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Your Cheatin’ Heart

According to Psychology Today, a survey of 2,153 juniors and seniors from colleges across the nation found that 70 percent of men and women confessed to cheating during high school. Nearly half of all college students surveyed cheated, as well.

According to polls reported by USA Today, Americans lie more than we realize. Citing statistics from the book, The Day America Told the Truth, the newspaper reported that 91 percent of Americans lie routinely. Here are the specifics: 36 percent tell big lies, 86 percent lie to their parents, 75 percent lie to their friends, 73 percent to their siblings, and 69 percent to their spouse.

What are we lying about? Eighty-one percent lie about their feelings, while 43 percent lie about their income. And 40 percent lie about sex.

A study by the American Management Association indicates that U.S. businesses lose over $40 billion to employee theft each year, $4 billion to embezzlement, $2.5 billion to burglary, and $2 billion to shoplifting.

Here’s what the Bible says. “Do not lie.” “Let he who stole, steal no more.”

There is really only one solution for those who lie. It’s called repentance. It’s not easy. If it was, everyone would do it.

Appearances

In 1884 a young man died, and after the funeral his grieving parents decided to establish a memorial in his honor. With that in mind they met with Charles Eliot, president of Harvard University. Eliot received the unpretentious couple into his office and asked what he could do. After they expressed their desire to fund a memorial, Eliot impatiently said, “Perhaps you have in mind a scholarship.”

“We were thinking of something more substantial than that – perhaps a building,” the woman replied.

In a patronizing tone, Eliot brushed aside the idea as being too expensive, and the couple departed. The next year, Eliot learned that this plain pair had gone elsewhere and established a $26 million memorial named Leland Stanford Junior University, better known today as Stanford!

James, the brother of our Lord, warned us to not judge others by their outward appearances. God looks at the heart. We must try to do the same. Here’s the test of your character. How do you treat others who have no way (as far as you know) to repay you?

Lost Wallet

It happened in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. A man was simply walking down the street. We don’t know where he was going or even who he is. But then he saw it. Laying on the pavement in front of him was a wallet. He did what we all would do. He picked it up. Then he looked inside. He found some money, some credit cards, and a driver’s license.

To his shock, the wallet belonged to Steve Martin, famed actor and comedian. Mr. Martin was in town to play a bluegrass concert. He had been riding a bike down that street just moments before, when his wallet fell out.

Now the stranger had a dilemma. Would he simply turn the wallet in to the authorities? Or would he keep the cash and throw it back down? Or maybe he would seek a hefty reward from the wealthy actor. Nobody was looking. If he took the money, no one would know. What did he do?

To his credit, he turned in the wallet, refusing any possible reward. That is the definition of character. It’s doing the right thing, and waiting on God to bless our obedience according to his plan. It’s what you do when no one is watching.

What would you have done?

The First ATM Opens – 1969

It happened on this day in 1969. The place was the Chemical Bank in Rockville Center, New York. America’s first automatic teller machine (ATM) opened. They would soon revitalize the banking industry, eliminating the need to visit a bank to conduct basic financial transactions. By the 1980s, these money machines had become widely popular and handled many of the functions previously performed by human tellers, such as check deposits and money transfers between accounts. Today, ATMs are as indispensable to most people as cell phones and email.

I still struggle with ATMs. It seems to me my deposits and withdrawals need to be made at “my bank.” But this is the way of the world – convenience.

Unfortunately, ATMs have become a parable on life. We want everything simple and quick. And that’s okay – for the most part. We can microwave our food and our lives, most of the time. But there is one thing we can’t microwave or withdraw from the nearest ATM machine. It’s called character.

Character is built slowly. It cannot be rushed. Henry Ford said, “Life is a series of experiences, each one of which makes us bigger, even though sometimes it is hard to realize this. For the world was built to develop character, and we must learn that the setbacks and grievances which we endure help us in our marching onward.”

The House You Build

A wealthy man’s foreman had been a great worker. One day, the man told his foreman that he was going on a lengthy vacation. He said, “Build a great house while I am gone. Spare no expense on materials and construction. I will be back in six months, and when I return, I’ll want the keys to the house.”

The foreman started building the house, but soon realized that if he used substandard materials he could pocket the extra money. So that is what he did. The house was second rate because it was built with second rate materials.

When the wealthy man returned, he asked for the keys to the house.

“Did you build me a great house?” he asked.

“Yes,” replied the foreman.

“Did you use the finest materials?”

“Yes,” he said.

Then his boss said, “Great, because this house is for you,” and he handed him the keys.

Think about the house you are building. And remember, the house you build today is the house you will have to live in tomorrow.

Your house is built on character, daily choices, and discipline. If you build with the wrong materials, your dream house will become your worst nightmare.

