“An honest heart loves the truth.” – A.W. Pink.

The Bible is a brutally honest book. If we read the Bible looking only for positive role models, we’ll be quickly disappointed.

Jesus was brutally honest, but He coupled it with compassion. He spoke the truth in love. Jesus said many things that if we are honest, we find uncomfortable. Jesus was stern, firm, strict, and uncompromising.  Yet, He was fair and straightforward. You can’t look at His interactions with the scribes, Pharisees, and Sadducees and not conclude that He was brutally honest with them. The religious leaders felt insulted by the truth because they often believed they were right and the truth is wrong. They were highly defensive of their views, values, choices, principles, philosophy, and behavior. They believe that no one has the right to dictate or tell us how to live our lives.  The question is are we all that different today,  Can we handle the truth or speak the truth in other people’s lives?

Today, honesty can seem like a gray area: All of us expect honesty from those around us, but when it comes to our own success in this area often we rationalize times when we think it might be okay to be less than honest.

The Bible teaches us to be honest and practice honesty at all times. “Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church.” (Ephesians 4:15.)  We have to ask ourselves, do my words ring true? Do I speak the truth in love or do I fudge and fade the facts now and then, or exaggerate for emphasis? Honesty is a direct reflection of a person’s heart. If we expect other people to have the courage, to be honest with us, then wouldn’t anything but honesty from us be promoting a double standard?

Try to imagine just for a moment what a different place this world would be if there was no lying or deception. Lying has infected all parts of our lives. God is pretty straightforward about lying in the Bible. There is not too much gray area when it comes to this because God says, “Don’t lie,” period! There are no ifs, and, or buts. There is no gray area in stretching the truth as far as God is concerned. In our own personal lives, we need to learn the importance of telling the truth, believing the truth, and living the truth.

As followers of Christ, we try to be as honest as possible because we have different standards. Honesty is the norm for Christians. Honesty is best cultivated, like most virtues, when exercised regularly. When we get into a habit of telling the truth we won’t be tempted to depart from the truth quite as often.   

God is looking for some honest people. People whom He can trust. People who will be honest in all their dealings. People who reflect God in their lives.

Discussion Questions:

  1. What does honesty mean to you?
  2. I would challenge you to deliberately be honest for the next day or two. In that time refuse to lie, deceive or speak half-truths. It will not be easy. It will require your total effort and concentration, and a lot of help from the Holy Spirit.


“After his baptism, as Jesus came up out of the water, the heavens were opened and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and settling on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy.” —  Matthew 3:16-17.

Admittedly, the Trinity is probably one of the most mysterious concepts in our faith. But God is at one time, three persons; the Father, the Son (Jesus), and the Holy Spirit. Each person is fully God, with all the attributes of God, but each person is distinct from the others. The Father is not the Son, the Son is not the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit is not the Father. However, they are all God. We need to remember that this isn’t just God showing up in a different form at different times. Each person of the Trinity has always existed and has always been fully God. We will never understand the Trinity by human investigation, logic, philosophy, or science. The only way you can begin to grasp the Trinity is through what God says in His word.

Matthew 3:16-17 tells us that Jesus (the Son) getting baptized, the Father speaking, and the Holy Spirit descending in the form of a dove. If each Person of the Trinity is distinct and yet fully God, then should we conclude that there is more than one God? Obviously, we cannot, for Scripture is clear that there is only one God: Isaiah 45:21 is just one example: “Consult together, argue your case. Get together and decide what to say. Who made these things known so long ago? What idol ever told you they would happen? Was it not I, the LORD? For there is no other God but me, a righteous God and Savior. There is none but me.” 1 Kings 8:60 adds, “Then people all over the earth will know that the Lord alone is God and there is no other.” God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit are one.

What difference does it make whether God is one person or three? Is this really going to impact our lives at all? Actually, the three Persons of God matter a great deal: The three Persons show God is totally committed to us: All three Persons of God are fully involved in and committed to making us His children.

