Tag Archives: integrity

Stop and Think About the Bible

torah_500

 

Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your steadfast love;
   according to your abundant mercy
blot out my transgressions.
    Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
and cleanse me from my sin!
    For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is ever before me.
    Against you, you only, have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight,
       so that you may be justified in your words
and blameless in your judgment.
Psalm 51:1-4 ESV

  • The Psalm is attributed to David when he repented of his sin of adultery with Bathsheba. Why should it be included in the Bible for everyone to read and pray? If I have not committed adultery, what does it have to do with me?
  • Secular thinkers believe that people can know what is right by determining what makes them happy. If adultery with Bathsheba made David happy, why does he now call it sin?
  • Secularists reject the concept that God establishes what is right. They reject God’s existence, and they declare that no power has sovereignty over humans. Why does the psalmist disagree? Why do you disagree?

          Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity,
and in sin did my mother conceive me.

          Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being,
and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart.
          Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
Psalm 51:5-7

  •  Secularists say that it is child abuse to tell a child he is sinful. Why does the psalmist say that he was born in iniquity?
  • One of the Ten Commandments says, “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor” Exodus 20:16 ESV. How does the psalmist express God’s expectation?
  • Where does the psalmist get the idea that hyssop is an instrument for purging sin away? What does it have to do with your daily life? How would you explain the necessity of cleansing sin from your life to a secular thinker?

Let me hear joy and gladness;
let the bones that you have broken rejoice.
    Hide your face from my sins,
and blot out all my iniquities.
Psalm 51:8-9 ESV

  • The psalmist is suffering because of his sins. Why? What does he think is necessary in order for him to recover his joy and peace in life? How has God prepared healing for the wounds of sin described by the psalmist?

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me.  Psalm 51:10

  • This verse is central to a popular praise song. Why do people identify with the words of this song?
  • Why does the psalmist compare the experience of forgiveness and cleansing from sin with a heart transplant? From where would a new spirit come?
  • Can you pray this psalm with integrity and internalize its petitions for yourself? Consider memorizing this verse and praying it when you know you have failed God.

 

By Katherine Harms, author of Oceans of Love available for Kindle at Amazon.com.

Image: Torah Scroll
Source: http://library.duke.edu/exhibits/hebrewbible/torah.html
License: This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License

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Speaking of Morality

Speaking of Morality

If you enrolled in a class with the title, “English Grammatical Issues in the Twenty-first Century,” you would expect to discuss the fine points of English grammar at the cutting edge of decision-making. You would assume that no time would be spent memorizing parts of speech, because knowing those basic elements of the language would be the barest foundation for discussing the way the language is changing daily. You would likely expect the teacher to promote discussion of the reasons to embrace or reject changes that litter the landscape of daily usage in conversation. You probably would not find it odd if you and your teacher had differences about the way certain changes ought to be handled now and in the future. By leaping into the fray between those who tie themselves in knots trying to avoid using the masculine pronoun when gender is indefinite and those who simply fall into the usage of third person plural for everything, you know that you are in a conversation where people disagree. Yet you would expect to have the conversation and to include every possible nuance of difference over the issue.

A dispute over the right grammatical solution to a cultural problem can be contentious, but even those who advocate that real grammarians ignore the nonsensical attitude of the culture will recognize that the discussion does have more than one side. It would be shocking if a college professor shut down the discussion of one side in order not to offend the advocates for the other side.

Recently, a student enrolled in a class titled “Theory of Ethics,” where he fully expected that classroom discussion would often involve at least two points of view, perhaps more. However, he was completely baffled when the subject of gay rights came up, and the teacher chose not to discuss that subject. The discussion centered on the application of philosophical theories to modern political controversies. At the beginning of the discussion, there was a list of modern controversies on the blackboard: gay rights, gun rights, and the death penalty. The student reported that after discussing gun rights and the death penalty, the teacher erased “gay rights” from the blackboard and said, “We all agree on this.”

