The Race Ahead

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I love cycling.

And I don’t use the word love lightly either. At times I wonder how I’d have gone on if not for cycling. It was my release – huge to me in my high school years, and I still love to get out when I can.

There are tons of things I love about cycling.

Summiting a mountain solo. Alone, but not lonely. Guided by my bike light; a hum in the darkness. Morning fog thickening as I rise higher. Sounds of my raspy breathing. The occasional dog bark or cow’s moo. The chain cranking as it propels the wheels around. Life’s problems fading on each pedal stroke. The sun rising over Adelaide – a whole city wakes from sleep. Wind in face as I’m propelled down the mountain. Sweat in hair, eyes wide open. Feeling of aching, tired legs. I’m stuffed, but I’ve never felt more alive. Back home for coffee before school.

I love it.

And some thought I was a bit mental. The amount of time I put into it each day was somewhat unbelievable to them. But to me, it wasn’t crazy at all.

There was something about cycling that made dedication to it easy.

Getting up at 5:30 every morning – rain, hail or shine. Making training programs. Spending hours on the bike. Rarely eating bad food or having soft drink. Shaving my legs (don’t hold it against me). Following other dedicated cyclists on social media. I would admire the professionals, talk about them, watch their races.

I was committed, but I was loving it. The sacrifices I was making were nothing in comparison to the perceived rewards of joy, temporary release of problems, and the increase in fitness.

So where am I going with this.

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Paul uses the analogy of running a race to explain how the Christian life should look. It goes like this:

‘…let us lay aside every weight, and sin that clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race set before us.’ – Hebrews 12:1

And my past dedication to cycling should look like my dedication to Christ.

Just like I would lay aside bad eating and drinking, and the minimal weight that was my leg hair – this passage says we are to lay aside every weight that slows us in our pursuit of God. Anything that gets in the way. What a statement.

I was regularly setting aside time early in the morning, 5:30 – to dedicate myself to cycling before the day. In the same way, there is a need for me to dedicate myself to God and his will before every day. To seek first his kingdom and his righteousness.

All this cycling took endurance, perseverance. I wasn’t going to get much better at the sport after a week of cycling. It took a long time. But as I’ve stated, I found huge joy in the dedication to it.

Likewise, growing as a Christian and forming a strong relationship with God is a life-long pursuit. We need endurance. I need endurance – I sure don’t claim to have this covered. But we find immense joy in the reward ahead of us – eternity with Jesus and perfect community with his people.

How much greater is that reward than temporary gains in fitness!

cadel

‘Looking to Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith. Who for the joy set before him, endured the cross…’ – Hebrews 12:2

As part of my cycling addiction – I would follow professional bike riders and watch some of their races. I particularly admired the likes of Cadel Evans, Lance Armstrong and Chris Froome.

Whilst Lance Armstrong might not the best example nowadays, the fact remains. I admired each of these men’s grittiness and strength of character. The way they shone above the rest through sheer determination.

Particularly in Cadel, who had this way of making suffering his friend.

Cadel was characterised by his ability to endure. Pain and suffering written all over his face, yet this uncanny ability to power through it – even in the late stages of a grand tour (see picture above). These men embraced pain, adversity – but found a weird sense of joy and success through it.

In a similar way, Paul says (in Hebrews 12:2, highlighted above) we should look to Jesus as our example in this race of life.

We are encouraged not just because Jesus endured suffering, but that suffering was central to Jesus’ victory.

Cadel pales in comparison to what Jesus went through, and I wouldn’t ever wish to put Jesus on the same level as Cadel. But for the sake of this cycling analogy stuff – understand the context of the comparison I’m making.

Jesus is the picture of suffering if there ever was one.

In a prophecy made 680 odd years before Jesus was born, Jesus was described as becoming The Lord’s suffering servant. A man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief, oppressed and treated harshly (Isaiah 53). The prophecy was spot on.

Jesus, the Son of God was whipped, skin tore off his body. Blood poured freely. Thorns were shoved into his skull. He was tortured, spat on, crucified, killed. Unrecognisable. God turned his face away.

So, all this pain and suffering – how did Jesus endure it all?

