Monday, September 17, 2012

What is Truth?

We'll begin by assuming that there is truth and that it can be known.

How could we have a conversation, otherwise?

How would I know what decision to make when I face one of life's constant dilemmas? Whose advice to follow?

Here is a thing which is not true: "Just follow your heart."

What if my heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked? I shudder to think of all the places my heart has led me.
The selfish deeds I have performed and the hurt I have caused "just following my heart."

What an incredibly selfish little organ my heart is! Still, perhaps you don't have that problem? Look deep and long before you answer.

So if "every inclination of my heart is only evil, all the time," where will I look for truth?

For the Christian there's a ready answer. There is a God who speaks to his children. We are told that Jesus is the Living Word of God. There is also a written Word. If I believe in God, do I accept Him at His word? That His Word is true? How could I do otherwise?

If God tells me He is perfectly righteous, I must believe Him. If He tells me I must be righteous too, I go "How?" There's this problem of the heart remember? Back I go to the Word.

Which reminds me of the Living Word: God's Only Son, God in the flesh, Jesus. He's already lived a life of righteousness. I can have this righteousness credited to me if I believe on His Name. Better that that: this faith is free! A gift from God.

So how about this: what if I just say I believe in Jesus? I don't have to do any of this righteous stuff, right? Hmmm.

Back to the written Word where I read that a heart changed by Jesus' perfect love will want to do this righteous stuff; will actually be broken when I fail to live up to God's standards and fly to Him begging forgiveness.

 So I bow to the authority of God's Word. And the Truth I find there. Especially those parts about my heart (Jeremiah 17:9; Genesis 6:5).

What about the non-believer? Mercifully, God has a Truth for you as well: repent and be saved (Acts 3:19). I'm praying

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Accidentally Like a Martyr

I've never been able to understand what Warren Zevon was aiming for with those words.

But the chorus tears at anyone who has ever participated in the break-up of a marriage: "We made mad love, shadow love, random love, and abandoned love; accidentally like a martyr. The hurt gets worse and the heart gets harder."

I suppose this morbid train of thought was set in motion as I re-read an apologia for the demise of my first marriage.

The people for whom it was written have never seen it. The time wasn't right. We couldn't co-ordinate our schedules. I couldn't find the words to properly express my sorrow. Okay, so I'm just a coward. Right?

Mario Puzo asked "How did things ever go so far?"

Mostly because nobody was paying attention. Isn't that how the huge majority of life's messes "go so far?"

I know that. So do you. Accidents happen. So why do we keep doing the things that seem right in our own eyes?

Prayer: God, please help me pay attention.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

God Sends the Wednesday Night Bible Study Class a Teacher (sort of)

“All my dad will say is they’re talking to somebody,” said Stacy.

“My dad said, ’we’ll see,’” said Jimmy. “I hate when he says that.” I listened as complaints bounced around the table in the Upper Room. Apparently it was a deep, dark secret who our Wednesday night teacher was going to be.

“Where’s your dad?” Lizzie asked me.

“Yeah, where’s Mr. Ray?” echoed several of the others.

“Better late than never,” spoke the Old Man from the doorway. “Sorry, gang. I got held up downstairs.” He laid his Bible on the table and parked himself in the empty chair between Ron and Jim.

“You beat me here tonight,” he grinned at Ron, who grinned back uneasily. The Old Man smiled and glanced around the table at each of us in turn.

“Let’s talk.”

I do not exaggerate when I tell you what a chill those words brought into that room. For one thing, not a one of us had ever heard our parents utter those words except as a prelude to something really awful happening. In the second place, he had always opened our study sessions by telling to turn to this, that or the other verse of scripture. Now this. Observing our expressions of dread, he laughed.

“The elders have asked me to lead your Wednesday night Bible study.” If there had been curtains in the room, the collective sigh of relief would have blown them off the windows.

“I hope yall have been thinking about the question I asked last time: ‘what do you want out of this class?’” The unease began to creep in again. To be honest, I had not given the thing another thought. I was prepared to bet that none of the others had either. A brief glance confirmed this conclusion for the Old Man as well.

“Why do you guys call this the Upper Room?” Whoa. Who knew the answer to that? Not me. I’m just the new kid, I thought.

“Um, well,” said Lizzie, who was rapidly becoming our spokesperson, “it has a certain ring to it and it is in the Bible after all.”

“This is true,” he replied. “So what do we know about the Upper Room? What went on there?”

“The Last Supper?” asked Zack.

“Absolutely right. What else?” Zack looked around for help. We had nothing for him.

“What about the day of Pentecost?” asked the Old Man. Ah,yeah. There was that too.

“Remember?” he continued. “Jesus told them to wait in Jerusalem after He ascended into heaven. They were in the Upper Room and the Holy Spirit came and they began to testify. Thousands of people were saved that day.” Recognition had dawned in the eyes of most of us. We waited expectantly to see how he was going to make the link between that Upper Room and this Upper Room.

“You know, I don’t expect tongues of fire to appear over your heads.” Several, including myself, began to recall the story of Pentecost.

“The point is: those folks in that Upper Room began working to change their world on that day.” He paused to see if he had our attention. He did.

“What would it look like to see a group of young people dedicated to sharing Jesus’ story and living out their faith in front of other young people?”

“What do you mean, ‘living out our faith,’ Mr. Ray?” asked Chad.

“How about this?” asked the Old Man. “There are always kids at school who are not popular, or maybe newcomers or maybe just shy. What kind of difference do you think it would make to one of these folks if you just said ‘Hi’ and smiled each time you saw them?”

I snuck a peek at my friends to see if they might be remembering a simple kindness someone had done them. I certainly recalled the first time Kels had walked up to me and began gabbing away the first time we met. I noticed several smiles around the table.

“You see, guys,” the Old Man continued, “I’m not asking you to be something you’re not. But you are Christians. And we are called to love others.” He sat back and let that soak in for a bit. I could tell everyone was turning over in their minds the things he had just said. He let us ponder a while longer before speaking again.

“You know, I’m reminded of Jesus’ statement: ‘Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’ Let’s turn to Matthew 25.”