or woman of integrity. Integrity is uncomfortable because it makes others uncomfortable. Those who are willing to cheat, lie, and steal are uncomfortable in the presence of one who is unwilling to compromise his integrity.

Integrity requires you to face the good, the bad, and the ugly in yourself. Integrity is a personal fight against yourself. It is a fight no one else can fight on your behalf. It is a fight that must be fought everyday. It is a fight that can be lost in a moment. Leonard Drozd said, "He is most cheated who cheats himself." The greatest achievement is to go to your grave with your integrity intact.

Integrity is knowing that no matter where you go or what you do, God is with you.“And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus” (Colossians 3:17). Are your actions done in the name of Jesus?  Every day is different, but every day is exactly the same in one way, at the beginning of every day and at the end of every day, all that is left is you and Him. People may not know if you have integrity, but God will know and you will know.

According to Pastor Billy Allen, integrity does four things for you. Integrity protects you, preserves you, prospers you, and creates a path for you. He adds that integrity does three things inside you. Integrity keeps you teachable, transparent, and trustworthy.

What happens when you do not have integrity?
Many people have integrity all the way up until the time when they need it most. George Washington said, “Few men have virtue enough to withstand the highest bidder.” As a song in the Toymaker’s Dream said, “If you can be bought at any price, you will be.”
Spectacular falls usually do not happen overnight. They start with a small compromise in one’s integrity and this lack of integrity grows until an entire life is destroyed. If you give the devil an inch, he will give you enough rope to hang yourself.

Satan will allow you to be successful for a time, then he will come back and bite a big hole from your butt. The devil will give you a grace period before he drops the trap on your head. This is because Satan wants to catch other people in the trap. He is looking for Collateral Damage. When you do not have integrity, there is a ripple effect on those around you. As one preacher said, “The devil ain’t no joke.” Don’t mess around with the devil.

Keys to Living a Life of Integrity

1. Keep your word.
“…let your “Yes” be “Yes,” and your “No,” “No,” lest you fall into judgment” (James 5:12 NKJV). Learn to say “no.” Be careful what you promise and commit to doing. If you commit to less, you will find it easier to maintain integrity with your commitments.

2. Don’t make excuses.
Don’t make excuses for your character flaw. An excuse is really just an effort to justify your sin. Instead, be quick to repent and ask God for His help.

3. Live a life of excellence.
Demand more of yourself and more of others.  “There is a man in your kingdom in whom is the Spirit of the Holy God. And in the days of your father, light and understanding and wisdom, like the wisdom of the gods, were found in him; and King Nebuchadnezzar your father the king made him chief of the magicians, astrologers, Chaldeans, and soothsayers. Inasmuch as an excellent spirit, knowledge, understanding, interpreting dreams, solving riddles, and explaining enigmas were found in this Daniel, whom the king named Belteshazzar, now let Daniel be called, and he will give the interpretation” (Daniel 5:11-12 NKJV).

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Thoughts about Friendship

Would you be my friend? Friendship is one of the greatest gifts God gives us. Everyone needs a friend. Life without a friend is boring and meaningless. Everyone needs someone that they can sing with, cry with, and dream with! Aristotle once said, “Nobody would wish to live without friends, even if he possessed all other good things.”

Friendship is the basic form of human relationships, but it has been sadly neglected. Ask yourself these questions. Do you have any good friends? How many friends have you made recently, people whose company you really enjoy? Are you always ready to make a new friend?

The best way to have a friend is to be a friend. Clay Trumbull asserts, “Friendship by its very nature consists in loving, rather than being loved. In other words, friendship consists in being a friend, not in having a friend; in giving one’s affection unselfishly and unswervingly to another, not in being the object of another’s affection, or in reciprocating such an affection.” 

Since God is the best friend a person could ever have, we should model our friendships on how God treats us. He is ever-loving, patient, and kind. He listens to us far more than he talks. He never stabs anyone in the back with negative words. No matter how many steps we walk away from Him, it is only one step back. God loves us, not because we are lovable, but because He is loving. Jesus told his disciples, “You did not choose me, but I chose you” (John 15:16). Do not wait for someone to choose you as a friend, instead, find a lonely person and become his or her friend.

A perfect example of true friendship is found in the Biblical account about David and Jonathan. They first met each other right after David killed Goliath. Jonathan was the king’s oldest son; he was the heir-apparent who was loved by the people. Suddenly, the young, upstart David appears and the people’s devotion is transferred to him. Jonathan has the right to be angry, jealous, and resentful of David’s success. Instead, Jonathan unselfishly recognizes David as someone noble and special. He takes David to heart and they become covenant friends. In the midst of trouble, when Saul wants to kill David, Jonathan remains his friend. Even when the crowds begin shouting for David to become king, Jonathan remains devoted to him. No wonder, David said that the friendship was “passing the love of women.” Few things in life are greater than a true friend.   

Here are some keys to being a good friend. Be sincere. Be honest. Keep secrets. Sympathize with your friends in times of hardship, and rejoice with them in their accomplishments. Be willing to invest time, energy, and money in your relationships. Go the extra mile. Be courteous. Avoid careless words that can damage a friendship. Dream together, play together, cry together, and celebrate together. “A friend loves at all times” (Proverbs 17:17). A friend walks in when everyone else walks out. 

Friendship requires an investment of time, energy, and emotion. If you help others at their point of need, they will be available to help you when you need something. Being a friend is like having a bank account, you cannot continue to make withdrawals, unless you also make deposits. “Greater love has no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13).

