Missing: Truth

I have a confession. I subscribe to publications from a variety of viewpoints in order to hear from voices on both ends of the spectrum. On social media, I do my best to keep the bars of my personal algorhythmic cage as widely-spaced as possible. And I always assume I’m missing something in every story. We all are. All to often, the missing element is truth.

We live in a world currently run by the one Jesus called “the ruler of this world” and “a liar and the father of lies” (see John 12:31, 14:30, John 8:44). To find the truth, you have to research and think deeply and logically about what you read or watch. You cannot merely consume.

Propaganda

The Friday after the most recent election, my inbox was filled with the typical sales flyers and political emails. Among them were a selection of Red and Blue propaganda pieces loaded with highlights, bold type, red letters, shrieking capitals, and shameless abuse of the exclamation point.

Propaganda to my left and right both made similar claims:

  • The election results are hanging in the balance!!!!!
  • The stakes are the highest they’ve ever been!!!!!
  • YOUR EMERGENCY CONTRIBUTION IS URGENTLY NEEDED TO FIGHT BACK against the enemy of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness!!!!!!
  • EVERYTHING IS BURNING AND WE’RE ALL GOING TO DIE!!! NOW IS A TIME FOR UNADULTURATED PANIC!!!

Or something.

I have to wonder why the stakes are higher now than, say, when Hitler and Stalin made blood-soaked bids for world domination or when our own fledgling nation tore itself apart at a time when some people wanted to own other people. I thought those stakes were pretty high.

But I also have other questions:

  1. How, precisely, will my donation impact the results of an election that took place three days prior?
  2. Assuming my rushed contribution manages to (alarmingly) sway the counting of votes, how can I be sure all the swaying won’t cause fatal fractures in the whole structure?
  3. If both Red and Blue are threatening to destroy my liberty, who am I supposed to believe will preserve it?

You get the picture. But it isn’t just politics. The American media seems to have won a bloodless coup far more effective than all the concentration camps, purges, and gulags combined.

Just Keep Spinning

In his fine book, Amusing Ourselves to Death, Neil Postman opined that Huxley’s pleasure-dominated society in Brave New World comes closer to today’s America than Orwell’s hate-based domination portrayed 1984.

For the most part, I agree. However, Orwell’s dystopia did absolutely nail humanity’s brief attention span.

To see what I mean, all you have to do is refuse to scarf down the news like fast food fries. Instead, take time to test and discern the flavors. Look for articles with emotionally-charged language or “facts” that seem to contrast with other articles.

A simple example is the media handling of unborn babies. From one perspective, you’ll find pieces in support of a woman’s “right” to terminate a pregnancy. Yet you can also find stories where a mother and her unborn child were both murdered. In the first style of story, there is no body count; just a natural consequence eliminated. In the other, the body count is two. One is a right, the other is murder.

A careful reader of today’s news might note that the answer to the question, “When does life begin?” appears to be, “Whenever it best suits the agenda of the person you are asking.”

Our newsfeeds are full of similar contradictions covering a wide range of topics. All of them prey on a population whose collective memory seems to extend no further than seconds into the past and whose attention span is easily caught by the next shiny scandal. We move from mayhem and murder to enjoying quirky cat videos with a seamlessness rivaled only by the criminally insane.

I would argue that, apart from Christ, criminally insane is precisely what we are.

Lost and Found

But like it or not, there is such thing as truth – even if it seems to be missing in the public square. An incredible Book I’m addicted to reading mentioned as much:

Justice is turned back, and righteousness stands far away; for truth has stumbled in the public squares, and uprightness cannot enter. Truth is lacking, and he who departs from evil makes himself a prey. The LORD saw it, and it displeased him that there was no justice.

Isaiah 59:14-15

These words were written in the 700s BC. Truth, it seems, has been MIA for a very long time.

Strange though it may seem, all this madness actually encourages me. Such ruminations help me remember that human depravity and sickness of mind are as old as the Fall. It reminds me that there truly is nothing new under the sun.

What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun.

