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ODJ: Source of Truth

May 20, 2016 

READ: 1 Kings 13:4-24  


The Lord [commanded me]: “You must not eat or drink anything while you are there” (v.9). 

Often, when I search for something on the internet, I’m not sure I can trust the information I find. If I type a topic into a well-known search engine, I may end up on a website that features unverified information. Disclaimers warn that experts haven’t reviewed the content and so there’s no way to guarantee that it’s accurate, complete or unbiased. No matter how authentic the material might seem, I know it’s unwise to trust it.

Trusting the wrong source of information was a key part of the downfall of the “man of God from Judah” (1 Kings 13:1). He set out to deliver a message from God with specific instructions: don’t eat or drink anything, and don’t go back the same way you came (vv.9-10). He prophesied and followed God’s rules until he met an old man who invited him to a meal (v.15). The younger man refused, but the old man said, “I am a prophet, too. . . . An angel gave me this command from the Lord: ‘Bring him home with you so he can have something to eat and drink’ ” (v.18).

That evident lie led the young man to go and satisfy his desires against God’s commands. The old man’s status as a prophet carried weight, but he wasn’t trustworthy. Sadly, however, the young prophet followed him and died soon afterward (v.24).

Like this young prophet, we can get into trouble if we turn away from God’s wisdom in favour of what other people tell us. Paul reminds us in 1 Thessalonians 5:21 to “test everything” by what God has revealed to us. As we seek the instruction found in Scripture, the advice of godly counsellors and the counsel of the Holy Spirit, we can make decisions that will honour Him. God is the Source of Truth—may we choose His wisdom today!

—Jennifer Benson Schuldt

365-day plan: Proverbs 5:1-23

MORE
Read Psalm 33:4 and consider what it reveals about God’s trustworthiness. 
NEXT
What does Scripture reveal about the issues on your mind today? How can you test the words and advice you’re receiving from others? 

(Check out Our Daily Journey website!)

ODJ: discerning truth

January 6, 2016 

READ: 1 Kings 2:13-25 


Be as shrewd as snakes and harmless as doves (Matthew 10:16). 

In the Shakespearean play Othello, the main bad guy is named Iago. He pretends to be Othello’s closest friend, offering counsel and advice, but all the while Othello, the main bad guy he’s plotting his friend’s downfall behind the scenes. The play is carefully constructed so that it’s impossible for even the audience to grasp the underhanded deceit of Iago until the very last scene. He’s plausible right up until the end, and if his part is acted well, the audience will often gasp when his true nature is finally revealed, for the character’s deception is convincingly hidden by his words and actions.

In 1 Kings 2:13-18, Bathsheba is thoroughly taken in by Adonijah. She suspects nothing dark in his request. What could possibly be wrong with his asking for the beautiful Shunammite woman with the not-so-lovely name Abishag? Abishag had comforted David, Adonijah’s father, in his last days (1 Kings 1:1-4), so surely it would be a service to her and a perfect match for him.

Solomon, however, saw the motivation behind the request. He discerned Adonijah’s ambition behind his desire for the woman who had spent time with the great King David (2:22). It was all about a political power play that would aid Adonijah in his desire to seize the throne. Solomon discerned the truth and saw the rebellion hidden in his heart.

Believers in Jesus should seek to bless and think the best of others, and yet God gives us discernment by His Spirit. Jesus told His disciples to “be as shrewd as snakes and harmless as doves” (Matthew 10:16). Being as innocent as a dove and as wise as a serpent is not achieved by imitating an Iago character. May God through His Word and Spirit help us to see what’s truly true.

—Russell Fralick

365-day-plan: Genesis 8:1-22

MORE
Look at Peter’s confession of Christ in Matthew 16:13-20 and see what the Holy Spirit revealed to him. 
NEXT
Do you seek God’s wisdom in every situation, or are you content to form judgments based merely on what you see and feel? How can you discern the truth about a difficult issue you’re facing today? 

(Check out Our Daily Journey website!)

How do we know for sure that Christianity is the Truth?

Written By Joshua Woo

Formerly a pastoral staff of a Presbyterian church in Singapore, Joshua Woo is now a political secretary to a Member of Parliament in Malaysia serving in a multi-religious constituency.

I recently attended a religious ceremony at a Siamese Buddhist temple as part of an official visit by my MP. Several Muslims and Christians were also at the ceremony, as they had been invited after having helped the temple to solve some issues.

With the different religious groups not only living peacefully together but also helping to improve lives in one another’s community, some people might be led to think that aside from their beliefs and rituals, there is no fundamental difference between the different religions.

