Archive for the ‘Truth’ Category

How Then Are We to Live?

My wife and I were taking our usual morning walk when we noticed a neighbor who seemed to be upset. We found out that she was agitated about how crazy our world was and how it seemed to be falling apart. She told us, “I am sure glad I’m 65 and don’t have to stay here much longer.”I agreed that there seemed to be overwhelming pressures that are attacking the stability of our world and our capacity to live quiet and peaceful lives.

So, how are we to live in this ever-changing and chaotic world? The first thing that comes to mind is where do we go to find safety, guidance, and truth. Is it politics? Good circumstances? Alcohol and drugs? Religion? Ourselves? Or is it a strong relationship with God?

Where we go to find answers will make a big difference in our future. If we choose foolishly, we will suffer the consequences. If we choose wisely, we will be richly rewarded. So, where do we go to become wise and learn how to thrive in this world we live in?

When I was a young man, I decided to invest considerable effort in trying to find out what made life work.Although I had earned a degree in engineering, my education did not prepare me to live well on my own. I had to learn quickly, for example, about how to do a job well to avoid getting fired again, like what happened in my first job out of college. I had to abandon some of my parents’ ways and embrace the ways that were right for me. This search involved seeking for a compelling vision of a purposeful life. I had tried career success, finding a good woman to marry, becoming popular, and getting a good education. As I gradually reached these goals, I discovered they didn’t satisfy me. They did not fulfill my desire for meaning in life. “Is that all there is?” I said to myself.

A few years later, I found that the missing ingredient was faith in God. I learned that he was the one who ruled over the nations. The Bible teaches that to God,”all the nations of the world are but a drop in the bucket. They are nothing more than dust on the scales. He picks up the whole earth as though it were a grain of sand” (Isaiah 40:15, NLT). Now, that’s power!

When I was in the Air Force, I was an engineer working for an organization that designed and tested the Minuteman Missile System that carried nuclear bombs. Our unit’s primary responsibility was the testing of the missiles and other weapon systems to ensure they would work in time of war.

I would worry at times about either the Soviet Union or the United States accidentally launching their missiles that could destroy the world. I finally found peace by putting my trust in God working to protect us from mistakes or evil intentions by either country. I certainly did not put my confidence in the launch officers always acting wisely, since many of them were my friends, and I knew they were all too human and imperfect.

We all yearn to live quiet and peaceful lives. But how? By chasing some utopian dream that may not be true, such as the belief that people are basically good and can always be trusted? A Roman leader 2,000 years ago asked,”What is truth?”

We need to constantly ask ourselves this question. For me, I have found a good source of truth is the Bible, which claims that it is the truth (John 17:17). Another source of wisdom and insight is a close relationship with God that can enable us to follow him.

Where do you go to find truth that will help you to overcome these difficult times? There are many voices who claim they have the truth. Many of these voices try to deceive you into taking roads that will be dead ends for you.

My hope is that you will choose to follow Jesus, who says” I am the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6, NLT). If you do this, you will be taking the most important step in learning how to live.

Questions to Ponder

To what or whom do you go to learn how to live?

Is this a wise dependency to have? Explain.

How is having this dependency working for you? Any changes needed?

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Do You Lie to Yourself?

We talk to ourselves all day long. Some things we say are true and some are lies.

When I was a child, I told myself I needed to be taller to be important. That was a lie. Instead, I needed to tell myself the truth that I was important even though I was the shortest kid in the class. Because I believed this lie, I struggled with self-esteem through much of my early years.

As an adult, I told myself I could do any job. But that was a lie. I boldly applied for many jobs just because they were promotions. I told myself once I got the promotion, I would be able to figure out how to do the job. But that didn’t happen. There were a few jobs I just couldn’t do – and I had to endure much pain and humiliation to discover this.

In recent years, I have told myself I was immortal. But that was a lie too. I’m not. It took a life-threatening physical condition for me to face the truth I was going to die someday. This lie had kept me clinging to life too much and hindered my hope of living in a future life that is far better than this one.

So, why do we lie to ourselves? 

