What is truth?

What Is Truth (Finally Following Up)

I said that I would write a follow-up about The Shack after reading the book for myself. Fiction has not been on my reading list for quite some time, and it was not the easiest read for me. I found myself pressing through to read it because I said I would. I took notes to reference back to when writing this post. It did not take me long to read through the book, but after nearly two months it seems as though I have misplaced all of those notes. That’s no big deal though because they largely supported what I wrote in The Most Dangerous Lies as well as the other reviews that I linked there.

I do, however, want to touch on a few things that I think are important to keep in mind if you’ve read the book, seen the movie, or choose to do either of those things in the future.
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Dangerous Lies - The Shack

The Most Dangerous Lies

Sometimes it is easy to tell the difference between the truth and dangerous lies. Other times, it takes practiced discernment to see the difference. I do not claim to have a highly tuned gift of discernment, but with the help of Scripture and others who have gone before me, I can recognized when truth has been tainted with lies. The most dangerous lies are the ones that we cannot tell where the truth ends and the lie begins. There are elements of truth that draw us in, often followed by distorted truth that still sounds good. The problem is that distorted truth is not truth. When you look into a curved mirror at a carnival, is the reflection you see a true image of yourself?

If you want to understand truth, you have to start with a standard to base all other truth on. If there is no standard of truth, then there is no agreement on what truth is. The standard of truth on the road is the law concerning motor transportation and highways. It states that driving in speeds over the posted limit is illegal, and that is the truth that speeding ticket are based upon. The fine you are required is a true fine, not imagined, and it traces its roots back to the law that is the basis of its truth.

The Bible is the gold standard for truth. If you do not believe that The Bible is true, then we are not likely to come to any form of agreement beyond the above paragraphs. I wrote a blog post in 2011 that focused on my belief in The Bible as fully true, and you can read it here. There was even the beginning of a discussion around it. Since I believe The Bible is the gold standard of truth, I think it’s a good place to go to understand lies and deception as well.
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Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. James 4:8

He Will Draw Near To You

I have been learning and growing in Christ so much over the past few months. I have shared some of that via Facebook Live videos and I am still processing through so much more of it. I’ve had requests to share more videos as a devotional kind of thing, but I’m not sure if I’m quite ready for that. Only time will tell. I just want to share what God is laying on my heart at times.

“Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you.”
James 4:8a (HCSB)

That might seem like a nice Bible quote. You might read it and then go along with your day just as you had planned, but I want you to know that it is The Truth. I believe that The Bible is The Living Word of God. It is true. That is not why I say that verse is Truth. It is Truth because I have experienced it.
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pain

Life Is Pain

“Life is pain, Highness. Anyone who says differently is selling something.”
The Man In Black – The Princess Bride

Life is pain. I think most people would agree with the sentiment. Just look around and you will see a broken world filled with pain and suffering. You might see smiling faces and hear laughter emanating from the food court at the mall, but the facade of happiness disappears the moment it is met with dissatisfaction, disapproval or displeasure. There are people freezing on the streets with no homes to warm up in or money to warm their bellies with. Those examples are from only a half mile radius. Look beyond your zip code and you will see problems that far outweigh any hardship that you have or will ever face.

Social happiness can be a coping mechanism for the deep pains that we feel we must handle alone. The images that we portray online and in real life keep protect our vulnerabilities and squelch the prying questions before they are asked. Holding a cardboard sign might bring enough change for a small meal, but it is only a temporary remedy for a surface-level symptom of a deeper pain. We all experience the pain of life, but no one ever wants to share it. We would rather bottle up what is real and hide in the cellar of our being under lock and key.

But life is not all pain. There is real joy in life as well. Over the Christmas weekend, I had the joy of sharing our home with family who traveled in from out-of-town. I have had the joy of seeing my three children born, and I consider it a joy to watch them as they grow into who they are becoming. Some say that joy is fleeting, but could we not say the same of pain. There may be fleeting joy as well as pain in life, but there is also lasting joy. Lasting pain has found its way into our world as well.

