Archives for posts with tag: truth

risen

It never occurred to me to consider the Easter story from the perspective of the soldiers who were commanded to find Jesus’ body and kill the notion that “the Nazarene” was resurrected. I never considered that God could use the commands of a Roman governor to change the heart of a Roman soldier. While it is a new perspective for me, it is so like God to allow those who seek the truth to find it in His story.

 I wonder how many stories we don’t know. I wonder what post resurrection appearances or miracles are unknown to us because God chose to make those personal, rather than eternal. I wonder what would happen today if we pursued the truth, rather than trying to prove ourselves right. I wonder what the Church would look like if we were as interested in being in God’s presence as we are in achieving our self-prescribed goals.

 Perhaps my favorite scene in the movie is when the soldier goes to sit on a rock with Jesus at dawn. The soldier says, “I was there when you died.” It’s not profound or deeply philosophical. It’s not a great statement of faith. It has far more to do with his doubt than his belief. But his honesty led him to God. May it be so for us.

 Go see the movie. Allow yourself to celebrate the miracle of Easter and the privilege of knowing God.

 

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We can embellish it, spin it, or stretch it. We may run from it or hide from it, but our response to the truth doesn’t change the truth. Courts ask us to “Swear to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth” because too often we try to make the truth into something it is not.

 Most of us have a problem with the truth. We want to embrace the “truth” that supports what we want to think and dismiss any evidence that might prove us wrong. We disdain those who disagree with our version of the truth, and have turned every issue into an “us” and “them” predicament. We are far less interested in actually knowing the whole truth than we are in proving our enemies wrong. When we sublimate the truth to winning the argument, we become the ones who embellish it, spin it and stretch it. Ignorance is no excuse; neither is arrogance.

Never has our nation been so sharply divided as now. In politics, race relations, morality, and religion, there is an increasing polarization of opinions. We argue about everything from financial strategies to educational reform to foreign policy. Both sides of every issue assume that they have the truth, and those who disagree with them are uninformed or malicious. Both sides of every issue seem far more likely to attack each other than to seek the whole truth and work for common good.

When did different ideas become mutually exclusive? Where is the line between what is non-negotiable and a different perspective? Can Democrats be just a right about helping the poor as Republicans are about enabling people to rise out of poverty? Is there a need to protect the right to free speech of all people, including the ones who disagree with what is politically correct? Can we recognize the flaws of institutions and people we like? Can we honor the goals of those who don’t share our priorities?

Jesus said “You will know the truth and the truth will make you free.” (John 8:32) What do we have to learn before we will actually “know the truth”? What will knowing the truth set us free from? What does it look like to fight for the truth?

I suspect the whole truth is far more about understanding ALL the facts than it is about destroying those with whom we disagree. The truth just is. We can’t change it. But if we truly want to find it, I suspect we will find ourselves in the company of people we respect, even when we don’t agree.

 yes no

Our culture has made communication very complicated. We often sacrifice truth to political correctness or hide our true thoughts behind what we think others want to hear. Advertising and politics are now billion dollar industries that are built around communicating what will influence our listeners to agree with us….whether or not it’s the whole truth. We can “spin” information or a story to highlight the parts we like, and ignore the details that don’t work to our benefit.

Where is the line between tact and honesty? Where is the line between truth and lie? When we disguise our “yes” as “no”, or vice versa, it is usually because we are ashamed of or threatened by the truth. We want those who hear us to be impressed by what we wish were true, or we want to hide the truth from them.

When our elected officials begin to give answers and make decisions based on keeping their power, rather than on what is right and good for our country, they change from being statesmen to politicians. When marketing companies are more focused on increasing sales than they are on speaking truth, they begin to resemble the charlatans who peddled snake oil out of the back of their wagon in the old west. Their “yes” and “no” are buried in clever facades that will achieve their desired end, even if the truth has to be bent or ignored.

Jesus’ example for us and his command to us is to “Simply let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No” (Matt 5:37). What an odd command. It is so easy to understand, but can be so hard to obey. God knows our whole truth, no matter how we spin it, and is not fooled. Hiding behind partial truth and lies can separate us from him and can damage our testimony with others. Whatever calling we have must include authenticity.

The only place the whole truth of our lives is safe is in the hands of our God who loves us unconditionally. Trust him with your whole truth, and allow him to use your authenticity to encourage and inspire those around you to do the same.

