Archives for category: Integrity

Telling the truth isn’t always easy.  In fact, sometimes, it’s downright hard!  However, one of our greatest challenges on our road to self-discovery and reinvention is learning to be a person of integrity—let our yeses be yeses and our noes be noes.  We have to learn to engage in difficult conversations, which might result in disappointment for some.  Doing the right thing includes the understanding that we cannot please everyone.  When we try to please everyone, we ultimately please no one, including ourselves.  People might not always like the truth spoken in love, but more often than not, they respect the person speaking it.  When you and I are people of integrity, others can count on our words and our deeds.  When people opt to speak half-truths and untruths, they become untrustworthy, and even their truths are tainted by the perception of deception.

The spirit of deception is duplicitous.  It steals from both the deceiver and the one being deceived.  Most people, unless they are social deviants, typically act dishonestly out of fear and/or cowardice.  They are either unwilling or incapable of telling the truth due to a misguided perception of the repercussions of their honesty.  Instead they opt for what they perceive as “the easy way out.”  However, the “easy way out” is not without consequences, and it isn’t particularly easy.  There are many internal and external ramifications of being untruthful.  One of the internal penalties of not being a person of integrity is the stress of having to remember the lies—what story was told to whom and when.  There is also the perpetual fear of being caught, being found out.  Finally, some people (excluding those who have sociopathic tendencies) who suffer from poor integrity face anxiety knowing that they have this internal character flaw.  As far as the external repercussions go, those who lack integrity are often at risk for having a bad reputation.  They could erroneously be perceived as people of reprehensible moral character.  This misconception could significantly impact both their personal and professional relationships.  Our failure to be honest during difficult times could create a narrative about our character that is simply untrue.  When we hurt others by our actions, or lack thereof, few people are gracious enough to evaluate the cause of our behavior.  The why is irrelevant to them.  All they know is that they have been hurt and offended.

Our failure to exhibit integrity could create irreparable rifts in our relationships, which at the end of the day, are one of the few things of value that we possess.  The moral of the story is, if we want to grow and become better people, we have to learn to be honest and truthful, especially when it is difficult.

“The integrity of the upright guides them, but the unfaithful are destroyed by their duplicity,” (Proverbs 11:3, NIV).

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In the simplest of terms, a covenant is an agreement, a contract or a bond between parties—a binding promise.  When a covenant is called into effect, there is an expectation that the agreed upon terms will be enforced.  In our legal system, most people go into covenants with the assurance that the legal system will enforce the terms and conditions of the agreement.  However, while the law can often guarantee that all parties will abide by the term of the covenant, a level of trust is still required between the parties.  Most people do not enter into covenants with people whom they know to be unscrupulous.  Most legal covenants are often measures that reasonable people establish to safeguard themselves against unforeseen events.  Again, most people enter covenants with the assumption that the opposing party has a certain amount of integrity.  This brings me to the point of this blog: God’s covenants.

 

Number 23:19 says, God is not human, that he should lie, not a human being, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill,” (NIV)?  This passage indirectly speaks to the Abrahamic Covenant where God promised Abraham that he would bless the Israelites and Abraham’s family line.  In Number 23, Balak wanted Balaam to curse the Israelites, but Balaam replied with, “‘I have received a command to bless; he has blessed, and I cannot change it,’”(v. 20, NIV).

 

God cannot and will not change His mind.  He is in covenant with His people.  Number 23:19, not only speaks to the nature of God, but it is also a covenant in and of itself.  God is saying that his Word is bond.  Once he has said it, it is done.  Below is an exercise that I challenge all of us to do.

 

Covenant Agreement Between God and me

This Agreement made this __________ day of ____________20______ by and between _______________ and God.

 

Standing on the promises of the Abrahamic Covenant, I am believing God for:

  1. _______________________
  2. _______________________
  3. _______________________
  4. _______________________

 

The Bible verses that I rest my beliefs on are:

  1. _______________________
  2. _______________________
  3. _______________________
  4. _______________________

 

This agreement encourages us to remind God what He has promised.  With that said, we should also remember that God’s thoughts are not our thoughts and His ways are not our ways (Isaiah 55:8).  There will be times that our prayers go unanswered for reasons we cannot understand, but we should go into agreement with God knowing that He has heard our petitions and that He will answer; and if the answer is not what we expect, it is what God intended because He has deliberate acted.  Below are a just a few examples of how God acted on behalf of his people’s prayers.