I’ve noticed a common thread throughout social media platforms over the past few days. 2016 has been a difficult year for so many people. From racial struggles to political angst, the great divide between many has grown exponentially in the past year. From celebrity deaths to personal health struggles and the loss of loved ones, the pain of loss has been a significant aspect of life in 2016. I was not beyond the reach of loss in the past year. Old friends died in tragic circumstances, and family members of new friends lost their battles against disease. A good friend of mine past away even after there was so much hope in his situation. There is pain in life.

A Moment Of Clarity

I had a moment of clarity regarding life and pain on Christmas Eve and received the gift of heightened empathy that day. As I was driving to church to prepare for our services, I was nearly hit head-on by a pickup truck less than a mile from our home. A deer hit my car in the early morning on the previous day. I was spared by the grace of God in both situations, but overwhelmed with a number of thoughts and emotions as I continued on my way Christmas Eve.

Thoughts of what my family would go through if I had lost my life were the first to fill my mind. I wondered how I would respond to the gentleman in the pickup had we both survived the accident, and the impact of my absence at our candlelight services crossed through my mind. And then my thoughts turned to others. What was that gentleman dealing with that day that had him drifting completely into my lane? Was he numbing his own pain with alcohol? Had exhaustion from the Christmas season set in?

My heart then began to recognize the kinds of people who would be joining us at church that night. Marriages were struggling to make it through the holidays. Addictions had taken hold of people who thought they had things under control. Children would be waking up the following day with only one parent and no gifts to unwrap. It would be the first Christmas that many would be without the love of their lives.

The First Line Of Battle

Five minutes before our first service on Christmas Eve, with tears in my eyes, I shared those things with my worship team. I shared my experiences from the past 36 hours. But more importantly, I shared what God had laid on my heart for the hurting. We were not just praying for ideas of what we thought people might be going through. We prayed with passion for the real people who were already there to sing carols with us. The people who were on the verge of walking out on their families were covered in prayer. Men who had falling back into old habits of addiction were being interceded for. We prayed for healing, deliverance, awakening, passion, nourishment, hope, power, love, and peace.

Since that weekend, I have heard stories from those who came with a heavy burden of pain in their lives. For the sake of privacy, I cannot share specifics, but they are the people who we were specifically praying for. The people whom God had given me a heightened level of empathy for were there that night, and they received the peace, faith, hope, love, confidence, patience, mercy, and grace that we prayed for.

Life Is Not Pain

Life is not pain. There is pain in life, but it is not pain itself. Life is not meant to be filled with pain. Life is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. These things battle the hate, bitterness, pain, suffering, anger, evil, deceit, anxiety, and loathing that we experience in life. There is hope that greater than the pain of life. There is a peace that can overcome the deepest pain. Love that has already conquered death can defeat the fiercest pain. This remedy is not for sale though. It is free to anyone who will receive it.

Jesus Christ said “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full,” John 10:10b NIV. Life is not pain. Life is life, and Jesus came so that we may have it abundantly. A full life. Isn’t that something that everyone wants?

I can tell you that I have experienced loss. Pain is not a mystery to me. Guilt, shame, regret, fear, and disappointment have all made their way into my life. I may not fully understand exactly what you are going through in your circumstance, but I can listen to you and empathize with your pain. You don’t have to be alone. You can find me, and a number of others who will genuinely love you without condition at 1120 Boyce Road in Pittsburgh. Feel free to stop by on a weekend to visit. We are there during most of the week as well. I also have friends at four other locations around Pittsburgh and Weirton who would say the same thing. You are loved. Come as you are. Dare to bring your pain with you.

xr.church

2016 Election

A Humble Response to the Presidential Election of 2016

The world of social media is a hard place to hang around today. Millions of people voted yesterday and most of them have extreme reactions to the outcome. Emotions are running higher than they were before the election. Fear, hatred, anxiety, and disgust intermix with relief, love, excitement, and pride. I wrote a post four years ago with my response to Barrack Obama’s reelection. Not much has changed since then. There are sore losers and sore winners. Some people seem to have put themselves in the shoes of the candidates and don’t know how to appropriately respond to the results.

