Truth – A Sifting Process


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My mother was an excellent cook and baker and I still have fond memories of times spent in the kitchen with her as she was baking cookies, pies, and cakes. Many of the things she did then would seem out-of-date now as we continue to look for shortcuts and easier ways to complete a recipe.


Back then watching her sift flour for a cake recipe was common, but rarely do I do that today nor do I hear others do so even if they skip the cake mix and try a homemade recipe. What was important about sifting anyway?


Sifting the flour makes the flour lighter and easier to mix with the other ingredients in the recipe and allows them to combine more evenly. It aerates the flour and gives a more consistent measurement and ultimately a finer product.


Often as we are seeking to determine the truth, it is obvious and evident, but that is not always the case. To be discerning about it we may often need to sift through the information before us that may very well include bits of truth, half-truths, “white lies” ce7adb06cc52d783230081183ae7cf12that seem palatable, and absolute lies that are easier to recognize. All of it requires discernment and a biblical foundation of truth.


The 1992 movie, A Few Good Men, has a famous line many of us recall. In a riveting courtroom scene as Jack Nicholson is being relentlessly questioned by Tom Cruise, Nicholson finally says, “You can’t handle the truth!” The statement is a pithy one for consideration not only in the movie, but also in our own lives. Perhaps that is because the truth is often harder to accept than the half-truth or lie we would prefer to believe.


Truth reveals. It may reveal our failures, our lack of responsibility, our selfishness, our arrogance, or even how deceived we may be. It may reveal things are not under our control or help us see those that are.


Clearly, truth illuminates and makes lighter the darkness that swirls around us and sometimes hides within us. I think that is likely what makes the enemy so determined to hide it, disguise it, or serve us something that looks like the truth and is easy for us to believe and yet is not the truth at all.


His schemes are often effective because he is skilled at confirming doubts we have about the Lord, the Bible, others, and ourselves in our lives that matter to us in one way or another. There are many reasons we succumb to his devices. After all, he has been practicing this for thousands of years and seduced many others before us.


Do we really recognize his voice? We should, but often we do not recognize the Lord’s voice either. Learning to discern the voice of the one speaking to us requires a lot of listening and discerning over time and testing what we hear against foundational truths 935732486af7344f2ea1aabbaf394031and experience. It is crucial we learn to recognize the enemy’s voice because he is nearly always whispering in the background of our daily life.


What are some of the messages the enemy most likes to repeat to us?


  • “Your words are ineffective.”
  • “Your trust is misplaced.”
  • “Your helpers are worthless.”
  • “Your godly leaders will mislead you.”
  • “Let’s make a deal. You can have your cake and eat it too.”
  • “Focus on your circumstances.”
  • “God sent me.”
  • “Be afraid.”
  • “My reward is just like God’s.”


You may not have heard those exact words, but I am guessing it is very likely that you have heard some of them or paraphrases of them. Consider the goals of those messages.


The enemy wants us to believe that our words are ineffective as a tool against the enemy’s devices when the Lord has given us the Word to speak against all the devices of the enemy. You may well remember how that played out when the enemy in the wilderness tempted Jesus and what defeated the enemy’s devices in that scenario.


The enemy wants us to believe that no one can be trusted so we isolate and try to do life alone on our own. Wrong! Going it alone is the one sure way to be worn out, worn down, and fall. God designed us to work in relationship with one another, to lean on one another. Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 speaks to that:


“9 Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. 10 For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up.”


The enemy wants us to make a deal and compromise our values, the Lord’s values in us. He also wants us to focus on the circumstances we find ourselves in rather than to keep our eyes on the Lord. He wants us to tremble in fear despite the Lord telling us over and over again in scripture not to fear.


If we rest in Him, we still the competing voices and learn the truth.


In a recent sermon, I heard a principle we can use to benefit us greatly in the processing of sifting to find the truth:


You cannot trust unless you fully rest and you cannot fully rest unless you trust. We must deal with this…rest/trust. They are inseparable.





Life Giving or Death Dealing




On a dusty shelf in my mind, I recall a little song we taught when I helped in a pre-school Sunday School class during my teen years. The lyrics included admonitions most of the tots didn’t fully comprehend, but perhaps those words came back to them as they do to me. The lines included, “Be careful little eyes what you see….Be careful little ears what you hear” and went on from there.


As my eyes and ears are accosted on social media pages and TV with rants of all sorts, something on the dusty shelf of my mind stirred.


