Integrity

One of my favorite questions I ask while getting to know someone is, “What has been your greatest experience during your time working at x company?” I asked that question of one of my neighbors last night, a wonderful man approaching his 90th birthday.

He hemmed and hawed a bit, but he shared how he had placed a Christian statue in front of his office. Stretching back in to his mind 60 years ago, he talked about how he had dedicated his business to the Lord and knew that his ultimate accountability was not to man, but to God. His statue was a bold and prominent display of the godly values he lived in his paper manufacturing business.

As I dug in a little deeper, he shared that his favorite value was integrity. It was one of those things that was so critically ingrained in his being that he didn’t even think about it anymore. “We always did the right thing,” he shared with confidence. “I couldn’t look at myself in the mirror knowing that we did the wrong thing.”

“One of our biggest customers was a bakery in the Mid-west. We realized we over-charged them by $10,000. We just sent them a check. They called us up and said, ‘What the #$*! is this?’ We told them the story, and they worked with us for the next 40 years.”

Warren Buffett summed it up this way, “Integrity, intelligence and energy. Hire someone without the first, and the other two will kill you.” Thousands of years before Buffett, Moses penned the following in Deuteronomy 25:13-15:

Do not have two differing weights in your bag—one heavy, one light. 14 Do not have two differing measures in your house—one large, one small. 15 You must have accurate and honest weights and measures, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you. 16 For the LORD your God detests anyone who does these things, anyone who deals dishonestly.

Anyone who consistently lives a life for the Lord, pursuing righteousness and honesty, will live a life of meaning and purpose. Healthy relationships are more important than money, fame or power, and God uses those relationships to bring true purpose to our lives.

When I was about 22 years old, my neighbor gave me some tools. Among them was a $200 engine hoist that he purchased from Costco. I worked for Costco, and knowing their return policy, I eyed a two hundred dollar “reward” for my find. With a bit of trepidation, I hauled it off to the store for my bounty.

Several weeks after the refund, I brought my store manager the $200 in cash and asked to give the money back. I ran out of justification for my action (hey, if they don’t want to give me a refund, they wouldn’t give me the money). It may seem strange, but this was a defining moment in my adult life. I had to make amends… I hoped for mercy and prepared for the potential loss of my job. I told him the story, handed him the cash and asked for forgiveness. His response was, “Are you kidding me? Do you know how much guts it takes for you to do this? Keep your money and don’t do it again.”

I Samuel 12:1-4: Samuel said to all Israel, “I have listened to everything you said to me and have set a king over you. 2Now you have a king as your leader. As for me, I am old and gray, and my sons are here with you. I have been your leader from my youth until this day. 3 Here I stand. Testify against me in the presence of the LORD and his anointed. Whose ox have I taken? Whose donkey have I taken? Whom have I cheated? Whom have I oppressed? From whose hand have I accepted a bribe to make me shut my eyes? If I have done any of these things, I will make it right.”

Acts 20:32-35:  “Now I commit you to God and to the word of his grace, which can build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified. 33 I have not coveted anyone’s silver or gold or clothing. 34You yourselves know that these hands of mine have supplied my own needs and the needs of my companions. 35 In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ ”

Do what you say, say what you do, do the right thing.

 

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The Teleios Man

It’s been four years since the death of one of my closest friends. His name was Sean T., and we met our freshman years at Green River Community College in Auburn, Washington. Sean was a local boy, like me. That’s about where our similarities ended. My family cared for and protected me. His abused and neglected him. Especially his dad.

If you prefer to look away from the ugly underbelly of sin, stop reading. Sean’s dad was a predator. He feasted on the sexual identity of his own son, stripping Sean of innocence, his purpose and his social belonging. Sean opened up his pain to me on the first day we met. He shared how his dad had molested him from his earliest memories. He shared how he had prostituted himself to make money in high school. He floundered for the words to express the anguish he felt… and the shame… from his severely broken relationships.

