Pilate asked Jesus, “What is truth?” But he didn’t give him a chance to answer. Too often we do that too. There can be various reasons that we don’t want to hear truth.
- we are afraid of the truth
- we don’t think truth exists
- we have heard so many people claim to know what truth is that we are all mixed up inside
- we just don’t want to think about it, or
- we don’t think it matters.
I think truth does matter. So, let’s deﬁne it a little.
Truth is reality, not hypothetical. When something is always the same, we call it a fact. If it is an unchallengeable fact, we call it a law. The law of gravity would be an illustration of this. The opposite of truth in this sense is a theory; something that might be true but which we can’t prove. Often people mistake theories for truth, but there is a distinct diﬀerence between the two. For instance, during the nineteenth century scientists thought that the universe was ﬁlled with a gas they called ether. Most academics accepted that theory, even though no one ever proved it. Today we know that this theory was never true, no matter how many highly educated people believed it.
Truth is an absolute. It doesn’t change. What is truth for Amos is truth for Shirley, and for Charles. What was truth in 1465 is still truth in 2017. It was truth in 782, and will still be truth in 2045. Many people do not like absolutes. They prefer to be able to bend the “truth”. But if you can bend it, it is not truth. The opposite of this sense of truth would be situational ethics, where an action is considered right or wrong because of a given situation, rather than because of truth.
Truth has the power to set us free. (John 8:32) Ignorance of truth often results in superstition. Superstition is also an opposite of truth, and it binds us with chains of fear. We could list many superstitions, some of which are still widely believed the world over. But knowledge of the truth sets people free from superstition. You do not need to fear a black cat crossing your path. The truth is that a black cat has no power to harm you or to predict the future. Knowing this truth can set you free from the fear of black cats.
But truth can set you free from a lot more than just superstition. If you come to Jesus and accept him as the embodiment of truth, his teachings will set you free from spiritual fear and doubt and failure.
The Source of Truth
So where does truth come from? And how do we ﬁnd it? Jesus listed three sources of truth, all recorded in the Gospel of John.
First, Jesus is the truth. (John 14:6). Jesus became a man so that He could tell us the truth, and show it to us. Then He died for us so that we could follow the truth He taught us. The Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John are important sources of Jesus’ truth.
Second, The Holy Spirit is truth. (John 16:13) Jesus promised His disciples that He would send the Spirit of truth to guide them into all the truth. The Holy Spirit is a channel of communication between God and mankind. The Spirit can bring us truth in many ways, such as:
- Helping us to understand the Bible
- Speaking through our conscience
- Giving us premonitions
- Using other people to give us guidance
It is important that we pay close attention when the Spirit speaks to us. However, this is also the easiest way to misunderstand truth, because sometimes our desires and fears get in the way. So it is wise to double check with other people, and the Bible when we feel that the Spirit is telling us truth.
Third, God’s word is truth. (John 17:17) In this passage, Jesus named God’s message as truth. God used the Holy Spirit to enable the apostles to remember the truth He had taught them so that they could write it down. This truth became our New Testament. The New Testament is the foundation for all spiritual truth and should be our ﬁnal court of appeal when we are trying to ﬁnd truth.
The Proof of Truth
You may wonder how we can know that what Jesus said was truth. Anyone can make big claims. The Pharisees felt that way about it. They came to Jesus one day and asked Him for a sign (see Matthew 12:38 – 42). Jesus had already given them many signs. He had healed the sick, he had cleansed lepers, and He had raised the dead, but they still didn’t believe. So He told them that He would give them one more sign—He would die and be buried, but after three days He would rise again. This was a very bold claim, but it happened. (He made the same prediction in Mark 9:31 and Mark 10:32 – 34.)
The apostle Paul also wrote about this (see 1 Cor 15:3-7). He stated that ﬁve hundred people had seen Jesus at one time, after His resurrection. Most of these people were still alive at that point and could easily have refuted Paul.
Jack loved ideas. That got him in trouble sometimes, because most of his friends liked things like money, pretty girls and nice cars, and having fun. They didn’t want to think about life, they just wanted to enjoy life.
