November
Welcome to Becomning Closer! 

The Centurion's Tale

November

November 1

A Lesson in Integrity

Genesis 12:18

(Most readers will recall that Abram is later renamed Abraham, Sarai becomes Sarah. This is the patriarch Abraham).

We generally think of Abraham as being one of the good examples from the Old Testament—in which there is no shortage of bad examples. His wife Sarah is held up as a model as well. So it may come as a surprise that we find Abram lying to Pharaoh. Of course, he was motivated by the great desire to save his own skin. So much so that he tells him that Sarah is actually his sister. Pharaoh takes her into the harem—and proceeds to shower gifts on her “brother” who brought her. In short, Abram lies and profits from it.

Sarah, on the other hand, must have had a different perspective. We have no reason to believe she wanted to be in the harem, but this does show us just how little Abraham really thought of her.

Pharaoh, on the other hand, is a jewel of integrity. We are not given the details, but we might assume that Pharaoh observed the plagues (hard to miss, plagues), inquired as to why and found out just what happened. Whether by fear or the integrity one expects of rulers, Pharaoh decides to make things right. And kick Abram out of the country.

This kind of story sometimes perturbs Christians. There are two conclusions you might reach:

1. Lying to the rulers gets you lots of stuff—if you have something to trade.

2. Women are cheap if you handle them the right way.

I submit, however, there is a third lesson. The teacher in this instance is Pharaoh. He can hardly be said to be at fault (harems were rather large in those days), but suffered anyway. He sought out the wrong and righted it. He didn’t take vengeance.

Those are the standards to which a ruler of the people should be held. Never willingly be at fault. If you find that something’s wrong, investigate and fix it. Take no vengeance; rather, establish justice. Is it possible that Abram needed such a lesson? In his later years he would command many; is it possible that God is teaching Abram this lesson—by putting it in front of him?

Lord, sometimes we miss the obvious. We are quick to see the faults of others; slow to see their virtues. Teach us to learn by your example.

November 2

The Great Divide

Exodus 18:21

As this is being written, we are in the midst of an election campaign. The times give us incentive to make the comparison between our times and those three thousand and more years ago. We may begin with our current crop of candidates:

· One of the key characteristics of our candidates is their ability to quietly and efficiently extract money from political donors. “Money is the mother’s milk of politics,” said Jesse “Big Daddy” Unruh. Somehow, we are supposed to imagine they are not beholden.

· Appearances—especially those lasting thirty seconds or less—are everything. The election turns upon “sound bites,” slogans and short commercials.

· Any candidate who does not have a keen ear for the fad of the moment (and a keen mind to drop it when it gets old) risks being overrun. The candidate must appear to be able to forecast the future while retaining the past.

Moses had rather a similar problem. He had several thousands of Jews, wandering in the desert, and he found that one on one leadership was wearing him out. His father-in-law makes the suggestion; Moses picks men with a differing set of qualifications:

· They must be “able men.” As in, they needed the intelligence and experience to do the job.

· They must fear God. They will be placed in positions where graft, pompous ego and sexual favors might abound. Moses is no threat; God, on the other hand, rules all. The fear of God; a superb qualification.

· They must hate dishonest gain. Not only must they keep themselves from it, they must be quick to point it out, before it takes root.

Our focus today is upon one thing: getting elected. Their focus was upon one thing: doing the job right.

Integrity in office means doing the right things and doing them the right way—no matter who gets the money. An honest man may return each day from his task, confident of God’s reward. I suspect he sleeps better at night, too.

Lord, most of us aren’t running for office. But many of us have an office to run. Strengthen our integrity.

November 3

Of Blondes and Other Strangers

Genesis 39:8-12

The conference is now musty history, its technology long since superseded. But the incident at dinner remains fresh.

The young lady directly across the table from me—a part of a large group—asked me what I would be doing after dinner. My routine in those years involved such things as watching TV or reading a book. She proposed an alternative: sex. With her.

I wish I could tell you that I was indignant. I was too surprised to be indignant. But what really surprised me was this: the other people at the table, my coworkers, genuinely could not see why I didn’t take her up on it. “You like steak, why not try chicken too?” I wasn’t too coherent in response, but I did manage to disappoint everyone there.

In my life I have taken two solemn vows. One was to defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic. The other was to remain faithful to my wife. If I violated the first oath, I would be a traitor or a coward. If I violate the second oath, this world thinks I’m a playboy.

Do you not see it? The world’s attitudes about sex outside marriage are completely different from our attitude. To them, it’s passion; to us, honesty. If you are honest with yourself, you know that many things are greater than your pleasures.

How is it possible for a man to remain faithful to one wife throughout their lives? Some thoughts for you:

· Being old, fat, bald and having three kids is usually sufficient to keep Miss America at bay. When I finally get grandkids, she’ll have to sit through the pictures too.

· I have a lot invested in this marriage. We work at it. As a soldier I had to qualify on the rifle range—practice! The arts of marriage require practice too.

· More than this, the first face I see in the morning is my wife. The second is me in the mirror, and I have to live with both.

It is a sad surprise: many Christians don’t think of integrity as having anything to do with sex. It’s somehow exempt. But it is a solemn vow. Two vows—one could get you killed in combat. The other would shame you for life. Fear God; keep your vows.

Lord, I find it amazing how few in the church will stand up for integrity and fidelity. Teach us to be different from the world—and to defend that difference.

November 4

Inheritance

Proverbs 20:7

You see them all around, especially on cars. License plate frames proudly proclaim the college the owner attended—or, as one put it, the school “my kid and all my money” are attending.

My family story might be typical of many in California today. My father had a few college classes—a couple at a local college, several more via correspondence while he was in the military. Often enough he came to the roadblock that demanded a college degree to go further. He did not lie; he also didn’t get the job.

So you can see why his son was drilled on the importance of a college education. More to the point, on the importance of getting a scholarship for that college education. With a little scholarship money, and a job washing dishes 20-30 hours a week, I managed to graduate from a fine public institution, in the days when there was no tuition at state schools.

My son had his pick of schools. He had an A+ average—and a grandfather (my wife’s father) who would foot the bill. He’s now a corporate lawyer; if success is money, he’s already passed dad.

He inherited more than that, I hope. If you would be a father who would have pride in his children, this proverb lays out a very good strategy:

· First, be righteous. Do what you should; give more if you can but never take the dishonest shortcut.

· Second, don’t just talk about it. Make sure your children see it and know why. (I can remember the times my father would go back into the store or restaurant—because the change he got was too much.)

· Do so with integrity. Do it all the time, in all circumstances—rather you should starve than cheat another.

It is a powerful example for young children, one which lasts for a lifetime. It is also one which blesses those around you; the world needs this blessing.