Ecclesiastes 1:9

What’s more, I know that while it may appear that Truth is nowhere to be found, it’s actually never been far off. Truth is as close as the wind on your cheek, as real as your heartbeat, as wide as the sky – for all of creation, including your body, contain evidence of the Truth that brought them into being.

Even better, we’ve been given a tangible document, the Word of Truth, as a gift to avoid making careless assumptions. Our feelings often override the evidence of our senses, and the God who made us knows this and gave us His Word as a reminder. Cultural norms will come and go, nations will rise and fall, lies will be tossed around like dodgeballs, but the Word of God will stand forever.

And because of this truth, we can have confidence that one day, the Truth will out.

Can a Corpse Be Pleasing?

I have a crazy question for you: has a corpse every done anything you find pleasing?

Humor me for a minute. I’ve been thinking about how the Scriptures teach that we are dead in sin. Romans 6:23 tells us the wages of sin is death – literally, we earn death by sinning – but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Other Scriptures talk about it too – Ephesians 2 starts off by telling us we were dead in our trespasses and sins and Romans 8 contrasts walking by the Spirit of God and walking in the death of sin, and so on.

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins. . .

Ephesians 2:1

For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. . . But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness.

Romans 8:6, 10

We are spiritual corpses without Christ; the literal walking dead. So that’s been on my mind; then on Sunday, our pastor was preaching from John 3 and talked about Nicodemus, the Pharisee and ruler. This man probably knew the Tanakh (Scriptures of the time) about as well as he knew his name.

As Jay said, Nicodemus grew up understanding that if he memorized all these Scriptures, did all the right things, and followed all the rules, God would be pleased with him.

It hit me funny: how can God be pleased with a corpse? Who’s ever pleased with a corpse?

If a corpse could do anything at all, it could only do rotten things. Dead things. It just reminds me of how Jesus said in John 15 that apart from Him, we can do nothing.

Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.

John 15:4-5

Think about that today. God loved you so much when you were a corpse that He sent His only Son to bring you to life.

That’s how loved you are. Go in that love today.

90 Second Devotional | December 15

Welcome to my goofy attempts to have Advent devotionals with my busy college students who now live in 3 different cities…

And Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. (He was priest of God Most High.) And he blessed him and said, “Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth; and blessed be God Most High, who has delivered your enemies into your hand!” And Abram gave him a tenth of everything.

Genesis 14:18-20

Melchizedek is an interesting figure who first appears in Genesis chapter 14. At this point in history, Abram had just rescued his nephew Lot from Chedorlaomer, one of many kings who had gone to battle against the king of Sodom. After the victory, Abram goes to meet the king of Sodom in a valley when he is approached by Melchizedek, who is is described as the king of Salem, a priest of the Most High God. Melchizedek brings out bread and wine, blesses Abram, and Abram gives him a tenth (or tithe) of all he has.

Now if we look at these terms, Melchizedek in Hebrew literally means “my king is righteous.” Salem, or sha-lame in Hebrew, is obviously related to shalom – peace. So we have my king is righteous, king of peace, priest of the Most High God.

Psalm 110 also mentions Melchizedek and is considered by many be a Messianic psalm. It says in verse four: “The LORD has sworn and will not change his mind, ‘You are a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.'” The writer of Hebrews, in chapter 7, also mentions Melchizedek and digs into the meanings behind the names among other things.

But what I want to look at is the fact that this king – my king is righteous, King of Peace – offered bread and wine to Abram.

I can’t help but think of Jesus, who at the Last Supper, took the bread, broke it after giving thanks, passed it around, and said, “Take and eat; this is my body;” and He took the cup of wine and blessed it, saying, “This is my blood of the covenant, poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins” (see Matthew 26:26-28, et al). He ordered us to do this in remembrance of Him.

Our King is righteous, and He has done so much for us. It’s my prayer that you will know Him as your King of Peace, the King who is righteous, this holiday season and forever after.

90 Second Devotional | December 14

Welcome to my goofy attempts to have Advent devotionals with my busy college students who now live in 3 different cities…

But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days. . 