Paul explains it like this: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. . . he chose us in him (Jesus) before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will . . .  when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.” — Ephesians 1:3-14 (ESV)

Scripture shows how each member of the Trinity fulfills His specific role and how those three roles interrelate. In simple terms, The Father creates a plan, Jesus Christ implements the plan, and the Holy Spirit administers the plan.

Discussion Questions:

  1. How are the persons of the Trinity distinct?
  2. How much do we need to know about the Trinity? 

Investigate Jesus in 2023

“The story of Israel as recorded [in the Bible] is filled not with abstract ideas or scientific discoveries but with events of profound and dramatic import, with ‘mighty acts of God’ and thundering words of the prophets.” – Roland Stromberg, A History of Western Civilization.

Most of us grow up accepting the things we are taught as being true. In school, we learned that there are seven continents and that the universe around us is made up of tiny particles called atoms, even though we had no way of verifying that fact unless we have an electron microscope in our house and know how to use it.

If we had the good fortune to grow up in a Christian home then we learned the stories of Abraham, Daniel, John The Baptist, Jesus, and others. We accepted those stories as historical narratives. In addition, we were taught that there is a God, that the Bible is God’s revelation to humanity, and that Jesus is God’s only Son who died for the sins of the world and rose from the dead, thereby offering eternal life to those who follow Him. But whether we grew up in a Christian home or came to accept the beliefs of the Christian faith later in life, at some point we’ve probably wondered whether what we’ve been taught is all indeed true.

Perhaps you’ve been challenged with, or have asked yourself, such questions as, “Can I believe there was a talking donkey or how do I know Jesus rose from the dead?” Or other questions, like  “How do I know the Bible is true and not filled with errors or the made-up ideas of individuals from the past?” These are common questions that have been asked of the Christian faith for generations. And these are the types of questions every believer should be prepared to respond to, both for themselves and for others. (1 Peter 3:15)

In His book, Cold Case Christianity, J. Warner Wallace examined the testimony of the Gospel writers. He explored the New Testament to determine if there were reliable witnesses to Jesus. His background experience as a police detective specializing in cold cases has always added a fascinating dynamic to Wallace’s investigations of Christianity. He found out that the Bible and the person the Bible is about, Jesus, are investigable.

Think about it: Jesus is the center of all of history, and it is impossible to erase Him from History. The life of Jesus Christ was predicted and prepared for. The Apostle Paul put it, “But when the right time came, God sent his Son, born of a woman, subject to the law. God sent him to buy freedom for us who were slaves to the law, so that he could adopt us as his very own children. And because we are his children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, prompting us to call out, “Abba, Father.” (Galatians 4:4-6) Jesus impacts virtually every leader, artist, educator, and religious figure. As Wallace points out, Christianity failed to morph around anyone who came after Jesus Christ, but almost every major religion adapted to incorporate Him.

Take the time in 2023 to investigate Jesus. Discover why we live in a world that has been so thoroughly shaped by the life and death of Jesus. You will find out that you don’t have to believe based solely on a collection of ancient manuscripts. The foundation of our faith is anchored to something far more substantial and sustainable.

Discussion questions:

  1. Have you ever spent time investigating Jesus and your faith? What questions did you have?
  2. Does the fact that the Bible (Jesus) is investigable change you views on Christianity?

A Gift Too Wonderful For Words

Emmanuel. God with us. He who resided in Heaven, co-equal and co-eternal with the Father and the Spirit, willingly descended into our world. He breathed our air, felt our pain, knew our sorrows, and died for our sins. He didn’t come to frighten us, but to show us the way to warmth and safety.” –  Charles Swindoll.

Wondering about the wonder of God is always worthwhile. But the wonder of wonders is God with us. Two millennia ago in a small, rugged Bethlehem barn, God the Son became Immanuel, “God with us”—God incarnate. He lived as we live, suffered as we suffer, died as we die, yet without sin. And He overcame the power of death in order to give us eternal life.