Some may say that this is simplistic; things really don’t happen that way. Knowing no better, I raised my children that way. All through their teen years, my sons treated their father with respect. (My nickname was “sir.”) How did I manage that? Guess what I called my father!

Lord, some things we build quickly; others take time. Teach us to take time with our children and grandchildren.

November 5

Testing Time

Psalm 15

David, in this short psalm, asks a question and answers it. The question is simply what kind of person is the kind that God will allow in his presence? David gives us a checklist for integrity:

· Do you keep your integrity everywhere you go, or is left behind “on the road?”

· Do you do the right thing, no matter where you are?

· Are you truthful—both in your words and in your thoughts?

· Is slander pleasant for you, or do you measure your words?

· Are you one who feels that other people deserve the hard time you give them?

· If you hear someone complaining about one of your friends, do you join the chorus?

· Do you hold the malignant in esteem or in contempt?

· Do you uphold other Christians?

· When you give your word, do you perform it, even when it’s clear that it’s going to cost you?

· When your friend or relative asks to borrow, are you quick to see this as a money-making opportunity, or a chance to help?

· Are you known to be someone who can be influenced by a “gift?”

All these things have a common thread: You can do what pleases God—or your going to be justifying yourself. Can you hear the excuses? “My wife will never know.” “It was only a little white lie.” “He deserved what he got.” “I was just making conversation; I never thought anyone would take it seriously.” “Circumstances have changed.” “Hey, it’s money—I should get a fair return.” “It’s standard business practice.”

Integrity is not a commodity so much as it is a style. You do things honestly because you’re honest, not because honesty is the best policy. You walk the strait and narrow because that’s the direction you’re going.

The list of questions is three thousand years old. It was written by a king who understood the temptations and pressures at the top. Things haven’t changed much, have they?

Lord, in your mercy lead us in the strait and narrow. The way is hard and the road rough, but it’s the one that leads to You.

November 6

Of Tyrants and Princes

Numbers 16:15

Sometimes we need to look back to understand going forward. Moses has reached his boiling point here. You will recall that he did not volunteer for this job; God selected him. Evidently he knew what he was doing.

Managers are quite aware of the problem of authority and responsibility. For the lower level manager, almost always the responsibility is greater than the authority. That’s the world’s way. It’s also the world’s way that those in great authority are treated to large salaries, which they get for figuring out who had the responsibility when everything went wrong.

In the kingdom of God, however, authority only comes from responsibility. God wants no man to lord it over his church, for all men are sinners—and the church belongs to her Lord. Moses is not a tyrant; he is a servant.

The difference may be made by comparing two men named Paul. One is the Apostle; the other is Paul Crouch, founder of Trinity Broadcasting.

Practice.

Paul the Apostle even went so far as to boast that he had preached the Gospel free of charge—though entitled to his keep. No one could accuse him of being greedy. Paul Crouch lives in luxury, confident that his fund raisers will keep things that way.

Reputation

St. Paul’s reputation may be argued over, but there is this: no one has ever seriously thought of him as a swindler for gain. The high lifestyle of Paul Crouch practically invites the charge.

Impact

St. Paul’s impact on the church is enormous. He set the example for evangelism; he wrote much of the New Testament; his entire life became a testimony to the love of Christ. In his writing he promises the followers of Christ that they will suffer for His name if they truly are followers. Paul Crouch preaches the prosperity Gospel: give to TBN and God will bless you with more.

Do you need further example? Consider our Lord. He had no roof over his head; he had powerful enemies; his friends were among the poor and the outcasts. In his humility he washed the disciples’ feet.

Lord, lead your children away from gathering more possessions; lead us in your simple ways.

November 7

An Absence Caused By A Presence

Psalm 17:3

We seldom hear these days that God tests and tries the hearts of men. Perhaps that’s an invasion of privacy, and thus strictly forbidden by law.

He does, however, test the hearts. Therefore there is no sense in attempting to hide anything from him. You will recall that when Christ spoke to Peter after the Resurrection, Peter’s last reply began with, “Lord, you know all things.” To show his love for Christ he needed only to appeal to the omniscience of God.

David, a rather pragmatic poet, taps a deep well of human nature when he says that God does this at night. Night:

· It’s when our sins seem covered by darkness. Those who would hold us accountable are asleep. Remember, in David’s time, when the sun went down, so did the people. The secret sinner sought darkness then; camouflage now.

· It’s when the secret sins have their greatest reign. To lie awake in the bed and night, letting your imagination take revenge on your enemies; permitting your lust to have its way with someone; even to set yourself up as high and mighty in your mind’s self-contained world.

How delightful, though, when God enters that world and discovers nothing amiss. If he finds an absence of sin, it is because he finds the presence of the Holy Spirit.

David says he “purposed” this. How does one do this?

· It begins with seasons of prayer; that is, prayer at fixed times. This prevents repentance in the tomorrow that never comes. What should you seek in prayer? Begin with forgiveness, so that all will be clean before God. Then seek strength so as to keep the enemy at bay. Seek wisdom too, and God will grant it. Most of all, “lead us not…” You don’t need to get out of a sin you never got in.

· Meditate upon the Scriptures. A regular program of Bible reading, study and meditation strengthens the soul.

· Share the load. Do you have a sin of particular difficulty to you? Ask those you trust to come along side.

The clean heart is still available at the other end of a prayer.

Lord, so often we feel the urge to let sleeping worms lie. Give us courage to ask for the clean heart.

November 8

Conscience

1 Samuel 24:5

This is a simply amazing story.

This is a time when kings regularly went to war just after the spring rains and stayed at it through the summer. Sticking a knife into a rival king was not considered poor sportsmanship. Slaughtering your enemies in combat was expected. If you could catch them, slaughtering them one by one in retreat was no more than they deserved.

And David is conscience stricken because he cut a little piece of cloth out of the corner of Saul’s robe. It is an immense display of faith, wisdom and piety:

· Faith because it means that David is utterly confident that he need not lift a finger against Saul. God had anointed him king; it was going to happen. God will be David’s shield and sword.

· Wisdom because he understood the effect this would have. The shame of Saul would lessen the pursuit. His refusal to kill “the Lord’s anointed” was an object lesson to those who would change the dynasty with a knife.

· Piety because it showed just how David’s heart perceived the matter. Lesser men said this was his opportunity, and it was. It was his opportunity to show all how David handled sacred things—including the king.

It is a relief to know that David didn’t have this installed in himself on one day. He’s learned it through his struggles. When he ran from Saul, his first stop was to pick up Goliath’s sword—the man who depends upon himself. Later, David would seek the advice of a prophet—one to advise. Here, David declines the supreme opportunity.

