Truth Telling

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September 10

Thursday, September 10th, 2020

As a pastor one of the hardest things to do is to watch a person/family leave the church. Usually. Getting close to people is something I was told to never do. Unfortunately, that is not my personality. It’s just not me. So when people leave because they are moving away, it is hard, but understandable. Just about two years ago I had some very close friends move to another town that made it impossible for them to make the weekly trek here. I still miss them.

If someone leaves because they can no longer agree because of doctrine, it is time to leave. We had someone leave in the past several years-a family I had come to love and the church had loved well-because they wanted to follow Bethel and their wacky teachings.  People need to leave if the teachings of the church no longer “fit” them.

Then there are those I will call “blessed subtractions.” They are the kind that bless the church by leaving. They tend to be gossips, busybodies, cantankerous, opinionated, loud, obnoxious, “me first,” I-am-right people. Their beef is a personal thing, almost a vendetta against another. Now, if it is a doctrinal issue-like the Virgin Birth, or the nature of God, or who Jesus is-then that is a legitimate reason.  But because someone or someone(s) won’t agree with you…bye.

To all who are in a church that teaches false doctrine I say this: Get out! That is not without Scriptural precedent. In Matthew 15: 13-14 Jesus is talking about false teachers.  His advice? “Ignore them.” Get out of there! There are churches which dot the landscape that teach false doctrine…get out! Heresy is nothing to play around with. If a person is unhappy in a church over its teaching…get out! Heresy and cult often go hand in hand. Aberrant doctrine. Domineering leadership. Get out!! Avoid like the plague. That’s a scriptural reason to leave. Leaving because people won’t see things your way is not.

“Father, please give me discernment to know truth from error.”

August 27

Thursday, August 27th, 2020

Paul’s sermon on Mars Hill has always been an interesting one to me. You can find it in Acts 17: 16-34. Paul is in Athens, the religious center of Greece. In fact, as you walk with Paul and listen to him, it is easy to come to the conclusion that Athens was the home of virtually every god known to man. In 17:16 it says, “Paul’s…spirit was provoked as he saw the city was full of idols.” In verse 22 it says he begins his sermon with “I perceive in every way you are very religious.” I’d say those are dead giveaways! 🙂

As Paul reasoned with the people, the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers were curious (they loved engaging with others for the purpose of learning and discourse), but some were hostile. Why? Because he preached Jesus and His resurrection.  He didn’t “preach” health and wealth. He didn’t “preach” a glory cloud will fall. He didn’t “preach” God wants to bring a miracle to your life. No. He preached Jesus and His resurrection.

They wanted to hear more, but it was more of a defense of what he believed. The Areopagus was a court named for the hill on which it once met. His defense is interesting.

  • He alludes to their multiple gods.  They were “very religious.”
  • He zeroes in on the altar To An Unknown God. They were “spiritual;” they believed in the supernatural. Sort of like many in our day. They believe in something; they just aren’t sure what or who.
  • He teaches with purpose.  Take note of it: The God who made the world (the one they classified as unknown); He doesn’t live in temples; He gives life, breath, and all things; He has made us all equal (one blood); He has put in all of us a need for Him and a desire to seek.
  • He presents the appeal. Now is the time. God has overlooked our rebellion but no more.

Such a far cry  from the mere pablum of our day. No hype. No promise of wealth. No “God wants His kingdom here now.” No “think better of yourself because you are worth it.” Just Jesus and our need for Him. Just Jesus and our need to repent. Just Jesus- and it was all cemented not by our agreement-but by His resurrection. And like today the response was mixed. Yes, as expected there was hostility. But that day Paul’s honesty in preaching brought some into the kingdom and raised the curiosity of others.   

“Father, my mandate is to preach Jesus and Him crucified and resurrected. Help me not to waver from that mandate.”

August 18

Tuesday, August 18th, 2020

As I write this devotion, I hesitate. I have, in the past, said I would not write on politics. But, even though I can say this is not political, there would be some who would take it that way. Such is the state of our world. But this truly is not meant to be a political statement.

There are always catch-words or catch-phrases people use. Some catch on but others go by the wayside after a time. One that is big right now (2020) is the term “social justice.” It has been spurred on by the different social events that have happened, and while it may sound innocent on the surface, those two words have become the rationale for all kinds of lawlessness and other actions. It has also become the litmus test for many in the church.

Right up front I will say social justice-the desire for equality according to the law (my definition)- is good. There is one factor which must never be forgotten. Social justice, especially when it involves right/wrong or evil, must never, never (did I say never?) usurp the gospel of Jesus Christ. Churches, and even pastors, who push aside the gospel of Jesus for the social justice banner have stopped being gospel churches and gospel pastors. If they are not going to preach the gospel of Jesus as the cure to this world’s ills, and if they are going to spend their time protesting and breeding hatred, they need to step down from their pulpits, get rid of the “pastor” or “Reverend” in front of their name and be what they really are-a social justice warrior. Speaking of which, don’t call Jesus a Social Justice Warrior. I don’t see Him marching in protest; burning buildings; hating cops; throwing molotov cocktails; looting. screaming and inciting riots; or any other type of inflamed rhetoric.

