Tag Archives: truth

Conflict Free Zone?

Another April article? Well, she is a special giraffe, but…

Last time we visited April the Giraffe, we talked about “watchful living.” As I noted, fans were growing impatient and dissatisfied with all the waiting. Since then, the number of “the dissatisfied” increased significantly.

Negative comments are pouring in from those who are upset that they are getting charged to know the gender of the baby. Also, people who paid for early warning alerts at the birth are complaining. Add those comments to the impatient people and the conspiracy folks who say the whole thing is a publicity scam, and viola…conflict!

The problem? The site says it is a “conflict free zone!” Silly giraffe, those don’t exist; at least not where humans are involved.

“Conflict free” zones on the Internet are a bit utopian and naïve. When people post with anonymity, their best side doesn’t exactly come out. Even a simple giraffe birth has caused conflict.

So here’s a question: how about the church? Does it have an example to offer? After all, it is made up of people. Are churches “conflict free zones?” Not if people are involved!

Nevertheless, we strive for something greater in the church. But if we rely on human nature, we will never achieve it. True freedom from conflict is in the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness faithfulness, gentleness, & self-control.

There are hundreds of verses that teach us to rid conflict from among us. Why hundreds? Because our fleshly desires put self ahead of others. The battle is to overcome those thoughts. Resolving conflict is, as Jesus put it, a blessing to “the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God” (Matthew 5:9).

“Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you” (Ephesians 4:31-32).

So…“conflict free” giraffes? Maybe. “Conflict free” church? Definitely! But only when His people submit to the Spirit of Truth!

Dear Google, “Can You Just Tell Me What Is True, Please?”

cens_burnAh, the ultimate question: “What is truth?” Humanity has debated it for thousands of years. But thanks to new developments at Google, the struggle may soon be over. Google will just tell you what’s true! Wow, that was easy!

A miracle? No. It’s just algorithms and databases. But a recent proposal by a Google funded research team is striking fear and anger in the hearts of many. What’s the big deal? Who cares? Well, you should, and here’s why: Google shapes “truth” more than you know.

You see, under Google’s current methods, popularity tends to win the day. Google gives a higher preference to websites that are heavily used and pages that have the most cross-linked information. The basic thinking is like Wikipedia: more people will link to good information and report or comment negatively about bad information.

But Google figured out that there is a lot of garbage on the Internet. After all, people will say anything. And, even worse, people will share that “anything” without checking resources. But how do you stop people from finding sites with bad information on them? Google has a solution – trust them!

So the idea is this: Google would analyze the content of a web sites and give a “Knowledge Based Trust Score” based on how closely a web site matches the several billion “facts” in their “Knowledge Vault.” Web sites that match things that Google “knows to be true” will get preferential treatment. Web sites that do not match Google’s version of “facts” will lose ranking and hits.

Hurray! After all, we like facts, right? Don’t you love truth? Hmmm…wait a second…are Google “facts” always reliable?

Well, sort of. I like Google if I want an address, a telephone number, or the metric tons of bat guano processed at mines in Puerto Rico in the late 1800’s (100 metric tons/day, by the way). But what will Google do when conflicting sources disagree about the so-called “facts” of really important stuff? Who will get preference then?

The implications are incredible. Want to know if God exists? Ask Google. Want to know how the world started? Ask Google. Want to know how to get to Heaven? Ask Google.

Starting to see the problem? The vast majority of the public uses Google as their main search engine; they are the 800-pound gorilla. What if they start steering people toward a particular denomination or religion? Or what if they determine that those answers are best left to science? The query, “Google, how am I saved?” may return ten websites about penicillin!

Now, I’m not trying to be alarmist or a conspiracy theorist on this. But it does raise questions that are worth discussing. Where do you get your information? How do you determine what a “fact” is? And are you willing to trust Google’s database of “facts” to determine what books and websites are worth reading?

If your website is “flagged” as a source that Google does not agree with, then the consequences will be significant. Your page might not even register on a web search on a given topic. After all, most people never go to those buried 3rd and 4th pages on a search. Google won’t think of it as it “censorship,” but rather, “helpful suggestions” on what is the “right” information to read. 

Pilate once challenged Jesus with the question, “What is truth?” Some people believe Pilate was really asking Jesus for Words of truth. Others believe he was sarcastically saying that truth is whatever he says it is. Either way, we are still wrestling with this question almost 2,000 years later. Can Google end the debate? If only there were a book that had the answers! Oh, wait…there is.

You see, while I may not be ready to trust Google’s “facts” on salvation, Google is a great way to look up verses in the book that does have that information – the Bible! The Bible is the only true source of facts regarding eternity. It contains the God-breathed (2 Timothy 3:16-17) words of life. Don’t believe me? Just Google it! 😉

 

 

8 Seconds of Silence

swift, 1989Canadians really love Taylor Swift. REALLY. Taylor’s fans, or “Swifties,” as they are called, proved their devotion to Taylor this week by sending the 3rd track on her new album, “1989,” to #1. “Why is that news?” I’m glad you asked. Turns out, the 3rd track  was an accidental release of 8 seconds of white noise!