Sean was new to the faith. He had recently given his heart to the Lord and was attempting to break ties with the friends that would drag him into all kinds of sin. Pot, alcohol (which eventually took his life), lies and other types of evil were a perpetual temptation. Through me and my friends, we loved Sean with a love he had never known. He expressed how much  he loved to belong to our group.

Sean’s social awkwardness was compounded by ADHD, obesity and very low self esteem. People sometimes ran away as though he had the plague. I sometimes wanted to run too. I knew that I would never know the full extent of the grace Sean was given, and somehow, the Lord let his grace flow through me to Sean.

When his liver finally gave out, I was at Harborview Hospital by his side. I encouraged him to stop fighting and be with Jesus. His mom flew up for his well-attended funeral, and as we ate together before the service she made this comment:

“When someone does that to a child, they kill the soul and let the body walk around.”

What she hadn’t seen was the restoration work God had done to redeem Sean’s soul over the years. Sean was working on becoming complete in Christ, a “Teleios Man” as my friend Larry Titus would say.

In his book of the same name, Larry writes about mentoring and helping men to be complete. We’re all born into a broken state; broken relationships with sin-infused desires. Teleios is the Greek word for complete or finished. Larry writes about his experiences and expertise in mentoring men towards completeness in Christ. Some of these men are more wounded and abused than my friend Sean.

My challenge is not to figure out if I’m better or worse off than other guys. I’m challenged to live the most complete life I can, centered around my pursuit of God. My passion is getting as many men around me going in the same direction. I really don’t care if I’m at the front or the back of the line. I care about which line I’m in.

Do you have a Sean in your life? Are you being mentored and mentoring? At church about a year ago, the pastor singled me out to point out that I intentionally mentor younger men. He commented from the pulpit that I was probably mentoring at least three or four men. A quick mental tally (this isn’t really something I regularly tally) and I had the actual total: 12. Nice biblical number. I’m proud of those men. I love sharing my life with them, and I really love seeing their lives become more complete because of Jesus working through me.

Colossians 1:28-29 “Whom we preach, warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom; that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus. To this end I labor, struggling with all His energy, which works so powerfully within me.”

Happy New Minute

As I write this, the fireworks and screams have already begun around the world. 2011 is here for more than half of the earth’s population. I can already hear the sound of resolutions giving way; like a semi-breached dam preparing to shatter.

The problem isn’t making a resolution. What I have noticed is that it is really hard to suddenly stop anything when you get really good at it. For instance, I am a really good eater (and I don’t mean well-mannered, unless my manners will increase my access to yummy calories). My first resolution ever was to give up ice cream. I was 13 & pudgy, and I finally figured out that chicks don’t dig pudgy unless you’re a puppy.

How did I work up to my resolution? I practice my craft. 6 ice cream bars latter, I made my vow to never again have ice cream, and I really wasn’t even tempted to have any until at least a day later. You know what I did.

That experience with my resolution helped me to see how fruitless a sudden and sometimes whimsical resolution can be. Resolutions do work when they are a part of a disciplined lifestyle. When we demonstrate faithfulness by the moment in our godly disciplines, we are much more likely to truly resolve to do the right thing. There is very little power in a resolution by itself. There is great power in tenaciously seeking God in the seconds and minutes of our life.

“He will die for a lack of discipline, led astray by his own great folly.” Proverbs 5:23. We all know people like this. I’m sure they make new year’s resolutions, maybe several of them for each December 31 that rolls around. We do not often enough live in the moment; disciplined and steadfast in our resolve for righteousness. We wait for something big to be our catalyst for something better. Unfortunately, the big things in life usually uncover our deficiencies rather than strengthen them. Take Peter, for instance. His embarrassing denial of Christ was preceded by at minimum four smaller failures.

