A Battle For The Truth

Whether you are aware of it or not, there's a battle going on. The truth that God has made known has been concealed, leading others to muddle their way through life.  God has planted eternity in your heart (Ecclesiastes 3:11) but there is an enemy that tries to keep you away from living in this truth.  

 

The quest and battle for this truth affects all of us. Those of us who are still in this world are a part of this. However you live your life, it speaks out about what you believe. Your voice contributes to the battle that is going on. What most people aren't aware of is that so much is at stake. The consequences are high--your side in the battle will dictate where you will spend your eternity. The battle begins and is centered on the truth. 

 

In this world that we live in, so many things set themselves up as “truth.” The barrage of information, the influence of the media, the voices and opinions of other people, along with personal experiences can lead us to formulate our own kind of truth. At some point, we are the ones who formulate what is real even when we are tempted by our own minds. 

 

Follow the Truth 

Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me. - John 14:6

 

For those of us who have had an encounter with God, we realize that Jesus is indeed who He says He is in the gospel. He is our only way to the Father and that eternal life is received through Him. But let us remember that Jesus is the embodiment of truth. We gain an understanding of this when we accept the salvation He offers us and make our way towards repentance. To know Jesus as truth is to see Him—in His love and holiness. A believer will realize that this character of our Savior is far from how we are, inspiring us all the more to follow Him. 

 

How then can we begin to follow the truth? We do this when we love God and follow His instructions. John 5:1-3 says, “Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has become a child of God. And everyone who loves the Father loves his children, too. We know we love God’s children if we love God and obey his commandments.  Loving God means keeping his commandments, and his commandments are not burdensome.” 

 

To believe in Jesus as the truth means to believe that He is also love—that God is love. Because of the kind of love He has shown us from His life, death, and resurrection, we have an example that we can follow. Loving God and His children go together. In this fallen world, this love sets us apart from those who have yet to experience the saving grace of our Lord Jesus. 

 

Victory not Surrender

Now that we have found the way and have chosen our side in the battle, we have the victory. Though it seems that we are sometimes outnumbered, surrendering is not an option. We as children of God have the power to triumph over the evil in this world through our faith. And this victory is only for those who believe that Jesus is the son of God (see 1 John 5:4-5). 

 

So many things in this world seem to lead us astray from the truth. Even if we claim to be in Christ, we must be vigilant to protect what we have received. What we now know has already given us freedom and has enabled us to live a life of love and faith. Though we are in the midst of a battle where eternity is on the line, we must remember Jesus’ words: 

 

“I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” - John 16:33 

 

Let us continue to hold on to the truth. We already have our peace in Jesus. Despite all the challenges and heartaches we have yet to face, victory is already ours. God is with us. 

 

Choosing the Truth

For many, telling the truth seems to be more challenging than coming up with a lie or an excuse. Instead of coming clean or apologizing, others might find it easier to run with their mistakes. This isn't new. Ever since the earliest days in the Garden (see Genesis 3), humanity has been attempting to suppress the truth when all along, God has made it clear to everyone. Why does mankind seem to sabotage their key to freedom? 

 

An Unpleasant Feeling 

No one likes to be called out for their mistakes. Every single one of us wants to be right. It hurts our pride when we have to admit that we've done wrong. It can sometimes cancel out the good that we have done, allowing people to question our capability, credibility, and authenticity. Admitting the truth and owning up to a mistake has never been easy. It makes us more vulnerable to rebuke. So we choose comfort even if it means holding back God’s blessings.

 

Those of us who have received Christ must forgo this way of living. In Romans 1:18 - 19 it says, “But God shows his anger from heaven against all sinful, wicked people who suppress the truth by their wickedness. They know the truth about God because he has made it obvious to them.When we choose the lies, we become resistant not only to the truth but to who God is. In the process, what’s right becomes masked even when it has been made visible all along. 

 

When we suppress the truth, we also deal with guilt. It is a chain that a person inflicts upon himself. But instead of asking for correcting our mistakes, many choose to conceal the truth leading a person and others around to live with a falsehood. Despite these unpleasant feelings, we must remember that, “…if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.” (1 John 1:9


A Way Out 

Then I acknowledged my sin to you

    and did not cover up my iniquity.

I said, “I will confess

    my transgressions to the Lord.”

And you forgave

    the guilt of my sin.” (Psalm 32:5)

 

How then can a person break the cycle of lies? It starts with asking for forgiveness. So many things would be made right if human beings would just say “I’m sorry.” Countless relationships will be restored, mistakes will be corrected, time will be saved, and more things on this earth will be made right. As we deal with our own imperfections, we become open to accountability. The false confidence caused by the lies shatters and is replaced by humility that opens us up to accept God’s Word as the Truth in our lives. When we allow this to happen, breakthrough happens. 

