Truth Telling

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September 28

Wednesday, September 28th, 2022

In yesterday’s devotion, I wrote about discernment as it relates to pastors/teachers. It is important to test the lives and teachings of those who claim to 1) be followers of Jesus, and 2) who claim to “speak for God.”

Today I want to focus more on me/us…the normal, everyday people who eke out a living both physically and seemingly, spiritually.

Although they don’t say exactly the same thing, there are two passages which could interconnect:

Matthew 5: 21-23

Luke 6: 46-49

I’d like to encourage you to take a moment and read them in your Bible rather than print them here for you.  Both have the person standing before God and saying, “Lord, Lord,” but then having their eternal destiny called into question. The Matthew passage has him confronted by his duplicity, his failure to live out his faith. No amount of pleading will change that.

The Luke passage, while similar, carries a different track. Jesus compares the man and his choice to building a house on rock or sand. The one who fails to live out his/her faith is like the one who has built their house on sand.

It is possible to look at this as an anomaly. Is Jesus saying works save us? No. What He is saying is that our lives will exhibit His truth in the way we live our lives. It is what James is speaking about in James 2. I heard it put this way: it is faith alone that saves us, but the faith that saves us is not alone.  Simply put: we are saved by faith, but faith is always seen in the way we live.

To be truly discerning, I must start with myself. To point the finger at another without an inward look is just wrong…and sinful…and dangerous.

September 27

Tuesday, September 27th, 2022

One of the hardest things as a pastor is to be honest with oneself. I have a specific honesty in mind as I write that. The honesty I’m thinking of is spurred on by the Scripture from I John 4: 1-3:

“Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God; and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God; this is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming, and now it is already in the world.”  (NASB2020)

That phrase “do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God” stands out to me. That phrase must stop at my front door, THEN it goes to other doors. It is common for pastors, etc to point fingers at another teacher, call them “False”, and never once look at their own heart or teaching.

As I discern myself, and as I check out (test) others, what criteria do I use to “test the spirits?” I think there are two qualities/characteristics I can look for:

  1. A teacher’s character. Character can’t be tested by measuring eloquence or giftedness. There are those who are talented speakers but have a questionable character. There are also those who have a stellar character but are not very good speakers. It is better to choose the latter and hope he gets better at speaking, than the former. {A great example of that is Billy Graham and Charles Templeton. Google it and check it out}.
  2. Content of the teacher’s instruction. This is where real discernment is needed. Is he teaching truth? Not man’s truth but God’s truth. Not everyone who names the name of Christ is a true teacher of God.

There has always been false teachers. They seem to proliferate these days, I think, in large part thanks to media. But because they are “successful;” marry a rock musician; have a private jet or two; have crusades all over the world; claim healing; and live in mansions, does not make them true teachers of God’s truth.

Be discerning. Be alert. Be wise. Don’t be afraid to follow the clear teachings of the Scripture and stand against falsehood.

September 26

Monday, September 26th, 2022

Beginning on August 15th, I started a series of devotions on knowing God’s will based around The Trail by Ed Underwood. It seems strange as I sit here this morning that I am through with that devotional series (which I finished on September 22).  So now I have the “whatever mentality.” You know…the “whatever floats your boat” mentality, i.e. whatever random thought God brings to mind.  As I start this “new” chapter, I  began reflecting on yesterday’s sermon.

I have been preaching through the Beatitudes and preached yesterday on “Blessed are the peacemakers for they will be called sons of God.” I asked the question: “Do you want to be known as a peacemaker or a troublemaker?”

Part of being a peacemaker is controlling the tongue. Sort of like the old adage: “If you have don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” In Luke’s shorter version of the Sermon on the Mount, he writes these words: “Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take out the speck that is in your eye,’ when you yourself do not see the log that is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take out the speck that is in your brother’s eye.” (Luke 6: 41-42 NASB2020) The word Jesus uses for “speck” often describes very small bits and pieces of straw or wood. In contrast, the word “log” refers to a load-bearing beam in a house or structure. My crazy mind want to draw a picture of a person walking down the street with this huge log hanging out of his eye.

