Monday, December 26, 2016

Authors Who Have Influenced Me - A Reprise

The essay below is a re-posting of one I first posted back in the dark ages of this blog, actually in the second month of its existence – March 2011. It is always tempting to change something written that long ago but I will resist that urge and leave it exactly as it was then. My guess is that many will not have read it before and that most who did read it have long since forgotten most of what it said. Enjoy!

______________________

It has become common to have a collage of photos playing at a visitation or funeral. I’ve often thought I’d like to assemble such a collage to be used at whatever event is held when I die. (I personally prefer a banquet, though it will be painful not to be able to enjoy it with the other revelers.) But instead of pictures portraying my life’s passages I’d like to display a picture of every person who had a positive influence on my life. It would keep the audience there far too long and the pictures would be mostly meaningless to them. But it would illustrate, better than anything else could, how many persons have contributed to my life and why I became the person I did.

To the right of this blog posting is a list of authors who have influenced me. It is by no means the complete list but those listed have made a significant and lasting impression upon my faith, my conduct, and my creative efforts. The influences exerted are not equal nor do they all work in the same direction. But each was important.

The Apostle Paul and the “Unknown” Author of Genesis are not the only Biblical writers I turn to but they serve, respectively, to reveal ethical and practical understandings of the issues related to daily Christian living, and portray the grand themes of creation, sin, and redemption. Interestingly, in both we see wart-infested humans being patiently tutored by a loving God who plans, against all odds, to bring them to perfection.

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn inspires me with the courage he displayed through years of deprivation in the Soviet Gulag, and the massive mental feat he performed in preserving the memory of so many others who suffered with him there. Coming to faith in the midst of his ordeal, he became a prophetic voice that still speaks long after the Gulag has disappeared.

Madeline L’Engle and Dorothy Sayers provide examples of the creative Christian mind in action, describing and displaying the processes and sources from which their work derived. I often feel as though my mind and hand are assisted by these women and others who have inspired me to believe I could profitably put my thoughts in writing.

Mark Noll and Robert Alter give us examples of meticulous craftsmanship. Noll, an Evangelical Christian Historian creates works that are respected by his secular and religious colleagues alike.  Alter, a Jewish Professor of Hebrew and Comparative Literature, has given us several model translations – with commentary – of Old Testament writings. His provocative guidance on the reading and interpretation of ancient Biblical literatures has opened up vistas I had never imagined were there.

Philip Yancey and Simone Weil, very different persons from vastly different backgrounds, nonetheless come together in their understanding of, and empathy for the afflicted in our world. Their writings make me grateful for the grace that has been bestowed upon my life and indignant at the stinginess our rich culture exhibits toward the afflicted in our midst.

Both C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien have been instrumental in opening my mind to the power of myth, helping me to see that the best that man can hope to do is produce “myth” which dimly conveys truths too large to be contained in human vessels, too profound to be expressed with human tongues. But they also make clear that through those “myths” God conveys His message of redemption to fallen man.

I share with millions of other Christians a gratitude to Lewis for the marvelous way in which he made sense of difficult and/or disputed Christian doctrines. He, more than any other modern man, has been used by God to convert skeptics, establish doubters, and equip workers to perpetuate the faith.

Come to my final banquet. Enjoy the food and count the photos. Who knows, my kids may be giving away old copies of my favorite authors’ books.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

The Hope of Christmas - 2016

by Jim Rapp

God loved the cosmos such
that he sent his Son into it,
not to condemn it as much
as to save it, bit by bit.*

Unto you a Savior is born,
a cosmos healer sent,
to bind up what is torn,
to straighten what is bent.

In a tyrant-infested world
the infant took his place,
omnipotence, in weakness furled,
concealed a ruler's mace.

The undiscerning cosmos
trembled only slightly at his coming.
Herod doubting his machismos
aided wise men in their roaming.

Shepherds left their sheep pen,
Simeon's heart was set to racing,
Anna shared her joy with weeping.
Mary? Mary's heart was bracing.

How many millennia will pass;
how long must creation endure –
broken, waiting, groaning 'til at last
a King of Kings appears

to claim his rightful throne?
Omnipotence at last unfurled,
His mace – and His alone –
to rule God's "so loved" world?
_________________
* This is how much God loved the world:
He gave his Son, his one and only Son.

And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed;
by believing in him, anyone can have a whole
and lasting life.