Sometimes the lie may feel better. “You can do any job you set out to do.” Feels good, doesn’t it? But is it true? No, it isn’t. But God says we can do any job he leads us to do if we depend on him (Philippians 4:13). May we tell ourselves the truth when we are contemplating a new job and avoid the pitfalls of a bad decision.

Another reason we lie to ourselves is that our culture has so much “fake news” in it. We become brainwashed into thinking like everyone else. We are surrounded by lies because the culture is strongly influenced by Satan, who is the father of lies (John 8:44).

A third reason we don’t tell ourselves the truth is our pride. We deny the obvious – that there is a God. When God tells us we are important and acceptable to him, we reject this truth and instead lie to ourselves that we can impress and achieve our way to respect.

So, how do we learn to tell ourselves the truth?

We will need to become aware of the conversations we have with ourselves. We will need to exam our self-talk to ensure it is truthful. “We are destroying speculation and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God and bringing every thought captive to the obedience of Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5, NASB). We can correct any lies we are telling ourselves, for depending on them will surely lead us the wrong way.

But first we must know truth. A good place to go is the Bible (John 17:17). As we increase our knowledge of the Word, we will need to practice it in order to gain an experiential knowledge of truth. Not just a head knowledge but also a heart one from which we genuinely embrace the truth from deep within us.

Another source of truth is knowing ourselves – what we want, what’s our passions, and our strengths and weaknesses. These truths are hard to know for we often deceive ourselves. “The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; Who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9, NASB). But as we ask him, the Holy Spirit will reveal to us what we are really like.

Finally, the Bible says “as he thinks within himself, so he is” (Proverbs 23:7, NASB). We need to think about was is true, right, and noble so we can tell ourselves the truth and not speak lying words (Philippians 4:8). A quiet time every day is helpful to meditate on scripture to transform our self-talk into life-giving conversations with God. 

In closing, quiet yourself for a minute or two and focus on what you are feeling. Experience the dominate emotion for about a minute. Then, ask God to help you identify what thoughts are causing this feeling. Are these thoughts true? If not, ask God what the truths are.  Correct your self-talk by denying the lies and telling yourself the truth. Pray he will help you to tell yourself these truths often and enable you to depend on them.

May this exercise help you to stop lying and to better tell yourself the truth..

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The Search for Truth

We may search for truth about a lot of things. Things like how to best take care of ourselves in a pandemic, which political party will govern best for us, and how to live a happy and meaningful life.

But how do we find truth that will answer these questions? We know our culture is saturated with lies and deceptions. How do we sort the truth from the fiction?

This is not easy. There are many paths that seem right, but are desperately wrong. And often we are drawn to trust in lies rather than the truth.

One of our problems is that frequently we don’t want to know the truth. For example, do we want to know the truth about how to live a meaningful and happy life no matter where the truth leads us? Or, will we only accept the truth if it meets our predetermined requirements? To know the truth about anything, we must love the truth even if it’s not what we want it to be.

When I was a child, I had low self-esteem. But I found a way to fool myself. I could pretend to be more important if I pleased and impressed my parents. This made sense because their opinion is how I determined truth. But did their opinion make me more important? I thought so and began to live like my importance depended on impressing others. Later in life, I learned this was not true.

Another deception we commonly embrace is seeking knowledge to know truth. But much knowledge often leads to depending on lies, not truth. When I was in the military, I thought that happiness came from a successful career of high achievement. So, I prepared myself by going to night school working on an advance degree, improving my public speaking skills, and seeking additional responsibilities at work. And I became a success! But I did not find happiness.

Another difficulty to finding truth is all the distractions we have to wade through to be clear-minded enough to discern reality. Pleasures, desire for comfortable things, and impressing others drive us to feel good rather than discovering the truth.

So, where do we go to find truth? How do we know if it’s the truth?

One way is to test our “truth” against reality.  Does it work? Am I happier? If the answer is “no”, it may not be the truth even though it should be. Deception paints a false reality of the future.

For me, a good source of truth has been the Bible. It doesn’t contain all truth, but whatever it teaches is truth (John 17:17). I have tested it against reality for fifty years and found it works.  