Because the joy set before him was so great. His love for us is so much greater than the (literally) excruciating pain he endured. He was making a way for us, his people, to be in full relationship with him.

And we are called to live with the same goal in mind. We cannot fully mature in faith without trials. Therefore, we should be careful not to betray God’s invitation to maturity. But in the same breath, we can find strength in knowing all suffering, all pain on earth, is just temporary in our pursuit of his kingdom.

“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” – Jesus

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Sometimes the wind will be at our backs as we gun it downhill. Life is just a cruise along the esplanade at sunset. Everything is going great.

But then we will turn a corner. The wind is suddenly all in our face. Rain is spitting into our eyes. Ahead of us is a big-uphill. The chain comes off, a wheel is punctured. It’s remarkable how often these things seem to happen all at once – in cycling and in life.

What was once an easy cruise has become a battle against the elements. A battle against our will to push through. Others whizz past on the other side of the road as they head downhill, wind at their backs. The other way looks so much easier as we trudge uphill. We begin to envy other’s lives and the lack of suffering they have. Turning around to join them becomes an appealing prospect.

But we do not turn around. We keep moving in the right direction, slow as it is may be. For we know the strong winds and the hill climbs build up perseverance, character, and hope (Romans 5:4). Keeping our eyes set on the goal ahead of us, looking to he who completely shattered the elements of death itself.

The Everest we face today just an ant mound in comparison to the joy ahead of us.

Eyes set.

God’s Masterpiece

masterpiece1

When you look at the canvas of your life, what do you see?

Maybe you see it riddled with mistakes. The lines might not be straight. Parts of the drawing have gone outside of the lines. The paper is torn, dirty. Stains splattered across the painting serve as a constant reminder of past mistakes [1]. People in the painting are blurry, once good friends have become un-recognisable.

No form of eraser or glue can fix the mess which you’ve created.

What would you give to start again? How much money would you pay to have your messy, torn up canvas turned into a masterpiece?

For we are God’s masterpiece.’ – Ephesians 2:9

We don’t become God’s masterpiece after we have fixed up the canvas of our life. Not God’s masterpiece once we’ve sorted out those messy lines and torn edges.  We are God’s masterpiece. Not in a few weeks, months or years. We already are.

His prized possession.

Saying “we are God’s masterpiece” is one thing, believing it is a whole new beast. But living in knowledge of it, for many people, is one hill too many.

And it’s something I struggle to actually believe and live out too.

Surely we all see flaws in our character and faults we’ve made in life? Maybe it is just me. I can recall numerous times when I’ve taken a step back to look at my canvas and not been all that proud.

This struggle brings me to a few questions:

  • Considering my past, how can I still be called a masterpiece?
  • What does it mean to live knowing I am God’s prized possession?

Let’s paint a picture of what it looks like.

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THE ILLUSTRATION

mona-lisa

When I think of a masterpiece the Mona Lisa comes to mind, the world’s most famous painting, painted by Leonardo Da Vinci. So for the sake of discovering what being God’s masterpiece implies, we will use this as our analogy.

A painter or sculptor puts a lot of time into making a piece of art. Some sources say that the nose of the lady in the Mona Lisa took 12 years to paint, although I tend to question Leonardo’s potential procrastination tendencies. But you get the idea I’m sure – a masterpiece is not made overnight.

Often a painter will base their picture off an image of sorts, either through a small picture or a model sitting in front of them. Leonardo Da Vinci used a model in front of him – and his attempt to re-create the image of this person is depicted in the painting.

A painter develops a lot of pride for their painting. Once completed, many present their piece of art in public places. It brings joy to see the amount of time and effort put into the painting was all worth it.

The Mona Lisa is completely and utterly a reflection of Leonardo Da Vinci. When experts comment on the painting, they direct all praise to him, the painter.

A piece of art cannot boast of itself – it can only boast of its creator.

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DRAWING THE COMPARISON 

God put a lot of time and thought into creating us. God says even before he made the world he knew and loved us (Ephesians 1:4). I don’t know about you – but that’s really knowing your creation. That before he made us, we were known by him. He specially made us, knitted each of us together in our (respective) mother’s womb (Psalm 139:13).

