Tag Archive for: Paul

A person claimed to weave “biblical principles” into his business. When his business went bad and the stock market dropped, he left his investors to pay his debts and his customers to pick up the pieces. 

Another person talked about integrating biblical principles into her business. When her business fell on hard times and the stock market dropped, so did her livelihood. But she did not run away. She stayed and worked out a plan to pay back her investors and to care for her customers. 

No one respects a person who talks a good game but fails to play by the rules. You will have a greater impact by what you do as opposed to what you say. Most people will forget 90 percent of what you say, but they will never forget how you live.

Dishonesty and Lack of Integrity

In a day when “the end justifies the means” has become an acceptable mode of operation, do you justify acts of dishonesty for valid reasons? Consider these examples:

  • overpromise and under deliver
  • exaggerate in job interviews to secure a job
  • overstate budgets to get what you want
  • understate values to get a better deal
  • cover up mistakes so you don’t lose a customer
  • call in sick because you don’t have more paid time off

Each of the above examples is an act of dishonesty which in the end reveals a lack of integrity. 

Losing the Ability to be Trusted

It may seem like people can gain power quickly and easily if they are willing to cut corners and act without the constraints of integrity. Dishonesty may provide instant gratification for a moment, but it never lasts. What have you gained if you lose your ability to be trusted? 

Maybe that is why Paul wrote to Timothy: 

Put these things into practice, devote yourself to them, so that all may see your progress. Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching; continue in these things, for in doing this you will save both yourself and your hearers.1 Timothy 4:15-16 

Paul tells Timothy to watch himself and his teaching. In other words, watch your life and your doctrine. Better yet, give careful attention to your behavior and belief. Make sure they match. Constantly examine yourself to see that your walk matches your talk and that your practice in life matches your profession of faith. 

Integrity is Forever

James Kouzes and Barry Posner in their book, Credibility: How Leaders Gain and Lose It, Why People Demand It, write, “If you step out into the unknown, the place to begin is with the exploration of the inner territory…”

If people are going to follow you whether into ministry, business, or the ballfield, they want to know if they can trust you. Do you keep your promises and follow through with your commitments? 

Brene Brown in Rising Strong: How the Ability to Reset Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead writes, “Integrity is choosing courage over comfort; choosing what is right over what is fun, fast, or easy; and choosing to practice our values rather than simply professing them.” 

Success will come and go, but integrity is forever. Integrity means doing the right thing at all times and in all circumstances, whether anyone is watching. It takes having the courage to do the right thing, no matter what the consequences. It takes years to build a reputation of integrity, but it takes a second to lose it. 

Integrity points to a consistency between what is inside and what is outside, between belief and behavior, your words and your ways, your attitudes and your actions, your values and your practice. 

Does Your Behavior Match Your Belief?

So, the question is, does your behavior match your belief? 

If the answer is “Yes”, every person who trusts you will spread the word that you are trustworthy, and the truth of your character will spread. The value of the trust others have in you is far beyond anything that can be measured.

At work, you will be trusted by colleagues and customers with more responsibility. In the home, you will be trusted by a spouse to be faithful and by your children to be present. It means you will have people willing to go the extra mile to help you because they know that recommending you to others will never bring damage to their own reputations.

When your behavior matches your belief, you will experience limitless opportunities and endless possibilities.

Maintain Your Integrity

So, as a leader, what do you do to maintain your integrity? You choose to be vulnerable and you develop your character.

First, choose to be vulnerable.

  • Integrity is a choice. Choose courage over comfort. Choose what is right over what is fun, fast, or easy. Choose to practice your values rather than simply professing them.
  • Be accountable. If you slip up, apologize. Make amends and make it right. It might be uncomfortable but being accountable will build trust and credibility. Don’t let one integrity slip alienate everyone around you.
  • Be transparent. Say what you mean, mean what you say and, of course, don’t be mean when you say it. Trust develops when people feel like they don’t need to keep up their guard.

Second, develop your character. 

