Tag Archives: integrity

Truthful lips and a truthful heart

Recently I witnessed an interaction that I found quite disturbing.

An adult caregiver was speaking to a young child. The caregiver had said something that was incorrect, and was acknowledging this to the child. But instead of simply saying “Sorry, honey, I was wrong”, the adult said “I lied”.

This is one of the sayings that has crept into contemporary speech from television. “I lied” is a truthful statement if you have actually intentionally deceived another person. But if you have simply made a mistake, saying you lied is actually confusing the issue. Mistakes are simply part of being human. Lies are something else entirely. When we lie to someone, we have intentionally deceived them.  Telling a child that you lied to them when you only made a mistake is deeply confusing because young children innately want to be able to trust the adults in their lives.

Most people of my generation were taught by parents, school and church that it was important to tell the truth. This basic moral principle comes from the Ten Commandments, and although it is far less widely understood or accepted in contemporary society than it once was, it is still a foundation stone of our culture. Cheating on exams, lying in court, being unfaithful to a spouse – these are all still widely understood to be wrong. But God’s word tells us that it’s not just the outward action that matters. In fact, what matters even more than the outward action is the intent of the heart. So, you can unintentionally mislead someone (like the adult caregiver in my example above) and you haven’t lied. You simply made a mistake, which you may deeply regret, but your intent was not to harm. Lies are something else entirely. They are expressions of a deceptive intent, and they are incompatible with the character of God who cannot lie.

When I was growing up, I remember distinctly a day when my mother spoke to me about my father. I was probably about ten or eleven years old at the time. This incident stood out to me. What she told me – with considerable emotion – was that my father was a man who would always tell the truth. His word could be relied upon. Deception was simply not part of his character.

I don’t remember what prompted her to make this assertion, but I do remember that her words made a deep impression on me. It was clear to me that she was completely confident that my Dad would never lie to her, that he was a man of integrity who could always be relied upon to speak and act truthfully.

I am very grateful for this example. Although my parents weren’t especially devout, this core principle of Biblical values was imprinted in my heart and mind by the way they lived.  I learned early on that being a truthful person is of great importance.

Despite this example, I can’t claim that I have never lied. I remember several occasions when fear of consequences prompted me to say something untruthful. But I knew immediately that my untruthfulness was wrong, I was deeply ashamed of it, and once I learned to take my sins to Jesus for cleansing, I knew what to do about it.

When King David committed adultery with Bathsheba and then later confessed his sin after being confronted by the prophet Nathan, he uttered these memorable words, expressing his awareness of the character that is pleasing to a holy God:

You delight in truth in the inward being

He then went on to plead with the Lord for cleansing.

Wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.

Like David, if we say we love God, one of the things that we need to fervently ask Him to impart to us is a truthful heart. This was the essence of David’s prayer in Psalm 51. He was asking God to change his heart and make him into a man of truth. He knew the character of God and he knew that his own heart had been exposed as unclean. He desired cleanness in his innermost being. David knew that truthful speech and truthful behaviour arise from a truthful heart. He knew that only God could transform his heart and make him into a man of truth.

What about you? What about me?


Now is the time

Yesterday Marion and I buried her father, Blake Denyes, who passed into eternity one week ago today.

Most of the family was able to be present for the time of leave-taking. Our son Simeon made it home from Kansas City, although his wife Heather and their three beautiful little girls stayed home. Our granddaughter Maddie and our great-nephew Ethan lightened the solemnity with their childlike playfulness and the reminder that the good gift of life continues. It was good to see our four children reconnecting with their grandma, aunts, uncles and cousins. Marion’s brother Mark delivered a fine eulogy in honour of his father, and it was my privilege to conduct the funeral service, which gave me a precious opportunity to share the good news of Jesus Christ and the hope of salvation through His sacrifice on the cross.

My mother in law Evelyn is a remarkable woman. At age 93, although her memory is failing, she still knows how to enjoy life, and she accepted her husband’s passing with the peace of one who has confidence in the promises of God. For this I am deeply grateful.

My father in law was an admirable man in many ways, one who pursued excellence in everything he did. He was a man of singular focus, with a strong will and a strong desire to live. After suffering a heart attack at age 54, he determined to rebuild his health and lived forty more years. He was thrifty, hard-working, fair-minded, loyal, and faithful to his wife and family.