Solomon said, “Desire without knowledge is not good; how much more will hasty feet miss the way!” (Proverbs 19:2).

Vermont Cherries

A man from Vermont wrote circus owner P. T. Barnum offering a cherry-colored cat for $100. Barnum, always on the lookout for rare attractions for his “Greatest Show on Earth,” replied that he would send the money if the man guaranteed the cat was genuine. Barnum didn’t want an artificially cherry-colored cat. When Barnum received the guarantee, he sent the money and shortly afterward received a small crate. When Barnum opened it, a black cat jumped out. A ribbon tied around the cat’s neck held this note: “Up in Vermont the cherries are black!”

Most of us have practiced the art of deception at one time or another. King David did. His deception began on a rooftop of his palace. Although a war was going on, David remained home. He’d conquered many foes. He’d been a great warrior. But his youth was becoming a faraway memory, as each new day made him a little pudgier around the middle.

David longed for something different. So when he saw a beautiful woman – another man’s wife – bathing, he sent for her. The first deception happened when David convinced himself that he could actually get away with this kind of activity. The deception continued when David schemed and told lies to cover up the adulterous affair. But David’s deception reached a peak when he ordered the murder of Uriah, Bathsheba’s husband.

This story presents a bleak picture of the one who was called the “man after God’s own heart.” However, we can also find hope in David’s story. He eventually ended the deception by bringking it all into the light. Life went forward. However, David suffered grave consequences – his family was never the same after this incident was exposed. Deception’s sting has a far-reaching effect.

Kentucky Clerk Gets Out of Jail

What is the difference between O.J. Simpson and Kim Davis, the Kentucky clerk who went to jail for not signing marriage licenses for gay couples? Simpson got bail, but Davis did not. She was thrown in jail with no opportunity of bail, until her recent release.

Davis has stuck to her principles and stance against same-sex marriage. She defied the judge’s order to sign same-sex marriage licenses. And so she was put in jail. Some argue she should have to sign these licenses, because that is the ruling of the Supreme Court. Others argue that she shouldn’t have to, because this would violate her values. The answer seems pretty simple. Let someone else in the office sign all same-sex marriage licenses. Problem solved.

It is easy to understand the position that says Davis should sign all licenses. What is not as easy to understand is how an elected official, standing on her beliefs, with no history of violence, is put behind bars without bail, while Jimmy Hoefstra was offered bail. Flanked by her attorney and Mike Huckabee, Davis emerged from the Carter County Detention Center a free woman. Praising her, Huckabee said, “God showed up in the form of an elected official.”

Christians are divided over whether Davis acted properly. Some presidential candidates agree with her position, such as Ted Cruz and Mike Huckabee. Others, including Carly Fiorina and Chris Christie, disagree. But regardless of your view on whether Mrs. Davis should sign the licenses, you have to be impressed with a woman willing to stand on her beliefs. Most American believers are perfectly willing to stand on their principles . . . until it costs them something.

When In Rome . . .

You’ve said it and heard it a million times. “When in Rome do as the Romans do.” Where did that come from? It goes back to the days of St. Augustine, who died nearly 1,600 years ago. As bishop of Hippo Regius, Augustine wrote City of God and Confessions, two of the great works of Western Christianity. Following his conversion in 387, he offered seminal contributions to the development of just war theory and was a leading theologian on the grace of Christ and original sin.

Enter a man named St. Ambrose, a bishop of Milan, and elder statesman in the Catholic Church. One of the four original doctors of the Church and a patron saint, Ambrose is notable for his influence of St. Augustine. He offered his years of wisdom and church leadership to young Augustine on many occasions. But the example that has been passed down for these past 1,600 years is our topic for today. “When in Rome do as the Romans do.”

Augustine was set to travel to Rome from his home in Milan. He shared a problem with Ambrose. As a young priest, Augustine wanted to know what he should do about celebrating the Sabbath. Some celebrated the Lord’s Day on Sunday, while Milan celebrated on Saturday. This discrepancy confused Augustine and caused him to take up the matter with Ambrose, who offered this advice: “When in Rome, do as the Romans.”

That may generally be good advice. But the modern church has taken it too far. We have sacrificed our witness for Christ on the altar of political correctness and a desire to fit in. Chuck Swindoll is right when he say, “Either the church will change the world or the world will change the church.” Addressing the church of Laodicia, Jesus said, “You are neither hot nor cold, but lukewarm. I wish you were hot or cold” (Revelation 3:15). The problem with the church of America is that she reflects America more than she reflects church. That has never worked. We can’t change a people with whom we are too much alike. When in Rome, do as the Romans do. But when in America, do as the church is supposed to do.