Testimonies Matter: the Whole Truth and Nothing But

Half or Whole?

Whether you know it or not, you are surrounded by testimonies. As you browse various forms of media, you are being bombarded with half-truths, outright lies, opinions, and various points of view (kinda like this one, I guess). Be careful which ones you believe. “With my lips I have declared All the judgments of Your mouth. I have rejoiced in the way of Your testimonies, as much as in all riches. (Psalms 119:13-14 NKJV)

A Wide Selection to Choose From

This Psalm calls for a few quick observations. First, how often do you declare God’s thoughts and judgments as opposed to your own? David doesn’t say, “I have declared all the judgments of MY mouth”, because he did not want to misuse the Word of God. (It’s certainly been done. Satan quoted Scripture in the temptation of Christ; Mohammed wove scripture into his dictation of the Koran; Joseph Smith created his own book; preachers justified slavery from the Bible; and Hitler quoted the Bible in his speeches.) God’s words have been altered and misquoted throughout history.

In a subtler way, we should all evaluate our own biases and suppositions and compare them to what God has said. With all of the falsehood surrounding us today, it’s really a little bit scary. Like David, I certainly want to proclaim God’s unvarnished truth and not just my opinions. I double-dog swear on the Bible that is true… David’s desire was to know and proclaim what God said—“the judgments, [Lord], of YOUR mouth”; “…YOUR testimonies”. And testimonies should be the TRUTH and nothing but!

testimonies

Can You Handle the Truth?

He relied on the Word of God, because he knew that scripture is quoted for all kinds of purposes. It is often dispensed with interpretations or subtle changes that alter its meaning and twist its purpose. Why does that matter? If you start with parallel train tracks, and vary the angle of one of the rails just .05%, and build those tracks on towards the horizon, eventually the rails will split far enough apart to cause a train wreck. A small “adjustment” becomes a deadly variation.

Isn’t that what Satan did in the garden? He used God’s words, but then he subtly added to them. We should be extra careful when we put words into God’s mouth. Second, do you find that God’s testimonies motivate and inspire you? David became fired up hearing stories about God. He rejoiced in God’s testimonies. Have you heard any good testimonies lately? Any that made you rejoice?

Testimonies: If the Only Thing Constant is Change

Well here’s one: learning about God’s grace and forgiveness through Jesus Christ absolutely changed my life, and has provided me a remarkable journey with God and His Word for almost 50  years. As I grew up, my mom married several times. I lived in pretty much a different family unit almost every year between the ages of 3 and 10. It wasn’t until I was in college that I realized my family situation had been all that unusual.

As a child of divorce, I lived with my mom, stepfather and sister;  then my mom, sister and a half-brother; after that, my mom, a different stepfather, my sister and half-brother and two step-sisters; then just my sister with my mom, and then just my sister with my grandparents; then with my dad and step-mom, sister, and a different half-brother. Somehow in the midst of all that change, I found truth that God loves me in–of all places– the Bible. Wow! What a book! Wow! What a life!! I get goosebumps just thinking about it!

It’s The Difference-Maker

God took an insecure boy who had problems at school, addictive behavior, lack of focus, and problems at home and gifted me with the truth. In NO WAY did I become perfect, and in fact I often remind people that I’ve made my BIGGEST mistakes not as a pagan reprobate, but as a struggling believer. But God’s truth consistently reminded me that I AM LOVED, and I HAVE WORTH. So do YOU.

When you read the Bible, does it put you to sleep? When you go to church, do you becme bored or do you rejoice? Perhaps we need to get more excited when God has a message for us! David went away from worship declaring what God had said and rejoicing in God’s testimonies. We should participate in worship with the same enthusiasm.