As followers of Jesus, it is absolutely necessary that we take note of what we say, keeping in mind that we are not perfect ourselves. The best thing to say is nothing at all, unless we approach the person himself/herself , and only then with lots of love and humility. Being a peacemaker does not mean letting obvious disobedience to God’s Word go unchecked, but it also doesn’t mean we go in with guns blazing and blow someone’s doors off.

Remember: speck and log. Speck in theirs; log in mine.

September 22

Thursday, September 22nd, 2022

This will be the last post based on The Trail by Ed Underwood. I’d suggest if you want to pursue this look at how to know and follow God’s will that you buy the book. It’s old enough now that you can find it for $5 or less. It obviously take a more in-depth look at God’s will and discerning it.

For this last entry, I’d like to “borrow” from the book the great recap that the author uses one of his characters to make. BTW this is written as a story of a couple who goes backpacking with a crusty, old firefighter turned pastor named Sam. Sam gives these lessons to them along the way. Anyway, here is the recap from pages 177-178.

#1- TRUST. God doesn’t need your strength to guide you, but you do need His strength to recognize His guidance.  Pr. 3:5-6

#2-RELATIONSHIP.  Make sure you’re all in for Jesus. Ps. 25:14

#3- INTIMACY. Stay within the circle of intimacy with God, and trust Him that you’re on the dot of His good and perfect will.  Ps. 139: 23-24

#4- TIMING. Live expectantly; God’s signature on events is timing. Eccl. 3:1

#5- PROTECTION. God’s will is a flashlight, not a crystal ball; walk to the edge of the darkness and wait.  Ps. 119:105

#6- ENCOURAGEMENT. When you wonder if you’re on the right path, ask God for a sign of encouragement.           Ps. 86:17

#7- COMMUNITY. Loners lose their way; trust the guidance of those who love you enough to tell you the truth. Pr.12: 15

#8- GRACE. All is grace; put one foot in front of the other. Pr.16: 9

My take? All is grace. If I follow Jesus with a heart that seeks Him, no matter what I do, He is there. I may bob and weave. I may totter. I may stumble as I follow. I may lose sight of the path. But He will be there for me and with me. He will protect me. He will encourage me when I need it. I need to surround myself with a community, a group/person I can count on to tell me the truth. And then trust that all is grace.

So ends the series of posts on The Trail. I pray it has helped you to clarify some things. I also pray it has challenged you to seek God’s desire (will) for you. I don’t need to say each of us are different, so one size doesn’t fit all. Carve out your own path in following Him.  And remember: All is grace.

The Trail: A Tale about Discovering God's Will

September 21

Wednesday, September 21st, 2022

The final principle is here. But before I give that to you, let’s stop here for a moment to think. Whenever the will of God is talked about, many tend to lean toward the mystical. They look for a “sign” or an “open door” or a “word of knowledge” (cringe), or a dream. Something. Anything.

Meanwhile, many figuratively sit in a chair, put their feet up on the desk, and say, “OK God. Lay it on me.” You know what I mean with that picture. It is way too common for people to simply “hold out” for God to WOW them. Rather than go about their daily business with a heart open to God’s leading, they just sit around and expect it to fall into their lap. It has been my experience that doesn’t happen.

Is that saying God doesn’t surprise us sometimes? No, not at all. But to sit and rely on that is wrong. Unless we are Zechariah who receives a visit from angel in the Temple; or a Mary who receives a personal visit from Gabriel to give her some phenomenal news; or a Paul who had an angel appear in his room and tell him he was to go to Jerusalem; or a Joseph who was warned in a dream to hightail it to Egypt, God simply shows up in our daily activities, a timely word while reading His Word, or some good advice from a friend.

Principle #8 is the final one:

All is grace; put one foot in front of the other.

I’m going to close out this study on God’s will tomorrow. See you then. Until then, remember: All in grace; put one foot in front of the other.

September 20

Tuesday, September 20th, 2022

Have you ever noticed how there are some people who seem to want to be left alone? They don’t need or want any help. They can do it on their own.

Even children.

Who of us has not seen a child rebuff a parent’s help? Moms try to dress their child only for them to say, “I can do it myself.” Not really, but how can one argue with a determined child?

That carries on as the person gets older. They don’t want any help with homework. With solving a problem. With a relationship.

