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Life Reference: I Peter 3:8-12

Focus Verse:

“The just man walketh in his integrity: his children are blessed after him” (Proverbs 20:7).

Home repairs are one of my least favorite tasks. If the repair is complex—which with my skills can be most anything—it then involves calling a repairman, setting an appointment time, and then paying an unexpected bill.

A few years ago I noticed some water around a small foundational crack. I chose to be proactive and called a repair company. The cost was relatively small and the problem was soon fixed. End of story. It could have ended differently had I chosen to ignore the situation until it became a much bigger, and more costly, leak.

The same principle applies to our lives. A small chink may threaten to weaken our moral foundation. It may seem minor—a small misrepresentation or a broken promise—yet there is a hidden danger. Little things can become big things. Proverbs 11:3 says, “The integrity of the upright shall guide them: but the perverseness of transgressors shall destroy them.”

Life Reflection:

Can you think of a time in your life when something small became a test of your integrity?

How did you handle the situation?

Living with Integrity

What is integrity? We can describe it as honesty, strong moral principles, uprightness, or good character. In everyday language, it means always doing the right thing even when no one is looking (or will ever find out). This is opposite the philosophy that “the end justifies the means.” An article in Forbes said, “Success will come and go, but integrity is forever.”

The Book of Genesis devotes several chapters to the life of Joseph, a young man who had many opportunities and temptations to compromise his integrity. Had he yielded to the voice of temptation, who would know? He was in a strange country with no one from back home “looking over his shoulder.” But Joseph did not waiver. He stood firm because he knew to do less would be an affront to God Himself.

“A person is not given integrity. It results from the relentless pursuit of honesty at all times.”

–Unknown

“How can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?” (Genesis 39:9).

Life Reflection:

Describe the difference between reputation and character.

Has someone disappointed you by compromising their integrity? How difficult would it be to regain your trust in them?

What are the long-term blessings of walking in integrity?

At some point in life, all of us will be tempted to compromise our integrity. It may come from outside pressure, such as a boss instructing us to lie about a business matter, or it may come from inside to escape the consequences of our actions. We can argue with our conscience. “It’s not that big a deal. I’m not hurting anyone else.” The argument doesn’t hold up. Our lack of integrity does affect others.

Life Response:

Why is integrity important? We can list many reasons, but let’s just look at three.

  • Integrity gives us peace. We don’t have to live with the guilt of knowing we settled for the easy way instead of living by our principles. We will have a clear conscience. (See Hebrews 13:18).
  • Integrity brings trust. If we are a person of honesty and character, others will trust us. Even those who would discredit us won’t be able to find anything evil to say about us. (See I Peter 3:16).
  • A person of integrity becomes a role model. We exhibit honesty and uprightness to a world that often lacks these important characteristics. Little compromises, little omissions, little untruths erode character. By paying attention to these things we affect those around us. (See Titus 2:7-8 and I Corinthians 11:1.)

Keep the foundations strong. Repair any chips or chinks now. Remember, we are preserving integrity for the next generation.

“The just man walketh in his integrity: his children are blessed after him” (Proverbs 20:7).      

Questions to Ask Myself

  • Am I the same in public as in private?
  • How do I treat others who cannot benefit me in some way?
  • Do I keep my word?
  • Am I truthful?
  • Am I willing to admit to myself and others when I am wrong?
  • Do I consistently live by the moral standards of God’s Word?
  • Have I made myself accountable to at least one person?
  • Do I seek to please God in all I do?

My Prayer:

Lord, my desire is to be a person of character—honest, truthful, and filled with integrity. When I feel pressured to compromise, give me strength to overcome. Make me aware of the little things that might undermine my character. Help me to live a life of integrity that I might please You and be an example to others.

More Life with God References

Proverbs 6:16-20

I Chronicles 29:17

II Corinthians 8:21

Proverbs 19:1

Psalm 41:11-13

Proverbs 2:6-8

Psalm 26:1-3

 

This Bible study was adapted from an article originally published in Reflections Magazine.

Today’s Scriptures:

Joshua 1:8 – “This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it.  For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.”

Hebrews 4:12 – “For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”

I have a friend who is truly a kindred spirit.  Her name is Sis. Faith and, true to her name, she is wall-to-wall faith in God.  A petite little powder keg for Jesus, Sister Faith led our ladies prayer group and taught us about the Word.  Being from the country of Guyana, she would say to me in her cute little accent, “The Word WORKS, Sistah Lah-ra, but you gotta WORK the Word!”

