Spirit of Truth

“I ate all my apple,” she says to me, walking out of the kitchen. I am surprised our twenty-minute battle has suddenly come to an end. I am  not surprised by what happens next. My mother-in-law points into the sink and shakes her head “no”. Frustration.

“So if I come into the kitchen I won’t see any apple?” I ask my daughter as I stand up from the couch.

Suddenly, backtracking, Faith says, “Hurry, Grandma, wash it down.”

When I do see the apple in the sink, the liar turns to me, “It’s not my apple. It’s Silas’s.”

“No, Faith, Silas ate all of his apple in the high chair. You lied to me.” It was her first big deception.

Consider these opening two paragraphs from an article, We’re All Lying Liars: Why People Tell Lies, and Why White Lies Are Okay.

Admit it: You’ve lied. You told a friend that his shirt looked stylish when you actually thought it was tacky and garish. Or maybe you said to your boss that her presentations were fascinating when in fact they were insipidly mindless. Or perhaps you told your landlord that the rent check was in the mail.

Don’t feel bad. You’re in good, dishonest company. A growing body of research shows that people lie constantly, that deception is pervasive in everyday life. One study found that people tell two to three lies every 10 minutes, and even conservative estimates indicate that we lie at least once a day. Such incessant prevarication might be a necessary social evil, and researchers have recently discovered that some fibbing might actually be good for you. “We use lies to grease the wheels of social discourse,” says University of Massachusetts psychologist Robert Feldman. “It’s socially useful to tell lies.”

Most of us probably consider ourselves to be truthful people. We don’t speak falsehood, and it is not our practice to intentionally deceive others. But according to the latest research, we are subtly putting forth false impressions all day long, to ourselves just as much as to others. We may exaggerate about how much we work out. Even an “Okay” to “How are you?” could be stretching the truth. Most certainly, we lie to ourselves about who we really are.

As it turns out, truth versus falsehood is deeper than our childhood conception that lying is telling your mother you didn’t take that last cookie from the cookie jar (while wiping the crumbs from your mouth). When we broaden our understanding of what it means to be truthful, we find ourselves lacking the integrity which saturates the character of God.

God’s character is utterly truthful. He cannot lie (Numbers 23:19; Hebrews 6:18). No falsehood exists in him. So then, doesn’t it follow that our oneness with the Spirit of Truth should affect our character? We should be purified from all deceit. Every word we say should be genuine. Every deed we do should be free of pretense. Every aspect of how we present ourselves should be laden with integrity.

Our culture does not value truth, which is ironic because our culture does value the pursuit of  spiritual truth. This search for meaning and ultimate reality is in vogue, but so is the idea that the end of that pursuit is not objective, but can be individualized, whatever is “right” for you. Perhaps that is the reason that so many keep searching with unquenchable thirst. The road of subjective reality leads to nowhere.

One of my favorite passages of Scripture on truth comes from a hurting, deceitful man. After David commits adultery with Bathsheba he writes a beautiful confessional Psalm, “Have mercy on me, O, God; according to your great compassion blot out my transgression…Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you are proved right when you speak and justified when you judge.” In a sense, our sin proves God’s character is what He says it is. We prove him truthful by our wrongdoings. Our failure to live truly according to His word highlights His rightness in pronouncing judgment and His promised compassion that pronounces forgiveness for the humble.

Later in that Psalm, David prays, “Surely, you desire truth in the inner parts; you teach me wisdom in the inmost place.” I have inner parts of which I know nothing. I have a need for wisdom of which I am only vaguely conscious. Only the Spirit of Truth can minister to those hidden places of me that operate in stealthy deception. The beautiful thing about redemption is that when we yield our spirit to His Spirit, He works in spite of our inability to track with him. When we get to heaven, I bet we will be surprised at the depth of redemptive work in each of us in areas of which we were clueless.

Beginnings and Endings

We come into this world not of our choosing, but by the actions of our parents and through the sovereign design of God. Birthdays are important celebrations of the beginning of our lives. Our celebrations of beginnings signals that we value the start-ups in our lives, be it the beginning of school, the beginning of marriage, the beginning of a new life, perhaps free from alcohol, or lived in a new house, or in a new city. Beginnings provide us a way to categorize time.