 

Prayer for healing:

  • Hezekiah was on the brink of death and cried out to God to spare his life.
    • “‘Go and tell Hezekiah, ‘This is what the LORD, the God of your father David, says: I have heard your prayer and seen your tears; I will add fifteen years to your life,’” (Isaiah 38:5, NIV).

 

Praying for a Godly partner:

Abraham, though his servant, prayed that God would find a specific wife for Isaac.  God led Abraham’s servant to Rebekah.  Isaac and Rebekah were later married (Genesis 24: 1-67).

 

Praying to have children:

Isaac pleaded with the LORD on behalf of his wife, because she was unable to have children. The LORD answered Isaac’s prayer, and Rebekah became pregnant with twins,” (Genesis 25:21, NLT).

 

Released from jail:

“But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the doors of the jail and brought them out,” (Acts 5:19).

 

Financial breakthrough:

“The blessing of the LORD makes a person rich, and he adds no sorrow with it,” (Proverbs 10:22, NLT).

 

Spiritual breakthrough:

The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds,” (2 Corinthians 10:4, NIV).

 

Fulfillment of God’s promise:

  • God had given Joseph a dream that he would become a mighty man. However, over the course of time, he was kidnapped, sold into slavery, accused of rape, imprisoned and forgotten.  Fortunately, God did not forget about him or the promise that he made to him.

 

  • 38 And Pharaoh said to his servants, “Can we find a man like this, in whom is the Spirit of God?” 39 Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Since God has shown you all this, there is none so discerning and wise as you are. 40 You shall be over my house, and all my people shall order themselves as you command. Only as regards the throne will I be greater than you,” (Genesis 41:38-40, ESV).

 

Today, I pray that you remember the covenant agreement that God has made with you and with Abraham.  Stand on His Word as you pray for His favor!

The divides we face should never be along racial lines.  We, regardless of who we are, should always side with truth and justice.  In the Bible, Jesus often spoke about showing favor and mercy to the widow, the alien, the fatherless and the poor.  Many of us have fallen, or will fall, into one of those categories.

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2But as for me, my feet had almost slipped;

I had nearly lost my foothold.

3For I envied the arrogant

when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.

Psalm 73:2-3

 

During this season, I have experienced some of life’s greatest disappointments and setbacks.  Most recently, I entered a business venture. As part of my due diligence, I implemented all the necessary safeguards to reduce, if not, eliminate my risks.  I read.  I researched.  I hired an attorney. I had a contract drafted.  However, life sometimes teaches us that there are no failsafe plans.  There are no world systems that could entirely mitigate moral corruption.  Although most, if not all, legal agreements are drafted based on the worse case scenarios, most people enter contacts with the assumption that the opposing party has some semblance of integrity, or at the very least, he or she has a fear of or a reverence for the law.  A year and a half after signing my contract agreement, the opposing party involved still managed to express flagrant disregard of the agreement by violating several terms of the contract. This morning, as I evaluated my situation, I thought about the above verse.

 

Oftentimes, it feels as though the lives of the wicked are bountiful.  Many of them cheat, lie and steal, yet they still manage to thrive beyond the imagination of the meek.  It’s easy to look at the proud and the arrogant and be envious.  They leap and abound.  Their lives are grand.  They enjoy fine things, and they seldom seem concerned with the toils of those who are pure at heart.  “They have no struggles; their bodies are healthy and strong…they are not plagued by human ills,” (verse 4 and 5, NIV).  They play by their own rules.  They scoff at honor and valor.  The lives of the wicked seems grand, indeed.  However, there will come a time when the Earth’s grandeur will cease.  Each man will be equal, and God will judge each man according to his deeds.  “God will judge us for everything we do, including every secret thing, whether good or bad,” (Ecclesiastes 12:14).  It’s so easy to want the wicked to pay—to take vengeance into our own hands because it might seem as though God is moving too slow.  However, Romans 12:19 says, “Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the Scriptures say, “I will take revenge; I will pay them back,” says the LORD,” (NLT).

 

The truth is, waiting on God can seem slow, and, at times, feel torturous.  However, “The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance,” (2 Peter 3:9, NIV).  In His justice, God has given even the sinners time to change their wicked ways.  Psalms 73 goes on to say that God has placed the wicked on slippery ground.  The wicked will perish if they continue to do wickedness.