God doesn’t mass produce his pieces of art – he isn’t required to meet a quota each day. Each piece of art he creates is special. We are all unique, known by him.

We are the workmanship of God himself, made in his image (Genesis 1:27). Essentially, God has created us to look and be like him. Let that sink in. God himself has created us to resemble him.

The Lord takes pleasure in us, his people and his creation (Psalm 149:4). Just like a painter takes pride in his piece of art, so too God genuinely loves and cares for his creation. How awesome that is!

Therefore, as the masterpieces of God, we cannot boast of our good aspects of character. We cannot boast of our good skills/characteristics in certain areas. As his masterpiece, all praise and glory should be directed to our great artist.

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SOMETHING TO BRUSH OVER

‘For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.’ – Ephesians 2:10

Through death and resurrection, Jesus claims to have carried all of our mistakes. He carried the collective, the whole world’s canvas – riddled with mistakes and errors – and provided for us a clean sheet. God has created us anew in Christ Jesus. Through him, we can claim the beginning of his work in us – to becoming his masterpiece.

But don’t hear me wrong in this. There is no doubt our mistakes have human consequences, and becoming a Christian doesn’t just wipe them all away from having happened in the first place. Stating the obvious I know, but important to say regardless.

Rather I believe we can suffer, recover and learn from our mistakes, whilst knowing we are completely forgiven of them through Jesus. My point, and what God has told us through scripture, is that we are already his masterpiece because of the image we were made in – and that was of God himself. Nothing we do can separate us from that.

Furthermore, as God’s masterpieces we were not made to just sit on a mantle and be admired (this is where the analogy gets a bit dodgy). As highlighted above in the bible verse, we have been made new so that we can do the good works he planned for us.

Therefore we are advocates for the living God (2 Corinthians 5:20). I’ve always hated the word responsibility – it usually implies me doing things I don’t want to do – clean my room, do the dishes, be an adult, etc. But this responsibility is different. What a massive privilege, yet huge responsibility we have to represent our awesome creator!

play-your-role

Hawthorn Football Club’s motto is to ‘Play Your Role’. Everyone plays a different role and position on the field. Yet when each part is executed correctly, the whole team can (and has proven to) be successful.

It is the same for us as people scattered throughout the world. We are all placed in different situations. We serve different roles and positions – some of us may be pastors, others may be teachers. Some may work at their local shop, others may be homeless.

As individuals, we are just one piece. Yet we all play a part in God’s big jigsaw (plan) – in the workplace, sports, school and social arenas. One piece in a jigsaw is insignificant, somewhat useless. But together, have the potential to create an awesome picture.

Let God work out the puzzle – whilst we stay present in his house.

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THE FINISHING TOUCHES

‘They took the thirty pieces of silver – the price at which [Jesus] was valued by the people of Israel’- Matthew 27:9

30 pieces of silver was the same price used as compensation for a slave’s accidental death (Exodus 21:32). Significant however, is this payment for Jesus wasn’t made after the event of death, as compensation for some sort of accident. It was made prior to Jesus death. The people were signalling their intentions, essentially saying “this man is dead to us.” 

Here we have Jesus, the Son of God. His own people and creation valued him as nothing. To them Jesus was as good as a slave, dead to them (Mark 10:44-45).

But despite the world completely rejecting him and treating him as nothing, Jesus knew his value in God. That despite being whipped, spat upon and taunted by all, Jesus’ self-worth was not based on other people’s opinions.

His identity was found in God. 

When we find ourselves against the world, the subject of ‘persecution’ of sorts, we need to realise our worth in our Father’s eyes. When others point out the flaws and mistakes on the canvas of our life, we can confidently redirect them to the clean canvas that Jesus has given us access to. And in that, we can truly begin to become the masterpiece we were made to be.

“How deep the Father’s love for us, how vast beyond all measure. That he should give his only Son, to make a wretch his treasure”

So I’ll ask again: when you look at the canvas of your life, what do you see?

You may see a mess, nothing is even remotely close to perfect. You might only see the broken pieces of mistakes and flaws in your life.