The Word was strong in Sis. Faith and the Spirit of the Lord activated it to yield amazing results.  Once she told me the story of her brother who had been diagnosed with a terminal illness.  Since she lived out of state, it took her awhile to get to the hospital and by the time she got there the spirit of death was overshadowing the room and everyone was grieving.  Sister Faith shooed everyone out and closed the door.  All the Word that she had stashed away in her heart came flowing out, and as she spoke the Word of God over her brother, he received a miracle of complete healing.

The Word in me and you is our response to life.  When life happens, whatever is in our heart comes pouring out.  If the Word has been firmly planted, it comes rising up as a mighty weapon, combating lies with truth.  The Word in us is our defense.

The Word Fitly Spoken

Everything you see on earth was created by the spoken Word (Genesis 1, Hebrews 11:3).  Today, all things are held together by the word of God (Hebrews 1:3).  But listen!  God did not keep this creative power for Himself – He made us in His image, and gave us authority to change things with our words.  Indeed, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit” (Proverbs 18:21).

The Word in you must come out of you to bring change.  Words can change your future.

One day, as Jesus walked with his disciples, he saw a fig tree that was barren.  Jesus told the fig tree to die.  Right before their eyes nothing happened.  They walked on to Jerusalem.  The next morning when they passed the fig tree it was “withered away to its roots.”  The curse Jesus had spoken upon it did not manifest immediately.  Like a bouquet of flowers that still look alive for a time, the fig tree looked alive.  But death began the moment Jesus spoke the words.

Jesus used this moment to teach:  “Truly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says will come to pass, it will be done for him.”  (emphasis added, Mark 11:12-14, 20-24).  Undoubtedly, we have the power to curse or bless with our lips.

The Word Responds

Is it just me or does it seem like the whole world is offended?  In our selfie society, we no longer have healthy, let alone Godly, responses to life’s challenges.

All Christians have a Mentor who showed us the proper responses to every temptation.  His template:  “It is written!” The Word in me responds to:

  • Offense – “Great peace have they which love thy law: and nothing shall offend them” (Psalm 119:165)
  • Attack – “So we may boldly say: ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?’” (Hebrews 13:6) “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger” (Proverbs 15:1).
  • Anxiety – “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known unto God” (Philippians 4:6).
  • Concerns – “The Lord will perfect that which concerns me” (Psalm 138:8).
  • Sickness – “He Himself took our infirmities and bore our sicknesses” (Matthew 8:17).
  • Grief – “Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows” (Isaiah 53:4-5).

It’s another law of nature: what goes in will eventually come out, especially when provoked.  “A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth evil.  For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks” (Luke 6:45).  (Did you get that?  Your heart is a treasury!)

Work The Word

We delight in the promise of this oft quoted scripture, “And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32).  But allow our understanding to go a little farther – it’s what you do with the truth that will make you free.

“But be doers of the word,” James tells us, “and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves” (James 1:22).  He goes on to say that if we are not forgetful hearers but a doer of the work, we will be blessed in whatever we do.  Yes, you heard him correctly – it is work.  Sis. Faith was right – we must WORK THE WORD!

In this series, I shared the story of my daughter’s healing.  What I didn’t share was the fact that her miracle was in two parts.  First, God did the supernatural and healed the issue.  Later, in prayer, He told Brooke she was to partner with Him to restore what the illness had destroyed.  She needed to “work the Word” and obey His pathway to health.  For many months, Brooke and I sat together every night and spoke healing scriptures out loud.  This blessed her body and built our faith.  God told her what she should eat, and what she shouldn’t.  Today we are reaping the “fruit of our lips” and her obedience to His voice.

It’s time to speak, to act on the Word in you.  What can you take away from this series, “The Powerful Word,” that will change your life?  The Word is a Person Who Brings Truth, Faith, and Life to your world. Speak these blessings over your life and others today and see what God will do!

“Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it” (Hebrews 2:1).

Today’s Scriptures:

John 1:1 – “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”

John 1:14 – “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us…”

We are a family of book nerds.  When we moved to the great northeast, we literally left boxes of books behind in storage because we couldn’t bear to part with them.  Even with the internet and kindle, my daughter still puts books on her Christmas list, and reads them in bed with a light.

She comes by it honestly.  I can remember many nights as a kid, falling asleep with a book and waking up to it by my pillow the next morning.  As I grew older and walked into dark trials, sometimes I would fall asleep reading the Bible, the words bringing peace to my troubled spirit.  I’m not ashamed to confess that there were times I snuggled with it like you would a beloved parent or close sibling.  It was almost as if it were… human.

One day when I was about 12 or 13 the words of John 1 leaped out at me:  “The Word was God.  And the Word became flesh…”  Say what? Flesh?  How? How can a word be anything but little black letters on a page?  Or sounds that come out of my mouth?

More Than a Book

I’m not sure the world’s greatest theologians with the finest lexicons could explain God satisfactorily for human comprehension.  How do you explain Someone that has no beginning or ending?  How do you explain how Someone could be both fully man and fully God?  How do you explain that God is The Word?  Even if I could, it would not convey the heart of the matter to you.  Because here it is, simply put:

  • The Word is so much more than a Book.
  • The Word is a Person who wants fellowship with you and me.

I have forgotten that so often.  In my efforts to “line up” with the written word, pray “according to” the word, and “minister” the word, I forget the Word is a Person.  A Person with feelings.

God laughs. God cries. He dances. He sings. He gets angry. He gets frustrated.  He gets jealous over our affections.  God loves fiercely.  And He very much wants to be loved back.

More Than a Relative

You’ve probably heard it said “Christianity is not a religion, it’s a relationship.”  That would be true.  But let’s look at how God views it:  “For God is faithful through whom you were called into fellowship with His Son Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 1:9).  Beyond relationship, He is calling us into fellowship.  Did the people in Laodicea have a relationship with God?  Had they been born into His family? Yep. Did they have fellowship? Nope. Why else would Jesus be on the outside knocking to come in? (Revelation 3:20).

When my babies were born, my relationship with them began. They shared my DNA, and my name was on their birth certificates as a “relative.”  How sad it would be if, after the birth, I never got close to them, sat down to dinner with them or got involved in their daily lives.  I wouldn’t know their laughter, share their dreams and know their hearts.  I would be related, but I wouldn’t know them.  How much I would have missed!

The new birth is a wonderful beginning, but God’s greater desire is close fellowship with His children.  He wants to share our celebrations and sorrows; He wants to be in the middle of everything.

More Than a Building

The whole story of the Bible is Perfect Love creating opportunities for fellowship.  He put Himself in the Garden, then in the Tabernacle, then in human form, and finally in our hearts.  I’m all about church, but don’t you get it?  WE are His dwelling place now.  Jesus didn’t die on a cross just so we could go to a building a couple of times a week.  No, He suffered, bled and died to have daily fellowship.  The ripped veil in the temple on the day Jesus breathed His last breath was a bold symbol that God had finally bridged the gap between Himself and His treasured creation.  It would be like the day your son or daughter was acquitted after a long trial.  That was a special day for God.

Glory to Glory

Just as our fellowship with our children changes over time, so should our fellowship with God.  The Apostle Paul taught us that in the new covenant, we enter into this fellowship, and go from glory to glory (2 Corinthians 3:16-18)!  In a beautiful passage, Isaiah reveals the progression of how we grow together with the mighty God in Christ Jesus (Isaiah 9:6, ESV):

“And his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor,

Mighty God,

Everlasting Father,

Prince of Peace.”

Wonderful Counselor – Jesus first becomes our Savior and our fellowship is so wonderful.  He rescues us from sin, and counsels us through the effects that sin has had on us.  Like a baby, it is easy to adore Him because His hand feeds us and carries us everywhere.

Mighty God – We recognize Him as Lord.  We begin to see the authority of the only Person that never changes.  We realize that we can’t make Him into what we want Him to be, or manipulate Him as we sometimes can others.  He is the “I AM” that changes not, and His lordship is final.  Similar to a small child, we may wrestle some with this, but it brings us security.

Everlasting Father – We move into a deeper fellowship and communion with God as we realize He does everything from the heart of a loving parent.  Even His chastening is sweet.  We lean into the knowledge that, as a good Father, His love is everlasting and will always be there for us.  We learn to trust Him more, especially in areas of provision and protection.

Prince of Peace – As a healthy relationship between a parent and an adult child, we enter into both a partnership and close friendship with God.  Just as we have learned to trust Him, we have hopefully given Him reason to trust us as well.  He can call us into the deep things such as the fellowship of suffering, and the challenges of the mission fields.  Our fellowship is not only daily, but moment-by-moment communion with our dearest Friend.  Because we have learned submission, there is never enmity with Him, only a continual abiding peace.

 

No one has ever seen the 19th picture on my phone but me.  It’s a candid, unflattering snapshot I took of my daughter and her dad, both who had fallen asleep snuggling on the couch.  Their mouths are slightly open, Brooke’s hand resting on Jeff’s chest.  This is more than just an image on a Samsung to me.  It’s a reflection of the heart of God.  She’s a young adult now, partnering with her dad in worship leading and campus ministry.  Some might say she is too old for snuggling, but she would say they’re wrong.  I think God would agree.