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Building a Foundation of Integrity

One does not have to look far into today’s headlines to see a ‘win at all cost’ mentality that has seemed to grip our culture in a myriad of ways. Most recently, the life of Lance Armstrong has been just another discovery of a complete erosion of integrity and truth. Here is an example of someone who seemed to live the perfectly impossible and improbable life, yet it was built on a systematic formula of cheating and self-denial. Looking at the ruin of his life, the honest person must come to grips with cheating and consider the wake of the one that lacks integrity in the work of their life.

When it comes to life, work, and eternity, the element of integrity makes a difference.  So, what, really is integrity? This can be explained by going back to the entomology of the word and its use. According to etymonline.com, the root of integrity is from the Latin word integritatem, meaning “soundness” or “wholeness.”  The word integrity was often applied to ships, and especially to describe the condition of a boat beneath the water line. If the boat had integrity, it meant that its hull was whole and complete, therefore rendering the sailor safe from sinking. In searching for a boat to buy, any wise captain considers what is beneath the water to be more important than what is above the water. Likewise, a person’s personal integrity is like the invisible hull that determines success or failure in navigating life. If you are not ‘sound’, or ‘whole’, then at some point in your life you will sink (case in point: Lance Armstrong).

No one aspires to sink at some point in their life. So, how can someone acquire integrity and avoid a perilous fate concerning the work of their life? Since, integrity means aligning oneself with truth and righteous morality, then one must seek out submission to greater governing principles that are transcendent. Like a sailor navigates from fixed celestial points, life must be transfixed in the grip of integrity; buoyed to eternal principles. All integrity must find its focus on Christ and God’s commands. When integrity is build on God’s way for living life, then the foundation provides conviction when living in the wrong and resolve when living in the right. When this takes place, there is a convergence of life and goodness creating a life well lived. In similar fashion, Integrity means resisting the entropic pull of sin. Integrity consists of having the correct moral code to follow; God’s word, and acquiring the wisdom to grow in integrity. Ultimately, this will lead to character.

On the other hand, integrity is not simply being true to oneself. This is relativistic moralism. Integrity is adherence to something beyond oneself, a set of beliefs centered on Christ that a person lives by. It is not just convictions, but the correct convictions. Integrity is comprised of being a complete person filled with honesty, truth, righteousness, justice, purity, and nobleness.

The Bible is fraught with examples in the book of Proverbs about achieving a life of integrity. Consider a few of these scriptures:

The one who conducts himself in integrity will live securely, but the one who behaves perversely will be found out.

– Proverbs 10:9

The integrity of the upright guides them, but the crookedness of the unfaithful destroys them.

– Proverbs 11:3

The righteous person behaves in integrity; blessed are his children after him.

– Proverbs 20:7

A poor person who walks in his integrity is better than one who is perverse in his ways even though he is rich.

– Proverbs 28:6

In closing, even the Greek philosopher Heraclitus gives sage advice for building a foundation for integrity. He states:

“Allow yourself to think only those thoughts that match your principles and can bear the bright light of day. Day by day, your choices, your thoughts, your actions fashion the person you become. Your integrity determines your destiny.”

As a foundation of integrity is established, a destiny of greatness is indeed determined. Without integrity, life will become a sunken relic in the tempestuous seas of an unprincipled world. So, what are you waiting for? Build a foundation of integrity now and rest soundly in your soundness; leading to an unblemished charachter that others can
count on.
Written by John L. Hurlbut on January 19th 2013.
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When You Don’t Believe What You Preach

Every preacher faces an occupational dilemma. It is the task of trying to build another in the faith when in fact, it may be that the preacher’s faith which may be weak. So, a preacher (I am including myself) preaches a message to encourage a believer, but may not fully believe the message that they have preached.

Thankfully, there are many great preachers to look at within the pages of scripture. I take comfort in this fact. I also find that God does not give us a ‘re-touched’ image of the preachers, prophets, teachers, and apostles of the past.  In fact, scripture paints a very real picture of the circumstances that surround them and often their level of faith and expectancy from God. I find this especially true of the Apostle Peter. From a preacher’s perspective, Peter gives me hope in the sense that I don’t always live out what I am preaching, but rather in many cases, I struggle to live out the Christian life with the upward call of God in Christ. Peter is someone who I can look to because, in one small – yet crucial aspect of his understanding of scripture, did not fully believe what he preached until the Lord made it clear to him in a special way.