At its heart, Christmas is the celebration of a promise God had made to provide a Savior and King. That Person is His Son, Jesus—God-Man, conceived miraculously, taking on human flesh, living among us in order to die in our place.  God becoming flesh.

God becomes human to walk among us, teach us, and love us in radical and liberating ways. The beauty of God with us is that God didn’t come to us in the form of a Hercules-type Demi-god, almost human, but stronger, faster, richer, and better in every way. No Emmanuel came to dwell among us, as one of us. God with us came to be in the midst of two ordinary people. God with us came to be in human form through Mary and Joseph. There wasn’t anything special that Mary and Joseph had done, just as there’s nothing we can do, to make ourselves more worthy of God with us. God is with us in spite of our imperfections and our struggles and our sin.  God became like us so that we could become like Him.

Hopefully, we will walk slower and think deeper this Christmas.  Hopefully, we will take a few minutes to wonder as the shepherds wondered and to worship as the wise men did. And hopefully, we will take a few moments to imagine the infinite God in the body of a finite baby. The best gift we have ever received came on that first Christmas—delivered in a Person from God the Father . . . to us.

“Thank God for this gift too wonderful for words!” (2 Corinthians 9:15)

Discussion Questions:

  1. How would you explain “the Incarnation?” Why do you think it’s important?
  2. Do you see grace and truth at work in your relationship with God? How can you experience more of it?

The Truth About Jesus

 “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.

If you asked 100 people to imagine how they view God, what would their answers be? A few may imagine a lion. If so they must have watched the Narnia movies. Maybe a few would say, Morgan Freeman. If so, they watched Bruce Almighty or Evan Almighty. Some picture God as a baptist, or catholic or presbyterian, or methodist. And some would say they saw Jesus. For some people, Jesus is a figure from the past—someone to be admired as a great teacher, even a prophet. For others, He is someone to call upon in a time of crisis who will wipe our tears away.

What adjective would you use to describe Jesus? Holy, perhaps; powerful, definitely; world-changing, that cannot be denied. People grow up thinking of Jesus as meek and mild, the guy who was born at Christmas and died at Easter. But if we look at the Gospels, however, a totally different picture emerges. Here is no “gentle Jesus meek and mild,” but a person so dynamic and so inspiring that hardened fishermen, tough tax collectors, Roman soldiers, and a man who started as an enemy—the apostle Paul—were all prepared to put their reputations and their lives on the line in order to follow Him.

They did this because they concluded as Peter memorably did, that Jesus was “the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” (Matthew 16:16). The disciples who worked with Him for three years would have seen and heard the extraordinary claims He made for Himself. They would have heard His teaching, so authoritative that even the Jewish temple guards had to say, “We have never heard anyone speak like this!…” (John 7:46).

And all the miracles demonstrated His power: healing people.  He could calm a storm or change water into wine; over evil spirits; and finally, over death itself.  The evidence is overwhelming. Only God could do all this.

Setting our minds free requires us to be a sponge for the truth. A life that honors God with daily living requires a knowledge of God’s truth. A spiritually healthy soul that overflows with love, joy, and peace requires truth as well.

The ultimate truth is found in a person, Jesus Christ. This truth is revealed in the Bible. It takes faith to believe, but in a world where the truth is increasingly blurred, I urge you to begin with Jesus and His Word, and you will always know the truth.

Discussion Questions:

  1. How have you wrestled with questions about the truth in your own life? Has your knowledge of Jesus resolved those questions? How?
  2. Many times Christians are criticized for being arrogant in their claims to truth or in the way they talk about the truth. Do you think these criticisms are valid? Why or why not? What do you think it looks like to be full of grace and truth?
  3. If your goal is to free your mind by focusing on God’s truth, where do you start? 

The Attributes Of God – God Is Absolute Truth

What are God’s attributes? Each Friday we will look at an attribute of God. This week, God is absolute truth.  Our God is absolute truth. It is impossible for Him to be otherwise. In fact, God is the source of all truth. Our God, who is present everywhere and knows all things, has total understanding of what is real, what is right and what is true.

