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Sing the Victory

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‘You will not need to fight in this battle.
Position yourselves, stand still and see the salvation of the LORD, who is with you,
O Judah and Jerusalem!’
Do not fear or be dismayed; tomorrow go out against them, for the LORD is with you.”
And Jehoshaphat bowed his head with his face to the ground,
And all Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem bowed before the LORD,
Worshiping the LORD.

Then the Levites of the children of the Kohathites and of the children of the Korahites stood up to praise the LORD God of Israel with voices loud and high.
So they rose early in the morning and went out into the Wilderness of Tekoa;
And as they went out,

Jehoshaphat stood and said,

“Hear me, O Judah and you inhabitants of Jerusalem:
Believe in the LORD your God, and you shall be established;
Believe His prophets, and you shall prosper.”

And when he had consulted with the people,
He appointed those who should sing to the LORD, and
Who should praise the beauty of holiness,
As they went out before the army and were saying:
“Praise the LORD, For His mercy endures forever.”

Now when they began to sing and to praise,
The LORD set ambushes against the people of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir,
Who had come against Judah;
And they were defeated.

II Chronicles 20:17-22

God Fearers

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Malachi 3:13-18

God said
“Your words have been harsh against Me,” Says the LORD,

You said
“Yet you say, ‘What have we spoken against You?’
You have said, ‘It is useless to serve God;
What profit is it that we have kept His ordinance,
And that we have walked as mourners Before the LORD of hosts?

A culture of inequity
So now we call the proud blessed,
For those who do wickedness are raised up;
They even tempt God and go free.'”

The God-fearers gather together
Then those who feared the LORD spoke to one another,

And God heard them
And the LORD listened and heard them;
So a book of remembrance was written before Him
For those who fear the LORD
And who meditate on His name.

God claims them as His own
“They shall be Mine,” says the LORD of hosts,
“On the day that I make them My jewels.

God protects them
And I will spare them as a man spares his own son who serves him.”

The God-fearers have discernment
Then you shall again discern:
Between the righteous and the wicked,
Between one who serves God-
And one who does not serve Him.

Return to Me and I will return to You

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Malachi 3 – Return to Me and I will return to You

Intro:
Return from exile
Spiritual life was in decline
Repentance was needed
People lived in luxury
The land ruled by foreigners
Heart worship was lost 2:7

The priests did not honor God
God called prophet Malachi to speak truth to the people -1:2-5
People gave blemished sacrifices – a 1:14
Divorce – the wives of their youth were rejected 2:17

I. God is coming
Suddenly
A messenger will come first –
John Baptist – at first coming
Revelation – at second coming

II. Judgment – 3:5
Judgment purifies like fire and like soap
Judgment shall begin at the house of God
For divorce of wife of the youth
Peter says– all things continue as they were

III. Repent 3:5
Off unjust living
Of oppression of those in need

IV. Change your ways v. 3:3
Change to leaders – the sons of Levi
By an unchanging God – 3:6
An unchanging God who keeps His promises to the sons of Jacob

V. Return to me and I will return to you – 3:7
How shall we return?
Had forgotten the law of God

VI. Practical counsel – 3:8-10
You can rob God
Godliness has a practical dimension
Christians give less than 2%
Support those not cared for
Selfishness is the problem

VII. The windows of heaven – 3:10
Try me and see what I will do
Blessings of life
Pour out a blessing – so you can bless others
Pour out Spiritual blessings – So you please the heart of God
God is just
Worship is in Spirit and in truth
Worship will change your life

Observations:
God’s people will be judged
The Church is the pillar and ground of the truth
God will hold us accountable for our lives

Integrity or Loyalty? Part II

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Integrity is based on truth
Right is right and wrong is wrong. That is not such a difficult concept. Growing up in a healthy home and healthy culture, right and wrong are immediately apparent. That type of growing up produces integrity because it is based on Biblical truth.

The modern world has no agreement on what is right and what is wrong. Any system can and will create its own definitions. This results in the loss of the internal compass. The internal sense of right and wrong is replaced by the agreements and definitions of the system. Hitler’s Germany was a classic and drastic example of this. Loyalty to Hitler’s Germany took precedence over truth. Truth was lost. Loyalty was demanded. Integrity was lost.

