Tag Archives: truth

Gotcha!

We live in a day when vulnerability is a fact of life. With cell phone cameras catching awkward, embarrassing moments, “journalists” looking for dirt, politicians who play loose with the truth, exposés of sexual abuse and oppression lighting up the news, our society is painfully open to “gotcha” sound bites and video clips.

We might think this is a product of our 24-7, nothing is off limits age, but Jesus was often confronted with the “gotcha” crowd. In our study of Mark’s gospel, we have encountered numerous confrontations when His critics and opponents tried to trap and discredit Him. Finding their efforts futile, they finally conspired to kill Him.

One of those attempts is found in all of the synoptic gospels. Frustrated because they had such difficulty cornering Jesus on theological and cultural issues, they decided to go political. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?

“Teacher, we know how honest You are. You are impartial and don’t play favorites. You teach the way of God truthfully. Now tell us – is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not?”

You would think Jesus was subjected to a modern-day press conference with loaded questions and not-so-subtle insinuations. Surely they had Him this time. He would be walking another fine line of insulting His Jewish brethren or promoting civil disobedience.

As usual, they had underestimated their man. Jesus deftly called for a Roman coin. “Whose picture is on this?” In response to the obvious answer, Jesus said, “Give Caesar what belongs to him and give God what belongs to God.”

 

This really wasn’t about taxation; it was about truth. Instead of trying to trap Jesus, I wished they would have tried trusting Jesus. They would keep on trying to trap Jesus until they thought they had won. How sad. The Truth stood before them and they couldn’t see. They were the victims of their own “gotcha” moment.

The Value of Inheritance

There is an interesting story in 1 Kings 21 about a man named Naboth. He lived in ancient Jezreel and was a subject of King Ahab of Samaria. He owned a vineyard that was adjacent to a palace of the king. Ahab wanted the vineyard for himself and tried to convince Naboth to either exchange the land for another parcel or sell it to the monarch. Naboth refused: “The Lord forbid that I should give you the inheritance that was passed down by my ancestors.”

Ahab returned to his palace and sulked: “So Ahab went home angry and sullen because of Naboth’s answer. The king went to bed with his face to the wall and refused to eat!”

Really?  He didn’t get his way so he threw himself a pity party? You may remember his wife, Jezebel. She was vain, ruthless, power hungry, and vengeful. After scorning her husband, she told him she would take care of things. She had Naboth stoned to death and seized the vineyard from his heirs. That wasn’t the end of the story.

God sent the prophet Elijah with a chilling warning and prediction. Eventually, Jezebel would suffer a horrible death on the very spot where Naboth’s vineyard was located. In 2012, archaeologists discovered the large winery complex that was at the center of Naboth’s vineyard.

In a day like ours, it seems that everything and everyone has a price. Naboth paid dearly for refusing to surrender his inheritance but his murder did not go unpunished. There are things in our lives that should not be for sale … convictions that we will not compromise … principles that will not be forfeited.

We claim to be people of the Book. Today more than ever, we need to stand on the truth of God’s Word. Truth is not for sale.

Legacy

Over these past three days, our youth have been participating in Disciple Now Weekend, focusing on living authentic lives for Christ. We will be hearing from them as they lead us in worship Sunday.

Peter’s second letter speaks to authentic living. He wrote: “As we know Jesus better, His divine power gives us everything we need for living a godly life” (2 Peter 1:3). The apostle was determined to leave a legacy of faithfulness while encouraging others to do the same: “I plan to keep on reminding you of these things as long as I live” (1:13).

You cannot build a legacy after you die; you can only leave one. What will you leave behind that will be worth passing along? Peter told his readers that he desired that they remember what he had taught them “long after I am gone.” He also stressed that his words were not “clever stories” but his own witness and convictions. As he had told the Sanhedrin when they demanded that they quit spreading news about Jesus: “We cannot stop telling about the wonderful things we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:20).

What will the world hear about Him from us? Our legacies have to have eternal consequences. You might think our youth are not old enough to consider such things, but they are charting their life courses now. As we surround them with support and encouragement, it would certainly give us more credibility if we were living authentic lives, too!

No, you don’t have to

You don’t have to cheat. Then, why is so much cheating going on? The Rio Olympics is not the first games to be tainted by cheaters. If the IOC wasn’t so corrupt, an entire nation’s Olympic team would have been banned. State-sponsored cheating!

Alex Rodriguez, Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa, Roger Clemens … just a few names from the world of baseball who have been called out for cheating. Football, basketball, cycling, racing, pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey … the list grows. Wait a minute! Someone cheats at pin-the-tail-on-the- donkey? A little girl was asked how she had gotten so good at the game. She never lost. Her answer was simple: “I peek.”

We know cheating touches every area of our lives. Spouses cheat on each other. People cheat on their taxes. Businesses sacrifice ethics. Students grab grades they didn’t earn. Builders cut corners in construction. If people think they can away with it, they tend to cheat.

Do we get away with it? It might seem so, but there is always an accounting. Remember this old story? A young preacher found himself in a dilemma. Two brothers were occasional attenders at his church. These men were powerful and rich. In the small town where they lived, they ruled. They were known for shady business practices, monopolizing the market by lies, intimidation, and thievery. One of the brothers died. The other one came to see the preacher. The conversation went like this: “Preacher, I want to biggest and best funeral this town has ever seen. I want you to tell the people what a fine, upstanding man my brother was. You tell ‘em my brother was a saint. If you do it right, I’ll pay off the debt on this new building you’ve built.”

