Monday, April 30, 2012

What is The Truth? (Part 4)

In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory. -- Ephesian 1"13~14

Early this year, my second daughter had a fever for three days. Fearing of dengue, I rushed her to the clinic. Unfortunately, on our way I entered a ‘No Entry’ street; I knew that street before, but my mind was more occupied on finding the faster way that I totally forgot about this. When a traffic enforcer signaled me to stop only then did I realize just what had I done – I broke a traffic law.

In big cities, the traffic is complex. So to keep the flow of traffic smooth and safe, the city government enacted traffic laws. Every citizen is expected to follow the law. Otherwise, there are undesirable consequences like a costly ticket, losing of a limb or worst losing a life.

Here is where we can see another nature of the truth. The truth is like traffic laws; they exist not for our convenience, but to promote life.

Life is wonderful. But it is also complex like a big-city traffic. So to keep man from harms way, God created laws. Therefore, knowledge of the God’s laws is knowledge of the truth.

God put in place physical laws.

There is the force that that keeps the earth, and everything on it including man from floating into space; we call it gravity. There is the force that we call the earth’s electromagnetic field that according to science keeps earth surface from being toasted by the sun. There is the force that keeps the portion of oxygen, nitrogen and other gases in our atmosphere exactly as it is for life to flourish. There is the force that keeps the moon and the planets in their orbits. There is the force that sustains the sun; without it, we will all freeze to death. And many more just to sustain life on planet earth.

But God also created spiritual laws.

Since you and I are not flesh, but also of spirit, God created spiritual laws as well to keep us from harms way for we have spiritual enemies roaring like lions ever ready to devour us. Fortunately, these unseen enemies cannot harm us if we stay within the path of life. To help stay on the path God implanted a sense of right and wrong in everyone’s heart, and He put in place our Conscience to guide us in our decisions.

But unlike the forces that enforce physical laws, our conscience doesn’t use brute force; he just whispers the right direction or nudges gently. Because God gives man the freedom to choose his/her path in life. We can choose God or reject Him. We have the power!

God prepared a path that leads to prosperity, to hope and to a bright future (see Jeremiah 29:11). But we have ferocious spiritual enemies lead by Satan and his demons that would do everything within their power to derail us from the right path and into spiritual death, and eventually eternal death.

Here's a truth. Hell starts here on earth, and so does heaven. Doubtful? Look around you. Look at the news. There is always good and bad everywhere, even within us. The good news is that while alive we can choose to stop living a hellish life; we can choose to follow that path of life that God has prepared for all of us. The bad news is, once we cross the bar (death) there is no turning back!

Here's another truth. Every minute we are engaged in a brutal spiritual battle. There are ferocious enemies roaming around to inflict harm on us should we meander away from the path of life. They’re so cunning and deceptive; they are experts in distracting and confusing us. And their methods of tempting people to leave the path of life are flawless. We have no chance, whatsoever.

A man engaging the enemies is like a lamb facing a pack of hungry wolves – they attacks in pack. Zero chance. Much more is the man/woman who has no clue that he/she is already being attack by our spiritual enemies. And there are a lot of people out there that has no idea what’s going on the their spiritual life because all the see is the physical. They are easy prey.

Some of you might feel by now that you are walking on a tightrope: there is a path that you have to follow in order to have a bright future, and there are enemies outside the path waiting to devour you. You may start to wonder where does your hope lie? Where does my hope lie?

Two words. In Jesus.He is the way, the truth and the life (see John 14:6).

Jesus who was physically weak has fought Satan in the desert and soundly defeated him. We don’t have to struggle through life alone, we don’t have to fight our enemies alone. We can invite Jesus to fight with us. He wouldn’t reject you or me no matter how sinful we are, no matter what our past was.