That’s right! You know you have arrived when you can release 8 seconds of white noise accidentally and your fans make it the #1 hit song in the country! Seriously, Canada. I wonder what kind of royalties Taylor got as people tried to figure out what she was “really trying to say!”

According to Merriam-Webster, “White Noise” is defined as:

a constant noise (such as that the noise from a television or radio that is turned on but is not receiving a clear signal) that is a mixture of many different sound waves; also, meaningless or distracting commotion, hubbub, or chatter.

Now, don’t take this to mean that all Taylor’s hits are meaningless…well, you can decide that for yourself. But she does have several hits on the top ten, especially in Canada. It is interesting, though, that more fans chose to listen to 8 seconds of white noise than hear one of her actual recordings with a real message. And the harsh question is, “how different is that from the religious world?”

There is a lot of “white noise” out there today in the religious world. There are so many noises, sounds, and frequencies, that it can be hard to hear the one true signal of God. I believe that many people today would rather look for meaning in 8 seconds of nonsense than listen to the truth of the message of God.

What is the church doing today to distinguish the gospel message from the white noise?

Taylor’s 8 seconds was a mistake, and it was easily fixed. They simply removed the track from possible downloads. But no one is removing false “noise” from the religious airwaves. Be careful what you download…the real message of Jesus is far better than the white noise! Why not give a listen today? Try http://www.churchofchristatclover.org/sermons/ for messages from His truth.

Victoria, PLEASE, Don’t Be For Him!

VictoriaThere are some people who, no matter what they say, even if it is truth, you simply don’t want to speak on your behalf. This is the way God sees false teachers.

The Apostle Paul taught us that false teachers can damage a message even by telling the truth. In Acts 16, a woman is following Paul around, proclaiming, “These men are bond-servants of the Most High God, who are proclaiming to you the way of salvation.” She spoke the truth. And you might think that Paul should be ecstatic to find such a good supporter. After all, it is better than the stoning and beatings he received elsewhere, right?

Wrong. Paul would rather take a beating for doing right than the praise of a false teacher (1 Peter 2:20). Paul didn’t want a fortune-teller speaking on his behalf. She was a false teacher and she used her gift to gain wealth for masters who sold idols. So Paul turned and said to the spirit, “I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her!” And even though he suffered for making that call, it was the right one to make.

By now, I imagine you have probably heard about Victoria Osteen’s message that landed her in hot water with the Christian community. What many are calling “cheap Christianity” is really nothing more than the ultimate conclusion of the health and wealth gospel…YOU. YOU are the most important thing in the world. God wants YOU to be happy; worship is there to benefit YOU; YOU deserve – everything.

Despite responses by Albert Mohler and others who have written about the foolishness of Victoria’s statements, and despite her defense of her statements, I wonder if the bigger picture isn’t being missed here. After all, when false teachers preach a false message, it is pretty easy to call them out. But the bigger surprise is that so many people think that there is ANYTHING that the Osteens could preach that would be pleasing to God.

Think about it this way: Is there anyone you wouldn’t want to compliment you? For example, if Hitler stood up and told everyone what a nice guy you were…while it might be true…you might say, “PLEASE, don’t be for me!” The problem is that the person might do more damage than good because of what they believe and practice.

Please understand, I am not denouncing imperfect people who preach the true gospel. If that were the case, none of us could preach anything! Rather, we denounce any teacher who knowingly teaches a gospel other than the one preached in the New Testament. Paul said, if anyone preaches another gospel, “let them be accursed” (Galatians 1:9)!

God really, really wants His message preached. Period. So, we don’t applaud when a false teacher happens to stumble on the truth. We don’t congratulate when a false teacher preaches the truth 95% of the time, peppered with a false message occasionally. We don’t call good that which God calls evil (Isaiah 5:20). Unless major repentance, change of heart, and change of doctrine takes place, there is nothing the Osteens could ever teach that wouldn’t hurt the church more than help. We should collectively cry, “PLEASE, stopping speaking for Him!”

2.5 million people follow Victoria on Twitter and thousands flock to hear her false message of cheap grace, empty Christianity, and self-worship. Meanwhile, many people continue to think that all churches are basically the same. Listening to one is as good as another. Give it some thought. If God denounces false teachers in His Holy Word and won’t even let them speak for Him, how should we react today?

Perhaps, rather than sifting through false messages searching for nuggets of truth, we should be directing people to the source. There is one true gospel, and if someone preaches any other message, God will say, in the final judgment, “you shouldn’t have presumed to speak for me” (James 3:1).

Friend, I urge you to find a Bible-based, true-gospel-preaching, congregation in your area. If there is a local church of Christ, I encourage you to check them out first. Then, just as those Bereans did, test every Word you hear, and every aspect of worship they practice, against scripture (Acts 17:11).