John Said His Best Friend was Full of Grace and Truth: True Story?

This is a true story about lies… If your life depended upon knowing the truth, would you be happy with a lie? We generally don’t want to lead lives based on a lie, or feel that it’s healthy to engage in falsehood. (Probably since people who live lives based on falsehood used to be called delusional, and locked away. Today they just go into journalism or Congress…)

Quite A Compliment

The Gospel of John takes great care to remind us that truth is important, and he even tells us where to find it. John says that we beheld the glory of God’s promised Messiah born as a baby in Bethlehem, and that he was “full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14) I am willing to compliment a friend, and it’s good to say something nice about someone, but I can’t really recall ever saying, “Old Charlie is a good guy. He’s full of grace and truth!”

I’ve known people who were graceful, and I’ve known folks who were honest, but I’ve never described someone I knew really well as the repository of veracity. Usually when we say, “He’s full of it”, we are NOT talking about grace and truth…

John Probably Would Have Known…

Is it possible to say anything more descriptive and astounding about someone? John had observed Jesus at close range for at least 3 years, and certainly knew him well enough to be aware of any flaws he had to contradict this statement. Perhaps John is here echoing the claim Jesus made which was recorded in chapter 14: “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No man comes to the Father, but by me.” Jesus said, “I am the truth”, and John BELIEVED him.

Today, in an era when “objective” journalists (who were once bastions of truth and objectivity) publish sensational stories and suppositions without checking facts, or present part of a story as all of the story, someone who personifies the Truth is rare indeed. In our culture, spin is more common than fact. Partial fact and opinion has replace substantiated facts and truth.

Marketing is Full of It

To accentuate that point, consider that we actually spend most of our lives simmering in falsehood. Advertising agencies present stories and scenarios that will subtly convince you to believe whatever they claim about their products (even if those claims have no basis in reality). In an era where truth is watered down, twisted, and manipulated, truth is an endangered species. Think about this: almost every commercial message you hear tells a story that either makes claims that are not true, or creates a virtual myth-like environment in an attempt to alter what you think about reality. Christmas shoppers can avoid black Friday crowds and “save thousands” by buying a car.

story

Shaving commercials show guys lathered up like Santa with a shaving cream beard. In fact, however, only about 1/3 of that amount of shaving cream is needed to actually shave. So, the commercials are subtly trying to implant a false idea of how much cream a guy should use on every shave. (Same thing happens with pictures of toothpaste slathered on top of the toothbrush!) In the commercial story, if a guy uses a certain cologne, women go nuts over him. Of course, we know that in reality a good smelling nerd is still a nerd.

In the ads, beer drinkers are all hot, slim young people for whom life is a workout or a party (and Alpine climbers live in the cooler to bring up some cold ones from the pristine mountain waters). I know a few beer drinkers whose actual profile is somewhat different, and up in the mountains you can’t even actually drink the stream water because you might get infected with Giardia, a particularly stubborn and nasty little parasite… So, the “truth” about beer may be different in commercials than it is in real life, right? And how about cheese on pizza? Portions on food ads? Are they representations of the truth? (Don’t get me started…)

Assaulted From All Sides

It’s not just advertising that twists the truth. Messages on social media are full of outright balderdash presented as fact. Many posts contain partial and biased stories which pretend to be the whole truth. Based on the amount of exposure we have to advertising and social media, it is highly probable that you hear WAY more lies every day than you hear truth. Even if you don’t believe the whole story they are throwing at you 100%, ads and memes are designed to move your needle just a little bit over towards their version of reality.

Joseph Goebbels, Hitler’s Minister of Propaganda, said “If you repeat a lie often enough, it becomes the truth.” Ironically, that’s still true. In a world filled with subtlety and spin, be careful that your needle isn’t moved too far by falsehood. I’d say this: find truth in your world; read it, listen to it, cultivate it, and rejoice in it. If Jesus was the truth, as he claimed to be, he is worth far more of your time than all of the newscasts, Facebook posts and commercial messages you will ever hear.

According to John, Jesus was also full of grace. Would the world be a better place if there was a little more grace in it? Could YOU ever use a little more grace? Well here’s the deal: I’m willing to bet that if you seek the truth, you will also find grace.

True Story

The truth about lies is they’re hard to see,
Bombarding us from everywhere,
Reshaping our reality with subtle falsehoods that we share…
Lies come at us from every place–
From ads that do more than they seem–
Convincing us to load our face with 3 shaves worth of shaving cream.
We’re surrounded by these lies from cradle through impetuous youth
While subtle Falsehood in disguise disparages important Truth.
Grab hold of Truth! Don’t let it go,
And don’t let Falsehood take its place.
Beauty may be Truth, but know
That more importantly, Truth is Grace.