  • Be kind to yourself. Stop the inner voice that is verbally and emotionally beating you up. Speak to yourself as you would speak to someone you love: your spouse, your child, your friend.
  • Be the person you want others to be. Modeling integrity and good character are much more effective than telling your team what to do. Showing that you’re always willing to make the difficult, courageous decisions build connection and trust.
  • Character is built one choice at a time. Integrity is all about consistency. It’s doing the right thing, for the right reason, even when no one is watching, even when you don’t want to.
  • Integrity comes from the Latin word “integer,” meaning whole. In every moment, and at every decision, lead from a place of wholeness. 

Do what is right and let the consequences follow. No one respects a person who talks a good game but fails to play by the rules. Remember, success will come and go, but integrity is forever.

  

 

Does what you say you value align with your behavior? 

Consider these three scenarios:

  • You love your family and enjoy the time you share with them. Even though you work 60 to 70 hours a week, you enjoy your work. Because you want to spend more time with your spouse and your children, you attempt to balance family time with your work schedule, but neither are getting your total attention or your best life. You are feeling tense, guilty, and alone. 
  • You consider yourself to be a person of your word. Whether it is with family, friends, or colleagues, you feel a sense of satisfaction, peace, and fulfillment when you complete a project as promised on time. But, when you don’t complete the project, in the time frame you set for yourself, you feel uneasy and uncomfortable. Even when the people around you are not concerned about it, you still feel as if you have not kept your word. 
  • You are a person of faith, a Jesus follower, and you feel comfortable with talking about your religious beliefs. You attend a Sunday School class with people who are also persons of faith but who do not share your views on particular issues. You like sharing your opinions and beliefs, but every Sunday you feel the tension when the class discussion begins. You enjoy the people in the class, but you are losing your patience with being on guard and not offending anyone. 

When your decisions and behaviors do not align, you experience the tension of conflicting values. In the midst of such conflict, it is important to know and to understand who you are and why you think and feel the way you do. 

When your thinking and behaving match your values, life is good. You feel satisfied, content, and at peace. But when your thoughts and actions do not align with your values, you feel tentative, off-balance, and filled with inner turmoil.

Consider Romans 7

The Apostle Paul understood conflicting values. He wrote to the Roman church:

I can anticipate the response that is coming: “I know that all God’s commands are spiritual, but I’m not. Isn’t this also your experience?” Yes. I’m full of myself—after all, I’ve spent a long time in sin’s prison. What I don’t understand about myself is that I decide one way, but then I act another, doing things I absolutely despise. So, if I can’t be trusted to figure out what is best for myself and then do it, it becomes obvious that God’s command is necessary.

But I need something more! For if I know the law but still can’t keep it, and if the power of sin within me keeps sabotaging my best intentions, I obviously need help! I realize that I don’t have what it takes. I can will it, but I can’t do it. I decide to do good, but I don’t really do it; I decide not to do bad, but then I do it anyway. My decisions, such as they are, don’t result in actions. Something has gone wrong deep within me and gets the better of me every time.

It happens so regularly that it’s predictable. The moment I decide to do good, sin is there to trip me up. I truly delight in God’s commands, but it’s pretty obvious that not all of me joins in that delight. Parts of me covertly rebel, and just when I least expect it, they take charge.

I’ve tried everything and nothing helps. I’m at the end of my rope. Is there no one who can do anything for me? Isn’t that the real question?

The answer, thank God, is that Jesus Christ can and does. He acted to set things right in this life of contradictions where I want to serve God with all my heart and mind but am pulled by the influence of sin to do something totally different. (Romans 7:14-25 The Message)

Psalm 15Paul’s Conflict

The conflict is between the will of God revealed in the Law, and the grace of God revealed in Jesus Christ. The Law is “spiritual,” but Paul says he is not. So, he is struggling between living the life God wants him to live and the life he is living. His conflict is not between his “lower” nature and his “higher” nature but is upon being good enough on his own and upon relying upon God’s grace to live as a follower of Jesus.