The student was disturbed about the refusal to discuss gay rights, and after class, he asked the teacher why she refused to open that discussion. When she responded with her point of view, he explained why he disagreed. Then she asked him if he knew of any homosexuals in the class. This question is ridiculous, because it implies that it makes sense for the student to know such a thing about the people in a group around him. The student did not know one way or the other. At this point, the teacher proceeded to explain that she did not think it was proper to discuss gay rights in the class, because someone in the class might be homosexual and take offense at some points of view. The student was dumbfounded. This teacher asserted that in a college level class on the subject of ethics, it was inappropriate to discuss the various points of view surrounding the contemporary issue of gay rights, because it was possible that someone in the class would be offended by the views that might be expressed in such a discussion.

The student attempted to assert a right as a citizen to hold an opinion in opposition to the opinion of other citizens. The teacher said, “You can have whatever opinions you want but I will tell you right now – in this class homophobic comments, racist comments, sexist comments will not be tolerated,” she said. ‘If you don’t like it, you are more than free to drop this class.” In those words, the teacher asserted that the expression of an opinion in opposition to gay marriage or gay adoption or anything else that is on the agenda of LGBTQ activism constitutes a homophobic comment.

People who express themselves on the subject of homosexuality are frequently called “homophobes.” Even pastors who claim to be Christian have been known to use that word when referring to people who understand the Bible to teach that homosexual behavior is sin. Still, it is shocking to discover that a college professor will not permit discussion of one of the thorny issues of contemporary culture in a class whose title invites exactly that discussion.

It is important to note here that the student who had every right to express his view in the cultural conversation about gay rights did something execrable. He recorded the conversation without telling the professor what he was doing. The student was upset, and he must have suspected what the teacher would say. He apparently turned on his phone as he approached the teacher but did not tell her what he was doing. It does not speak well of the character of someone who would do such a thing. We all feel rightly outraged when we hear that somebody could be spying on our phone conversations or our reading our emails without permission. Likewise, we all feel that we have a right to keep private conversations private. It is not hard to imagine why the student felt that he wanted a record of this conversation, but his concerns do not justify his duplicity. Readers who might have believed he was on the moral high ground in standing strong for biblical teaching about homosexuality will be disturbed and disappointed to read that he made a secret recording of the conversation.

This situation points up the truth that honor and integrity are tough standards. It is hard for any of us to do the right thing in every case. Sometimes we truly cannot sort out the conflicting issues and see what is right. In other cases, we talk ourselves into believing that the wrong we face justifies the wrong we do in self-defense. Nobody can read this student’s mind or search his heart, but he has tainted his testimony for Christ by doing something that demonstrates a lack of integrity. The old saying, “Two wrongs do not make a right,” applies here. It was wrong for the professor to refuse to discuss the ethical issue of gay rights over a fear that someone in the class would be offended, but it was equally wrong for the student to record the conversation without telling the teacher what he was doing.

Some who read this post will wonder why I make such a big deal of the recording. I make a big deal of it, because it plays into the hands of LGBTQ activism for a Christian who takes a moral stand against their agenda to do something that is also immoral, not to mention illegal. It is very hard to be a Christian in today’s culture. The secular view of Christians is that they are harmless when they are inside their worship buildings reading their dusty old Bible and singing stodgy hymns to their imaginary friend in the sky. Secularists do not care what Christians do inside their buildings. It is when we come outside and act on our rights and responsibilities as citizens to speak for high moral standards that the LGBTQ activists take umbrage. That is the place where we must be light and salt as Jesus taught us, and when someone does something such as secretly recording a private conversation, then we undercut our standing to speak of morality.

The men who wrote the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution had high regard for the value of religious teaching in a society. In their view, the church was a valuable force in the culture for morality and integrity. They wanted the church to speak and act in the civic debate over any and all issues. In fact, by forbidding the existence of a state church, they hoped to avoid the inevitable pollution of the church’s moral standing by political involvement. They wanted citizens to bring the moral substance of their religious teaching with them into public life to add weight and perspective to civil debate.