He was also a man who carried a lot of weight on his own shoulders. At the end of his life, when his strength was gone, he placed his hope in Jesus as his Redeemer, and I am very thankful that he did. But for most of his life, he seemed to live mostly by the strength of his own will. This made his life more difficult than it needed to be.

None of us gets to live our life over again, but we do get to learn from the example of others who have gone before us. There are many positive values that I can glean from my father in law’s life, many admirable qualities that I want to emulate, with God’s help. But I also want to learn from what he had difficulty doing.

I want to live well – and to live well not by human standards but by God’s standard. God’s definition of what constitutes a life well lived is that it is all about love. I have found that as I continue the daily adventure of learning to live by faith, the burdens of life grow lighter, and my capacity to love and serve others increases as I learn to trust God and let Him teach me His ways. In the process, I find that am continually surprised by God’s amazing grace.

So my appeal to you, and my goal for my own life, is this. Work hard, give life all you’ve got, but don’t make the mistake of thinking that this means doing life on your own strength. Don’t wait until your strength is gone to surrender your will to God and trust Him to direct your life. Do it now. Do it every day. It’s the only way to lasting freedom.


Truth, humility and righteousness

The past few months have been a less than glorious chapter in the annals of Canadian politics and government.

Even the most devoted Conservative partisans must be feeling a tad uncomfortable by now, as the list of unanswered questions and seeming contradictions in the PMO’s handling of the Senate expense scandal grows steadily longer. Yet our Prime Minister continues to refuse to take any personal responsibility for this sorry spectacle.

You may recall that not so many years ago, Mr. Harper came into office on a platform of accountability and integrity, after having pilloried then-Prime Minister Paul Martin and his predecessor Jean Chrétien for their involvement in the equally lamentable sponsorship scandal. Deceit, it seems, knows no party boundaries.

It is easy to grow cynical about the spectacle of moral failure in government. The evidence that such corruption exists is hard to ignore. Nor can it be tied to any one political party. Leaders of all political stripes are susceptible to the tantalizing lie that their positions of power and privilege give them the right to do whatever they want.

Yet there is another side to the ledger, one that is too often forgotten.

Yesterday morning I was privileged to attend the Ottawa Civic Prayer Breakfast. The purpose of the event was to publicly honour and pray for our municipal councillors and first responders (police, fire fighters and paramedics). We were reminded of how much pressure these people are under every day, and how much they need our prayers. We heard from a paramedic, a police officer, a fire fighter and two members of Ottawa’s city council. Several of them spoke of the reasons why they had entered their chosen line of work. All of them expressed their gratitude for the encouraging words and prayers offered on their behalf by people of faith. It was an inspiring morning.

I have no doubt that most of those who choose to serve in politics, police work or some other aspect of public service do so because they genuinely want to make a difference, to make life better for the citizens of their city or their nation. The vast majority of public servants do their best to carry out their responsibilities faithfully and at considerable personal cost year after year.

The stench of corruption that currently surrounds our federal government should be no cause for rejoicing by those who happen to support a different political party. Rather, for believers in Jesus it ought to serve as a reminder of our common human frailty (As it is written, “None is righteous, no, not one”), and a call to prayer. Those who enter politics are stepping into a pressure-cooker environment in which they are daily assaulted with powerful temptations to compromise on issues of integrity. Psalm 45, a poem in praise of godly kingship, depicts the ideal king as one who rides forth in defence of truth, humility and righteousness. These admirable character traits, so valuable in God’s sight, are keys to leading with integrity. Yet politicians, sadly, are expected by the party machine to buy into a win-at-all-costs mindset that is absolutely fatal to the servant leadership taught in Scripture and modelled by Jesus. Even people who enter politics with the best of intentions are flawed human beings who are not immune to these pressures.

As I reflect on the crisis of trust that is currently plaguing Canada’s government, I am reminded that only leaders who cultivate humility can walk in truth and righteousness. It is humility that keeps those in positions of power from becoming corrupt liars who serve only themselves. It is also humility that keeps the rest of us from pointing fingers when our leaders disappoint us. Our leaders – and we ourselves – will one day have to answer to a holy and righteous God. Though full of mercy and quick to forgive, His eyes search out the hidden motives of every heart and hold us all to account. That fact alone ought to drive us to heartfelt prayer for our nation and its leaders, for all public servants, and for ourselves. If you, Lord, kept a record of sins, who could stand?