But our broken pieces have been made a mosaic.

Re-assembled in him.

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REFERENCES

[1] Skit Guys, S 2015, Our Mess, God’s Masterpiece, online video, December 27, accessed 27 April 2016, <https://skitguys.com/videos/item/our-mess-gods-masterpiece&gt;.

[2] Gibson, T 2013, ‘God’s Masterpiece’, Image, 5 February, accessed 15 April 2016, <http://www.lightbearers.org/gods-masterpiece/&gt;.

Uncompromised Deliverance [Daniel 6]

 

Uncompromised

The story of Daniel in the lion’s den is an awesome story, one I’ve heard a number of times growing up. However, just recently I was impacted by the story of Daniel in a  different way. It was whilst listening to a sermon from our pastor (Andrew), when a picture came to mind (drawn above).

I don’t claim this is a ‘prophetic painting’, or even necessarily say it directly inspired by God. Considering my level of art expertise – I doubt this stuff had divine intervention (although I am the least artistic person I know, so maybe this is a miracle in itself).

What is most important is to direct our focus to God in this situation, considering how he did (and continues to do) the impossible.

This is just my way of expressing an interesting thought that came to mind. I’ll try to explain my thinking into how this picture relates to the story of Daniel.

But first, some context.

Daniel was one of three administrators to the kings and high officials, to supervise and protect the king’s best interests. Daniel was a man of integrity. He was faithful, responsible and trustworthy. So much so that when others became jealous of him and were looking for reasons to kick him out of government, they found nothing. They couldn’t find fault in this guy.

Knowing he had a faith with some God, these jealous co-workers hatched a plan. They managed to convince the King (Darius) to set a new law in place: For thirty days if anyone prays to anything except the King, they would be thrown into the lion’s den.

Having heard this new law, Daniel still went home and prayed as he usually did. In fact, he continued to pray three times a day from the view of his window. Daniel was later found out for praying and was sent to the lion’s den, despite the King’s efforts to stop the ordeal (he valued Daniel pretty dang highly).

The next morning, the King came to check if Daniel was alive, fearing the worst. Daniel responds from the den, giving praise to God who had sent an angel to shut the mouths of the lions.

God snatched victory from the jaws of lions (defeat). One of the best comeback performances of all time if you like – would have made for an excellent highlights package (if cameras were a thing). But we still have the match report in the Bible, a trustworthy historical source. An awesome summary of God’s deliverance in a situation where the odds for victory were ridiculous, next to impossible.

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THE PICTURE EXPLAINED

The clenched fist is universally seen as a sign of defiance, or rebellion. It has been used in various movements across the world, where people stand firm against an event or issue. Unfortunately the clenched fist is often characterised by the ‘white supremacy’ movement. Recent uses of the clenched fist have also appeared in logos to represent certain groups, such as the band Rise Against or the AFL team Port Power (subtle plug). Whether a large scale global movement or a smaller scale arts/sporting group, many utilise this image as their sign of defiance, solidarity or non-conformity.

However the clenched fist is also a sign of the desperate need to be saved. Something I’m sure many (especially us Australians) learn early in life is that if you’re drowning, not to wave open-palmed for help, as the signal may be confused as having fun, saying hello, etc. We are told to raise a clenched fist to indicate we are drowning, need help.

Daniel, in the story of the lion’s den, typifies both fists.

Daniel was defiant. Andrew (in his sermon) described Daniel as being ‘uncompromised’ in his convictions. He was not willing to let the world sway his faith in God. Yet despite this stand of faith, Daniel was also in desperate need of saving. He was about to be thrown into a den of hungry lions, seemingly looking death in the face(s).

Daniel was facing his ‘drowning moment’, if you like. Despite his integrity, his willingness to defy the world – things weren’t looking flash. He needed help.

But through the situation God rewarded Daniel’s uncompromising faith, regardless of circumstance. He showed Daniel first-hand the promised deliverance God would give him in the den (hence play on words in picture title).

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DRAWING THE COMPARISON

The Bible has many stories where people have suffered seemingly impossible, potentially disastrous situations. But because of their faith, have been saved.