I repeat: Social justice should never, never, never take the place of preaching the Gospel message.

“Father, Your Word changes lives.  Our world doesn’t know that. Many people in pulpits don’t know that. And it stand to reason many in the pews/chairs don’t. Help me to always preach the gospel.”

*Note: I have more to say but kept it to this length to be more readable. Stay tuned for more tomorrow.

June 26

Friday, June 26th, 2020

Sometimes I will make the statement to someone- “That’s not a hill I want to die on.” It could be about anything really, but it is especially true when speaking of Bible teaching.  I recently was reading a book by Gavin Ortlund called Finding the Right Hill to Die On. Long story short: it divides into 3 tiers the doctrines we find important. #1 is the essential where there can be no compromise. You must believe them. #2 are those which are important but allow for some differences (mode of baptism for example). #3 are those which really are of no consequence to our salvation (like your view of the 2nd Coming).

A #1 tier would be what I read today in John 14. Verse 6 says, “I am the way, the truth, and the life and no man comes to the Father but by me.” This statement cannot be sloughed off as non-incidental.  Non-essential. Look at that verse again. I am THE way; not A way. I am THE truth; not A truth; I am THE life; not A life. There is no mixing those up.

Our culture would have us believe there are many ways to God; there are many truths to believe; and life can be found in temporal things. W.R.O.N.G!!! Jesus is the only way to God because He is the truth of God (Jn.1:14) and the life of God (Jn.1:4). This verse shows the exclusiveness of Jesus. Let me repeat that: this verse shows the exclusiveness of Jesus. He is not one of many; He is the only One. And even though it may sound narrow, get this wrong and you get it wrong. All cults (JW, Mormons, Bethel included) all mess up here. He is fully God and fully man. He was God in the flesh from birth to death. There is no one like Him. No question. No hesitation. No equivocation. No fudging. No part way.

CHOOSE!

“Father, I choose Jesus. I choose to worship Him as the one and only way, truth and life. That is a hill I will die on.”

June 15

Monday, June 15th, 2020

Goethe once said:

We must always change, renew, and rejuvenate ourselves; otherwise we harden.

He’s right when speaking of changing and moving with the tide, so to speak. But we must always remember there is one thing which never changes: TRUTH. Truth is not always popular, but it is always right.

We live in an age where truth is relative. We have no absolutes. That is post-modernism’s jig. It is seen in a recent documentary which played on ESPN on the life of disgraced cyclist-Lance Armstrong. At the very beginning the interviewer-who is also the shows writer/producer-asks Lance about the truth. He answers: “I will tell you the truth, my truth. (Emphasis mine).  Arrogance personified.  My truth as seen through my eyes. No moorings; no truth.

How typical of our day and age. Truth is what you or I make it to be.  Take the foundation away and all that is left is well…whatever I think is right. So right and wrong shift. It is “truth according to me.” Imagine if you would the writers of the Gospels, the life of Jesus. It would not be The Gospel of Matthew but the Gospel According to Matthew. Pick and choose what is true about Jesus. Can you see how the lack of truth is playing out in our world as well? Lie about the virus to fuel our agenda (political or financial or whatever else there is). Lie about events to cover the up the truth. When truth is compromised, chaos ensues. It happens in the church. Compromise the truth and the slope starts tilting even more. Compromise has an ugly end. No good comes out of it. I’m not talking about stubbornness/opinion in standing your ground. I’m talking about giving up truth. Opinions can be  compromised; truth cannot.

“Father, help me to fold fast to truth and never give in. Your truth never changes no matter what.”

January 31/Weekend

Friday, January 31st, 2020

My title for this devotion is Tandem vs Solo.

I read something this morning that struck me. I must admit that even though I know this, I’ve never quite articulated it this way:

Belief and faith are almost interchangeable words, and make sense to deal with them together. Belief is about truths of which we are persuaded or confident. Faith goes further because it implies action, putting what we believe into action. (“A Good Old Age-Prime-p.23)

How simple is that? So simple yet almost missed. And here is how it rolls out:

  1. First, it is important to know what we believe. There are essentials of the Gospel-the life, death, burial and resurrection of Jesus. God is Almighty, the Creator of the universe. Jesus is God’s only Son, born of a virgin, born fully God and fully man. The Holy Spirit is the 3rd member of the Trinity, Christ in us. Sin is the disease that we all have. The physical death of Jesus on the cross and His physical resurrection save us from sin’s punishment. All men must come in faith to Christ, believing the above truths to receive salvation.
  2. Second, faith is action. Believing the message above requires action. We need to repent of our sins and come to Christ in faith. We must accept the truth of the cross and its need for blood to be shed. Hebrews tells us “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sin.” (9:22)

Simple. Easy. Plain. Belief and faith are best seen in tandem. It is like you can’t have one without the other. So many say they believe but are unwilling to take the step of faith. And why take the step of faith if you don’t/won’t/can’t believe the truths of the Scripture? Belief alone is not enough. It is essential to put “feet” to that faith.

