Wrestling With and For Truth! The Truth About Wrangling!

Many people today are wrestling with truth! Some are sure there is no absolute truth. Meanwhile, others are giving their lives for truth! Lengthy wrangling, articulate debating, and bull-headed dogmatism abound.

Truth is more than a concept; it is a Person!

Throughout the ages, many people have spent their lives searching for truth, others have fought fiercely in its defense.

At the trial of Jesus, 

“What is truth?” Pilate retorted…”
John 18:38

Wrangler

A wrangler is more than someone who debates eloquently or a favorite pair of jeans. A wrangler is someone who takes care of livestock.

Our family were cattle producers. One spring, the season of serious wrangling, a “town boy”, who happened to be a pastor’s son, was anxious to enter the corral and experience true wrangling.

Into the pen of spring born calves he confidently pranced. In short order the poor lad was dragged, dangled, trampled, kicked and bunted. There wasn’t an inch of his apparel not caked, covered and layered in a mixture of mud, sweat and manure.

Wrangling cattle

Though we felt sorry for the young green-horn, the real life drama playing out before our eyes was worth far more than any trip to the movies. Although lacking the skill of catching, flipping and holding a calf, he deserved top marks for the effort he brought to the ring.

Surprisingly, he had as much fun trying as we had watching. Years later, the image of his arms and legs flailing the air continues to bring smiles and chuckles.

Persistence

If there was one lesson I learned that day it was that persistence pays! Quitting was no where to be found in this boys genes!

Those who wrestled and wrangled in the bible carried the same attitude.

Cowboy persistence

Remember Jacob?

“So Jacob was left alone
and a man wrestled with him till daybreak. 
When the man saw that 
he could not overpower him, 
he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip
 so that his hip was wrenched 
as he wrestled with the man. 
Then the man said, 
“Let me go, for it is daybreak.”
But Jacob replied 
I will not let you go 
unless you bless me.” 
Genesis 32:24-26

Jacob’s painful wrangling gave him more than a permanent limp; he gained a new identity and a generational promise.

Until this point, condemnation shadowed Jacob’s life, “You are a thief, a trickster, a liar.” That day, Jacob wrestled for the truth of his belonging. He received a new name, Israel, meaning Prince of God.

Working hard!

Others

What about Elijah? The Mount Carmel show down between 400 prophets of Baal and Elijah wasn’t about strength or power. It ultimately was a contest of what is true? Who is God? Is it Baal or is it the LORD?

“At the time of sacrifice, 
the prophet Elijah 
stepped forward and prayed:
“LORD, the God of Abraham, 
Isaac and Israel, 
let it be known today 
that you are God in Israel…”
1 Kings 18:36

When God responded with fire, the people declared in unison,

The LORD — he is God!
 The LORD — he is God!”
1 Kings 18:39

Truth ultimately wins, though usually not without a struggle of faith.

The struggle

It was true for Jonah, Esther, David, and Moses. It was true for Abraham and Sarah, Gideon, and Jeremiah. 

Faith and Truth

Most of the deepest wrangling comes when God bends our experiential truth into alignment with the way of The Truth, Jesus Christ.

A man brought his demon possessed son to Jesus. The tormenting spirit had attempted to kill his son many times by throwing him either into fire or water. He doubted if even Jesus could or would help.

“…But if you can do anything,
 take pity on us and help us.” 
‘If you can’?” said Jesus…”
Mark 9:23-24

As truth spoke, faith grabbed hold! The wrangling began,

“…I do believe
help me overcome my unbelief!”
Mark 9:24

In prison, John the Baptist wrestled in faith to believe Jesus was The Truth, The Messiah sent from God (Matthew 11). Thomas wrangled to believe Jesus was raised from the dead (John 20). Peter grappled with the truth that salvation was for Greeks as well as Jews (Acts 10).

Laying hold of truth

Faith and truth collided on the Damascus road, as Paul brutally faced the reality of his spiritual blindness.

Truth Check

Perhaps tangling with truth is necessary for us all! 

My thoughts are nothing
like your thoughts,”
says the LORD.
“And my ways are far beyond
anything you could imagine.”
Isaiah 55:8

Thankfully, God consistently bends our minds, wrangles our attitudes, and wrestles our intentions into alignment with His. He never quits – never leaves us as He find us.

