Truth vs. Truth

I have an idea that I have been kicking around in my head. I thought I might throw it out for people to help me process it better.

What if there are two kinds of truth within each person? What would that mean?

Here is my idea: I think we have head truth and heart truth. What I mean is, there are the academic truths/realities that we each accept as true and rational, but then there are these other truths that are much more powerful in our lives. They are the truths that actually dictate our beliefs. These are found in our “heart,” which is technically the limbic system of the brain.

In the book Following Through: A Revolutionary New Model for Finishing Whatever You Start by Steve Levinson, Ph.D., and Pete Greider, M.Ed., the key to being motivated enough to accomplish something is to move it out of our rational brain, or the prefrontal cortex, and into the more emotional part of the brain, which actually determines our decisions. For example, we all know that eating right and working out is a good idea rationally, but we struggle to find the motivation to follow through. So we must find a good reason to move the decision into the limbic system in order to find a driving motivation to accomplish the task. A heart attack, or diabetes, or someone we love dying suddenly moves this from a good idea to a determined must.

I think this idea has some really powerful implications for us spiritually. How many of us (or the people we know) can mentally ascend to the truth that God sees us as worthy and valuable, but we live and make decisions as if we are not? This kind of dichotomy in a person causes all kinds of issues, and if we’re not careful it can stunt our spiritual development in profound and painful ways.

Whatever the Christian journey is, it must encompass a way to deal with both head truth and heart truth so we can become the spiritually mature person God calls us to become.

Romans 12:2 says we must be transformed by the renewing of our mind. How do we do that?

Ephesians 5: Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.

So, within the marriage context we see that we have the truth of the word being learned, but applied in the loving, selfless, uplifting context of community. And I don’t think this truth is relegated just to marriage.

Maybe the way we become capable of applying the truth of what we learn from Scripture is in the context of community. Maybe the merger of the two sources of truth (head and heart) isn’t in my ability to will it, but in my desire and determination to engage relationships with other likeminded people. Perhaps developing an understanding of God is critical to my success as a Christian, but added to that, it is also critical to engage deeply in relationships that help me bridge the gap between my head and my heart.

Maybe Jesus knew what He was saying: “The greatest commandment is to love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your might. And the second is like it — love your neighbor as yourself. All the law and the prophets hang on these two commandments.”

If that is true, then the only way to live in one truth (a complete merger of head and heart) is to engage Christian community with my whole self. Spiritual maturity comes with the integration of the two sources of truth in my own life. And no matter what I learn, I can only truly apply and walk out that truth if I am fully engaged in community.

Maybe “love God and love people” really is that important.

May you be fully engaged in learning more and more about God. And may you find the integration of those new truths rooted in living in the context of God’s people.

The Eastern Mind #9 — Self vs. Community

I want to further unpack the result of our foundational metaphysic. If we believe the universe is foundationally chaos, and we must control and predict, and the carpet can get pulled out from underneath of us at any moment, then there is a net side effect so common that we wouldn’t even consider it abnormal. It is rooted in a particular view of the world that is not in line with the invitation of scripture.

The western mind always begins the solution of any problem with the net impact on self. We see the world starting with the self and working outward. We view everything this way. Generosity is often only a value if we have extra to give, but we must make sure we take care of self first. Then, a cascading structure of resource allotment is based on those most dear to me.

This is very western. All the way back to Rome and before, this was true. Even in how towns functioned, water was apportioned, and influence was given. It was always rooted in the self of the most important person and structured based on production, accumulation, and status.

In this worldview, there are always going to be those who cannot bring value to the table. They don’t bring value to another person’s self, therefore they have no role in the societal structure. If you don’t produce, you don’t help me; if you don’t help me, you have no inherent value.

Who does this eliminate? What about babies who are given up as a matter of convenience? In the Roman world they were placed just outside the city gates to cook in the sun and die due to exposure. What about the kid with Down syndrome or the quadriplegic who will always be dependent on the system for help? Do they have value?

In the eastern world, it is very different. They see their foundational impulse as caring for the community first. When each person lives this way, all needs are met. And this idea has marked me forever.

When I was in Israel in 2013, I was on a tour that had a surprise stop in the desert to watch a shepherd boy with his sheep. There were 60 of us overfed Americans standing on the side of the highway, watching a shepherd who we later found out was more than four hours away from his tent, his family, and his food.

