Trust the Line

Last Friday, Shane Blackmer wrote about our need to “Hold the Line.” Today I want to write just about about the “line” itself.

My son, Joseph, and a friend, Noah, were working last week to put gutters on our garage. This garage is older, it wasn’t built properly, and clearly has some foundation issues; because of this the roof sags.

When Joseph and Noah snapped a chalk line across the fascia board, an optical illusion occurred. If you looked straight at the garage, the line looked like a frown, it looked much higher in the middle and lower on the ends. But the line wasn’t the problem. If you went over to the edge of the roof and looked down the fascia board you could clearly see that the line was straight as an arrow.

The line wasn’t the problem, it was the building.

I believe there is a lesson in that! We may have built our lives on the wrong foundation, or we may not have taken the care to upkeep ourselves spiritually. As a result, lives become crooked and sag, just like that garage. In fact we may become so crooked that we begin to think the line (God’s word and standard of authority) is the problem.

Trust the line. There is nothing wrong with the line. God’s word is straight; we are the ones who need correcting.

I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways (Psalms 119:15, ESV).

“Fix your eyes” on the line. Use the line to help point out what needs to be corrected in your life. His commandments are true (Psalm 119:142,151), sure (Psalm 119:86) and they are right (Psalm 119:128,172).

Feeling safe to tell the truth

Feeling safe to tell the truth. We want our kids to tell the truth, but are we helping to create a safe environment for that to happen?

God expects honesty from us. We understand that relationships are built upon trust. As parents we really want to instill within our children the importance of telling the truth.

Sometimes, however, we can be so determined to get the truth out of them that they clam up, deny, lie, etc. Some kids are so scared of getting in trouble that they will do anything or say anything to avoid it. If our attempts to extract the truth from them sound like an FBI interrogation, then they are more likely to lie or clam up. We had this experience early on in parenting. As parents, we knew the child was lying, and we wanted that child to confess. However, we were too passionate about it, and there was no way the child was going to admit the wrong.

Feeling safe to tell the truth

We realized the error of this approach, and worked to create an environment where the child felt safer to come to us.

Dr. Kevin Leman in his book Have a New Kid by Friday words it this way:

If your child does break that vase and comes to you with the truth, she can know that you’re unhappy, but she should not be punished for telling you the truth. In those situations, you’ll need to think carefully before you open your mouth. How you respond to such a situation directly relates to how comfortable your child is in telling you the truth.

Kids can be as dumb as mud and will do stupid things in life (like hanging a camera out the window of a car and dropping it), but if they own up to them and say they’re sorry, they need to know that life will go on. You won’t beat them over the head for years for their mistake. The relationship between the two of you will still be okay.

Our response to our children will directly impact how willing they are to be open with us in the future.

There’s so much more to say on this subject, so let’s do a part two next week.

Lovingkindness and truth have met together

Surely His salvation is near to those who fear Him, that glory may dwell in our land. Lovingkindness and truth have met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other (Psalms 85:9-10).

Take some time to meditate upon Psalm 85 this morning. If God’s salvation is near to those who fear Him, then what qualities of God have to come together? If God only was a God of truth and righteousness, then we all would be hopelessly lost and condemned. Since we have all broken the laws of God, we have nothing to look forward to but punishment and justice.

It may go without saying, but His truth and His standards of righteousness are absolute. This is what defines sin, it is a breaking of the law (1 John 3:4), a violation of truth. The offer of salvation and mercy means nothing if there is no such thing as absolute truth. How could we be guilty of violating any law if there is no such thing as truth to establish laws? As C.S. Lewis said, “A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line.” Because God’s truth is asbolute, mankind is absolutely lost because of our wholesale departure from His truth.

Lovingkindness and truth have met together

Thankfully, God’s mercy met together with His truth, and His peace “kissed” righteousness, as the Psalmist wrote. That is such a beautiful concept. Righteousness and peace kissing. God’s mercy walking together with His rules. Our Lord looks upon us all and seeks to offer kindness and compassion, even though we all have broken His laws and forsaken His truth. He reached out to us through Jesus and the cross to be reconciled to us.

Let us give glory to God first and foremost for this indescribable gift (2 Corinthians 9:15)!

But then, we must turn to our fellow man and ask if we are behaving like that to others? Are we all about the rules, with no mercy or does mercy walk with the rules in my heart? Have God’s standards kissed God’s peace in my life? Am I eager to reconcile with others or I am eager to deal out condemnation and judgment? It shows in how we treat others, doesn’t it?