And finally, this: be honest; when was the last time you truly valued God’s words more than money? If you compared your thirst for accumulating wealth to your hunger for memorizing God’s word, which one would be stronger? If we were given a choice between attending a good Bible Study and getting $100, I bet most of us would take the cash. And I bet you have more dollars than Bible verses in your pocket. Just sayin’…

The Real Thing

I’m not one to judge, so YOU can be the one to call it:
What means more: what God has said, or what is in your wallet?
You’re in a world of gray where there are many kinds of lies;
In politics and media there are lies of every size!
David didn’t listen to the lies that others voiced,
But when he heard God’s testimonies spoken, he rejoiced!
Don’t be fooled by liars, Congressmen or other phonies:
Depend upon God’s word, and listen to His testimonies.

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread

Evil Days Demand Wiser Ways. Be Careful out There.

An Undeniable Trend

“Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.” (Ephesians 5:15-16 NIV) Stop for a moment and think about the world around you. Is the world getting better and better? Is mankind evolving upward towards better values? Is our culture more wholesome and encouraging than it was ten years ago?

I used to hear older people talking sadly about how there seemed to be more evil in the world now than there used to be, and they would reminisce about the “good old days”, when neighbors were more neighborly, it was safe for kids to play “down the street”, and you never heard a cuss word or saw nudity on your TV. And that was over 40 years ago! Now I AM one of the older people, and I feel the same way, but even more so!

Look around. Standards have changed. A Jack in the Box commercial on TV just last night was selling their new bowls by using phrases generally applied to male anatomy, making a poor play on words at best, and a comparison that doesn’t make me want to rush out and buy a pair, SMH… (That’s “Shaking My Head” if you’re not up on internet acronyms.) The “poop” emoji is now on billboards as if it has marketing value. We accept these allusions and buy these products today without a thought.

Going, Going…

Not only has decency begun to disappear, but so has truth. Journalists and politicians lie so subtly (and so constantly) that you don’t know what to believe anymore. Half-truths and accusations are disseminated so frequently as facts that they are often accepted as true. Hitler’s Minister of Propaganda Joseph Goebbels said that if you tell a big enough lie, and tell it often enough, it would become accepted as fact. Our communications culture demonstrates this every day. His words could be applied to our media (the way they report about Covid and masks causes more confusion than illumination), and to the hateful bipolar atmosphere in America today, where people will gladly ignore truth if it will help them get their own point of view across.

evil days

Today’s values and standards are definitely different than they were “back in the day.” Commercials on TV reach out to consumers by saying “Break the rules!” Abortion is considered just another birth control option. High school kids go to movies that promote sex and violence, even as youth groups take a stand against human sex trafficking. Our culture is extending legalization of marijuana, so that better living through chemistry can become even more common. Gambling is available to anyone who wants it.

Moving the Line

Our children (and our neighbors) have internet access to virtually anything, and are bombarded with everything from non-stop materialism to hard-core pornography. Video games make death and violence commonplace, because after all, they’re just games.
Music (which weaves its way into our brains forever—quick! How many songs do you remember from when you were a teenager?) is full of stories about breakups, drugs, sex, and casual relationships. Hip hop and heavy metal are full of anger, abuse and violence. Interpersonal relationships are changing rapidly, falling away from the personal touch of conversation and affection to on-screen interaction, where it is easier to lie, misrepresent, and misunderstand…There were evil days in 60 AD (when Paul wrote this), and they are evil still…

How do we respond wisely to them? James 1:5 says if you want to be wise, go to the source: “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” If you would truly like to make the most of every opportunity in this life, then ask the Lord for wisdom. Apply it to your decisions about what you watch, who you listen to, and what you believe.

“Be very careful, then, about how you live.” Put another way, Paul is encouraging you to be full of care, to care deeply about how to live. Avoid evil and choose good wisely. Ask the very source of Wisdom to give you some, and study it in His Book. When calamity strikes or when opportunity knocks, you’ll be ready. Evil days surround you. don’t be unwise.