Let’s consider some text out of Acts 2 where Peter preaches (publicly for the first time) in the power of the Holy Spirit and 3,000 people are added to the church in Jerusalem. If we examine Peter’s message, we discover some preaching that Peter himself did not fully believe at the time, but would believe later. Let’s consider the following scripture:

‘And in the last days it will be,’ God says, ‘that I will pour out my Spirit on all people,and your sons and your daughters will prophesy, and your young men will see visions, and your old men will dream dreams.’  Acts 2:17

A quoted above, Peter recites scripture found in Joel 3:1-5. This is clearly a reference to the indwelling presence of God through the Holy Spirit made available to all, irregardless or race (the Spirit made available to Jews and Gentiles). This is what Peter preached on the day of Pentecost. Yet, when we come to Acts chapter ten, eight chapters later, we see that Peter did not yet believe that the gospel with the power of the indwelling Spirit of God was for the Gentiles. In fact, God had to graciously give him a vivid object lesson in order for him to believe that the gift of the Spirit was for all people (Act 10:1-22).

It was only after the lesson in the vision and Peter’s obedience to the Lord that Peter finally understood the text out of Joel that he preached on Pentecost. For we read the following In Acts chapter 10:34-46:

34 Then Peter started speaking: “I now truly understand that God does not show favoritism in dealing with people, 35 but in every nation the person who fears him and does what is right is welcomed before him. 36 You know the message he sent to the people of Israel, proclaiming the good news of peace through Jesus Christ (he is Lord of all)– 37 you know what happened throughout Judea, beginning from Galilee after the baptism that John announced: 38 with respect to Jesus from Nazareth, that God anointed him with the Holy Spirit and with power. He went around doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, because God was with him. 39 We are witnesses of all the things he did both in Judea and in Jerusalem. They killed him by hanging him on a tree, 40 but God raised him up on the third day and caused him to be seen, 41 not by all the people, but by us, the witnesses God had already chosen, who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. 42 He commanded us to preach to the people and to warn them that he is the one appointed by God as judge of the living and the dead. 43 About him all the prophets testify, that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.” 44 While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell on all those who heard the message. 45 The circumcised believers who had accompanied Peter were greatly astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles, 46 for they heard them speaking in tongues and praising God.

Looking at the example found in Acts 10, we see that the Lord was trying to let Peter in on the reality of the Gentiles to receiving the Spirit. For, the Spirit was for all people, as Peter had preached on the day of Pentecost. Yet, it is not until Acts chapter 10 that Peter fully realizes and believes the prophetic promise in Joel 3; namely that the Holy Spirit would be poured out on all people.

When you examine the chapter of Acts 10 some more, you can see that Jesus, the great teacher, gave Peter an object lesson to deal with his crisis of belief.  Often, in our own lives, Jesus will deal with our own levels of belief in a similar way. He will often give us gentle, clear, relatable, and compelling object lessons to help us with our own unbelief. When God makes our own unbelief clear to us, the gospel can spread and the Holy Spirit can really fall on the lives that God intends to touch.

So, what is the lesson for the preacher? Well, you could always believe what you preach the first time. Yet, this is easier said than done. We strive to take God at his word and obey. Experientially, this is is where the Lord leads us into all truth by the power of the Spirit. Old truth (The promise of the Spirit prophesied in Joel) becomes animated by the Spirit to become new truth realized (The Spirit being received by Gentile believers).  God continues to do the revealing and the uncovering in our lives as we submit to Him. The Spirit makes the old new and uncovers what was once secret. God, in his sovereignty, even uses the unbelief of the preacher to see people believe in Him. Ultimately, it is His truth that transforms us as we believe it, obey it, and partner with it in seeing people come to know Christ.