Maybe God’s mercy needs to take a walk with the truth in our hearts today. We might need to take God’s rules out on a date with God’s compassion. They need to get to know each other better.

Hard Questions

Now when the queen of Sheba heard of the fame of Solomon concerning the name of the LORD, she came to test him with hard questions. (1 Kings 10:1)

I want to focus for just a moment today on the encounter between the queen of Sheba and King Solomon, and make two simple applications.

The queen of Sheba “came to test him with hard questions.” She heard of his famous wisdom and she came to challenge it. I do not think that was a bad thing. She did not have the hypocritical heart of the Pharisees of Jesus’ day. They only wanted to test Jesus to find something wrong with Him in order to accuse Him (Luke 11:54). She had an honest heart, I believe. Jesus Himself told us to “Ask, seek, and knock,” which tells me God wants us to investigate and dig into the wisdom of God (Luke 11:9-13).

Solomon’s own advise was to “cry out for discernment, and lift up our voices for understanding” (Proverbs 2:3). That is the very spirit of the Bereans who did not even take the Apostle Paul’s word for it, but “they searched the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so” (Acts 17:11). That was the spirit of the queen of Sheba, she came with hard questions, and in Solomon she found God’s wisdom. I always tell my students that “the truth never suffers from investigation.”

Solomon allowed her to test him with hard questions, and he let God’s wisdom guide his answers. Men, as leaders in churches, homes and business, do we create an environment around us where others feel safe to ask us tough questions? Do we get defensive, tense and agitated when others challenge our positions? Solomon trusted in God’s wisdom and allowed this queen to ask anything. The queen of Sheba came with her best stuff; she really threw everything at Solomon including the kitchen sink, and he allowed it. With God’s grace and wisdom, he fielded all her toughest challenges.

God promised us that if we ask Him, He gives wisdom to us freely (James 1:5). Therefore, we should have no fear to allow others around us to ask any question on their minds. Again, the truth never suffers from investigation, so if someone challenges us, we should have the humility and transparency to direct our attention to God’s word. Have the confidence that with the right heart we will all find the truth.

Rejecting Truth

In I Kings 18 we have the incredible story of God and Elijah having a contest against Baal and his prophets.  This is a classic showdown to prove who is the one true God.  The prophets of Baal are jumping around, shouting, cutting themselves to no avail, while Elijah makes wise cracks.  Then Elijah steps up and has water poured all over the sacrifice and the altar, says a simple prayer, and God sends down fire consuming the sacrifice, the water, and even the rocks.  The people’s response says it all, “…they fell on their faces; and they said, ‘The Lord, He is God; the Lord, He is God.”  (I Kings 18:39)

What amazes me is Jezebel’s reaction in I Kings 19:1-2, “Now Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword.  Then Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah, saying, ‘So may the gods do to me and even more, if I do not make your life as the life of one of them by tomorrow about this time.”

Verse one says that “Ahab told Jezebel ALL that Elijah had done…”.  I believe that ALL must include the useless efforts of Baal’s prophets and his lack of response.  ALL must include the immediate and overwhelming response from God.  ALL probably includes the people’s response as well but Jezebel only focuses on the death of her prophets.  She seems to ignore the purpose of the contest, the outcome of the contest, and what the outcome proves.  In fact, it is somewhat humorous that she invokes her already proven useless “gods” in her threat to Elijah.

I don’t know exactly why Jezebel couldn’t see the evidence and the truth that was right in front of her face.  Maybe it was her anger or hatred, maybe it was her pride or selfishness, maybe a combination of many things.  What I do know is that I can, and have, fallen into the same trap.  I have allowed my pride, anger, and selfishness to blind me to relatively simple truth.  I don’t know how many times God has tried to reveal sin in my life or in my motives and I’ve pushed it away and convinced myself that I was “justified” or I was “OK”.

My experience is that all truth comes from God but He will use various means to present that truth to me.  Sometimes it is my wife making an observation about my reaction to a situation.  Sometimes it is an innocent question from one of my children.  A brother or sister in Christ might send me a text or write me a note.  Most often truth is revealed in the quiet of the morning during my daily bible reading.  Regardless of the means by which God reveals His truth to me, am I listening?  Is my heart open and ready to receive the reality of my situation?  When God does His work on me it can be painful, embarrassing, and even downright shameful .  My first reaction is usually to justify myself, rationalize my behavior, or even attack the messenger.  In the end, however, all those reactions are simply a rejection of God and His truth.  I pray that I can get out of the way of His work in my life.  I pray that, however painful it might be, that I will embrace the changes I need to make so that I can be molded into the image of Jesus Christ and bring glory to my Father.