Truth or Fiction?

There was a time earlier in my lifetime when truth was a word that was never up for debate. It was up or down, good or bad, moral or immoral. Facts were facts and always fell on one side of the fence. The dividing line was clear. Untruths fell on the other side of the fence. The lines of demarcation have blurred.

Truth and fiction are diametrically opposed to one another. They are located in different sections of the library for a reason. They aren’t supposed to mingle or co-exist, except in comedy. They actually don’t get along very well in honest debate. Truth and fiction are mortal enemies.

In current day America we find ourselves in a place where facts have become irrelevant – especially if facts go against one’s viewpoint or conviction. Don’t dare point out facts about a story if you spot something that doesn’t sound right or you’ll be taking a perilous journey where you will be labeled, slandered and more.

When made up facts or “truth” are promoted (but are the opposite of what really happened) that’s actually called propaganda. Repetition of distorted facts (if shared often enough) eventually convince, persuade and deceptively sway the reader or hearer especially if they have no anchor of intellect.

Something alarmingly sinister occurs when events or incidents are portrayed (and then repeated) without that reporter of  “facts” has ANY first-hand knowledge of what really happened. Those repeated “facts” spread like wildfire in our society. Then zero truth stories are repeated in the “social world” and everyone becomes unhinged and angry. It’s anything BUT social.

Today I am fishing for an answer (honest and civil). How do we return to absolute truth in America?

My Honest View of Faith vs. Trump

Every once in a while I have a discussion with my thirties-something son about politics. This intelligent and thoughtful man child has observed that there’s a divide among evangelical Christians regarding Donald Trump as commander in chief. Apparently generations below my own do not understand why conservative Christians enthusiastically support Mr. Trump. They looks straight through the person and see all of the purity issue failures in his past. They also observe evangelical support of him as blatant hypocrisy. My son (and many in his age group) are curious (and somewhat appalled) why a true Christian would openly embrace or support such a person?

Early in our discussion I made it known that I’ve never personally liked the individual holding the highest office in our land now. This person behind the office doesn’t embody the type of person that I would ever admire. A 3 time husband and father with multiple marriages and likely affairs he doesn’t embody the kind of man I would befriend or admire. He’s an odd mix of liberal social thought coupled with a seemingly solid current family unit. Perhaps the man closed the book on his playboy lifestyle some time ago and settled into being a committed husband and father? Maybe he lived his early and middle life off the rails and then somehow found his way back to the tracks?

This businessman turned president has traveled in circles with the rich and famous globally. He’s rubbed elbows with elite and powerful people all of his adult life. As a reality TV show host he displayed his brash and bold business style. He made many of us cringe to think we would ever have such a boss who would fire people on a whim.

He is a mover and a shaker. He’s made things happen in the business world that few could ever claim. And he brags about it. Most of us were taught to keep our bragging rights to ourselves. He uses his infamous tweets to springboard his ideas into our media frenzied society. I said early in his presidency that he lights a firecracker with his words and then while the critics and pundits rail on for days he moves on to the next item on his list while the arguments ensue. His bully pulpit really stirs the pot.  He enjoys lighting the firecracker and then watching his detractors run and squeal. He fuels a debate and then while everyone is all stirred up he moves on to make another deal.

Donald the businessman appeals to people with big money because he provides them places to visit and enjoy. With fabulous golf resorts and fancy hotels in exotic locations he pleases the wealthy nicely and is rewarded handsomely for his efforts. The people who are able to visit his properties aren’t concerned with the cost. They are the ones looking for the opulent choice. Such places might be a dream to mainstream America because they (we) might never have the opportunity to be one of his customers.

Mr. Trump has found a friend in rural and urban America. One reason I think he has gotten this grassroots support is that he is not afraid of poking people in the eye for what many of us see as injustice.  He sees the status quo as stale and outdated. In business and international affairs he ferrets out bad deals and shatters them. He calls people out. He shoots from the hip and says what many were already thinking. His way of relating to the common man in America is unique in modern politics. He appears to “get” how many are feeling and masterfully taps into that with a folksy off-script style. He draws and energizes crowds more than we’ve seen in generations. And his audiences are lock-step with him, flaws and all.

He is a capitalist to the core. Capitalism is freedom – in its truest sense. Individualist freedom is what made America great from the beginning. We were given the opportunity to create and live and thrive by a group of people who had been under bondage. They paved the road of independence and we traveled that road. If you think up a product or service which others might need or enjoy, you have the freedom to create a business and if you do it well, you can soar.