If Christians could give their testimonies without the weight of sinful human nature constantly at work in their lives, then it would be simpler. This situation with the student is a real example of the complications that arise when sinful human nature acts with the context of very real outrage at the behavior of a college professor, one person in our culture whom we all expect to uphold the value of free and open discussion. The college professor’s attitude is suspect. The student’s behavior is suspect. It is hard to make a clear statement on the moral issues active in the story. It would certainly be a simpler matter if the student had not complicated the discussion by introducing a distracting issue.

Christians must be vigilant with themselves. Christians who want to participate in the public dialogue on complex social issues must not complicate the discussion by bringing personal baggage into the mix. Christians who want to be leaders in the social discussions must not muddy the waters by introducing issues that give their opponents justification for outrage of their own.

It is a call to a high standard, but then Christ calls Christians to a high standard: “You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Matthew 5:48 None of us ever will be that perfect, of course. We can only presume to speak a testimony if our testimony confesses our need for grace and forgiveness. Nevertheless, when we make choices in our lives, we must keep in mind that we have a high calling always to testify to the truth as revealed in Christ, and our behavior must not blemish that testimony or give occasion to anyone to ignore the truth of our words. We are called by God to these discussions. We must respect that calling by living lives of integrity that add weight to our comments rather than distract people from God’s truth.

Welcome Kevin Mark Smith

Today it is my privilege to introduce you to a talented fellow writer, Kevin Mark Smith, author of Flashback, a book whose thesis will demand your attention. In his day job, he is a lawyer, but his gift for professional legalese has not paralyzed his creative talent. Today he posts about the reason you need to read Flashback. You will quickly recognize how this story addresses the pressure of secular thinking in our culture, and portrays the tension of living a life of faith under the stress of this pressure.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * 

The inner struggle that plagues us all

All great stories begin with inner conflict. For Christian novels this is especially true. The protagonist needs something to move him away from worldly appetites and toward Christ. This is how the idea for Flashback came to me as I sat in a Freddy’s Steakburger restaurant in Derby, Kansas, sometime in January 2012. Specifically, a question occurred to me. What if the image people see of us indicates success? Yet, the image is an illusion, a mask to cover something deeper—a long lost desire to be a better person and not just strive for monetary success. With that Kenneth Cartwright, rich entrepreneur and lawyer, was born.

We are all guilty of wanting more things in our lives. New cars, boats, jewelry, clothes, whatever. It’s the product of a consumption-based economy. The TV bombards us with images of success, images we want to be part of. We want to be that buff model standing on the bow of the yacht with long, flowing hair blowing behind us. But what if the better part of our souls speak loud enough for us to hear it? What if it poses the questions, “Are you really happier with all those expensive toys? Wouldn’t life be better if you sought true success, the kind that lasts forever?” In Flashback I take these nagging truths to another level. What if we had the chance to live that better life but turned our backs on it, only to realize later how much the choice cost us. Kenneth sees that life in parallel when he sleeps. He sees the wife and daughters that complete his dream life then awakens each morning to the same old drudgery that the world tells him is success.

Ouch. God reminding you every night how stupid you were being smart. How humbling is that? God’s grace is always enough. In Flashback, God’s grace is first manifest in the angelic Stacy who listens to Kenneth as he tells her about his disturbing dreams. But is Kenneth’s meeting Stacy just some sick joke, a further reminder of how dumb he was to take the left fork in the road, the one away from God and family and toward wealth and success? She is too good for him, so what’s the point in developing a friendship with her? God’s grace also gives him a case and client to remind him how vain it is to seek after fleeting things. The client dies under suspicious circumstances and Kenneth scrambles to discover the truth behind his death, a truth that threatens his own life and those closest to him.

Conspiracies, drug lords, assassins, and a shocking end. Will it be enough to open Kenneth’s eyes to the truth? Will he finally realize what it is God is trying to tell him, that choosing success over God and family was the wrong choice, perhaps a fatal one? Buy Flashback now to find out. $.99 for Kindle for a limited time.