I am interested in the news, but that can be hard to discover in the midst of the ranting, shouting, pontificating, and rambling. I am interested in seeing and hearing the fun and great things happening in the lives of my friends as well as how the Lord is moving in their lives, but not a barrage of social commentary that can bombard me if I checkout Facebook.


You see, all those other things seep into me even though I don’t want them to, and they can have an effect on me that pulls me offside and away from the course the Lord sets before me.


They can be harbingers of fear.


They can also cause my thoughts to go tumbling and momentarily lose sight of WHO is in charge as well as what I (or any of us) has control over and what I (or any of us) do not. They nibble at His peace, joy, and hope. They are not life giving, but more death dealing. They can pull any one of us into isolation or build little walls in our hearts that tear relationships apart.


That should be our first clear clue that behind so much of this, there is a power at work that is meant to destroy us and divide us that has been here since the beginning of time.


That power is clever and well experienced. We never suspect it is he. We label it everything else and he quietly chuckles as he watches us get caught up in the milieu. Our words change, speaking more of our differences than our commonality. Our attitudes shift almost imperceptibly at times and it can take us a moment or more to recognize something is eroding the faith and belief in the One greater than ourselves whom we say we are committed to.


We can forget we are one family.


How myopic we can be! We are a part of something so much bigger than where our focus shifts. A recent sighting of the International Space Station on a clear cool  night was a reminder of how the view from there is so different than mine.


Reading Jayber Crow has given me pause more than once as I have read Wendell Berry’s wise well-crafted words and insight coming from the main character, Jayber. His words go beyond noting that we often don’t understand each other very well to the pithy reality.


“People generally suppose they don’t understand one another very well, and that is true; they don’t. But some things communicate easily and fully. Anger and contempt and hatred leap from one heart to another like fire in dry grass. The revelations of love are never complete or clear, not in this world. Love is slow and accumulating, and no matter how large and high it grows, it falls short. Love comprehends the world, though we don’t comprehend it. But hate comes off in slices, clear and whole – self-explanatory, you might say. You can hate people completely and kill them in an instant.”   Wendell Berry


Certainly the words attributed to the philosopher/barber, Jayber in Wendell Berry’s epic story pierce bone and marrow to the truth. Some pages later he adds:


 “Hate succeeds. This world gives plentiful scope and means to hatred, which always finds its justifications and fulfills itself perfectly in time by destruction of the things of time…


But love, sooner or later, forces us out of time. It does not accept that limit. Of all that we feel and do, all the virtues and all the sins, love alone crowds us at last over the edge of the world. For love is always more than a little strange here. It is not explainable or even justifiable. It is itself the justifier. We do not make it. If it did happen to us, we could not imagine it. It includes the world and time as a pregnant woman includes her child whose wrongs she will suffer and forgive. It is in the world but is not altogether of it. It is of eternity. It takes us there when it most holds us here.”




What Did We Expect?



As I look around my little corner of the world, it seems like there are more than a few challenges going on in the lives of most everyone I know.


Peeking beyond that to a broader view beyond my corner, I see even more challenges. It’s a bit like looking at range after range of mountains that do not end.


The challenges come in all sizes and shapes.


They come no matter what the season we are in.


Some challenges are ones we choose and are for some good goal, but others come unbidden by us.


It’s one thing to choose to run a marathon, take a rigorous college program, signup for the military, or go on a mission trip. Those are all tough, but it’s those other challenges we didn’t sign up for that can seem especially daunting.


None of us sign up for accidents, a job loss, a failed relationship, a diagnosis of cancer, the death of a child, abuse, or a betrayal in ministry, but some of these and others I did not name still come anyway.


What is amazing to me is that somehow we can be so shocked when life doesn’t work out or go according to our plans. What did we expect?


At it’s very best life is an adventure. At its worst, life is a trial or a series of trials that may feel never ending.


Somehow some part of us still likes to believe in the illusion that we have more control than we do or were ever meant to have. Some of us believe if we follow the rules, are just good enough, or make very few mistakes, everything will be fairly smooth.


When things don’t work out that way, fear, anger, or hopelessness can paralyze us.


We want life to be safe (at least relatively speaking). As believers, we especially want to feel the safety and protection of the Lord with a confidence He will keep us from harm. When life hands us a different menu, we question whether God is good or who we believe He says He is (more often than we might want to admit).


I love the C.S. Lewis Narnia series. It is so rich in meaning and depth. One favorite scene in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is when the children ask the beavers if Aslan is safe. The beavers respond that he isn’t safe, but he is good.


