Truth Telling

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April 27

Tuesday, April 27th, 2021

Sometimes the description of the Christian life is one of opposites. Sometimes living the reality of the Christian life is a bundle of opposites. I want to say a paradox but I’m not really sure if that fits. Let me show you what I mean:

“We live in such a way that no one will stumble because of us, and no one will find fault with our ministry. In everything we do, we show that we are true ministers of God. We patiently endure troubles and hardships and calamities of every kind. We have been beaten, been put in prison, faced angry mobs, worked to exhaustion, endured sleepless nights, and gone without food. We prove ourselves by our purity, our understanding, our patience, our kindness by the Holy Spirit within us, and by our sincere love. We faithfully preach the truth. God’s power is working in us. We use the weapons of righteousness in the right hand for attack and the left hand for defense. We serve God whether people honor us or despise us, whether they slander us or praise us. We are honest, but they call us impostors. We are ignored, even though we are well known. We live close to death, but we are still alive. We have been beaten, but we have not been killed. Our hearts ache, but we always have joy. We are poor, but we give spiritual riches to others. We own nothing, and yet we have everything.”  (2 Cor. 6:3-10)

What I underlined during my Encounter Time this morning are verses 7-10.

I’m reminded of some of Jesus’ teaching in the Sermon on the Mount. So many times Jesus says, “You have heard it said…but I say to you…” He was challenging their age old beliefs (legalism) with something totally radical. He took the law even further and gave it more scope.

In the 2 Corinthian passage Paul is saying, “We are…but they say…” That seems to be an outgrowth of being a Christ-follower. First, taking it one step further than it appeared. Second, facing accusations which aren’t true or are embellished to make them look bad. The key is for us, when they say that about us, is to live a life of love (v.12a)

“Father, may my life be consistent with what You want. No matter what people say to tear me down may it be found to be a lie.”

April 20

Tuesday, April 20th, 2021

IMHO one of the most damaging things to the “spread” of the life of Christ is what I will call double standards. You know it another way: “Do as I say not as I do.” “What’s good for the goose is good for the gander.” “Practice what you preach.”

You get the idea. It hurts to see someone say, “I’m a follower of Jesus” then do something totally contradictory to that life. I cringe, for example, when I hear an artist/actor/musician thank God for an award or a good event but have lyrics that are disgustingly vulgar or live a life contrary to God’s Word.

I’m speaking of myself as well. Way too often my life and words or actions do not match. I was reminded of this as I read Proverbs 20 this morning:

“False weights and unequal measures- the Lord detests double standards of every kind.” (v.10)

“The Lord detests double standards; he is not pleased by dishonest scales.” (v.23)

Twice in the same chapter. A reminder of how God despises duplicity. While the picture is of the person who has a scale calibrated to his advantage, the point hits home to me as well. Don’t live a double standard. Be who I say I am. Be the Christ-follower I profess to be.

“Father, help me to live an honest life-one where words and actions match.”

April 9

Friday, April 9th, 2021

We often hear people say something similar to this: “You need to see that God has something much better for you.”  Even though that is true, sometimes it smacks of insensitivity. It also seems almost meaningless because the person may not be ready to hear that or want to hear it.

I know what a person is saying when they do. We often get so myopic that we fail to see the bigger picture. We see the hear and now. Like a card player who keeps his cards close to this chest, that is all we see. Up close and personal.

When the truth is that God may have a bigger picture for us. If He gave us what we wanted all the time, we would miss that. I was reading Psalm 119 this morning (and yesterday and the day before) :). In Psalm 119:26 it says, “I told you my plans, and you answered. Now teach me Your decrees. “ It’s like he realizes God has so much more to teach him.

Here’s the reality: I would never have known what God had waiting for me if I had only aimed at my target. God has so much more than my eyes can see. His plans for my life are so much bigger than mine. He wants to give me so much more than my keep-things-close-to-my-chest-vision can see.

It’s good to pray for answers but leave a card or two available for God to show His hand.

“Father, You are good. Kind. Loving. And would NEVER give me bad things or do bad things. Help me to pray but then leave the door open for You to work.”