 

To those who are longsuffering, I ask that you give your suffering to God.  Leave your vindication in His mighty hands.  God is just, and He judges fairly.  Even King David, whom the Bible refers to as a man after God’s own heart, experienced God’s immense favor despite being reprimanded for his egregious sins. Although David had many shortcomings, God did not forget the promises He made to David.  During earlier times, God decreed that David would not only rule as king over all Israel, God also promised David that he (David) would always have a line to the throne (Jesus).  One of David’s biggest fall from grace was when he had an adulterous affair with Bathsheba, the wife of one of his soldiers named Uriah.  As a result of the affair, Bathsheba became pregnant.  In an effort to cover his tracks David tried to convince Uriah to sleep with his wife, Bathsheba, so that he could pass off the baby as Uriah’s.  Uriah, who was a committed soldier in David’s army, refused to lay with his wife because he did not want to break his allegiance to his fellow fighters by indulging in merriment during battle time.  After David realized that his attempt to cover his tracks had failed, he gave orders to have Uriah killed.  Fortunately, God did not allow David’s position as both king and the “apple of His eyes” to usurp Uriah’s life.  God was not only faithful to David, He was also faithful to Uriah, because the Bible says that God is not a respecter of man (Acts 10:34).  God avenged Uriah’s death by destroying the seed that was created from David’s and Bathsheba’s deception. Thankfully, God did not stay angry with David forever.  He pursued David and blessed him.  Moreover, David repented for sinning against God.

 

In all of our lives, there will be times when we feel forgotten about—by family, by friends, and even by God. Many of us feel like Uriah, a lone soldier in a vast army—a number in the crowd.  The temptation is to give up on God because we feel neglected or betrayed by Him.  However, just like God fought on behalf of Uriah, He will avenge us too.  The Bible says that God will leave the 99 sheep to find the one that has wondered away (Matthew 18:12-14).  It is during our weakest moments that God will seek us out and pursue us.

“The tongue can bring death or life; those who love to talk will reap the consequences,” (Proverbs 18:21, NLT).

Oftentimes, we forget just how much power our spoken declarations have over our lives. Recently, I read a story about an athlete who, as a child, told his mother, who had been affected by breast cancer at the time, that he would purchase a pink Cadillac with pink rims for her when he “grew up.” Years later, he was able to fulfill that promise. A few years prior to that story, I heard about a famous actress who, as a child, had promised to buy her mom a diamond ring when she became rich and famous. She too was able to fulfill her childhood promise to her mother. I doubt that as children either of those two individuals knew that they were “prophesying” over their lives. Impregnated in that young girl’s promise to her mother was the declaration that she was going to become a famous actress. The reflection of those two stories made me think of my own life. There have been times where I too have spoken in “jest,” and my “declarations” have come to fruition.

Today, I want to challenge all of us to prophesy over our lives. We need to go back to the days of our childlike faith—a time where we thought any and everything was possible. We need to speak over our lives and declare and proclaim our futures.  We need to live in bold faith like Abraham did.

16 So the promise is received by faith. It is given as a free gift. And we are all certain to receive it, whether or not we live according to the law of Moses, if we have faith like Abraham’s. For Abraham is the father of all who believe. 17 That is what the Scriptures mean when God told him, “I have made you the father of many nations.”This happened because Abraham believed in the God who brings the dead back to life and who creates new things out of nothing.

18 Even when there was no reason for hope, Abraham kept hoping—believing that he would become the father of many nations. For God had said to him, “That’s how many descendants you will have!” 19 And Abraham’s faith did not weaken, even though, at about 100 years of age, he figured his body was as good as dead—and so was Sarah’s womb.

20 Abraham never wavered in believing God’s promise. In fact, his faith grew stronger, and in this he brought glory to God. 21 He was fully convinced that God is able to do whatever he promises. 22 And because of Abraham’s faith, God counted him as righteous. 23 And when God counted him as righteous, it wasn’t just for Abraham’s benefit. It was recorded 24 for our benefit, too, assuring us that God will also count us as righteous if we believe in him, the one who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. 25 He was handed over to die because of our sins, and he was raised to life to make us right with God, (Roman 4:16-20, NLT).