7 Insights on Appointing Leaders from Acts 6

We would all agree that growth is a good thing. Whether you own a business, manage a client base, or have a family, increase is something to be celebrated. The truth behind the law of increase is this: all living things grow. The early church, as depicted in Acts 1- Acts 6:1-7, is one amazing example of growth catalyzed by the Holy Spirit. It also provides timely lessons on managing growth through the actions of leaders appointing leaders.

How do 12 jobs become 7 jobs? This is the great dynamic of putting the right people in the right place in an organization. We find in Acts 6 that complaints were coming from the Hellenistic Jews because of food distribution neglect to the Hellenistic widows in the church. The apostles, receiving the complaint, realize that they must find others who can carry on the food allocations to these Jews who speak Greek. Just as in the early church, it becomes necessary to appoint people to fulfill God’s literal command of ‘feed my sheep’ while the disciples would be committed to the spiritual nourishment that the new flock of God needed.  So, the disciples chose 7 men who were Greek speaking and place them in charge of the daily food distribution.

The question remains: How can you feed God’s sheep when you are feeding God’s sheep? What I mean by that is: how do you achieve both primary and secondary things necessary for success? You have to appoint leaders! From the text, I believe there are 7 key insights we can understand from this passage on when to appoint leaders: 

  1. Appoint leaders when the demands of others draw you away from the demands of God (Acts 6:2). It is not arrogant to know and decide what you must spend your time on in order to be effective. The disciples considered their roles as Apostles – leaders who had been with Jesus – as distinct to their ministry of the word. So, precedence over waiting on tables was the ministry of the word. And, effective ministry of the word takes time to prepare, study, preach and teach.
  2. Appoint leaders when there are leaders to appoint (Acts 6:3). This may seem like a self-evident observation, but more often than not, organizations put people into leadership positions who are not leaders. Just because a person has a pulse does not make them fit to lead others. Looking back at Acts, the church had over 3,120+ people with 12 core leaders (the Apostles).  Obviously, there was potential, un-appointed leadership in the church at large. So, instead of selecting the leaders themselves, the Apostles turned to the people to validate the un-appointed leadership that was already proving itself through a vital and living ministry in their midst (‘Choose 7 men full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom…’).
  3. Appoint leaders when your prayer life and Bible study time is second and/or divided between the administrational aspects of ministry (Acts 6:4). For those in full time vocational ministry, the tension between administrative duties and spiritual disciplines is all too real. Priority must be given to the task of making disciples. Once you make this primary priority a secondary action, you will loose both first and second things.
  4. Appoint leaders when there is a language or culture barrier to witness or effectiveness (Acts 6:5). If you examine the names of the men chosen to wait tables you will find that they are all Greek names. This strongly indicates that they were bi-lingual in Greek and Hebrew, and possibly fluent in Latin as well. Therefore, the 7 new leaders take the place of the 12 prior leaders in the food distribution. By putting the right people in the right position, efficiency was enhanced by over 40% and their was no longer a language or cultural barrier for administrative and Gospel tasks.
  5. Appoint leaders when the people recognize that a change needs to take place (Acts 6:6). Complaints are a blessing to the one who listens. Because the Apostles listened to the complaints, change became inevitable. When complaints arise, there is a favorable time for change – especially new leader appointment. The people were ready for change and adapted to change by responding wholeheartedly by selecting the right men for the task and sending them to the Apostles for commissioning.
  6. Appoint leaders when you want to achieve your mission faster (Acts 6:7). The evidence of right leader selection is directly related to the pace of achieving your vision. Verse 6 states it this way, “So the word of God spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly…”. Why did the word of God spread? Because the number fo disciples increased. The correlation between the Apostles devoting time to prayer and the word and the increase of disciples cannot be missed. If you want to achieve your mission with greater pace and intensity, then appoint leaders, thereby giving you the time to fulfill obedience to God’s design for your organization.
  7. Appoint Leaders when you want to spend your time influencing the influencers (Acts 6:7). At the end of verse 7 we find that a number of the priests were becoming obedient to the faith. The priests were influential in the lives of worshippers as they were performing customary temple duties. When you want to reach the influencers of society, you must delegate tasks to others so that you can spend time with those who will further the reach of the Gospel in a profound way when they come to know Christ.
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