“Pilate said, “So you are a king?” Jesus responded, “You say I am a king. Actually, I was born and came into the world to testify to the truth. All who love the truth recognize that what I say is true.” “What is truth?” Pilate asked. Then he went out again to the people and told them, “He is not guilty of any crime.” – John 18:37-38.

What is absolute truth?  That is a question that has been asked for thousands of years. Pontus Pilate asked a similar question (John 18:38) after Jesus prompted him by saying “I was born and came into the world to testify to the truth. All who love the truth recognize that what I say is true.” Earlier, the disciples had asked Him to show them the way, Jesus told him, ” he said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)  And John 8:31-32 adds: “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)

Jesus meant that truth is not merely some abstract thing floating out in space that we have to mystically experience or something we have to force our will to follow, but it was a person, Himself. In Colossians 2 we read, “In him lie hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. I am telling you this so no one will deceive you with well-crafted arguments…For in Christ lives all the fullness of God in a human body.” Paul was telling the Colossians not to be deceived by “fine-sounding” logical “arguments” but to find all truth in Christ.

That is the answer to Pilate’s question of what does absolute truth come from and who gives truth? Paul says every truthful thing in the universe is found in Christ as the word, wisdom, and knowledge belonging to God Himself. While many people claim to know the truth, only Jesus could honestly claim to be the truth.

In the book of Judges, it says, “…all the people did whatever seemed right in their own eyes..” This is still true today; we often believe that our personal truth is the absolute truth. But God’s word was and still is the only absolute truth we should build our lives on. “Teach me your ways, O LORD, that I may live according to Your truth!” (Psalm 86:11) John 17:17 says, “Make them holy by your truth; teach them your word, which is truth.” John 16:13 reminds us that the Holy Spirit guides believers into all truth: “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own but will tell you what he has heard. He will tell you about the future.”

What Is Absolute Truth?”  Jesus Christ.

Discussion Questions:

  1. It’s easy to get caught up in a sea of opinions and false truths about the Bible. What can you do to build up your confidence in the absolute truth of God’s word? How can you remain faithful in believing the truth, regardless of the dizzying opinions surrounding you every day?

The Absolute Truth – Part 2

    “Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.” – John 8:32

In Part 1, we talked about a claim that Jesus made that was and is considered to be somewhat outrageous.  The second claim Jesus made about Himself is, “I am the truth.” Many people believe that there’s no such thing as absolute truth. Yet Jesus is saying, He is the truth. In other words, Jesus is saying that truth is not found in knowledge, religion, or philosophy, but in Him. So, when it comes to God, is there such a thing as absolute truth? If Jesus is telling the truth and is truth personified, then the answer is, “Yes.” He is both the way to God, and He is the ultimate truth.

After Jesus had been arrested, He found Himself standing before Pontius Pilate, the Roman Governor of Judea. He had been accused of blasphemy, of stirring up the people to revolution, and it was rumored He called Himself a King. In speaking to Him, Pilate found no evidence of any crime worthy of death, but was fascinated by His talk of a Kingdom that was “not of this world” (John 18:36).  Pushing back on the idea of whether this lowly carpenter from Galilee truly considered Himself to be some kind of King, Jesus replies, “…“You say I am a king. Actually, I was born and came into the world to testify to the truth. All who love the truth recognize that what I say is true.” Pilate’s response comes in the form of a question, the same question that humanity has been asking for centuries, the same response to Jesus that keeps so many from faith: “Pilate said to him, ‘What is truth?'”

Jesus can testify to the truth and teach the truth because He Himself is that truth.  In Him, there is nothing false, nothing misleading, and nothing fake or uncertain.  Each of us is capable of knowing the truth, but none of us can claim to actually be truth.  There are too many things we don’t know, and too many things we get wrong throughout our lives. Yet Jesus claims to be truth, and in doing so claims to be one with God.