In the book of 2 Timothy, Paul describes the last days as a time when,

…people will love only themselves and their money. They will be boastful and proud, scoffing at God, disobedient to their parents, and ungrateful. They will consider nothing sacred. 3 They will be unloving and unforgiving; they will slander others and have no self-control. They will be cruel and hate what is good. 4 They will betray their friends, be reckless, be puffed up with pride, and love pleasure rather than God. 5 They will act religious, but they will reject the power that could make them godly.”
Paul further encourages us to, “Stay away from people like that!

I know that every generation before has thought that they were living in the final days. The truth is, no one knows when the final days will be. The Bible says that when Jesus comes, He will come like a thief in the night, (2 Peter 3:10). However, it seems to me that we are closer to the above prophesy than ever before. More and more, you find people who are selfish, proud, arrogant, unforgiving, unyielding and outright cruel. It makes you wonder about the state of the heart of man. In such a time as this, it’s so easy to throw our hands in the air and give up on valor and virtue. But I caution us not to do so. Now is the time to let our light shine. The insatiable hunger of darkness is only quelled by light. Those of us with the gift of the light inside of us have to continue to burn bright. The Bible says that we are the light of the world and a city built on a hill cannot be hidden, (Matthew 5:14). We have to continue to intercede in prayer on behalf of the nations. We have to continue to pray for those who are afflicted by infirmity, poverty, cruelty and inhumanity. I still believe that God hears the cries of His people. I still believe that God answers the plea of the broken and the fallen, which, my friend, is all of us. If He didn’t then, the Bible would be a lie. But the Bible says that “God is not a man, so He does not lie,” (Numbers 23:19).

 

Some of you who are reading this might be wondering, “How can I use the subject of my argument to prove its validity.” The answer to those people is this: “We do it all the time, and we have accepted the results as truth.” Science is defined by science. Logic is defined by logic. Mathematics is defined by mathematics. Whenever we have a theory in the sciences, the arts or in mathematics. Those theories or principles are usually confirmed or denied by using theories/hypotheses in the same discipline. If such is the case, then why is it so difficult to believe that the Bible could be proven using the Bible? Is it because our senses cannot “perceive” Biblical principles? If that’s the case, then that argument nullifies every scientific theory. When was the last time you experienced/”saw” the Pythagorean Theorem?
Here is one final point: Other than Biblical principles, no other theory of existence asserts a power higher than itself to confirm its existence. For example, when existence is sought to be confirmed by science, the asserting scientific principle is no greater than the principle in question. When Biblical principles are asserted, it assert that there is a higher power at work. Additionally, in science the known ALWAYS justifies the known and is justified by the known. Even if a variable was titled as “unknown” prior to discovery, once it’s discovered, it becomes known. In Biblical principles, the “known” AND the “unknown” is justified by the unknown. The unknown can NEVER be justify the known because it is just that—unknown. Therefore, scientific reasoning has a limit.

Whew! That was a long tangent. I said all of that to say that God is true to His Word because He said He is, and it is that simple. So with that being said, I ask that we join together and pray for those Nigerian girls who were captured by rebels. I pray for their safe release and that they continue to trust in the name of Jesus—the name that saves.

God, I pray that the 200 plus girls were kidnapped be returned safely to their families. In Isaiah 43:13, God said, “From eternity to eternity I am God. No one can snatch anyone out of my hand. No one can undo what I have done.” Lord, your word also says in John 10:27-30, “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one can snatch them away from me, 29 for my Father has given them to me, and he is more powerful than anyone else. No one can snatch them from the Father’s hand. 30 The Father and I are one.”  Jesus, we thank you that no one or nothing can claim for themselves what you have already claimed as your own. We pray your favor over those girls. When Jesus died on the cross, he said, “It is finished!”  Lord we pray that “it is finished.”  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Integrity—It’s who you are when no one is watching.  In today’s world, it can often appear as if honor is a forgotten virtue.

2 Timothy 3:1-5 says, “ Don’t be naive. There are difficult times ahead. As the end approaches, people are going to be self-absorbed, money-hungry, self-promoting, stuck-up, profane, contemptuous of parents, crude, coarse, dog-eat-dog, unbending, slanderers, impulsively wild, savage, cynical, treacherous, ruthless, bloated windbags, addicted to lust, and allergic to God. They’ll make a show of religion, but behind the scenes they’re animals. Stay clear of these people,” (The Message).

