Tag Archives: Truth

Powered Up by Hope

Why is it that some people complain all the time, while others seem to boost the spirits of those around them?  Why are some folks suspicious and grumpy and others just seem happier on the inside?  One of the differences is an attitude of hope, a joyful, optimistic expectation of good things coming. 

But what is the best object of hope?  I’d say it’s heaven.  Paul once told some people he had heard about their “…faith and love that spring from the hope that is stored up for you in heaven and that you have already heard about in the word of truth, the gospel.  –  (Colossians 1:5)

Don’t misunderstand: these were no Pollyanna types with saccharin-sweet, vapid smiles, aimlessly drifting through life by pretending things would be better in heaven.  This was no “pie in the sky, by and by” crowd.  These were people bearing up under the harsh realities of vicious persecution.  But with hope from which their faith and love sprang forth!

So, how could they, or we, know that hope for heaven is anything more than wishful thinking?  Jesus tells us, in the strongest and simplest terms, that’s how..  Speaking of heaven, He said,

“…if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you.”  –  (John 14:2b)

That is my favorite line in the Bible.  Jesus didn’t lie to people, fostering false hopes.  One of His trademark expressions was, “I tell you the truth!”  Following Jesus comes with real hope, hope for eternal life in heaven.  If it wasn’t so he would have told us.  And hope just makes everything else better.

Where’s the Path?

It’s a hollow, panicky feeling when you are in the back country, hiking along and suddenly realize you are not on the trail.  You look around, trying to spot the path, unsure of where you lost it.  You start backtracking, bushwhacking and stumbling, until at last you see it.  Once you are back on the trail, the hike is so much easier, and it reliably leads to the place you are trying to get to.   Lose the path and you are on your own.

David was a shepherd and spent a lot of time in the back country.  He knew about paths.  As he became more acquainted with God, he realized the truth about paths was also true with God’s paths.  He wrote:

Show me your ways, O LORD,
teach me your paths;
guide me in your truth and teach me,
for you are God my Savior,
and my hope is in you all day long.  –  (Ps 25:4–5)

If you follow God’s paths, the journey is easier and reliably gets you where you want to go.  Leave the path and you are on your own.  It’s true for individuals and it is true for whole nations.  The nation of Israel had to learn that lesson repeatedly.  They would leave the path, fall into ruin, go back and find the path, recover, and then quickly forget.  The cycle would begin again.  I am convinced we in the US are in the process of learning this same lesson.

Quotes: The Holy Bible: New International Version. (1984). . Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

Danger! Parables at Work

Would Jesus deliberately disguise or hide the truth from some people?  That’s a question His disciples asked and you might be surprised at the answer.  If you have a bible, turn to the 13th chapter of Matthew and listen to the audio clips below.  I’ve sliced and diced an original message into 5 bite-sized chunks, so you can fit them into your schedule flexibly


It would be helpful to me to know how this different blog format worked for you.  Did you have any problems listening?  Were the individual sections too long or too short?  Any other suggestions or feedback?  I may not be able to respond or post all of the responses, but please know I’ll read them and take them into consideration.

Mirror image

It’s just dumb to build yourself an idol, prop it up on the mantel – carefully, so it won’t fall over – and then worship it.  Isaiah marvels that some people cut a tree to use for firewood, and then:

“From the rest he makes a god, his idol; he bows down to it and worships. He prays to it and says, “Save me! You are my god!”” (Isaiah 44:17)

If you build it, it  cannot be your god.  And yet, people still make their own ‘gods’ and worship them – these days they tend to use computer chips instead of wood or stone.  It is inherently foolish to surrender to something you have made – or made up!

I say made up because something similar is going on when we attempt to redefine Jesus to fit our own ideas.  People say, “My Jesus would not have done that” as though they are in a better position, today, to know what Jesus was like than the eye witnesses who wrote the Gospels.  “The Jesus Seminar” was made up of self-described “scholars” who decided for themselves which things Jesus actually said, and which were falsely ascribed to Him, based on their own preconceived notions!  But anything you have made or have made up, cannot be your God.  He cannot guide you or save you.