Micah 5:2

Micah 5:2 records yet another prophecy of the Messiah. In it, His birthplace is declared – a town called Bethlehem. In Hebrew, בֵּית לֶ֫חֶם means House of Bread. It’s fascinating to me that the Lord would be born in a town by this name because in John 6:35, Jesus refers to Himself as the Bread of Life.

And He is the Bread that nourishes, sustains, and makes eternal life possible. All other bread gives only temporary sustenance. He alone can satisfy entirely and eternally.

Interestingly enough, John 6:22-59 records one of the most difficult teachings Jesus gave to the people, in part because it was incredibly offensive. There’s a lot behind His talk of eating His flesh and drinking His blood – much more than I can go over in the space of 90 seconds. For brevity’s sake, think about the old saying, “You are what you eat.”

If we literally take the life of Jesus into ourselves, letting Him be our source of life and let His life become the driving force of our own lives – literally letting Him transform us to be more like Him – I believe that’s the gist of what He was saying. Many people left Him after this and just walked away.

My question to you today is this: what do you do with the hard teachings of Jesus? Do you scoff and turn away? Or do you, like Peter in verse 68, say, “Lord, to whom should we go? You have the word of eternal life…”

60 Second Devotional | December 13

Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. . .  And this is the name by which he will be called: ‘The Lord is our righteousness.’

Jeremiah 23:5-6


Jeremiah 23 holds another prophecy of the Messiah. Again, He is referred to as a descendant of David, as a King, and another name is given – the Lord is our righteousness.

This is hard news for those of us who believed we could be good people, good enough to tip the scales of eternal justice in our favor. We can’t. But what we can do is follow God’s plan – the rescue plan He made from the beginning – and accept His Messiah, the Lord, as our righteousness.

But how?

There are several passages of Scripture that talk of putting on Christ – Ephesians 4:20-24, Romans 13:14, and Galatians 3:27 to name a few. The idea here is that we are naked and exposed before the Throne of Divine Justice. All we’ve done, all those times we’ve forcibly silenced the voice of our conscience and done what we know to be wrong, completely unmasked.

But that is not the way you learned Christ!— assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.

Ephesians 4:20-24

Then Christ comes, the One who died to pay the price for us, and if we accept His help, He covers us with His righteousness like a cloak of dignity. His dignity. But we have to accept it and put it on.

By doing so, we implicitly agree to honor His righteous name as well.

But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.

Romans 13:14

85 Second Devotional | December 12

Welcome to my goofy attempts to have Advent devotionals with my busy college students who now live in 3 different cities.

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given. . . and his name shall be called. . . Prince of Peace.

Isaiah 9:6

Peace is something that seems elusive to most of us in the modern world. After all, we can hardly escape the constant barrage of information, and most of us are now so accustomed to the incessant yammering of the media that we don’t even pay attention.

Another scandal involving high-ranking officials? Of course.

Government corruption exposed yet no one serves jail time. Naturally.

We’ve come to expect chaos, even embrace it. But the expectation comes at a cost. The US consistently ranks #1 or #2 for anxiety, depression, and substance abuse despite being the most affluent nation in the world. Money, it seems, does not buy us peace.

Sadly, as a nation we’ve rejected the Prince of Peace. Fewer Americans each year identify as Christian and of those who do, even fewer actually read the Bible or follow the teachings of the Christ they claim to serve. A 2019 Lifeway research study found evangelicals are far more likely to use social media daily than read their Bibles.

Yet in chapter 26, Isaiah writes, “You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. Trust in the LORD forever, for the LORD GOD is an everlasting rock” (Isaiah 26:3-4).

We lack peace because we no longer truly trust in the Prince of Peace. But we can choose to change this. Will you?

60 Second Devotional | December 10

Welcome to my goofy attempts to have Advent devotionals with my busy college students who now live in 3 different cities…

. . .and his name shall be called. . . Mighty God, Everlasting Father. . .