April 8

Thursday, April 8th, 2021

I like to tease Jo. Sometimes I know I really get on her “last nerve.” One of Tami’s students once her: “Miss Grandi. Are we getting on your last nerve?”  🙂  Yeah, that would be me with Jo.

Anyway, as I was saying, I like to tease Jo. One of those times is when she was watching a Hallmark movie-whether it is the two-month-before-Christmas-movie-marathon or even now. There is a word which describes those movies:

Predictability.

I bug her (not because I chit chat while she is watching the movie or I ask half way through what is happening), but because I tell her what is going to happen. This guy and girl will meet at a lodge or some vacation spot (they like resorts). They might know each other from the past. They will start having feelings for each other but then one will have a close friend (sometimes someone they soon plan to marry) who will get in the way. One will leave but that in the last 10 minutes or so will show up at the shindig. They will realize they have fallen in love with each other and kiss and live happily ever after…or so we assume.

Predictability.

There might be a variation or two depending on the story line, but ultimately they all come down to a couple falling in love.

We like predictability…to some extent. I tend to think it could get boring having the same old same old day in and day out. My vote is for variation, for unpredictability, for adventure, for not knowing.

Have you ever given some thought to our lives as Christ-followers? How important is variety? Truthfully, we should be used to unpredictability by now. We serve a God who might be “the same yesterday, today and forever” and never changes, but the way He works is priceless. There is no “one size fits all.” Nor does He operate the same way each time. Sometimes it is a gentle tap on the window. Sometimes it is in the storm. Sometimes it is in the clear and gentle breeze.

And one thing is sure: no matter how He works, the most predictable part of it all is that He loves us and wants the best for us.

“Father, thank you for being You. Thank You for being both predictable in Who You are, and yet unpredictable in how you will work. Help me to see it as part of Your loving plan.”

April 2

Friday, April 2nd, 2021

Motives. Mention the word and you can see people twitch.

There are those who want to question the motives of everyone. Let’s call them the Challengers. They want to call into question “the why and the wherefore” of all things and all people. They trust no one.

There are those who criticize. Let’s call them the Criticizers. I guess it wouldn’t be wrong to say they are an offshoot of the questioner. Every deal is analyzed and criticized. They see a hidden agenda behind every curtain.

There are those who never question. Let’s call them the Oblivious. Or maybe the Gullible. They tend to fall for things hook, line, and sinker. They never ask a question or wonder why. Naive even fits here.

With this week being what is called Holy Week, and today being “Good Friday” (I guess “good” depends on your perspective), one man stands out. Judas. What was his motive? There are some stated in the previous devotion. But motive rises to the top.,

David was once challenged about his motives. He went to visit his brothers and while he was there Goliath challenged the armies of Israel. They all ran. David asked why no one would fight that uncircumcised Philistine. Eliab, David’s brother, chastised him and accused him of arrogance.

I honestly believe David’s motives were pure. He went there at his father’s behest to check on his brothers and to take food to them. Nothing scandalous. But to Eliab? Whoa!! For the whole story check out 1 Samuel 17, especially verses 28-30.

How often have I jumped to conclusions and made judgments about people and their motives?  I don’t like it when people question mine. Why would I think it is okay to judge another’s? Only God sees the whole picture. I must remember: I cannot judge what I do not know.

“Father, help me to lay aside my preconceived ideas and judgments and keep my thoughts to myself, especially when I have no proof. Help me to leave the judging up to You.”

April 1

Thursday, April 1st, 2021

Today is typically known as “April Fool’s Day.” We play pranks on people. Oh, I can remember trying to catch people off-guard with crazy, wild-eyed stories. Or coming up to someone who is afraid of spiders or snakes and playing on that fear. Most of it was innocent (but juvenile) fun.

When you think of someone in the Bible whom you might call a fool, who comes to mind? Solomon talks about fools a lot in Proverbs. We could add in Ecclesiastes as giving us a picture of a fool, one pursuing the here and now and finding it empty.  Paul says at one point that he is a “fool for Christ’s sake.” A totally different meaning.