Lord, teach us to pray.







I am fascinated by words.  I guess that’s not surprising, for someone who likes to write. In particular, I find that exploring the etymology (origins) of a word often gives me a much richer understanding of shades of meaning that are not obvious at first glance.

Take the word integrity for example.  It comes from the Latin word integer, a term that is still used in mathematics and computing science to refer to an unfragmented number – a number that can only be whole (no decimals, no fractions).  The word integrity stems from a root that means not touched.  As well as referring to moral soundness and honesty, it is also used to refer to the quality of data (data integrity), the soundness of a structure (the integrity of a ship’s hull), and so forth.

One of my goals in life is to be a man of integrity.  In pursuit of this goal, recently I took some time to return to the ancient wisdom of the book of Proverbs.   I was reminded of the following words which a wise man spoke to his sons many years ago.

Above all else, guard your heart
For it is the wellspring of life

The author of this pearl of wisdom was Solomon, the King of Israel and author of the books of Proverbs and Ecclesiastes, renowned as the wisest man of his day.  Solomon told his sons that he himself had been given this same advice by his own father, David, when he was still a little boy and the only child of his mother.

Solomon’s mother, of course, was Bathsheba – with whom Solomon’s father David had committed adultery in the greatest failure of his kingship, a scandal that had huge repercussions. So when David told Solomon to guard his heart, he knew what he was talking about.  David, to his credit, was never one to hide his sins. When he erred, he was quick to humble himself, admit his fault and turn back to God in repentance. And so, not many years after his sin of adultery with Bathsheba, David – probably recognizing that it was pride and presumption that had led to his own downfall – impressed upon Solomon the importance of keeping his heart surrendered to God in single-minded devotion.

At first it seemed that Solomon was getting the message.  As a young man he showed great humility.  When God appeared to him in a dream early in his kingship, offering him any gift he might desire, Solomon — recognizing his inexperience and his need of God’s help to be a good ruler — asked above all for wisdom.   Tragically, later in life he didn’t follow his own advice.  His heart became divided and he allowed his pagan wives to lead him astray, worshipping their gods as well as the Holy One of Israel – with disastrous results.

Farther along in the book of Proverbs, Solomon wrote that the integrity of upright people guides their choices, but that people who practice duplicity (deceit) end up being destroyed by it.  Solomon discovered the truth of these words to his own cost.  His own duplicity – his breach of faith with God, and therefore with the people he served – led to the destruction of all that he had laboured to build.

Self-deception is the easiest thing in the world, a malady from which none of us is immune.  We are all capable of convincing ourselves that something is right when it is what we want to do.

That is one of the reasons why accountability relationships are so important.  My friend and mentor Larry Kreider, who is the international director of a family of churches and ministries, considers this so important that he has submitted himself not only to an apostolic council with whom he shares the leadership of DCFI, but also to a team of leaders  from other streams in the Body of Christ.  He has learned the value of a yielded heart.

Recently Marion and I felt directed by God to seek out a new church affiliation.  (If you’re interested in knowing why, read my previous post).  To us, this is a big decision, not a small one.  We want to bring a blessing to our new church, and help it to be effective.  We are hungry for genuine Biblical community, because we understand its power to transform lives.  It’s our heartfelt desire to leave an imprint, to influence the next generation with the values of the Kingdom.  For this to happen in an age of cynicism, we need to demonstrate that we are credible by living transparent lives. We find that many people are looking for someone they can trust, someone who is believable. To be trusted, we need to demonstrate that we are believable people.

This does not happen overnight. Trust can only be gained over time, but it can be lost in an instant.  Trustworthiness is a quality of character, the fruit of a lifetime of turning away from self-deception and cynicism, and choosing instead the way of humility and integrity.  It’s about the daily choice to run into God’s arms instead of running away when we’ve stumbled, the choice to run towards community instead of into isolation when we’ve been hurt or have failed in some way.  To have a believable testimony we need to be people who live without pretense.

