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Posts Tagged ‘Truth’

Time to graduate some students. It is a time for smiles and celebration and happy tears. The education we give our young is too focussed on knowledge and understanding devoid of moral evaluation, too lacking in wisdom for living and discernment for awareness of various dangers. I hope that I may be a mentor in thoughtful and careful living.

Knowledge leads to understanding
This path will serve you very well
To your mind and heart rewarding
In interactions it will tell

Acquire wisdom in your youth
Always prudent to do what’s right
Acting kindly along with truth
With wisdom overcoming might

Many deceived by false knowledge
Seek that you may discernment find
That at home or work or college
By truth delivered, sharp of mind

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A few months ago I heard about a student at my school who will be speaking at the 75th anniversary remembrance of D-Day in Normandy, France. I began to wander, what level of perspective he could possibly have on the subject? He doesn’t even remember 9/11, let alone D-Day. But how silly of me to think that, since I don’t have a contemporary or first hand knowledge of the event either. Instead, I think that the young man and I may add two generations of perspective to what we may learn from and remember about the events on the those beaches. In some ways I have already (see “Memory Lapse” and “Allegiance” and “Has the World Really Changed?”) So, I consider, given the opportunity, what would I say on such an occasion?

I think that the wider issue concerning such a remembrance runs deeper than the extent of sacrifices made on that day, significant though they be. Such events, with their terrible tragedy and selfless sacrifice point to the reason such events have happened and must continue to happen. Freedom has always and must always be fought for.

Perhaps the nature of war has changed in 75 years and such all out attacks may not need to occur again, but there do continue to be individuals, groups, and nations that want to destroy freedom and those who have it and love it. Why is this so? All honest people must admit that the vices of hatred, envy, and murder reside in the heart of us all and we are all capable of evil acts given the opportunity and circumstances. Apart from God’s grace I am capable of heinous sins and persistent failings. But in reality, many people refuse to admit to total depravity, an internal sin nature inherited from our father, Adam. But it exists and thrives, nonetheless, being clearly taught in Scripture (Romans 5:12-14, I Corinthians 15:21-22, Romans 3:23, Romans 7:14-25, Ephesians 3:5-9).

And so, were I to give a speech on that occasion, I believe I would speak in some part similar to the following:

On this occasion of the 75th anniversary of the combat operation called D-Day, we come to remember the bravery and sacrifice of men who fought for the freedom of others and for the grand concept of Freedom. The depth of depravity lodged against the French people and the world at that time demanded an all out battle to preserve our freedoms. The soldiers who labored here helped to secure those freedoms in their generation.

It is not as though this battle was the only time our nations have fought together for freedom. The French formed a decisive shield for the fledgling nation of the United States at Yorktown. We are grateful.

But I think that it is reasonable to ask, why do we value Freedom so much? Afterall, men do not run into a rain of bullets to preserve their own freedom. They fulfill their duty for the sake of the freedom of others and for freedom in the world. Those others for whom they purchase freedom include people for whom they care: family, friends, comrades, community, and freedom-loving people of all nations. Freedom in the world is a concept, an ideal, as well as a way of living. What motivates an individual to die for a concept?

I believe this motivation is lodged in what it means to be a person. Without freedom one comes to realize that he/she is less than a person. Personhood does not necessitate autonomy, but it does require some ability to act in accord with one’s own conscience. Those who love freedom preserve it with their watchfulness and sacrifice. But those who hate freedom have given it up to serve some lesser fear or pleasure.

Indeed, the sacrifices exhibited here are a testimony to the greater freedom which we are in danger of losing. As modern men and women we seek for what several writers* have called “negative freedom”, which is being free from interference or constraint. But this type of freedom is a dim shadow of the greater “positive freedom”, which is the state of reaching full potential as a person. We may reach that state in the midst of great constraint and even threat of death. Therefore, people fighting for freedom both to preserve it and to be free in the act of gaining it, are free. Their sacrifice is reasonable, purposeful, and laudable.

We stand here in appreciation of those who bought and preserved our freedom. Thankfulness must needs do more than say thanks. True thankfulness will honor the wishes of those who sacrificed here. What then would those freedom fighters want from us but to preserve and rightly utilize freedom.

In order to fulfill this duty, we need to know the source and way of freedom. The Scripture says that “every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights.” (James 1:17) Freedom is such a gift to be utilized in giving glory to the Giver and help to all within reach of us. And the deepest and truest freedom is internal. If we have peace with God, peaceful intention toward our neighbor, and peace within, we are truly free. And the source of freedom is given to those who “have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Romans 5:1) So how should we now live? “Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover up for evil” (I Peter 2:16) And “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” (Galatians 5:1)

So then, fellow freedom lovers, seek the true everlasting freedom so that you may also extend freedom to all those for whom you care and even to those enemies of freedom who do not yet know how good freedom is. Remember those who have cherished freedom more than life and sacrificed to purchase and preserve it for you. Fulfill your duty to procure and promote freedom for all who will own it, fighting against all who will try to destroy it. With the keeping of these duties those who fought here would be pleased and their sacrifices are then valued.