There is a sad contrast between David and Saul. If you read a little further on you will see Saul in the throes of remorse. He regrets what he has done, and asks David to be kind to his children and grandchildren. But his regret leads to no change.

David, too, shows his regrets. But he changes because he regrets; he repents. Remorse alone is nothing; remorse and repentance are fitting even for a king.

Lord, we are too often remorseful and too seldom repentant. Remind us when in need, and forgive us always.

November 9

Ins and Outs

Psalm 24:3-5

The story is told—though I can’t confirm that it is true—that one of the Chicago newspapers sent out a journalist and a photographer to prepare a story about the first-ever energy producing nuclear reaction. The journalist began by asking questions. The photographer soon bored of this, so he took charge. “OK I need three pictures. First, one of you guys standing around the atom. Then a picture of it being split, and finally you guys standing around the pieces.”

Of course, we cannot see the atom being split; it’s too small. All we can see are its effects. There is a similar principle in this Psalm. There are the externals we see; there are the internals which we know should be there. To have the externals without the internals makes you a hypocrite.  If you have the internals, you will soon see the externals. Consider David’s pairings:

· Clean hands, the external symbol of a pure heart. In David’s time the ceremonial washing would be a proclamation of the pure heart. People assumed that a hypocrite would risk God’s wrath (which, by the way, is true.) Our good works, ceremonial or otherwise, should show that we are those of pure heart—blessed are they, for they shall see God.

· Lifting the soul to vanity is the internal thought which results in sworn deceit. The phrase evidently refers to the worship of idols. The thought is simple: if you really worship anything but God, the lie will soon be on your lips. After all, you can go back to your new god and buy righteousness. Real righteousness is too expensive to be purchased; it has to be given away freely.

· Blessing is the external sign of righteousness of the God of salvation. I would have you note that the external sign is not always riches; often it can be the joy-filled life. The principle is quite simple: God loves to bless those who are his own true children.

Such children of God are welcome in their Father’s house. These are the ones whose inside matches their outside. Not hypocrites, but not super-saints either. The grace of God throws open wide the doors of his house.

Lord, perfection is not in us—but we should try to do as we can. Thank you for the open doors of the house of the Lord.

November 10

Single Entry Bookkeeping

2 Kings 12:15

It comes as a surprise to most students, but the common form of keeping business financial records, known as “double entry bookkeeping,” dates only from the late Middle Ages. It is an ingenious system and greatly helps in uncovering fraud. But what did everyone before that time do?

Simple: they became astute at judging character. Even without accounting, an honest man is honest—or, if you will, accountable.

The principle remains with us today. How many of us have spent some worry about such things as these:

· Christian charities that advertise on television. Are the children all like that? Does the money go to feed and clothe them, or is it lining someone’s pocket?

· As a more mundane example, what about your auto mechanic? Is it really true that you’ve burnt out the Automatic Brake System computer—which helps you steer in snow and ice? Do you want to find out the hard way? Or is this just meaningless work to pad his bill?

The Biblical principle for this is well known: faithful in little, faithful in much. If you look at your board of elders, you will see that many are independent businessmen with thriving firms. They are faithful in handling the world’s wealth; the church therefore can entrust to them larger responsibilities. Similarly, it is not unusual to see those who have risen in large companies; they have been faithful with the company’s wealth; they will be faithful in handling the things of God.

The alternative method is rather a dismal one: audit everyone. Which is to say, suspect everyone. This, no matter how politely phrased, means you think them untrustworthy—a relationship which is not effective for the kingdom of God.

Which brings us to the interesting point: can God trust you? What does he see as a track record of faithfulness? On your job, do you show yourself trustworthy, or is your expense report a series of squabbles with accounting? Do those who work for you know your trust in them—and the company’s trust in you? Many today tell us that we can live our lives in separate little compartments—but God still uses this method. Character counts.

Lord, it sometimes hurts to know that others do not trust us. It hurts a lot more if they have a good reason for it.

November 11

Walking In Integrity

Psalm 26:1-3

“Don’t argue with them,” my mother would tell me, “it only encourages them.” So mother spoke, with that air of wisdom so irritating to thirteen year old boys. It seemed to me that they needed precious little encouragement.

For the mature Christian, we may take the example of David. At first glance this appears to be a very self-righteous psalm. But remember: this is a Psalm by David, the man who felt guilty cutting a corner from Saul’s robe—when his men were encouraging him to cut out Saul’s heart. The lesson here is not one of David’s righteousness—but his vengeance.

The point is a relatively simple one for us. If someone treats us like the new kid in school (beats you up) you have a choice, You can take it or leave it, take vengeance or leave it to God. The issue is one of integrity. You say you are a Christian; you say that vengeance belongs to God—or is it only in the right circumstances? Take vengeance when you can and trust God for the remaining situations? Or does it truly belong to God?

If you give vengeance over to him, understand he will take no vengeance to satisfy you. Before you even bring the subject up, He has two questions:

· Have you walked in integrity? Or are you a sinner complaining that “he hit me back first?”

· Does that walk match the faith and trust you have in God? Are you faithful?

Good questions. If you want God to handle it, you have to be the one with integrity. You have to walk the talk.

If you have, then you have no reason to fear God’s inquiry into your ways. That’s David’s plea here; please take a look at my integrity.

He makes that plea because he knows he has done right. How did he learn to do this? By examining the ways of God, and the commandments too. God teaches by law; he gives the example of lovingkindness. Strait is the way, narrow the gate—but if you are on the strait and narrow, then surely you may take your case to God. For God loves his children who walk in his ways; he will not be slow to right the wrongs.

Lord, vengeance is often in our hearts; better laid at your feet. Vindicate those who love you, protect those who walk your way.

November 12

No Reason For Reproach

Daniel 6:4

“Nothing is ever a total loss,” said one comedian, “it can always be used as a bad example.” In a sense, the wicked can say this too. Here, a bunch of envious politicians decide to do Daniel in—because they know he’s honest. The king, to his credit, has noticed this. He’s about to promote the boy. The envious don’t want that; they are also involved in corruption, so this would cut off their income (and maybe their heads, too). So the clever ones devise a scheme.

Under the general theory of the world which holds that no good deed should go unpunished, they come forward with a proposal for the king. Surely no subject would refuse to worship the king; his ego is quickly engaged. Worship, or off to the lion’s den.

Do you see what a compliment this is to Daniel? They are so sure that he will not abide by this rule because they have seen him at work. He genuinely believes and trusts in the Lord God. Therefore, this is the way to trip him up, eliminate him and it’s back to business as usual.

This is indeed a very clever method, and a superb example of how the world thinks. It covers all the bases. It would, that is, except for the Living God.