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 is Being Assaulted Every Day. So What?

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 almost 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. In a year of confusion about the pandemic, when misinformation seemed more common than truth, why does this matter? Here are a few random scatter-shot thoughts about that:

Sheer Volume

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?

Living out the Truth

Second, and totally unrelated, they called basketball player Paul Pierce “the Truth” because he was able to score against anybody. Shaquille O’Neil gave him that nickname after he dropped 42 points on the Lakers. Pierce was a solid player, and he could indeed score. But for the rest of us, the truth is this: if you’re going to identify someone as the Truth, it should probably relate to something bigger than basketball.

The name doesn’t make the man as much as the man makes the name. Even though he has my respect, knowing Paul Pierce (the Truth) won’t make me free. However, knowing the Man who made this claim in John 14:6 certainly has (Free from worry, free from guilt, free from hate). Jesus understood that a life unsupported by truth is pursuit of an illusion. Living a lie only results in dead ends and disappointments.

Can You Handle THIS?

Third, I think of Jack Nicholson’s famous line 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 he said, “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 of 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.

No Counterfeits

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 (whatever happened to objective journalists?) and in politics (Politicians provide spin to “recalibrate” actual truth), we totally forget John 8:32: “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” Jesus said, “I am the Truth”: maybe it would make sense to listen to what he taught. Fact-check JESUS. Seek the truth. Live by it,and be free.

Truth Under Fire

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

You Say You Want the TRUTH?! Well, Maybe You Can’t Handle THIS

Above the doorway to the old Library at the University of Texas, there was a quote: You shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.” It’s a reference to John 8:31, which is a pretty familiar verse. But do you remember what Jesus said just BEFORE he uttered those famous words? “Jesus therefore said to those Jews that had believed him, ‘If ye abide in my word, then are you truly my disciples; and you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” (John 8:31-32 ASV)

In a world where tons and tons of slanted opinions are tossed at us (read: Facebook, Twitter, CNN vs Fox, TV commercials, politics), the truth is becoming a rare and precious commodity. Every day you are presented with tons of information. How much of it is factual and how much of it is questionable? How do you know what is authentic and true versus what is twisted and spun?

There is a famous movie line from “A Few Good Men”, a movie starring Jack Nicholson and Tom Cruise. Jack Nicholson, playing an arrogant Marine Colonel, was on trial for an incident that resulted in the death of a young Marine. The prosecuting attorney, (a young) Tom Cruise, pushed relentlessly to get answers about what happened. Challenged to deliver the facts, Nicholson finally snarled, “You want the TRUTH?! You can’t handle the truth!” The truth has consequences, as the story went on to demonstrate. But then, so does falsehood…

A Modern Example

I still remember being encouraged several years ago because Congress declared that they were giving us a tax cut. Naturally I assumed that my taxes would therefore be lower. When my tax bill came, I found I was paying MORE in taxes! I actually called a congressman’s office to ask what happened to the tax cut. I wanted the TRUTH!

truth

Their answer was classic congressional double-talk: they told me that even though my total tax bill was higher, I was paying “less” in taxes because they had reduced the amount my taxes were scheduled to go up! There was a “tax cut”, alright, but it was a “cut” that INCREASED what I had to pay.

Art or Science?

The art of prevarication is more sophisticated and subtle today than it has ever been in history. Over a century and a half ago, Mark Twain said “A lie will make it halfway around the world before the truth has had a chance to put its boots on.” That was before we had the internet, BEFORE information could travel at the speed of lies. What is spin and what is factual? What headlines matter, and what is click-bait? As Bill Clinton once said, “That depends on what your definition of the word “is”, is… In our politics and in our culture, deception has been raised to an art form, and it is far more common and pervasive today than it was when Mr. Twain made his astute observation.

With the advent of deep-fake videos, AI-generated headlines, and gas-lighting, I think it’s only going to get MORE difficult to determine what the truth IS, much less handle it.

How do we know what is true and what is not? I have heard it said that when the Treasury Department trains agents how to detect counterfeit bills, they don’t waste time studying every possible variation. They invest time in knowing the original backwards and forwards. They are so attuned to the true original that they develop sort of an inner “truth meter” that detects flaws and irregularities in the counterfeit script. This sounds a little simplistic, to be honest, but the principle makes sense. By being intimately familiar with the real thing–with TRUTH–Treasury Agents can then detect the phony variations of it.

Here’s the Key

Most people remember Jesus said “the truth shall make you free.” What they forget is that he prefaced that remark not by saying, “read lots of men’s opinions”, or “watch the nightly news”, and certainly not, “get on Social Media”… He said to abide in his word. Give that a try. Know who Jesus really is. Bask in his words. Be intimately familiar with the truth. Then when you hear a variation of it your Truth Meter will go off like crazy!