God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending his Son
merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world
how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again.

(John 3:16, 17 –  The Message)



Thursday, December 22, 2016

A Pence-worth of Advice

(Beware of mirthless demagogues)
by Jim Rapp

Mind, mind the joyless
who, when they are laughing, sting –
humor without joy.

Hear, hear the harshness
of joy-benighted ringing –
clanks on mean alloy.

Fear, fear the coldness
that a pasted smile brings –
no tincture of joy.

Turn, run; the ruthless
serpent's gaze will do you in –
'guiling eyes its ploy.



Wednesday, December 14, 2016

If It Were Not True I Would Have Told You

Messiahs promised successful revolution;
making Israel great again; only they could do it.
Such a Messiah would force a solution
to centuries of humiliation and make it fit.

Israel had been losing, and now it would win.
Israel needed only the strong and steady hand
of a wild-eyed Messiah and it would once again
claim the promises, ancient promises, of the land.

Messiah after Messiah said he'd break the yoke of Rome,
reclaim Israel's independence and political power,
establish a long-lost, longed for Jewish home,
a place of peace o're-eaved  by Jacob's bower.

But this new Messiah – this Jesus – had a different plan:
not, I will make this willful people great again,
but, I go to prepare a place, a better place than
you've imagined, a place not marred by sinful hands.

You believe in God, he said, then believe also in me.
I wouldn't tell you this if it weren't true, listen it's all true.
And when I've gone and prepared that place you'll see
me come again; one world destroyed, another made anew.

And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.

And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God.

And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.

And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful.

And he said unto me, It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely.

He that overcomes shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son.

Blessed are the meek:
            for they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are the poor in spirit:
            for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst
            after righteousness: for they shall be filled.
Blessed are the pure in heart: 
           for they shall see God.


Tuesday, December 13, 2016

What is Truth? – Part III

The hardest thing a Christian can do (the most gut-wrenching) is to speak out against a position other Christians are advocating in the name truth. Try as one might to be fair with one's Christian brothers or sisters, just raising the possibility that they might be wrong seems to imply that they are flawed in some fundamental way; that they are less "Christian" as a result of the ideas they hold, perhaps even that they are evil.

This dilemma presents a person wanting to uphold truth and oppose false ideas with at least two possible hazards: 1) to choose to do nothing out of deference to the other's professed faith in Christ, thus allowing their false ideas to go unchallenged or 2) to attack the false ideas being presented and risk being seen as a troublemaker out to diminish the validity of the another's Christian profession.

It is not unusual for a Christian to espouse ideas, or behave in ways, that are un-Christ-like. Any honest believer in Christ will recognize that they have been guilty of such behavior on many occasions. Perhaps the most famous Biblical example of such a situation occurred when Peter, resisting Jesus' declaration that he must go to Jerusalem and be killed, took his master aside and told him he must not talk that way. Jesus famously told his loyal follower to "Get behind me, Satan." Being a true and loyal follow of Jesus does not exempt us from holding false notions of what is good and true.

It is a greater error to remain silent in the face of lies or wrong behaviors – whether by Christians or non-Christians – than to disturb the peace of a community by pointing out its errant ways. But speaking up does not come without grave risks to the "prophet" willing to sound the alarm. Sadly, in many instances friendships will be damaged or lost, associations will be terminated or, in rare circumstances the "prophet" may face physical, economic or legal consequences of their actions.

Much of the Christian community has aligned itself with the newly elected and soon to take office Trump administration. In exit polls from the recent election Evangelical believers responded, indicating that, by a four out of five margin, they voted to elect Mr. Trump as our next president. No doubt those followers of Christ who identify as Evangelical Christian supporters of Mr. Trump had a variety of reasons for supporting him. Presumably one out of five Evangelical Christians voted for Mrs. Clinton. Again, Clinton supporters had a variety of reasons for their support of her.

But Mr. Trump's campaign prevailed and that presents a challenge to all followers of Jesus, whether they voted for him or not. As followers of the One who said of Himself, "I am the way, the truth and the life," they must pledge their first loyalty to their Lord and Savior. And in the case of a believer supporting Mr. Trump that brings him or her into immediate conflict with much of what Trump stands for, to say nothing about their obligation to deplore his personal and publicly celebrated immoral lifestyle.

