The Bare Soul - August 1, 2010
Kingdom Integrity

Ezekiel 22:27 - Her princes within her are like wolves tearing the prey, by shedding blood and destroying lives in order to get dishonest gain.

If you interviewed a dozen or so random folks on whether they trust church leadership, you would get a variety of answers. Many in the Catholic faith have experienced an inquisition of sorts in recent decades regarding parishioners accusing their clergy of heinous sexual crimes. In evangelical circles, marital infidelity is too often a common occurrence. We hear of men and women in ministry leaving marriages that once seemed joined together in love and harmony, but now are made irreconcilable by the contempt they have toward one another. Opposite sex and more increasingly same sex attraction are the cause for many to leave their families and abandon their ministries. Then, there are those who have heaped up the riches of this world while they beg for more in order to add another television station to their worldwide outreach. I once heard a fellow make a wise statement, "Beware of preachers who plead for missions with hands cluttered with gold rings". Many use such examples to lump all church leaders into the same proverbial basket while they judge them accordingly. They do so, often to condemn the guilty but then also to justify their own integrity or circumspectly their lack thereof. (Paul stated that if we judge others, we often do those same things [Romans 2:1]). Those who have placed themselves in the seat of judgment might say that they have never cheated on their spouse and that they have lived free of corruption. Likewise, they expect those in spiritual leadership to do the same. However, disillusionment with those who minister the gospel is a trap that the enemy of our souls hopes we will fall into. It is the final blow in a one-two punch that the devil has set up to scatter and confuse the church as a whole. It is an ancient ploy which he most notably demonstrated in the Garden of Gethsemane on that fateful night when our Lord was unlawfully taken into custody. If Satan can strike the shepherd, then his hopes are that the sheep will also scatter (Matthew 26:31).

At the time of the prophet Ezekiel, the nation of Judah was a displaced nation with a large deported population and a small remnant left in Jerusalem. Judeans from their own nation whom the Babylonians had put in control were dealing irrespective of the common good of the Jews. They were only interested in what was in it for them and whatever sordid gain they could milk out of their own countrymen. The situation might be compared to tax-gatherers appointed by the Roman government in Jesus' day. Extortion and dishonest gain were the assumed standard for these who were paid off by their respective occupiers. The Jews of Ezekiel's day hated their turn-coat rulers as much as those on the Roman dole in first century Palestine. The indictment does not stop at her "princes" as noted in our lead verse, but the prophet also exercised condemnation on the priests and the false prophets of the day who did not keep the law and who prophesy false visions. They continued to operate much in the same manner as their forefathers did before them, resulting in their captivity. For when blind men and women seek to lead others who are blind, the result is inevitable (Luke 6:39).

What is to be done with those who would seek authority over our lives yet their own lives are full of self-driven, destructive agendas? In many regards, we are giving over many of our individual liberties both nationally and spiritually in the United States. We have allowed many "princes" to tear out the heart of this great nation by their greed for personal power rather than national servitude. We too often turn a blind eye while politicians continue to exercise their rights rather than the rights of the people. We have the power to stand up as individual citizens and demand representation that is marked by integrity. We can and should exercise our right to vote and demand such people to rule over us. Regarding ministers and church leadership that have sought their own will rather than that of their flock, they have the right and the freedom in this great land to make those choices. However, the Body of Christ should not become an accomplice of their self-centeredness and thereby turn away from the truth. We must not be complicit in the deceit that Satan hopes to generate by awarding him the prize of his deception. Each man, woman, and child will have to stand before God on their own merits -- first of all by accepting or rejecting the Lord Jesus as their Savior. But second of all and of paramount importance is how they choose to live out the life that God has entrusted to them. We cannot function individually as the Body. It is ludicrous for someone to say that they will worship God in their own way, divorced from God's church. We must rise up, together, and follow men and women of integrity. The only way we will begin to know whom we are following is by knowing what standard we place on those whom we follow. Jesus said, My sheep know my voice (John 10:27). How much more should we know the voice of integrity in those whom we seek to follow?

Beloved, days are quickly approaching when men and women will need to know whom they have believed and whom they will follow. Perilous days ahead will mean that the Body of Christ will need to come together and to rely on the kingdom integrity that He has given us all to live out. Only as we are living it, will we see it in those whom He has appointed to lead us. Both political and spiritual leader will continue to disappoint us in these end-times as we careen toward the end of the age. However, we do not need to submit ourselves or our loved ones to those who would live lives anything less than with the kingdom integrity that God has bestowed for us all to live in as we hasten the Lord's return. I pray that none would be deceived by the evil one to dismiss the hope that lies ahead for all who would but believe; that God would gives us all hearts to reject anything that smacks of self service and dishonest gain and would grant us hearts of integrity that would cry, Thy Kingdom Come!

Lord, give us hearts of integrity to follow you no matter the circumstance. Give our leaders both in the church house and the White House the integrity to lead with a clear vision of Your will. Have mercy on these who simply will not follow you, raising up others who will carry Your banner into the war that wages for our souls in these last days. Lead us and guide us with Your wisdom. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Your Barefoot Servant,

Rick

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