We don’t have to stumble through life like a mousetrapped in a maze because Jesus already laid out for us the map that lead to the path of life. Everything we need to know about the path of life is written in the Bible. It's the ultimate physical source of the truth. Read it and follow it’s instruction no matter how difficult it is for you. For sure your life will never be the same again… 

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

What is The Truth? (Part 3)

"The sum of your word is truth, and every one of your righteous rules endures forever." -- Psalm 119:160
There was once a young man who lived his entire life in the desert. Having seen only desert sands, dunes, and a few oases his entire life, he started to believe that the whole world was one big desert. But one day he met an old man who told him about a place that was filled with dark blue water. It was called the ocean. The boy could not believe what he heard, so he decided to go on a journey to search the ocean. After asking permission from his parents, he went on his way. The whole tribe saw him off with high hopes that he would return with great stories.

He walked for many days and nights across endless sands and dunes. He braved extreme heat and cold; endured thirst and hunger until one day he came to a little forest. He was thrilled. But along his way he found only streams, rivers, a waterfalls, and swamps. No dark blue water. Finally, after many more days of endless walking, when his spirit was about to give up, he staggered onto a beach. And right before his eyes was the wide blue sea. The young man leaped with joy! He felt so happy and so proud of himself. “Wait till they hear what I have to say about the ocean!”   

The truth is usually bigger than you think.

When the young man thought that the sea was the ocean he was wrong. Because by definition a sea is only a part of an ocean. The ocean is still bigger than the sea.

When each of the five blind men in Part2 touched a part of the elephant, each believed that they knew already what the elephant looked like by touching a part of it, but they were wrong. The elephant is bigger than any of its individual parts.

The same with truth. It is usually bigger than what we usually perceived it to be since as human what we could perceive is usually limited.

The interpretations of the young man, and the blind men were incorrect because they only perceived a part of the truth, not the entire truth.

To know the truth you have to see it in its entirety.

My eldest and second daughter like to solve maze. It’s complicated and therefore difficult, but is not impossible to solve. It’s because they have one winning advantage – they have a bird’s eye view of the entire maze.

Life is like a maze; it’s complicated and therefore difficult. Unfortunately, we have to live in it like a trapped mouse instead of a souring eagle. We don’t know exactly where the next right path is because we don’t have a bird’s eye view of our life from start to finish. All we can do is to try, stumble, try again, stumble again, try some more until we succeed...just like a trapped mouse.We flip-flopped between good and bad decisions every now and then.

The same is true with our relationships. It's like playing a maze without the advantage of a bird's eye view; there is no way for us to know exactly what the other person thinks and feels. Yes, we might get a glimpse of it through his/her words and actions, but not its entirety. And man/woman can lie and fake.

So succeeding in life and in our relationships is not as easy as playing maze after all. In fact it's more difficult. If only we could have that bird's eye view of what lies ahead of us, and of what people feels and thinks about us then we could make better decisions, and we could be winners in life and in our relationships.

But we don't; no one does. Nobody knows the WHOLE truth about his/her life, and what other people think and feel about him/her. This is not humanly possible. No matter how smart a person is, he/she could never predict exactly and consistently what would happen tomorrow or what the other person would do.

Does this mean that we cannot become winners in our life, and in our relationships?

Not exactly. Because there’s another way to know the truth about life, and the truth about relationships.

If we couldn’t see life in its entirety, the next best thing to do is to ask someone who really knows the whole truth about life, about relationships, and a bunch of other important things.

But is there someone who is all-knowing?

I believe so. He knows about life because he authored it. He knows about everyone even the number of each person's hairs because he created man/woman. His name is God, the Alpha and the Omega; the "I am what I am." 

God is the biggest truth of all for He is the source of all truths about life, relationships, and everything else.

Am I still being truthful here? Or am I now spreading lies? (Because you can't see God?)

Even though we couldn't see God doesn't necessarily mean that He does not exist. After all, absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. It could also mean that you just haven't discovered the evidence yet. But how can we discover the great truth that is God?

Let's look at it this way. Why did Christopher Columbus sailed on where no sailor had ever gone before? Why did President John F. Kennedy approved the Apollo program? Why did Sir Edmund Hillary climbed Mt. Everest?