When we elect someone to public office it is natural prospective voters to review every aspect of a candidate’s life and background. They are sized up to see if we like who they are as people. We also (rightfully so) evaluate them on the merits of what they might bring to the table in skills and expertise, based on the office they will hold. We do no elect a president as if we are choosing a pastor, priest or rabbi.

In the case of Donald Trump we find his willingness to take on the status quo (in both parties). That appeals to many who are tired of political gamesmanship, that’s been part of our landscape WAY too long. If capitalism is something we embrace then the office of the presidency should lead the charge for business, whether we like it or not.

Trump may not be my candidate of choice based on my social or personal view of him. We elect someone to preside and command. When he was elected in 2016 I rather doubted that he would embrace conservative values and programs. My greatest hope from his election was the hope and possibility that he’d be able to re-balance the Supreme Court. Gladly he did follow that path and his choices kept the court from straying too far left. In my opinion, the balance of the court was the most important aspect of the 2016 election, period.

It’s my belief that evangelical believers have been watching closely to see if this president really supports conservative values by actions, and not just words. So far he’s done that bidding in big ways. Those same watching Christians would never employ his  tactics in own their pursuit of change. I think Trump’s personality seems to be viewed like a Goliath facing and taking down Giants in the political arena (on both sides).

Underdogs seem to find a strong friend in Donald Trump.

So we are left with a choice. As I told my son, I just don’t see anyone on the other side side of our political spectrum promoting hopeful or encouraging plans that would lead  our country that I can positively embrace. So for the time being this right-wing social conservative deplorable will stay in his basket with a flawed guy who oddly enough wants to make America conservative and Christian again.

Grace and Forgiveness

I’ve been thinking long and hard about grace and forgiveness. I’ve watched friends and family dish these gifts out capriciously. In my mind I was pretty sure these wonderful things were reserved for those who were lined up with God’s standards of goodness. I was sure these favors were reserved for people whose lives followed the goodness rules established by the Methodist, Baptists, Presbyterians, or even Catholics. These have to be limited to those who’ve completed a prescribed set of guidelines or rules or even scriptures?

Over the years I’ve watched what I thought were well-meaning Christians apply the grace and forgiveness gifts in reserved ways. They’ve been doled out to some and kept back from others who both appeared to have needed them. At times it’s seemed that the ones who may have received these blessings needed it much less than the ones prevented from receiving them.

After careful thought I’ve come to the conclusion that neither camp should be giving or getting any grace or forgiveness at all. Those who’ve been giving or applying grace and forgiveness have no right whatsoever to be giving away something reserved for God who sits in heaven.

There’s a reason it’s called God’s grace and forgiveness because it’s His alone to dispense. And when he casts those gifts over his children he does so with such lavishness that it almost seems unfair, doesn’t it? God owns it all and owns us all. He decides when, where and who gets the salve of his love.

I have family and friends who have severely fractured relationships. Some are heartbreaking. Broken relationships are always hard to understand and even harder to decipher and accept. People claiming to know and serve our gracious God have become judges, juries and executioners. Husbands, wives, fathers, sons and daughters have been given what seems like death sentences with no possible reprieve. If I’m grieved about it, can you imagine how God must view this mass destruction and hatefulness?

I write this in the hope that someone reading might realize this error and end any war that you are a party to – this very moment.

Love and forgive as God has loved and forgiven you. Anything less is a hurdle and hindrance in your pursuit of God. You cannot serve God completely when something is so openly wrong in your life.

They Had No Clue

And when his friends had gone away and night had fallen they took him and ridiculed and slandered him. Charges were trumped up against him in late evening when few were aware or present. He was alone with his enemies. And things got terribly worse for him. The wounds inflicted on him seemed more about hate than retribution.

Yet he gave no defense because he’d done no wrong. The world didn’t understand him so they viewed him as a threat to their own politics and power. They had no clue who they were really dealing with. He allowed them that night to do with him what they wished. He didn’t fight back or rail. He knew his purpose. He paid a heavy price that night. He carried a weight beyond measure. 

The next day there was surely a hush over the landscape. The preacher had been put down and silenced. He would not longer be able to gain the attention of the masses. His friends, no doubt, would now be quiet and go away.

How or why did this escalate to the end of the gentle healer? Through a blurred and salty vision this man that night saw past the offences of his revilers. He saw them with a compassion and love that they couldn’t know or ever embrace.

Unbeknownst to all, those darkest hours were ushering in a new light that would never fade or fail. Waiting, hoping, longing – they all waited in silence not knowing the direction of the future for all. They all just had to wait.

