Tag Archives: integrity

Honest To God

In the 1997 movie Liar Liar, Jim Carrey plays the role of Fletcher Reed, a fast talking attorney, habitual liar, and divorced father who has built his successful law career on deceit. He’s also a poor excuse for a father, consistently choosing his job over his young son Max, even missing his birthday party. But Max gets his birthday wish: that his dad would go one day without being able to lie. Hilarity ensues.

What would your life look like if you never lied or exaggerated? What if you lived truthfully and honestly in all of your relationships, with complete integrity?

What would be required of you?

Please join us in today’s daily Bible conversation.

TODAY’S READING

Daniel 2:24-3:30
1 Peter 4:7-5:14
Psalm 119:81-96
Proverbs 28:15-16

INSIGHTS AND EXPLANATIONS

1 Peter 4:7-5:14. At the beginning of this section, Paul writes,

Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides.
1 Peter 4:10–11

Peter’s point is this: in whatever spiritual gift you use, use it on behalf of God. Act as if God is really working through you. Exercise your spiritual gifts with confidence that God is working through you. And he is! You are administering, stewarding, dispensing God’s limitless grace.

Psalm 119:81-96. “If your law had not been my delight, I would have perished in my affliction” (Psalm 119:92). When our world begins to crumble, we need something to hold on to. All too often, though, we first run to friends for solace, or we find ways to disengage from our pain or stress. The psalmist, however, discovered that the word of God is a sure anchor. Ointment for our wounds. Food for our starving souls.

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THE WORD MADE FRESH

“If the heat gets too hot,” the adage goes, “then get out of the kitchen.” But what if you can’t get out?

King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon built an idol, most likely in his image. Ninety feet tall and nine feet wide, the statue was a monstrosity. Seven times in the first 14 verses of Daniel 3, the writer reiterates that Nebuchadnezzar “set up” the idol. The man was a narcissist.

He issued a command: “Whenever the music plays, everyone must bow down to the idol.” The Babylonian people complied as well as all of the Jews living in exile except three brave men: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. Daniel must have been out of town on a business trip.

When the men were brought before the king, they were given one more chance to bow down, but they refused. Think about it: all they had to do was bow down. Their lives were at risk, so what’s the big deal with bowing down just one time? No one would have pointed their judgmental fingers at the three men. Just tell the king what he wanted to hear and do what he wanted them to do and everything would be fine. With their lives on the line, they respectfully replied to the king:

If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king. But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.
Daniel 3:17–18

Did you notice their last few words? God is able to save us, but even if he doesn’t, we still won’t bow down.

Furious, the king ordered the furnace temperature to be increased. The fire was so hot that the soldiers carrying the three men were consumed by it.

You probably remember the rest of the story. A fourth man appeared in the furnace. The men weren’t consumed by the fire. Fussy King Nebuchadnezzar begged the men to come out, and when they did, they didn’t even smell like smoke.

This story encourages us to be willing to disagree with the court of public opinion when it contradicts or forces us to compromise our faith. Although our physical lives might not be on the line, our jobs and careers might be. We might be able to save our necks, but wilting to societal pressure and opinion is akin to bowing to the image. To put it bluntly, it’s lying.

These three men share a common characteristic with all the great men and women of faith in Scripture: they don’t consider their lives as overly precious. In other words, they aren’t afraid to die because they know they’re in a no-lose situation. They can live here on earth and enjoy the lives God has given them or they will lose their lives and spend eternity with God.

The book of Hebrews describes men and women of this caliber as “aliens and strangers on earth” (Hebrews 11:13). They know that their home is in heaven.

Paul wrote, “If we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord” (Romans 14:8).

Integrity means living honest, open, and sometimes unpopular lives because we’re more concerned about what God thinks than what people think. It’s also borne from the belief that regardless of what happens to us, if we’re living for Jesus, we’re in a can’t-lose situation.

The early church had a phrase for this: corem deo. It means living in the face of God.

Or in this context, living with the knowledge that the fourth man is there.

CONVERSATION STARTERS

  1. What spoke to you in today’s reading?
  2. What idols does the culture try to convince you to worship?

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www.bibleconversation.com

Michael co-pastors The Neighborhood Church with Eugene Scott in Littleton, Colorado.

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What We Can Learn From Operation Repo

So the other night, a television program grabbed me by the throat and demanded my attention. While browsing on YouTube, I ran across a program called Operation Repo. The show, which airs on the truTv network, focuses on a team of people who repossess vehicles in the Los Angeles area. The confrontations between the team and the deadbeat owners are nothing short of terrifying.

The video above tells the story of a couple who had their car repossessed on their wedding day. How agonizing!

After two hours of adrenaline-filled viewing, I decided to learn more about the show on Wikipedia. To my utter astonishment, I read this:

Although as a channel, truTV is described as presenting “real-life stories told from an exciting and dramatic first-person perspective,” Operation Repo consists of scripted re-enactments where the team is often confronted by actors portraying debtors and police officers in the repossessions.

Did you get that? The show isn’t even real! Yet the tagline of the truTV network boasts: “Not reality. Actuality.”

I wasted two hours watching reenactments! I felt like I wasted an entire evening.

Join me today as we explore how to prevent that from happening to you.