One person? My vote goes to Judas. His is a baffling case. Follower of Jesus for 3 years. Endued with power to heal the sick, cast our demons, etc like all the others. (Luke 9) He saw Jesus do miracles-feed the 5000, calm the storm, raise the dead, and more-over the 3 years he was with Jesus. He hung out with the boys. Late night campfires. Early morning brisk walks.  Rousing discussions about the religious leaders.

We also know he loved money. He loved power. Deadly combination. When Mary anointed Jesus he protested. But as John says only because he liked to dip his hand into the till and help himself.

He sold Jesus for 30 pieces of sliver. Not much, even in those days. We gain some insight into Judas when we realize he never called Jesus “Lord.” At the last meal when Jesus predicted His betrayal, Judas calls Him “Rabbi.” In the Garden he calls Him “Teacher.”  Never Lord. That should tell us something. He followed but never surrendered.

Fool. Ooops, what does that say about me? Follow but fail to surrender. Hmmm. Fool seems to fit me as well.

“Father, help me not to be like Judas. Help me to cast aside the ‘fool’ label and commit to following You as my ‘Lord.’ ”

March 29

Monday, March 29th, 2021

“No man is an island.”

So we hear. But did you know there is more to that quote?

The full quote by John Donne is this:

No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.

Honestly, I did not know of the rest of the quote. But WOW! It sure changes the meaning doesn’t it? Take the first part by itself and it sounds like no man is alone. No man needs to be alone. No man can survive alone.

And I’ll agree with that.

But the rest of the quote gives a whole new twist. Let me show you what I mean. It is common to hear someone say, “My sin is my sin and I’m not hurting anyone anyway. What I do in the privacy of my home does not affect you.”  Well, in a sense, that is true. But more often than not that phrase is used to justify sins like porn, or lust, or reading offensive literature or watching a movie that is tainted. We justify those things saying we watch it or read it in the privacy of our home so I’m not hurting anyone. Have you heard that?  Shoot, I’ve even used it.

I wonder if thoughts like that went to Achan’s mind when he stole some of the sacred things of Jericho and hid them under his tent? Maybe. But little did he know or realize the chain reaction of consequences his actions would bring about. The lost “innocence” of Joshua and the people of Israel. The lost battle. His death. The death of his whole family.

Would he have taken the sacred things if he had known? That’s not the point, of course.  He did and the consequences were a whole lot bigger than just a few trinkets.

That’s the trouble with sin. You cannot contain it. In time it will destroy you and those you love. Private sin? No such animal.

“Father, You see my sin. Help me to see it as You do. And help me to say no to hiding or thinking I can hide my sin.”

March 26

Friday, March 26th, 2021

If there is one word which has reached epic proportions today in weight it is “tolerance.” Although most often not in a good way. I have said over and over: “Those who want and preach tolerance become the most intolerant of all when you disagree with them.”

Today, intolerance has become the worst sin in the world’s eyes and tolerance the highest good (if and only if you agree with them). To be principled or to have informed moral convictions is to be declared intolerant, out of touch, and above all, mean-spirited. Those who are “tolerant,” those who will tolerate anything and everything, take the high moral ground. And please! Don’t disagree with them! You become an intolerant bigot.

In the OT there is a great story and a great illustration to this whole mess. It is in Numbers 25.  Thanks to Balaam’s word to Balak, the people of Israel began to intermingle and intermarry with the Midianite women. This resulted in the acceptance of and worship of foreign gods, particularly Baal. One incident stands out.  God is extremely angry and Moses is confronting the people and many of them are in repenting of their sin. Zimri comes into the midst of the people repenting and takes a foreign women into the tabernacle and lays with her.

The scene is shocking to say the least. But when Phinehas, a grandson of Aaron sees what is happening, he goes into the tabernacle, and filled with the Holy Spirit and holy outrage, kills them both with a spear through their belly. J.B. Phillips once said, “It’s not for nothing that the Spirit God has given to us is called the Holy Spirit.