Wow! Those words are prophetic.  We ARE living in days where people are indeed lovers of themselves.  Many people are “self-absorbed, money-hungry, self-promoting, stuck-up, profane, contemptuous of parents, crude, coarse, dog-eat-dog, unbending, slanderers, impulsively wild, savage, cynical, treacherous, ruthless, bloated windbags, addicted to lust, and allergic to God.”  I wouldn’t be surprised if there were more people allergic to God than to penicillin.  In fact, just the mention of God on the airways seem to send some people into anaphylactic shock.  Some of you reading this blog might even be turned off merely because the content is about God.  We are living in a culture where many have built up a disdain for God and the things of God.  Even many “believers” has succumbed to the customs of the world.  Many of us are self-absorbed, money-hungry and cynical.  When confronted with the state of affairs of the world, there are Christians who respond with “it is what it is,” “people are who they are,” and “what can we do to change it?”  We have become cynical about whether God’s good can triumph over bad.  Many of us have embraced injustice as the new normal.  I am here to tell you that such thinking is contrary to the word of God.  2 Timothy 3:14-17 says,

14 But you must remain faithful to the things you have been taught. You know they are true, for you know you can trust those who taught you. 15 You have been taught the Holy Scriptures from childhood, and they have given you the wisdom to receive the salvation that comes by trusting in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. 17 God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work, (NLT).

Yes, in order to receive victory against all forms of evil in today’s world, we must remain faithful.  We must trust that the Holy Spirit will give us the wisdom, courage and strength we need.  We should not accept or succumb to the practices of the world.  One person CAN make a difference.  If we would realize and understand that while we might not be able to directly change the people around us, we can change ourselves.  When we begin with a change in ourselves, that very change can and will inspire others to take a stand, which could cause us to see a marked difference in the world around us.  We don’t have to just accept things the way they are.  We can make a difference!  Sometimes, we have to simply decide who we will be.  #Integrity!

EnvyA few weeks ago, we started a new series called the seven deadly sins.  Those sins are:  pride, envy, greed, wrath, gluttony, sloth and lust.  In our previous discussions, we mentioned that although the concept of the seven deadly sins is not Biblical per se, some scholars have said that the principle has a Biblical derivative, specifically Proverbs 6:16-19 and Galatians 5:19-21:

16 There are six things the Lord hates,
seven that are detestable to him:
17  haughty eyes,
a lying tongue,
hands that shed innocent blood,
18   a heart that devises wicked schemes,
feet that are quick to rush into evil,
19     a false witness who pours out lies
and a person who stirs up conflict in the community, (Proverbs 6:16-19, NIV).

19 The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God (Galatians 5:19:21, NIV).

So far, we have talked about pride and greed.  Today we will talk about envy!

Previously, we mentioned that pride was the original sin that caused man to fall.  If I were to rank the seven deadly sins in order of egregiousness, I would say that pride would be a first place contender, and envy would be a close runner up.  Of the seven deadly sins, I believe that these two are the most vile of them all.  I would even argue that pride and envy are what I would call gateway sins.  When they take root in our lives, they open the gates for other sins.  Let’s take a look at James 4:1-4 to illustrate this point.

What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.

You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. Or do you think Scripture says without reason that he jealously longs for the spirit he has caused to dwell in us? But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says:

“God opposes the proud
but shows favor to the humble.”

James 4:1-4, NIV

So, in James 4:1, the Bible says that our desires that battle inside us is what causes us to quarrel and fight.  That is pride and envy 101.  It was pride and envy that caused Adam and Eve to eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.  Their pride told them that they were entitled to God’s knowledge.  Their envy made them begrudge the fact that God possessed the knowledge that they thought they deserved.

Now, here is why I call pride and envy the gateway sin.  James 4:2 says, “You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight.”  Remember pride makes us feel entitled and envy makes us think we should have the product of our entitlement.  So what happens when someone has what we think we should have? We become envious and that envy could lead to rape, murder, adultery, lying,  greed, and any other vice we could think of.  Let’s look at some practical applications.  For example, a man cheat on his wife with another man’s wife.  Why?  Somehow, deep down inside, he has reasoned that he is entitled to the value that other man’s wife brings to her husband.  The man who is doing the cheating might have reasoned that he deserved to be respected, loved and honored.  Since he is envious of his perception of the other man’s wife’s values, he “steals” her from the other man.  His pride has told him that he is entitled, and his envy has precipitated his adultery, lying and stealing, and in some cases, killing.