The Christian believer is admonished in scripture:

whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

Sadly, believers will, too often, be faced in the next four or eight years with words and behaviors that require them to confess that they are hearing and observing - in the words and actions our president – the obverse of what is true, noble, right, pure, lovely and admirable. As followers of Jesus Christ they will have an obligation to stand and speak against anti-Christian policies. They will need to stand and speak for the rights of their neighbors (Christian or non-Christian, Godly or un-Godly, moral or immoral) when their neighbors rights, property, livelihood and freedom are put in jeopardy. They will be watched by those who know they profess to be Christians; watched to see if they are willing to denounce the coarseness and lewdness that their president and those advising him flaunt in their tweets and speeches and lifestyles.

This is not to say that, had Mrs. Clinton won the White House, Christians would have had any different set of obligations. We are people of the truth and regardless of who our national leaders are we have the same obligations to the truth; the same need to fight the lie in whatever form and under whatever name we encounter it. Many who opposed Mrs. Clinton strongly believed that they were saving the nation from a person with a secret and devious agenda to destroy our Christian heritage. If they are right in that assessment (which I do not share) they did what their Christian obligation demanded of them.

But now, we are faced with an incoming administration that may well have just as sinister a secret agenda that must be opposed. But more likely we know already the character and the aims of this president, his family, and those he is drawing around him.

He sins proudly and openly and boastfully. So much so that already the media has become numbed. It has ceased to highlight those aspects of Mr. Trump's character that should most disgust Evangelical believers.

But there are deeper problems with Mr. Trumps professed agenda. It is a narrow, divisive, exclusionary and retaliatory agenda that should alarm all who believe that God loves all peoples, loves the (whole) world so much that he gave his only son to save it. Mr. Trump's agenda promises to enrich the rich and impoverish the poor. Those who supported Mr. Trump either had not read or chose to ignore the words of Jesus' own brother. In his epistle by his own name, James admonishes the believers of his time like this:

Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in filthy old clothes also comes in. If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, “Here’s a good seat for you,” but say to the poor man, “You stand there” or “Sit on the floor by my feet,” have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?

Listen, my dear brothers and sisters: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him? But you have dishonored the poor. Is it not the rich who are exploiting you? Are they not the ones who are dragging you into court? Are they not the ones who are blaspheming the noble name of him to whom you belong?

There is no place in the Christian Gospel for discrimination against or hatred of any race or person or gender. The Gospel, Paul tells us, breaks down the barriers between Jews and Gentiles, male and female, slave and free. In other words it opposes walls and those who follow Christ must oppose them too, in whatever form they are encountered.

So how do Christians navigate so treacherous a terrain as this without injuring their relationships with each other or with their Lord? Of course love is the answer. Jesus, in implying that Peter was a spokesman for Satan, did not reject Peter. He remained one of the three most trusted of Jesus' disciples along with the two "Sons of Thunder", James and John. But neither did he go easy on the lie that Peter was endorsing – the lie that Jesus should not have to go to Jerusalem and die.

So my appeal to Christians is, first be true to the Spirit of Christ which is, above all, the Spirit of Truth. Then be true to the Body of Christ which consists of all those who have truly put their trust in Jesus as the Savior of all mankind. But finally, never allow your love for a fellow member of the Body of Christ to keep you from exposing the lie regardless of who is speaking it or acting it out.

Christians must be the prophetic voices of our culture, voices in the wilderness crying out, "Make a straight path (a true path) for your God." It doesn't require one to stand on a street corner waving a Bible. It only calls for us to speak and act against the lie.


The lie is the only anti-Christ that most of us will ever encounter. The truth defeats the lie but only if it is spoken.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Six People Think I'm Crazy

by Jim Rapp

The problem with writing a blog,
it puts your ignorance on show,
any mental slip is prologue
to dementia, moving slow.

By the time I find my error
it has long ago left my bow,
the blog writer's most feared terror,
an arrow with nowhere to go.

I scramble to make fair amends
but already six sets of eyes
have noted my mental dead ends
and bid my blog eternal goodbye.


Thursday, December 8, 2016

What Is Truth – Part II

Okay, so I got carried away in my previous blog piece. I focused almost exclusively on the spiritual side of the battle for truth. In my opinion the battle for truth is first and foremost a spiritual battle but I know stating it in those terms is off-putting to those who believe they live in a materialistic world in which all things can be certified by the scientific method using the five human senses aided by a competent brain. I am not anti-science nor do I believe we can ignore the signals arriving through our senses. I admit that all of us have to live in a sensual "real world." So how does one distinguish truth from lies while living in such a world?