There are also those who just want no human intervention or interaction. Granted, there are time we all need space. But I’m talking about those who prefer to be alone…most of the time, if not permanently. I visited an old friend the other day. I hadn’t seen or heard from him since he dropped off the planet in, I’m guessing, 8 years. I went to his house to say hi and his reaction was sort of rude, to say the least. When I said hi, his words were, “Bill, what are doing here?”  I said, “I was going through a file looking for some papers for a bike rack I was giving (_______) and I came across some papers for the bike hitch you bought for me back in 2012. Your address was there as well as your phone number and email address. I tried the phone and email and they both came back so I thought I would drop by and say hi. I have no agenda. Just to say hi.” His words? “I find that hard to believe (referring to me not having an agenda).”  I even sent him a note this past week reiterating that.

He prefers to live as a hermit with his brother. Sad.  Someday maybe he will realize his need for a friend. But truthfully, some want to be loners.

Tragically, there are Christ-followers who want to be left alone. They want to hide who they really are. Masks weren’t just for COVID. Loners cut themselves off from others, especially from fellow Christ-followers. Whether it is pride or fear or distrust, who knows?

But no follower of Jesus can survive on his/her own.

Principle #7: Loners lose their way; trust the guidance of those who love you enough to tell you the truth.

Are you willing to trust others?

September 19

Monday, September 19th, 2022

I think if we are honest, when we say to someone, “Tell me the truth about me” there are times we aren’t really sure we want to hear the truth. We know all the sayings about a real friend who will tell it to us like it is and will be honest with us, but Man! it hurts no matter who says it.

Our reaction to truth will determine whether that person will ever speak truth to us again. But before you or I get upset when someone tells us the truth about ourselves, consider this verse: “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a person who listens to advice is wise.” (Pr. 12:15 NASB2020)

Fool = right in his own eyes

Wise= listens to advice from another

Hmmm. Where does that put me? This opens up several thoughts:

  1. What does that say about me hiding truth from others about me? By others I’m referring to those close to me whom I have permission to speak truth to me.
  2. Have I cut myself off from others by attitude or actions? Have I given the cold shoulder to others or have I hid my real person?

People can’t be honest with me if I hide. If I withdraw. If I cover-up/mask who I am or how I feel.

This actually leads to Principle #7 which I will share tomorrow.

September 15

Thursday, September 15th, 2022

After a day when we contemplated an issue that tested our willingness to trust and surrender (Thanks Ryan S.), let’s move on…to more of the same. 🙂

I think one of the hardest times for many of us is because we may not, or don’t, see the clear path, we have trouble moving forward. Sometimes we act paralyzed. Sometimes we simply hesitate following.

Let me revert to an illustration from the book. Many firefighters survive because they know a key truth: a meadow, brush, or even trees, can only burn one time. Many of them will run to the burn. It seems weird, but it is true. Many firefighters have been saved because they ran to the burn.

That brings up an important point. There is a positive side to adversity. Let’s be honest: most of us would like to avoid adversity. Avoid it like a plague would not be too far off. We see adversity as incongruous to a loving God and that said loving God would place adversity in front of us, let alone have us go through it. We do all we can to avoid it! We are far more interested in what will make us happy; God is far more interested in what will make us holy.

Instead of our natural aversion to pain and adversity, maybe we ought to embrace it. Instead of looking for a way around it, let’s stop trying to avoid it. Suffering can actually give us a greater platform for sharing the truth of God’s love.  Instead of running away, maybe God is saying, “Follow Me into the burn. You may not understand. In fact, you probably won’t. But follow Me anyway and I will lead you to safety. You will get to see what I can do.”

Truth: He does not want us to run ahead of Him; He wants us to follow Him. Even if that following has us meeting adversity.

And for your encouragement this morning, stop and read Psalm 86: 11-13. You’ll be glad you did.

September 8

Thursday, September 8th, 2022

In yesterday’s devotion I wrote about Principle #5:

God’s will is a flashlight, not a crystal ball; walk to the edge of the darkness and wait.