The Bible also introduces us to the source of all truth and wisdom, Jesus Christ. He boldly proclaims “I am the way, the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father but by me” (John 14:6). What he is saying is that if we want to know truth, listen to what he says to us. He tells us truth not only from the pages of the Bible but through circumstances, other people, and many other ways, for he controls all these things.

He promises us when we do listen to him, then “you will know the truth and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32). Free from what? From being deceived and fooled into giving our limited time and energy to activities that are not best for us.

Since our world is full of lies and deceptions, who we listen to will make a big difference in our destiny. I had to reject the guidance of many people until I heard Jesus inviting me to follow him. Because of wrong guidance for so long, I am still recovering from the false direction I received.

May we all seek truth and reject the deception all around us. God promises us if we seek the truth honestly, we will find it. May we never give up our search for truth for there is always more to find.

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Do You Lie to Yourself?

We talk to ourselves all day long. Some things we say are true and some are lies.

When I was a child, I told myself I needed to be taller to be important. That was a lie. Instead, I needed to tell myself the truth that I was important even though I was the shortest kid in the class. Because I believed this lie, I struggled with self-esteem through much of my early years.

As an adult, I told myself I could do any job. But that was a lie. I boldly applied for many jobs just because they were promotions. I told myself once I got the promotion, I would be able to figure out how to do the job. But that didn’t happen. There were a few jobs I just couldn’t do – and I had to endure much pain and humiliation in discovering this.

In recent years, I have told myself I was immortal. But that was a lie too. I’m not. It took a life-threatening physical condition for me to face the truth I was going to die someday. This lie had kept me clinging to life too much and hindered my hope of living in a future life that is far better than this one.

So, why do we lie to ourselves?

Sometimes the lie may feel better. “You can do any job you set out to do.” Feels good, doesn’t it? But is it true? No, it isn’t. But God says we can do any job he leads us to do if we depend on him (Philippians 4:13). May we tell ourselves the truth when we are contemplating a new job and avoid the pitfalls of a bad decision.

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We may think, I don’t have distorted thinking. I’m rational. My thinking is biblical. But is it?

We should not be surprised if some of our thoughts are distorted, exaggerated, or based upon lies. This is because we live in a world dominated by Satan and his deceitful influences.  “The world around us is under the control of the evil one” (1 John 5:19. NLT).

Distorted thinking is what occurs in our hearts. It’s not necessarily what we think in our heads. “As a man thinks in his heart, so he is” (Proverbs 23:7, KJV). 

Satan has planted many lies in our hearts which will result in distorted thinking. We tend to stubbornly cling to these false beliefs even after becoming a Christian and learning the truth. Only by working hard with Jesus can reality proceed from our heads to our hearts. Then, our thinking becomes more rational as God transforms our hearts.

As we work out our salvation (Philippians 2:12) with Jesus, we begin to let go of false beliefs, such as people can rob us our dignity. Instead, we learn to trust we are precious to God, no matter how much human rejection we have to bear.

I have little problem knowing the thoughts of my head, but can be fooled about the beliefs of my heart. The thoughts of my head are usually rational, but the thinking of my heart is often distorted. Jeremiah warns us about the dangers of our hearts. “The heart is more deceitful than all else and desperately sick; Who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9, NASB).

How can we discover what our hearts are trusting in to make sure it’s truth, and allowing the Holy Spirit to change us if necessary?

One way that has been useful to me is to experience my feelings about various circumstances. I focus on situations which seem particularly emotional, knowing feelings are tied closely to my heart. In experiencing my emotions, I ask God to help me discern what thoughts are triggering these feelings. If not consistent with God’s perspective, they are brought to the Lord for change. “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, ….as the heavens are higher than the earth, are My thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8-9, NIV).

Another practice to be more rational has been to focus on an upsetting event and list the negative feelings tied to it. Then, I write down my automatic thoughts associated with the event. These would be thoughts like I will never get rid of this; This should not be; and No good will come from this. I then analyze the thoughts for different types of distorted thinking. These types include All or Nothing Reasoning, Ignoring the Positive, and Predicting a Negative Outcome without Facts. The last action is rewriting the thoughts eliminating the distorted thinking. For a full description of this practice, read The Feeling Good Handbook by David Burns, M.D.