“Lord, I know there’s more to say about this. I know this is basic. But I have to remind myself of Your death and how just believing it is not enough. Help me not just to believe those truths but also to act on them.”

November 29

Friday, November 29th, 2019

My title for this devotion is God-speak vs Me-Speak.

Okay, so it is Friday, November 29, 2019.  Thanksgiving Day is over. Many spent the day enjoying family; laughing and joking; playing games; most importantly, speaking gratitude to God for His grace, goodness and provision. Words of good. Words of gratitude. Words of praise. And rightly so.

But those good words should not end-neither for God nor for others. But for many they will. It is like a switch is flipped the day after Thanksgiving which says, “Okay, that’s enough!” If only we could learn more completely that gratitude should be a part of us, something that flows from our heart, joints, ligaments and out of our mouth. Words.

That is why my Scripture reading hit me this morning with full force.

Thus says the Lord, ‘Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the wise man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord who practices steadfast love, justice and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the Lord.’  (Jer.9:23-24)

We have spent this past week hopefully in gratitude to a magnificent, awesome God. Why stop? Why suddenly be self-centered? Rude? Self-enamored? All about me?

“Father, may my heart and may my speech be filled with gratitude to You. May it continue on and not end just because Thanksgiving Day is over. May my speech be God-speak and not Me-speak.”

November 14

Thursday, November 14th, 2019

My title for this devotion is Saying vs Living.

The past few days I’ve been reading a book by Mary Jo Sharp called Why I Still Believe. It is subtitled “A former atheist’s reckoning with the bad reputation Christians give a good God.” Mary Jo’s basic premise is after her conversion to Christ from atheism, how could she reconcile the church’s poor representation of Jesus. Her husband became a worship pastor almost by default so she got hit first hand with hypocrisy. In fact, the day she came to church to make her commitment public, the pastor’s wife judged her on the dress she was wearing. No greeting but a disdained “looking down on her” look with the words that she needed to check her dress. There was too much cleavage. In another incident, an atheist friend of hers she invited to class asked some honest questions about creation/young earth/old earth and was rudely shot down by the teacher and the pastor. They had no idea who he even was.

Hypocrisy wears many coats and hats. And I suppose we all (definitely me) are hypocrites from time to time. I know for a fact my actions do not always match my words. To quote Mary Jo:

Hypocrisy requires a reference to a standard of moral conduct which a person verbally accepts, but then denies by their behavior. (p.149)

Here is my analysis of it:

Standard= the Bible, God’s Word

Claim= to believe the Bible

Hypocrisy= to say I believe but live opposite.

I confess. I am a hypocrite at times. I don’t want to be. But I am.  Sounds like Romans 7 doesn’t it? But I also know that cannot be a cop out or a “get out of jail free” card. Jesus’ harshest words were reserved for the Pharisees, the religious hypocrites.

“Father, Your Word is true. It tells me all I need to know to live a life of godliness and holiness. But believing it and living it are two different things. Help me not to live a life contrary to Your Word, Your standard.”

{Note: Mary Jo’s book is an excellent and easy read. She has taken a very difficult subject (the existence of God) as well as the hypocrisy she has seen and molds them into a fine book. I’d highly recommend it. And, in case you are wondering, she exposes the hypocrisy of the atheist beliefs as well}.

October 30

Wednesday, October 30th, 2019

My title for this is Truth vs False.

When I was a kid I remember my parents watching a game show called Truth or Consequences. I don’t remember how it was played but the title itself sort of gives it away.  It gives away a life principle actually: tell the truth or there will be consequences. How well I remember being told, “Tell the truth. While there may be a punishment for your wrong, it will be worse if I find out later you lied.”

That is a great life principle. Period. Proverbs 30:7-9 are interesting verses. He asks 2 things: 1) Help me not to lie; and 2) give me what I need lest I take extreme measures to satisfy my need. It is the first one that I focused on this morning.

You see, I have to go to court today to testify on behalf of a friend. While I love and support my friend, my ideal plan is to stay out of the spotlight-even anonymous.  Not that I fear for me. I don’t.  But a subpoena is a subpoena and I am REQUIRED to be there. Jo and I have talked and she put it well: “This is (name of a past situation) all over again. Tell the truth. That’s all you can do.” She’s right. I have nothing to hide and any question asked of me will get one answer: the truth.  So the words of Proverbs 7 stay with me today.

“Father, not just today in a courtroom is truth to be told. All the time. All situations. Let me remember that while telling the truth at all times my hurt, the consequences of a lie are much greater.”