Jack was different. If he could find someone else who enjoyed discussing ideas, he was in his glory. But one day while he was walking in the park, he met Abe, an old friend he hadn’t seen for several years. They chatted for a few minutes, and Abe challenged Jack with a question he had never considered before.
“What is truth?” Abe looked at Jack expectantly. Jack was a little taken aback.
“Truth?” Jack looked puzzled. “The opposite of a lie, I guess. What are you getting at?”
“Well, I think that to be Truth a concept needs to be an absolute,” Abe replied. “Sort of like gravity. So, Truth—at least when you spell it with a capital T—is a set of ideas and principles that are always right and never change.”
Abe really had Jack’s attention now. “I’ve never thought of that,” he said. “It would take a pretty smart person to come up with a complete set of ideas like that and not miss any. We should try to put together a list like that, just for fun.”
“Suits me,” said Abe. “But we’d better define a bit better what we are talking about, first, so that we don’t get sidetracked. So, what does truth mean, in general terms?”
Jack pulled out his smartphone and did a Google search for the word truth. “According to this, truth is something that is true. I guess that’s pretty obvious.” He chuckled. “But it does give two other definitions. First, ‘that which is in accordance with fact or reality.’ That makes sense.” Abe nodded his agreement. “So, something like gravity is a truth, because it is reality.”
Jack grinned. “It sure seemed like it when I fell out of bed the other night!” He rubbed his head ruefully at the memory. “I hit my head a good one against my night stand.”
Abe laughed before asking “Are there any other definitions?”
“Yes, there’s another one,” said Jack. “It’s a bit tougher. It says that ‘truth is a fact or belief that is accepted as true’.”
He pondered that one a little. “So, is something a truth as long as I believe it?” He scratched his head dubiously before continuing. “My father knows this person who really believes that it is wrong for the government to make him pay income taxes. He’s quite vocal about it. He won’t pay his income taxes and they are taking him to court because of it. So, is that truth?”
Abe sat down on a park bench close by before answering, rather dryly, “Somehow, I doubt it. I think that definition is talking about facts or beliefs that are generally accepted as true. Not paying taxes doesn’t really strike me as fitting that definition.”
Jack sat beside him on the bench, as Abe continued, “I think that definition is okay, but it doesn’t go far enough. There was a time that many people believed that black people weren’t human. You wouldn’t consider that to be truth, would you?”
Jack shook his head vigorously. “For sure not. They’re just as human as you and I are!”
Abe nodded his head in agreement. “I think that for something to be Truth, it has to agree with a general principle of truth put together by an authority who understands it.”
Jack looked puzzled. “That makes sense, I suppose. But who would be able to put together a statement like that? Aristotle? Plato? Buddha?”
Abe reached into his pocket and pulled out a little red book. “You missed one person,” he said, with a smile. “When I think of truth, I usually think of the Bible,” he said, handing it to Jack.
“Only God has the authority to make a decision on anything as important as truth. And the Bible tells us about it.”
The discussion was beginning to intrigue Jack, now. “I don’t know that much about the Bible,” he said, opening it curiously. “Or God, for that matter. Does the Bible talk about truth?”
Jack read the verse, then reread it. “Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life.’” He looked up, puzzled. “How can that be true? Jesus was a man, wasn’t he? How could he be the truth?” He paused to gather his thoughts, while Abe waited for him to continue. “I mean, how could he prove a statement like that? That’s a real mouthful.”
Abe nodded. “It sure is. But he said more than that. He told the Jews that he would give them a sign that he was who he said he was. He said that he was going to be killed and that he would be dead for three days and then he would come back to life.” (See Matthew 12:38-42, and Mark 10:32-34)
Jack looked at Abe as if he were going crazy. “That guy must have been a lunatic! What did he do? Pull a fast one on them?”
Abe shook his head. “No, he didn’t trick them. It happened just like he said it would. The Romans arrested him and crucified him. The Jews put some Roman guards at his tomb so that no one could steal his body and claim that he came back to life.”
Jack was looking at Abe as if he doubted his sanity. Abe grinned. “I know, it sounds incredible,” he said. “That’s how I reacted too, when I first heard about it. But I did a lot of research, and it’s historically sound.”