 

Jesus said to the people who believed in him, “You are truly my disciples if you remain faithful to my teachings. And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:31-32

 

Admitting mistakes brings relief. Lies are a burden to the mind, the heart, and even in relationships. The apostle Paul, in Ephesians 4:25 admonishes us: “So stop telling lies. Let us tell our neighbors the truth, for we are all parts of the same body.” When we humble ourselves enough to make things right, the effect goes beyond our own lives. We also allow others to thrive in a lifestyle that doesn’t depend on lying in order to get ahead.  We build up a culture of authenticity and sincerity, allowing others God’s truth to bring us together. 

 

Jesus has already set us free. Release the blessings God meant for you. Let go of the fear that tempts you to cover up the truth. Enjoy the freedom that comes with knowing the truth and living it out.

 

What's Next?

Check out what board member, Sheila Anderson, had to say in her Spiel article from the bulletin last week:

“The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever.”  Isaiah 40:8

As the world has been radically upended the past 16 months, many of us felt the disorientation of wondering what was coming next. Although conditions are still shifting, we are grateful to be slowly regaining a sense of normal.  One thing is certain, though: our God does not change.  And the mission He’s given us remains the same: to connect people to life in Jesus. Our vision is one church with each believer following Jesus wherever they are, and having an impact there for God’s Kingdom. To visualize this potential, the Church invites us to become “wells” – a physical presence scattered out in the world where God’s water of life can be accessed by thirsty wanderers.

The leadership board is excited to share some of staff’s plans for this summer and fall to help us  become more “well-like”. We welcome your ideas and thoughts! You can email us at board@livelifetogether.com, talk to any board or staff member or include your ideas on the worship connection card.

1. Back to Community initiative:  God designed us for connection and belonging. The social restrictions of the past year have highlighted our need for each other while at the same time making our habitual ways of connecting more difficult. It’s hard to be a useful well if no one knows you’re there! Moving forward, how can we engage others, both inside and outside our church, in the most meaningful way?  (Pause here for full disclosure: this initiative makes me a little anxious.  I’m not sure how much community engagement I want to add to my life right now. If, like me, you felt a pang of avoidance, anxiety, or irritation when you read those words ‘back to community” I urge you to go to 4.)

2.  Website redesign: As we’re seeking this connection, our website has become our front door for those who want to learn more about our community as well as a continuing resource for those who’ve been here awhile.  How can we make it better?  Perhaps a virtual walk into our building to see what happens here and who we are. A site to display our version of a life of mission and ministry.  Wouldn’t it be great to include resources to help with real life problems? as well as practical details (how, where, when) and links to share with friends?  What are your ideas?  Church Marketing, the group that helps with our online outreach, will be working with us on the upgrade.

3.  Here and there - Hybrid strategy: As we’ve discovered over the past year, we don’t have to be in person to be the Church. Our goal is to foster community wherever you are, however we can. Redesigning our website will make it easier for people to walk through our “front door”, so to speak, whether virtual or actual.  Once inside together, as one body of both virtual and face-to-face participants, how best to continue on-line and in-person hybrid meeting for worship, lifeGroups, Kid’s Connection and Higher Ground?

4.  Making space for margin in your life: living in simplicity:  Rest – isn’t that what we long for? Rest from worry, stress, need, and hurry.  God calls us to rest in Him.  As challenging as the last year has been, the slower pace and pruning of activities has been an unexpected pool of refreshment for many. Just as God led the Israelites through the desert where choices were simplified, He has led us through the past 15 months. As they were emerging from the desert into the promised land, He urged His people to choose life, to choose to love and cling to Him (Deut. 30:19). He honors us by giving us that choice as well: to plan and develop a way of life that allows plenty of time with Jesus to allow Him to fill our wells and speak into our lives. When we are full of Him, living water will spill out of our lives to refresh others. How can we choose to build space into our lives for the most meaningful things and relationships?  Now is the time to be intentional about that choice. God doesn’t expect you to be a well for everyone. That, in fact, is impossible. He knows your limits; He designed them.  He may be calling you to engage fully with just one person. In order to do that, saying “no” (even to good activities or worthy people) is following where Jesus leads.  How can the Church help us all build this discipline?  How can we empower “the sacred no” in each other’s lives?

 

A Vision of Hope With God

Do you find yourself in a place where you need some assurance that everything is going to be okay? That the struggle is not all there is? That there’s victory at the end of the road? Maybe you’re tired. Maybe it’s been a really long week. Maybe you have come to the awareness of your own insecurity, your own fallibility, your own mortality this week and you’re wondering, ‘Is this all there is? Is there more than this?’

 

The Scriptures address this kind of longing for assurance and longing for hope. In 1 Corinthians 15:58, we read: So, my dear brothers and sisters, be strong and immovable. Always work enthusiastically for the Lord, for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless.

 

And Hebrews 6:10-11 says: For God is not unjust. He will not forget how hard you have worked for him and how you have shown your love to him by caring for other believers, as you still do. Our great desire is that you will keep on loving others as long as life lasts, in order to make certain that what you hope for will come true.