Sometimes I stubbornly resist! It doesn’t make sense! My futile thought processes cannot instantaneously connect faith and truth.

Wrangling together

I ultimately end up a lot like our young helper many years ago! My wrestling for and with truth sometimes feels dangerous, downright messy, and thoroughly exhausting.

Three times in Acts 10 God pushed Peter beyond former paradigms,

“…Do no call anything impure 
that God has made clean.”
Acts 10:15

God’s truth united with Peter’s faith opening wide the door to preach the Gospel of salvation to non-Jews. The implications of this single instance of receiving truth cannot be measured.

The Truth

My little contending undoubtedly isn’t as dramatic, but I cannot allow myself the luxury of refusing the invitation to come into agreement with God. 

The bible is the unmoving standard of all truth.

“All your words are true,
all your righteous laws are eternal.”
Psalm 119:160

God’s word is true! That word is eternal! Never ending, never changing, never varying!

How can I be so sure? Jesus made the astounding declaration, 

“…I am the way, the truth, and the life…”
John 14:6

Truth isn’t a relative concept that changes with times or seasons. Truth is a Person. Jesus is Truth. Truth never changes because God never changes!

Taking the lead

In fact, whenever I find myself wrestling with the definitive truth of the bible, I am attempting to wrangle with God. Resist His truth and I can expect to come away limping like Jacob! Yield to it by faith and God alone knows the grandness of the repercussions. 

Never!

Divine truth must be received by faith. That doesn’t mean we throw out sound judgment, critical thinking, and careful consideration.  Actually, acknowledging truth is giving full mental assent to its reality. In so doing, God gives us a new lens with which to view Him and the world around us. 

My source of wrestling for truth is often like Peter’s, 

Surely not, Lord!” Peter replied.
“I have never eaten anything
impure or unclean.”
Acts 10:14

How many times have I responded similarly to God, “Surely not! I have never…”?

Wrangling clenches tight-fisted to “never“! Placing experiential truth ahead of God’s eternal truth will reveal terminal fault lines in our thinking.

God proves patient, however. He is relentless in drawing us into ever increasing ways of truth. We may wrangle like Peter, wrestling with ourSurely not, Lord!” attitudes. Peter got the message and responded with new understanding.

Will our “never” yield to God’s truth? Because God’s ways really are so much higher than ours, we will continue to wrestle both with and for truth. But it is a wrangling that pays benefits!

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Lead and Follow! Who is in the Lead?

Some people find it naturally easier to lead; others prefer to follow. Whether we lead or follow, the question arises “Who is the leader here?” Without followers, a leader isn’t leading; without a leader it is difficult to know who to follow.

Who is in the lead?

Lead and Follow

I introduced a practical exercise to a group of children learning worship dance. First a leader was chosen. Each child faced the leader and mimicked the lead dancer’s movements. After a couple of minutes the leader  became a follower designating the next dancer as the new leader. Around the circle we went. Everyone had opportunity to lead; all attempted to follow.

Afterward I asked what was difficult about leading. These answers and more came in childlike honesty:

  • “I was afraid no one would follow!”
  • “What if others didn’t like what I was doing!”
  • “Everyone was expecting me to come up with the ideas!”

Then I asked what was difficult about following.

  • “I was moving in one direction and the leader went the other way!”
  • “When I thought I had the leader figured out, she changed what she was doing!”
  • “I never knew what the leader would do next!”

If we are honest, we too would acknowledge similar problems when leading and following.

A Leader who is Safe

Whether we articulate it or not, we want leaders who are safe and predictable!

Jacob had connived his brother out of his birthright and his blessing. Then, fearing for his life, he fled to the far side of the known world. God met him in his running.

In a dream, he saw angels ascending and descending a stairway to heaven.

” There above it stood the Lord, and he said:
I am the Lord, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac.
I will give you and your descendants the land on which you are lying.”
Genesis 28:12-13

 

Leaders who are safe and predictable

Needless to say, Jacob was disturbed by the dream. Frightened, he bargained with God:

If God will be with me and will watch over me
on this journey I am taking
and will give me food to eat and clothes to wear

so that I return safely to my father’s household,
then the Lord will be my God…”
Genesis 28:20-22

If my thoughts and prayers were publicly exposed to scrutiny, they would appear just as self-centered. If God will be a safe God, a me-serving God, ensuring my comfort, provision and care, then I will worship and follow Him.