Having confidence in God’s goodness is one of the linchpins of faith. When it is absent, our trust falters, our faith melts away like an ice cream cone on a summer’s day, and hope flickers like the wick at the end of a candle.


Here’s the truth we forget. We are caught up in a great story, a great adventure. It has been that way from the very beginning. Our challenge is to accept the challenge, move forward in the adventure, and keep the linchpin in place so in Him we triumph against all the odds that might be arrayed against us.


You see, as I read through THE STORY (the Bible), I see that truth everywhere.


Life is scary despite all the beautiful, exciting, wonderful things we discover in the adventure.


If that sounds unrealistic, ask Noah, Moses, Jonah, or the long list of heroes of the faith we learn about through His Word. Sure, we know they are heroes now, but if you could ask them if they felt that way when the flood was raging, the Red Sea lay ahead, or the belly of a whale was home, I doubt they would tell you they felt no fear.


So how did they become heroes? What did they do with the fear they experienced? What can we learn from them on our own adventures?


I think the key is something I heard quite some time ago.


Courage isn’t the absence of fear, but the byproduct we receive when we face our fear.


Ask any Medal of Honor recipient if they felt courageous when they threw themselves in harm’s way to save another and the answer will definitely be they did not. What happened in one terrifying moment’s time caused them to step into the situation for the sake of someone else, and God met them there.


That’s what He did with Joshua and every other favorite hero of the Bible.


I am reminded of one of Corrie Ten Boom’s stories of her life with her sister, Betsy, in Auschwitz during WW II. As Corrie was seeking to encourage Betsy as they faced unspeakable horrors and fears, she told her a story. She reminded her of trips they would make on a train with their father. Corrie brought back to Betsy’s memory how their father would not give them their tickets for the train until it was time to board the train because they wouldn’t need them until then.


Corrie gave a marvelous example of how God meets us just at that greatest point of fear and gives us just a few seconds to face it only to realize His gift of courage.


That’s the key to dismantling fear that cripples us.


“But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.”  2 Cor. 4:7 (ESV)






A Snare We Easily Accept




They were enjoying their favorite lattes when her friend asked if she were going to the party next weekend. Unaware that a mutual friend had not invited both of them, a cool breeze quickly blew over the cordiality of their conversation leaving an awkward silence fall between them.


Those painful moments when we are not chosen or feel left out are impossible to avoid in this life. Even when there is no intent for harm, wounds come. It is often even harder to know how to respond when it happens by accident and you discover a relationship is not what you thought it had been.


No matter what we may say in the moment, our heart shrinks back a bit not unlike a turtle pulling back into its shell for protection when sensing danger. In that one moment in time, things change and shift, crumbling within us. An explanation may come, but it cannot cancel the moment.


Our mind can be fertile ground for all sorts of imaginings about the person who has wounded us as well as us.


We easily go off on rabbit trails reviewing the relationship, but with the filter of the wound coloring every memory and turning even the sweetest ones sour.


Whatever trust we have had shrinks a bit, but too often it doesn’t happen with just the one person who wounded us. We trust ourselves less as well and wander off the path wondering what we missed and why we missed it.


We tend to be more cautious in all our relationships, more tentative about what we say or share, hesitant about reaching out.



Little by little our world gets smaller and we can be tempted to begin to close ourselves off from others except in the most superficial ways. At its worst, we can distance ourselves from the Lord as well at the time we most needed to run to Him.


A deadly war is going on and like any warrior in such a time, the smoke and din of battle result in our inability to see or hear, to know the direction we are to take or even how we can summon the strength to move.


In the last part of the incredible trilogy of The Lord of the Rings in the Return of the Kings, the movie version gives us a poignant picture that depicts our situation.


Frodo and Sam are near the end of their journey to Mt. Doom to destroy the ring of power that has blanketed the world in darkness. Both lay exhausted on the slopes of the mountain scarred and worn by their travels to this point.


Sam, the ever-faithful friend, seeks to encourage Frodo and to pull his mind and sight from the relentless and frightening image of the ring of fire and “the eye”.   He asks Frodo, “Do you remember the shire?”


I love this scene!


Sam is reminding Frodo of his history, his moorings, and the reality that he can no longer see.


That is why we so desperately need not to walk alone, especially when we walk in darkness and exhaustion. We need a friend that sticks closer than a brother (Proverbs 18:24) to remind us of what we have forgotten, to help us to see more clearly.


We must not fall prey to the snare that would tempt us to walk alone where we can be more easily seduced to the power of darkness.