Overcoming faulty thinking that keeps us from reaching our full potential is part of the growth process Paul describes in Ephesians 4:22-24. It is putting off the old and putting on the new. We can’t be lazy and tolerate being dominated by distorted thinking if we are to become the people God created us to be. May we allow God to transformed us by the Holy Spirit to think like Jesus in all of life’s circumstances.

 

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Face the Pain

I am beginning to realize how I have been running from a truth for several years now. The truth is that I am mortal. This means someday I will die. I know it sounds morbid, but it’s a truth we will all have to face one day. Yet, I haven’t fully-faced this painful reality. Despite three major surgeries in the last four years, I have continued to ignore the obvious.

It seems like God wanted me to face this pain when I almost died four years ago from an aneurism which nearly burst. But emergency surgery saved me. However, the doctors found extensive artery disease requiring six bypasses to fix the problem.

When I recovered from the surgery, I believed I was good for another twenty years. No. It seems the next year they discovered another aneurism requiring immediate surgery.  After the surgery, I put it behind me again and thought I didn’t need to face my mortality for another twenty years. No. A follow-up exam two years later found a new fast-growing aneurism, which also required immediate surgery.

Because I had not fully-faced the pain of my mortality, I have viewed doctors, tests, results and surgeries as enemies of my soul. They mess with the lie I will never die. This put me under a lot of stress. However, by accepting my mortality, I am beginning to see them as friends. They are my partners in postponing the painful reality as long as possible.

We all have painful things we avoid facing. This could be a difficult childhood, a failed marriage, bad health, or a major mistake we have made.

We must reach the point where the pain to avoid facing it is greater than the pain to confront it. God will need to bring us to this point.

In facing our pain, we need to ask God to help us be honest and depend on him to reveal the truth to us. We then need to ruthlessly turn away from the lies we are still clinging to regarding the situation. We need to rely on him to give us the guidance and strength to press on toward healing. Like me, we need to see how running from our pain is hurting our ability to live a joyful and powerful life today.

Two things which are helpful in this healing process are to talk and listen to God through praying the Scriptures and to seek out quality counselors.  Some of my richest times of gaining strength have been in praying the psalms. In those times, I both meditate and pray the requests in the psalms. I often digress and have a conversation with God about how the verse applies to my situation.

Counselors, both professionals and spiritually mature friends, can help us sort out the tangled confusion of our thoughts and feelings. One of my favorite verses is, “Victory is won through many advisors” (Proverbs 11:14, NIV).

So, what are you running from? Ask God to help you know. Ask him for the courage to face whatever it is. Be encouraged! God is relentless and loves us so much he will never give up helping us face our pain and transforming us to be like Jesus.

 

 

 

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Are You Deceived?

We live in a world that seeks to deceive us. Often we fall for the lies that surround us or reject the truth that we know.

We can be tricked and fooled into depending on lies such as

  • You are what others think you are
  • Your worth depends on your achievements
  • You need to be married to be happy
  • You need power to be successful

The Bible contradicts each of these statements. If we trust in these lies, we are deceived; I feel embarrassed to say that I have trusted in each of these lies at some time in my life.

It will not be easy to avoid being deceived. The whole world lies in the power of Satan who is known as the Great Deceiver (1 John 5:19). So, it’s not surprising that this world is flooded with deception – people deceiving and being deceived. So, how do we avoid being deceived and live a life that truly is best for us?

Probably the most important thing we can do is to know what the truth is. To detect a deception, we need to know what makes that deception a lie. Knowing and understanding what the truth is can protect us from smooth and persuasive sermons and books that would deceive us.

For example, one common deception is that if we try hard to be good, go to church, and follow the rules we will go to heaven. But if we believe that, we are deceived. The truth is that only if we rely on Jesus’ death on the cross will we go to heaven (John 1:12).

Another common deception is that although we are going to heaven by relying on Jesus’ death on the cross, we grow spiritually trying hard to do the right things. But if we believe this, we are deceived. The truth says that we grow spiritually the same way as we go to heaven; by relying on Jesus (Colossians 2:6-7).