We might then ask: How do we know that Christianity is the truth?

This question prompted me to think about my own faith journey.

Personal Salvation

I was born into a family that followed traditional Chinese religious customs. My parents burned joss sticks and hell-money as offerings to our ancestors, and offered food on an altar in our home on certain religious occasions.

When I was about 12 years old, my parents started to practise Mahayana Buddhism, and I followed their lead and became a devout Buddhist. I was taught to follow Buddha’s teaching to attain “enlightenment”, which was supposed to free me from the cycle of reincarnation know as samsara. This meant doing good deeds and avoiding bad deeds, which would affect what happened at the next reincarnation.

In trying to attain “enlightenment”, I even became a novice monk, which involved shaving my head, going on a strict vegetarian diet, staying in a temple, and observing over 200 rules. I wanted to be freed from samsara, so I thought I would be a Buddhist my whole life.

When I was 17 years old, however, I started to struggle over the possibility that I would not be able to attain enlightenment because of the many bad things I had done. Perhaps, I thought, there was no way I could be freed from samsara, and would be stuck in the perpetual cycle of reincarnation. This created much uncertainty about my eternal destiny—until I accompanied a friend to his church.

That day, I learned that God came into our world through Jesus Christ to liberate us from the consequences of our bad deeds. It was a message that resonated deeply with my need for liberation. The same evening, I accepted Christ as my Savior.

That was how I became a Christian. It started with the realization that I couldn’t do anything to save myself, and ended with the experience of being loved, forgiven, and accepted by God, despite all that I had done. In a way, Buddhism had helped me to realize my need for divine grace, which led me to Christ.

Making Sense of Life

For a long time, I was also constantly feeling restless. Regardless of what I did, I felt that something significant was missing in my life. Initially, I thought it was companionship, so I got into a relationship. But the restlessness remained. Then I thought it was the lack of achievement, so I went to do certain things that I had always wanted to do. Yet I still felt restless. And I just couldn’t make sense of it.

After I became a Christian, I started to read up more about my newfound faith. Several books helped me to make sense of life and see it from a Christian perspective. In Mere Christianity, for example, C. S. Lewis wrote about his own sense of restlessness: “If I find in myself desires which nothing in this world can satisfy, the only logical explanation is that I was made for another world.”

That statement completely resonated with me. Finally, it all made sense. I realized that we are always restless in this world because God has created us for another world.

Christianity speaks to my innermost sentiments and helps me make sense of them. As Lewis wrote, “I believe in Christianity as I believe the sun has risen: Not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.”

Jesus’ Reality

However, religious experience and making sense of one’s own feelings are not enough for one to be certain of the truthfulness of Christianity. Our faith, after all, is built on the claims and actions of one person, Jesus. So, in order to be certain, we have to be convinced that Jesus really existed.

There is a big debate about this: some people believe that He is real, while others think otherwise. There are also some who accept He existed, but don’t believe what He said or did—including dying on the cross and rising to life.

There is sufficient scholarly persuasion, however, that provides a strong case that Jesus was real and that all He said and did were true. For example, we have the Gospel accounts—Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John—which testify about the life of Jesus. While some scholars have cast doubt on the Gospels’ reliability as they are based on the authors’ memories, others have argued otherwise, saying that the Gospels should be read as ancient biographies, and are essentially eyewitness accounts. A study of church history show that the four Gospels in the New Testament were accepted very early on as authoritative records of Jesus’ life.

Conclusion

In summary, these are the three reasons that show me that Christianity is indeed the truth:

(1) My experience of God’s love through the liberating message of the gospel.
(2) The realization that Christianity helps me make sense of my life.
(3) The confirmation that Jesus’ life and actions are true.

Of course, knowing all this does not mean that we put down other religions. In my own faith transition, I have learned that there are elements in other religions that God can use to lead people to Him. While we remain convicted of our own faith, we can learn to appreciate and be open to learning from others. At the same time, we can remain steadfast in our faith, knowing that Christianity is the truth.

Speak the Truth, or Keep Silent?

If you’ve ever wondered what it means to be candid, talk to my mother. If she didn’t like something, she’d say so without mincing her words. If she felt we were making the wrong decision, she’d harp on how the cons outweighed the pros. If she was facing any problems, she’d tell us exactly what they were and ask for help without any hesitation.

Pretty characteristic of most mothers, you may think. But unlike most mums who would be blunt only within the family, my mum was equally blunt with everyone.

Once, she gave my cousin a piece of her mind for not spending enough time with his parents. Another time, she told her colleague to give her son more play time instead of just sending him to one enrichment class after another. On another occasion, she cited statistical data to prove to my brother’s friend that the copious amount of sugar in soft drinks was detrimental to his health.

