Pursuing Truth

Solving the Problems of Flight

The Wright Brothers hit a standstill at Kitty Hawk in 1901 and almost gave up because they could not solve the issue of predictable control. They eventually realized they were relying on false data from others, so they built a wind tunnel and collected their own data. This led them to one of the greatest achievements in human history in 1903 — flight.

Had the Wright Brothers given up instead of pursuing accurate data, flight would likely have been delayed many years since no one came close to their achievements until four years later. And they only did that using data from the Wright Brothers. Perhaps man would not have went from the first airplane to a trip to the moon in one lifetime had the Wright Brothers not decided to obtain their own data.

If we approach our spiritual lives as the Wright Brothers did achieving flight, we’ll also see progress without borders. If we choose to pursue truth rather than take in information without question, we’ll discover how to live with unshakeable integrity. For an example of this, look no further than the Bereans.

Noble, Receptive & Eager

truthThe Bereans resided in Berea in Macedonia, and Paul and Silas preached to them during their second missionary journey there. This account is recorded in Acts 17:10-15, but we only need a couple of these verses to learn a great deal from the Bereans.

“Now these people [the Bereans] were more noble and open-minded than those in Thessalonica, so they received the message [of salvation through faith in Christ] with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so. As a result many of them became believers, together with a number of prominent Greek women and men.” (Acts 17:11-12)

There are three aspects of the Bereans’ character we can cultivate in ourselves to help us grow spiritually by discovering truth. They Bereans were…

  1. Noble.

    In this context, noble means “exalted moral or mental character or excellence.” In other words, they focused on high-minded pursuits and did not let pettiness distract them from pursuing truth. They weren’t gullible but were willing to learn. They discerned truth amidst false data because they used God’s word to confirm or disprove what they heard.

  2. Receptive.

    The Bereans approached knowledge with an open mind. This doesn’t mean they accepted everything they heard as truth; instead, it means they listened first before passing judgment. They then sought truth based on God’s word and allowed it to shape their beliefs. Their moral character combined with their open-mindedness led them to see and understand the truth of the Gospel.

  3. Eager.

    In addition to being noble and receptive, the Bereans were also eager. These three qualities combined led them to not only protect Paul, but to one of them eventually accompanying him in his missionary work (Acts 20:3-4). Their eager pursuit also led to many others becoming believers. Godly morals and open-mindedness, when combined with eagerness, creates an unstoppable force.

There are many examples of individuals who followed the Bereans’ example, who let these same three qualities live and work in them and as a result advanced the Gospel. Check out the stories and writings of J. Warner Wallace, Josh McDowell and Lee Strobel for modern-day Berean examples.

What If…

what-ifWhat if more skeptics and doubters, both within and outside of the Christian church, pursued truth like the Bereans?

What if, instead of dismissing the Bible’s claims because they are difficult to understand, more people stayed open-minded and examined them thoroughly?

Dismissing the Gospel message because it’s difficult to understand is nothing new, though. Consider this…

“When many of His disciples heard this [Jesus teaching about himself as the bread of life], they said, ‘This is a difficult and harsh and offensive statement. Who can [be expected to] listen to it?’… As a result of this many of His disciples abandoned Him, and no longer walked with Him.” (John 6:60, 66)

What if, instead of avoiding something because it’s difficult or because it offends us, we instead pursue noble character and decide to listen to our pastors and other mature Christians with an open mind?

What if we use Scripture to regularly examine what we hear, regardless of who we hear it from?

What if we decide to eagerly pursue truth of our own accord instead of simply relying on what others — parents, teachers, pastors — tell us?

The Flight of Faith

Whatever your maturity, let me encourage you to pursue a life of noble character (righteousness). Approach Scripture with an open mind. Examine it regularly, collecting your own data. Let your faith take flight as you get to know Jesus and learn how much he loves you. Refuse to let other people decide the depth — or maybe even the existence of — your relationship with Christ.

Anticipation

vacation-planning-1524450-1600x1200Pleasurable Anticipation

Anticipation can be pleasurable expectation or filled with apprehension. It involves contemplation and hope, and it serves to create a foresight or foretaste of future events. While anticipation can be positive or negative, let’s focus on the pleasurable side of anticipation today.