The Exclusivity of the Christian Faith

I wholeheartedly believe that the only way to gain entrance into the heavens is via experience with the Jesus of the bible. He was a real person who lived a sinless existence and died at the hands of an angry mob. Yet it was all a part of the grand plan of the creator of this universe. Believing who he was and embracing him as the only bridge from the state of human sin to arms of a holy God is what I am convinced of is what is needed to become a child of God. Every fiber of my being tells me this is true. I would hope that all who identify with the name and person of Jesus feel the same way. I guess you’d say I am ALL IN, and wonder who in their right mind would only be “partially in”?

The thought for this current writing is something that is a bit hard to write about. It shines light on a subject that “ought not be”. It examines from real life view about something that seems missing from people who are “sold out” believers in Jesus the Christ. It is in the subject of giving. But before you grab your wallet, I’m talking about giving in a different sense. I’m talking about giving of one’s self to others in a exercise of faith. I’ve noticed for quite some time that Christians, and churches, create events or “ministries” with the purpose of helping others or meeting some need that they see in the community. They plan, they recruit others for help, they spend large sums of money, they craft events for the community to participate in for little or no charge whatsoever. Yet, by design, they sometime leave you with the feeling that they are a stingy bunch. They want the outsider to come and participate, but boundaries are put in place that make it seem restrictive or even miserly.

What made this thought come to the surface is a recent event that we attended. We took our young granddaughters to a “fall festival” (Halloween substitute). The event started pretty early so we had to rush to get there in time to park, walk and then take the kids to booths set up for games. Each booth had large tubs of candy for kids to have after completing whatever challenge each game afforded. Yet each child was only allowed 2 pieces of candy. The place was full of booths and people. So busy in fact, that the kids had to wait in line for each game. This place was full and kids of all ages and all seemed to be having a great time.

But after one of the games ended my granddaughter was digging through the candy looking for something that was not chocolate (she doesn’t care for it?). The lady manning the booth told her “dear you must only get 2 pieces”. My wife was puzzled at that rebuke since the she was just looking for something other than chocolate? It wasn’t as if the kids were “loading up” at each stop. So we carried on to the next booth for the next 20 minutes or so and waited our turn in line. After about the 4th booth a man (obviously in leadership) from the church walked by and waived at the booth attendants as if to say the event was over. So when it was our child’s turn the booth people just said “sorry it’s over”. So we went quickly to three other booths hoping our girls could get a few more pieces of candy before calling it a night. But it happened several more times and the event was OVER. The tubs of candy were still half full, yet it was 7:30 and we were all done. Our oldest was not only upset by not getting very much candy but wanted to simply play the games.

I know this all sounds a little silly, but we felt like outsiders at our own church. We brought our granddaughters for a fun experience at OUR church. But it was over in a flash and we took them back home with buckets almost empty. This event underscored how I think we as Christians behave in this world at times. We have the one true answer in the person and work of Jesus Christ, yet we place so many rules and restrictions on the prize that we leave the unbelieving world still in unbelief. The true gospel is one of inclusiveness and fullness, not one that closes the gate and refuses the prize because the ending hour has come. We have a redeeming work to do as believers yet we are shirking that calling if we limit what we do to time and space, and candy.

When others see Christians like myself I believe they should see people who are givers and people who go way beyond the call of duty in serving others. We are called to serve God. I learned long ago that the only way I can honestly and effectively serve my God is by serving others. And when we serve we should do so lavishly, as if each person we serve is our own child or grandchild.  People should see and experience the grace and mercy of the cross by seeing me lay down my own wishes and desires by the way in which I love and serve. That’s how people are drawn to the love of Christ. Words can be optional, but the way in which we treat others gives us opportunity to share they hope that we have within us.

Narrow IS the gate to salvation, but everyone should be given opportunity to see the path by the way Christians love and serve.

 

How Can We Be So Foolish?

I’m often amazed at a missing depth of reason for when it comes to the word of God. Many times the lack of understanding is from well-meaning folks who’ve purportedly walked by faith for many years, even decades is hard to understand?

The scriptures were penned by human beings who were inspired by the third party of the trinity, that we know as the Holy Spirit. Woven into the words on the page is the unwritten and unseen “Word” who is the one and true God. We understand and know his heart if we honestly seek to know His purposes and plans for our lives.

The way I was taught to understand the scriptures by very learned and revered teachers is to first look at the context in which a passage is written to find true understanding of what was (is) being said. Pulling passages from within a context to make them fit something you want is called proof texting. That is extracting a portion of a complete passage out of a larger story to prove your point or wishes. That is just plain wrong. It’s very much like misquoting someone in a media interview so that the narrative fits an intended target or thought. But this is a much more serious issue because it is a twisting of the truth of the word of God. That is serious business in my book.   Erring in this can cause others to stumble and miss the true meaning and can even cause issues for generations to come as they follow a path of deception by mishandling the word of God.