 

God Gives Us Vision

There is an importance to vision. It’s important that we understand and have some clarity around what it is that we desire to see in the future. Better stated, where God is leading us in the future. It’s important to have a clear portrait in our mind’s eye of a preferred future to maintain Hope. This allows us to see the future so clearly that we go, ‘Okay, this is why I’m doing this. This is the picture that God has given me of the future. I trust Him and I’ll keep moving forward toward that destination.’

 

Hope Springs Eternal

Have you heard of the phrase “Hope springs eternal”? It came from an essay on man, written by Alexander Pope. In the middle of it, a phrase says: ‘Hope springs eternal in the human breast.’ Hope springs eternal in the human heart. Isn’t that interesting? Why does hope spring eternal? It’s not because mankind is so great. It’s because we carry DNA of the Curator of the universe, who is our redeemer and our restorer and so there is a natural inclination because we belong to God whether we know it or not.

 

Snyder’s Hope Theory

According to Snyder’s Hope Theory in the psychological side of things, hope consists of both cognitive elements and effective elements. This theory states that there are at least 3 components that people can relate to hope: 1) Have focused thoughts on a preferred future; 2) Develop strategies in advance in order to achieve goals you’ve set to get there; and 3) Be motivated to make the effort required to actually reach those goals. There is an importance to hope in the psychological framework of the human mind and heart, and when that hope is taken away when there is no preferred future, strategy, goals, or motivation to go there, then you have lost hope.

 

But in Romans 15:13, Paul writes: I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.

 

If you have lost your vision, God will fill you with joy and peace because He is the source of hope, because you trust in Him.

 
 

CHRIST’S RESURRECTION AND EFFECTIVE WITNESSING

Have you ever wondered why the churches in America tend to be so weak? Why is the church so weak when the message we carry is incredibly strong and powerful?

 

These days, we tend to be ineffective in being involved in public discourse and having a voice of mercy and grace in the midst of the challenges that we face. For many in the church of America, the practice of boldly proclaiming the resurrection of Jesus, that Jesus is alive, has become irrelevant. It has no voice. We go to church and we sing hymns about the resurrection and we talk to each other about the fact that Christ has risen and how His resurrection is so real and powerful, but it ends there.

 

The “dunamis” power of God that changes lives is the resurrection power of God. And this is what many churches and even believers are missing out today.  

 

The Resurrection of Jesus Brings Comfort and Mockery 

 

“But even if you suffer for doing what is right, God will reward you for it. So don’t worry or be afraid of their threats. 15 Instead, you must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks about your hope as a believer, always be ready to explain it.” - 1 Peter 3: 14-15

 

The teaching that Jesus is the resurrection and the life has always been a conundrum, a disturbing, disruptive proclamation. We can't be lukewarm with this teaching. We either say it's really real or it's not. Paul even talked about it in his letters in 1 Peter 3, that the resurrection gives baptism power. In the first century and even today, the declaration that Jesus is alive and He is the resurrection brings profound comfort to those who follow Jesus. As we face our own death, and as we watch friends and loved ones face theirs, the fact that Jesus rose from the dead gives us comfort. Even as we struggle with the death of dreams and relationships and with the grief that we feel, we are comforted to know that one day Jesus will return and make all things new. Why? Because He is alive and the only reason He hasn't come back now is because He's so patient in waiting for the church to move, so that all people will know that Jesus is exactly who He says He is.

 

On the other hand, the message that Jesus is the resurrection and the life also brings mockery and even disdain to some. In Acts 4,  it was specifically the message that Jesus rose from the dead that disturbed the priests and the Sadducees. Christians and believers are being looked down on and marked as silly. We're being questioned about Christ's resurrection and its proof. We're even told not to share it. We are told not to mention Jesus as part of our faith in our schools.  And we shouldn't be surprised! Because the truth works this way. The truth is always met with discomfort and disdain.

 

Sharing the Reality of Jesus’ Resurrection

Yet in all these, we have been given the same message that Peter was given. Jesus lives and He is the resurrection and the life.  This message itself is the power of God to transform a human soul and it also is the power to strengthen us in our own weakness. It is the power source for our mission to love the world.  

 

And what is our mission? To connect people to a life in Jesus. To love. To serve. To teach. To listen. To confirm. To boldly declare. To creatively share the reality of Jesus to our world, and we start right in our own homes. From there, we emanate to our neighborhoods, to our communities, to the country, and to the world. 

 

The truth of Jesus’ resurrection is undeniable. And sharing that Jesus is the resurrection and life is our great privilege. Jesus is real. There is no obstacle that can defeat us from proclaiming this truth. Jesus already defeated death, the final hurdle that can get in the way of our mission. The teaching about the resurrection power of Christ is a core teaching of our faith. Jesus did not just die on the cross and disappear. He didn't just rise from the dead and disappear. He's actually alive today and He's sitting on the throne at the Father's right hand. He is involved, moving in our communities and among His people.

 

He is very much alive and we need to keep sharing this truth to the world. Keep sharing Jesus.