Just like memories allow reliving of events and the joy they brought, anticipation presents the opportunity for enjoying events even before they take place. Yet, too often, we get so caught up in the details of planning that we forget to enjoy the process. For anticipate to hold pleasure, we need to learn to enjoy the process.

When planning events gets in the way of the pleasurable anticipation, it’s time to step back. Maybe feeling uptight and anxious about an upcoming event means over-planning and considering every contingency have added unnecessary complexity and simplifying your approach is needed.

I’m certainly not suggesting a lack of planning. Anyone who knows me much at all knows I would never say such a thing. What I am saying is that I do know that failure to enjoy the process not only results in missing out on a lot of joy but also creates a lot of tension and stress.

For me, truly anticipating means not doing everything myself. When my family prepares for a vacation together — or any other event, really — the joy of the event multiplies. We get to enjoy planning the event, connecting during it, and reliving the memories for years afterward.

Involving others has truly allowed me to enjoy planning and thus enjoy anticipating many of life’s events. If only I’d have had this mindset before planning my wedding many years ago, before so many of my kids’ birthday parties and even during times spent planning for something as simple as a cookout with a few friends.

As I considered how my over-planning and worrying about “what ifs” use to constantly impede pleasurable anticipation, the Holy Spirit led me to also ask how anticipation exists in my relationship with the Lord. My discoveries revealed yet another area needing some pruning.

A Christian’s Anticipation

The Bible says Christians should anticipate the day of the Lord’s coming by choosing to live for him now.

“Therefore, being always of good courage, and knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord — for we walk by faith, not by sight — we are of good courage, I say and prefer to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord. Therefore we also have as our ambition, whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to Him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed (compensated) for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.” (2 Corinthians 5:6-10)

It also tells us to praise God in our anticipation of what He will do because of what He has already done.

“It is by his great mercy that we have been born again, because God raised Jesus Christ from the dead. Now we live with great expectation…” (1 Peter 1:3)

Unfortunately, my walk with the Lord has not always been one of pleasurable anticipation. Rather, it has been one of “hold me up, Lord,” “please fix this,” and “I can’t take it anymore.” While those are not bad pleas in and of themselves and the Lord wants us to cry out to Him in our need, they only just skim the surface of what having a relationship with Christ means.

That relationship doesn’t just mean leaning on Him for help in troubled and stressful times, but it also means soaring with Him in victory and anticipation of His fulfilled promises yet to come because of what He has already done through Christ.

No matter what happens this side of Heaven, we can expect greater things to come when we enter eternity. No matter how low the valley or high the mountaintop, a Christian’s future exists as one of pleasurable anticipation for greater things to come both in this life and in the next.

Living with this anticipation of the Lord should alter our daily lives because we know what God has done, can see what He’s doing, and have promises to hold on to that tell us what to anticipate from Him in the future.

DISCUSSION: Do you eagerly anticipate events such as vacations? Or, do you dread them because of all the work and planning involved? How can you learn to enjoy the process? Do you anticipate the Lord’s activity in your life? If not, how can you better enjoy the process He’s leading you through?

Gifts to Give Someone Struggling With Depression

Artistic Christmas Tree with GiftsWith Thanksgiving over and Christmas rapidly approaching, many people start to feel the opposite of what they’re supposed to feel this time of year. Instead of feeling joy and happiness, too many instead find themselves depressed.

Depression touches everyone. Most people either know someone who struggles with depression, or they have their own struggle. This comes as no surprise considering the that…

About 9.5% of the U.S. adult population suffers from a depressive disorder in a given year. (That’s about 18.8 million people.)

Depression has been a lifelong battle of mine, and those closest to me have struggled with what to do during my depressed times. For the past five years, though, depression has no longer held a choking grip on me. While still a struggle from time to time, I no longer feel as though I’m barely holding my head above water.

There are 5 gifts others gave that helped me reach victory over depression. At best, these gifts give a depressed person a much-needed lift out of the deep end, and at worst, they don’t do any harm.