It is the Living God that Daniel trusts in. He is the source of Daniel’s integrity, on which they count so much. By their measure He’s not much (after all, the Babylonians took these Jews captive, not the other way around). Their gods should be stronger. Thus they dismiss the Living God from their calculations.

Which brings us to the question. Daniel, a man of high integrity, quite literally bet his life on the Living God. He is confident that God can rescue him from the lions; if not, it is that very same God who will take him to his side in death. Either way, Daniel is taken care of.

He is a grand example. In that light, we may ask some very pertinent questions:

· If you were offered the choice of denying Christ or living, which would you choose?

· If that choice came up, which way would your enemies bet? Is there enough evidence to send you to the lion’s den?

Lord, sometimes we mean well—feebly. Strengthen our hearts, give us courage to live for you—or die for you.

November 13

Sudden Demise

Proverbs 10:9

If you are a righteous man, it takes a while for the world to notice it. If you’re not, that also takes a while. But the transition from unknown to known is a lot swifter for the evil.

All of us want to be known as “good people.” The simplest way to do this is to be “good people.” That method, however, often seems like a roadblock to becoming a rich and famous “good people.” So the descent into sin seems small enough at first; just the gradual decay of honesty and integrity. If you put up a bold front, and especially if you are wealthy, people will tolerate this for a while. The problem is that evil never stops its corruption. You go from bad to worse, but all the while pretending to be “good people.” Eventually the bill comes due.

You might remember the story of the Enron corporation. Stock brokers endorsed it as being a good stock for the widow—so sure, so dependable. After all, we all need energy, right? And the energy producing firms that they bought had always been solid, hadn’t they? So it was my mother was given Enron for Dayton Power and Light. For a while, everything looked good. Then the entire scheme collapsed, and collapsed quickly.

There are two key points here:

· Be sure that the wicked will be found out—if not now, then eventually. God has yet to close his books.

· When the wicked are found out, everything comes out—suddenly.

The simplest way to avoid this is obvious. What may not be so obvious is that God is pleased to work his providence for the benefit of those who love him. Besides, the universe is a moral place. What goes around, comes around.

This, however, gets no mention in the newspapers. To those who sell the excitement of news a righteous life is boring—and not worth the ink. Evil, on the other hand, is worth a lot of ink. So there you have it: going about your way, living the quiet life of one who is trustworthy.

It’s a matter of foundations. We who build on the solid rock of Christ are not moved by the storms. Those who build on their own egos eventually build too high for their sandbox.

Lord, so often it seems to us that the evil are rich, untroubled and arrogant. Teach us to ponder upon their fate.

November 14

A Righteous Man

Matthew 1:19

There is a problem hidden in this verse. It is in the statement that Joseph was “a righteous man.”

Now, if the Scripture had described him as being a charitable man, this would not have posed any problem. But the word is “just” (in some translations “righteous) - and what Joseph purposed to do was not righteous. At least, not according to the Law of Moses. That law carefully described the penalty for sexual relations with another man’s fiancée: Death by stoning. It is also true that the Jews under Roman rule did not have the authority to enforce this—but I think Joseph’s reaction to the situation might well have included a little more thunder and lightning. Clearly, the law of Moses intended that such conduct be publicly disclosed and punished. If Joseph was righteous, would he not have had her publicly disgraced, at the least?

That word, “just,” occurs in some 74 verses in the New Testament. Three of those occurrences bear on this question:

· Paul, quoting the Old Testament, tells us that the just shall live by faith. Faith often demands what legalism cannot detail. Righteousness, then, carries in it faith, its wellspring.

· Our Lord, in separating the sheep and the goats, tells the wondering righteous that as often as they did it to the least of his brothers, they did it to him. Those blessed are called the righteous. So it seems that kindness and charity are also bound up in this word, “just.”

· Peter, in describing the Crucifixion, tells us that Christ died for the just and the unjust. So evidently part of being just is in suffering for others—even those who don’t deserve it.

It is extremely unwise to put words in Jesus’ mouth. We know what his reaction would be; it is recorded in John’s Gospel. The Pharisees brought to him a woman taken in adultery. They saw the gambit as an integrity trap for Jesus; he, being just, saw it quite differently. Integrity is not following a list of rules, though it sometimes involves that. Integrity is a matter of purpose in your life. Christ’s purpose was to seek and save the lost; therefore, he said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and sin no more.” It is a difficult example, to forgive as we have been forgiven.

Lord, sometimes it’s easier to follow the rules than to follow you. Better a rocky path with you, though, than the freeway to hell.

November 15

Changed Lives

Proverbs 11:5

It is a sad fact, but true. We now have television programs which chronicle the dumb things done by the wicked.

My personal favorite for this concerns a doughnut shop. The shop is located on an intersection where four cities meet. It was also a turnaround point for the Highway Patrol. As you can imagine, the parking lot looks more like a police garage.

A little after nine A.M. one day, one of our less brilliant criminals strolled through the door, waited his turn to be served, then pulled out a pistol and announced, “This is a stick up!” Immediately thereafter he heard the sound of about thirty police weapons being cocked along with a chorus of “police officer, freeze!” The incident soon passed into local legend.

Why are people this dumb? Is it something in the water? No; but it is something of this world. Ultimately, this kind of evil comes from those who want the money—but don’t want to work for it. It seems so much easier to walk into the doughnut shop with a pistol. It’s a short cut, in the eyes of the wicked.

In that little phrase, “short cut,” you will find much of the evil in this world. It is a fact: sometimes the “hard way” is the only really good way. More than that, it’s usually the case that you cannot pick and choose in this; you can’t decide to be highly moral and righteous about (say) your finances while at the same time cheating on your wife. The check book will tell the tale.

Doing things the hard way—the honest way—has its advantages, though. If you are a tradesman, you will soon find that you don’t lack for work to do. Similarly, the world of the office treasures a man who does the right things in the right ways. Much of this admiration comes because the honest do not simply fix a mistake when uncovered, but actively make things right on their own.

Permit me an example. My parents’ home was badly damaged in the 1971 earthquake. In particular, the block wall around the back yard fell over. About a month later an elderly man came to inspect the wall. He looked at it, turned to his sons and said, “We start tomorrow.” My dad told him that he could not afford to fix the wall. The man turned and said, “I built that wall. My walls don’t fall down. We start tomorrow.” Dad paid nothing for that—but can you guess whom he recommended from then on?

Lord, every day brings its temptation—small, but ending large. Guide us away from such things, and closer to you.

November 16

A Clean Start

Luke 19:8

His first name was “Sergeant,” his nickname was “Sarge.” He was one of many who have been rescued by the most unlikely of institutions: the United States Army.