TODAY’S READING

Remember that today’s readings cover Saturday and Sunday.

1 Samuel 2:22-7:17
John 5:24-6:1-21
Psalm 106:1-31
Proverbs 14:30-33

INSIGHTS AND EXPLANATIONS

1 Samuel 2:22-7:17. After reading about Hannah’s admirable qualities as a mother (in yesterday’s reading), we also witness Eli’s shortcomings as a father. Despite the evil he saw in his sons, he did nothing to remove Hophni and Phinehas from their responsibilities as priests (see 3:13).

While the two brothers were falling deeper and deeper into darkness, we read this description about Samuel: “By contrast, the boy Samuel grew in stature and in favor with the Lord and with men.” Incidentally, this same description is used of Jesus in Luke 2:52.

Soon, Eli would die along as well his two sons—albeit prematurely.

In 3:3, we read that “Before the lamp of God had gone out, Samuel was lying down in the tabernacle of the Lord where the ark of God was located.” The Bible Background Commentary explains what this means:

The menorah in the tabernacle was to remain lit all night (Exodus 27:21; Leviticus 24:1–4), but it was never supposed to be extinguished, so the comment that it had not yet gone out would be pointless. On the other hand, we have seen that the practices at Shiloh did not necessarily follow what was stipulated in the Law. The phrase “lamp of God” is also used to refer to hope (2 Samuel 21:17; 1 Kings 11:36; 2 Kings 8:19), and that would also make sense in this context.

Chapter 3 verse 7 says, “Now Samuel had not yet experienced the Lord, because the word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him.” That means God hadn’t yet spoken to Samuel…until now.

Samuel served as a dividing line between a famine in terms of God’s silence and God speaking. Notice 3:1 says, “In those days the word of the Lord was rare and prophetic visions were not widespread.” But by the end of the chapter we read, “The Lord continued to appear in Shiloh, because there He revealed Himself to Samuel by His word.”

In chapter 4, God proves that the ark of the covenant can’t be treated as a good luck charm. In the end, the ark was taken by the Philistines, Hophni and Phinehas were killed in battle, and Eli died as a result of injuries sustained after falling off his chair. Notice that Eli was more distressed by the ark being taken than that the deaths of his sons.

Chapter 5 is as humorous as chapter 4 is dark. First, Dagon, the God of Israel proves that the god of the Philistines is no match for him. Then we read that whoever maintained the ark was stricken with tumors. The tumors mentioned in the chapter are literally translated “hemorrhoids.” Sometimes translators shield the rawness of Scripture from its readers. Kind of like truScripture versus truTV.

In chapter 6, the ark is returned to Israel, but the people learn quickly that God’s presence isn’t to be taken lightly. God struck seventy men dead for peeking into the ark. God’s presence is a wondering, life-giving, dreadful thing.

In chapter 7, Samuel calls the people to repentance. The Philistines rally to attack the gathered country, but God preserves them. Then Samuel erects a stone and calls it Ebenezer, which means “Thus has the Lord helped us.” Rather than take for granted that God would continue defending them, Samuel used the words “thus far,” which means “up to this point.” As long as they were faithful, they knew God would protect and provide for them.

John 5:24-6:21. Verse 24 was one of the first Bible verses I memorized as a teenager: “Anyone who hears My word and believes Him who sent Me has eternal life and will not come under judgment but has passed from death to life.” In his gospel, John provides plenty of instruction on how we can receive eternal life.

Jesus further explains how we receive eternal life in verses 39-40: “You pore over the Scriptures because you think you have eternal life in them, yet they testify about Me.” Knowing the word of God isn’t enough, we must know God the word—Jesus Christ.

In my experience, many well-intentioned believers master the word of God without knowing God the word. They spout Scripture but lack any life, any vibrancy, in their walk with God. Life only comes from Jesus, who says he is the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6).

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THE WORD MADE FRESH

Psalm 106 struck me as the opposite of Operation Repo. It offers us a picture into true transparency (as opposed to truTV).

The purpose of the psalm is to remember God’s goodness and faithfulness. In verse 6, the psalmist begins recounting Israel’s many failures in the wilderness. But he prefaces it by saying, “Both we and our fathers have sinned; we have gone astray and have acted wickedly.”

Rather than assume Israel fell short in the past, he included Israel in its current condition.

All too often, I share about my struggles and sins as if they occurred in the past.

  • “I used to wrestle with dishonesty, but praise God, now I don’t!”
  • “My wife and I used to struggle with problems in our marriage, but now we don’t.”
  • “I used to be paralyzed with fear, but now I don’t.”

As long as we keep our struggles and sins hidden, they continue to foster. Now, transparency isn’t the cure-all to our problems, but hiding them is a guarantee that they won’t change.

At the same time, I doubt we can truly appreciate God’s goodness and faithfulness until we truly see our shortcomings.

Hearkening back to yesterday’s reading in John 5, Jesus asked the invalid if he wanted to get well.

Perhaps voicing our weakness is our first step.

CONVERSATION STARTERS

  1. What spoke to you in today’s reading?
  2. What prevents you from being the truYou? What is the cost? What are the benefits?

If you’re reading this blog on FaceBook and you’d like to join the conversation, click here.

www.bibleconversation.com

Michael co-pastors The Neighborhood Church in Littleton, Colorado

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