I should first explain why I put "real world" in quotations. Discovering reality in our world is not a simple case of believing what you see, accepting what you hear, knowing what you've learned. All of our sensory information is subject to disputation by another human being who brings a different perspective to the same set of information. Which of us is right? If 51 percent believe a certain way does that negate the experience and opinion of the remaining 49 percent? What if, next year, the 49 percent convince two of the 51 percent crowd to accept their understanding? Has truth changed?

Well, that depends on how one defines truth. And that gets to the crux of the problem we face as a society right now; is there such a thing as truth, is it the same truth for everyone and if so how do we determine what it is?

Fortunately our world is so constructed that its inhabitants can be wrong much of the time and still achieve the majority of what they set out to accomplish. I say that is fortunate because we so often are operating on false premises or on premises only dimly understood. Sailors setting out for a particular destination believing the earth to be flat arrive at their intended destination to find other sailors who successfully made the same journey under the impression that the earth was a globe. Our physician may cure our cancer by surgery even though radiation or chemotherapy would have done so without carving away part of our body. Our auto mechanic may appear to have gotten our car running by replacing perfectly good fuel injectors when in fact the problem was caused by a malfunctioning fuel pump that, unbeknown to the mechanic, suddenly began to work again just at the time the injectors were replaced.

In each of the instances cited above objective truth played little or no part in accomplishing the desired end. So is truth even necessary? Can't we all just get along believing what we choose to believe, doing what works for us? Many purveyors of information today believe we can and should. They feel no qualms or discomfort in dispensing blatantly untruthful information, even inventing it for distribution. Our entire marketing system (licit and illicit) is predicated on deception to lesser or greater degrees. (Does photo shopping a model's face to remove a blemish count as deception?) And a large part of our society is complicit in proliferating lies. Without even a thought of attempting verification, by routinely using the Forward button on their computer, they mindlessly send error forth on its destructive way every time a captivating story lands in their In Box.

So, what difference does it make anyway? Have we now moved into a post-truth era from which we may never escape? If so – and I fear it may be so – we have returned to the jungle and it is every person for himself. If so it is incumbent upon every individual to become their own fact-checker or suffer the consequences of being duped time and again.

I still believe in TRUTH! When confronted with opposing descriptions of reality I believe one has to be true and the other false. Unless, of course they are both false. They cannot both be true. And to say they are both false implies that there is truth to be known. If truth is not a valid descriptor, neither is false.

That is not to say that, given a different set of circumstances the two claims could not be reversed, the one standing as true in one situation may be false in another. But given the circumstances under which particular truth claims are being considered, one is true, the other is not, or they are both false, leaving us to continue our search for the true. And reasonably intelligent, reasonable people should be able to arrive at a reasoned statement of truth for that time and place. But it takes effort to accomplish that agreement. And the disputants must want to know the truth. It must be more important to them than any personal gain they might achieve by endorsing the lie, more important than their ego, more important, at times, than life itself.

If a person loves truth there are tools available to assist in determining truth in most of life's situations. Here is a sample of truth-determining-techniques I regularly employ. I submit them to you, a truth lover, for your consideration:

·         Life's experiences should have taught us to believe certain things and distrust others. Don't throw away your years of experience because some slick photo shopped picture lures you to a lying website. If you have kept your eyes open while walking through this world you already have an arsenal of defensive weapons with which to ward off a lie.

·         If the thing being claimed isn't consistent with what is normally observable in our world it should be taken with a huge grain of salt. (If your brother who is a public school teacher is not a pedophile and no teacher you personally know is a pedophile why should you be so easily convinced that the public schools are full of pedophiles? If the Congressman who serves your district, and for whom you regularly vote, is not a crook, why assume that the other 434 are crooks?)

·         If other people you know and trust are not buying into the truth being offered, talk to them and discover their reasons for skepticism. Ask them to lead you through the thought process they use in coming to their conclusion. It could be a model you could use in future situations.

·         Demand verifiable specificity. ("Somebody told me," isn't good enough. Anonymous sources and unnamed locations are a tip-off that you are being fed a line. When you read, "An anonymous source close to the situation, speaking off the record because he is not permitted to discuss the situation . . ." a huge siren should sound in your brain follow by a voice that says, "Proceed with great caution and skepticism.)