God didnt save Noah from the flood, but through it – providing insight and knowledge prior to the event. God didn’t save Shadrach, Meshash and Abednego from the fire, but through it – ensuring none of them were even burnt. God didn’t save Daniel from the lion’s den, but through it – shutting the lions mouths so they couldn’t harm him.

God doesn’t hold his children back from experiencing hard times. In fact, he didn’t hold himself back. In this life, we are not held back from entering the lions den. We are not held back from the fires we are thrown into.

But we are promised one thing – deliverance beyond the grave.

You may not experience a once-off, life changing experience like Daniel in the Den. Maybe you think your life story is pretty boring, average at best.

But truth is, we already have a testimony far greater than any other.

That we are not saved from death, but through it. 

 

 

The Good Shepherd

good-shepherd

“I am the good shepherd; I know my own sheep, and they know me.” – Jesus

One of Jesus’ most famous sayings.

If you’ve had a Christian upbringing of sorts, it is likely you have heard this story in some form before. In truth, this story encompasses many ideas, much of which has been analysed and picked-apart by people heaps smarter than myself.

Even so, in my experience of people attempting to explain this story, often they look into the ‘dumbness’ of a sheep, and apply it to our need to be guided in life. I don’t disagree with this, don’t get me wrong. Sheep are pretty dumb animals in the eyes of humans. They’re out and out stupid. And similarly, us humans are pretty small when in comparison to an all knowing and loving creator. I agree – we don’t stack up well.

However, I do believe this passage really emphasises that Jesus is the good shepherd. It doesn’t talk about the bad qualities of sheep, rather the good qualities of the shepherd. So that is where our focus will be coming from.

In keeping to this focus, it is important we ask a few questions:

  • What did Jesus mean when he called himself the good shepherd?
  • What were the implications of it, and how can we apply it to our own lives?

Time to unpack this a little.

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In the book Step by Step (Keeys), it says ‘shepherds 2000 years ago were near the bottom of the social ladder’…’they [shepherds] were rarely religious Jews as they could not keep all the laws whilst shepherding sheep.’ [1]

“shepherds…were near the bottom of the social ladder”

So for Jesus to come out and make this statement that he is our shepherd was massive. The people at the time didn’t take (or understand) this analogy very well, as the Bible records some in the crowd saying “he’s demon possessed and out of his mind. Why listen to a man like that?” (John 10:20).

I mean, you can’t blame them in a sense. Here’s a man claiming to be the son of God. He’s claiming creation of everything and everyone in existence. And now he’s also claiming to be..yep, you guessed it. A shepherd.

Jesus was obviously trying to make a point – he was putting himself out there.

So, what was he trying to say to us? Why does Jesus – who claims to be our creator and saviour – also claim to be our good shepherd?

Let’s break it down further.

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A DAY IN THE LIFE OF A SHEPHERD

A shepherd’s life 2000 years ago  was not easy. It was more than an occupation, rather, a lifestyle.

A shepherd’s name, literally translated, is a combination of the words ‘sheep’ and ‘herd’. And that is exactly what they did – herd and protect their sheep.

Many shepherds lived on their own (nomads), away from other people and society. There was never a set beginning/end to a shepherds work. Safety of the flock was at risk through the day and night. Because of this, some shepherds had (small) huts which they shared with sheep. But most often the shepherds would just sleep in the same fields that the sheep were in each night.

A shepherd was responsible for the daily needs of the sheep, and would regularly lead the flock to places with water supply and adequate grass.

As mentioned earlier, shepherds were often languishing low on the ‘social ladder’. They were the outcasts, somewhat disregarded by the higher authorities and people of status, or power.

If other animals came to attack the flock, it was the shepherds’ responsibility to protect them. A shepherd from before Jesus’ time on earth, David, said that ‘when a lion or a bear came and took a lamb from the flock, [David] went out after him and attacked him.’ (1 Samuel 17:34-35).

It’s important to note that, when a predator such as a wolf came, sheep were completely useless. Without a shepherd, they’d just be torn apart. In extreme cases, a shepherd would die trying to protect the sheep. However, often the shepherd would run away, as they were usually not the owners of the sheep – just the ‘hired hands’ (John 10:12-13).