Today, this conflict could be expressed between following the “words” of the scripture or following the “Word” to whom the scriptures point. 

David, in Psalm 15, reveals the values in his life.

GOD, who gets invited to dinner at your place? How do we get on your guest list? Walk straight, act right, tell the truth. Don’t hurt your friend, don’t blame your neighbor; despise the despicable. Keep your word even when it costs you, make an honest living, never take a bribe. You’ll never get blacklisted if you live like this. (Psalm 15, The Message)

Notice that David said the person who enjoys the presence of God, who gets invited to dinner, “walks straight, acts right, tells the truth.” Because this person values truth in her heart, her words express truth. Because she values kindness, she “doesn’t blame her neighbor.” Because she values honesty, she keeps her word even when it hurts. Because she makes an honest living, “she never takes a bribe.” 

Regardless of what might happen around him, David could live with confidence that the right principles shaped his values and guided his decisions. That confidence gave him emotional and spiritual stability. It enabled him to be the person God could use for God’s glory. 

As you examine your own life, what values do you see shaping your behavior? Maybe a better question is, what values do you want to shape your behavior?

As with Paul, many of you hold certain values, but you live differently from what you say is important to you. Unless you are intentional in discovering and understanding your values you will be shaped by the values of others.

You can’t have a set of values for work, another set for home, and still another set for your friends or for the church. Your goal should be to completely integrate your values into all areas of your life. 

What Informs Your Life?

When you know and honor your values, life is good. So, here is what I want you to do. Decide now, this moment, to give yourself 30 minutes to reflect upon the following (10 minutes for each):

  1. Identify the times when you were your happiest.

  • What were you doing?
  • Who were the people with you?
  • What were you thinking and feeling?
  • What really made you happy?
  1. Identify the times when you were most proud

  • Why were you proud?
  • Who were the people who shared your pride?
  • What did you think and feel at the moment?
  • What gave you your feelings of pride?
  1. Identify the times when you were most fulfilled and satisfied

  • What need or desire was fulfilled?
  • How and why did the experience give you meaning?
  • Were there other people who shared the moments with you? Who?
  • What else added to your feelings and fulfillment?

To reflect upon these questions will give you insight into what informs your life. You will discover and affirm what is important in the way you live, work, and make decisions. 

What is important to you?

Glenn Adsit was a minister in China. Toward the end of his tenure, he and his family were held captive in their house by the government. They could not leave their house to go to the fruit market without soldiers accompanying them. Then one day, while under house arrest, several soldiers came to them and said, “You can return to America.”

Glenn and his family were celebrating when the soldiers said, “You can take two hundred pounds with you. We will be back tomorrow to get you.”

They had been there for years. How were they going to get everything down to two hundred pounds? They got the scales out and began to weigh everything. That is when the family argument began. There were two children, a wife, and a husband. What about this vase? We just bought the typewriter. What about my books? They weighed everything. Finally, they had two hundred pounds down to the ounce. 

The next day, the soldiers came to get them. “Ready to go?” they asked.

“Yes.”

“Did you weigh everything?”

“Yes.”

Then the soldiers asked, “Did you weigh the kids?”

Glen replied, “No, we didn’t.”

They said, “Weigh the kids.”

It was at that moment, that the typewriter, vase, and everything else was not important.

So, what is important to you? When you know and honor your values, life is good. Are you living the way you want to live? Is life turning out the way you want it to turn out? 

Today, you have the opportunity to do something about it. What one thing are you going to do? 

What happened to our study on Galatians? Is it over already?

I must confess, I miss the daily readings and reflections. Over the past six weeks, I have reflected seriously on my life, my ministry as a leader in the church, and the legacy I am leaving behind. And when I say legacy, I am not talking only about my years of ministry within the United Methodist Church but what am I leaving behind for my granddaughters, for my friends, and for the world?