But instead, many of us listen to sermons, do Bible studies, go to conferences, and have Quiet Times as if these actions alone will cause us to grow. But if we don’t depend on the Holy Spirit, doing these activities will not lead to much growth.

Another way we can avoid being deceived is to look carefully at the true person behind the words. Politicians are notorious for deceiving us. They often tell us what we want to hear and hope we will never be able to hold them accountable. We need to check their deeds to make sure that they match their words.

And a final way we can avoid being deceived is to grow spiritually. For example, our pride can lead us to be deceived. We think that we can handle life just fine. Then we become overwhelmed by troubles and if we are wise realize we have been deceived. We realize that we need God desperately to just get through a day.

So, let’s not be fooled and misled by the world around us, Satan and our own pride. Let’s not be deceived. May we instead know what the truth is, examine carefully what is presented, and allow God to transform us into people who are not deceived.

 

 

 

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Can You Handle the Truth?

A couple of weeks ago I had a tooth ache so I went to a dentist to have it checked out. After he looked at the x-rays and examined where it hurt, he found nothing wrong.

As he was preparing the paperwork to send me to a root canal specialist, I asked if he thought that this pain could be caused by emotional stress.

He looked at me like I was from another planet. Of course not, it had to be something wrong with the tooth or root canal he told me.

I then explained that I had had a similar pain five years ago and it was not due to something being wrong with the tooth or root canal. I knew this because I had four root canals and one tooth pulled in that year chasing the pain that never went away. Only when I treated the pain as caused by emotional stress did it go away.

He wasn’t impressed.

I wondered if this was yet another example of someone not able to handle the truth.

Now, I am pretty sure it is. The pain is almost gone treating the cause as emotional stress.

I have also wondered if not handling the truth were behind some of the resistance I have met  as I have tried to teach others about spiritual formation that I learned in seminary. Grant you that some of the teachings and practices are new to a lot of churches, but that does not make them wrong?

Does it make any difference that they are biblical and have had a profound effect on my spiritual life? Evidently it makes no difference to some people. I suspect that they cannot handle the truth.

So, what is going on here? Why do we sometimes not handle the truth to our own peril?

There are a lot of reasons for this. I resisted the truth that I needed to work with God, and not for him for a long time. God says, “apart from Me you can do nothing” (John 15:5).

This means that I cannot do anything of eternal value without depending on him. This hurts my pride. Therefore, I chose not to handle this truth for many years.

Another big reason we struggle with handling the truth is that it often conflicts with our traditions and habits. The pain of embracing new truth can be too great. So we “become old and foolish kings who no longer know how to receive instruction” (Ecclesiastes 4:13). We become set in our ways.

Yet, God wants us to change. He wants us to grow more like him. He wants us to handle the truth that our pride, complacency, and self-sufficiency need to go.

May we humble ourselves and ask God to “teach us to number our days that we present to You a heart of wisdom” (Psalm 90:12). This heart of wisdom comes from handling the truth (Psalm 51:6).

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The following is a slightly edited  excerpt from a recent quiet time  I had  from Romans 7, writing it as a personal message from God:

“So, do I mean, Rich, that you are not to study the Bible, listen to good teaching, or memorize it? Goodness, Rich, NO!  I use the Bible to nurture you, guide you, give you wisdom and tell you who you really are to Me. I use the Bible to help you realize how much you need Me to live the Christian life. No, the Bible is important  for all Christians to know and live.

However, knowing My Word has no power against the corruption in your heart, such as you wanting to live your day apart from Me, you wanting to regard yourself as important due to your performance, and your negative thinking about your future, despite Me promising you the stars.  Just knowing the Word does not give you the power to live the Word. My Word holds the standard up to you and shows you how you need to grow. You are accountable to live the truth presented; and you need to live putting off the old and putting on the new.

So, knowing My Word can lead to being cut off from My life due to disobedience. Certainly, I tell you what godliness looks like in My Word, but this alone does not make you godly. My Word defines your sinfulness. You need to come to Me throughout the day for My life to live in My power and obedience. Alignment is critical for you to do in holding up your life  to the mirror of My Word  and seeing how it fits; then come to Me for the power to live the truth.”

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