The Two Sides of Integrity

26 05 2020

Integrity has two sides: that which you will not do and that which you will do.  The latter is often forgotten when it comes to integrity.  Integrity is adhering to principles that you or your ethical and moral side hold as truth and of value to follow.  Integrity by definition is being “honest” and walking in, “soundness of moral character.”

 

All too often we know what we’re not desiring to do, e.g., be unfaithful to our marriage, cheat our employer, lie on our taxes or pursue dishonest gains.  Even our faith can dictate what we will not do or participate in.  But, what about that part of integrity that calls for what we will do?

 

Romans chapter twelve gives insight into this issue when it says, “Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.”  (Verse 9)  Do you see the two sides?  What are you “clinging” to?  In other words, if gossip is wrong and not integral, then what should we cling to?  We could begin with telling the truth and we could add what we really like about a certain person, an encouragement.

 

If we are tempted to call a politician derogatory names and slandering them, we could refuse to enter into that side of politics and speak life-giving words instead.  The scripture is very clear about this area of integrity.  To participate in words of slander is clearly not Biblical or integral, “But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander and filthy language from your lips.”  (Colossians 3:8)  (Please also see Ephesians 4:31; Titus 3:2-5; I Peter 2:1; Jude 1;9,10.)

 

If stealing is wrong, not integral, we could work hard, earn extra and give more away to others.  (See Ephesians 4:28)  Integrity is not just connected to what we don’t do, it is as well, connected to what we will do and how we will act toward others.

 

Embrace integrity today; it’s the only life-building, life-giving way to live on this earth.





A Blog About This Blog

22 05 2020

I realize the title of this blog is lame, but hey, I just want to announce SOME REALLY GREAT NEWS! This blog, as you know it, is going to go through some major transformation for the good. You will be seeing a new face and a new name. The plan is to rebuild and begin this major update in the month of June.

 

Presently there are 495 blogs at calledtogether.wordpress.com. The subject matter of these blogs covers marriage, relationships, “in the news,” issues of the day, encouragement, children, parenting and much more. It is meant to be encouraging, helpful, provoking personal growth and uplifting to each and every reader. Those existing blogs will remain on the site for your reference and inspiration.

 

So, stay tuned and keep a watchful eye out for the soon coming changes. And if you have a subject that you would like to see addressed, drop me a line. Be sure to comment on the blog so I can hear what you’re thinking and I am happy for you to forward any blog to your friends.

 

Many of you have signed up to receive the blog through your email inbox and some of you are reading it on Facebook or other social media formats. I would encourage those of you in the former category to sign up to receive it in your email for two reasons. The first is that I am considering sending it out early to those persons and secondly, you won’t miss any. You can sign up here.

 

Thank you for being a faithful reader and I look forward to serving each of you in this way for years into the future.  Steve

 

 





God is a God of Compassion

18 05 2020

I first confessed Christ as my Lord almost 49 years ago. That is close to half a century of getting to know my Creator. It’s a lot of life, a lot of joy and a lot of challenges faced. One thing I have discovered is His overwhelming compassionate heart.

 

Author Henri Nouwen writes it this way, “The truly good news is that God is not a distant God, a God to be feared and avoided, a God of revenge, but a God who is moved by our pains and participates in the fullness of the human struggle…. God is a compassionate God. This means, first of all, that God is a God who has chosen to be God-with-us…. As soon as we call God ‘God-with-us,’ we enter into a new relationship of intimacy with him. By calling God Emmanuel, we recognize God’s commitment to live in solidarity with us, to share our joys and pains, to defend and protect us, and to suffer all of life with us. The God-with-us is a close God, a God whom we call our refuge, out stronghold, our wisdom, and even, more intimately, our helper, our shepherd, our love. We will never really know God as a compassionate God if we do not understand with our heart and mind that ‘the Word became flesh and lived among us.’” (John1:14)

 

No matter what you find yourself facing today and tomorrow, know that the God you serve is a God of compassion. He lived among us to identify with our sufferings, but He suffered in greater measure. Isaiah 53 tells us He knows suffering, pain and sorrow. He was wounded for our sorrows and placed on a cross for us. He died so that we might live and know His compassion toward us. It is never ending and it will see us into eternity with Him.





Why Do I Think That I Control My Own Life?

11 05 2020

In good times, we tend to think we control life. We have control of our family, our money, our jobs and our lives. When crisis or tragedy hits, we quickly realize we’re not in control of everything and that feels so out of control, so uncomfortable and abnormal. When we cannot explain something or make sense of something, we then look for something or someone to blame. Ultimately we may look to blame God because He’s God and He could make things occur differently.

 

Tragedy, loss and grief have struck most of us. For some it has been far greater. Psalm 34:19 says, “The good man does not escape all troubles, he has them too.” My very first funeral as an ordained pastor was for an 8-year-old little girl who was hit by a truck on a busy street. I have conducted funerals for several friends who have committed suicide. These bring a very harsh reality home to our emotional selves. We grieve because we’re not built to handle such great loss.

 

I do not believe it is the will of God to initiate anything that will hurt, harm, injure, cause disease, cause loss or premature death to us. The inordinate, incomprehensible, unimaginable, unconditional and relentless love of God will not initiate anything that is not in love, respect and acceptance of His creation. Does He hand us tragedy to create strength or stamina in us to also then create personal growth? No. Can he use these things in our lives? Yes.