Let’s use another example.  A woman shoplifts from a department store.  Why? Somewhere in her mind, she has determined that she is entitled to the items she has stolen.  She is also envious that the store owners/stock holders have move than she does.  Most of the time when we listen to the excuses of people who shoplift, they say things like: “They have enough stuff;” “They’ll never miss this;” or some variation of “I should have this stuff too.”  This is jealousy and pride.  That jealously and pride have caused them to resort to lying and stealing.  First, the individual in our shoplifting scenario has lied to herself in an effort to convince herself that she deserve someone’s miracle/destiny/blessings.  Second, she has lied to herself by trying to convince herself that she is not hurting anyone.  Lastly, she will have to lie to avoid getting caught.

The problem with envy and pride is not that they are inherently bad, even though they are.  The problem is that they set us up for failure each and every time.  It is impossible for us to have someone else’s blessings because that blessing was custom fitted for that individual.  You see, God knows each and every one of us inside out.  Just as no two people have the same fingerprints, no two people have the same spiritual DNA.  When God considered our blessings, He considered our gender, our race, our backgrounds, our personalities, our idiosyncrasies, our level of faith (or lack thereof), our maturity and so much more.  It is IMPOSSIBLE that any another person on the planet would align with us on ALL of those thousands, maybe even millions, of variables.  We could save ourselves a tremendous amount of heartache and pain if we understood that no matter how much we envied someone, we could never have what they have.  Their blessing weren’t made for us.  The other thing is this.  We do not know how much time, effort and prayer someone has put into their blessings.  The problem with many of us is we think that our story ends when God grants us our blessings.  Friends, in many cases, this is just the beginning.  God has an expectation that we will take care of what He has given us.  Let’s use another example.  We might look at our neighbor and say, “Wow, they have such good, accomplished children.  I wish mine were like theirs.”  The problem is we don’t know how they got to that point.  How many days did that mother fast for her children?  How many nights did that father pray for their success?  What about their ancestors?  Imagine how they could have prayed and planted seeds.  They truth is we just never know what people’s true circumstances are.

The final point I would like to bring home is this: James 4: 2-3 says we have not because we ask not.  It also says that sometimes the reason that we do not have is because we ask for the wrong reasons.  Friends, if God owns the cattle on a thousand hills (p.s. He owns the hills too), why aren’t we asking Him for everything.  No matter how small our requests, we should bring them to God.  If we do not get the answer we desire, we should not automatically think that we are asking with wrong motives.  Instead, we should ask God to check our heart and purify our desires.  If we have done a heart check with God and we still find ourselves with the same desire, then the answer is simple.  We have to wait and trust that His timing is perfect.  We have to know that though others might appear to be experiencing their Jordans, their timing is not ours.  We have to trust that God knows what we need and will come through when we need it.

God,

My prayer for today is that you settle the hearts of your people.  Grant us your peace that surpasses all understanding.  Thwart in us any temptation for pride and envy.  Allow us to know that you have custom-fitted blessing designed specifically for each and every single one of us that will be revealed at just the right time.  I pray blessings over all your people.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen!

The phrase, “the Lord is my shepherd,” is the opening words of Psalms 23.  But what does that truly mean?  Before we could answer that question, we have to look at what a shepherd is.  A shepherd is a person who guides, provides and protects his flock of sheep.  Therefore, if the Lord is our shepherd, then the Lord’s role is to guide, provide and protect us.

When we scale ourselves to the creator of the universe, we are simple sheep.  We lack relative wisdom, and we require direction.  Most people who have accepted Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior would not argue that God is indeed their shepherd.  However, what role, if any, should the Church play in shepherding God’s flock?

