Truth… the whole truth – Look, See, Pray

Great pic, isn’t it? Eagle Owl, Dartmoor, near Princetown. All my own work: could start a rush of twitchers heading for Devon!

Except this is a way of telling truth to mislead. It is an Eagle Owl, I did take the photo. So far, so good. It is Dartmoor in the snow- I took the photo. All true. So what’s the problem?

I combined the two pictures so the owl had a more “natural-looking” backdrop. I haven’t lied, but I wasn’t 100% accurate.

My intention matters. If I have just melded two photos for a better picture, that’s OK. Were I to present myself as a wildlife whizz, discovering Eagle Owls in Devon, then perhaps selling the image to a news agency in exchange for fame and fortune, that is unethical and dishonest. And WRONG.

“The camera never lies” says the old proverb. But it may mislead, even present corrupted truth (in other words, a LIE). This is a huge problem in journalism, advertising, politics… “Deep fake” pictures are created and used to destroy the victim’s reputation, or as the lever for blackmail. Bits of truth selected deliberately, then mixed into untruth. A complete rejection of integrity.

Unless we are careful to act with integrity, there is even a danger that “picking bits” of the Bible then jamming them together will mislead or misdirect people who are seeking God. This coming Sunday, I’m preaching at our church. I have a heavy responsibility to tell the truth truthfully: or I risk putting words into God’s mouth, or persuading people into misunderstanding. A stern warning from the New Testament: “Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly. – James 3 v1

James points out the risk that teachers and preachers take on. Matthew’s Gospel records words from Jesus about the required heart-attitude, the integrity, of those called to serve through leadership and preaching. It must be real, and honest, and true- not a crafty construction of bits of truth. If I cannot preach out of humility and integrity, I should not preach at all.

“Everything they do is for show. On their arms they wear extra wide prayer boxes with Scripture verses inside, and they wear robes with extra long tassels. And they love to sit at the head table at banquets and in the seats of honour in the synagogues. They love to receive respectful greetings as they walk in the marketplaces, and to be called ‘Rabbi.’ Don’t let anyone call you ‘Rabbi,’ for you have only one teacher, and all of you are equal as brothers and sisters. And don’t address anyone here on earth as ‘Father,’ for only God in heaven is your Father. And don’t let anyone call you ‘Teacher,’ for you have only one teacher, the Messiah. The greatest among you must be a servant. But those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” – Matthew 23 v5-12

Please pray for me- and any other preachers and teachers you know.

A way in the wilderness- Look, See, Pray

Our journey towards faith always requires that we seek a way through the unknown, through mysteries that ask more questions than we can answer. But God WILL make a way. He always has.

Consider Joseph and Mary… a long walk to Bethlehem at what must have seemed a MOST inconvenient time. Pregnancy offers challenge enough! Wretched Romans, making life more difficult.

As if that wasn’t enough, there is a jealous king with homicidal intent who will be responsible for the death of children- so another journey as refugees finding shelter in Egypt. How ironic- Joseph working as a labourer in the land where Israel had been enslaved. Then after Herod’s death, a return from exile into the Promised Land: bringing the infant Saviour with them.

Angels, Magi, shepherds and fulfilled prophecies. That’s the way God made. The way of the unexpected, the foretold, the surprising, the spectacular, the ordinary, the unthinkable, the wonderful. One humble brave girl, one courageous, gentle and devoted husband. One Word spoken before the beginning of Time, echoing through the centuries until the End of Time. One Word enrobed in human flesh, one Love embracing and reconciling a lost world. God has made a way.

“See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
and streams in the wasteland…”

– Isaiah 43 v19

This way, this Word, is what we celebrate at Christmas.