  1. Acknowledge feelings. This does not mean to necessarily agree, but it does mean to acknowledge the feelings are real. To say someone who is depressed should not feel a certain way and then proceed to present a case as to why that is true only makes a depressed person feel worse. Simply acknowledge the feelings exist whether or not they are accurate.
  2. Keep advice to yourself. The worse advice I received was anything close to “Just be positive” or “Just cheer up.” My response was always the same: “Don’t you think I would if I could?!” When a person is seriously depressed, no amount of advice is going to bring them out.
  3. Value them and their ideas. To know my ideas and thoughts have value gives amazing encouragement. As with acknowledging feelings, this doesn’t necessarily  mean agreement. It does mean, however, acknowledging a person’s value and ideas even if their reasoning makes little sense.
  4. Listen. Sometimes a depressed person just wants to vent. Being able to vent to someone who listens without judgment takes off some of the heaviness depression creates in a person’s mind.
  5. Confirm loyalty. The person closest to me for most of my life stated more than once, “I will not leave you.” Knowing that no matter how low I got I would not be alone made a tremendous difference in my outlook. At times I didn’t believe it, and I tried to convince him staying was a bad idea. But he held true to his word, and I believe this is one of the main reasons depression no longer controls my life.

There are so many reasons for depression, and those reasons do need addressed in order to be victorious over depression. Along the way, giving the above gifts tells a depressed person he is not alone, that someone will listen and not dismiss his feelings and that someone believes he has value. These gifts can truly make a key difference in helping someone struggle through and find victory over depression… my life is a testimony to this fact.

DISCUSSION: What suggestions do you have for helping someone who is depressed?

See “Making the Church a Safe Place for Mental Illness” by Stephen Altrogge  for another perspective on this topic.

Idle Words

In a say-what’s-on-your-mind culture, words get flung around, overlooked and trampled like a penny on the ground. Does this mean that our words are becoming obsolete like the penny?

Some people seem to talk just to hear the sound of their own voices. Some talk to draw attention to themselves, good or bad. Others talk in an attempt to prove intelligence, and still others talk as if searching for their own value.

For certain, the more words spoken, the less words heard. At least, the more I talk, the less my kids listen and the more they seem to grow distant. The value of words seems to decrease the more words spoken.

If the value of words is declining, why bother?

Why bother thinking about if Words Matter, if Tone Matters, or if Timing Matters? What’s the point of considering why you should Check Your SourceHere’s why:

Idle 1

That’s right, EVERY word. Not some. ALL OF THEM. Every lazy, thoughtless, pointless word. Every emotionally-wrought word. Every utterance coming out of our mouths. That’s why we bother with considering our words carefully.

Jesus also adds this statement about the impact personally of our words.

Idle words 1

Perhaps Jesus’ words here are why James says,

Idle 3

Not only do the words we speak as well as how and when we speak them either strengthen or damage relationships, they also determine the status of our lives after we die. Yes, Jesus is ultimately referring to our words about Him, but doesn’t every aspect of ourselves reflect on our relationship with Him? Our words tell of the state of our inner lives, our hearts, and it is this condition with which God is most concerned.

A blog friend and regular commenter on this site expresses the idea this way:

Idle words 2

Knowing that my words convict or justify me, that they define my character, and that I will be held accountable for every single one of them, motivates me to constantly use caution with my words as well as to continually improve their value. But then I read James 3 and feel defeated, just one verse of it actually.

Idle 4

Does this mean my efforts to guard my words are useless? Am I in a battle I cannot win? As long as I seek to fight it under my own power, yes it does and yes I am. Fortunately, God is in the business of making the impossible happen (Matthew 19:26).

In fact, His Word says a tremendous amount about tongue taming, which indicates its importance, and much of that instruction revolves around a few key points to help us obtain that goal. We’ll look at those instructions next time when we close out our detailed look at words.

DISCUSSION: How do you feel about the impossibility of ever taming your tongue?

How to… Develop Good Judgment – 5 Ways

Emotions cloud the ability for good judgment. Maturity, which doesn’t always mean age, limits it. Physical needs such as hunger and sleep also impact the ability to make healthy choices. Personal preferences bring another factor into the mix of what affects the quality of our decisions.

