Advent: Be Honest

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Day Six: When No One’s Watching

But there was a certain man named Ananias who, with his wife, Sapphira, sold some property. He brought part of the money to the apostles, claiming it was the full amount. With his wife’s consent, he kept the rest (Acts 5:1-2, NLT).

Many years ago when we were serving as foster parents, we had a young man in our home who was under close scrutiny because of some run-ins he’d had with fire setting in the community. 

One day a neighbor very innocently commented on how she had seen our foster son riding his bike in an unexpected place. Right after that conversation I received a call from our town officer regarding a fire in a dumpster on the opposite side of town. I was able to assure him it wasn’t our boy, because I knew where he was.

When he got home a while later, I asked our son where he had been. He knew I wouldn’t ask the question without already knowing the answer, so he owned up that he had been trying to find where a girl he was interested in lived. He apologized for being somewhere without permission.

I accepted his apology and he lost use of his bike for the rest of the weekend. He gave me no grief for the consequence, but turned back to ask how I knew where he had been. I told him about both conversations I had, and reminded him that someone is always watching.

The scripture teaches us that same principle. We may think we can get away with negative choices because no one is around, but God always sees. And we might lose more than our bike for the weekend when he levies the consequences.

TO PONDER: They say that integrity is choosing to do the right thing when no one is looking. For a building to stand the storms of life it needs structural integrity. To stand firm spiritually, we need spiritual integrity. Remember God is always watching—not just to catch you doing wrong, but celebrating your good and godly choices.

TO DISCUSS: The problem for Ananias and his wife laid in the twisted thinking that could get away from doing right if no one was watching. What they didn’t count on was God always seeing and knowing our choices. We lie to cover our selves and our choices. Can we ever deceive or hide the truth from God?

PRAYER: God, the story of Ananias is not the easiest to read. His consequences seem harsh. Help us to understand this wasn’t just about keeping a piece of the offering. Help us to understand your anger against sin, against deceit, against living the truth. And may all our choices reflect our love for you. Amen.

A Saturday Thought: Tattoos

This is a note I posted on Facebook on this date in 2009. It still holds my hope and heart today.

Lent Day 28: Tattoo
March 24, 2009 at 7:40am
Lent Day 28:

My older daughter is visiting us. It is good to have her close and it will be hard to let her go when it’s time, but our connection is good. While she was here, she got another tattoo. This bothers her father. I try to remain neutral. I have to admit that of all the ones she’s gotten, I like this one the best. It’s the Celtic symbol for motherhood—or at least I hope it is!

Over the years both my daughters have tried to talk me into going with them and getting a tattoo. There’s something “special” about doing that, so I’m told. I know that there are biblical comments prohibiting tattooing, but that’s not why I haven’t gone. I am a wuss about pain, but that hasn’t been my deterrent, either. I can’t imagine anything that I want engraved on me for forever. The image of a wilted rose on an 86 year old woman’s body just doesn’t get me all jazzed up.

And yet, somehow, I want my life to be tattooed with Jesus. I want my laughter, my conversation, my touch, my service, my work, my prayers, everything that I am to immediately point to Jesus. As much as I want that, I know that my life is so far from consistent. My heart desperately seeks to live in a way that is pleasing to my Father, but my choices betray my lack of trust and my selfishness. I truly understand the struggle that Paul speaks about in Romans 7.

In my life I have known the absolute bowels of wretchedness. I know what it’s like to screw up so royally that you lose all respect, wallow in shame, and try to rebuild integrity. I’m thankful for grace that makes climbing out of that dark pit possible. I’m thankful that Paul moves from chapter 7 into chapter 8: There is therefore, no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

So, if I ever got a tattoo it would be a grapevine bracelet (symbolizing that I am just a branch needing to stay connected to the vine). In the vine would be a turtle (a rich symbol and spiritual totem) and a daisy (for me a symbol of hope and faithfulness). All three would serve as reminders to me to keep living, to keep being fruitful, to truly make every effort. The only place they may ever be is in my heart, but hopefully they will be seen by those Jesus sends my way each day.

