Archive for the ‘Truth’ Category

 

image

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.

 

Read Full Post »

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.

 

 

 

Read Full Post »

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.

 

 

 

Read Full Post »

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).

Read Full Post »

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.”

Read Full Post »