Hard Truths Relevant to Today’s Headlines
Hard Truths

I’ve heard it over and over again. “The Bible is an ancient, mythological book irrelevant to modern culture.”

Is it? The Christian community would disagree. Those who do not follow Christ are not convinced.

We could lock horns and argue about this until Jesus returns.

But our local headlines recently exploded with the results of a months-long investigation into sex trafficking. An investigation that began in our own county and stretched across state and international boundaries.

And as I watched developments unfold—and they’re still unfolding even now—I couldn’t help but think of a hard truth from that “ancient, mythological book.”

“Be sure your sin will find you out.” ~ Numbers 32:23 (ESV)

This was a true statement when it was written several thousand years ago and it is true today. We have only to listen to the news to confirm its accuracy.

Celebrities. Corporate giants. Philanthropic role models. And of course, “regular guys.” Upstanding members of the community. Husbands, fathers, and sons. They all learned the hard way that while we may hide our sin for a season, the darkness of all sin will someday be revealed.

So what can we learn from their failures…and our own, too?

We can start with some hard truths from the Bible:

1. Start with a new nature.

“For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out….Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” ~ Romans 7:18. 24-25 (ESV)

Relying on our own strength will doom us before we begin. But when we surrender our life to Jesus Christ, His Spirit dwells within us to guide, convict, and empower us to do what’s right.

2. Don’t believe your own press.

“The heart is deceitful above all things.” ~ Jeremiah 17:9 (ESV)

No one is immune to temptation. The more we try to convince ourselves that we’re stronger and better than the next person is the moment we’ll stumble and fall. And if people say enough nice things about us, after a while we start to believe what they say.

But an accurate assessment of who we are does not come from what people say about us. Rather, it is found in measuring ourselves against the plumb line of God’s Word.

3. Be accountable to at least one other person—find your “Nathan.”

“Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy.” ~ Proverbs 27:6 (ESV)

King David needed the prophet Nathan to speak truth into his life (“You are the man!” ~ II Samuel 12:7) after he sinned with Bathsheba. We also need people who will courageously speak the truth in love, regardless of how we might initially receive it.

4. Choose your friends wisely.        

 “Do not be deceived: “Bad company ruins good morals.”
~ I Corinthians 15:33 (ESV)

Sad words that describe a downward spiral of sin and defeat. A spiral that might have been halted with the right friends to encourage us in righteousness.

5. Start small and go long.

“My son, keep your father’s commandment, and forsake not your mother’s teaching.” ~ Proverbs 6:20 (ESV)

People rarely wake up one morning and decide, “Today I will schedule a moral failure.” It happens as we distance ourselves from God instead of surrendering to Him and immersing ourselves in His Word.

Think about a dirt road. If the road is not graded regularly, two ruts will appear from the repeated path of the car tires. By nurturing a habit of obedience in seemingly inconsequential areas, we create ruts or paths of obedience. This builds our self-control little by little until we’re able to withstand bigger temptations.

The Bible was relevant when it was written, and it’s relevant now.
What will you do with the hard truths of God’s Word today?


 
The Trouble with Anonymity
Anonymity

Anonymity can bring pleasant surprises.

Someone ahead of you pays your bill in the drive-thru.

  Or you receive a card or gift in the mail from an anonymous friend.

 But anonymity can create problems, too. How many times have you been the victim of anonymity?

  Robo-calls trying to sell you something.

  Emails trying to scam you.

Annoying at best, harmful at worst.

And how many times have you victimized someone else under the cover of anonymity?

You haven’t?

Maybe you have and just don’t realize it.

Ever been on Facebook or other social media and said something you would never say face-to-face to your neighbor or a family member at Thanksgiving?

There’s something about typing and posting a comment that makes us forget the actual people who will read what we write. Seeing the words appear on our computer screen makes us feel good as we vent and rail against the apparent loss of common sense exhibited by “the other side,” regardless of which “side” we’re on.

Do we really think we’ll persuade anyone to agree with us if we resort to the kind of language we would never think to use face-to-face?

  • Obscenities tossed around by articulate, educated people, Christian or not.
  • Name-calling by professing Christians.
  • Words that roll off our tongues onto our keyboards, without thought of how they will be received.
  • Intelligent debate discarded in favor of personal attacks.
  • Disagreements that no longer even attempt to be civil.
  • Friends “unfriended” because we no longer tolerate hearing an opinion different from our own.