If that happened today, there would be outrage. It wouldn’t be holy and it wouldn’t be for God’s cause. People would be outraged that Phinehas stood up for a righteous and holy God. He would have been cancelled or black-balled or bullied (or all three) because he dared to take a stand for what he believed to be right. I’d say it is time for the church- pastors, leaders, and individuals- to stand up for the truth and righteousness. To be called “intolerant” just very well might a badge of honor worth wearing.

“Father, like Phinehas help me to take a stand for the righteous and holy God You are. Help me not be concerned about  the consequences but to be willing to stand for You.”

March 24

Wednesday, March 24th, 2021

There is a lot of talk these days-as well as a lot written- about what is called deconstruction. It is especially pointed when it involves prominent, well-known or well-respected people. We’ve seen in recent years pastors and leaders like Joshua Harris (“I Kissed Dating Goodbye”) announce he was getting a divorce and then just a few days later that he was leaving the faith and no longer considered himself a Christian. A worship leader from Hillsong. The lead singer of the Christian group Hawk Nelson. YouTube personalities Rhett and Link. That is just to name a few of those who have “deconstructed.”

I’m not talking about progressive like Rob Bell, Brian McLaren, Michael Gungor or Richard Rohr. That’s a whole ‘nother ball of tangled and messed up string.

These “deconstructors” dismantle their faith, leaving nothing. How and when it started is different. Some went through a class in college. Some went through a crisis in life. Some had a repressive, fundamentalist background they wanted to break free from. The reasons behind deconstruction are numerous.

Questioning one’s faith is not bad…or wrong. Oswald Chambers once said, “Doubt is not always a sign that a man is wrong. It may be a sign that he is thinking.” I believe it is good to question, to kick the tires so to speak. I disagree with those who say that if we question it shows we don’t have real faith in Jesus. Oddly enough, it is that type of environment that has caused many deconstructions to happen. I heard a podcast recently where the interviewee said there are three stages one goes through: construction, deconstruction, and reconstruction. Start. Middle. Finish.

Here’s a novel idea (well, not really but it sounded good 🙂 ). Instead of demonizing those who question, let’s encourage honest questions. Not the superficial kind. Honest ones. But let’s encourage that the questions not be answered by secular culture or by the cancel culture we see and hear so much from these days, but instead run to Jesus with the questions. Let’s seek honest answers to our questions. 

“Father, help me to be honest in my questions.  Help me to admit that some questions will not have answers. Help me to run to Jesus and not away from Him” 

March 23

Tuesday, March 23rd, 2021

Who said it is up in the air. It could have been President Reagan. It could have been Coach John Wooden. When you see the quote you’d probably chuckle because both of them would probably say, “Does it really matter who said it?” 🙂

The quote:

There is no end of the good you can do if you don’t care who gets the credit.

See what I mean about not really caring? And yes, there have been variations of that quote make its rounds.

I’ve noticed two things about most-not all-but most people. We are 1) quick to lay blame, and 2) quick to take credit. That could be worded a bit differently: We are slow to take blame and quick to take credit.  Big people give credit; little people lay blame.

Sometimes its hard to admit the need for help.  Maybe its pride.  Maybe its an “I can handle this” mentality. Maybe its the inability to look ahead. When I was a young pastor, my schedule was full. Too full as I now see it. Mornings in the office. Visitation in the afternoon and many evenings. Not any more. Age plays a part in that.  Wisdom plays a part in that. Even humility-if I can say that and not be seen as arrogant-plays a part. Admitting I can’t do it alone.

Truthfully, I can’t do it alone. But therein is the rub. If I say I can’t do it, am I willing to get help and maybe watch someone’s “star” rise? If not, then I need to continue wallowing in my inability to have more of an impact. Check out Numbers 11: 16-29 for Moses’ reaction. And do you remember when Jethro, his father-in-law, came to him and suggested he get help and divide up the workload?

Moses had to not care who got the credit. Now…am I? Are you?

“Father, help me to delight in the joy of others using their gifts to spread the impact of changing lives.”