“In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.”
These are the same questions you and I face today: What is truth? What have we done with Jesus, the “King of the Jews?”
What will we do with Jesus, the Son of God?
Objective truth is necessary for life
Objective truth is the idea that there are self-evident truths that are not dependent upon our knowledge, opinion or agreement with them. Without us, they continue to exist.
Subjective truth, by comparison, is that which relies solely on an individual person, and relates individually to that person's perspective or opinion of the objective reality which he or she experiences.
The scientific laws of nature give us many concrete examples of objective truth: according to the second law of thermodynamics, all things tend to decay and disorder. Whether we like it or not, our vehicles will break down, our homes have already begun the rotting process, and our bodies begin to feel the advance of breakdown from the moment we are conceived. All of these processes take place without our consent, and even without our knowledge. The laws of nature are completely unconcerned with our agreement or belief in them. Whether we are aware of the truth of these objective statements has no bearing on its objective validity. The only necessity we have left is to find these truths and prepare for them properly so as to mitigate damages or reap benefits from them.
We even find objective laws at work within societal structures. For instance, without his agreement on the validity of a rule, my son will still lose access to the new airsoft gun he may have purchased if he should choose to load it and test it out in our vehicle while I am driving, since I am the author of the ethics in my vehicle and in my home. He doesn't own the car, therefore, he doesn't get to make the rules about the car.
On the other hand, in such an instance as this my son's belief or perspective about the new reality in which he finds himself (gunless) is very much a subjective truth, that which is purely opinion and perspective. He feels that the result is unfortunate. To the rest of the world, however, our general agreement in opinion about the result is very much a fortunate one.
Reality is not a human construction, though our perception of reality may, in fact, be.
Without objective truth, each person’s personal “reality” becomes unanchored to any other grounded object. Our “realities” begin to float in space, with no focal point and no real reference point. As a result, each person feels that they may then reign in their own heart as absolute creator, judge and king, each a mini-god in their own constructed "reality."
Wherever these ideas, self-proposed truths and morality clash with another’s ideas, truths, and moralities, it is only left to either person to try to make others submit to one's own constructed reality or individualized meaning. Failing this, we find that we must maintain our distance from one another in communication, relationship and even distance in order to maintain peace in our spheres. Without an arbiter outside of our individual realities, there is no way to maintain intimate relationships without a constant conflict of personal interests.
Finally, when practiced in the extreme as we have seen in history, ethics and morality denigrate to become subject to the idea of the “survival of the fittest,” or the mob rule. Either democracy, the idea of the majority vote, or despotism, that of the most powerful forcefully ruling, becomes the judge of ethical morality, and that morality can subsequently change with the feelings or personal interests of a changing and relativistic people.
Consequently, those in the minority at any given time simply no longer have a voice, a right, or a cause. Instead, whoever is weaker, whether physically, intellectually, or culturally, then become the victims of whoever has more power at the moment.
Our human need for objective truth, therefore, is intrinsic to our survival and well-being both personally and societally, and it is left then to find how we may make a determination as to who really does have an objective and transcendent standard for life.
Humans have no inherent ability to set their own standard
Can we be our own judges? Can everyone just follow their own conscience? Is there any person or group of people fit to make objective moral determinations or truth?
Years ago, I engaged in a series of small debates with one of my youngest. This sweet young lady emphatically declared to me that she was “the boss.” I calmly explained to her that no, she wasn’t: Mommy was. Whatever it was that she was protesting at that moment, whether it was her chores, her salad, or her consequence for picking on her little brother, she desperately wanted autonomy from an outside source of truth, justice and accountability. To her, true freedom meant the ability to do anything she wanted without repercussions.
After a series of these conversations, she decided on a new tactic: Mommy would be “big boss,” but she would be “little boss”--over her other siblings. At least that way she could have control and power over them. Knowing her agenda for this, it was not likely that I would be placing her in charge of anyone anytime soon. Now, since that time she has matured and there have been times when I have sensed an unselfish desire to serve others and have been able to delegate responsibilities to her in order for her to be “in charge” of others for their benefit, with a careful eye to make sure that she used that power correctly.
In each of us, we have that that temptation. Perhaps you are familiar with the proverb, “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power tends to corrupt absolutely.” Without outside accountability of some kind, this is certainly true (Luke 12:45).
Because we are born with an intrinsic, inherited selfishness and propensity to sin, we need outside accountability to make sure that our behavior is truly loving.
The Bible teaches us that “the heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure,” and that no one can truly understand their inner hidden motivations and intents, except the Lord who searches and examines our hearts and gives to each of us according to our conduct (Jeremiah 17:9-10).