Flashback_kevinmarksmith

 www.kevinmarksmith.com 

www.flashbacksuspense.com 

www.prismbookgroup.com 

Twitter: @kevinmarksmith 

Facebook: kevismi

 

 

Who is a Person of Integrity?

When the news is full of allegations of scandals and denials of scandals, the real question people are asking of public figures is this: are you, or are you not, a person of integrity? When the public figures deny scandal or try to convince people that

a)      The public figure is innocent of the alleged misbehavior,

b)      The alleged misbehavior is no scandal at all, or

c)       Scandal or no scandal, this behavior has nothing to do with the individual’s public life and responsibilities.

Take the conversations surrounding the death of the US Ambassador to Libya on September 11, 2012, for example.

Those who call this episode a scandal believe that the president knowingly failed to provide protection and support to the Ambassador and his staff when they were under attack by militant Islamic extremists, and they believe that when all the facts are made public, it will be obvious that the President failed to do his duty as President. The President and administration spokespersons say:

a)      The President had nothing to do with the death of the Ambassador,

b)      The embassy had all the support it was entitled to, all the protection it had a right to expect, and nobody could have done any more than the President did, and

c)       The whole thing was Hillary Clinton’s job, anyway, and she has both apologized for any mistakes and resigned from the job.

The public is ill served, by the way, by media reporting which is sloppy and unfocused. Whether the citizens want to know about Benghazi or the NSA database or Anthony Weiner’s qualifications to be the Mayor of New York City, media reporting seizes ferociously upon the most outrageous elements of any story and writes headlines that make the outrage appear to be even more dramatic, but they do not find the facts and tell the facts and keep the facts in the public eye while the public sorts out what their employees are actually up to. Yes, the President of the United States is an employee of the citizens of the United States of America. So is everyone who works for the NSA. A candidate for mayor of any city is applying for the job of being the employee of the people of that city. These people are not chosen to control and manipulate the people; they are chosen to do work that the people want done, and they are accountable to the people for doing it.

If you work for someone, you understand this principle. If you steal money from petty cash or if you lie about your credentials to do the job you are being paid to do, you know to expect consequences when this behavior becomes public knowledge. If your employer is unhappy with your work, you expect to be held accountable for fixing the situation.

This is life. This is the way life works. In all our relationships, friends, spouses, and business colleagues expect honesty in our interactions. People expect that they will see in your life the reality of all the things you say about yourself. The word for that expectation is integrity. People expect integrity in relationships, and they feel betrayed when they don’t get it.

God expects integrity, too. When God wrote down ten things people absolutely, positively need to get right, speaking truth was on the list. Pick any translation of the Bible that you like, and there it is:

Thou shalt not lie – or other words that mean the same thing.

If you prefer a positive spin, then Thou shalt speak truth.

There is a psalm that puts it quite succinctly:  Psalm 15

1 LORD, who may dwell in your sanctuary?  
Who may live on your holy hill?

2 He whose walk is blameless  
and who does what is righteous,  
who speaks the truth from his heart
3 and has no slander on his tongue,  
who does his neighbor no wrong  
and casts no slur on his fellowman,
4 who despises a vile man  
but honors those who fear the LORD,  
who keeps his oath  
even when it hurts,
5 who lends his money without usury  
and does not accept a bribe against the innocent.

He who does these things  
will never be shaken.

Do you know anyone like this?

A Verse for Meditation

Let us hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering, for God who has promised is faithful.                    Hebrews 10:23

  • Do you hope in God? Or do you think it is all up to you?
  • Do you really believe that God is faithful? Do you really trust God with your life? What are you really afraid of?
  • In action movies, we often see someone clinging to a branch or a rock or the gutter on the roof of a tall building. The character is doomed if he or she cannot hang on. Do you hang on to your faith in God that way? Do you actually believe that there is a bad consequence if you lose your faith?
  • Think about your days at work. When was the last time you were about to speak of your hope in God, but you wavered? Why did you hesitate? What did you decide to do? What will happen the next time?