These men, and many others, risked their life, their fortune and their name because...they BELIEVE. They had faith.

To discover something that your senses haven't perceived before or couldn't perceive now you have to believe that that something exist, that discovering it is possible, and that you've got what it takes to discover it. Because faith, even if a little shaky and vague, is necessary to propel you to investigate, to explore and then to discover. Without it, what's the point of taking action, enduring hardship and taking risks?

If until now you haven't yet discovered the great truth that is God, is it maybe because until now you haven't have that faith yet necessary to propel you to investigate the truth about God? Is it possible that you already rejected his existence even before you really tried to know Him?

In closing, to know the truth we have to see it in its entirety; we've got to perceive not only the tail or trunk of the truth, but the whole truth itself. But as human beings our perception is limited so usually we only perceive a part of the truth. Therefore we need an all-knowing God, the source of all truths, to guide us in life and in our relationships. But to discover Him, a little faith is required. But without Him we would be returning to our love ones saying that we've seen the ocean even though when we've only seen the sea. 

Monday, April 16, 2012

What is The Truth? (Part 2)

“Truthful lips endure forever, but a lying tongue lasts only a moment.” – Proverbs 12:19

The truth doesn’t change over time. It is what it is regardless of what we perceive it to be.

There were five blind men who lived in a small, sleepy town.  One day a circus came and brought with it an elephant. When the five blind men heard about the elephant, they immediately went to the circus.  The first blind man touched the ears of the elephant and exclaimed, “The elephant is like a giant fan!” The second touched the trunk and shrieked, “Yikes! The elephant is like a big snake with two horns!” The third touched the leg of the elephant and shouted, “Aha! The elephant is like a coconut tree.” The fourth touched the side of the elephant and said, “Oh, the elephant is like a wall.”  Finally, the fifth blind man touched the tail of the elephant and said, “What the heck, I thought elephants are big, but it's like a whip.”

The elephant is the truth; the giant fan, the big snake, the tree trunk, the wall, and the whip are our perceptions of the truth. By perception you and I receive the truth, and our perception is very much dependent on our five senses – sight, smell, hearing, taste and feel.

When our senses perceive something our mind automatically creates an equivalent image. This is called representation.

Here is where the first problem lies. Our representation could easily be wrong because of unhealthy senses or unhealthy mind.

A colorblind person may see different colors from a normal person. A person with a hearing problem may hear the words differently from a normal person. A person with a cold cannot smell the aroma of a brewed coffee. A mad person…well he or she dwells in a different world. And so on and so forth.

But whatever we perceive the truth to be, it remains as it is. So our representation could be right or wrong.

Let me ask you these questions.

What do you feel when you see a black cat cross your way? What would you think when you meet a friend whom when you acknowledged just walk on by as if you didn’t exist? What would you think if your spouse wouldn’t say a word when you get home?

We humans don’t just stop at perceiving an object, phenomenon or event, we also give it meaning. This is called interpretation. The meaning we assign to it is very much dependent on our state (emotional, mental), existing beliefs, prejudices, and biases. 

Here is where the second problem lies. The meaning we give to an object, phenomenon or event could be wrong.

One day there was a brown out. So my wife and I lighted some candles. Unfortunately, our third daughter who was barely two years old at that time slipped away from her Ate unnoticed and went straight to one of the burning candles because she thought it was nice to touch.

The morale of the story – parents should put burning candles out of children's reach. Seriously, our baby daughter saw the bright candle and believed that it was something nice to touch. She quickly found out shortly thereafter that she was wrong.

Whatever we believe the truth to be, it remains as it is and our belief could be right or wrong.

Since we are getting deep into the nature of truth let me ask you a relevant question. What is reality?

Reality is simply what you (and I) think and feel is true. So this is largely dependent on our own perception, representation and interpretation of the truth.