·         Check the accuracy of the claims. (If  "well known" Doctors, professors, politicians, economist or Institutions are cited or quoted, first verify, using Google or other sources, that they are legitimate persons or entities and then contact them asking if they are being accurately quoted. I've written to scores of "well known" persons over the years and found that most of them will respond, especially to a brief, specific e-mail inquiry, and MOST OF THE TIME they are incensed that their name is being used to dupe others.)

·         Use the legitimate fact checking sources available to us today. Two of the best are the award winning Factcheck.org and Politifact.com. Another, Snopes.com, seeks to verify a broader scope of claims than the former two. All three do a thorough job of presenting the research behind their conclusions. Be prepared to read a bunch. And be prepared to see some of your favorite people with their pants on fire or wearing a long Pinocchio nose.

·         Determine the philosophical, religious or political leanings of the source of a claim. Wikipedia can usually give you a quick understanding of the person's or the organization's point of view. All purveyors of information have a bias and you need to know what their bias is, how strongly it affects their conclusions and how willing they are to bend the truth to support it. Have they been caught with their pants on fire? Do they make an effort to correct errors?

That is only a short list of things one can do to avoid being duped. Whole books have been written on the subject. Check them out at your bookstore or online at Barnes and Noble or Amazon.com.

I would offer one additional suggestion and then follow that with an urgent plea:

·         If you are a lover of truth determine that you will invest whatever is needed to ascertain and sustain it. In Biblical terms that amounts to "selling all you have" to amass the resources needed to obtain the truth. In practical terms it means taking the time to read and research before deciding those truth claims about which you are doubtful. Such research will give you information with which to defend your position when you have aligned yourself for or against a particular truth claim.

·         Finally, and this is the most important thing I have to say: If you are unwilling to do the work to ascertain the veracity of a truth claim, or the reliability of a source, DO NOT propagate the claim. To do so makes you a servant of the lie whether you feel like a liar or not. The blood of those bloodied by the lie will be just as much on your hands as on the hands of the lie's originator.

My previous blog on What Is Truth suggested that there are spiritual resources available to those who will avail themselves of them. I do not want to suggest that those spiritual sources alone relieves any truth seeker from the responsibility to use all of the other resources available to them nor that those who do not avail themselves of them are incapable of discerning error or fighting to preserve truth. The tools enumerated above – and many more – are readily available to all of us.

All of us, Christian believers, people of other faiths, and people who claim no faith have a vested interest in creating a world in which truth is honored and insisted upon. It is too horrible to contemplate living where truth is no longer valued. That sounds like Hell to me.


We may have passed a divide beyond which humanity cannot turn back, but as long as some of us care about truth we are obligated to fight on truth's behalf until we no longer have strength and breath to do so.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

What Is Truth?

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. (John 18:37)

When one reads the story of Jesus' encounter with Pilate in the Gospel of John it sounds like Pilate gets the last word. In fact he does literally speak the last words of their encounter. And, for the last two thousand years, philosophers and even many theologians have concluded that Pilate's cynical remark left Jesus with no response. Truth, it turns out, is almost impossible to define.

So what is this "truth" that Jesus said he came to bear witness to? Is it a propositional argument that defies anyone to disprove it? It is an observable event or object that all are compelled to agree upon? Pilate, who had built a career demolishing the "truths" with which his opponents sought to overpower him, had a right to be skeptical of all claims to know the truth. Just as history is written by the victors so truth is defined by those in charge, those in control of our minds in any given era of human existence.

The truth that Jesus came to bear witness to cannot be proven or falsified by the rules of evidence employed in this truth-less world we live in. Sin has distorted everything in this world making it impossible to definitively know what is true and what is not. The shadows trick our eyes, the multitude of opinions confuse our ears, the saccharin sweetness of experiences fools our tongues and conflicting opinions leave us groping in intellectual darkness. What is truth? Will we ever know?

The history of humanity is the account of adam limping along, building his world – his cosmos – piecing together observations that seem to him to be true, that seem to bear some fruit but in the end must be discarded when competing truth presents itself. So our race has "progressed" from what we call superstitions to what we call modern science by an uneven path that has never been without its detractors urging us to go another way. What is the true way? What is truth? Can the knowledge and wisdom of the past no longer be trusted? Can we expect the expertise of our time to be valid next month, next year or in the centuries to come? Will we ever know?