Out of nowhere, this kid came over to our group and gave us his lunch. It wasn’t much. And it wouldn’t have satisfied the hunger of any one of the people on the tour, let alone all of us. But this kid gave us everything he had. Understand, he was choosing to go hungry for the rest of the day. He wasn’t going to go home and get more. He wasn’t going to be able to eat until late that night, and it was early morning. But he gave it anyway, because in the eastern world, we take care of the community before we care for ourselves.

While this seems simple enough, I can tell you that this foundationally shook me. If I was the shepherd boy, I would have said hello. I would have visited and shared information about shepherding, and even entertained a few Bible passages and questions from these crazy tourists standing on the highway. But I would not have given them my food. I would have nothing to eat if I did that. God wouldn’t ask me to do that, would He? God would want me to be happy, wouldn’t He?

In the eastern world, the rich man in the town has the poorest person placed daily at his driveway. It is his responsibility and privilege to care for the poor man. In our world, we would call the police. Now read the parable of the rich man and Lazarus.

May you find the power of “others first.” And may you show the world what it means to serve one another in love.

The Eastern Mind #8 — Metaphysic

There is a baseline truth to the way we see the universe. This is rooted in the worldview we hold. As westerners, we are Greek in our thinking, so it will be helpful to understand how Greek thinking has affects how we react to the world. It has fingers that I am sure we have not fully explored.

Metaphysics is a philosophical approach that wrestles with the questions of the fundamental nature of reality and being. In other words, what are the most foundational realities of the universe?

The Greek metaphysic is deeply rooted in our minds and shows up in all kinds of ways. The Greek understanding of the universe is that it is foundationally chaos. It is out of control and unpredictable. It is dangerous and can hurt you at any moment. Therefore, I must try to understand how everything works for the purpose of predicting and controlling outcomes.

This heavily influences us, even in how we understand God. Think about how it plays out when a surprise happens in the day. How do you respond? Tragedy strikes — how do you respond? This leads to panic that makes us cry out in fear to God, begging Him to solve it, and often feeling paralyzed to move forward until the chaos of that moment subsides.

Now, it isn’t all together bad. The insatiable need to understand for the purpose of predicting and controlling has led to some good things: medicine, understanding of diseases, DNA — much of the sciences come out of this drive to predict and control. But when it comes to things no one can control — natural disaster, famine, drought, even love — this need to control can leave us in a very insecure place.

The eastern view of the universe is drastically different. Rather than being chaos, the universe is foundationally ordered. And it is ordered by a God who in His very nature is good and loves us. He is not angry, nor does he need to be appeased to keep the chaos away. This also radically affects how we deal with the situations described earlier.

When chaos strikes our world, we do not have to panic. We can rest. We can rest in the truth that there is a God in the universe who is in control and He loves me. He is a good God who provides. This is very different than the pagan gods of other civilizations, which must continually be appeased and held at bay so they don’t wreak havoc in the world. But we are guessing about how to appease them, and they are not bound to honor their word, so they can still create problems even if we have done everything correctly.

This is the radical part of the creation story in Scripture. The writer of Genesis 1 is not trying to prove or disprove a certain scientific understanding of creation. The author’s desire is to show a whole new kind of God who is rooted in peace and safety, and one who has the universe under control and your best interests at heart.

That changes everything.

May you find rest in the grace of a God who has you safely in the palm of His hand. May you find the peace that passes understanding — not from letting go of caring, but from taking hold of the character of God.

The Eastern Mind #7 — Nouns and Verbs

As we have mentioned already in this series, western thought is prepositional and philosophical. It is rooted in abstract concepts and ideas rather than concrete realities like the eastern thought process. As a consequence of this, the western languages are built upon ideas, concepts, and things — nouns. This may sound trite, but it isn’t. What this leads to is the reality that when we communicate, we communicate ideas and intent, not necessarily action.

As westerners listen to a lecture, talk, lesson, or sermon, we can absolutely agree with everything stated, but because we understand it conceptually, not concretely, we have no real need to act on what we agree to. Because our language is built on abstract concepts and ideas, we disconnect desire and action, or what we want to do and what we actually do.

This shows up in all kinds of ways in our lives. We “want” to lose weight, but we rarely act on it. We want to change jobs or go back to school or any number of other things, but we do not actually move forward on any of it.