God Is Not A Genie
There is no end to the trouble we can create for ourselves when we forget that we are not God or we try to use him to advance our personal agenda. He is God; we are not. He knows the future and has all wisdom and power; we don’t. And yet, we become frustrated when we treat him as who we want him to be, and he just keeps being who he’s always been.

We can be so sure of ourselves that we just want him to be a genie who will give us all that we want and then leave us alone to enjoy it. We can recognize our need for relationship and insist that God become our buddy who will always support us and agree with us. We can recognize our limitations and require that he become our warrior who will fight our enemies for us. We can recognize our limited perspective and consult him as a sculptor who will make us into more than we can envision for ourselves. We can recognize our mistakes and hope he will become our savior who can save us from ourselves. But only when we recognize that God is not bound by our commands or imagination are we able to begin to see just a glimpse of who he is and who we can be if we will trust him with the truth about ourselves. Only then do we start to see our lives and future from his perspective. Only then do we begin to see glimpses of the God who is so much more than we can ask or imagine.

God’s purpose for your life is not to grant your wishes; it is to make you holy. He interrupted heaven and history so that you could know him as he is, so that he can redeem your past and present into a future that is greater than you can ask or imagine. He came, and still comes, to all who want to know him. God will not conform to your expectations, but he will reveal himself to those who seek to know him.

Ps 46:10 Be still and know that I am God.

master teacher 2

The goal of the best teachers is to move the student to a deeper understanding of the content. When I taught literature, I didn’t just want my students to read all the words of the book; I wanted them to see the truth in that book. When I taught them grammar, I didn’t just want them to memorize rules and pass a test; I wanted their writing and speech to be clear and accurately convey what they were trying to say.

The Bible contains stories of those that God wanted to teach. His methods varied, but his goal was for them to see truth and be able to tell the story of their relationship with him so others would benefit. Abraham, Noah, Joshua and Gideon got tests; Joseph, David, and Daniel got trials. But sometimes God chose to ask a question…and wait for the answer. Many of the questions God asked in the Old Testament are mirrored in the New Testament. These questions required honesty and a refocused perspective that led the person into deeper faith and more confident trust in God’s power and love. Once the question has been asked, everything changes because of the answer; no matter what the answer is. In each case, God was not looking for information. He already knew the answer. He asked the question to help the person stop wandering aimlessly and identify exactly what direction was right so that he could intentionally move forward.

In order to ask a question, you have to have someone’s attention, either face to face, on phone, or on screen. You don’t question a crowd to learn their answer….you question a crowd to get them to agree with you. “Who’s number one?” or “Who’s with me?” are not asked seeking information. They are asked to encourage agreement. The important questions, the life changing ones, are not asked of a group – they are personal.

There are lots of different kinds of questions, and good teachers know how to ask the right kind of question to direct a student’s learning or help him see boundaries or relationships. God uses questions with his children who have wandered off the path, who are out of fellowship with him or who are at a crossroads…to force them to honestly look at their behavior or to get them to turn their path in a new direction.  His goal is to use that accountability to give them new perspective and a fresh start.

God, the master teacher, wants your attention and your spiritual growth. He wants you to be his star student. The questions he asked in the Bible are still the questions he uses to lead us into deeper understanding of ourselves and of him. I encourage you to consider these biblical questions in your quiet time. Seek God’s truth and your understanding as he reveals the answers to you.

Where are you?  What is this you have done?   (What will you do with your sin?)

Where is your brother?  Who is my neighbor? (How do you treat others whom God loves?)

What is in your hand? How many loaves do you have? (Will you trust me with what you have?)

What is your name?  (How have you defined yourself?)

What are you doing here?  (How do you handle adversity?)

What do you want me to do for you? (What are your priorities?)

Who do you say that I am? (What do you believe about God?)

Why are you so afraid? (Do you trust God with your future?)

Do you love me more than these? (What threatens God’s sovereignty in your life?)

 

It’s Not About You

There is so much complaining in our society: our government, our media, our schools, the crime rate, the environment. We have no lack of topics to use as a means of attacking each other. We attach ourselves to a particular cause and let that define our expectations and behavior. There is a reality show about Green Peace advocates who give their life and fortune to punishing those who illegally kill whales. A church from Arkansas dedicates itself to attacking homosexuality and America’s war in the Middle East. (Wonder what they think about judgmentalism and self-righteousness?) Opponents of abortion have murdered doctors to make their point. Whenever we focus on a piece of the truth, we lose perspective on the whole truth. We seek personal or political victory, but what we need is God.