“The Bible says that he appeared to his followers several times after that. In fact, Paul wrote that he appeared to a group of five hundred people at once, and that most of them were still living at that point.” (See 1 Cor 15:3-7)
“So, it would have been easy for someone to come along and refute what he said,” Jack said thoughtfully. “Five hundred witnesses. Wow.” He repeated it quietly. “Wow.”
Abe handed him the Bible. “Why don’t you read the whole story, in the Gospels. There are four of them, written by four different men, so you can see it from different perspectives. Then maybe we can get together next week and talk some more about it.”
“I’ll do that,” Jack said. “This is going to be interesting. I’m warning you though. I’m sure I’ll have lots of questions. You’d better be ready for a long discussion.”
From TGS International
A Time of Testing
Mark had heard stories about the persecutions of the past. But all he had ever known was peace, and in his youthful innocence, he didn’t realize how quickly this could change.
In AD 284, Diocletian was crowned emperor of Rome. Almost two decades later, just as Mark was starting up his own home, Diocletian set loose the demons of hell on the Church. The persecution lasted less than a decade, but it was the worst that Christians had ever experienced. And Mark and his wife Lydia were caught right in the middle.
They had a choice. They could give up their faith and live. Maybe even prosper.
Or they could stand firm. And die…
The Century of Crisis: How did the Christian church go from being a persecuted church to being a persecuting church within a century? This is the first of four books in this series, and tells the story of Christians living under the rule of Diocletian. The second book tells the story of Christians under the rule of Constantine. The third book takes a look at Christians under Julian (the apostate), and the fourth book will look at them becoming the state church under Theodosius.
From TGS International
Understanding God when He doesn’t seem to understand you
God, I have so many questions. So many things I don’t understand.
- God, you promised me a Christian husband and family, but I’m getting too old.
- God, you gave me the desire to be an engineer but haven’t given me the money I need to go to university.
- God, why did you let my mother die after I claimed your power to heal her?
- God, I’ve prayed and prayed but you still haven’t given me the money I need to pay my gambling debts.
- God, I prayed but you didn’t answer. In fact, I’ve prayed for years, but you just ignore me.
- God, why did my innocent little girl have to die? Why did you allow someone to kidnap her and rape her?
- God, my baby is sick and needs an operation. Are you punishing him because of my sins?
The seed for this book came from questions like this written by people like you. I have struggled along with many of you, trying to answer that question: “Why Lord?” Understanding God’s answers, or lack of answers, can be hard.
In this book, I’ve tried to cast some light on this. It’s just a little bit of light because in many ways God is beyond my understanding. Yet God doesn’t want you to wallow in a slough of despair. If you are drowning in the mud of doubt and misery, I hope this book will give you a glimpse of something better. And help you to understand God better.
What do Robins have to do with the Kingdom of God?
The 2020 War of the Robins
We have an ongoing war in our backyard. Every year, our choke cherry trees become the focus of pitched battles and outright murder.
Nature operates under a fixed law known as the survival of the fittest. God had good reasons for putting this law in place. It keeps nature from degenerating and ensures that species will survive and thrive. But its not pretty. Nature isn’t the peaceful, benign, inoffensive entity we imagine it to be as we admire a sunset, or a baby fawn. In reality, nature is cruel and selfish, destroying the weaker members of its population.
That is why we have a war in our back yard. One pair of robins has claimed it as their territory and any other bird they catch eating from “their” trees is in trouble. In fact if they were the size of eagles instead of robins, I’m not sure it would be safe for us to go out there.
I was watching this process this morning and thinking about the similarities between robins and humans. Especially unregenerate humans.
The Kingdom of God in 2020
Jesus described the kind of citizens the Kingdom of God consists of in the Sermon on the Mount (see Mat 5, 6, 7). He introduced His explanation with the Beatitudes…
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for the kingdom of heaven is theirs. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the humble, for they will inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for the kingdom of heaven is theirs.
(Mat 5:3-10 CSB)
Think about robins again for a moment. These verses describe some very “unrobin-like” characteristics. If robins fit this mold, they would have died out millenniums ago. Nature would have destroyed them.
This is one argument that some Christians try to use. You can’t live by the sermon on the mount, they say. It’s impossible. So they try to push it out into some “magic” dispensation where the laws of nature apparently are suspended.