It came about this way: Sarge was a ghetto loser from Detroit, a dropout from the streets. He was convicted of some drug-related crime, and the judge made him an offer: sign up in the Army for six years, or do three in prison. Sarge picked the Army. For about four of those years, including two tours in Vietnam, his main thoughts were on drugs, women and having a good time. On his second tour in Vietnam, the sight of the carnage and the experience of losing several good friends made him reflect on life and death. He decided to change his life.

He walked into the company commander’s office and announced his intention to change, ending with “how can I get promoted?” The CO took him at his word and laid out for him the things that he would have to do to be eligible for promotion. Sarge buckled down and soon found himself with more rank, more money in his pocket and more responsibility (which, by the way, included me.)

We don’t often think of the US Army as a source of forgiveness. It isn’t; but it is the home of the “second chance” for a lot of men. It isn’t quite forgiveness, but it is a clean new start. We see that in Zaccheus’ conduct here. Zack was a tax collector; hated by every devout Jew. Notice how eagerly he accepts the clean start; his offer to repay exceeds the Old Testament Law; the other half of his wealth would be a rather large sum.

There is a question of integrity in this for us. We preach and teach forgiveness. We even say that we know that God will not forgive us if we don’t forgive others. Have we, however, excluded those we forgive from the second chance? We’re perfectly willing to forgive them—but will we give them a chance to start over with us, or are they going to be labeled for life?

Forgiveness doesn’t imply that we think someone is righteous, rather that we think they have sinned against us. But just as that is so, our acceptance of forgiveness—from Christ—is an acknowledgment of our sin. He doesn’t “forgive and fry”; he gives us another chance. What a marvelous example before us; forgiveness in action! Zaccheus acted; Christ gave him a new life.

Lord, it is so difficult for us to sort out the sins of others. Teach us to forgive and leave the sorting to you.

November 17

The Poor and The Poor

Proverbs 19:1

Proverbs makes a number of comparisons between rich and poor. This is a comparison between the poor and the poor. One such poor man is a man of integrity; the other is foul-mouthed—the kind whose mouth drives him from blunder to blunder.

Our expectations for the poor have declined of late. Two or three generations ago our public schools would have held up Lincoln as an example of how a poor man of integrity can rise by his own diligence. Today, we take a different view:

· Poverty is now considered inescapable, because the cause of poverty is not within the poor but outside them. They are faced with a situation beyond their control. They are innocent victims of “society.”

· The poor, therefore, are righteous in comparison to the rich, for the poor suffer and the rich get tax breaks. The poor man is always the victim of the rich.

· One curious point is this: we think it justified when a poor man lies to the government to get more money. In bulk (as a whole) we condemn welfare fraud, except when it’s someone we know who is needy and deserving.

The Christian view of poverty is rather different:

· Neither the rich nor the poor have a monopoly on sin; it is common to all of us.

· There is no benefit in being too poor or too rich. Too poor, you might be tempted to steal. Too rich, you may forget who is God.

· Poverty—and its overcoming—are in the hands of God.

· Such poverty provides a test for the rich; does the Lord see them as the “cheerful giver?” Most of us are rich by the standards of the world as a whole. We should therefore be charitable on all occasions as they arise.

Poverty, it seems, is just another trial, as is wealth. The Lord looks at us asking how we will do under such a trial. To go from rich to poor is indeed a trial; how much more trial is it going the other direction?

Integrity matters—whether you are rich or you are poor.

Lord, in our wealth we may look down upon others, sure of our salvation. Teach us not to look down but to reach down in love.

November 18

Joseph of Arimathea

Luke 23:50-52

Joseph of Arimathea is a cryptic figure in the Bible. In the Middle Ages there were many legends about him—the British held that he brought the Holy Grail to Glastonbury, for example—but of fact we have very little.  One thing does stand out for him. Very few incidents in the Gospels appear in all four of them. Things that are very important get repeated four times, it seems. And Joseph’s part is related in all four Gospels.

Matthew tells us that he was a follower of Christ; John amplifies that a bit to tell us he was a secret disciple of Christ, for fear of the Jews. Luke simply describes him as a man “waiting for the kingdom of God.” Mark relates to us that he “gathered up courage” to approach Pilate for the body. All in all, a wealthy man who plays it safe—except for this once.

It certainly was not a trivial decision. By doing this, he exposed himself to ridicule; worse, to the organized anger of the Jews which could possibly end in death. Joseph shows his love for Christ in that he laid him in a new tomb, never used before, which likely enough he had bought for himself.

It is a paradox. How is it that the man who is a secret disciple for fear of the Jews now gathers up courage to ask the body—knowing full well that Jesus had no way to bless him for this? It is as if Joseph found his integrity by watching the ultimate man of Integrity die. Perhaps that’s the reason.

Integrity can be very painful. Integrity means:

· Doing the right thing, knowing full well that it’s going to hurt—your wallet, your ego or your body.

· Doing the right thing even though it means that your society is going to ostracize you.

· Doing the right thing even though it may cost you your life.

In light of this, Joseph’s action is indeed a transformation. He goes from secret disciple to the one who rescued Jesus’ body from the cross that killed him. It is a display of personal courage.

Pontius Pilate, on that fateful Good Friday, was a man who found integrity risky when the stakes got high enough. He lost his integrity through fear; perhaps Joseph of Arimathea found his in overcoming fear by love.

Lord, it is easy to praise you from the comfort of the pew. Lead us not into temptation—nor trial such as this.

November 19

Red

Proverbs 20:7

In the corner of the hutch there stands a large, ceramic mug. It is cracked and has been glued back together by loving hands. The mug is white, and in flowing letters on the outside it says simply, “Red.” At first it seems a rather battered object sitting next to the crystal and china. But if you will take your mind back to childhood, this is easy to explain. When I was very young, I had a head full of bright red hair. My grandfather (on my father’s side) looked at that and just assumed I’d be nicknamed “Red.” So he bought a mug with that name painted on it. It is the only material remembrance of him that I have; not even a picture has survived. This battered mug alone is left.

The same cannot be said of spiritual things, however. My grandfather was a Bible teacher, and much better at it than I. For some fifteen years he taught the men’s Bible class at the First Church of Christ in Findlay, Ohio. During those fifteen years attendance averaged over 300.

His influence upon me came, naturally, through my father. He died when I was an infant, but his life message lived on in my father. What power there is in this!

· He did not need to teach his children; his example did that for him.

· His righteousness was shown in his discipline; not his anger but “what is right” powered his discipline.

My children were rather more fortunate in the way of grandparents. My mom and dad had the chance to be the living grandparents I never knew. In many ways I can see my father in my sons; my mother in my daughter. God was indeed generous to me and to them in this matter.