A genuine care for the flock was developed by shepherds, many said to have named each of their sheep [2]. The sheep would grow fond of the shepherd too.

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THE MAIN IDEA

Jesus is the good shepherd.

Jesus, translated as ‘Yehoshua’ in Hebrew, is a combination of the words ‘God’ and ‘save’ [3]. And that is exactly what Jesus set out to do – save his people..his sheep.

Jesus pulled himself from heaven’s ‘society’ and placed himself amongst us, his own flock. He didn’t stay far from us, out of love he came right down into our mess. Jesus took up residence with us, in order to save us. Not only that, Jesus claims he has prepared a place for us in heaven (John 14:2).

Jesus provides for us. Just like a shepherd leads their flock to grasslands and water, so too Jesus promises to give to us our daily needs. In Matthew 6:26, Jesus explains how he provides even to the daily needs of birds. And we are far more valuable to him than the birds! We don’t have to worry, for our shepherd knows all our needs (Matthew 6:31-32).

Jesus came to us in ultimate humility. His own people despised and rejected him – turned backs on him and looked the other way (Isaiah 53:3).

Jesus protects us from the enemy, Satan. When all forms of attacks came, Jesus – out of intense, passionate love – willingly sacrificed himself for our sake. He gave up his own life for us – his flock (John 10:15). But it didn’t end there. He overcame death and was brought back to life, giving us a hope and reason for eternity (John 3:16, Ephesians 2:5-6).

So that whenever the enemy come again, we have intense confidence our shepherd will protect us – for even death didn’t stop him. We are not scared of the enemy, for our God is far more powerful.

And if our God is for us, who can ever be against us? (Romans 8:31)

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SOMETHING TO GRAZE ON

“Feed my sheep” – Jesus

In 1 Peter 5:2, it says we are to ‘be shepherds of God’s flock that is under [our] care, serving as overseers’.

For the Christians out there: we have a responsibility to build each other up and encourage one another in our faith. We have a responsibility to look after the church (‘the flock’). We have a responsibility to look out for the lost sheep, and bring them back to the good shepherd. If we truly love Jesus, we will continue the work on earth which he started.

And in this, we are to display humility as Jesus did to us. To consider others more important than ourselves – and willingly go low in service to our God.

What a tall order.

But through it all we can know and understand this – that Jesus’ passionate love and genuine care for us brought him into our stuffed up, complicated mess. And he provided the solution – himself in our place.

“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil. For you are with me…” – Psalm 23

Jesus sends us out as sheep among wolves in this life (Matthew 10:16). We aren’t guaranteed a free-pass in life, void of all pain and suffering. Quite the opposite.

But we find strength in our shepherd – who put even death to shame.

Safe in his flock.

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REFERENCES

[1] Keeys, C 2011, Step by Step, Walk Through The Bible, Australia, accessed 12 March 2016, <http://www.amazon.com.au/Step-Cliff-Keeys-ebook/dp/B004RJ8MR8&gt;.

[2] Farfaglia, J 2014, What It Means that Jesus Is the Good Shepherd, Aleteia, accessed 12 March 2016, <http://aleteia.org/2014/05/10/what-it-means-that-jesus-is-the-good-shepherd/2/&gt;.

[3]Hebrew Meaning of “Jesus” n.d., Hebrew-streams.org, accessed 12 March 2016, <http://www.hebrew-streams.org/frontstuff/jesus-yeshua.html&gt;.

[4] Christian Leadership: The Good Shepherd 2015, Illustration, Christian Leadership, accessed 23 March 2016, <http://hebrews4.com/2015/10/10/goodshepherd/&gt;.[5] tons of Bible verses

[5] tons of Bible verses

True Integrity

yolo

Someone may have driven over our moral compass. If it isn’t broken – it is lost.

What is true integrity? How relevant is it in today’s society? What does it look like?

All important questions. Integrity is something I believe is so important, especially being a Christian, as Jesus had a lot to say and do about it. But more about him later.