It didn’t take that pastor long to decide how he would handle the service. The church was packed. People wanted to hear what could possibly be said about a man with such an unsavory reputation. The pastor got up to give the eulogy: “Brother Smith was a hard man. He lied and cheated and wrecked the lives of hard-working folks in our town. But next to his brother, he was a saint.”

We don’t have to cheat. We could recall Paul’s words to the Colossians: “And whatever you do or say, let it be as a representative of the Lord Jesus, all the while giving thanks through Him to God the Father” (Colossians 3:17). Let’s do the right thing for the right reason.

You shall know the truth

Among the many game shows that aired on American television, “To Tell the Truth” has an interesting history. It is one of two game shows in the US that have aired at least one episode in seven decades. Can you guess the other one? Sure, go ahead … google it, or just check at the end of this column – but only if you read the whole column. Tell the truth, now.

The whole idea was to feature people who either had an unusual job or had been through strange circumstances. The celebrity panel would question the contestants and try to guess which one of the three was telling the truth.

The latest version airs its first episode on June 14. That means the show has been on for 25 seasons.

Are we infatuated with telling the truth or with game shows?

People refer to truth is some strange ways today. Some will tell you that your truth is not necessarily their truth. Others will say that truth is relative depending on the circumstances. We even have different phrases for not telling the truth:

  • I might have mis-spoke
  • That was taken out of context
  • What I meant to say was …

I grew up when it was a little clearer – not telling the truth meant lying.

Jesus said, “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free” (John 8:32). He also claimed that He was the truth (John 14:6). So, it seems that the path(or way) to freedom means knowing Jesus.

Using a number of resources this month, we will explore the truth as it concerns Jesus. He remains mysterious, controversial, and provocative. Some dismiss Him … mostly because they make no effort to know Him. Some dismiss Him because of the actions and attitudes of those who claim to follow Him.

When Jesus presented Himself in human form (John 1:14), He came on mission. He did not intend to start another religion. We have enough already. He came to reveal the Father; He came to establish the Kingdom; He came to redeem fallen humanity. He came to present truth.

The truth is that God loved the world so much that Jesus came, full of grace and glory, to rescue us. The truth is we cannot rescue ourselves. The truth is that He came to set us free.

In the game show, the dramatic moment would come when the host would say: “Would the real ______________ please stand up!” Compared to the real Jesus, there are no equals. That’s the truth!

Trivia answer: The Price is Right

Spin

Spin. It has become a part of public dialogue. Someone has defined it as propaganda or a creative interpretation of events or deflection from potentially controversial topics or playing loosely with the truth or crafted bias.

Here’s an example: “If you put aside this Macondo incident, 2009 was the best year we’d had, and 2010 was also heading in that direction.” Those were the words of BP CEO Bob Dudley used to describe the trajectory of his company. Macondo was the well that dumped 210 million gallons of oil in the Gulf of Mexico, creating an environmental and economic catastrophe that affected millions of lives and cost billions of dollars. 11 people who worked on the Deep Horizon rig were never found.

“So, other than that, how did you like the play, Mrs. Lincoln?”

I guess we can all be guilty of spin. There are times when we try to cover a mistake, exaggerate a story, make excuses, or try to make ourselves look better. Our personal histories can get a bit clouded, like the guy who admitted, “The older I get, the better I was.”

History is full of spin, usually told through the eyes of the victor, the more powerful, the one writing. Christians have been accused of spin through the centuries. To some, the Bible is just a collection of 66 books full of spin. The story of Jesus has often been assaulted as history’s greatest spin.

Think about it. It couldn’t have happened the way the Gospels spin it. Let’s review some of the criticism: (1) There was no such historical figure as Jesus; (2) Jesus was a simple man, a teacher, perhaps a prophet, but nothing more: (3) The miracle stories were concocted to make Jesus look bigger, better; (4) Jesus did not die on the cross – he swooned, he recovered, they used a substitute; (5) The disciples stole his body and hid it, then told fantastic stories about a resurrection; (6) The appearances post-death can be attributed to mass hallucinations.

There are plenty more. To sum it up, I think men like C.S. Lewis and Josh McDowell had it right. Jesus was either liar, lunatic, or Lord. No spin. A great deal rides on the answer people choose.

He is risen. He is risen indeed.

America

Bob Kaylor worked as a historical, perhaps hysterical, interpreter at the Gettysburg battlefield for two years. His hysterics may have come from some of the actual questions he was asked by visitors to the Civil War site:

  • Did the soldiers hide behind the monuments when they fought?
  • What was Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg address? Do you mean he had a house here?
  • Why were so many Civil War battles fought on National Park Service land?

Makes you proud, right? How about these answers to American History tests:

  1. What ended in 1896? A. 1895
  2. If you could go back in time and meet Abraham Lincoln, what would you say to him? A. Don’t go to the theater.
  3. Part of an essay: “Soon the Constitution of the United States was adopted to secure domestic hostility. Under the constitution people enjoyed the right to bare arms.

America will celebrate her 239th birthday next weekend. For all our stumbles and challenges, our country deserves the support of her citizens. Our moral drift is frighteningly similar to the fall of other countries/kingdoms in history, which demands more, not less, of those who care about faith and values. It isn’t politically correct these days, but engagement still trumps entitlement.

We may have lost some of our standing in the world these last few years, but who does the world turn to in times of disaster and conflict? Who normally is the first to respond when catastrophe strikes? Who continues to demonstrate generosity and compassion when other nations hesitate?

Yes, we have external threats that seem to grow closer each day. We live in scary times but I refuse to live in fear. Frankly, I’m more concerned about internal decay. Our pulpits need to grow bolder. Our witness needs to combine our words with our ways. We may live in a post-Christian age, but we know the truth and the truth will set us free.

Happy Birthday America … now, go study your history.