With all of these factors at play, how can we consistently operate with good judgment? How can we truly make healthy and positive choices more often than not throughout every area of life?

  1. Learn from mistakes. Not only from your own mistakes, but the mistakes of others as well. A mistake only equals wasted resources when we fail to apply its lessons.
  2. Have patience. This means patience not only with other people but with yourself as well. Hurrying often leads to poor decisions or even choices that lead us to say “good enough” rather than striving for our best.
  3. Don’t decide. Sometimes we make decisions just to not have the decision lingering over us. Often, waiting would have led to a natural resolution or solution.
  4. Value small decisions. Small changes made over time add up to make a big difference. Never underestimate the impact your small choices can have on your life.
  5. Seek wisdom. Trusting my thoughts when emotions are running at full tilt has often proved a mistake. Relying on others, whether trusted friends or even experts through books, helps keep me on track. For a start, try Proverbs 4.

Consistently having good judgment involves learning to not allow emotions to direct and control decisions. Quite often, emotions indicate one path while the right choice leads down a path in the opposite direction. Being able to make the right choice regardless of feelings shows a developing ability to have good judgment. This does not mean feelings are useless. Feelings can actually direct us down the right path if we’ve spent time knowing the steps the Lord would have us take. In other words, feelings can be great gauges, but they shouldn’t drive the car.

DISCUSSION: What examples can you give of any of the above suggestions in action? Or, maybe you have an example where one would have been prudent in hindsight.

Related Reading:

A Father’s Wise Advice – A post inspired by Proverbs 4

How Do You Plan for Victory – Part of a series about victory in our lives from Chris Patton at Christian Faith at Work

Decisions, Decisions, Decisions – Part 1 and Decisions, Decisions, Decisions – Part 2 – A 2-part series that resulted from the investigation of making decisions in Multiple Choice Gone Mad.

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Drawbacks vs. Benefits of Simplicity

In considering that Balance Requires Simplicity, we must take time understand that simplicity does have its drawbacks, but those drawbacks pale in comparison to the benefits.

First, simplicity is never complete. It must always be pursued in order to keep complexity at bay. I’ve seen simplicity come and go way too many times both in my own life and in the lives of those I love, and that happens when it’s no longer doggedly pursued.

Second, simplicity makes you feel like somewhat of and outsider since most of the people around you will remain trapped in busyness and overload.

When my life was so busy that I barely had time to keep up with laundry, I guess I just wasn’t bothered that everyone else was that busy too. Maybe misery loves company, or maybe I just didn’t have the mental room to consider the level of everyone else’s busyness when I wasn’t even keeping up with my own.

Third, pursuing simplicity makes you more aware of complexity. Now that I have more margin built into my life, I notice how much others don’t have. They aren’t able to chat and hang out, and they don’t have the time to read, exercise and pursue personal interests. What used to seem like just another busy person now seems like a chaotic life.

Fortunately, the benefits of simplicity by far outweigh the drawbacks.

First, simplicity allows time for pursuing passions. Not until I focused on simplicity did the dream of becoming a writer come to fruition. Having the freedom to pursue God-given passions is truly amazing.

Second, simplicity allows room for quality relationships. Relationships can and usually do complicate life. But, this is one area where complication is welcome. When the rest of life is simple, the complication of relationships seems to bring abundance and joy in amazing ways.

Third, simplicity allows for more flexibility. What makes me happy now is less tangible and more associated with meeting others’ needs rather than just having my needs met. I’m less rattled when my plans fall apart and am able to adapt better than I’ve ever been able to before in my life. As with pursuing passions, the flexibility that comes from simplicity is a truly freeing feeling.

The fact that simplicity sets a person apart from the crowd is disheartening at first. Add to that the realization of how much effort simplicity sometimes requires, and taking a step toward it seems daunting at first. But once you opened the door, simplicity will rush in and tear it off its hinges, and you’ll want to forever leave complexity behind.

DISCUSSION: In what ways would you like to simplify your life?