I have reached an age in my life where I ask myself a lot of questions. The Galatians study guided me in asking some of those questions. Questions I have been reluctant to face. Questions like: “For whom have I been living my life?” “What do I have to show for my life and ministry?” “What of significance am I leaving behind?”

Thy Will Be Done

As I reflected upon Paul’s contrast between freedom as self-indulgence with freedom as walking in the life of the Spirit, I realized that much of my life and ministry have been focused upon me and my success. As a leader, I have been focused more on my capacity to lead as it is related to my career and not as much upon my character as it is related to my capacity to lead. Would you believe that sobering thought leads me to conclude that the way I live and work shapes the destiny I receive and the legacy leave?

C.S. Lewis wrote, “There are only two kinds of people in the end; those who say to God, ‘Thy will be done,’ and those to whom God says in the end, ‘Thy will be done.’” You and I know what leaders look like when they chose to do things their own way, alone, relying upon their own capacity. That is not how I want to be remembered.

So, I have been thinking. What would it take to be a leader who first develops relationships of vulnerability and trust, who aligns with truth, and who pays the price of living a life of integrity? Will we accept only that which we can accomplish on our own? Or will we begin to focus more upon the character shaped by God in Christ, trusting God to lead us to a destiny far greater than we can imagine?

Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote, “each of us must decide whether we will walk in the light of creative altruism or in the darkness of destructive selfishness.” The latter comes naturally. The former comes supernaturally. We only live in service and care of others when we cease living solely for ourselves.

Helping Others Win

A few years ago, at the Seattle Special Olympics, nine contestants, all with physical or mental disabilities, assembled at the starting line for the hundred-yard dash. At the sound of the gun, they all started out, not exactly in a dash, but with a desire to run the race to the finish. All, that is, except one little boy, who stumbled on the asphalt, tumbled over a couple of times, and began to cry. The others slowed down and looked back. Then, they stopped, turned around, and went back. All eight of them. One little girl bent over, kissed the fallen boy, and said, “This will make it better.” A couple of runners helped the boy to his feet, then, all nine linked arms and walked together to the finish line. Everyone in the stadium stood and applauded. The cheering went on for several minutes.

This story always stirs something deep inside of me. I think part of it is related to hearing about ordinary people doing extraordinary things. But, another part hits the core of my being. Deep down in my heart, I know that helping others win matters far more than my hollow victories. Just like the children, changing my course requires me to pause and hear the cries of those around me. What I have learned is, I can only change my course when I am willing to pause and hear the cry within my own heart. Maybe that is the difficulty, being authentic, honest, and transparent.

What a Legacy Transforming Mission

Confirmation from Studying Galatians

So, the study on Galatians reaffirmed a couple of things for me. First, our character, who we are matters more than what we do. Second, for whom we care matters more than how we care.

As I look back upon my life and ministry, upon who I have become and upon whom I have served, I see that it has exposed the intent of my living. Career and character are not mutually exclusive, but which I choose will determine the destiny I receive and the legacy I leave.

There is a story of a woman who had a dream of wandering into a shop at the mall. She found Jesus behind the counter. He said to her, “You can have anything your heart desires.” Surprised but pleased, she asked Jesus for love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, happiness, wisdom, and freedom from fear. Then she added, “Not just for me, but for the whole world.”

Jesus smiled and said, “I think you misunderstood me. We don’t sell fruit here, we only sell seeds.”

So, what seeds am I planting? What am I leaving behind?

How Do You Want to Be Remembered?

Bill Thrall, Bruce McNicol, and Ken McElrath, in their book The Ascent of a Leader, write, “The seed of destiny within each of us awaits the day when it will bear fruit in the lives of others. It awaits the fertile soil of community. It awaits an environment of grace…In the making of our own lives, some choices must inevitably be left to the Master. But God leaves many of the choices to us. We participate in the creation of our own lives and legacies.”

In and through the daily readings and reflections, I have become more focused upon the life and legacy I want to leave behind. In Christ, I have crucified my self-indulgence and I live in the Spirit. So, if I live in the Spirit, let me live the life of love.