If I am not mistaken Jesus only ever asked us to believe one thing – to believe in him. (Not in any scientific or pseudo-scientific theory, not in any particular theology, not in any political ideology, not even in the Bible.) He once said to his Jewish audience – famous for its loyalty to Yahweh – "You believe in God, believe also in me." We have to assume that Jesus would not ask us to believe in anything less than truth. And so the truth that Jesus came to bear witness to was the truth of his father Yahweh's suzerainty over all of his creation and that Jesus Christ, Yahweh's son, came to our earth to supplant the error with which Satan has successfully darkened our minds, replacing it with the truth of God. This he accomplished by his victory over the ultimate lie, death. "Whoever believes in me will not die but have everlasting life." And again, "You will know the truth and the truth will set you free."

Our society is greatly disturbed that various individuals, political organizations, Internet media organizations, "legitimate news outlets", and sadly even religious leaders have lost all respect for truthful expression, in some cases even glorying in the proliferation of easily identified lies.

I am greatly disturbed by this. But recalling Pilate's words to Jesus has reminded me that the world has never been, since Eden, a place that one should take at face value.

There are, of course, those whom we trust not to purposely deceive us. Thank God there are such persons. But even they can be wrong. Even they can be duped. Even they can, for a moment, become the "voice of Satan" as Peter was, causing Jesus to rebuke him – "Get behind me Satan."

And there are some reliable rules that allow us to trust our eyes and ears, but we all have been fooled by them enough to know that caution is called for even in the most reliable of situations.

Our brains still have the ability to assemble the information given to us and judge it trustworthy or not, but we have to confess that our "brains" are themselves the product of many inputs, some credible and others less so. We are creatures easily fooled, and not the least often fooled by our own poor judgment.

So what is truth? Can we ever know it? Who can we believe? How can we verify that which comes to us in the guise of truth? These are very challenging questions.

The first two questions are easily answered but less easily realized in our own experience. Jesus is the truth. He said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life." He promised that the Holy Spirit would indwell the believer and lead him or her into all truth.

But we live in a sensory world and must judge every purported truth by the five senses God has given us. Or not. He has, after all, offered us a sixth sense, the presence of the Holy Spirit, who can search our hearts, the apostle Paul tells us, then search the mind of God and then guide us in prayers that exceed our normal understanding. Presumably that same process assists us in discerning the truth claims we encounter in this fallen world.

We may never unerringly and invariably discern error? But we can commit ourselves to Jesus, who is the truth. And to the extent that we submit ourselves to his Spirit, we can be led into truth. Ultimately only eternity will reveal how successfully we have attuned our hearts to the Spirit's voice.

But the urgent question for Christians living in a free society, asked to select leaders and policies based on truth claims is, who can we believe on this earth? How can we verify that which comes to us in the guise of truth?

We certainly need to be prepared to admit, too often, that we've been fooled again. The lie came packaged so cleverly. It was delivered by one we trusted explicitly. It came in the guise of a "word from the Lord". It fit so beautifully with our own preconceptions and preferences. And we fell for it. It will happen far too often. But just as we can know the ultimate truth – about Yahweh and his Son, Jesus Christ – we can, by establishing a faith-based relationship with God through Jesus and the Holy Spirit, sort out the lies of this world.

One of gifts of the Holy Spirit, mentioned by the Apostle Paul in I Corinthians 12, is the "discernment of spirits." It may be the least utilized spiritual gift that God has given to his people. But the Holy Spirit wants a relationship with Jesus' disciples so close and intimate that even the slightest variation from the truth triggers a nudge or a voice that says to their spirit, "That's not true, that is anti-Christ! Get behind me Satan."

I am sorry to say that I despair of finding truth reliably spoken in this world, even in the church that calls itself Christian. Not everything presented to us is a bald-faced lie. But our society has so given itself over to slander, gossip and faux news; has so sharpened its skills at "spinning" a story, photo-shopping an image, inventing "truth", elaborating both truth and error and concocting advantageous myths that I am afraid it can never turn back. The LIE will only grow larger. We are observing that even now in our society.

So what is the conclusion of this matter? Believers, believe little that you hear or read these days. "Do not [automatically] despise prophecies but test everything; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil." (I Thessalonians 5:21)

Draw as near to Christ, by the power of the Holy Spirit as you can, and listen. Remember Jesus' final words to Pilate, "Everyone on the side of truth listens to me." 

Let him who has ears to hear . . . listen.