Beginnings and endings are like water and oil. They are hard to mix, but they can be shaken up and blended together for a time, causing confusion about boundaries. Calling the first day of school a beginning in turn marks the end of summer vacation, or with a five-year-old, the end of life as it’s been known. Beginnings and endings are intertwined. Consider death, mostly thought of as an ending. It can actually be an opening into a great reality, a glorious beginning.

We ultimately stand beyond the bounds of time. All of us have a beginning within time. None of us has an end. We will die in this world, but we will live eternally, with or without Jesus.

I remember as a young girl asking my father, “How old is God?” “He doesn’t have an age; he’s always been” came the answer. Jesus Christ is called the Alpha and Omega (first and last). He is before time and all things hold together in him (Colossians 1:15). As finite creatures, time weighs upon us, a heavy and unavoidable load to carry. We are propelled along by its great unavoidable arms. We are pushed into beginnings or endings we did not ask for. My husband and I were pushed into parenthood earlier than we expected. I reluctantly took a job that turned into a beautiful stage in my life. My seminary career ended differently than I would have planned.

Beginnings and endings can be beyond our control, and sometimes, even beyond our ability to sort out and understand.

Ecclesiastes 3:11, “He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end.”

We may have eternity in our hearts, but we still cannot fathom God’s ways.

Revelation

“‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the LORD.  ‘As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.'” Isaiah 55:8-9

“Jesus replied, ‘Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven.'” Matthew 16:17

It’s the human way to depend on human strength, and too often, it’s what I do with the Christian faith. I treat this grace-based spirituality like a crossword puzzle. Think hard. Do a little research. Usher forth the creative powers from within. And arrive at…sanctification? No, frustration.

Revelation comes down from heaven, like manna, like the glorified Son who put on flesh. Without that descending Dove speaking to our hearts, what can we hope to understand or accomplish? The more I live, the more I realize my powerlessness. All my righteousness, nothing but filthy rags. All my striving, only weariness.

So why do I keep spinning my wheels? How do I learn about myself? How do I learn about God? There’s a fine line between striving and seeking. We are to seek Truth. Pursue righteousness. We are not to control, manipulate, or depend upon human effort. Here’s the line: We can turn our faces heavenward and the heart can gaze upon the Godhead (A.W. Tozer’s “eyes of faith”), but we can not produce revelation. It’s an “open hands” verses “grab” position. We are to ask and seek first the Kingdom, but we are hurting ourselves to think that we are smart enough to work in ourselves any bit of righteousness. Any knowledge of the Father, Son, and Spirit must come from Father, Son, and Spirit. And furthermore, any self-knowledge, any wisdom, must also come from that Trinitarian Lover of our souls. This means that if I want to understand God’s goodness, I need him to put it into my heart. I need to experience it. I need the descending Dove to speak.

We can be so timid of the word “experience.” Certainly we don’t use our experiences to construct a theology. But experience and revelation cannot be separated. Revelation is the truth of God experienced in our hearts. It’s that moment when the lights come on and all the pieces come together. It’s when what we know in our heads becomes who we are. And this only comes to our finite beings through the infinite God.

In reality, we know so little – of God and of ourselves. The lies that secretly settle into the well hidden areas of our psyche are greater than we realize. The mercy, love, and goodness of God is also deeper than what we choose to believe. Our heartbeat must always be, more, more, more of Him, and less, less, less of ourselves. He wants to be known. He wants to reveal Himself, so let us pray for His knowledge to transform us in deeper ways. Let us pray that his greatest Revelation, His own Son, penetrates the crusty surfaces of our hearts and brings peace and truth in our inner parts.

A Few Thoughts on Beauty

“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.  I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” Psalm 139:13-14

Just like you, I like beautiful things. Sunrises, flowers, songs, mountains, words of affection. Pretty clothes, shimmering lip gloss, shiny shoes. Truth. Justice. Common Sense.

