Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Knowing Truth

Last we talked about not wearing masks. We talked about how each of us wears masks and none of us truly knows each other, because of those masks. I told you about my friends growing up and how, even though I hung out with them everyday, I know just as much about them today as I did back then. We talked about how we even try to wear masks around God, but unlike everyone else he knows us. He knows the games we try to play. He knows when we feel happy and when we feel sorrow. He knows us like know one else does, and he wants us to take off the mask and be set free by living truthfully. Because if we don’t take off the mask and live truthfully with him, then he will someday tell us, that he never knew us. God’s response to us it based on our decision to wear the mask, and and now we’ll have to live eternally with that decision.
Today, I want to share with you a verse. It comes from the book of John in the Bible and John quotes Jesus as saying this, “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.”
Jesus calls his followers sheep. Sheep are a lot like dogs in the sense that they can distinguish their shepherd’s voice from a crowd and follow it. Jesus is saying that those who truly follow him, know his voice and he knows them. Jesus is talking about people who are living lives without masks.
Jesus is talking about people who live in truth and not behind masks. But we’re not like that right? We all live truthful lives, right? I mean, just look at the internet and people’s pictures, there’s no masks there.Everyone’s truthful and no one does anything to hide who they really are while they’r online.
Well we all know that that’s a lie; people all over the internet live behind masks. We use computer programs like photo shop to change the way we look. We use programs to make our bodies look thinner or muscular. We use programs to make it look like we own expensive cars, or houses. We use programs to make people think that we are living the high life. But the reality is, we’re just living behind masks. And the people that live this double life online have succumbed to lies, they are living on the opposite side of truth. And when we see these photoshop fails, we can joke about it, because it so easy to see behind the mask and to see the untruthfulness about it all.
But hear’s the thing, some masks are easier to spot than others. Check out celebrities on the ads of TV or on the cover of some magazine. A bunch of good looking people. Rich, attractive, famous, they have it all and they don’t need masks right?
Well, unlike everyday photoshops that we see on line, by people that are do-it-yourselfers, celebrity masks are harder to see. Do an online search of before and after pictures of some celebrities. You’ll see that the difference between their photoshops and ours, is the abilities of the editor. They have to put on masks to make themselves look better, just like we do.
Jesus said in John 14:6 said, “I am the way the truth and the life.” Jesus called himself truth and one day he met a man named Pilate. Pilate was a governor. He had a wife, power, riches, but he couldn’t see the difference between the lies that surrounded him and the truth he encountered in Jesus. When Jesus was brought before Pilate for judgment Pilate asked the question, “What is truth?”
As Pilate looked into Jesus’ eyes, Truth was staring right back at the governor, but he couldn’t see it. Pilate had believed the lies that were all around him, he had believed the masks that people wore, that when it came to knowing what truth was, he couldn’t recognizing it.
How many of us have heard Jesus’ voice calling? In a message, in a talk, in the quiet of our own minds or hearts? But how many of us wouldn’t know what that voice sounded like, because our ears are so used to the lies, that we wouldn’t know truth if it was standing right in front of us?
There is a a song by Casting Crowns called, “The Voice of Truth.” In the song, the singer talks about hearing different voices from the Bible. The voice of David’s giant Goliath, says that you cannot stand against me. The voice of Peter’s waves, says you cannot walk me. But in all the voices, there is Jesus’, the Voice of Truth. And the singer says, that when all the other voices, all the lies of this world, speak to him, that he will only listen to the Voice of Truth.

Jesus said, “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.” Do you know the voice of Jesus? Do you know what truth really sounds like? The Bible holds truth within it’s pages; God is speaking truth to us right now, but only those who will look and listen will find it. Today, take a couple of minutes of looking into your own heart and ask the question do I know the difference between the lies that surround me and the God who is truth?
If the answer is yes, take a moment to thank God for revealing his truth.
If the answer is no, cry out to God and ask him to help you hear his truth.

Let us not live in lies and behind masks, but in the power and grace of the Lord God, the Voice of Truth.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Wearing Masks

From sixth grade to seventh grade I changed a lot, especially with my friends. I went from hanging out with friends that I had known since kindergarten, to friends that had just moved into town. Two of those friends were Noah and Sean. Noah was a huge kid for his age, and was made fun of because of it. It didn’t help that he came from a divorced family, and his dad was a bit abusive. Noah only took showers half the time, so no one really wanted to be his friend. As for me, I was always on the outskirts of the in crowd anyway, plus he lived right down the street from me. We started hanging out and eventually, more and more of the kids that didn’t quite fit in any crowd, found there way to us. That’s when Sean started hanging around with us. It wasn’t the best friends I could have picked, but at least we weren’t fake with each other. We were good friends through junior high and into high school, where we got into a lot of trouble.