Integrity desires truth
Integrity welcomes truth
Integrity insists on truth
Integrity is who you really are
Integrity is who you are in the dark
Integrity is who you are when no one is looking
Integrity is who you are even when you know you will not get caught
Integrity is who you are on the remotest island on the darkest night
Integrity will die for truth
Integrity knows that truth is more valuable than life
Integrity knows that ‘truth is immortal’
Integrity supports and defends the innocent
Integrity does not tolerate bullies
Integrity cares for others more than for self
Integrity stands up for the less fortunate
Integrity does not abuse
Integrity does not manipulate
Integrity never takes unfair advantage of anyone
Integrity is courage personified
Integrity is love personified
Integrity is justice personified
Integrity is respect personified
Integrity is equity personified
Integrity is honesty personified
Integrity is holiness personified
Integrity is being absolutely trustworthy
Integrity speaks for those who have no voice
Integrity sets the agenda for doing what is right
Integrity is God personified
Integrity is the essence of truth
Integrity is lost in a loyalty system

In the world of integrity no one argued that they could do anything they wanted and it was OK. No one! Real men with real convictions lived Godly lives without being poured into a mold that made them all alike. They were not cookie-cutter men. These men were not all identical but they had the same gentleman’s code of conduct and life. They lived that way before their God and their fellow man. The common thread in their lives was integrity, not mindless uniformity.

I remember a world like that. Not the whole world, of course, but the world in which I grew up. A world where injustice and wrong were the exception, not the rule. A world where you did not always have to watch your back. A world where mine was yours and yours was mine. A world of community. A world where men honored and protected women and children. A world where Christ was King. A world where you knew the Church was your most valuable asset in this life and your only path to the next.

Somehow we have gotten the idea that we can legislate morality and produce a system that will prevent wrong and sin. That is not true. That can only come from a committed heart and a disciplined life. Compliance with a system, no matter how fool-proof, will never produce the same results as a culture and a life of integrity.

The way we are doing church is not “the way we have always done church.” That is why we should study history. History produces cycles. The part of the cycle we are in now does not work. We need repentance and revival. Revival is return to truth and the integrity that truth produces.

We have more sin today than we did then. We look better but we are not better. The appearance is impressive but the experience is depressing. I know. Men tell me that they cannot keep themselves from sinning – men who look good and dress right but cannot keep themselves free from sin.

Loyalty systems do not produce holiness. We need to restore Godliness and holiness to the Biblical culture we have inherited. We can return to the era of integrity. We can create a culture of integrity and holiness. We do not have to decide between life and truth. They belong together and they can be together again today.

There is nothing wrong with being plain people. I am one of them. But, that is not the panacea. That is not the silver bullet. That is not a free ticket. How did we get where we are today on this subject of Integrity and Loyalty?

Integrity or Loyalty?

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Integrity or Loyalty – Which will it be? What is the difference? Does it matter? It matters. Integrity and loyalty are vastly different.

First, a disclaimer – Loyalty is not necessarily wrong and evil. Loyalty can be good and useful if it follows and supports integrity and fidelity. It is important to be loyal to a spouse or to a personal commitment that you have made. That is a good use of loyalty. In marriage, loyalty to spouse trumps all other affections. But, even there, loyalty follows and supports integrity fidelity.

Loyalty dare not stand alone. When it does, it is destructive. If you are loyal to a friend no-matter-what, you will make wrong choices. You will typically defend the friend no matter what he/she does, right or wrong. That violates integrity.

Integrity, on the other hand, is doing and living what is right at all times. It is uncompromising. It is teaching and defending the truth and right. It is refusing to be loyal to anything that is wrong. It stands unflinchingly for truth and righteousness.

A major change in society
There has been an unfortunate move in society – the move from integrity to loyalty – mostly in the last 100 years. It is even impacting many churches from very conservative to liberal. In many churches loyalty is now demanded – You are guilty if you are not loyal. In a system based on loyalty, disloyalty becomes the greatest sin.