For this reason I am very grateful that one of the elders at my new church has agreed to keep me accountable by reading my personal journal.  It’s in a protected blog, but I’ve given him access whenever he wants it.  Why would I do this?  Because life is too short for religious games.  I want reality, and the only way to get it is through honesty.  If my brother sees something in my journal that he is concerned about, he can ask me about it any time he wants.  I want my heart to be an open book before him. The only protection I want is the protection that comes from walking in the light.  That’s the only way to have genuine Biblical community – the kind of community that produces people of integrity who are prepared to be worldchangers.


Will someone please just tell the truth?

I turned to the CTV news this morning and discovered that another aspiring politician, erstwhile Toronto mayoral candidate Adam Giambrone, has had his private infidelity exposed and has stepped down from the race to succeed outgoing mayor David Miller.  When the story first broke and it appeared that Giambrone was planning to stay in the mayoral race, one of the most perceptive commentators on the story observed ironically, “Don’t worry, a politician’s private integrity has nothing to do with his public integrity. Right…”

In a post on the Tiger Woods saga a few weeks ago, I commented that none of us is in a position to condemn public figures for their personal moral failures.   I stand by this assertion, but that doesn’t mean that the rapid decline in standards of public integrity isn’t a cause for concern.  I can’t help noticing that Canadians seem increasingly cynical about the truthfulness of politicians, business people, spiritual leaders, employers, and other authority figures.  Effective leadership in any arena requires that trust be established.  In an atmosphere of general cynicism about the motives and integrity of leaders, this task becomes much more difficult.

The Torah contains a fascinating chapter (Leviticus 27) on vows.  Essentially these rules were put in place as incentives for people to keep the vows that they had made to the Lord.  The unstated assumption behind this teaching is that in our fallen, corrupted condition, we humans are inclined to try to weasel out of promises if they become too costly or inconvenient.  By the time of Jesus this had apparently become commonplace, prompting him to address the issue head-on by saying that making vows or oaths is a bad idea.  His point was that people of integrity don’t need to use vows or oaths to certify that what they’re about to say is really true – they just tell the truth, all the time.  So, for example, Jesus would say that swearing on the Bible in court should have no impact on your testimony; if you are truthful, you are truthful all the time.

It’s easy to become disappointed or even offended at leaders who are untrustworthy.  However, since we can’t change others but only ourselves,  a more productive response is to examine our own hearts.  Do we exhibit the qualities of truthfulness and trustworthiness that we look for in others?   Jesus said, Let your yes be yes and your no be no.  Anything more than this comes from the evil one.  In other words – please just tell the truth.

The choice to walk a straight path rather than a crooked one is a daily decision; it’s a reflection of our basic convictions about life.  The book of Proverbs (10:9) reminds us that our truthfulness – or lack thereof – will eventually become visible to all.  There is no “truthfulness switch” that can be turned on or off at will.  Integrity may not seem very exciting and it’s not always convenient, but it is absolutely foundational to a believable testimony and a stable and productive life.

Do I want the people I work with to know that they can believe what I say without question?  Then I need to practice truthfulness all the time – even when I have just made a mistake, and an honest report might make me look bad.  Even if I look bad because of my mistake, in the end an honest report will win me a better reputation than a lie to save face.  And in the eyes of God – whose verdict is the only one that ultimately matters – truthfulness always looks infinitely better than any attempt to hide or camouflage the truth.

Do I want my children to be truthful with me?  Then I need to be truthful in all my dealings.  If I cheat on my taxes by making meal or travel claims that don’t reflect reality just because I can get away with it, should I be surprised when my child cheats on an exam?  If I can lie when it’s convenient, why can’t he?  If I ask my child to tell an unwanted caller that I’m not at home, I shouldn’t be surprised later on to find my child betraying my trust.  If she can lie for me, she can lie to me.

Do I want to have good sex with my wife?  Then I need to be transparent with her.  Sex is not only physical – it is about emotional and spiritual intimacy.  I can’t expect my wife to desire intimacy with me if I’m hiding things from her.  A liar is a divided person; but she didn’t marry part of me, she married all of me.  If I expect my wife to be excited about being with me, I need to bring my whole self to the marriage bed.