After my freshman year of high school and all that trouble, my parents took my out of the public school and put me into a private Christian high school. I have to tell you that only thing that made it bearable was one of my friends. His name was Matt and just like me, he really didn’t buy into God. See, Matt had grownup in the school. His parents were good attenders of the church that sponsored the school. But Matt didn’t believe in what the church and the school taught.
And at the time, I didn’t believe it either. I was more of a blank slate than anything else. I cared more about getting my own pleasures taken care of, and I really didn’t think about what that did to others. So Matt and I got along great, two outcasts of the school who created our own little group of misfits and outcasts. One of our other misfit friends was Ben, who was the typical nerd. Always talking about the newest game or the newest comic. But with a few others, we developed a close group that we could call our own. At least for my sophomore year, because after that, I still wasn’t shaping up the way I should have been. So, my parents took my out of the school and put me into another one.

It was about 12 years later and through Facebook that I had contact with any of these past friends again. Noah seems to be doing okay, but I really have no idea what’s going on in his life. Sean works at Taco Bell, he recently got married and had a little baby. Matt is a professor at a community college and recently got engaged. And Ben works with computers and prepares taxes. That’s about all I know of their lives. And the reality is, when I look back at our friendships, I realize that even back then, I really didn’t know them. Even though we hung out, I never went to Sean’s, Matt’s or Ben’s houses. Never met their parents, never had any deeper discussions with them. And with Noah, we never talked about anything except music, girls, and video games. 
I know just about as much about them now as I did back then.
See, being around someone, and knowing them are two different things. We can spend a life time with someone and know very little about them. Marika and I have been married for 11 years and we’re still discovering things about each other’s past, about each other’s likes and dislikes.
Even the people in our churches, schools and jobs, who we might have known for all of our lives, or spend countless hours with, there’s a good chance that we don’t know them the way we think we do.
In fact we can try and convince ourselves that we know someone, but the reality is, we don’t. I’ve spent countless hours with a lot of teens, but I don’t know them guys, because the reality is we don’t tend to show each other who we really are.
We like to put on masks, we like to play games. Even when it leads to us getting hurt, it’s not the real us that hurts, it’s the mask, the fake us we put on. Yet, we think that it’s better that the fake us gets hurt, than the real us. We think that its better to put on a mask, then to allow our real selves to experience pain.
Because when we do show our true selves, and get rejected because of it, the mask gets easier to put on and hide behind.
We even do it with God. We try and play games with the one that says he knows us, even better than we know ourselves. And we think that the game is all that matters. But this is what Jesus says about the game in Matthew 7, 

21 “Not everyone who calls out to me, ‘Lord! Lord!’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Only those who actually do the will of my Father in heaven will enter. 22 On judgment day many will say to me, ‘Lord! Lord! We prophesied in your name and cast out demons in your name and performed many miracles in your name.’ 23 But I will reply, ‘I never knew you. Get away from me, you who break God’s laws.’

I played the game, I know what it means to put on a mask to hide myself so that I wouldn’t get hurt. I’ve played the game to stop my hurting, to fit in with others, and to gain things at the expense of other’s pain and suffering. But with God, there are no games, there’s only truth. We can play the game of masks and hide so we don’t feel pain, or we can take off the masks, and embrace this world.
My life since Noah, Sean, Matt and Ben has drastically changed. Out of all of us, I am the only one that i know follows God. My heart breaks for Noah, who has no direction to his life. My heart breaks for Sean, who struggles in his job. My heart breaks for Matt, who has rejected God completely. My heart breaks for Ben, who’s whole life revolves around a computer screen and escapism.
And my heart breaks for anyone, who would rather wear masks and play a game, rather than embrace the God who desires to set them free.

God already knows everything about us, but when we hide behind masks, we play a game that has no winners.
I became tired of the game, I became tired of my mask, and I chose to live my life as the one God created me to be. And since I’ve been doing that, I’ve experienced freedom. Jesus said in John 8, “31 If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

I have been set free of my mask, by following Jesus and living in truth, rather than with the lies that make up my mask. I invite you to know Jesus like that. To take off your mask and live for him, rather than playing a game with the people around you.