Handle It Well

The truth, I’ve said, and I’ll say it again
Is harder find than “A Few Good Men”,
When our culture tries to dismantle it,
And Jack Nicholson says, “You can’t handle it!”
It gets to be so strenuous, detecting the disingenuous
When things reported by the press
are not the truth, but something less.
Of all the things that come at you,
how can you tell which ones are true?
Things can be fake, if digital, so study the original:
Whether mature or just a youth, get to know the solid truth–
Know Jesus. Get to know His word, and out of everything you’ve heard,
Of everything that you can see, know this: The truth will set you free.

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

Sand or Stone. Is Your Foundation Built Upon the Rock?

It may seem obvious that a foundation should be built on bedrock rather than shifting sand, but in a culture where people have decided that truth is subjective, sand seems to be making a comeback as the foundation of choice. Does it matter? What could possibly go wrong? Here’s what Jesus said about it:

“But why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do the things which I say?” [Uhh that’s really not directed at US, though, right?] “Whoever comes to Me, and hears My sayings and does them, I will show you whom he is like: He is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock.” (Luke 6:46-48, NIV)

I don’t want to just glide by verse 46. How many of us call Jesus “Lord”, and pray to the Lord, but don’t really DO the things the Lord asks us to do? If what Jesus said was true, apparently he expects our behavior to reflect his LORDSHIP. He doesn’t expect us to give him lip service; he expects us to know his teachings and live by them! How are we doing on that?

In some recent discussions about truth, a couple of folks have dismissed the Bible and told me that it is merely a myth containing some truth, but certainly not THE truth. If I go by what I read on social and mainstream media, this seems to be a common viewpoint. In today’s culture, truth is subjective for every individual. People refer to “my truth”. Our culture now believes you can change reality by simply declaring it to be something else. In today’s world, whether it is politics or journalism or social media, truth is built on shifting sand.

What is truth?

If Truth is relative, it follows that right and wrong are also relative. “What’s true for you is not necessarily true for me.” “You have no authority to tell me what to do. Right and wrong only exist in our own minds!” “I am expressing my truth.” This is not new thinking, by the way. Herodotus, Protagoras, and Plato all discussed it (https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/moral-relativism/). I understand where that thinking ultimately comes from, and why people are embracing it. Relativism seems to have lots of momentum these days.

Because we have individual rights, our culture chafes under any authority. TV commercials tell you to break the rules, not to share, or to color outside the lines. We ignore what law enforcement officials tell us to do. Lying and changing your position used to be considered a deal-breaker when running for President. Today it is pretty much how politicians do business, and there is little public outcry or backlash. Constituencies follow them not because of what is right, and not because they are good, but because of what they promise. We are now living in an America where truth is relative.

Open Doors

The problem is, Relativism opens all kinds of doors. If there is no absolute truth, then all laws become suspect. Yeah there’s a speed limit, but I’d rather drive as fast as I want to. That light was red, but I’m in a hurry. We should legalize weed because it’s no worse than alcohol, and lots of people do it. Criminals are called “courageous” for shooting at police. Even something as seemingly obvious as gender, we are told, is really just a matter of choice. Our moral values are now built on the shifting sand of public opinion. (Or, the shifting sand of individual opinion.)

sand not stone

Two Thoughts

But according to Jesus, there is a firm foundation to build upon. The teaching of Jesus set a different kind of standard for how we should be accountable and how we should treat one another. This passage highlights that there are two great dangers: One, don’t assume you know Jesus just because you go to church, or because you seem outwardly connected to him. He says we not only need to know what he said, but to live by it.

Second, he says that we should build our values and our goals upon what He taught. We should dig deep and stand firm. If you say you follow Jesus but don’t know everything he said, get busy. He claimed to be “The way, the truth, and the life.” If that statement is true, you owe it to yourself to re-read, revisit, and reapply.

If you don’t know what Jesus actually said, don’t dismiss him. Investigate his teaching for YOURSELF. At some point in your life, when the storms of difficulty break upon you, you will find yourself in need of a firm foundation. When that happens, all the shifting sand in the world won’t do you any good. Dig deep. Build. Stand.

Sand or Stone?

Jesus once described two homes, both built in different places;
Each of them was built upon extremely different bases.
One was built upon the rock, the strongest substance on the block,
And when disaster tried to knock it down it just withstood the shock!
The other, built on softer stuff, foundation made of sandy fluff,
Was never really strong enough and really wasn’t very tough.
The moral here is simple: if you want your house to stand,
Build your house upon the rock, and not on shifting sand.

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