Today’s Text and Thought of Encouragement:
“Though I walk in the midst of trouble, Thou wilt revive me: Thou shalt stretch forth Thine hand against the wrath of mine enemies, and Thy right hand shall save me. The Lord will perfect that which concerneth me: Thy mercy, O Lord, endureth for ever.”
Psalm 138: 7, 8
“It’s easy to grow downhearted
When nothing goes your way.
It’s easy to be discouraged
When you have a troublesome day.
But trouble is only a challenge
To spur you on to achieve
The best that God has to offer
If you have the faith to believe.”
Helen Steiner Rice
Today’s Study Text:
“And when he (Herod) would have put him (John the Baptist) to death, he (Herod) feared the multitude, because they counted him (John the Baptist) as a prophet…And the king was sorry: nevertheless for the oath’s sake, and them which sat with him at meat, he commanded it to be given her. And he (Herod) sent, and beheaded John in the prison.”
Matthew 14: 5, 9, 10
“An Oops – Over An It!”
“Never esteem anything as of advantage to thee that shall make thee break thy word or lose thy self-respect.”
Definition of Integrity: Soundness, complete, firm adherence to values. Undivided.
In my life, what does it mean for me to be a person of integrity?
How can divided loyalties affect the decisions we make?
“O keep my soul, and deliver me:
let me not be ashamed;
for I put my trust in Thee.
Let integrity and uprightness preserve me;
for I wait on Thee.”
Psalm 25: 20, 21
Integrity in Hebrew: Simply upright.
“There is no such thing as a minor lapse of integrity.”
The great British playwright, William Shakespeare, in his famous tragedy Hamlet, written about the Prince of Denmark, shares these renowned words: “This above all: to thine own self be true.” While this oft-quoted line is a clarion call for us to look hard within ourselves and not only to talk about what truth is, but to live it out in our own lives, it is the line which follows “to thine own self be true.” That for me, strikes a note for as Shakespeare wrote: “As the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man.” In other words, be forewarned, if we are not honest with ourselves about truth, how can we be honest and truthful with those around us.
If ever this fact was played out in human drama, look no further than the interconnecting lives of Herod Antipas and John the Baptist. Despite the fact that Herod Antipas appeared to believe in his heart-of-hearts, that John was a prophet from God, his real hesitancy in letting loose his vengeance on John, because of the “Baptist’s” harsh words regarding Herod’s marital infidelity, was because he “feared the multitude.”
It was the adulation of his subjects that Herod's fragile ego craved. That and the fact that he didn't want to look like a fool to the people at his birthday party. He didn't want to go back on his rash promise to the young Salome that she could have anything she wished. And so, the end result was that John's head became a trophy. An “oops,” trumped an “it.” At least, that's how Herod read things.
Seems that King Solomon had a good handle on the results of a life lived in direct defiance to God -- treacherously and willfully doing what one wants to do. Solomon wisely wrote in Proverbs 11:3, Amplified Bible. "The integrity of the upright shall guide them, but the willful contrariness and crookedness of the treacherous shall destroy them." At the end of Herod's life, this is exactly what happened to him. His little "oops, I goofed," began to stack up against him. And any character traits, of a positive nature, were completely obliterated.
One of my favorite poets, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow called what I note as “Herod’s Behavior,” The Foe Within. Each one of us can uncover the foe that lurks inside us. A foe we should not encourage or feed. As Longfellow penned:
“None but one can harm you,
None but yourself who are your greatest foe;
(She) that respects (herself) is safe from others:
(She) wears a coat of mail that none can pierce.”
Down through time, it has not just been poets who have dealt with the strength found in those whose characters are lined with the virtue of integrity. I really appreciate the way Ross Campbell, author of the book, Parenting Your Adult Child, gets right to the heart of integrity’s essence when he observes:
“Integrity is a part of our character and is best known by three behaviors: Telling the truth; Keeping one’s promises; Taking responsibility for one’s behavior.”
The three essentials noted above fly in the face of what we see lived out in the life of Herod Antipas -- a man whose ego was fed by the approval of the crowd. A man whose decisions were based on what he thought would help him get ahead. And finally, a man who was able to ignore any call which crossed his own will. In the words of L. James Harvey, "Do the right thing not the comfortable thing."
“All spring and summer, each leaf’s true color is masked over by green chlorophyll cells. When fall comes and the chlorophyll departs, the true color is no longer obscured. The ‘change’ is really just an unveiling. The leaf doesn’t become more colorful; it shows the world what is has been all along.”
He was known as the “People’s Poet.” A man who penned what some have called “sentimental and optimistic” poetry. Born in Birmingham, England on August 20, 1881, Edger A. Guest came to America in 1891. His words have inspired me since I was a young woman because of his unique way of taking deep thoughts and conveying them, with simplicity, just as he does in our affirmation for today entitled, “Myself.”
“I have to live with myself, and so,
I want to be fit for myself to know;
I want to be able as days go by,
Always to look myself straight in the eye;
I don’t want to stand with the setting sun
And hate myself for the things I’ve done.
I don’t want to keep on a closet shelf
A lot of secrets about myself,
And fool myself as I come and go
Into thinking that nobody else will know
The kind of man I really am;
I don’t want to dress myself up in sham.
I want to deserve all men’s respect;
But here in this struggle for fame and pelf,
I want to be able to like myself.
I don’t want to think as I come and go
That I’m for bluster and bluff and empty show.
I never can hide myself from me,
I see what others may never see,
I know what others may never know,
I never can fool myself – and so,
Whatever happens, I want to be
Self-respecting and conscience free.”
Edger A. Guest
Dorothy Valcàrcel, Author
When A Woman Meets Jesus
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