The antidote? Here are a few timely reminders:

  • Psalm 19:14 “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.”
  • Proverbs 10:19 “When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent.”
  • Proverbs 12:18 “There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.”
  • Proverbs 13:3 “Whoever guards his mouth preserves his life; he who opens wide his lips comes to ruin.”
  • Proverbs 15:1 “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.”
  • Proverbs 16:24 “Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body.”
  • Proverbs 18:21: “Death and life are in the power of the tongue…”
  • Proverbs 21:23 “Whoever keeps his mouth and his tongue keeps himself out of trouble.”
  • Matthew 12:36 “On the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak…”
  • Matthew 12:37 “By your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”
  • Matthew 15:18 “What comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart…”
  • Ephesians 4:29 “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.”
  • Colossians 4:6  “Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt…”
  • James 1:26 “If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless.”

What would happen if we applied these verses to our lives and to our relationships?

Let’s try it and find out!


 
We Have Not Loved Well

We are to love well. Jesus said love would be the mark of His followers—love for each other and even love for their enemies.

But we have not loved well.

For 2,000 years, believers have bickered and fought with each other. Splitting hairs and splitting churches over minor disagreements and going to war over major ones.

And we’ve behaved even worse with those outside the faith. We’ve judged unbelievers when they behave like unbelievers. We criticize those who are different from us. Different social backgrounds from ours. Different ethnic heritages. And especially, different sins.

We’ve concluded that if someone’s sins are different from ours, their sin is worse. We create hierarchies of sin, with ours on the bottom rung of severity and theirs at the top.

Instead of taking a stand against injustice, we’ve sat on the sidelines, allowing the world to fight for the rights of the downtrodden.

And then along came a godly man who spoke truth and stood for righteousness. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who called people to non-violent protests of unrighteous laws. Who called believers out in one of the saddest commentaries on the body of Christ.

In 1963, Dr. King said, “At 11:00 on Sunday morning…we stand at the most segregated hour in this nation.” While we may have made strides in this area, more than 50 years later many Christians still worship God with people who look and act like themselves—racially, socially, economically, and politically.

This year, our nation celebrates the birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr. on January 21. In honor of MLK day, let’s consider some of his oft-repeated quotes. Quotes that spur Christians to live out their faith and testimony both inside and outside the body of Christ.

Quotes such as:

  • “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
  • “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
  • “The time is always right to do what is right.”
  • “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”
  • “We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.”
  • “Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.”

Whether or not the body of Christ has loved well in the past, there’s always room for improvement. God’s Word has quite a bit to say on this subject, including these verses:

  • “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44 ESV).
  • “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35 ESV).
  • “With all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:2-3 ESV).
  • “And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony” (Colossians 3:14).
  • “If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen” (I John 4:20 ESV).

Someday in eternity, we will all stand before the throne of God, praising Him for who He is and thanking Him for who we are: redeemed people from every tribe, language, and nation. Until that day, we still have many friends to make…and to love well.


 
Christmas Letdown

Christmas is my favorite holiday. Even this year, as I adjust to missing a piece of my heart, I still love Christmas.

Sappy movies with happy-ever-after endings.

Hectic schedules punctuated by peaceful moments listening to Christmas carols in the subdued light of the Christmas tree.

Receiving cards from people I haven’t talked to all year and reconnecting as I read their Christmas notes and updates.

Most of all, celebrating the reason for the season—the miracle of God becoming human to enable humans to become sons and daughters of God.

So the days after December 25 had traditionally been a letdown for me. Christmas trees dumped on the curb, shreds of tinsel still clinging precariously to their branches. Bright lights unplugged. Traditional carols of yesteryear pushed aside in favor of contemporary songs.

Worst of all, the change of perspective fueled the letdown. From the heaven-sent Christ child to earthbound cares. From music and lights to bills and worries. And from silent nights to discordant days.

In many ways, the week after Christmas signifies the end. The end of the Christmas season. The imminent end of the year. And for me, this year, the end of a year marking my greatest loss.

But it’s not the end. The day after Christmas is a beginning.

The beginning of the time God stepped into His creation. A cradle leading to a cross. The beginning of our salvation, when a life was born for the purpose of death. A death that means life for you and me if we choose to receive it.

Strip the tinsel and needles from the Christmas tree and we’re left with a different kind of tree. Bare wood, just as the cross Jesus hung on was bare wood. Several New Testament verses speak of Jesus on the cross. In these verses the word for cross actually comes from the Greek word for wood. Some translations use the word tree (Acts 5:30; 10:39; 13:29; Gal. 3:13; I Peter 2:24).

No, December 26 is not the end of Christmas. It’s the beginning of Immanuel, “God with us.” It’s the beginning of the opportunity for an intimate relationship with the One who not only created us, but sent His son, Jesus, to die for us. It’s the beginning of a chance to be and have all God intended for us.

Christmas letdown? Not anymore!


 
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