But Jesus makes several things clear in His teaching.
- The Kingdom is NOW (Mat 3:2; 4:17, 23; …)
- Everyone is invited into the Kingdom (Luke 14:16)
- Riches are a hinderance to entering the Kingdom (Luke 18:16 – 25)
- Joining the Kingdom may cost you everything you own, and everyone you love (Luke 18:29, 30)
Read the Sermon on the Mount carefully. Read the Gospels carefully. Jesus’ teachings will turn your world upside down. We don’t hear these concepts preached in our churches very often. We don’t see them in the lives of our fellow Christians.
You will not find robins in the Kingdom of God. They don’t fit. They would destroy it. But people can become citizens of the Kingdom if they are willing to put aside the things most of us think we have a right to have. Riches, fame, self-defense, selfishness, pride, arrogance, and such like need to go.
The important question is: Are you part of the Kingdom? Or are you a robin? You can’t be both.
AD 361: Sabotage
FLAVIAN NEVER FORGOT THE FIRST TIME he treated a patient totally on his own. Damian, the old army doctor who was his mentor, had gone to help with an emergency, leaving Flavian to look after any walk-in patients by himself. He was only twenty-three and had been helping Damian for a few years.
Blendina rubbed her eyes as came through the door leading to Damian’s quarters. Already in her forty’s, she had kept up with the work at the clinic so far, but a few more years would finish her. She slept in a corner of the main room behind a curtain and made breakfast and supper for Damian on top of the other work she did.
Today Flavian had arrived before Blendina finished her morning work. He looked up as she entered the room. “Damian coming in today?” he asked.
She shook her head. “Not this morning. He’s not feeling well. He might come over later if he feels better.”
Flavian frowned, and contemplated asking another question, but she shook her head and put her finger on her lips. “We’ll talk later,” she said quietly. “He didn’t have a good night and he’s finally sleeping now.”
She moved over to the instrument storage and started to pull out the tools they commonly used, arranging them carefully on a basket for sterilizing. She had started the charcoal fire under the sterilizer earlier, and the water was almost boiling. Flavian made a few extra entries in yesterday’s diary.
“We’ll need to prepare more ointment to use for burns and wounds,” he said. “I noticed yesterday that we were getting low.”
This was one reason he liked getting to the clinic early. He could relax and get ready for rush that was sure to start soon.
This morning was no exception.
“Bang, bang, bang.” He lifted his eyebrows and rolled his eyes at Blendina. “Hold on, I’m coming,” he said. “Don’t break the door down, or we’ll have to charge you extra.”
The banging stopped abruptly, and he unbarred the door and pulled it open. He recognized the patient at once. “So, what’s the problem today, Junia?”
Junia burst through the door. Damian had called her a walking tub of blubber one time, and the description was hardly an exaggeration. Her flesh bounced while she walked, and she was always sweating profusely, even today in the morning coolness.
She gasped for breath and almost stuttered. She must have run most of the way to the clinic. “I’m dying,” she said, her voice escalating up the scale in both pitch and volume. “I think my husband is trying to poison me.” She gasped again and flung her arms around Flavian. “You have to help me.”
Flavian pried himself loose and barely avoided the temptation to hold his nose. The woman smelled like a horse. No, like a pig. Or a combination. One of the negatives of being a doctor was dealing with people who seldom or never took a bath.
Blendina had joined them by now and took Junia by one arm, while Flavian took the other one. “Sit on the bench over here and tell us what’s wrong,” he said.
Junia had triple chins and no neck. To add to the effect, bristly sprouts of hair had sprung up on her chins here and there and her hair was oily and frizzled. Her robe was dirty and ill-fitting. She looked indignant, as if Flavian had already told her there was nothing wrong with her. He remembered that Damian had told her that the last time she was here. His advice had been very blunt, and Flavian really had not expected her to ever come back. He could scarcely hold back a grin at the memory.
Damian had wagged his finger under her nose and glared at her fiercely under his bushy black eyebrows. “There’s nothing wrong with you,” he said. “At least nothing that wouldn’t go away if you ate less, exercised more, and took a bath oftener than every other month. You look like a pig and smell like one too.”