 

During these seasons we will discover the real us. This abnormal pressure will help us to discover what is deeply hidden within our soul and spirit. If there is fear there, it will surface. If there is anger there, it will surface. If there is faith there, it will surface as well. Think about what has surfaced, been exposed in you during difficult times. It is said that while we love the normal, comfortable times, the greatest level of personal growth occurs during the difficult times.

 

In 1994 there was a scientific experiment called the Biosphere 2. It was an artificial environment that scientists created in Arizona and was the size of two football fields. Within this biosphere there was a mini-environment including a desert, rain forest and even an ocean. Almost all weather conditions could be simulated with one exception—naturally occurring wind. Without the stress of the wind, tree trunks grew weak and bent over, unable to sustain their own weight. Wind, it was discovered, was a natural stressor that actually strengthens trees and their root system.

 

During a season of a felt loss of control, we can move from denial, to anger, to bargaining, to acceptance, but we must keep moving through the process in order to reach reinvestment. What is the reinvesting stage? It’s when we realize the need to not be so overwhelmed and self-consumed with our personal loss of control and begin reaching out and helping others in their loss.





The Importance of This Time in Our Lives

1 05 2020

There is always something to learn in life about ourselves or about others in both good and bad times. The book of Ecclesiastes reminds us there is a time and a season for everything.  (See Ecclesiastes 3:1.) Here are a few of my observations and reminders from this amazing, but challrenging season.

 

  • The importance of biological family
  • The importance of our church family
  • The importance of friends and neighbors
  • The importance of our worldwide community
  • The importance of work
  • The importance of the medical community
  • The importance of government
  • The importance of business
  • The importance of personal savings
  • The importance of becoming less selfish
  • The importance of prayer
  • The importance of suffering
  • The importance of trusting God in all things

 

I am sure that you can think of many more areas of importance in which you have a renewed appreciation for. This is a time to test our hearts and our ability to be thankful. This is also a time we can identify selfishness within ourselves.

 

“Father, help us to see You in this season and to not miss what You are desiring to speak to each of us. We remind ourselves of Your word which says, Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.”





This is the Second Pandemic of my Lifetime

24 04 2020

COVID–19 has certainly had an impact on the world, but it’s not my generations first pandemic. In 1968 and 1969, when I was a young teenager, the United States fiercely faced the Hong Kong flu. In that year we experienced 100,000 deaths. To be truthful, I don’t even remember going through it or being encouraged to take one single precaution. The H3N2 flu must have been so much more dreadful with so many deaths over the period of one year.

 

To put those numbers into perspective, the last recorded flu season in the U.S. had just over 40,000 deaths. But even worse, the flu season before that one (2017) documented over 60,000 deaths. Do you recall front page headlines for either of those very current statistics?  To date, the Corona virus has seen 49,000 deaths. I find these numbers staggering being simply from one nation (albeit large nation) of the world.

 

My point is these kinds of numbers are not new unfortunately. While every life is precious and important to God and not one death occurs without His notice, He is not the author of this world event. In fact, we were never created to face such devastation because God’s original plan in Genesis 1 and 2 was perfection—no pandemic sickness, no disease, no sin and no suffering. Genesis 3 records how we chose to walk away from God’s plan thinking we knew better and we could be in control of our lives. You and I were created for a Genesis 1 and 2 world, but we now live in this fallen Genesis 3 world.

 

I am so thankful the story does not end there. I Corinthians 15 reveals that in God’s love He would send a Second Adam, a redeemer who would break the curses of Genesis 3. We are told in this chapter that in Adam we all die, but in Christ we will be made alive. This chapter closes with these words, “Death has been swallowed up in victory…He gives us the victory thorough our Lord Jesus Christ.” Life or death the victory is ours through Christ Jesus!





The Unmistakable Comfort of Psalm 91

20 04 2020

So many have found Psalm 91 to bring great comfort, strength, truth and spiritual reality to us during this unique time. Personally, I have been praying through it every morning for my loved ones and the many others I am responsible for. One morning I felt prompted to look up one of the words in the dictionary for greater clarity and then became intrigued with so many of the other words found in this amazing Psalm. I ended up with a very amplified version and decided to share it with you below. I hope it is of great comfort, help and support to you as it is to me when praying these beautifully written words.

 

Psalm 91

He who dwells [staying as a permanent resident] in the shelter of the Most High will rest [experience a spiritual calm] in the shadow of the Almighty.

I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge [shelter] and my fortress [security], my God, in whom I trust.

Surely he will save you from the fowler’s snare [entrapment] and from the deadly pestilence [epidemic disease].

He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge [protection]; his faithfulness will be your shield [armor] and rampart [elevated mound].

You will not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness, nor the plague [infectious disease of high mortality] that destroys at midday.

A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you.

You will only observe with your eyes and see the punishment of the wicked.

If you make the Most High your dwelling [a place of shelter] – even the lord, who is my refuge – then no harm [no physical or bodily harm] will befall you, disaster [no calamitous event] will come near your tent.

For he will command [require authoritatively] his angels concerning you to guard [keep under close watch] you in all your ways; they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.

You will tread upon the lion and the cobra; you will trample [crush, domineer] the great lion and the serpent.

“Because he loves me,” says the Lord, “I will rescue [free from confinement] him; I will protect [defend, guard, shield] him, for he acknowledges my name.

He will call upon me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver [set free] him and honor [receive favor from] him. With long life will I satisfy [fulfill his desires] him and show him my salvation” [saved and protected from harm].








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