In Paul’s letter to the Romans in chapter 3, Paul argues that it is only God who may ultimately judge*, because it is only God who has the capacity to be true and righteous at all times and in all ways: "Not at all! Let God be true, and every human being a liar. As it is written: “So that you may be proved right when you speak and prevail when you judge” (Rom. 3:4).
While Paul is arguing here about the deplorable inefficacy of the Jewish Law to produce the righteous living that God requires from us in order to have a right or justified relationship with Him, he takes the opportunity to share the good news of the gospel to those then under the conviction of their inadequacy; the good news of a righteousness that comes as a free gift, independent of our striving to please a holy God:
This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished— he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus. Romans 3:22-26
Only God can set an objective standard for His creation
Because only He is holy,
only He is qualified to judge our wrongdoing.
Unlike us, there are no impure or ulterior motives (1 John 1:5) that God has ever or will ever have for giving us guidelines to live by. As Creator of all, He has no need to manipulate or coerce to gain or maintain power. Rather, God is holy in His entirety (1 Peter 1:16-17) from His actions to His inner motivations and therefore has the ability to call us to His standard: But just as He who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.” Since you call on a Father who judges each person’s work impartially, live out your time as foreigners here in reverent fear" (1 Peter 1:16-17).
Because only He knows all things,
only He is able to judge all things.
While humans so characteristically misunderstand one another, fail to see the inner motivations or even fail to witness all that happens and so find themselves consistently making poor judgments on one another's guilt or innocence, the Word of God teaches us that God, the Creator, is eternal (John 5:24), and as such he knows both the “end from the beginning,” (Isaiah 46:10) and the secrets of each person’s heart (Psalm 44:21, Acts 15:8, Psalm 69:5, Proverbs 15:11). In Psalm 139 we see not only the vastness of the knowledge of our Creator, but also the depth of His profound love for His creation and people, His image-bearers.
The Psalmist declares that not only does God intimately know us, but that he knows our every thought, our physical location at all moments, and every word we will speak before we have even let it out of our mouths.
Even in the womb, the writer asserts, God created us and watched over us carefully as each one of our parts was put together and, even more incredibly, knows every day of our lives from before we were formed.
Because only He is all goodness and love,
only He has all of humanity's good purposed in His objective standard.
For these attributes I am incredibly grateful! Imagine an all-powerful, all-knowing God who wasn’t good or loving, and our desire to hastily maneuver Him into a brightly-polished genie’s lamp becomes paramount. Instead of an evil or arbitrary power though, we see evidences of His love and goodness in creation’s warm spring breezes, beautiful flowers, lovely scents and fantastically indulgent foods from around the world. We see natural processes built into creation that allow it to recover, regenerate, and reproduce. We find miracles in our everyday lives, rescuing us from what could and often should be our fate if left to chance. It is no wonder to me that the Psalmists announces, “Taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him! (Psalm 34:8)"
At other times, the crime, sin, poverty and suffering that exist in our fallen world seem to contradict the nature of goodness and love that God reveals about Himself in creation. And that is where we look to the cross and the unfathomable sacrifice of the deepest love that no man can ever fully comprehend:
“You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:6-8
We own a fixer-upper. You wouldn't believe the great deal we got for our mountain property on 2.5 acres, 3000+ square feet. You would probably believe the great deal of time we have spent planning and working to finish up a never ending list of both remodeling and maintenance.
One morning not too long after we had moved I had the bright idea of spending a week home as a "stay-cation."
Unfortunately, for those of you who know what owning a general contracting business is like, it won't surprise you that by midday on the first day of our "stay-cation" he had received upward of 100 phone calls, not to mention the texts and emails he had responded to. I was absolutely fried. I had a terrible attitude. I was so mad. I had waited so long for this day and for our project to make some headway...I blew up at him.
Man, did the conviction of the Holy Spirit get to me after what I said. It's not a fun moment when you realize you've put your own agenda before loving your family, your hard-working husband and, by transference, God Himself.
When I read the story of Abram and Lot, I see myself caught in this moment—the moment of choice between choosing to survive—or to thrive. My agenda, or God's.