Isaiah 9:6

In Isaiah 9:6, the Messiah is also called, “Mighty God, Everlasting Father.” It’s interesting that many skeptics today claim Jesus never pretended to be God. And they’re right – He didn’t pretend. He knew it, He stated it, and He proved it.

In John 8, Jesus is teaching at the temple, and His teachings about being slaves to sin rubs some people wrong. They push back, calling Him a Samaritan (which would have been insulting to a Jewish man) and accusing Him of having a demon. In a bizarre refutation that they’ve ever been slaves, they invoke Abraham as their father.

To this, Jesus replies that Abraham saw His day come and was glad. This brings on jeers, and Jesus makes the bold claim, “Before Abraham was, I am.”

Jeers turned to rage as the crowd attempted to stone Him. They knew He was referring to Exodus 3:14 and making a claim to Divinity.

Another time, Jesus is at the Feast of Dedication being questioned at the temple by a crowd demanding to know if He is the promised Messiah. He tells them, “I and the Father are one,” but they are also discontent with His answer (see John 10:22-33).

But Jesus not only claimed divinity, He proved it. He lay down His life down but also took it up again, precisely as He promised He would do in John 10:18.

60 Second Devotional | December 9

Welcome to my goofy attempts to have Advent devotionals with my busy college students who now live in 3 different cities…

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor. . .

Isaiah 9:6

Today we are going to linger in Isaiah 9 and look at verse 6, specifically the prophecy that Messiah would be called Wonderful Counselor.

And Jesus is this Wonderful Counselor, though the advice He gives is very different from what you’ll get in the rest of the world. We are surrounded by advice to follow our hearts, to do what makes us happy, to live our truth, and all kinds of advice that sounds good on the surface. But anyone who’s tried to keep this advice, like I once did, will eventually end up feeling empty, unfulfilled, and even despondent.

The counsel Jesus gives is different. in the sermon on the mount, He warns us against laying up for ourselves treasures on earth where moth and rust destroy and thieves break in and steal, but advises us instead to store treasure in heaven where it will be secure.

Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Matthew 6:19-21

When we invest in a world that is doomed to pass away, we make a poor investment. But when we invest in Jesus and His eternal kingdom, our investment will pay dividends for all eternity.

60 Second Devotional | December 8

Isaiah 9 contains one of the most well-known prophecies of the coming Messiah. It offers hope in a broken and often terrifying world. This verse is near the beginning:

The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone.

Isaiah 9:2

Did you know the Hebrew word translated “deep darkness” here is צַלְמָוֶת [tsalmâveth], the same word translated “shadow of death” in Psalm 23:4?

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

Psalm 23:4

The word carries connotations of darkness and terror, danger, and yes, death.

The truth is, our world is filled with darkness, danger, terror, and death. Scripture tells us we are dead in our sins, which is why Jesus came. Because He is fully God, His life is worth far more than any created being. Because He is fully man, His willing death alone can repair the breach between God and man caused by sin.

That’s why He is the only Way to God. He is the Light which came into this world of deep darkness.

60 Second Devotional | December 7

Welcome to my goofy attempts to have Advent devotionals with my busy college students who now live in 3 different cities…

Psalm 22 is a known Messianic prophecy and one Jesus quoted the first few words of from the cross: My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? ( see Psalm 22:1, Matthew 27:26).

Keep reading the psalm and you’ll see prophecies that He will be scorned, despised, and mocked (v 6-7). Verse 8 is an accurate prediction of what was said about Jesus while He hung on the cross, which is recorded in Matthew 27:43 where the chief priests and elders mocked, “He trusts in God; let God deliver him now, if he desires him. For he said, ‘I am the Son of God’ (Matthew 27:43).

The psalm also describes Him as being surrounded by evil men, having His strength dried up, being pierced, having his garments divided and lots cast for His clothing – all of which happened during the crucifixion. You can read the accounts in Matthew 27, Mark 15, Luke 23, and John 19.

But what I love is the way the song ends in hope: They shall come and proclaim his righteousness to a people yet unborn, that he has done it (Psalm 22:30-31).

He has done it. He has come. He will come again.