The third claim that Jesus made is that He is life. Jesus uses the shepherd analogy of John 10 where He is not only painting a picture of how he defends and leads his sheep but also foreshadowing His death on the cross. Jesus is teaching us that what we are to really be concerned with is not this life, but eternal life.  The Scriptures speak often of the life to come after our life on this earth, and as we follow the voice of our shepherd, we can live this life in such a way that we are not chasing things that don’t last but chasing the things that do last and have eternal significance. This type of life has an eternal impact not only on us but on untold others around us.

When Jesus refers to Himself as the way, the truth, and the life, He is giving us a better way to live our lives through Him. He is showing us that through following Him daily in faith, He will lead us to a better, richer, more meaningful life than we could ever find on our own.

Discussion Question:

  1. Jesus didn’t say that He would teach them the truth; Jesus said that He is the truth.  Jesus didn’t say that He would offer them the secrets of life; Jesus said that He is the life. What does that mean for our lives today?

The Absolute Truth – Part 1

“Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.” – John 8:32

Jesus’ statement in John 8 is pretty shocking. It was shocking in biblical times and it is shocking to people in our inclusive, politically correct culture of today. It raises questions like, “Is this true” and “why do Christians feel like they have the only way to God?”

The first claim that Jesus made in this verse is that He is the way. He is the way to what? He is addressing our very human instinct to know where we are going before we start a journey.  The disciples wanted to know the next step, the next turn, the ultimate destination of where this journey in faith would lead them.  When we have a long trip ahead of us, we want to turn on our GPS and get an idea of how long it will take and the roads we will travel on to get there.  We determine the best, fastest routes and then start our journey.

However, Jesus makes it clear that they (disciples), or we won’t know the defined way we are supposed to travel in life.  We are instead tasked with simply knowing and trusting in Jesus daily, and walking in faith that He is the way.  When we abide in Him, we will not know a defined course, but we can rest in the comfort of faith – that He will lead us exactly where we need to go as we walk in Him.

Take a look at the context of Scripture in examining Jesus’ claims. Right before He made this claim, Jesus said, “Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me. 2 There is more than enough room in my Father’s home. If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am. And you know the way to where I am going.” (John 14:1-4)

It’s pretty clear that Jesus is talking about Heaven. When Jesus says, “I am the way,” He means that He is the way to Heaven.  Jesus tells us it is about trusting Him enough to follow Him to Heaven.

We need to remember who said those words. Jesus is the one who made this exclusive claim. And I don’t know about you, but anyone who predicts His own death and comes back to life is worth believing.  Yet, as exclusive as this one and only one way to the Father statement was, Jesus is the most inclusive man who ever lived. He came to give His life for all so that all might know the Father. Yes, there is only one way, but everyone is invited to know the way. It’s a matter of choice.


Discussion Question:

  1. Jesus didn’t say that He would show them the way; Jesus said that He is the way. What does that mean for us today? 

How Resilient Are We?

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” — Joshua 1:9

With so many people experiencing the twists, turns, and transitions life’s journey presents them, we need a spirit of resilience. Resilience is best displayed when a person is following God’s plan, purpose and path even though opposition seeks to set up roadblocks along the way. Despite the shifts, schemes, and distractions that one has to deal with on a daily basis, resilience serves as the foundational trust in God’s promises.  

Do we exercise resilience? Are we resilient in our calling? Or resilient in our God-given roles? Are we resilient when we are weary? Are we resilient even when giving up appears to be the most comfortable option? Are we resilient when no one acknowledges us?

Like any skill, mental, emotional, and spiritual resilience can be learned. It starts by redefining setbacks as something greater. Tune out the critics and focus on doing your best. Learn from failure, and remember the many times you’ve succeeded. Refuse to dwell on the past or worry about the future; today is where you have the most influence. When things look hopeless, remember “with God all things are possible.” Pray for guidance when you’re in over your head. and remember you “can do all things through Christ” when you think you can’t. To do these things, we need to get better acquainted with our resident helper and guide, the Holy Spirit. 