In this opening scene, we find that Abram and Lot, who is Abram's nephew, have been traveling together for quite some time, each with their herds and families and servants. But because their great amount of cattle and sheep took so much pasture land, they found that there just wasn't enough food to go around, and their servants had started arguing about who could have the pasture:
So Abram said to Lot, “Let’s not have any quarreling between you and me, or between your herders and mine, for we are close relatives. Is not the whole land before you? Let’s part company. If you go to the left, I’ll go to the right; if you go to the right, I’ll go to the left.” Lot looked around and saw that the whole plain of the Jordan toward Zoar was well watered, like the garden of the Lord, like the land of Egypt. (This was before the Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah.) So Lot chose for himself the whole plain of the Jordan and set out toward the east. The two men parted company: Abram lived in the land of Canaan, while Lot lived among the cities of the plain and pitched his tents near Sodom. Now the people of Sodom were wicked and were sinning greatly against the Lord. Gen. 13:8-13
Lot had an agenda. So did Abram. They both wanted to be good businessmen and to take care of their families. There's nothing wrong with either of those goals. The difference was what each was willing to do to get their agenda.
I find that so often selfishness, or at least a self-focused way of thinking—what do I need, what does my family need, how can I get to my goals--trips me up in my desire to please God and love Him and others. It's not so much that I don't care about others, but I can get so focused on my own desires, goals, and needs that I place them above God's love and concern for other people who also have needs and desires.
Lot and Abram were both believers in God. They both tried to practice righteousness. They both tried to abstain from wickedness as far as they knew.
But Lot chose for himself what seemed to be the better plain. The one that promised riches. Promised popularity. Promised an easy life. But the promises were empty.
In fact, in 2 Peter the apostle Peter tells us that Lot was righteous, but that by living in Sodom in what he had thought would be a really fun lifestyle, he “was oppressed by the filthy conduct of the wicked (for that righteous man, dwelling among them, tormented his righteous soul from day to day by seeing and hearing their lawless deeds)" 2 Peter 2:7-8.
Lot had built up a kingdom for himself that was made only of flammable materials: when the judgment day came it completely burnt up what he had built until only he himself was able to be saved. When the angels came, he was forced to choose to either save his own life or die staying with his empty wealth.
The Apostle Paul explains how this relates to our personal life as believers and how we serve the church Body together:
So if Lot chose to build with wood, hay or straw, with what did Abram build?
In chapter 14 we find that even before the angels come to destroy the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, the cities faced a war. The four kings of the tribes around them joined together to attack them in the Valley of Siddim. The kings of Sodom and Gomorrah, Admah, Zeboiim and Zoar lost and their people were taken as captives, including Lot and his family, and their possessions were looted.
Abram's immediate response was to rally his 318 men and go to fight the winning king to take back the people and possessions. He split his men at night and attacked and pursued them, bringing back all the people and the goods.
The next thing that happens I think is key to understanding Abram's different perspective on true wealth. Both the king of Sodom and Melchizedek, King of Salem went to meet Abram. By the law of conquest, every person and all property would belong to Abram and would be at his disposal to deal with however he pleased:
He was the priest of God Most High. And He blessed him and said:
“Blessed be Abram of 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 tithe of all.
Now the king of Sodom said to Abram, “Give me the persons, and take the goods for yourself.”
But Abram said to the king of Sodom, “I have raised my hand to the Lord, God Most High, the Possessor of heaven and earth, that I will take nothing, from a thread to a sandal strap, and that I will not take anything that is yours, lest you should say, ‘I have made Abram rich’—except only what the young men have eaten, and the portion of the men who went with me: Aner, Eshcol, and Mamre; let them take their portion.” Gen. 14:18-24
Though it doesn't outline a distinct conversation, either Melchizedek told Abram God's instructions about not taking the riches of Sodom or Abram simply had a strong heart conviction from God. Either way, Abram was not only willing to give God back His own tithe, but also to depend solely on the Lord's provision for his future needs.
This simple action of trust and obedience is what made a distinction between Abram and Lot:
Abram went back to living a hard life in the desert, waiting for the promises of God to be fulfilled in God's own way and time.
Lot went back to Sodom.
I know that I believe in Christ to be my savior, and I know that He has forgiven me and gives me grace to walk in righteousness and to grow in grace. But I want more than that. I want to build for His kingdom in such a way that there is something left after it all goes through the fire of the Judgment Day. I want there to be something left worth going through the challenges of this life. In my day to day decisions, I want there to be gold.
When my child comes down to “talk” at 11:30pm, am I willing to listen and free myself for however God would want to use that conversation?
When my husband calls me and asks to stay out late helping another person with the broken tree limbs hanging over their home, can I give my plans of comfort time to God, and take on the extra responsibilities of putting the kids to bed by myself?
When God asks me to give my spending money to care for strangers in need, would I be willing to give that up?