Throughout history as cultures have begun to thrive, they begin to turn inward. They believe that what they want is what they deserve. There is no empire that has ever been created that did not fall, no great civilization that did not self-destruct because it lost sight of its dreams and began to compromise to protect its power. America is no different. As we’ve eased God out of our media, schools and culture, we’ve seen the breakdown of the family, increase in violence and crime, deterioration of morality, and loss of basic integrity as a standard for our leaders. We’ve become convinced that we can fix ourselves. We’re told that we don’t need God; we just need more government programs, more self-awareness, and more income redistribution. And when our goal is to force others to adopt our perspective, we come up with all sorts of plans that turn out to be lies. More education has failed to provide society with all it needs to prosper. We can’t prevent our youth from becoming criminals if we just give them enough affirmation, the right education and the best opportunities. Modern psychology and the legal system try to explain man’s sin by blaming circumstances, parents, education, race, poverty, etc., without ever holding the individual accountable for himself. We try to convince ourselves that we are smart enough and powerful enough to make ourselves what we should be….and history has proven over and over again that we can’t. We ignore God’s character and law and don’t understand why we no longer have his blessing. When our focus is on ourselves – our agenda, our preferences, our comfort zone – we lose focus on God. We get it backward, and it will never work that way. It’s not about us; it’s about God.

The world curses those who oppose and disagree with them. The world seeks to impose its will on all and punish those who don’t cooperate. Jesus commanded us not to play by the world’s rules.

Mat 5:43-44 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you”

Sometimes love involves giving others the space to fail or discover for themselves. Sometimes it involves taking an unpopular stand or refusing to compromise. But the love God requires from us will never look like hate. It will never seek the destruction of those who irritate us. It will always look more like love than selfishness.

What would happen if you committed to praying for all who disagree with you, rather than complaining about them? How different would our culture be if the Christians actually blessed their enemies and prayed for those who curse them? How different would your heart and your week be if you chose obedience to this one command?

She tossed my last bag of groceries in the car and mumbled “I hope you have a good day” as she walked away from me.  She didn’t even look at me as she said it, and she gave no indication that she really cared what kind of a day I had.  She was going through the motions of customer service, and she said what she was told to say without meaning a word of it.  In that moment I realized how hungry I am for authenticity in the people around me, and how uncommon it is for us to be totally truthful.

Truth is hard to come by in our society.  We have politicians, lawyers, media, marketing, and “self-help” experts that are far more likely to tell us what will advance their agenda or product than what is the unvarnished truth.  Spin and bias have become so commonplace we expect them from our news sources.  There are psychologists who make a living reading the differences between what people say and what their body language indicates they believe.  Politically correct has trumped honest, and we make emotional, moral, political, and financial decisions based on portions of truth, or absence of truth because we don’t know or won’t bother to learn the whole truth.

Treasury agents who specialize in counterfeit money do not begin their training by examining the methods of counterfeiters; they study the real thing until they know it so well that any deviation from authentic currency is obvious to them.  Counterfeiters, lawyers, politicians, and advertisers have a personal stake in making us believe them.  They spin the facts for their personal gain and present half truths and outright lies to us as the whole truth to serve their benefit, not ours.  

Truth matters to God.  He requires it from us, and he gives it to us.  John identified Jesus as the “word made flesh” (John 1:14), and Jesus identified himself as “truth” (John 14:1).  Jesus doesn’t manipulate us for his personal gain with a selective version of the facts; he tells us outright that he wants us to know the truth because it will “set us free” (John 8:32).  Jesus identified Satan as the Father of lies (John 8:44).  By my count there are 29 times in both the gospel of Matthew and John when Jesus says, “I tell you the truth…”  He also frequently told the people, “You have heard….but I say…” when he tried to make them understand the difference between what they’d been taught and what God had actually said.  John 16:13 says, “…when the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all truth.”  Paul warns Timothy to “present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.”  (II Tim 2:15)

I am consistently disappointed when I seek truth in a world that refuses to be guided by it.  God is truth and speaks truth.  I pray that my understanding of his character and heart will always lead me to the truth about my circumstances, and that my character and heart will provide a place of genuine authenticity to all those I meet.

 

Psalm 40:11 … O LORD; may your love and your truth always protect me.