29 October 2011

In All Honesty: part four, Relative Truth

I mentioned about watches in part three of this brief series. Imagine how you'd feel if you'd suddenly discovered that the clock that you'd been setting your watch to for years was itself wrong? That you'd been giving out the wrong time - and worse, you honestly thought you were doing the right thing by checking back with a 'trusted' source - which was itself wrong!

If you follow me, then you can understand some of the difficulties with 'relative truth' that I've been working through for a while. It's because there's a whole host of different beliefs out there - even differences in opinion in how you follow individual beliefs. Surely, they can't all be right? No - some of these 'truths' are contradictory; some are misinformation, or 'spin'; some are simply 'best guesses'; some are opinions that might even be described as naive. Some - well, the court is out on these, no-one seems to know...

As a 'seeker after truth' I have sought help from others in order to follow the right path. Some of the paths I took as a young man I once thought were 'true' but these have clearly proven to be false. In fact, dead ends! However, I doubt whether many of the people (including my own friends and family) who advised me to take these false paths meant me any harm. Like the weatherman (see part one of this series), they're trying their best. And, the path itself may not have been wrong for all - but it was certainly wrong for me (it made me ill for a time!).

Although I make mistakes, I don't want to make the same mistake twice! And I certainly don't want to lead others astray by directing them the wrong way! I want the right way. I want to show others the right way.

I read a quote by C.S.Lewis yesterday which succinctly summed up my current situation for me:


Here's a couple more quotes that have challenged me lately. As I continue to pursue the truth, dear reader, working it out in my own way and style, please do me a favour? Let me know from time to time if it looks like I'm going off course, okay?

Proverbs 4:7 (NIV)
Wisdom is supreme; therefore get wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding.

"The pursuit of truth shall set you free - even if you never catch up with it" - Clarence Darrow (1857-1938)

27 October 2011

In All Honesty: part three, Time Checks

I've read that a great deal of people think that the phrase "to thine own self be true" (mentioned in part two of this series) is taken from scripture, when in fact these are words taken from the Bard. Just goes to prove how little some people know the Bible nowadays.

Putting this confusion aside for a moment, let's consider the question; do you think this is good advice?

I do. It rings true. I can see a ring of truth in this, the honesty in what is being said in Shakespeare's prose. However, as an adage, I'm afraid it simply doesn't go far enough. It's only true up to a point. We are, after all, how God made us, each with our own gifts, our own unique way at looking at life. But we need God in our lives to keep us on track.

Why do I think so? I reason it like this. We're like timepieces, watches that have been put together by a master craftsman. Each of us has our own unique gifts, our own peculiar way of looking at things, because each of us has a place in society. Each of us, if you will, is designed for a different purpose. We are a masterpiece of engineering. We are fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14).

However, even with the best watches you still need to check the time now and again! Left to run unchecked, a timepiece will tend to get out of sync and needs to be brought back in line. It may be only a second out, it may be two minutes or more; fast, or slow! It may not be for any mechanical reason - sometimes the clocks change! Whatever the reason, we all need correction from time to time.

Some of us are stopwatches, built for precision; others, elaborate pocket watches, or even everyday wristwatches. But all need checking from time to time.

Relying on our own inner self is great - but can only take us so far.

In the final entry to this study I'll wrap up my thoughts on the subject, touching once again on honesty and "relative truth".

14 October 2011

In All Honesty: part two, To Your Own Self Be True

As part of my study of honesty, I've been attempting to understand why people react the way they do. Different people see the world in different ways; each seeing varying aspects of the same thing. Some may live in a particularly shallow world; others may think particularly deeply! It's like the difference between the optimist and the pessimist, and half a glass of water. The optimist says it's half full; the pessimist says it's half empty!

However, by His nature, God can see the whole picture all at once. We studied this a little last weekend, as the Sunday School lesson was about Jesus' encounter with the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4). He knew all about her!

To quote Julie Andrews, you need to 'start at the very beginning' - so I've begun by clarifying my own motivations, exploring my own character. How else do I expect to know others if I can't understand myself; begin to understand why I look at life a certain way...

From my studies on the subject it's clear that I'm an introvert (for those in the know I'm an INFJ), which explains my need for a 'time out' at regular intervals, just to recharge the batteries. I'm a bit of an idealist, ever striving to do my best and having to settle for second-best (or worse) much of the time. I struggle with my moods, possibly as a result of the last point. And I'll add for good measure the fact that I'm a seeker after truth (which won't come as too much a surprise to regular followers of this blog).

I'll unpack some of this in the weeks to come.

Polonius: This above all: to thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.
Hamlet - Act 1, scene 3

8 October 2011

In All Honesty: A Story About The Weather

"It's not going to rain tomorrow!"
"Yes it is, the weather forecast said so..."
"No, it's not..."
"Er... but it is..."
"No - it's - not!"

This was the essence of a conversation I overheard a few months ago. The exchange of dialogue has stayed with me, a good introduction to a topic I'd like to explore this week: that of having an honest attitude to life.

In the exchange above, we have someone's heartfelt but unspoken prayer that the rain would stay away, as it would spoil this well-planned open-air church event. And we also have another one who delivered a piece of authoritative information from the weatherman.

There's two schools of thought, aren't there, as to who had the right attitude here. Wishful thinking, coming right up against supposed facts. Hope against stark reality. Which way is better?

Is the attitude of the first speaker, understandably keen to have things go ahead without a hitch and therefore 'thinking positively' about the day, the way we should follow? Or should we be like the second speaker, who had been told a 'fact' and in all honesty was simply passing it on?

I'd be interested for your feedback. I'm mulling over the whole idea of stepping out in faith. Is that naive? Because I feel that blindly following the facts can also be wrong! (Particularly the weather forecast!) There needs to be a balance.

And, incidentally, on the day in question it didn't rain after all!

6 October 2011

What is a Christian?

Nearly three out of four Brits claim to be Christian. According to the Office for National Statistics, the number of people who said they were not religious rose from 20.5% last year to 23.2% in 2011, however the proportion describing themselves as Christian remained steady at 68.5%.

Compare that to the report on Churchgoing in the UK published by Tearfund in April 2007 that showed that only 15% of the population go to Church at least once a month.

Confused by the statistics? I think the issue is more like people are confused about what a Christian actually is. Some think that if you live in a Christian country then you must be a Christian; some think you're a Christian only if you go to church, or only if you have been baptised.

What does the Bible say?

2 Corinthians 5:17 (NIV)
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!

That's why people refer to Christians being 'born again'. Do you know where that phrase comes from? Here's where:

John 3:3-8 (NIV)
3 Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.”

4 “How can someone be born when they are old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!”

5 Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. 6 Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. 7 You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ 8 The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”