The orthodox Jew often starts prayer with the phrase, “Our God, and the God of our fathers.” The reason is this: “Our God” means that our faith is not mere tradition but the living faith of a man completely committed. To this is added the “God of our fathers,” so that the young will not be led astray, but have the thought of those who have gone before instilled in them.

I  have often wondered if my teaching the Bible was an answer to my grandfather’s prayers. Someday, I’ll be able to ask.

Lord, we know that faith is best walked in integrity—an example from us to the generations to come.

November 20

Freely Received, Freely Given

Acts 8:18-24

Poor Simon. A professional magician, in the old sense of the word (not an illusionist), he knows a better act when he sees it. Peter has preached, Simon has accepted. In the world of professional magicians, he asks the price for learning the trick.

Simon, I think, should be viewed as something of an expert witness. He hears, sees and believes; once in the fraternity, he’s willing to pay the right amount.

Simon today would be a scientist. It us not really well understood, but as chemistry came out of alchemy, so Simon would be a scientist today. Magic and Science have the same aim: power over the natural world. They have the same paradigm: IF you {combine the right chemicals; chant the right words} THEN you will get thus and such a result.

If Simon the Scientist were among us today, I suspect his reaction would be “alien technology.” This came straight from Area 51. Knowing the value to people in general, he would seek to control this technology—and of course would pay for the privilege. It’s a simple business deal, as far as he’s concerned. The idea that such a request would be sinful would not occur to him today anymore than it did then.

Peter sees it quite differently. To him, this is a matter of integrity. The gifts he had were from the Holy Spirit; they were obtained in the sense of “freely you have received, freely give.” It is the mind of God the Father that forms the thought that grace is too costly to be sold; it must be given away. He is being asked to sell something which is beyond price: the kingdom of God. It’s like taking up prostitution—on your wedding night.

When he heard and saw, Simon believed. When he was rebuked, he became humble. Much of integrity consists of asking yourself, “Do I really want to do this?” Integrity is not so much a feeling as it is a state of mind and soul. The mind to watch for such transgressions, and the soul trained to prefer integrity to temptation.

There is a lesson for us in here. When we see our fellow Christians acting with less than integrity, should we not go to them privately and rebuke them? A private rebuke is far preferable to a public disgrace. When someone rebukes us we should be grateful. Integrity is hard to build and easy to lose.

Lord, many times in life there is temptation to play the hypocrite. Help us in giving and receiving the patient rebuke of a saint.

November 21

Rejection

Isaiah 33:15-16

In a strangely prescient way the prophet Isaiah interrupts his pronouncement of doom with a slight interlude: Just who is it who will be secure when the wrath of God descends upon the world? Most of us would answer with “real Christians.” If we therefore desire to be “real Christians,” we would do well to listen to Isaiah describes such people.

He begins with the positive side of things:

· He must “walk righteously.” No matter how many times you repeat “faith without works is dead”, it does you no good unless you act upon it.

· He must “speak sincerely.” In other words, he should not be a hypocrite.

In shorter words, he must talk the walk and walk the talk. But see also this: he has to reject certain things as well.

· He must reject unjust gain. Part of this is just plain good business sense. If the opportunity looks too good to be true, it probably is. But especially when the profit comes from the suffering of others, the Christian must reject it.

· He must reject bribery. What is bribery and what is a gratuity differ in various cultures. The distinction is easiest seen this way: if you’re paying him extra to do his job, it’s a gratuity. If you’re paying him extra not to do his job, it’s bribery.

· He must not listen to bloodshed—in essence, do not even enter into the planning of violence. Once so engaged, it is hard to disentangle yourself.

· He must resist seeing evil. There is a certain sinful appeal in watching violence; it is the mainstay of Hollywood. If there is too much sex and violence on your DVD player, maybe there’s a reason.

The result described would have been a fortress indeed for those ancient Israelites. Secure in a high place, with food and water (starvation was the usual method of taking such a place), this would be security to them. Most especially there is the promise of water that will never fail. Look through the prophet’s eye; can you see streams of living water flowing out from our Rock?

Lord, so often those around us lead us into foolishness. Give us wisdom at the start of the trail—so that we may know its end.

November 22

The Servant of God

Acts 14:12-15

In the first week of World War One, a curious incident took place in Berlin. Put yourself in the place of the Japanese ambassador to Germany. Unknown to him, a rumor had started that the Japanese had declared war on Britain and France. If true, this would have been a tremendous boost to the German war effort, especially in naval matters.

The crowd gathered outside the Japanese embassy and began chanting (in German, of course), “Long Live Japan.” The chant grew so loud that ultimately the Japanese ambassador came out and spoke to the crowd, thanking them for their homage. Just how underserved that homage was would be clear in another two weeks. Japan, which had a treaty of naval alliance with Great Britain, declared war on Germany.

Something of the same sort happens here. The locals see the miracles and declare Paul and Barnabas to be gods. This brings with it certain temptations:

· First, there is the temptation to polish your halo a bit. After all, you did do a miracle, right? We just need to redirect the crowd’s enthusiasm, right?

· You can also see yourself as being above the restrictions on ordinary mortals. God, after all, selected you.

· Worst of all, there is the temptation to steal from God the glory that is his—to take credit for all this.

You don’t need to be a miracle worker to be in this situation. Just being eloquent will do, sometimes. But our Lord gives us different instructions on this: we, like Him, are to be servant-leaders.

· Our example is Christ himself who, on his last night before death, washed the disciples feet—to make just this point.

· Servant leaders get their authority from their responsibilities. Authority in the kingdom is a tool to get the job done, not to inflate your ego.

· In all things, we are to give credit to God. To do otherwise is to steal glory from God.

No leader in Christ’s church should want to be worshiped. God’s glory is his own; he will not share it with you.

Lord, when our leadership prays “lead us not into temptation,” guide the rest of us so that we don’t become that temptation.  

November 23

Little and Much

Luke 16:10-12

“Faithful in little, faithful in much.” Did your mother hit you with that one, too? Somehow I always had the feeling that Christ had more in mind than whether or not I remembered to wash the dishes. Indeed, it is so. This saying is not addressed to the world (though it has its use there); Christ is speaking to his disciples.

Character, mother said, counts. Consider for a moment the extreme examples of faithfulness:

· Jesus Christ was completely faithful to the Father’s will. Despite the fact that he condescended to our level, taking on flesh and blood like our own, he never used that as an excuse to step away from his Father’s will. Even in the smallest things, he was about the Father’s business.