There was a time when I chased beauty like a hound on a coon. Except, not a very good hound, since I never felt I caught it. Can you guess which season of life this was? Yep, adolescence. During my teens, my body wasn’t the only thing changing. My heart was stretching, trying to cram as much beauty inside as possible. The need to be beautiful, for a teenager, is akin to the need for being loved. So it’s no surprise that Psalm 139 was a popular scripture with me in high school. It affirmed who I was. It gave me warm fuzzies. It soothed my aching self-esteem.

And then I became a young woman. I fell in love, and consequently, fell into beauty (That which is loved is always beautiful, as goes the Norwegian Proverb). I sort of forgot about Psalm 139, or rather, lost need for its truth.  My husband spoke beauty over me. I settled into a peaceful place. Confident. Dreaming God-dreams, seeing the future sitting like a colossal, unmissable target in front of me, urging me to shoot the arrow and hit the bullseye.

Then all of a sudden, it’s two children later and I have wrinkles around my eyes. In place of my tight, flat tummy is something that looks like a topographical map of crater lake. Pursue God-dreams? I’m trying to get enough sleep to dream, period. Exercise? It’s called bending over to pick up some toys and pausing a moment for a stretch or weightlifting my thirty-pound son during that afternoon pre-dinner meltdown. The only thing I’m chasing are disobedient children who dart into the street.

And so I arrive at another season of needing Psalm 139. Perhaps I need it more now than I did in high school when the beauty of an unknown future was enough to cause a hope surge. When I’m worn out from picking grains of rice off the floor, it’s easy for those Garden lies to pounce. Am I really worth just the couple of loads of laundry I managed to do today? What really makes me a woman? Is it truly, as this world wants me to believe, a well-dressed shapely figure with a lot of allure and mystique? According to all the ads for cosmetics, weight-loss programs, or plastic surgeons, what I look like is the key to contentment.

Really?Have we simplified beauty to nothing more than an outer presentation? If my skin just cleared up for once in my thirty-one years, will I magically be happy? If my hair finally decides to lay flat and not frizz out, will I have arrived at true bliss? Perhaps if it were just a matter of finding the right products or doing the right beauty treatments, we’d all find contentment.

It’s time to renew my beauty creed based upon Psalm 139. Beauty is connected with divine purpose. Living a called life is beautiful. I’m who I am for a reason and I can trust the Creator. I won’t capitulate to the standards of beauty in this culture, which are often hinged on that idol of body image. Curves (or lack of) don’t define who I am, nor does pure skin, or hair that won’t frizz. It’s not that what we look like on the outside doesn’t matter, because health and presentation are important, but in the light of God’s Kingdom, does it matter if I’m a size 4? The truth of the Gospel is that the longer the Holy Spirit simmers in us, the more beautiful we become. And that beauty manifests in our actions, our words, and even our appearances.

What makes me a woman is God and his providence. He decided to give me two x chromosomes, and that makes me a woman – fearfully and wonderfully made.Who am I? I’m a woman of worth, known by the Father, hemmed in by his Spirit, chosen before the creation of the world to do good works for the Kingdom of God. All other things take second place.

Get on the Altar

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God– this is your spiritual act of worship.” Romans 12:1

No one is forcing you up on the altar. That’s the problem with the Christian faith. It’s a choice. You were invited to receive the sacrifice of Christ for your sins. You were not told that your sins were covered in His blood.

Another problem. A living sacrifice is wiggly. It squirms. It climbs off the altar. In spite of being a good Presbyterian (I do believe in the security of salvation in Christ), I believe the walk of sanctification requires our cooperation. The Spirit doesn’t work against our disobedience. We still are responsible for our choices, even whent indwelt with God’s Spirit. “Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit” (Galatians 5:25).

My new phrase to my self is, “Get on the altar.” I derail at least a couple times each day. If it’s not impatience that’s knocking me off that altar of worship, it’s anger, or control, or plain old selfishness. The older I get, the more I realize the depth of my selfish attitudes. A life of worship lived on the altar is not compatible with the lusts of this world.

What is derailing you today?

Get back on the altar.