Psalm 115 says:

“Those who make them [idols] will be like them, and so will all who trust in them.” (Psalm 115:8)

One reason we become like our idols is because we have made them in our own image.  We resemble them because they have been made to resemble us, to agree with our own ideas.  Someone once said, if you pick and choose which parts of the Bible you agree with, discarding the rest, what you wind up is a mirror image of yourself.  A “god” who looks like you cannot guide you or save you.

No Baloney

What’s the best line in the whole Bible?  What would you choose?  Me? It’s something Jesus told the boys on the night He got arrested:  He said,

“… if it were not so, I would have told you…” (John 14:2)

Jesus wasn’t blowing smoke.  He wasn’t saying nice things just because they were comforting.  He wasn’t going along with wishful thinking or superstition.  The things He told were absolutely so; they were accurate descriptions of reality.  “If it were not so, I would have told you.”

That’s important to me because, over the years, people have told me a lot of religious things that were not so.  They were really true.  And I don’t want to be fooled or gullible.  You hang around funeral homes and you will hear a lot of things said that may not be so.  Comforting? Yes.  Nice ideas?  Yes.  But true?  Maybe not.  “Oh, Wilma has gone to a far better place.”  Maybe that’s true; maybe not.  People who say such things don’t necessarily believe them, but they know they help those who grieve.

Jesus knew His family and friends would not only be grieving but also they would be horrified and frightened.  He knew platitudes might temporarily help, like a kiss on a cut, but what they really needed was a strong dose of truth.  Truth they could lean on.  Truth that would hold when they did.

Here’s the rest of what He said:

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.” (John 14:1-3)

Rooms?  Many rooms?  What’d He mean by that?  There’s no good English word.  Bibles used to use the word, mansions, which really gives the wrong idea.  The Greek word refers to places in which one makes his or her home, to live there permanently.  Dwelling places.  He was saying God has many dwelling places where those who “trust Him” (verse 1, above)  will continue to live, even after death.  With Him.

And, if it were not so, He would have told us.

Lean on that.

Quotes: The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

Says Who?

After 30 years, now it’s safe to eat eggs.  The experts were wrong. Of course, the experts used to think tomatoes were poisonous, too.  Nope, it’s Lima beans that are poisonous; ask any kid.  You can’t always trust the experts.  Expert publishers rejected the novels of John Grisham (16 times!).  Expert physicists rejected the theories of Einstein.  And expert religious leaders rejected Jesus.

Of course, God saw that coming.  He created us humans and knows how we tend to think we know all the answers.  Hundreds of years before Jesus, He inspired these words:

“The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone [or cornerstone – same word]; the Lord has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes.” (Psalm 118:22-23 – with my explanation)

Jesus quoted that line to challenge religious leaders who had rejected Him.  He is the cornerstone of the Kingdom of God, the foundation stone upon which everything else in God’s Kingdom is built.  God has done this, not “the builders.”  Not the experts.  God’s Kingdom is still growing.  Every human kingdom ultimately collapses for want of a strong “cornerstone.”

We still have experts today – leaders, judges, officials, scholars – who choose to build without regard to the “Cornerstone.”  Inevitably, what they build is not so “marvelous.”

“[But]…this is what the Sovereign Lord says: “See, I lay a stone in Zion, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone for a sure foundation; the one who trusts will never be dismayed.” (Isaiah 28:16b)

Be careful who you trust.

Quotes: The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

The Mousetrap Question

Jesus did something that scared the living daylights out of His critics.  Do you know how?  Was it with a startling miracle?  A demonstration of mighty power?  Neither.  He did it with a question!  Jesus asked a question that frightened them and shut them up for good.  Like all good mousetraps, Jesus’ question seemed safe and simple at first.