· Judas Iscariot was a man unfaithful in little. The disciples entrusted him with the money bag—and he stole from it. (It fascinates me that they didn’t give it to Matthew, the former tax collector. But I digress). When the time was right, he sold out the Lord of Glory for thirty pieces of silver.

Sometimes when we read things like this, we mistake the trivial for the important. Let’s look at the trivial first:

· There is this matter of money. We are very good at wishful thinking on this (“If I had a billion dollars, I would…..”) No, you wouldn’t. You’d spend it like you spend what you have now.

· “If I could only get a better job…” - your work habits wouldn’t change a bit.

You might think those are not trivial items, but they are. They can last only a lifetime. There are eternal things as well:

· Think, for example, of your family. What is your example to them? What will your children pass on to their children as being right and good?

· Indeed, think of your relationship to God. Why should he work his providence for those who give lip service only?

If you wonder why God will not bless you, perhaps it’s because He knows you can’t handle it. It would be cruel; like throwing a drowning man a bucket of water.

Lord, all things are in your care. Teach us to follow your example, being faithful in both small and large.

November 24

Against Slander

1 Peter 3:16-17

Though I have a son who is a lawyer, I myself know rather little about the law. I took one course on Business Law, and I can’t say that it really impressed me.

One thing I do remember from it: against the charge of slander, truth is an absolute defense.  If you say something about someone, and they sue you alleging slander, if you can prove that what you said is true, you win. (Lawyer’s fee not included).

Christ turns that around. He knows you will be slandered for being a Christian. He also tells you that the best defense against such a charge is to have such a clear record of behavior that, upon investigation, the slanderers will be ashamed of themselves.

People assume the worst in gossip. We are, after all, WRFs—Weirdo Right wing Fundamentalists. How can we possibly be ready to defend ourselves as such?

· There is the defense of the good conscience. People know when you’re covering up, and when you’re telling the truth.

· In addition, we must prepare ourselves for such defense—but the defense is of Christ, not ourselves. Defend Him, not yourself. It’s a lot easier.

· Be prepared to suffer for the cause. If you are willing to suffer, people know that you believe.

How can a Christian prepare for such a defense?

· Be prepared. Study the Scriptures; know the defense of the faith in human terms. Know why you believe the Scriptures to be true.

· Be poised. This is easiest done with a clear conscience.

· Be sure your actions match your words.

· Make your defense in all gentleness. The issue is not one of “I’m better” but “Jesus saves.”

· Be willing to suffer for it. Show this in your actions; let all know that you believe to the point of suffering for it.

This is not easy; nor is it something that can be done overnight. It takes preparation and practice. If you claim to be a Christian, know why. If you claim to be a Christian, show how.

Lord, teach us to defend the faith—by defending you, not ourselves. On the Rock, we stand.

November 25

Idol Worship

Philippians 4:8

In one sense it may be said that idol worship is a problem extinct for over fifteen hundred years. In another sense it is with us still today.

For most of our young people, the real worship in their lives goes to movie stars and rock stars. These have a clear image in the minds of the young:

· Sex, drugs and rock-n-roll are the best things life has to offer. Anything you do to get them is great. Lie to your parents and don’t even think there is a problem.

· Be angry. Be angry, that’s your normal state of mind.

· Hatred. Anything that is “not me” is to be hated. This burning hatred runs through our culture.

We have made the mistake of underestimating our enemy. We are now the “religious minority.” We scrupled to see to it that all had a fair hearing; the next generation will see no need for that.

The root of this problem comes from this: when you are growing up, and on through the adolescent years, you need someone to look up to. When you see a kid playing “air guitar” to the obscenity now called music, you see an idol worshiper. Each of us will admire someone; the question is, who?

Paul here gives us some things to look for:

· Truth—the sense of fair dealing and honesty.

· Honor—is the person one who deals uprightly with other people? Not a hypocrite, but one who walks the talk?

· Righteousness—doing the right thing, doing it first, not last, and doing it no matter the cost?

· Purity—is this someone clearly committed to faithfulness? The guy with the dirty joke, or the guy whose wife knows he is faithful to her?

· Loveliness—the word originally meant “friendly toward.” Someone who never met a man he didn’t like?

· Good reputation—has he practiced being a Christian so well that everyone knows it?

Practicing Christian—an endangered species?

Lord, we have declined greatly from a nation that prized its heroes to prizing the repugnant. Forgive us; reform us; renew us.

November 26

Conclusion Jumping: An Exercise

Job 27:4-6

We’ve entered in the middle of a long discussion. So, to avoid having you read the previous twenty six chapters, let us summarize. Job—a righteous man, and formerly a rich and blessed man—has been given into the hand of Satan. He is now destitute; his family destroyed and he is suffering pain from disease.

The bulk of the work consists of Job arguing with three friends who have come to comfort him (rather poorly, it turns out.) Their contribution is that they know God is just. Therefore, he would not do this to Job unless Job had committed some horrible, ugly sin. They therefore urge Job to confess this sin, seek forgiveness and go on.

There is one slight difficulty to taking their advice. Job has not committed that horrible, ugly sin. He knows that. Despite their urging, he won’t confess.

The problem is still with us. It is not uncommon to find that someone confesses to a crime he or she did not commit. Our police (thinking they have the right person) urge confession—it’s cheaper for the taxpayers. Sometimes you find false confession is simply the result of pressure on a feeble mind, anxious to please the authorities. Sometimes the confession is volunteered by a disordered mind. There are people who will confess to everything—to the point that the police simply ignore it. But you can see how easy it is: we think you did it. So confess, and save us all a lot of time, trouble and expense.

The difficulty, as Job points out, comes when a man of integrity is pressured to confess. No matter how convenient it might be to others, the clear conscience remains. People who urge someone to confess falsely are pressuring them to sin. It’s lying. Falsehood.

It sounds very humble, of course, to make a grand, sweeping confession. If you’re guilty, you should. But if you’re not, you should stick with it—no matter what your friends think. It may come across as arrogance. Sometimes one man’s arrogance is another man’s honesty.

Job is certain of his integrity. There is an interesting turn of phrase in verse 5. The literal meaning of the start of the verse is, “pollution to me.” The man of integrity will not lie, for to do so would pollute his soul.

Lord, may we never be in Job’s situation. But whatever our situation, may we always be people of integrity.

November 27

Integrity on the Job

Colossians 3:22-23

One of the saddest signs of the decay of western civilization is this: business schools are teaching courses on integrity. When we must take grown men and women and teach them the rudiments of integrity in a post-graduate curriculum, it can only mean that they didn’t learn it elsewhere. Worse yet, given the nature of the education mentioned, the training is more likely to assist in self justification rather than integrity.

The reason for this is simple: we’ve had some spectacular failures in business ethics. It is not surprising; for some years now we’ve known that “looking good” (the Scripture calls it “eyeservice”) is the path to success. Those with integrity need not apply.