I understand what you are feeling if you voted for Hillary Clinton, and I can relate to you if you voted for a third-party candidate. I get it if you chose not to vote because you could not bear to vote for someone you don’t agree with. You may have wanted someone else to represent you from the primaries. You might have even been backing Donald Trump for the past eighteen months. I’ve been through all of those kinds of scenarios since I started voting. You might say that the stakes are so much higher this time around, but I the stakes have always been high. That’s what keeps people coming back to vote every two or four years.


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Look Up

Look Up

My family and I recently moved to a farm to be closer to the community that we are in ministry with. One of the things I love about it is the stillness and quietness of living in the country. There is still traffic that drives down the road as well as other connections to civilization, but there is also the sound of silence and a lack of city lights reflecting off of the atmosphere at night.

I paused to just look up as I was taking the trash down the long driveway. The dogs across the street were barking as they often do and there was a crisp chill to the air. Those things disappeared in that moment. I gazed into the clear night sky, engulfed in the wonder of my Creator. The stars that we see from the city are only a fraction of what is available in the night sky. Hidden behind the reflected city lights is a universe of awe and wonder.
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I Surrender All

Surrender All In Worship

I’ve had a lot on my mind over the past week. A few big projects kept me busy, but that didn’t stop my mind from racing. My heart and mind were feeling exhausted from the stress of live streaming at Crossroads Church – Boyce this weekend to the wave of emotions from reading the news about Pastor Freedom. I lead worship for a mini-conference at on Saturday morning, ending with I Surrender All. In that moment, I realized just how much I had to surrender as I sang that old hymn.

As a worship leader, I don’t just sing songs and hope others sing along. My goal is to always connect with God at a heart level first and then help others to do the same. I can’t expect to lead anyone else to the throne of God in worship if I am not heading there myself. That’s what it means to lead. You are not leading if you aren’t going somewhere. You’re just hanging out with everyone else.

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hard to pray

When It Gets Hard To Pray

I have a friend who I haven’t seen in over a year who is going through an incredibly difficult season. I, like thousands of others, have been praying for him. I have been praying for complete healing. I have been praying for his family, and miracles. Mutual friends and online reports have given me nearly all of my information about the situation. Sometimes it has been hard to pray, but I’ve still prayed with audacity and expectancy.

Today, I read something that made it hard to pray. It’s not that I don’t know how or what to pray, but the audacious and expectant prayers are harder than ever today. It was just two little words in the update, but those two words nearly crippled me in prayer. Two small words that bring a sense of hopeless to a battle that has been filled with so much hope. Two words that make the future look grim.
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I'm Not That Bad

At Least I’m Not That Bad

Nobody is perfect. We’ve heard it before and maybe even said it a few times. I’ve been thinking about how we tend to compare what we do wrong to others, almost justifying ourselves. We say, “At least I’m not that bad,” and continue on in what we know is wrong. I’ve used the example of speeding in the past, and it is an excellent example here. I may be going 70 in a 55 zone, but at least I’m not going 85 like all those cars passing me. Have you ever rationalized something that you knew was wrong when you saw someone else even more in the wrong? At least I’m not that bad.

We all have a tendency to do what we want the way we want to do it. It’s human nature. We might make sacrifices from time to time, but we generally try to get our way or do what we want every chance we can. And we rationalize away the guilt by comparing to others. Why is half the carton of ice cream gone? At least I didn’t eat it all like the lady on The Biggest Loser. Why are you looking at porn? A least I’m not having an affair like the guy down the street. How many drinks have you had tonight? At least I’m not driving. I’m not that bad.
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