In Ecclesiastes 4:9-11, we are admonished again about the dangers of traveling alone.


“Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up.” ESV


We are admonished because the Lord knows well our weaknesses and has designed us for fellowship, to be with one another and for one another. We see it when Jesus sends His disciples out two-by-two. He knew the risks and dangers, the warfare they would face.

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So in these scenes on the slopes of Mt. Doom, Sam senses his dearest friend has lost sight of everything precious and good, right and true. He begins to tell Frodo about the shire and he asks if he remembers the taste of strawberries.



With what little strength he has left, Frodo tells Sam that he can’t recall the taste of food, the sound of water, or the feel of grass. He says he sees nothing but darkness, the ring of fire, and “the eye” whether his eyes are open or closed.


Sam, who is also exhausted, looks at Frodo with tears in his eyes and says, “Let’s be rid of it. I can’t carry it for you, but I can carry you.” Sam picks up Frodo and step-by-step carries him up the mountain.


“And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken”. Ec. 4:12




Who Do You Trust?



When I was growing up one of the TV shows my parents often would watch was one called “Who Do You Trust?”  It aired back in the late 1950’s for a brief time as a popular game show. The original host was Edgar Bergen but was later replaced by Johnny Carson.


Three couples would participate on the show.  The host would interview them and then pose a question to the man and then ask whether he trusted the woman to answer it accurately or whether he trusted himself to have the right answer.


Since the answer to the question was worth money and determined how long the couple would be able to play, it was crucial to think through who might be the one who knew the correct answer. This was made more difficult since the couples were not necessarily husband and wife.


It was fascinating to see the game unfold and how the person discerned who was the person who could be trusted to give the correct answer.


Even though it was simply a game, the truth is that the question seems to be far more commonplace today than it was when the show aired. Life seemed simpler back then or at least we believed it was. Hearing stories of deception would occur, but not at the speed of a text or a tweet.



Whether we are looking at labels in the grocery store or listening to ads on everything from cars and mortgages to cruise liners and automobiles and beyond, the flood of information often leaves us scratching our heads.  I often hear the sentence, “You don’t know who to trust!” and in many instances that is true.


Lack of responsibility, reliability, and truth telling has resulted in most of us learning from experience to check out competitors before choosing a product or service. We have learned to get “second opinions” before accepting the first diagnosis or recommendation from medical personnel.


All this doubt creeps into our spiritual lives as well when Christian leaders express opinions or thoughts that appear contradictory with our understanding of scripture or are exposed after being caught in an indiscretion.


The enemy uses this context mightily to his advantage and our detriment. He plants seeds of doubt about trustworthiness in the lives of some who have given us no reason to doubt them.


He can even cause us to doubt the Lord.


The prize is when he either convinces us we are totally trustworthy or totally untrustworthy in discerning the truth.


I think the key starting point is to look at the source of information, but even then, we may not have all the information needed to be certain.


This has all gotten worse in recent months and shows no signs of improving. Why?


You guessed it!  The political landscape of not only our nation, but every other on the earth as well. The result seems to include increasing conflict and division, fear and uncertainty, disheartenment and discouragement, and more.


Who do you trust?


Perhaps the message in all of this for those of us who are believers is to recognize that we are first and foremost citizens of another kingdom, a kingdom that supersedes all others past, present, and future.  The “head” of that kingdom possesses all knowledge and wisdom, all power and authority, and is absolutely trustworthy while totally outside of our control.



His story in the Bible shows how He uses every nation to bring about His purposes and often to call His people back to Him. That isn’t always pretty. It is often not easy.  Clearly His ways are often not ours and beyond our understanding.


The key question? 


Do I trust Him? 


As I have been considering this, my daily reading included Proverbs 16. The last verse of that chapter speaks volumes to this season of uncertainty.


In the ESV translation it reads as follows:


“The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord.”  Proverbs 16:33 


 Of course, we are not really using lots these days to make our decisions even though we know it was common in the stories in the Bible. That caused me to look at a modern rendering of the same verse.


“Make your motions and cast your votes, but God has the final say.” Proverbs 16:33 The Message


Does that mean we adopt a “que sera, sera” response?


I don’t think so. I think we are still called to pray, to seek the Lord’s direction, to learn what we are able to learn.


But in the end, the answer to the question, “Who do you trust?” is not about any person, male or female. The answer is whether or not I trust the One who knows everything including what may be secret or hidden from my view.


Who do I trust? 


Who do you trust?