“While the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them, “What do you think about the Christ? Whose son is he?” “The son of David,” they replied.” (Matthew 22:41-42)

This looked like an easy volleyball lob for a return spike.  These guys were experts on the Scripture.  They knew all the answers.  And this one was easy.   They all knew that the Christ would be the son, or the descendant, of David.  You can almost see the cynical and triumphant look on their faces as they easily answered Jesus’ question.

But then Jesus’ trap was sprung!

“He said to them, “How is it then that David, speaking by the Spirit, calls him ‘Lord’? For he says, “ ‘The Lord said to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand until I put your enemies under your feet.” ’ If then David calls him ‘Lord,’ how can he be his son?” No one could say a word in reply, and from that day on no one dared to ask him any more questions. “ (Matthew 22:43-46 – my emphases)

Whap!!!   Question is, what was it about this seemingly innocuous exchange that was so frightening to them?  Maybe this:

  • These self-proclaimed experts in the Scripture suddenly saw that there is more going on in God’s Word than they understood.  They didn’t know all the answers.  The Scriptures were written from God’s vantage point, not the limited and comparatively ignorant vantage point of humans.  To be confronted with this is humbling and frightening.  Especially for “scholars.”
  • Jesus trusted the actual words written in the Bible.  He didn’t pick and choose, as they did, according to what seemed right.  He accepted the words as they were written, even when those words didn’t conform with human, common sense.
  • Jesus knew that when the Scriptures were written, the human authors were “speaking by the Spirit” of God.
  • Because they could not refute what He said, the Pharisees began to suspect that the One with whom they were speaking was:
    • The Lord
    • The Messiah or Christ
    • Qualified to sit at the right hand of God
    • Would ultimately dominate all His enemies

When the rug is pulled out from under the things we think we know, it can be very scary.  Even more so when you cannot explain away the new insights.  The smart thing to do, despite your fear, is to re-evaluate your assumptions, looking carefully and thoughtfully into the things that have frightened you.  Such as what it says in the Bible.  That’s not what Jesus’ critics did.  They decided to kill Him.

Quotes: The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

Becoming Fruit

By the time anyone noticed, she had been underwater for way too long. They hauled her out and laid her out on the dock, her body a dark purple color, her eyes lifeless. I watched as a med student kneeled over her and began CPR. When she took her first breath, when the color of her body began to chameleon back to its normal hue, when she came back to life, the process seemed miraculous. I’ve been present as each of my two children were born and took their first breath. This was like that, except that in her case, no one expected she would ever breathe again. I’m guessing, if anyone ever asks that young girl about the best gift she ever received, she would say it was the gift of life itself.

We are so used to being alive we actually take life for granted. It is all we’ve ever known. We also take spiritual death as the norm. It is all we have ever known. Spiritual death is the condition of being disconnected from the Spirit of God. Designed and created to be filled with God’s Spirit, we have been cut off since Adam’s Fall. Since we are born in this condition, we initially don’t notice anything wrong. It’s like being born blind and not discovering until later on that we were supposed to be able to see. But eventually we do sense a problem. We sense that something is missing. What’s missing is real, full life, the life of the Spirit in us. We cannot fix it, anymore than anyone could perform CPR on themselves. Spiritually speaking, we are as dead as that girl laid out on the dock.

But check out this amazing good news:

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created.

James 1:17-18

We gasp for spiritual breath in many ways, often with no real understanding that what we seek is life itself. God, the Giver of every good and perfect gift reaches down through eternity and offers to give us “birth,” birth into eternal, spiritual life. How so? Through His Son, Jesus, the One Who is the “Word of Truth.” Those who accept this gift by faith, become like the first harvest of fruit in the orchard, the first tomatoes on the vine, the first grain in the field. The difference between fruit and the plant on which it grows is that there is continuing life in the fruit. So too with those who have been given the eternal life of God’s Spirit through their faith in Jesus.