*https://www.productiveflourishing.com/two-concepts-of-freedom/

[Also check out the following passages: “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free…so if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:32, 36) “Through him everyone who believes is set free from every sin.” (Acts 13:39) “You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.” (Romans 6:28)]

 

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It’s Marvelous Monday! Just before I stepped back out into the refreshingly crisp and slightly breezy 32 degree morning, I spied the signed that read “…Learning Commons, Encouraging collaboration, exploration, and creation. Supporting lifelong learning since 2007.” I proceeded to my parking lot duty station to stand watch just after 7:15 AM, making my school a kinder and gentler place to be. My mind began to stir with thoughts and comments I had with a student the Friday before concerning the way we do school. As the Sun rose above the small ridge behind the school into a nearly cloudless sky and a songbird repeated his song, my thoughts came together. 

Lifelong learners
They tell us we should be
But how do you touch the heart
By compulsion and decree?

Critical thinking skills
Synthesis to high degree
But without facts in their toolbox
What hope that they will see?

College is a must
AP courses, advanced degree
But where is creativity
Without time to explore and be free?

Learning is for high pursuits
For wisdom for you and me
But when will we understand
Growth of the spirit is key?

Look the look, play the part
Be all that you can be
But have you learned of heaven
To be eternally set free?

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My pastor asked me if I would share about my writing and how it has benefited me spiritually. I have been writing for many years by many means. I have journaled with pen to paper and fingers to keyboard in order capture my thoughts. I have written newspaper articles and research papers supporting God’s view of Creation and salvation. I have written poetry and songs and short stories about struggles and joys of everyday life. I have written about family, friends, and colleagues. I have designed diagrams to explain ideas. Writing has been a long-term blessing in my life.

But why writing? Speaking to friends is easy. It’s real time, interactive, and engaging. You clarify and correct as you go. Facial expressions and voice intonations make understanding easier. Writing is harder. It has to make sense without the opportunity to correct misunderstandings. Writing speaks long after you are gone, for posterity or ridicule. Therefore, writing forces the writer to be more careful with words.

Why do I write? I write to focus, organize, and deepen my thoughts. I write in order to understand better and to make myself better understood to others. I write to hone arguments for truth and simplify complex ideas. I write to remember what I thought when God imparted understanding and wisdom to me. I write to quiet fretful, fearful, and frantic thoughts, to put my mind at rest by musing on truth. I write to plead with God, praise God, and thank God.

Psalm 139: 17-18a says, “How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God! How vast is the sum of them! If I should count them, they would outnumber the sand.” His thoughts are indeed precious and numerous. The more I consider His thoughts, His works, His beauty, and His person as seen in Scripture, in Creation, and in my experience of Him, the more I realize the truth of Johannes Kepler words: “I was merely thinking God’s thoughts after Him. Since we astronomers are priests of the highest God in regard to the book of nature, it benefits us to be thoughtful, not of the glory of our minds, but rather, above all else, of the glory of God.” So, I write to record and mull over observations I have made of God and His work in His Word, the world, and my life.

Writing may help you to think more biblically, more deeply, and more clearly. I would urge you to give it a try. If writing seems distasteful to you, it may be because it is difficult for you to do. I don’t claim to be a very good writer, but I have considered what has caused me to improve. Following are my tips for writing. (“P” is such a handy letter for the the tautograms and alliterations of poets and preachers. I went a little wild.)

1) Practice. Focused attempts to write will bring improvement.

2) Write with a purpose. Writing simply to record information is useful, but there are better reasons to write. Tell a story. Organize thinking. Simplify complex concepts with new analogies. Pursue your interests.

3) Pretend you have an audience. This procedure forces you to make yourself understood and tends to induce you to put more effort into delivery.

4) Be precise. Choose words and turns of phrase that convey what you intend. It takes effort.

5) Prune your writing. Concise thought is more organized, better understood, and better remembered.

6) Proof-read your writing several times and have others proof-read it. Make at least one pass for grammar and spelling, one pass for clarity, and one pass for readability.

7) Make your writing personal. Even if you are explaining difficult theological or scientific concepts, tell how it matters to you, why you want to know, what prompted your search, and how it will effect you.

8) Give praise to God for His providence in pleasant and problematic circumstances so that His goodness and power will be seen as active in the present as it was in the past.

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It shall not grow if the soil is not prepared. It shall not be caught if there is no net in the air. No reason, no logic based in truth will occur without the moral component.