Dale Carnegie, in his classic book, How to Win Friends and Influence People, offered six principles for making people like you. First, become genuinely interested in other people. Second, smile! Third, remember that a person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language, so remember the names of those you meet. Fourth, be a good listener by encouraging others to talk about themselves. Fifth, talk about other people’s interests, not about your own. Finally, make other people feel important - and do it sincerely.

Never, ever, ever marry someone who is not your friend. Physical attraction and romantic ideals are great for a honeymoon, but a good marriage is based on friendship. As Lord Byron said, “Friendship may, and often does, grow into love, but love never subsides into friendship.” 

Choose your friends wisely. You will become like the people you hang out with. You will pick up their habits, say their pet words, and echo their opinions. I can tell what kind of person you are by looking at the friends you spend time with.

Friendship should be for life. A fair-weather friend is hardly worth having. Why make friends with someone who will leave at the first hint of trouble? Seek friendships that will last.

Just as “iron sharpens iron; so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend” (Proverbs 27:17). Find friends who will challenge you to greatness. Find someone who excels in an area where you are weak, so you will be strengthened by associating with them. I believe one should have many friends, but I think that a man will be able to count his great friendships on only one hand. George Washington advised, “Be courteous to all, but intimate with few, and let those few be well tried before you give them your confidence. True friendship is a plant of low growth, and must undergo and withstand the shocks of adversity before it is entitled to the appellation.” 

“There is a friend that sticks closer than a brother” (Proverbs 18:24). This friend is Jesus, the only one who will never turn from you. Whenever you feel you are friendless, run to Jesus, because he will forever be your friend. When Jesus came to earth, He did not pick the high and mighty to be his friends. Instead, he called himself “the friend of publicans and sinners” (Luke 7:34). He does not care what you have done, where you have been, or why you have sinned. He will not judge you, he will accept you just the way you are. No matter what happens, you will always have a friend in Jesus, who promised, “You are my friends if you do what I command” (John 15:14). My prayer is that you will follow in the footsteps of Abraham who was called the “Friend of God” (James 2:23).

May we all be able to say, as Shakespeare said, “I am wealthy in my friends!”

Thursday, August 16, 2012

What you don't know...

You have probably heard the phrase, "What you don't know can't hurt you."

Recently, Jessica and I were driving when we heard someone say this phrase on the radio.

Jessica turned to me and commented, “You know, that’s not true when it comes to the Gospel.”

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“If a woman in Africa does not know Jesus, and she dies, then her lack of knowledge will hurt her for all of eternity.”

“Jessica, that’s a tragic thought,” I said, “I’ve never heard that before.”

She continued, “If a man does not know Jesus is a Healer, then he continues to live with sickness in his body. If a family does not know that love, joy, and peace can be found in Jesus, then that family continues to live in strife.”

She finished by saying, “If people don’t know, they can’t believe.”

What you don’t know…can hurt you!
Hosea 4:6 says, “People are destroyed for lack of knowledge.” It’s true. People who have not heard that Jesus saves are destined to an eternity in hell. This fact is a great tragedy but at the same time it creates a great urgency in my heart. If I do not go preach the Gospel, who will?

In North America, there are many opportunities for people to hear about Jesus, but in some parts of the world, the Gospel has barely penetrated. Oswald J. Smith, a Canadian pastor said, "No one has the right to hear the Gospel twice, while there remains someone who has not heard it once." This is why it is so vital for you to send us to the least reached parts of the world. The world must hear about Jesus.

What about my father?
I am reminded of a tribal woman in Ethiopia who cried after she accepted Jesus as her Savior. She said, “This is wonderful news! I am so happy to learn about Jesus.” But she then asked a question, “My father died one month ago and he never had an opportunity to give his life to Jesus. What will happen to him?” Her question captures the urgency I feel today. For every person we reach, the Gospel is good news. But for those who don’t hear the Gospel, it is a tragedy. Carl F.H. Henry said, "The Gospel is only good news if it gets there in time."
Some have questioned God for allowing the lost to perish. But, God has done everything He needs to do in order for the entire world to be saved. God gave His Only Son as a sacrifice to make salvation available for all of humankind. Right before Jesus returned to heaven, He commanded all who follow Him to “preach the good news” (Mark 16:15). If someone has not heard the Gospel, the fault does not lie with God, the fault rests on the Church. It is our responsibility to take the good news of Jesus Christ to the world!

Charles Spurgeon wrote, "Someone asked, ‘Will the heathen who have never heard the Gospel be saved?’ It is more a question with me whether we, who have the Gospel and fail to give it to those who have not, can be saved." This puts the responsibility right back in our laps.
How can they know, unless we tell them?
God has chosen to use us, you and me, to take the Gospel to the world. “For whosoever shall call upon the Name of the Lord shall be saved. How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach, except they be sent?” (Romans 10:13-15). How many people are participants in this verse? Let’s count them.

1. The unsaved person who needs to hear.
2. Jesus, the One whose Name brings salvation for those who believe.
3. The preacher.
4. The person sending the preacher.

Who are these four people today? The world is full of unsaved people. Jesus is ready to save. Jessica and I are willing to go and preach the Gospel. You are the fourth person.
Jessica and I cannot preach to people unless we are sent. Who does the sending? You do! You see, without your help, we cannot go to those who desperately need to hear about Jesus.

Will you send us to the unsaved? Will you join with us to make a difference? Will you help us reach people who are dying and going to hell? Thank you for your faithful giving. Every time you give, you help us change an eternal destiny. 

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