Better Proof

If you really want proof for Jesus, there is a way.  Jesus refused to give miraculous, tangible proof of His identity to the religious experts (See: Proof).  But He led His disciples to a better proof, a proof you can check out for yourself.  It began like this:

” When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”” (Matthew 16:13-14)

Going to the region of Caesarea Philippi was no accident.  It was 25 miles out of their way, north of Israel – a hotbed of paganism and humanism.  Formerly known as Paneas, for Pan, the god of fertility, the city was renamed for Caesar and Philip, Roman leaders who wanted to be worshiped as gods, themselves.  This place epitomized what Jesus had criticized in human attitudes (See the explanation of “a wicked and adulterous generation” in: Proof).  Jesus took them to that place and asked them, “Who do PEOPLE say the Son of Man (Jesus) is?”  What do people say?  What to “they say?”  It would be like taking us to the most humanistic, atheistic, politically correct university campus and asking us to take a survey about “Who is Jesus?”  And the disciples responded with a variety of superstitious things the people were saying, as if to say, “Who knows?”

But then He asked:

“But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven. (Matthew 16:15-17)

There is a lot of noise out there, a lot of opinions and a lot of shouting.  Jesus asked His disciples to shut all that off and consider what God the Father was revealing to them, personally, from inside their own hearts.  In effect, He said, “You will never know Who I Am by listening to what “they say.”  You will never find proof by listening to others – even the others who are telling you the truth!  Proof will come to you personally, from God.  He will reveal to you Who I Am.  You will know.  And you will be blessed.

Do you want to know Who Jesus really is?  Do you want proof that will really convince you once and for all?  Stop listening to what “they say.”  There is way too much confusion and ignorance dressed up as wisdom in this world.  Instead, ask God to show you Who Jesus is.  Ask Him with all sincerity, expecting to receive an answer.  Keep asking, watching and listening.  He will show you and you will have a better proof.

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened. (Matthew 7:7-8)

Quotes: The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

It’s Up to You

Jesus wasn’t being fair. At least He sounded unfair, when He told his disciples why He spoke in parables, instead of laying out His truths in a straightforward way.

“He replied, “The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them. Whoever has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him. This is why I speak to them in parables: “Though seeing, they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand. In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah: “ ‘You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving. For this people’s heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them.’” (Matthew 13:11-15, NIV)[1]

Sounds unfair, doesn’t it:  “Whoever has will be given more, etc.?”  Did Jesus arbitrarily try to confuse some people and keep them from His salvation?  The answer is revealed in the words Jesus quoted the prophecy of Isaiah (Isaiah 6:9ff).   There are some people who cannot “see and hear,” who will never understand God’s truths.  But that is because They have closed their eyes!”  By that choice, “this people’s heart has become calloused…”   When people shut their eyes to God’s truth, when they turn away from God, their hearts do become hardened, and it becomes tougher – potentially impossible –  for them to understand anything about God.

You have seen a lesser example of this dynamic as most teenagers close their eyes and ears to what their parents try to teach them.  For a time, in the minds of those adolescents, the parents have become stupid  and ignorant.  The youth’s make a choice that hardens their hearts.  In most cases, the resulting separation and angst is temporary.  No harm, no foul.   But when people close their eyes to God, the effects are potentially much more serious and long-lasting.

When Jesus told a parable, it was like a bunker-buster of truth, designed to penetrate beyond the callouses on our hearts.  Once the seemingly harmless story has gotten past our defenses, the truth contained within it “goes off.”  But the impact of that truth separates the HAVES from the HAVE-NOT’S.  For those who HAVE a readiness to learn and receive, the truths contained in the parable produce “aha moments” of increased understanding.  Those who DO NOT HAVE that readiness don’t get it.

When those who HAVE, respond to what they understand, when they TURN, Jesus heals them.  He erases their separation from God by fully paying for their pardon on the cross.  He reconciles them with God and gives them eternal life – His Holy Spirit.  This Spirit is born in their souls and grows, producing a crop of fruit (of the Spirit) in the world. (See “Sow What” and “Seeds of Truth“)

In other words, the impact of Jesus’ parables in your life, depends upon you.  It’s up to you.  It depends on whether you HAVE a willingness to learn His truths, or whether you have closed your eyes and HAVE NOT.

[1] The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.