If you believe that indulging in pornography is good for you then that is your reality. If you believe that divorce is good for you then that is your reality. If you believe that living a homosexual life with all the secular meanings attached to is good for you then that is your reality. If you believe that being addicted to illegal drugs is OK then that is your reality. If you believe that practicing premarital sex or even adultery won’t hurt you then that is your reality.

But the question is, is it truly good for you or for your love ones? Is it truly OK?

Our reality is relative, but the truth is not relative! The truth, its existence and the meaning it represents don’t depend on what you and I perceive it to be or the meaning we believe it represents. It doesn’t change based on our whims. Our reality maybe largely dependent on us, but the truth is not. Therefore, our reality could be right or wrong. Simple because it feels right to do it, doesn't necessarily mean that it's the right thing to do.

Some may argue that their reality is the truth. Well, they could be right or wrong. But this I am sure of. The truth stands the test of time. Eventually, the truth will break out from all the lies of this world.

So the final question we should all ponder is this, which side you and I want to be – the truth or your (my) reality – when the truth finally decides to correct the views of the world?

(Mind you. Being on the wrong side has nasty consequences: War; STD and AIDS, the breaking down of community because of the breaking down of the basic unit of community, the family (it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure this out); the killing of fetuses conveniently called abortion (I wonder what would happen if we aptly call this the murder of the helpless); and so many other ugliness in this world. But there is far worst consequence than all of these...)

Sunday, April 8, 2012

What Is The Truth? (Part 1)

"The getting of treasures by a lying tongue is a vanity tossed to and fro of them that seek death." Proverbs 21:6

One Sunday morning, the entire family participated in the 7AM mass in our parish church. When inside the church my youngest daughter Leyan and her Ate Belle became restless. Fearing that the other churchgoers would be distracted from the mass I gave both of them a stern look. Immediately they settled. But several minutes later they disappeared.

Although seething with anger, I decided to wait patiently till the end of the mass before I would deal with my two rebels; I didn’t want to make a show. However, while the mass was still in progress my two girls returned smiling. Both were holding a bunch of unattractive little wild flowers that they picked from a grass field just outside the church.

“Papa this is for you.”             

However, instead of returning the gesture I frowned at them and chided them quickly.

They put their flowers on the pew in front of me, and went back to their seats subdued.

Feeling triumphant in suppressing the rebellion I refocused my mind back to the mass.

Were my two daughters really rebelling or was there something else that I missed?

The truth is simple; it is not complicated. And instead of digging for it oftentimes we go the easy way.

Looking back at the church incident, I now realized how far I was from the truth. What really happened was that my two girls were bored with the going on inside the church – this was reflected by their restlessness – since they could not see the significance of ceremony. They would rather be somewhere else.

A child who is out-of-sight of his/her parents could do anything his/her heart’s desire.

My two girls could have played hide-and-seek or chase each other to drive their boredom away, but instead they chose to pick grass flowers for their father (and mother) expecting to make me happy with their gesture. Why?

But I missed the simple meaning of their gestures because I was distracted by my fear of being regarded as a loose father by the people in the church, and of losing my hold on my children. This complicated matters. And in that moment, I chose to lose my temper which was easier to do than digging patiently for the simple truth behind the distractions.

The truth is naked, but we like to dress it up so that even if it’s right under our nose, we often miss it.

My fears hid the naked truth – that my children loved me; in our culture giving flowers is an act of love – which caused me to misinterpret their actions and led me to the wrong reaction without even realizing it until later. But it was too late. Their feelings were hurt, and our relationship a little bit strained.

(Luckily for me, they were still young which means they didn’t hold a grudge for a long time towards their erroneous father, so I was able to make it up with them later. But I could not allow myself to easily fall into this trap because it could get worse next time.)

In closing I would say, that the truth is simple in its form, but we complicate it by telling lies and believing the lies of this world. The truth is naked like a baby who came out from its mother’s womb, but our fears, prejudices, and biases dress it up so that we fail to see its nakedness. Unfortunately, our failure to see the truth as it really is will harm us, and our love ones in the end. 

(Part 2)