Is this a little mysterious?  Yes, But the Holy Spirit is the One who gives us resilience. He is the one who compels us and empowers us to keep trusting, hoping and moving, forward. It is the Holy Spirit who gives us the power to rise up every time our circumstances get us down.

Here is how the apostle Paul explains it: “But if Christ is in you, then even though your body is subject to death because of sin, the Spirit gives life because of righteousness. And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you.” (Romans 8:10-11) The Holy Spirit gives us the power to rise up every time our circumstances get us down.

Just like the inflatable clown punching bags many of us had when we were kids, life sometimes knocks us horizontal. But because the Holy Spirit is within us, we have the means to get back upright again and again, no matter how many times we’ve been knocked down. 

Discussion Questions: 

  1. How would you define resiliency in your life?  How have you bounced back from a failure, loss, or disappointment? How did God help?

Getting Past Your Past

“Let go of your concerns! Then you will know that I am God. I rule the nations. I rule the earth”    Psalm 46:10 (GW).

Saving Mr. Banks is a Disney movie about an isolated, lonely, emotionally suffering woman. It is a story about Walt Disney and his efforts to secure the rights to make a movie about the book Mary Poppins by Pamela Travers. As the film progresses, we learn the supposed inspirations for Mary Poppins. And we come to understand why Mrs. Travers is so attached to story details that at first seemed arbitrary or insignificant. In the film, we discover that she has never come to grips with the past and as a result continues to be haunted by it. 

As pastor, people tell me their stories. Some of those stories are about the past. In some cases,  I have a hard time even imagining how difficult these circumstances must have been.  Because these past circumstances were difficult, people carry their past into their present by moving forward the bad memories from those years. You can see the signs. One young man hardly opens up to anyone. Another person shuts off anyone she didn’t trust. Still another harbored hate.  These are people that could be so full of life and joy and laughter, but like Mrs. Travers, their ability to let go of their past made them distant, moody, and cold.

Sometimes we are on a peak, sometimes we are in the valley. That is life. We can let it hold us down, or not. The trauma and trials that we go through are not the worst things that can happen to us.  The worst is when we let it give us permission to be bitter and withdrawn. The worst is when we rehearse our own sad story to the point where it negatively impacts our present and our future.

I can understand why people feel that way, but we cannot define our life by the losses we have suffered. You may have been embarrassed, shamed, stabbed in the back, betrayed, and cheated — no one’s saying this isn’t wrong — but it’s even more reason to find healing and peace. Isaiah 43:18-19 says, “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland.”

This passage provides a vivid description of a life damaged by past hurts – a life that has become a wasteland, a desert. Dwelling upon a record of wrongs weighs us down and heavily burdens us. But the Lord’s instructions to forget those former things and not dwell on them, comes with a promise. Letting go of the past enables God to do a new work in us.

Instead of dwelling on past hurts, we can let go of those memories and forgive the person that hurt us. Although we cannot make ourselves forget the memories, if we stop clinging to them they will fade significantly.

The backstory tells us that Mrs. Travers has been hardened by suffering. But so, too, has Walt Disney. The film’s heart and soul is in the four or five conversations between the two artists—she with her insistence that children must (as she did) face the hard facts of life, he with his belief that everyone should (as he did) transform the pain into happiness with a can-do attitude and a little revisionist history. We can do exactly that when we trust in God to help us let go of our past.

Discussion Questions:

  1. How have the past impacted your present? How can you replace those old soundtracks with God’s truth? 
  2. How could letting go of past pain and forgiving those who’ve hurt you help you become more of who God made you to be? What might the new you look like?
  3. What have you been holding onto that’s keeping you from fully experiencing the new life God has for you?
  4. What do you think would happen if you gave your deepest darkest secrets and regrets to God? Why are you afraid to take this step? What’s the worst that could happen if you did?