I'll be honest, both the little things and the big things are a daily challenge for me. It is much easier for me to abstain from doing evil things than it is to give Jeff the better cup of coffee. True story.
If we are to build using gold, silver and costly stones, it is going to cost us.
I would encourage you and myself, however, to put our trust in our God Most High, the Possessor of Heaven and Earth: He is the One who will abundantly and richly satisfy both our needs now and will give us a reward that can't be even imagined:
“Eye has not seen, nor ear heard,
Nor have entered into the heart of man
The things which God has prepared
for those who love Him.”
1 Cor. 2:9
Betrayal. It comes to all of us. In some way, we all encounter those deep and anguishing betrayals from people we have trusted.
We can all feel that it has become a very cold time in the last few years, and divisiveness in church and out of the church, has increased. We see rampant anger, bitterness, hatred, violence, slander, and deep pain, and in all of these things we find the symptoms of betrayal.
Betrayal comes from close family. Parents. Church family. Colleagues and associates at work. Best friends. Authority figures. Children. Spouses.
As King David lamented, “If an enemy were insulting me, I could endure it; if a foe were rising against me, I could hide. But it is you, a man like myself, my companion, my close friend, with whom I once enjoyed sweet fellowship at the house of God, as we walked about among the worshipers.” Psalm 55:12-14
David was saying that "it wouldn't hurt so much, it wouldn't feel like a betrayal, if you had been my enemy." We expect that from our enemies. We have our guards up. We even plan on how to evade or avoid pain inflicted from people we distrust.
But when we have gone through those steps from acquaintance to friend to close or intimate relationship--when we have lived with our families through the joys and pains of birthdays, sicknesses, breakups, financial hardships and even the loss of shared loved ones, then the sting of betrayal bites deep, and hangs on.
So how do we get out of the grip of betrayal? How do we plan for and prevent the damage that can come from betrayal?
We all know what happens if we are exposed to freezing temperatures for too long—we can go into shock, lose parts of our extremities due to a lack of circulation, and become disoriented. We can find it very hard to make good decisions, and may generate risk-taking behaviors. We often aren't even aware that we are experiencing hypothermia. Our bodies tend to retreat into ourselves, and we just want to go to sleep. We want to be left alone. Left untreated, these conditions can lead to complete failure of our hearts.
Just as these are the physical symptoms of intense cold, I find these to be the spiritual symptoms we experience when we go into betrayal unprepared, without the right spiritual coats.
So how can we be prepared, or if we didn't start out prepared, if a lot of damage has already been done to us, what can we do to heal and bring our hearts back up to a healthy temperature?
Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.
For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.
When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory."
My husband is a general contractor. One year, and this is actually pretty common, we were taken advantage of by a very large contractor. We were never paid for most of the job, so we lost around $100,000. We still had to pay our employees and the subs.
I had a number of severe health emergencies at the time, surrounding my pregnancy, and we were also looking at high medical bills. My husband pleaded with the contractor to pay us, but he was unwilling. This lasted for a year of work, during which time we went into a year's worth of debt. This one was particularly hard. We needed to feed our family. It would have been so very easy to sink into hatred for this man who was causing all of us so much suffering.
But two things enabled me to get through that time until God would, really miraculously, deliver us out of all of those things.
Whenever I would become overwhelmed, which was multiple times a day, I would retreat in my soul right into Christ, and just hide there in Him. I would only allow myself to focus on His goodness surrounding and protecting me. I would focus on His Lordship and His power. There wasn't anything He couldn't do to protect me in my painful circumstances or to rescue me out of them. And in His good timing, He would do both.
There have been times when betrayals are so deep that it is hard to pray for God's blessings for that person. In the case with the contractor, it really wasn't that hard. But at other times, it has been really difficult. It's hard for me when I feel that the betrayer doesn't deserve any blessing and it hurts to think that they would get good out of what they did to me. One thing that has made it easier for me is understanding the concept of blessing in the Bible.
You see, according to the Bible, when we give a blessing to someone who never does deserve it, in other words, they never repent, they never change, then the blessing can't “stick” to them. Instead, it comes back on our own heads to bless us even more. (Prov. 10:6; Proverbs 26:2, Matt 10:13). However, if they do change, we also are blessed because we are participating in Christ's work of salvation in their lives. Whatever they choose, we receive more blessing from God when we choose to bless.
immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry.
Because of these, the wrath of God is coming.
You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived.
But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these:
anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips.
When other people betray, sometimes it's truly unintentional. I can't tell you how often I have realized later the hurt I have caused other people without knowing or trying to. Life is full of misunderstandings and miscommunications. But it's also full of us messing up and giving into our own anger, rage, gossip, and even slander. Sometimes we have discovered ourselves to have been the betrayer and we have needed the mercy. I know that's certainly true in my life.