Do I want to please the Lord more than I want to please myself or anyone else?  Do I genuinely believe that He is trustworthy and rewards those who place their trust in Him?  Do I understand that truthfulness and humility attract the favour of God?  If I understand these things, then I will be highly motivated to ask God daily to cleanse and train my heart, and make of me a person whose character reflects His integrity and uprightness.

Will someone please just tell the truth?  Good question.   Let’s be that person.


Fear of the Lord

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the fear of the Lord.

The immediate impetus for my reflections has been the recent spectacle of Canada’s political leaders playing games with each other, one threatening to bring down the government, another offering to prop it up, a third saying that disaster will strike our economy if the government falls.  The stated message is “we are doing this for the good of the country”, but all too often the truth is more like “we are doing this because we want to be in power”.  I wrote in a previous post that it is important for Christians to honour and respect our leaders as well as pray for them.  I still believe this, but sometimes honouring our leaders also means calling them to account.  It is a sad spectacle to see politicians of all stripes saying one thing and meaning another.   Sometimes honouring and respecting our leaders means saying “Come on folks, surely you can do better than this”.

But what does the fear of the Lord have to do with any of this?  Isn’t it some outmoded Old Testament concept, that got thrown out when Jesus died on the cross?  Well, no, it’s not.  The fear of the Lord is actually a truth that we badly need to rediscover.  The very fact that many North American Christians think it’s outmoded shows how much our Christianity has been watered down to accommodate popular culture.   If we’re going to hold our political leaders to account, we’d better also hold ourselves to account for the calibre of our church life and our personal walk with God.  A healthy understanding of the fear of the Lord can help us to do this.

Over and over, well over 200 times, the Scriptures instruct us to fear the Lord.  Interestingly enough, despite the use of the word “fear”, which we usually think of as negative, most of the references I checked promised great blessing to those who fear the Lord.

The Biblical meaning of the fear of the Lord is far more than just being afraid of God.   It is an attitude that stands in awe of God, that trembles at His power and holiness, but at the same time trusts in His goodness and mercy.  The fear of the Lord is associated with a worshipful disposition and approach to life, including :

The fear of the Lord is not just an Old Testament concept.  The description of the first Jerusalem church, immediately after the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, describes these believers as walking in the fear of the Lord and the comfort of the Holy Spirit ! True conversion will produce a heart that is in awe of God.

But doesn’t the Bible also say that perfect love drives out fear?  Yes – but the fear that is driven out is the fear of punishment, not the fear of the Lord.  When we know that God loves us and has accepted us in Christ, we have peace with God, but this doesn’t mean that our hearts are no longer in awe of Him.   If anyone is inclined to doubt this, consider the example of the Apostle John.  He knew Jesus on earth as intimately as anyone.  Scripture calls him the disciple whom Jesus loved, indicating an especially close relationship.  He is also the one who wrote the words that perfect love drives out fear.  Yet in describing his vision of the risen and glorified Christ, he writes : I fell at his feet as though dead.  Although he had known Jesus intimately on earth, when he saw him in his heavenly glory he was terrified and had to be reassured that he was not going to die.   So apparently even apostles still have room for the fear of the Lord in their lives!

The Scriptures identify a number of excellent character qualities in the lives of those who fear the Lord – qualities such as hatred of evil, integrity, loyalty, humility, faithfulness, and wisdom.   Contrary to most of our contemporary politicians – and some church leaders, sad to say – leaders who lead in the fear of the Lord will not make decisions based on popular opinion, which the Bible describes as the fear of man.  They will not judge by outward appearances; instead they will make righteous decisions.  The ultimate embodiment of one who fears the Lord is the Messiah, Jesus, who is coming to govern the earth at the renewal of all things.

I am longing for his government – for the day when Jesus reigns on earth as King!  In the meantime I will continue to pray for my leaders – both in the church and in the world – that by God’s grace they would lead in the fear of God.  All of us who have any leadership position – small group leaders, ministry leaders at any level, heads of families, business owners, team leaders in workplaces – need to recognize that the position we hold is a trust from the Lord, that the people entrusted to us are precious to Him, and that we are accountable to the Lord for our leadership.   Whatever kind of work we are doing, we need to remember that we are doing it as unto the Lord, as people who are accountable to Him.   Far from being oppressive, this kind of awareness is liberating.   The fear of the Lord sets me free from the curse of meaningless – it invests everything I do with meaning and significance, because I am doing it in the light of eternity.