Jacob wasn’t ready to give up the lead, until God proved He was good!

A Leader who is Present

How do you follow a leader you cannot see? That was Peter’s predicament!

Just a few short years prior, Peter made the choice to “leave all” and follow Christ, even when leaving meant passing up the greatest windfall catch he had ever seen.

“Then Jesus said to Simon,
“Don’t be afraid; from now on you will fish for people.”
So they pulled their boats up on shore,
left everything and followed him.”
Luke 5:10-11

Peter was a natural leader. For three years, his leadership training took him through unfamiliar territory of following Jesus. Just when he was beginning to get the hang of this following stuff, Jesus left. What does a follower do without a leader?

The most natural leadership Peter knew was from a fishing boat. He immediately diverted to old patterns. Three years of training appeared to fly out the window, or should I say jump overboard?

Follow the leader!

“Quack! Quack!” Thomas, Nathanael, James and John, plus two other disciples joined the line of would-be-deserters and followed Peter’s lead. Like it or not, a leader is always leading – for better or worse!

Just like his last fishing excursion, Peter’s all night fishing accomplished nothing. Then Someone on the shore suggested he try fishing in a new way,

“Throw your nets on the right side of the boat
and you will find some.”
John 21:6

The immense catch of fish revealed Jesus’ identity. Peter immediately jumped overboard and approached Jesus, leaving his would-be-followers alone in the boat.

Jesus challenges Peter’s devotion three times and then finishes with,

Follow me!”
John 21:19

This unpredictable, unseen One is still asking and inviting one-time followers and would-be leaders to follow undeterred His lead. “Follow even when you can’t see Me. Out of heart of love, follow Me, leading others well!”

A Leader who is Predictable

I have always felt drawn by nature into secluded places. As a young girl, I chanced upon a herd of white-tails. The buck sensed something alien hiding in the willow bush and advanced with nostrils flaring and antlers flinging dust in the air. I crouched breathless – unmoving! Though he could not see me clearly, he was wary. With one flick of his tail, the entire herd of thirty-or-so deer turned, springing effortless over fences and out of sight. My heart raced in the midst of unpredictable danger and wonder!

Whitetail deer - encountering a stag in the lead!

Following God often leaves me breathless in heart-racing uncertainty with a combined sense of danger and wonder!

Following God often leaves me breathless in heart-racing uncertainty with a combined sense of danger and wonder! Click To Tweet

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
    neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord.
 “As the heavens are higher than the earth,
    so are my ways higher than your ways
    and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
Isaiah 55:8-9

I want God predictable! But ask Job how predictable God is! Or maybe Joseph!

God, unpredictable? Yes! He seems unpredictable only because His ways and thoughts are brilliant and magnificent in every dimension.

Climbing to mountain heights

While He is leading the way to jagged mountain peaks, I’m content frolicking in the plush meadow. I’m know I’m not alone! Others have been caught slip-footed as He has leading them through flooded rivers, toward “invincible” armies, or into prisons and cave fortresses.

Lead And Follow

Following well has always been difficult for me. I echo the sentiments of my little dancers. It is uncomfortable to follow, when I’m not sure where, how or when God is about to move, change directions, or lead toward unfamiliar terrain.

I often sense God looking over His shoulder wondering if I will follow here… now… ever…

Though His ways are confusing, at the least, and perplexing more oft than not, I know I can (and should) trust His lead. Why? Because I know He is indescribably good. Where He leads is for my inevitable benefit, though perhaps lacking in personal comfort.

“Lead and Follow” is far more that a children’s activation exercise. I, too, am perpetually working on my step-by-step follow to my Father’s perfect lead. You see, to follow well requires complete surrender to another’s will and ways.

The only way I will grow as a leader is to ultimately become a faithful follower. It is wonderful paradox!

 

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More on leadership!

 Leadership 101 – Take it from the Eagles

Moses – The Defining Qualities of a Great Leader

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