That got me thinking how some approach God’s Word (GW) with what I called the “crystal ball” or “floodlight” approach. Before I go any further though, I need to say one or two very important thoughts:

  1. I firmly believe GW is inspired by God and is totally inerrant (without error). I base that on 2 Tim. 3: 14-17, especially verse 16.
  2. I also firmly believe it is God’s primary way of speaking to His people. All things, all claims of people saying, “God told me this or that” must have their foundation in GW. For someone to say, for example, “I killed those people because God told me to” is hogwash and the person is either psychologically delusional or fishing for a reason to justify sin. God will NEVER violate His Word.

With those thoughts in mind, there are those who treat GW like a crystal ball or expect a floodlight to shine down on them with a neon sign and say, “Do this!” Some even expect a floodlight to highlight a verse. You have probably heard the story of the man who used this approach by opening his Bible and pointing to a verse. It said, “Judas went out and hung himself.”  He hurriedly closed his Bible and opened it again and pointed to another verse. It said, “What your hand finds to do do it with all your might.” That wasn’t what he wanted to hear either so he closed his Bible, opened it and pointed and the verse said, “What your hand finds to do, do quickly.”  That is the shotgun approach many take to finding guidance in GW. It is like they are expecting the Bible to be a crystal ball, rub it and all truth will come out. It is like they expect that approach to give them all the insight they need to make a right decision and to know God’s will.

Nope. While I believe GW is living and active, I don’t believe it is a crystal ball telling us what to do and when to do it. God has given each of His children the Holy Spirit and that Spirit leads and guides us. But he will never lead us to act contrary to the Word. God guides us by His Word and shows me the path I am to walk, but there is no neon sigh that lights up, either in GW or in life, which says, “Choose me!”  I go back to my friend’s statement (see August 17 post) where he said, “Bill, choose the one. In any case, even if it is the wrong one, God will not abandon you.”  He was right.

God will never lead us astray. The Holy Spirit will never say, “Go your own way.” Pray. Seek His will. Read His Word for wisdom and guidance and strength to follow. Walk with Him to the edge and wait. To borrow a few lines from The Trail:

If God loves me, then He protects me. He guides me by His Word and shows me the path to walk. A safe path, because He knows where the danger lies. So I walk to the edge of the darkness and wait. (p.110)

God’s Word is a lamp not a crystal ball to rubbed, nor is it a floodlight that will shine down to highlight an action to take. We are given His Spirit and a mind to make decisions that will always be in line with GW.

September 6

Tuesday, September 6th, 2022

The long weekend is over (Labor Day) and I’m back! I know that just has you jumping for joy!! 🙂  I had a nice weekend. Relaxing. A great meal with friends on Saturday (since we “rained out” for a bike ride. In quotes because it never rained like they said it was supposed to). So, I rode 21+ miles yesterday with Ryan S. instead of Saturday.  (It is the longest I have ridden since my surgery on June 14th). Then, he went home and rode 30+ more. He da man! I remember when I used to do those kinds of things. These 70 year old legs would protest that kind of feat these days and wouldn’t think of doing something like that…unless I don’t want to move the next day…and the next…and the next. 🙂

Okay, now for the devotion based on The Trail by Ed Underwood. Before I give you Principle #5, which will include a recap of the first 4 principles, I want to take a side road based on #4. #5 will come tomorrow.

When we talk about intimacy, I think one of the hardest things to do is to be honest. My mate must feel safe (enfolded if I may use that word) in a cloak of warmth and protection and security that comes from me.  After being a pastor for about 50 years, I have seen precious few marriages where safety and security were evident. If you have one, you are blessed.

With that intimacy comes the ability to forgive. No marriage is perfect because no person is perfect. Intimacy is a rare commodity anyway, but when the inability to forgive crops up…forget it!! I have seen marriages blow up over the littlest thing which became a great thing all because of the inability to forgive. Big or small offense, forgiveness is not an option. Someone has said, “To err is human; to forgive divine.” It seems like I have heard something on the order of “We are most like beasts when we sin; we are most like God when we forgive.” (If not, I lay claim to that! 🙂 ) Whether I heard it or made it up, it is true.

So before  I move on to Principle #5, let’s make a stand right here right now to forgive others-from the smallest to the largest offense. It starts with us, whether there is an apology or not.

I don’t remember there being an apology when Someone I want to model said, “Father, forgive them for they don’t know what they are doing.”