There was one time when someone I had very much trusted spoke some slanderous things about me to others and to me. It was a deeply painful experience.
After I drove away from this experience, I was telling the Lord how I felt about this. In front of me a vehicle was driving, and I noticed their bumper sticker: “The Armor of God,” it read. I laughed, and said, “Lord, which part?” He impressed on my heart that I needed the breastplate of His righteousness to guard my heart from the fiery arrows of accusation.
You see, the accusations that had been leveled at me included some things I had confessed to struggling against in a private prayer time with this person, as my trusted friend. It had even been leveled at me to prove their point: I had confessed that I struggled in this area, so what they were saying about me must be true.
This is how the devil likes to accuse us. He likes to take something that has some truth in it, expand it, and try to convince us that we are as far beyond redemption as he has made our case out to be.
I can't say that those accusations didn't continue to come back at me for some time, but I did find that as I placed the breastplate of the Lord's righteousness on my heart, that my value to and righteousness before God wasn't based on my own perfection and sinlessness, but rather on Jesus' own righteousness that He had given me.
Is it true that I struggle with temptations and sometimes give into them? Absolutely. In this particular case, whenever I neglected to apply the breastplate, I found myself back in pain and confusion. And when I was back in that pain, I would find that I would use my words to hurt my husband. I would accuse him of not protecting me. I would find ways that it was somehow his fault. I found that I would deeply hurt him, because I was hurting.
But while I don't practice sin on purpose, the reality is that my redemption and value is not based on those things that I've done that are under the blood of Christ. This took out a lot of the bite that the words had, and enabled me to deal with healing, as well as to see how I was perpetuating the hurt on to the next person in my life.
This part, seeing my own weakness, was crucial to seeing the pain of the person that had hurt me. It enabled me to hope for both compassion for myself as well as for them.
Admitting that we all have sinned and need God's forgiveness takes us to being able to forgive others for their shortcomings.
When we forgive, it is a canceling of the debt. They don't need to pay it back. God will still judge, He will still sort it out, but I don't need to go exact my debt from them. I can leave it in the hands of a loving God who knows it all and is the only one who can figure out what is best.
I find that when I have forgiven someone, even sincerely, it can be easy to put the burden of their debt back on them when I am being tempted to relive the bitterness of the past. This is a symptom that I need to forgive again. To forgive as the Lord forgave me...completely, once and for all, and keeping no record.
clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.
Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love,
which binds them all together in perfect unity.
There was one time where someone accused me, very inaccurately, of something that was very wrong. It was to the entire church, but privately, and without my presence, so that I couldn't deny it or set the matter straight.
The situation got worse as people called my husband, rather than me, to express deep disappointment in him for allowing me to get involved in what they were assuming I had.
It came to the point when I was crying out to the Lord, just for safety. When some people decided to confront us personally, I felt afraid. I got to my knees and prayed, asking God to protect me. Immediately I received a text that the person had fallen gravely ill and could not longer meet.
I hadn't anticipated God answering my prayer in that way. But I could also see that He was doing something better and deeper than I could have imagined. He had given me an opportunity to love my enemy.
My husband and I prayed about the situation, and decided to contribute financial help to them in their need. We sent a loving email, expressing our desire to help and pray for them during this time. We also prayed for their health, truly and sincerely hoping for God to somehow resolve the situation and restore the relationship.
God did heal them. But more than that, he healed our relationship. Without my having to defend myself in any way, they offered sincere and heartfelt apologies for the way they had treated the situation and the hurt they had caused us.
At that point, by forgiving, praying, blessing and choosing actions of love to them, our hearts were already following where we were putting our treasure, as Jesus promised (Matt 6:21). We wanted good for them, and we wanted a restored relationship.
This is the love that binds our hearts in unity in Jesus.
I can't say that every relationship and every betrayal has been restored in my life. I have a few that are achingly unfinished works God as far as what I can see. But I can say that following God's plan for staying warm in the freezing season of betrayal keeps my heart loving people and loving God. It clears my heart of the bitterness and anger and resentment that wants to set up its home inside of me. And it enables me to keep receiving the abundant love and mercy of God.
It keeps my heart warm.
Halley Faville lives with her husband and children in their mountain home in Oregon.
As a homeschooling mother of 7 children, she enjoys spending her free time in language arts, music, art, and outdoor activities.
40 Days Of Goliath
Fruit Of The Spirit