When you study the bible please consider the context of the message, the intended target audience and please, please, please ask the Holy Spirit to guide you as you study. And when in doubt in the interpretation or understanding of a particular passage it is wise use the scripture itself to help you with the understanding. Since the bible is inspired by one god there is a harmony throughout the scriptures. The concepts and precepts of God’s heart are penned in different ways and in different ages of historical Judeo/Christian history. So what better way to understand the word than letting the word itself be your guide.  And I should add that your ultimate guide must be the Holy Spirit. He can and will guide you into the truth.

Don’t be deceived into believing that somehow you’ve been given a “handle” or “corner on the truth” when it comes to God’s word. God is an equal provider of truth to all generations. As he is ageless, so are his immutable unchanging truths. He does not change and his word has remained through the ages.

 

The state of America…a sad social commentary

 

This is a social commentary. If you’re not the type that weighs out information completely before passing judgment, then you should move on, as I will be straightforward and honest and truthful here. 

Up front I’m telling you I’m an old school thinker. I’m from a generation and time that still understands and adheres to absolute truth. By absolute I mean there are (were) truths in our society at one time that were either good or bad, right or wrong, black or white. Today those historically accepted truths and moral edicts are not only frowned upon as being outdated and arcane, but anyone who accepts, promotes or even condones such traditional truths are labeled as haters and looked upon as prejudiced fools. For new generation thinkers this is one of their absolute truths (go figure?)

 

In the “new age” we find people who no longer look for truth because they don’t even have a definition of truth. And even if they will discuss with you what truth really is, that can change from day to day.  Mainline thinkers nowadays are only looking for supposed happiness. And that quest for personal happiness requires no morays or absolutes. Personal happiness is now defined as anything someone wants or likes to do and brings personal satisfaction. And that satisfaction comes regardless of how absurd or strange an activity or thought might seem to the general population. Those new ideas and activities that promise happiness have no real limits whatsoever in the new society and new world order. To be held back from, or asked to refrain from, something that might seem odd, strange, immoral or wrong is considered wrong in itself (another new absolute?). 

 

“New” thinking REQUIRES (even by law) that our general population accept activities and lifestyles that are contrary to traditional truth, and even contrary to previously accepted religious belief(s). From my own childhood education about democracy, I had one overriding takeaway – We are free to do whatever we want to do UNLESS it impinges or overrides or infringes on someone else’s personal liberty or rights. As a so called “free people” I find it hard to believe that we’ve allowed ourselves to be backed into this corner accepting things (even by law) that override our own personal liberties and personal religious values. This is not what our founders had in mind when they gave us the framework for freedom. As reminder here, one of the things that the new America was attempting to escape was religious intolerance and even oppression from the church of England. 

So America has evolved into a new “demanded tolerance” by the our new national religion. It’s called “secular humanism”.  Theologically secular humanists are actually atheists. But they will deny that and at the same time tell you that the idea of a controlling all powerful deity is absurdity. Absence of a belief in God is “a”theist –  or no god. We can be told this, but with the reasoning mind that our creator gave us, we cannot be fooled.     

I heard a news story recently about a judge in one of the Carolina states who’d been on the bench for 24+ years. He was being required by a new state law to perform marriages for gay and lesbian couples. He refused to do that based on his moral religious values. He’s stepping down from his bench because he refuses to violate his own personal and religious conviction. He was told by a state legislator that all he had to do was simply “accept what the law had now deemed as normal and just do his job”. He scoffed at that admonition. He will undoubtedly be replaced with someone who has no moral conviction.

And now am elected Kentucky County Clerk refuses to issue marriage licences to same sex applicants based on her own Christian convictions . And what did a Federal judge do? He sent her to jail for contempt of court and will not release her until she relents.  

So the next time you hear someone say that America is treading on a slippery slope they are a little slow in their thinking. We’ve actually already slid all the way down into the muck and mire of darkness. But be careful. If you offer a hope of escape you will most likely be labeled, branded, scorned and ridiculed endlessly for being out of touch and lacking compassion and a hater.

I’ve known the words to the song below from my childhood and have it pretty much memorized all the way through.

Here goes….
My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus blood and righteousness. I dare not trust the sweetest frame, but wholly lean on Jesus’ name. On Christ the solid rock I stand; all other ground is sinking sand. On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand; All other ground is sinking sand.   – Edward Mote 1834
I take comfort, that one day truth WILL prevail as we see the hand of God righteously tear this house down and send us our righteous King Jesus to take His earthly throne.