Truth: it’s a belt not a sword.

I could subtitle this: Never trust Christians (or anyone for that matter) when we talk about the sword of truth.

The 'Sword of Truth' series (Terry Goodkind). Great books; bad metaphor.
The ‘Sword of Truth’ series. Great books; bad metaphor.

It’s a powerful metaphor. Truth shaped like a sword cutting through the falsehoods and deceptions of the current world. One of my favourite reads is the ‘Sword of Truth’ series by Terry Goodkind. It’s a fantasy story where the hero searches, finds, loses, uses and ultimately defeats his enemy with this Sword of Truth. However it is just fantasy. Truth is not sword-shaped in the real world.

But I know that at times I have perceived truth in this way – it’s a tool for the confrontation; a weapon to be wielded to defeat the lies I perceive around me.

Imagine you have a tricky relationship. It might be at home, at work, or on social media even and you suddenly realise you have it: the truth that is going to rock their world. You don’t care how they feel because you know it’s going to vindicate your position. And so you wield that weapon of truth, cutting deeply with its blade. All before you falls, devastation is left in your wake…

I was in a sermon recently and the preacher used this metaphor: ‘the sword of truth’. I paused for a moment, not quite believing what I was hearing. Truth can’t be sword shaped if you’re a follower of Jesus, because it would contradict our main purpose: to love.

Truth isn’t a sword. It’s a belt.

It’s the thing you put on before you arm yourself, not the armament itself. It holds your trousers up. It keeps your clothes in place so that if you do have to put armour in, it doesn’t chafe too badly.

Truth is what makes love authentic – love can’t hurt or cut or bite. No, love only mends and fixes and heals and cures. It befriends and consoles and grieves and laughs.

If you hear Christians talk about using truth like a sword, know this: they have something wrong. Truth is not a weapon of destruction.

It holds your trousers up.

Notes from Growing Leaders Session 2

Session 2, Growing Leaders was entitled 'Establishing Identity'

The first section was a 'Swedish Bible Study' on John 15: 1-17. 

Candle (New things learnt from the passage):
  • You will bear fruit
  • Ask whatever
  • Friends with God
  • He gives choice
  • Branches go into the fire
  • Obey
Up arrow (any things about the nature of God):
  • Rely on God's strength
  • God does pruning
  • He's a friend before being a Master
  • He wants joy for us
  • He chooses us
  • There's an intimate, organic connection with Him
  • He's generous
Down arrow (any things learnt about people):

  • If separated can't have fully fruitful life.
  • Love each other
  • We're already clean
  • Don't have to seek worthiness
  • People can know God's business.
Question Mark (any questions the passage has raised):
  • if we don't obey commands do we remain in his love? (In context of God gave 2 commands – Love God and Love others)
  • "God will give you whatever you ask for"… ?
  • How do we wait on God?
  • How do we wrestle with God?

There was then a section on the cycles: Cycle of Grief and the Cycle of Grace.

Some of the feedback included:
  • People pleasing vs Spending Time with God
  • Jesus example – the balance to find solitude.
  • How do we achieve people? As achievements? As targets that can be hit (or missed)?
  • Recognise demands on us
  • Reminder of God's grace.
  • Don't judge achievements by how much you do.

The morning  finished with looking at Spiritual Discipline. Some of the difficulties or barriers to exercising spiritual disciplines include:

  • busy-ness
  • unpredictability of life
  • No accountability
  • No tangible results
  • hardwork
  • Laziness
  • Matching achievability against despondancy
  • Wanting to feel in control
  • Finding silence
  • Problem of distractions.
It will be interesting to see what participants have to say about exercising spiritual disciplines when we meet for the next session.

Growing Leaders Night Away

The Growing Leaders weekend began with the inevitable satnav search for Barnes Close Conference Centre. It's funny how a place so close to a motorway junction should be so difficult to find. Maybe it was just me, but driving through the circular tunnel under the motorway and up the muddy track didn't fill me with confidence that I was on the right track. But as it happened, I was.

After wine, nibbles and a pleasant meal (including a fantastic chocolate sponge), we sat down to start the course. A brief look at the aims was followed by the intriguing 'bring an object' event. The challenge of this is to present how a random object that you can find represents an aspect of your relationship with God. Many different objects appeared, ranging from a toothbrush, through a polo mint to 'Derek the Badger' – a small statue that a participant had found somewhere in the venue.

The 'formal part' of the evening closed with worship and a meditation on Psalm 8.

After breakfast the next day, session 1 started with worship. The participants began by sharing initial reflections on leadership on a grid. In the section on immediate thoughts of leadership the words chosen included:
  • Military
  • Nurturer
  • Set apart from a group
  • Someone who's balanced
  • Someone Authority
  • Someone with Vision
  • Someone who's dedicated

What makes someone a leader?
  • Authority
  • Risk taker
  • Humility
  • Vision
  • Enthusiasm
  • Empathy
  • Competence
  • Boundaried
  • Opportunities
  • Integrity

Here's another Wordle that sums up some desirable leadership qualities.

Leaders from the Bible came next. The list included: Moses, Deborah, Joseph, peter and Lydia. After some study we wrote down what we can learn from these leaders on a flip chart. Here's what people said we can learn from leaders in the Bible.
  • Listen to God and be faithful to God
  • Leadership can be hard
  • God can use our circumstances
  • Listen to God
  • Even when we make our mistakes, God still uses us.
  • God calls and then equips.
  • Take risks
  • Listen to God
  • Build on what went before.
  • Willingness to do do what she was asking of others.
  • Don't judge by appearances.
  • God will make good on his promises.
  • OK to test your calling
  • Listen to God
  • Be courageous – be prudent.
  • Willing to be lead.
  • "God will get you in the end".
  • Humble
  • He responded.
  • Be persuasive and urgent.
This is summed up in this Wordle.

In the bible study that followed, each group came up with marks of Jesus leadership and summed it up in one sentence:
  • Jesus always reflects the nature and character of God.
  • As a leader, Jesus took his directions from God; was ice cool when under pressure and had assembled the right team for the tasks ahead and is articulate enough to communicate strong messages in an accessible tone.
  • Jeus is challenging, confrontational, but compassionate.
  • A unique, humble, visionary and compassionate leader, given authority and direction by his Father to respond to needs decisively and empower others.
The attached pictures show the results of this bible study.