Just what kind of employee does God want you to be?

· First, do not be argumentative. It may mark you as brilliant, but it does not serve the kingdom of God.

· Consider yourself under authority, not a rebel against it.

· Work with good will; do your work with sincerity.

· Consider the boss worthy of honor. If you can’t respect the man, respect the burden he carries (including you).

· Do not succumb to the ease of pilfering; be honest.

· When you suffer for your faith, do so willingly.

These points, taken from various portions of Scripture, are combined by the purposes of God. We know what those purposes are.

· The spread of the Gospel. Is it really so great a task to work at your job wholeheartedly? We are ambassadors of reconciliation between God and man; in that cause we must remember that an ambassador’s words and actions reflect upon the One who sent him. Would you deny your co-workers the Gospel because you don’t like the boss?

· Turning suffering to the Lord. Christians should expect suffering on the job as well as the rest of life. If they don’t see the example, at least you can turn that suffering to the Lord, and suffer for his sake.

We are here but a few years. If you would not be a hypocrite in church, why would you be a hypocrite on the job?

Lord, we sometimes forget that you do know our boss. May we all remember that we also know our Boss.

November 28

Walk the Line

Proverbs 4:25-27

Consider the tight rope walker. Every year he must come up with new and more dangerous things to please an audience that quickly grows bored with last year’s danger. The job is one requiring much practice. If you examine the performance you will note one consistent feature: no matter what’s going on, the tight rope walker has his eyes fixed straight ahead. Everything else may be changed, but this must remain constant.

We have a similar difficulty in the Christian life, and it has the same solution. We are walking a tight rope, with danger on either side. This can only be done by fixing our eyes straight ahead, on our Lord.

Some think we have danger only on the left. But Satan is no fool, he attacks on both sides.

· On the one side he attacks with the pleasures of this world. The appetite of the body, the desire of the mind, the roaring pride—these are his attacks on the left.

· But he attacks on the right, too. Here the temptation is to legalism, judgmental thinking, the failure to forgive. Instead of an obvious sinner, he creates an obvious fake Christian.

The only solution is to keep our eyes straight ahead on our Lord Jesus Christ.

How do we do this? The Scripture here gives us one clue: the practice of self-examination. Verse 26 tells us that we are to “watch” our path. The word is also translated “ponder.” We are to carefully and deliberately examine ourselves.

The word itself has an interesting meaning. It comes from the ancient method of building a road. At one point in the construction, the workers would bring up a huge stone cylinder, using it to flatten the path. It worked like a steamroller would today. So we can say that we are to steamroller the right path until it is the obvious way. Make straight the path that leads to Jesus.

In one of the paraphrases of the Bible, there is a memorable instruction. In verse 27 the instruction is translated, “leave evil in the dust.” There you have it: find the right path, look straight ahead to Jesus, make that path smooth and flat—and when you look in the mirror, you’ll see Satan left in the dust.

Lord, self-examination is hard. Teach us how to make the path towards you straight, smooth and clear.

November 29

Marching Orders

1 Timothy 1:5

One thing noticed by veterans who study the American Civil War is this: it takes a lot of work to move an army of foot soldiers from point A to point B. Huge numbers of soldiers were sent marching to the wrong place simply because some lieutenant on the staff couldn’t read a map.

An army of that time (and I suppose today) waited until it got its “marching orders.” They specified the time of departure, the roads to use, and the order of march. Paul, in this brief verse, gives marching orders to all those who would teach the Gospel. The word in this verse (instruction) is used for military orders, too. In this particular circumstance, Timothy is ordered to correct some teachers whose concordance is too big for their brains. We are, in short, to make disciples.

First, the goal of our teaching must be love from a pure heart. This is the agape love found so frequently in the Bible. In this circumstance, Paul orders it so that a divided church in Ephesus will be united in one spirit. Love covers a multitude of sins, and this is one.

That love must come from the pure heart. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. If you really want to see God and know his will, you need the pure heart. This means that you are not out for your own interests—whether monetary, emotional or self-justification. To the pure, all things are pure. This is the spirit which unifies the church and stuns the world.

The next goal is a good conscience. The first step in this, of course, is to do no wrong. But we must remember: “no wrong” doesn’t equal “right.” We must also be doing those things commanded of Christians, such as feeding the poor. If we do these things, our conduct and conscience will answer the slander of this world.

Throughout all this we must maintain a sincere faith. It is impossible to please God without this. The road to a sincere faith starts, for must of us, with the faith of our fathers. But it is necessary that we make that faith our own, too.

Do you see it? These three—love from a pure heart, a good conscience and sincere faith—are the tripod of integrity. They are also the marching orders for every teacher of the faith.

Lord, teach your teachers to find this road and march down it, leading your children in the way of love, truth and faith.

November 30

Weighty Matters

Proverbs 16:11

Norman Rockwell, with an eye for great themes in common settings, found one such in the grocery store. The painting shows the grocer and the customer weighing a package, All eyes are on the scale which shows the weight. But a moment’s inspection reveals the grocer’s thumb pushing down on the scale—while the customer’s hand is pushing up. It is a revealing painting, for it shows just how each of us would like to have the scales set in our favor.

Evidently this is a very old problem. The Book of Proverbs was written three thousand years ago (more or less); there are several references to this problem therein. Even in our time we have inspectors whose task is honesty in weights and measures. It sometimes surprises people that God would even care. Isn’t our business none of His business?

His “business” is with his creation, which includes us. God is righteous, indeed pure righteousness. He therefore desires that his children be righteous as well. Thus we are often commanded to be holy, as He is holy.

Consider, then, how he feels when someone with a dishonest scale cheats his children. If someone cheats one of my children, I do not ignore it. Nor will God ignore the ones who cheat his children. Such a sin is made worse when the culprit deliberately prepares to cheat others in a systematic way. Indeed, one might even say that God created gravity—and he doesn’t like to have his creation misused.

But just as he disapproves of those whose weights and measures are false, he approves of the one who diligently uses only the accurate weight. The Law of Moses specified that long life would be the reward of those who used honest weights and measures. It seems that God is rather serious about this.

The point is important for us. The problem in the time of Solomon was relatively easy to identify; you just compared the weights in the merchant’s bag to a set of known, honest weights. Today, technology complicates that. The principle remains the same; God will bless those who use honest weights and measures and condemn those who don’t. Sometimes we hear things like, “it’s only a little off,” “who’s going to know,” “everybody does it.” The Christian knows who’s going to know.

Lord, lead us not into temptation. Teach us to make honesty our delight, not our drudgery.

Previous     Home     Next