That is not a surprise. Disloyalty was the charge against Jeremiah – “he speaks against this city (Jerusalem)” Jer.26:8-11. Was Jeremiah disloyal? He told the truth as God told him to say it. Is that disloyal? Apparently so in the eyes of the leaders. Because of his apparent disloyalty, the leaders said that he must die. Jeremiah was not disloyal. Telling the truth is not disloyalty. Jeremiah faced that charge several times in his life.

Ideology is the basis of loyalty
Ideology is a set of accepted beliefs based on political ideas. Those ideas are built into a structure by people who believe or hope to benefit from the ideas. The ideology replaces truth and then truth is lost because the ideas are seen as more valuable than the truth. As long as truth is primary, we can depend on truth to defend us.

When ideology becomes primary, truth is lost and loyalty trumps integrity. The Catholic Church experienced this. When they could not defend their system with truth, they switched to dogma. ‘It is not true because the Bible teaches it. It is true because the church says so.’

Ideology takes over when truth is lost. Ideology demands loyalty. That is what makes the loyalty system function. Loyalty to a system of ideology is what promotes the ideology and truth is lost.

Loyalty creates impressive structures
Loyalty is typically a system created by well-meaning people
Loyalty produces a very impressive appearance
Loyalty creates a culture of compliance and defensiveness
Loyalty pressures people into compliance
Loyalty suppresses and destroys truth
Loyalty quiets the dissenting voices.
Loyalty demands support of its agendas
Loyalty destroys discernment
Loyalty demands control and compliance
Loyalty means that agendas focus on unquestioned allegiance to a system
Loyalty creates internal conflicts that are eventually resolved to defend the system
Loyalty produces an allegiance that eventually becomes the “truth”
Loyalty places politicians in charge and leaves people in confusion
Loyalty creates a “not on my watch” mentality among leaders.
Loyalty creates polarization
Loyalty masquerades as submission
Loyalty is an inadequate basis for life and ministry

People are guilty, not based on a lack of integrity, but on a lack of conformity and loyalty to the system.

The motive of a loyalty system is to create a uniform society by making the people controllable. The motive may be noble but the methods are subversive and the result is bondage. Without the tribal markers of inclusion and/or exclusion these ideas could not survive. Arbitrary and artificial and untrue practices are now defended as the “way we have always done it.”

A loyalty system is very resistant to anyone who would challenge the ideology.
An integrity system, on the other hand, welcomes all who will love and identify with truth.

Why Do You Judge?

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But why do you judge your brother?
Or why do you show contempt for your brother?
For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ.
For it is written:
“As I live, says the LORD, Every knee shall bow to Me,
And every tongue shall confess to God.”
So then each of us shall give account of himself to God.

Romans 14:10-12

Me On a Leash

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Me on a leash in Reading, PA

Back in the day there was not air conditioning. That meant that, on very warm days, stores had fans running inside and doors open to the outside. (There were no shopping centers – stores were downtown in cities.) My mother and grandmother went shopping in Reading, PA. They took me along. Somehow, I walked away from them. This resulted in a frantic search. The little boy was nowhere to be found.

Finally, in desperation they went through the open doors to the outside. There, on the other side of Penn Square, was a policeman holding a little boy, Me. With great relief they retrieved their wayward child. Something had to be done. What to do?

At four years of age, I was not to be trusted. My energetic and exploratory curiosity was more than mother and grandmother could deal with. A leash. If they could, puppy like, have me on a leash, all would be solved. Fortunately, such things were available. A leash for a child. Complete with fitted halter and a long leash – a child leash. And so, the problem solved, shopping could continue with total peace of mind. No more escapades for me. No more panic for them.

For several years I was leashed when out and about. The perfect solution. Back in the day, that apparently was not a problem. Children had to be controlled and protected. Policemen were not always immediately present to rescue little boys. Whether this parenting would be approved today or not, I had to be kept in halter and harness. Actually, I am grateful for God’s protection and that my family took the precautions for my safety.

I have no memory of this event – only what was told to me. How did I get across the busy Penn Square? Where did the policeman find me? I have no idea. But, back in the day, a kind policeman noticed and rescued an innocent but errant child. Protected by a guardian angel – I am here today.

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