A man with a true heart

Nathanael  ( John 1:43-51 )  was a man with a true heart.

Although he was one of the twelve original apostles, Nathanael doesn’t get a lot of air time in the gospels.  Compared to Peter, James and John, he barely gets mentioned.  Yet Jesus gave him one of the highest of compliments when he called him a man of complete integrity.

He wasn’t a big name.  To use a hockey analogy, although he made the team he wasn’t a top six forward.  He was what hockey fans call a character player, and Coach Jesus strongly affirmed his value.

What was it about Nathanael that so impressed Jesus?

I believe it was his humility and his honesty.  Here was an honest skeptic who allowed himself to be persuaded and became an honest believer.  He was no polite religious hypocrite.  He wore his convictions on his sleeve.   When his friend Philip told him about Jesus, Nathanael had some doubts as to whether a rabbi from Nazareth could be the Messiah, and he made no attempt to be polite and hide his doubts  – but at the same time he was humble enough to accept Philip’s invitation to come and see.  And when he met Jesus, it only took one brief conversation to totally undo Nathanael’s defenses and bring him to his knees.  When he found a leader with integrity, a true shepherd who could read his character and speak truth to his heart, his response was immediate and genuine.

Nathanael didn’t come to Jesus with great expectations.  He didn’t come looking for Jesus to do anything for him.  He simply came with an inquiring heart, looking for reality.  Although his expectations weren’t high, Jesus promised this humble, honest man that he would see great things.  He would see the door to heaven opened and the way to heaven revealed.

Lots of people had encounters with Jesus during his time on earth, but only a few of them were changed in a lasting way by those encounters.  Nathanael was one of those who was changed forever.  After that initial conversation with Jesus, Nathanael’s name isn’t mentioned again until the very last chapter of the Gospel of John – the one where the risen Jesus has breakfast on the beach with his disciples, and commissions Peter to feed his sheep.   Nothing is said about what happened to Nathanael between those two events.  But this much we know – he stood the test, he stayed on the team, and he got to be part of the victory celebration.

Much of the church in North America today seems to be easily impressed with what impresses the world around us.  Maybe we think this is the price of relevance, but if so, we’re dead wrong.  If we are going to bear lasting fruit we need to cultivate the kind of attitude that we see in Nathanael – a man of integrity, a man with a true heart, a man who was not impressed with himself but instead was impressed with Jesus.


Being real

I sometimes tell people that the older I get, the less I know.  I don’t mean that I’ve forgotten lots of stuff – although that’s probably also true … can’t remember for sure.  What I mean is that I am no longer so fixated on having all the answers.  I think I’m finally starting to realize that God is God and I’m not … as a result, my relationship with God has gotten a lot simpler and a whole lot less frustrating.

I have learned some things, though.  One of the most valuable lessons I’ve learned is that God is looking for integrity and honesty of heart.   A lot of what goes on in our culture is about image.  We often mock politicians for being insincere but the truth is that there’s something in all of us that wants to look good – to impress others.  But God is not impressed with any of the things that we do to impress ourselves or others.  I once heard Graham Cooke say that God doesn’t get disillusioned with us when we fail because He had no illusions about us in the first place!  When we try to fool ourselves and others, God is not fooled.  He sees us as we really are.

That thought can be disturbing and a bit unsettling as long as you are still trying to impress others, or trying to convince yourself that everything is OK when you know it’s really not.  Once you give up that attempt, it’s strangely comforting to be dealing with a Being who sees you exactly as you are, speaks only the truth to you, and is committed to helping you see yourself – and all of life – the way He does.

If you want to know about seeing life from God’s perspective, a great place to start is by getting to know Jesus.  He is a perfect reflection of God’s character.   He is totally, unwaveringly truthful, will puncture all your illusions, and then when you finally collapse He will pick you up and show you amazing kindness, unlike anyone else on earth.  That’s because He doesn’t come from earth – He comes from heaven, to reveal his Father’s goodness to a race that has been captive to deception for a long time.