Peter lacked discipline. Christ told Peter that he would deny Jesus three times, but he was very overconfident. Then Peter fell asleep when he should have been praying. In Gethsemane, Peter chopped off Malchus’ ear, a reckless and grossly undisciplined act. When Peter followed Jesus into town, he kept his distance. He already denied Christ in the proximity he kept. How could he resolve to do something like claiming allegiance to Christ when he’d practiced the exact opposite?

The Holy Spirit is in the moment. He is here, now, initiating with us to make the best choices we can. He doesn’t want us to wait until the new year, new day, Sunday, a retreat, a wedding or the birth of our children or grandchildren to do what he wants us to do right now.

“So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other… Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.” Galatians 5:16,17,24,25

There are many distractions to our discipline. Cut them out. If TV, facebook, Xbox, cars, or needlepoint get in the way of your daily devotion and discipline, wean yourself away from those things. They are not sinful in and of themselves, but they rob you of the moments that you could do something actually meaningful. Do things that resonate with your purpose and identity. Delve into your passions and discipline yourself in the gifting you have. Resolve to do what the Holy Spirit would have you to do this minute. Here’s what’s at stake.

Annual resolutions:

  1. Have a very high failure rate
  2. Lead to spiritual and intellectual frustration and apathy
  3. Don’t help you to develop your purpose and generally lack meaning
  4. Are forgotten by the following year

Resolving to give the minutes to Jesus:

  1. Have a very high success rate
  2. Lead to spiritual and intellectual fulfillment and engagement
  3. Help you to develop your purpose and meaning
  4. Are experienced at the end of your life, and remembered daily until then

What if Peter had been faithful in the moments preceding the cross? What if he had accepted his initial rebuke, prayed with Christ, disciplined his anger and taken the faithful steps of a friend? Peter went on to give all of himself to the Kingdom, even his life. I am sure if he had a mulligan, he would have the internal fortitude to live with Christ in the last minutes he spent walking this earth.

If you read this before the New Year, don’t wait. Give this very minute to Christ. If you’re reading this after the New Year, do the same thing! Joshua 24:15

Larry & Devi Titus

Larry and Devi Titus are the leaders of Kingdom Global Ministries. They are incredible leaders, influencers and mentors to pastors and leaders of the faith. And for a few powerful hours last night, this wonderful couple agreed to share their wisdom and insights with a few close friends and me.

It can be tough keeping up intellectually with really sharp people. The Titus’s are no exception, but they have a well-practiced gift of listening carefully and genuinely engaging in the experience of conversation.

Devi writes and talks extensively about the experiences of the home. She wrote a book titled “The Home Experience”, which challenges women to fulfill the role of creating a loving & nurturing environment within the home. She also wrote “The Table Experience”, a how-to for families that lack the dinner experience. I love the premises for both topics, and I believe the content is truthfully and effectively communicated.

One of the things I leaned from these leaders of leaders is how important focus and purpose are. They are both very intentional, with clear goals and clearer consciences. Granted, they’ve had 47 years of ministry practice to hone their skills, but the me of this moment is challenged by the them of today.

I’m gleaning a lot from Larry and Devi… Probably more than they know. Ryan Hart is a young successful businessman I’ve been privileged to pour into over the last couple of years. He thinks I’m mentoring him, but the truth is that I learn about as much from him as I give to him. It helps that I really like his company. He was with us last night and it meant something different to him.

Ryan and I are working through his personal core purpose and mission. Because of Ryan’s unique ability to conceptualize and create businesses, his mind is constantly looking for business opportunities. He’s already started over a half-dozen businesses with several other concepts in production. Because he sees opportunity around every corner, he is attempting to only look in corners that are within his niche.

Larry and Devi know their purpose. They understand their mission and have a clear vision. So many ministries are hindered by their poor representation online. Not KGM. When I looked up their ministry’s website, it demonstrated excellent design and content. When your guiding principles are in place, your implementation is so much better. There is little wasted energy, no brand wander, and aligned content. Larry and Devi represent the gold standard of Christian ministry, and I greatly appreciate the few hours they shared with us.