I grew up in the church.  As a youth, I had a personal relationship with my pastors and church elders.  However, with the emergence of the mega-churches, the position of the church has slightly shifted.  The increasing congregation sizes have made it difficult for pastors and church elders to be relational with everyone.  In many of these churches, there has been a push for the development of small groups, which are usually peer-lead.  The problem is, there is no true shepherding.  This is not to say that small groups do not provide a personal and spiritual benefit.  However, for true shepherding to occur, there has to be a leader who is learned in the Word of God.  Most pastors have spent considerable time studying the Bible’s historical, societal and cultural context so that they can effectively relay the correct message.  While I am sure that there are individuals who lead small groups who have done the same, I would argue that they are few and far in between.  Again, it brings me back to the question, “Who is shepherding God’s flock?”  One of the roles of a pastor is to be a shepherd.  Unfortunately, or should I say fortunately, there is no escaping that.  Just as doctors are responsible for the care of their patients, pastors and church elders are responsible for the spiritual well-being of their congregation.  If someone is a member of the body of Christ and in spiritual pain, where does that person go for spiritual guidance?  Yes, that person could go turn to a friend or a family member for counsel.  Again, I will draw a parallel using the doctor example.  Imagine that someone was suffering from cancer.  That person’s family and friends could treat them with home remedies, but at some point, the ailing person would need to see a doctor.  The same is true for spiritual sickness and disease.  James 5:14, says that if any of us is sick, we should call to the elders of the church, and they should pray over the sick.  In that passage, the Bible gave a clear directive.  The elders SHOULD, not could, pray over the ailing.  God is simply stating that the elders of the church have a responsibility to their sheep.

2 Timothy 1-5 says:

Don’t be naive. There are difficult times ahead. As the end approaches, people are going to be self-absorbed, money-hungry, self-promoting, stuck-up, profane, contemptuous of parents, crude, coarse, dog-eat-dog, unbending, slanderers, impulsively wild, savage, cynical, treacherous, ruthless, bloated windbags, addicted to lust, and allergic to God. They’ll make a show of religion, but behind the scenes they’re animals. Stay clear of these people. (The Message).

The Church was created to be a hospital for the spiritually dead and dying.  It is not enough to just get people in the doors of the Church.  We have to nurture them and feed them while they are there.  Salvation is beyond quotas, book deal and television appearances.  It’s about saving God’s flock.

“Pride goes before destruction, and haughtiness before a fall,” (Proverbs 16:18).  Pride’s stealthy ambush often goes undetected prior to plummeting face first to the ground.  Hopefully, it is in those aftermath moments that we learn the greatest lessons.

One of the biggest lessons I have learned about pride was fairly recently.  I have learned that pride is the root of fear.  Fear is one of the biggest impediment to growth, and many of us believe that if we could just conquer fear, we would be well on our way to the promise land.  However, today, I would like to make the argument that fear is the manifestation of pride.  Hear me out.

In order to make my point, I’ll use an example.  Let’s say for the sake of argument, there was an opportunity for us to start a business.  One of the main reasons that we might use for not pursuing that opportunity would be the fear of failure.  Unfortunately, that fear of failure does not exist in a vacuum.  Our fear of failure is deeply interwoven into our desire for approval.  What do I mean by this?  Sometimes, we frown upon the thought of failure because we don’t want others to know that we are weak and flawed.  If we fail, we would have to admit to ourselves and others that we are imperfect.  That, my friend, is pride.  Another reasons why we might avoid the potential of failure is that we are concerned about what others would say about our situation.  Again, if one of our main reasons for not wanting to fail is that we are weighted by the opinions of others, then we are being prideful.  Here’s why.  We have placed our desire to please others above our call to be true to ourselves.  When we are not being true to ourselves, we are being something that we are not.  Adopting a persona for the sake of approval is indeed pride—making ourselves larger than we really are.

Besides our fear of failure, what other reasons do we use to avoid pursuing an opportunity?  We might use the excuse that we are not smart (rich, talented, gifted, pretty, etc.) enough.  Again, pride could be at the root.  For every problem, there is a solution.  Sometimes we allow pride, which may manifest as fear of rejection, to prevent us from asking for help.  So what if the people we ask for help tell us no.  So what if they give us a harsh yes.  If so, we should simply dust our shoulders off and move on.  However, many of us do not want to risk being rejected, so we don’t seek help.  We remain frozen in our mediocrity.  That is pride.   

The truth is, there are so many factor that determine why we act the way we do.  However, today, I wanted us to look deeper at our behavior and not simply take our actions at face value.  Sometimes, there is a deeper reason why we act the way we do.  Sometimes it’s pride.