Rebuilding With Nehemiah, Chapter 7 Day 2

Tuesday:

Text: 2 I put in charge of Jerusalem my brother Hanani, along with Hananiah the commander of the citadel, because he was a man of integrity and feared God more than most people do.

Teach: People with integrity do the right thing even when no one is looking. When a building has integrity it is a solidly built structure that will withstand the storms and elements. Nehemiah chose leaders who weren’t afraid to stand strong in front of the people and before God.

WP Neh dev 7-2 block wall

Take: I pass a building in progress on my way to and from picking up my grandson from school. The last couple days the workers have been putting up the back wall. It’s an interesting process. I imagine this isn’t the first building they’ve put up. Time and experience have informed their decisions. I doubt they would listen to the ideas of everyone who passed by. They followed the blueprints and the boss’ instructions. That way they would have integrity as workers and as a company.

WP Neh dev 7-1 IQ

Task: How’s your IQ, your integrity quotient? Are living what you believe before a watching critical world? It’s not always easy, but it is what God expects.

Rebuilding with Nehemiah, Chapter 6, Day 4

Thursday:

Text: 8 I sent him this reply: “Nothing like what you are saying is happening; you are just making it up out of your head.” (Nehemiah 6:8, NIV)

Teach: Sanballat decides to shift his attack. Instead of coming privately to tempt Nehemiah away from the rebuilding of the wall, he sends an open letter and accuses Nehemiah of heading up a rebellion. His hopes were to discredit Nehemiah and incite the people against him.

WP Neh dev 6-4 whispering gossip

Take: Lies and gossip. More harm to individuals and to the work of the Kingdom have been done by these tools of the enemy. Should we expect any less when the enemy made these kinds of attacks on Jesus?

WP Neh dev 6-4 reputation

Task: Nehemiah set the example for us once again. When his character was attacked, he simply denied the reports, asked God for strength, and went back to work. We need to be sure we are doing everything we can to protect our character (that’s integrity), and then entrust our reputation to God.

Rebuilding with Nehemiah, Chapter 5, Day 4

Thursday: Accepting Responsibility

Text: 11 Give back to them immediately their fields, vineyards, olive groves and houses, and also the interest you are charging them—one percent of the money, grain, new wine and olive oil.”
12 “We will give it back,” they said. “And we will not demand anything more from them. We will do as you say.” (Nehemiah 5:11-12, NIV)

WP Neh dev 5-4 right step

Teach: Nehemiah was a man of action. He required that the lenders stop charging interest and return a portion of what was taken. This was major. Nehemiah didn’t just shame them for their actions, he called them to make things right. It wouldn’t solve all their problems, but it was a huge step in the right direction.

Take: We live in a time when very few people accept responsibility for their actions. We blame everyone else. The reaction of the people to comply with Nehemiah’s instruction was commendable and an excellent example for us today.

WP Neh dev 5-4 responsibility

Task: Accepting responsibility when we’re wrong can cost us—just as it did the lenders in Nehemiah’s day. Ask God to help you bring what you do in line with what you believe even when the cost is great.

Rebuilding with Nehemiah, Chapter 5, Day 3

Wednesday: Walking Without Fear or Reproach

Text: So I continued, “What you are doing is not right. Shouldn’t you walk in the fear of our God to avoid the reproach of our Gentile enemies? (Nehemiah 5:9, NIV)

Teach: What were they doing? While it was not illegal or wrong to loan money, charging excessive usury or interest is. It is wrong to gain financially of someone’s need.

WP Neh 5-3 hoarding

Take: Nehemiah was concerned not only with the negative effects of the unfair loan practices were having on the people, but also with the impact their actions was having on those outside watching.

Task: Jesus told his followers they were salt and light and how they lived would either draw people to God or drive them away. As you reflect on the text today, ask God to reveal whether your witness is a light that leads others to him.

WP Neh dev 5-3 light shine

Waiting and Integrity

May integrity and uprightness preserve me, for I wait for you. (Psalm 25:21, ESV)

 

It’s been said that integrity is doing what is right when no one is looking.

Sometimes, when we have to wait, we can get ourselves into trouble thinking, “No one’s watching, what difference will it make?”

Someone is always watching. You are never alone. God knows.

Let your integrity preserve you…wait for him.