Some Things Never Change

Be careful how you live, because we live in evil days,
And evil tries to infiltrate our lives in many ways.
There’s no regard for gender, creed, infirmity, or youth;
It challenges our decency, integrity and truth.
Stop and look around your world, and don’t believe the lies.
Be careful how you live, and make an effort to be wise.
Do you want to find some wisdom? Here is where to look:
You’ll find it when you talk to God, and study in His Book.
Allow your heart and mind to join with His in Holy unity;
Be careful, then and make the most of every opportunity.

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread

Abide in the Truth, Because “Wherever You Go, There You Are”

Unless you’ve seen The Big Lebowski, abide is a word you don’t hear much anymore. I always think of it as coming from someone like Lonesome Dove’s Gus McCrae, who might have said, “I can’t abide a surly barkeeper.” It was also used more frequently in Biblical times. “Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, “If you abide in my word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” (John 8:31-32, NIV) More recently, in “The Big Lebowski”, Jeff Bridges famously described his state of being by saying, “The Dude Abides”. By his definition, if we abide we are chill, content, and at one with the universe.

abide Lebowski

We don’t use the word “abide” very often today, but at its core it means to accept or go along with something. In a Biblical sense, a disciple not only learns the Words of the teacher, but they ABIDE in them.

It’s All Greek to Me

The Greek word for “abide” is also translated “continue in, to dwell, remain, endure, or stand.” By encouraging his disciples to abide in him, Jesus is basically saying that they need to reconfigure their lives to listen to him and to apply what he said. He is asserting that you find freedom not from Google, not in sound bites or tweets, but by being disciplined in the truth. In today’s culture, the idea of being someone’s disciple seems a bit old-fashioned. Why follow a teacher when you have the internet?

If I were the devil, and could not destroy the Truth itself (even though I’d been trying for over 2,000 years) then I would take another tack and try to change the way people HEAR the truth. If ABIDING in a teacher’s words was the most effective way to receive life-changing wisdom, then I would distract and diffuse… I’d emphasize individual freedom so that people would question every set of teachings, and then I’d send them many messages from many sources to keep them from following the words that could help them the most.

The Opposite of Abide is All. Around. You.

Our culture is moving so rapidly that the idea of abiding and remaining seems really old-fashioned, doesn’t it? Perhaps the closest equivalent we have today is in the world of sports, where athletes will follow a coach and abide in his words, but I don’t see that kind of disciple-producing progression happening in church. I wonder if the current generation could disconnect from media long enough to abide in something…But then everybody abides in SOME thing.

What do you abide in? I know guys who abide in sports or cars, I know women who abide in crafts or Pinterest, and people who abide in music or Snapchat or Instagram, but I don’t often meet someone who ABIDES in Jesus. Guys can remember how they played number 13 at such and such a golf course two years ago, but they don’t remember last week’s Sunday school lesson. Women talk about what they saw on Pinterest more often than they share the gospel. (Yeah I know, I’m trying to step on everyone’s toes, how am I doing?) There are darker things to abide in, but I don’t need to tell YOU, do I?

Jesus said, “if you abide in my word, you are my disciples indeed.” What does a disciple look like? Well first of all, they are familiar with what Jesus taught, and they embrace and inhabit his words. If, as Jesus claimed, he was “the Way, the Truth, and the Life”, and if his words are truth, then it is only logical that Satan makes it his full-time occupation to try to replace, rewrite, or distract from what Jesus said.

The Father of Lies works in every generation to destroy the truth. Is anybody else but me concerned that truth is in such short supply these days? It’s not in advertising, it’s not on the internet, it’s not on TV, it’s not in journalism, and it’s not in politics…. We do not find freedom in liberties, but in Truth. As truth diminishes, so does our freedom. Perhaps as we celebrate our freedom, we should remember to spend more time with the one who gave up His so that we could find ours. Abide. Remain. STAND.