  1. “The quality of being honest and having strong moral principles”
  2. “The state of being whole and un-divided”

In the world today, as a general rule, I believe integrity is somewhat lost. This isn’t different to many other societies before us, however, is still an issue in my opinion. Australia has had something like four prime ministers in the last five years (don’t quote me on that). Failure to fulfil definite promises, although not a new concept, is something we expect in the leaders of our countries. Let that sink in. We are experiencing a drop in the length of marriages worldwide (not saying divorce isn’t necessary in some cases). Celebrities are commonly in the news for cheating on their spouses.

We find meaning in the number of likes on a post. Most of our opinions and views are based around popular opinion. We are told how we should look and act by the mass media. Our self-concept and identity is based on highly changeable things. Closer to home, I ask myself: Do I conform with society? Where does my motivation lie? I wouldn’t stack up too well in those areas.

Fickle: changing frequently, especially as regards one’s loyalties or affections.

We are a fickle society. We value good times, success and financial gain more than most forms of integrity. Myself included in that. We have become our own authorities. Our own ‘true north’.

But is this a bad thing? What is wrong with being in control of our own life? This is where we sift and sort some of the readers here. I believe it comes down to your belief, or lack of belief, in Jesus. Why is that? If what Jesus said and did is all true, we have something serious to consider. And I believe he backed up his claims pretty dang well. My next blog I may go through some of the most compelling evidence for Jesus being who he said he was. A great topic, but more on that another time.

love_revolution

Jesus came and completed the build-up to what is a world-wide revolution, but not the ‘throwing bottles, setting buildings on fire’ sort of revolution. As the picture above suggests, he came in love for his people. And we are to treat all people in the same way as Jesus does. To be the hands and feet of Jesus on earth. What a tall order.

Better is a poor man who walks in his integrity than a rich man who is crooked in his ways – Proverbs 28:6

In Hebrew, “integrity” in the Old Testament means “the condition of being without blemish, completeness, perfection, sincerity, soundness, uprightness, wholeness.” In the New Testament it means “honesty and adherence to a pattern of good works.”

Jesus is the perfect example of integrity. Bar none. He came preaching counter-cultural messages to: love your enemies, be honest, to give more than you take, to pray for those who persecute you. And he didn’t just preach these things – he lived them out. He came to serve instead of be served. A true picture of humility and integrity. Never did he sway from his convictions, yet displayed commitment through compassion to all people.

Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool – Isaiah 1:18

Important to remember that we are flawed humans. True, 100% integrity is impossible on our own (unless you are Jesus, then read above, if you skipped to the end). But Jesus says that through his actions on the cross, we are considered without blemish, perfect in his sight. If we choose to accept his offer, that is. We are called to live in light of the cross, living in repentance and relationship with the author and perfecter of our faith – Jesus.

true grit

I posted this on Instagram a while ago. I believe it serves good use as a picture of integrity – and how we are to live it.

There’s a reason integrity has the word ‘grit’ in it – it’s hard fought

I liken true integrity to this obstacle course. For those of you who don’t know it, it is a team-based obstacle course involving many different challenges. It includes going through tunnels, scaling walls, crawling through mud, etc. In the same way, as Christians we have a military inspired, intense test of our faith and character before us. It demands courage, perseverance, stamina and teamwork. It can’t be done alone. All are welcome to join the team and buckle in – it is set to be one heck of a ride.

To the people with no formed opinion on a God – I pray you investigate the claims of Jesus more. Really look into it. Because if it is truth, it is worth even our lives. We all have the choice to accept or reject Jesus. But that comes down to you. Always welcome to join the team.

Living with integrity to the people around us is a blessing. We have the chance to show just a snippet of God’s kingdom here on this earth. What a privilege, dare I say, responsibility we have. As Christians, we need to realise the commitment involved with our convictions, and allow confidence and compassion to flow from them. In the workplace, school or public arena – integrity as advocates of Christ is imperative.

“The Christian walk is something deeply personal, but so very public”

What a challenge. I find it confronting, such a big task to even consider, let alone live out. However, It is important for me to take a step back and consider where my moral compass points.

What is your true north?