Now, that is how I want to be remembered.

 

 

 

 

Psychologist Neil Clark Warren used to say when he did therapy with married couples, his primary goal was simply to see a 10% improvement in their relationships. He found it made a tremendous difference because, even a 10% improvement, gave the couples hope.

Warren believed in hope.

He found that if people had hope, they had a tremendous reservoir of energy. Hope kept them moving when they would have otherwise given up. He wrote, “Hope is the single most indispensable, non-negotiable, irreplaceable resource required for big challenges and noble battles.”¹

A Vision for A Better Day

The Apostle Paul, in his letter to the Romans, wrote,

“We boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us.”

-Romans 5:1-5

Paul was talking about hope being a vision for better days that changes us in the present. For Paul, hope was not just an exercise in wishful thinking (“I hope it doesn’t rain.”). Hope was not just another word for disappointment. (“We had hoped that he would recover.”) Neither was hope the absence of hardship nor the denial of reality. For Paul, hope reached its greatest potential in the midst of chaos and uncertainty.

Because hope is a vision for better days that changes us in the present, we can face the future with hope.

Facing the Future with Hope

As the church, we are located at the intersection of people’s desperate need and God’s amazing offer. Because of what we have experienced in and through Jesus, we have a God-given hope which cannot be defeated and does not disappoint.

Because of Jesus Christ, you and I hold in our hands “the single most indispensable, non-negotiable, irreplaceable resource required for big challenges and noble battles.” With that in mind, your congregation is a beacon of hope. Can you imagine what you and the local church could do with a vision for better days that changes it in the present?

There is nothing that your community needs more than hope.

There is Hope

When someone wanders into your space, broken by the realities of life, having given up on trying to make it on their own, and looking for someone to save them, will you be there to whisper, “In the name of Jesus, there is hope.”

When someone who is lost in the depths of depression and drowning in a deep darkness, will you be there to let them know, “No matter how bad it feels now, there is hope in Jesus.” Or when someone is trapped in addiction and unable to escape on their own, will you come alongside him or her and whisper, “You are not alone. There is hope.”

When someone is a prisoner to bad choices and incarcerated behind the bars of our justice system, will you be around to send caring witnesses inside the walls of the prison to whisper, “In the name of Jesus, there is hope.”

When disaster strikes somewhere in our country or world, and you feel helpless to fix everything or to save everyone, will you be ready to gather people together to be hands, feet, and face of hope?

In the midst of the chaos and uncertainty of our church and our aimless wondering through structural changes, are you able to focus upon our mission and to face the future with hope?

At the Intersection of Desperate Need and God’s Amazing Offer

What do you think? Are you able to move your heart, mind, and money out to the intersection of people’s desperate need and God’s amazing offer? Faced with an uncertain future, a changing community, and shrinking resources, we can either choose fear and hunker down or we can face the future with a radical hope.

Because of Jesus, we have in our hearts and hold in our hands a hope that cannot be defeated and does not disappoint. We have a vision for better days that changes us in the present. You and I have a relationship with the author of hope. We hold “the single most indispensable, non-negotiable, irreplaceable resource required for big challenges and noble battles.” We have access to hope. In the midst of the chaos and confusion of the moment, what more do we need to face the future?

 

Notes

  1. You might know the name Neil Clark Warren as the founder of eHarmony.com.

The reports that came out of Orlando two weeks ago were unbelievable and unspeakable. An event where 49 persons are killed and over 50 people are wounded in a nightclub is unnecessary and unthinkable. Other news certainly continues to unfold with each passing day. But there is one thing that remains. What is our response to violence?

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“Don’t fret or worry.  Instead of worrying, pray.  Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns.  Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down.  It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life” Philippians 4:6-7 (MSG)

Paul’s teaching “Don’t fret or worry” seems unrealistic.  Who among us has gone even one day without worrying about something?  Some weeks it feels like we are bombarded with bad news.

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