A One-word Change

Try this simple word, you’ve heard it said, it’s in your head,
But understand that this command makes a demand upon your time:
It wants your mind and if you see, then you will find it sets you free
To be who you were meant to be by hearing what the Master taught–
Though it is sought, it must be caught–
He brought the truth to give us freedom,
fought for us when we were beaten,
bought our hearts so he could free them…
Without him, we would all have died, but he renews our hearts inside,
And simply asks us to reside in this one word: Abide. Abide.

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread

Truth Just Isn’t What It Used to Be: Can it Still Make You Free?

Yesterday we focused on “I am the WAY” in John 14:6; today we will look at “I am the TRUTH”, which is a little more complicated these days than it was when this was written… Truth today is deemed to be totally subjective, and there are fewer commonly accepted universal truths than ever before in my lifetime. Veracity today is treated much too casually, and we are lied to all too often. Our perception of truth  is colored far too much by culture, advertising and media. After a Presidential election season in which we found that Candidates lied, Social Media lied and the news media lied, why does this matter? Here are a few random scatter-shot thoughts about that:

First, think about advertising, which is ALL slanted to try to influence you or change your opinion. “The average American is exposed to 500 to 1,000 commercial messages a day (Arens 1999). That’s anywhere from 182,500 to 365,000 commercial messages that a person will view this year alone.” (And that’s OLD research, so it’s a very conservative number, what with internet banners and Facebook ads bombarding you as you surf online or use your phone…) We see, read and hear hundreds of lies Every. Single. Day. Do you think that doesn’t blur the line even just a little bit?

truth

Second, and totally unrelated, basketball player Allen Iverson’s nickname was “the Truth” because he was tough and played with heart; yet he’s famous for a rant complaining about how hard his coach expected him to practice. Now, Iverson was a little guy in the midst of a grueling NBA season, and his point was that he was leaving it all on the floor during games; but for the rest of us, the truth is this: Practice like you want to play, or you’ll play like you practice.

The habits we build every day becomes the behavior we use under stress. Plus, even though he has my respect, knowing Allen Iverson (the Truth) won’t make me free; but knowing the Man who made this claim in John 14:6 certainly has. Jesus understood that a life unsupported by truth would be a pursuit of an illusion, and a life beset by dead ends and disappointments.

Third, I think of Jack Nicholson in “A Few Good Men”: “You want the truth?! You can’t handle the truth!!” (Kind of ironic when you think of the fact that he is an actor pretending to be a Marine, but we believed it…) If the absolute truth was presented to you, could you handle it? Would you really even want to hear it?

truth

And finally, Zig Ziglar used to ask an audience, “How many of you read the newspaper every day?” (Lots of hands went up) then, “How many of you believe everything you read in the newspaper is true?” (Almost no hands) “Ok, how many of you believe everything in the Bible is true?” (Lots of hands) “How many of you read the Bible every day?” (Almost no hands) Point made. Then think about those thousands media messages you absorb; how much ‘less than true’ information hits your brain there every day? With all media combined—you have commercials, politics, Facebook posts, magazines, the news…. Really, there’s an amazing amount of stuff.

How well do you know the truth? How much time do you spend getting to know it? In Politics, in Social Media, or even in commercials, every side seems to have an agenda that obscures truth and promotes something else. In all of the subtle (and blatant) misrepresentations in commercials (a deodorant is so good that it makes girls attack you, or all beer drinkers are fit, active people), in news (what happened to objective journalists?) and in politics (pretty much everyone is talking out of both sides of their mouth or providing spin to “recalibrate” actual truth), we forget John 8:32: “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” Here is a man who said, “I am the Truth”: maybe it would make sense to listen to what he taught. Seek the truth. Live by it, and be free, America.

Today you’ll see a thousand things that really just aren’t true;
Facebook Ads and stores will try to sell their stuff to you.
Out of all the messages and ads that you will see,
Remember, no one ever said, “The Spin will make you free.”
So out of all the things you’ll hear, and stuff that you will read,
Just get to know the Truth, and He will make you free indeed.

To purchase my newest book Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread