Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The challenge of - INTEGRITY

When people think of politicians, they think corrupt. When people think of businessmen, they think greedy. When people think of government, they think self centred and untrustworthy (in which the sentence might most likely end with a nasty swear word). Of course this is just generalising and stereotyping the above. When people think Christian, what would they say about us?

I would not be surprised if people actually think that we are all of the above. I recently read a book called 'They like Jesus but not the church' by Dan Kimball. Especially in this country (UK), when people here the word Christian, they cringe. I have realised that there is a tremendous mental block (more like a mountain actually) towards Christianity. How do you share the gospel in a country that were one of the major instruments in actually spreading the gospel to all the world for the past hundreds of years. Christianity is no new thing, but has been seen as more of a nuisance than contributing to society. The majority of the British population call themselves Christians, but that will only be true if being a Christian is to just celebrate Christmas and having a public holiday on Easter Monday.

So what has happened? Aren't we supposed to be salt and light? Well, we are in the world and yet show reflections of the world instead of the Kingdom of God. We have achieved the first part of integration with the world, but don't really know how to get out of it. This is because there is little difference between so called ‘Christians’ and ‘the world’. That is why people come out with terms such as ‘ungodly Christian’, ‘nominal Christian’ or ‘unholy Christian’. If that is true, then we should have terms such as ‘godly hindus’ or ‘holy atheist’. The more I think of it, the more ridiculous it seems. The term ‘Christian’ means ‘Christ-liked’. So by calling someone an ‘ungodly Christian’ in reality is actually like calling ‘ungodly Christ’. Its an oxymoron, both are contradicting each other and cannot coexist.

The reason for all these confusion is because the term Christian has been taken too likely. In the book of Acts, when the term ‘Christians’ was used, they were described as fanatically Jesus followers. That was one of the reasons the gospel spread like wild fire. They didn’t just leave their jobs to share the gospel. In fact, they shared the gospel through their work, business, school, farm etc. Their lives were totally transformed, and their fellow colleagues, workers and friends had ‘no choice’ but to be influenced by them totally and converted into Christianity.

So what’s wrong with us now? What has deteriorated the most ever since?
It is Character and Integrity.

In the destiny of every moral being there is an object more worthy of God than happiness- it is character.’ Austin Phelps

In these days of deception and duplicity many are crying out for integrity. Even our now former Prime Minister of Malaysia, Dato’ Seri Abdullah Badawi had to be nicknamed ‘Mr Clean’. So does that mean the others are all ‘dirty’? Integrity in relationship is rated highly among people surveyed; in fact it is considered more important in their friendship than any other trait. As we see in Job, God Himself considers integrity the highest priority. He even boasts about Job’s integrity to Satan.

A simple and famous explanation of ‘integrity’ is ‘what you do when no one is watching’ or ‘what you do behind closed doors’. Upon examining the dictionary, this nine letter word ‘integrity’ seems to be loaded with meaning. It is derived from a Latin word which means ‘wholeness or soundness’. It also means adherence to a code of values, utter sincerity, honesty and candor. Comprehensive as the dictionary is, ‘salt and light’ Christianity goes much further.

An even more interesting fact which I found fascinating was that the root word of ‘integrity’ was ‘integer’ now a mathematical term which means untouched, whole and entire. A closer examination of the root word ‘integer’ means whole numbers like one, two, four, eight and even zero. Fractions and mixed numbers like one and a half (1.5), or one fifth are not integers. This gives a revelational fact into Christian living. One cannot be a half Christian, one third Christian or even a 99% Christian, and possess integrity. We have to be 100% Christ’s to find wholeness, completeness, and fulfilment. As integrity forms an integral part of being a Christian, such is the standard of living out as a ‘Christ-liked’ one. Nothing lesser than full fledged integrity shall suffice the privilege of being affiliated with our saviour, king and master. Even if water is clear, that doesn’t mean it is pure. A drop of poison can destroy its purity, if not its clarity. So our purity – integrity – has to be complete.

It is certainly a tall order but an extremely necessary one! Lord, may we live a life of relevance without compromise for the sake of your Name.

Character is like a tree and reputation is like its shadow. The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing.’ Abraham Lincoln

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Shaking hands with Eternity..

'Walt Disney was sitting on a bench one day, staring into space. Someone who passed by asked him, 'How are you sir?' Without looking at the man, he said:' Fine', and kept on staring. So the man said:' Sir, what are you doing?' 'I'm looking at my mountain and my world.' he answered. Walt told his architects about the Space mountain that he wanted to include in Disney World and they begun drawing up plans. Walt Disney died before Space Mountain was built, so he never saw it constructed. When Space Mountain was dedicated, the mayor and governors were all present as was Walt's widow. One of the young men stood up to introduce her, and said:' It's a pity that Mr Walt Disney isn't here today to see this mountain and magnificent park. But we are glad that his wife is here.' Mrs.Disney walked up to the podium, looked at the crowd, and said, in effect, 'I must correct this young man. Walt already saw the mountain. It is you who are just seeing it now.'

What a powerful story of Vision. Proverbs 29:18 states, 'Where there is no vision, the people perish'. It may sound harsh, but it is absolutely true. The full essence of this statement implies that where there is no revelation of the future, people throw off self-control and personal discipline. Where there is no destination, any path will do.

Vision is fueled by a purpose. Purpose is determined by the creator. Therefore, God the creator of man has purposed each and everyone of us for something special because uniqueness is part of God's creation. In Ecclesiastes 3:11, it reads 'He has also set eternity in the hearts of men.' There is something within us that is being called by eternity. The vision God has put in our hearts is 'a piece of eternity' that He gave us to deliver on earth in the form of time and space. Therefore, God has done something awesome. He lives in eternity, yet He has specifically placed us in time so that others on earth will be able to see a piece of eternity that is in Him. Therefore, a God given vision is not only fueled by a God given purpose for us to manifest on earth but, it has also been completed in eternity.

'I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me. I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say: My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please.' Isaiah 46:9-10

In this passage, God mentions two things that He does.
Firstly, He establishes the end before the beginning. This means that He finishes things first in the spiritual realm, and then HE goes back and starts them up in the physical realm which is bounded by time.
Secondly, He reveals the end result of something when it is just the beginning.

This is what it means when God says I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. When God starts something, He has already completed it in eternity.

Just as a builder has an idea in his head. He visualises and pictures the house. He then draws it out exactly the way he wants it to be. The landscape, the color scheme, the windows, the doors, the garden etc. A detailed picture of what the completed house would look like is drawn. That picture is then placed to a board which is then placed at the building site with a big sign above it reading 'Coming soon'. The house was not built yet but, by showing the completed picture of the house it was revealing the end of its purpose. The builder had a vision for that building, because it saw the finished product before construction had even started. God essentially completed us before He created us.

Everything was already finished in God's mind before He laid the foundation of the world. God had already imagined and planned how He wanted everything to be, then He initiated the beginning by creating the heavens before working on project earth.

It can be defined that 'Vision is foresight with insight based on hindsight.' We have insight into God's purpose for us based on what we know God has already accomplished in eternity. Vision is a glimpse of our future that God has purposed. We might not know all the details of how our purposes will unfold, but we see the 'ends' because God reveals them to us in the vision He gives us.

Lastly, so if God had already imagined the entire history of mankind. He already planned everything as He pleases. Everything was already completed in the spiritual yet not manifested in the physical yet. And God is indeed the beginning and the end. Then, when Adam who was the first man on earth walked with God in the cool of the Garden of Eden. When he shook hands with God, he was actually shaking hands with everything which was, which is and is to come. He shook hands with eternity.