The look on her face as she waddled out the door had been priceless.
But he had no time to reminisce. Junia moaned and shed alligator tears. “My belly hurts and I’ve had the runs for days. I’m sure I’ve been poisoned.”
Flavian put on his most practised look of concern. He put his hand on her forehead. “Hmm. A bit of fever,” he said. “Are you drinking lots of water?”
Junia shoved out her lower lip. “I hate water,” she said. “I never drink anything but wine if possible.”
Flavian raised his eyebrows and made a meaningless notation in the scroll on his desk. “Any vomiting?” he asked. “Any bleeding from your bowels?”
Her mouth dropped open. “Vomiting? Bleeding?” her voice sounded weak.
Flavian nodded seriously. “If you were poisoned, those would be amongst the earlier symptoms,” he said. “Along with weakness, and not being able to sleep. And a fever and sweating.”
He already knew what her symptoms would be the next time she came. He needed to do something drastic. Something memorable. Something…
Then he knew. “Blendina, bring me a bucket,” he said. “And some feathers from the medicine storage.”
He turned back to Junia. “Did you have a big breakfast this morning?”
She blinked. “I suppose some people would call it big,” she muttered. “I’d starve on what some people think I should eat.”
Flavian shook his head solemnly. “Feeling hungry all the time is a sure sign worms,” he said. “I’m going to purge you and see if that helps.”
He washed his hands vigorously in a bowl of water Blendina had prepared earlier. He picked up the feathers and soaked them in olive oil, then turned back to Junia. “This calls for drastic action,” he said. “Open your mouth wide.”
Junia looked a little non-plussed but complied. Flavian sniffed at her breath and shook his head again. “Bad breath,” he said. “A sure sign.”
He picked up a clump of feathers, dripping oil, and pushed then into her mouth and as far down her throat as he could. “Swallow!” His voice was sharp, and he jumped back as she gagged, spewing up her entire breakfast and what was left of her supper and probably a midnight snack or two. Most of the mess, though not all, landed in the bucket.
Slimy and half-digested food coated Blendina’s hands and wrists and she gagged at the smell. Unlike Flavian, she was holding the bucket and had not been able to move back out of danger.
“Good, good,” Flavian said. “That should help a lot. I think we got all of that poison out before it could do much damage.” He looked around and noticed Damian in the doorway, grinning.
“Dump the bucket on the garbage heap out the back door. Then clean her up, and wash your hands and arms,” he told Blendina cheerfully. “I’ll get some worm medicine from the back room while you do that.”
Blendina glared at him but did as he told her.
Junia seemed to have swallowed her tongue. When Belinda had finished cleaning her up, she rose to her feet slowly.
“Now listen carefully,” Flavian told her. “If you don’t want to die of your ailment, you must eat only a small portion of food three times a day. You must drink a lot of clean water and not drink any wine. You must walk briskly for an hour every morning and evening. And you must take a twenty-minute bath in cold water every morning, and in hot water every evening. If you do this for a year, I think you will be surprised at how much better you’ll feel.”
And you’ll smell better too, he thought. He watched her leave, then turned to look at Damian.
Damian snorted. “Well, I see there is some hope that you will make a good doctor,” he said. “I wouldn’t have missed that scene for a week’s wages.”
Flavian glanced at Blendina. “Not sure if Blendina feels that way about it,” he said. “I’m afraid I owe her some big favors for this.”
He would have said more, but a mother with a sick baby came through the door at that moment.
In the eyes of the beholder
For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: (Ecc 3:1)
. . . and right now is the best time of the season to enjoy my wife’s Mock Orange bush. My mother always had one of these when I was a boy.
Writing on Stone Provincial Park
Milk River, AB
The twenty-eight chapters in this book each include a chapter from the Gospel of Matthew in the World English Bible. The commentary and questions guide the reader to understand who Jesus really is. An excellent ministry resource for mass distribution or to give to your neighbors.
Life isn’t meant to be hopeless or meaningless. God has answers. Solomon had every material thing he could wish for, yet he lacked one thing: meaning in life. To find it, he went on a quest. This book is a study of Ecclesiastes and was previously published under the title Where Is God When Life Doesn’t Make Sense?