Every time she dished out her unsolicited advice, I would observe the reaction of the receiving party. Most of the time, they laughed awkwardly. Sometimes, they nodded sheepishly, and every once in a while, I could see them squirm in their seats.

Keeping silent

Although I’m my mother’s daughter, I find it very hard to be that frank and honest. When forced to give an opinion, I tend to adopt the “sandwich approach”: start with a compliment, slide in the criticism, then end with another compliment. Most of the time, however, I keep my mouth shut to avoid any awkwardness or confrontation. The main problem with the latter approach is that people end up taking my silence as consent. Actually, I may completely disagree with their point of view, but they won’t have a clue because I don’t say a word.

That is one of the reasons why I admire my mum’s directness. At least if she says she likes something, I can trust that she actually means it. But a far more important reason is that underlying her painfully honest and at times almost cruel comments, is the fact that my mother really cares. When she opens her mouth to give her two cents’ worth on an issue, it’s because she really hopes we’d do the right thing. And when we do get things right, she is genuinely happy for us.

In contrast, I don’t offer my views a lot because—I’m ashamed to admit this—I don’t really care that much. I’d much rather maintain a superficial, cordial relationship than risk spoiling it by telling others what I really think. Many times, I find myself smiling or nodding when hearing an opinion, but actually thinking about how absolutely ridiculous that person’s view is. I speak up only if it’s with people I’m close to or care about. And if you have the privilege (or misfortune) to hear what I really think, it can get pretty unpleasant.

Recently, a thought crossed my mind about why voicing my opinion bothered me so much. Did it really matter what my opinion was? The answer was clearly no. But what if it was a matter of right and wrong? Would I speak up? I found these questions difficult to answer.

A dear sister in Christ showed me what was the right thing to do when I was in my second year in college. She had asked if I could help lead a group of juniors in Bible study; I replied that I needed to focus on studying for my A-level examination at the end of that year. I can’t remember exactly what else she said, but her final question has been etched in my memory ever since: “If God were to ask you, ‘What have you done for Me at the age of 18?’, how would you reply?”

Convicted of my selfishness, short-sightedness, and lack of love for my sisters in Christ, I broke down in tears.

Till this day, I count this as one of the most painful but precious lessons God has taught me through a friend. This sister of mine, in daring to speak up on something she felt was wrong, had exemplified what Proverbs 27:5–6 says about “wounds” inflicted by friends: “Better is open rebuke than hidden love. Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses.”

Speaking the truth, without love

Of course, the motivation behind any rebuke or advice must be love. Far too often, Christians have been guilty of being bigoted, unloving, and intolerant in our attempt to uphold the truth in our lives and around us. As an ignorant and impudent 10-year-old, I remember telling my classmate about Jesus on one occasion and urging him to put his faith in Him. When my friend said he didn’t believe and turned to walk away, I remember yelling out to him: “If you don’t believe in Jesus, you’re going to hell.” I’m just grateful my friend didn’t turn around to punch me in the face. His reply, on the contrary, left me stumped: “If I’m going to hell, so be it.”

Looking back, that episode was a perfect example of me speaking the truth without love. If I had genuinely cared about my friend, I would have taken the time to find out why he didn’t believe, try to address his concerns in the best way I could, and pray for him—instead of simply pronouncing judgement in a vindictive manner.

Speaking the truth, in love

In Ephesians 4:15, Paul tells us to speak the truth in love to help our fellow brothers and sisters grow in maturity and Christ-likeness. There is a need to speak the truth in love, even if it hurts, and even if it is not sought after. In his article on “Truth and Love”, pastor and author of more than 50 books, John Piper, notes that speaking the truth in love doesn’t always mean speaking in a soft way—or else Jesus could be said to be guilty of lacking love in dealing with some of the folks in the Gospels. My mother too is a good example of how truth need not always be dished out in a soft-spoken way.

Piper went on to explain that speaking the truth in love however, “does ask about what is the most helpful thing to say when everything is considered. Sometimes what would have been a hard word to one group is a needed act of love to another group, and not a wrong to the group addressed. But in general, love shapes truth into words and ways that are patient and gentle.”

Truth and love go hand in hand. Pastor and theologian Tim Keller put it perfectly in one of his sermons: “Truth without love is imperious self-righteousness. Love without truth is cowardly self-indulgence.”

So far, I’ve been guilty of both—self-righteousness and self-indulgence. I still have a long way to go, but I pray that through time, I will learn to speak the truth again—but this time with genuine love.