The eastern world is different. Hebrew, for example, is a language built around verbs rather than nouns. The thrust of the story, the lesson, the sermon, is in the action taken, not the concept or idea that drove the action. This changes a lot about how we live our lives and what we say about what we want to do and what we don’t want to do.

When I was learning Hebrew, I was learning from a self-taught program led by an Israeli national. She was great and very helpful. However, I struggled to turn my assignments in. I had the best intentions, but I had terrible follow through.

She asked me one day if I wanted to learn Hebrew. I said I absolutely wanted to learn Hebrew. She said something to me that I will never forget: “Well, from a Hebrew perspective, you do not want to learn Hebrew.” Simple and profound. All the good intentions in the world mean nothing without action to follow it up. This is the worldview of those who wrote the Bible.

Jesus said, “If you love me, you will obey me.” On the surface it sounds like works righteousness, but think about it. From the perspective of a Jew, that is absolutely how Jesus should have said it. Beyond the truth of this statement, the worldview is totally evident. To a Hebrew, you don’t love God if you don’t do what He says. Love for them isn’t a concept or idea or abstract feeling. It is a verb. It is an action. It is faithfulness to the call we have been given. This is why the scripture says that if we claim to be in Christ, we must walk as Jesus walked. Some translations will render it “live as Jesus lived.” Walk implies action, and in the Jewish mind there is no difference. Your walk is your life, no matter the words you speak.

So, may you live out your life. May you be known by how you walk the path. May your actions always speak louder than your words. And may you close the gap between feelings and actions.

The Thankful Sacrifice

Something hit me today that I had never put together. I have been reading the Psalms in my personal quiet time. They are speaking powerfully to me as of late. I don’t know why now as opposed to previously. But I know that it has been just what I needed in my life. God is so faithful!

In Psalm 50, Asaph is writing a song outlining God’s conversations with faithful and unfaithful people. He says this to the faithful:

Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving,
    and perform your vows to the Most High,

and call upon me in the day of trouble;
    I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.

Then God says this to the unfaithful:

“Mark this, then, you who forget God,
    lest I tear you apart, and there be none to deliver!
The one who offers thanksgiving as his sacrifice glorifies me;
    to one who orders his way rightly
    I will show the salvation of God!”

Both the faithful and unfaithful alike should be offering thanksgiving as their sacrifice to the Lord. In other words, we should be in the perpetual process of being thankful to the Lord for everything that is going on around us.

This “sacrifice of thanksgiving” must be pretty important. It sounds to me like this would be one of the critical parts of the sacrificial system. Would it surprise you to know that this wasn’t one of the required sacrifices? It is an optional part of our relationship with God. Even in the time of temple worship, the sacrifice of thanksgiving was merely a good suggestion.

The sacrifice of thanksgiving is talked about in Leviticus 7 and 22. While it is not a required sacrifice, there is certainly an assumption that it will take place. After all, how could you not be thankful to God?

Why is this “optional” sacrifice so important in Psalm 50? It seems to be the thing that God calls everyone to regardless of their thoughts on life, and it’s also the catalyst for opening up His blessings in our lives.

For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.

This passage from Romans 1 starts an entire diatribe on the process of societal degradation. Where do we fall apart being in culture? When we stop giving thanks to God. Maybe this whole thankfulness thing is really important.

I have a few ideas on how to start being more thankful:

  • Keep a thankfulness journal. Write five things every day that you are thankful for.
  • Begin the day by spending time thinking about whom you are thankful for. Tell them that same day.
  • End the day by making a few notes about what happened that you were thankful for.
  • Say thank you at the end of every interaction you have with people. Whether it’s the grocery store clerk or someone who made you dinner or your spouse, be thankful for everything that is happening around you.
  • Take 15 seconds to thank God every time something good happens in the day.

Maybe if enough people begin the process of being thankful, we could reshape our culture. Maybe rather than being critical and afraid of where culture is headed, we should be thankful for an opportunity to influence and shape it. Maybe if we were thankful for who our kids are or our spouse is rather than resentfully being critical of what they aren’t, we would radically bless our family.

Thankfulness is the antidote to greed and entitlement. Thankfulness is the cure for resentment. Thankfulness is the answer to materialism. Thankfulness matters — a lot!

May you always be thankful, and especially when you don’t feel like it.