What is not caught is not taught
So they say
Lead them to water add salt
Make it play

But how do you break the hard pan
Unfriable soil
Minds for which learning is ban
Refuse slightest toil

Closed to logic and reason
Parroting thought
Flocks of birds out of season
Nothing new sought

Where are those seeking learning
Knowledge sponge
Understanding discerning
For truth lunge

True wisdom comes from above
Two-sided gift
Truth one side, the flip side love
Between no rift

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Today’s Sunday School lesson was about Samuel’s call from God and God’s judgment on Israel and Eli in I Samuel 3 and 4. I started with an introduction to set the stage for why Samuel was where he was when he was. I had the children read various verses in chapters 1 and 2 (1:1-2, 10-11, 20, 26-28; 2:2:1), interspersing explanation about what was going on. The point of my introduction was to show how God set the stage for Samuel’s call in God’s working in Hannah’s walk of faith. In the middle of pointing out to my 4th through 6th graders about Hannah’s journey of faith, a five point alliteration came forcefully to me (Later I increased it to seven.). In fact, as I jumped up and began to review the points I had just made, I wrote it on my new, spacious whiteboard. The pastor’s daughter said, “It’s an alliteration! I thought those usually have only three words.” (You have to be laughing at this point.) Here it is in the form of seven:

     Problem- Hannah had no children.

     Prayer- At the tabernacle Hannah poured out her heart to God.

              Petition- Hannah asked for a son.

              Promise- Hannah promised to give the son back to God to serve Him.

     Pregnant- Hannah received the gift of a son in due time.

     Presentation- Hannah presented Samuel before God to serve Him continually.

     Praise- Hannah gave praise to God for His gift, power, and sovereignty.

God used Hannah’s problem to bring praise to Him, pleasure to Hannah, and a prophet to Israel.

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When I am walking in an unfamiliar part of the woods, I give attention to my feet to avoid snags and stumbles, what is beyond a log I am stepping over, the topography, stream flow direction and size, water, food, daylight left, cloud cover, and sounds. The quietness and loneliness of the woods encourages a tendency toward introspection. But these observations are needed focus; one needs to be circumspect. It is important to give attention to these variables. And it does not mean that I am paranoid or overly worried. Most of these observations are part of the enjoyment of being outdoors. Nature is enjoyable to observe because God has given it much beauty and intricacy. But I have been in enough potentially harmful situations in the woods to look around and take calculated risks.

“The basic meaning of Latin circumspicere is “to look around.” Near synonyms are prudent and cautious, though circumspect implies a careful consideration of all circumstances and a desire to avoid mistakes and bad consequences.” Math students know that a circumference means around a circle. And many types of training from military to pilot to driving to playing sports involves keeping one’s “head on the swivel”. It is important to have situational awareness for many pursuits, both enjoyable and serious.

But this way of walking in the woods is but a metaphor for the more challenging spiritual walk. Ephesians 5:15-16 says, “See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, redeeming the time because the days are evil.” What brought this word to mind happened just last Sunday at my church when we recited our  covenant together,  which includes the phrase, “…to walk circumspectly in the world…” What is the practical outworking of these ideas? Following are a few Scriptures and thoughts on walking circumspectly.

Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and turn away from evil.” Proverbs 3:7

“Heed instruction and be wise, and do not neglect it.” Proverbs 8:33

“prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves.” James 1:22

Do not let kindness and truth leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart.” Proverbs 3:3

“And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” Luke 10:27

 Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.” Philippians 2:3-4

There are many hundreds of verses that could be quoted about walking circumspectly. The focus that I intend here is care to avoid pride in the areas of truth and relationship. Or to state the idea in a positive and more casual way, be humble about what you know, teachable, convinced of God’s truth, and be humble and kind in how you relate to others.

We are given many good gifts. One is life. God has a purpose for us being alive.

Another is time. We should use it efficiently. I don’t mean by being a workaholic because of some vague guilt that you must utilize every minute in profit making pursuits. Instead, seek the deeper profit of following God’s leading. It may seem a circuitous route, not at all according to your day planner. Rest is profitable. Stopping to converse is profitable. Enjoying a few moments of contemplating nature is profitable. Completing a job in a timely fashion is profitable.

Another gift is work, because it gives purpose. “Whatever your hands find to do, do it with all your might.” (Ecclesiastes 9:10) “He also who is slack in his work is brother to him who destroys.” (Proverbs 18:9) 

So, my preliminary, totally non-exhaustive definition of walking circumspectly is be observant and prudent in how you handle truth, relationship, and pursuits so that “whether… you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” (I Corinthians 10:31) May God grant us each a deeper, more careful, more enjoyable walk with Him through this world.

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