At Aletheia Books

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Friday, 14 December 2018

Where is God?


In the Bible, Luke chapter 2 tells us how Jesus Christ was born. But have you ever wondered what it was like for some of the others who were involved? Perhaps it was something like this…

The night was bright with stars. Across the inky heavens they shone in dazzling splendour. The contours of the hard, rocky hillside were bathed in white starlight – it touched the delicate edges of blades of grass, the craggy outlines of rocks and boulders, the sturdy backs of scattered sheep. It cast the shadow of the old shepherd leaning on his crook, watching over the flock.

Snug against the slope of the neighbouring hill, the town of Bethlehem was silhouetted against the night sky. Compact square dwellings, poor shacks, narrow streets, the town’s inn – all merged into one small, squat, unimportant Judean town.

But there was a stir in the town, a liveliness to which it was unaccustomed. Gone was the still quiet of unimportant obscurity; the little town no longer slumbered peacefully. Instead, strangers filled the inn until it was full – then they spilled into the streets, finding whatever shelter they could for the night. They all had one thing in common: once, this small place had been their home town. Once more, they slept in the place of their birth, obeying the dictates of Caesar Augustus in Rome. For, at Caesar’s bidding, a census was taking place.

The old shepherd sighed. Many years of his life had come and gone – all of them shadowed by the might of Rome. How long must his people, Israel, endure the crushing oppression of Rome and the capricious cruelty of Rome’s puppet, King Herod? Had God forgotten His people? These days it was hard to believe that God was ‘a strength to the poor, a strength to the needy in his distress, a refuge from the storm…’ And what of the countless other promises the God of heaven had made to His ancient people? What of the promised Deliverer? Where was God?

Through the crooked streets of Bethlehem, a couple laboured to pass the strangers still wandering and crowding once quiet places. The man and wife paused briefly at the inn. But there was no room for them there. The nooks and crannies of the town were already filled, so the couple moved slowly, haltingly, away from the bustle of the town, to more distant outdoor caves and shelters. In the direction of the shepherd the couple came, moving carefully, the husband assisting his young wife. On the lower slopes of the hill, beneath the old shepherd’s watchful gaze, they found a cave which sheltered animals. There they stayed.

The noise of jostling, unhappy humanity faded from Bethlehem as the air became colder and the night grew older. The shepherd counted his flock. He joined with other shepherds around a small fire. They spoke, as they often did, of the oppression of their conquerors; of their desire for deliverance; of their need for God’s promised One to set them free.

Suddenly, across the wide expanse of the starry sky, a beam of radiant light streaked, faster than a flash of lightening, to where the shepherds gathered. Around and about them in dazzling array, the glorious light spilled and lit and warmed them. An angel stood among them, right where they were. Down on their knees, down onto the rocky hillside, the wretched shepherds fell in terror and dismay. What had they done that a messenger from Almighty God would visit them?

The voice of the angel reassured them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.”

How could this be? Christ – the Promised One, the Deliverer – born here in Bethlehem? In an outdoor place, now lying in an animal’s feeding manger?

All around them, a great crowd of angels joined the first angel to swell the praise to the God of heaven, saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”

Peace on earth – in this place of oppression and poverty and cruel injustice? The night was once more still and starry. The angels departed as a dream departs on awakening – but a sign had been left for them, and, “Let us go to Bethlehem,” the shepherds said to one another, “and see this thing that has come to pass which the Lord has made known to us.”

None knew better than the shepherds of Bethlehem where the feeding mangers would be found. In one of the animal shelters, around and about the small town, they would seek for what the angel described. The old shepherd led the way – down the hillside, to a roughly hewn cave, where the young couple had taken shelter for the night.
***
A few sheep, cows, goats and other animals stand quietly, curiously calm and unperturbed. A dove coos gently. There is a strange, unearthly quiet over these creatures. Do they know who has come among them? In their midst, a newborn baby is lying in a feeding trough – just as the angel had told the shepherds. He is the promised Saviour, Christ the Lord come down to earth. God revealed in human form.

Slowly, the old shepherd understands. Where was God?  He had come as a man to live among men, come to meet mankind’s greatest need. No great warrior, no heroic deliver, no wealthy king here. And yet, this baby, the Son of God, was the fulfilment of all that God had promised – and more so, for He had come to bring salvation not only to the nation of Israel, but to the whole world! One day, as a man, He would die as a sacrifice for the sins of the world. He became the way for mankind to be reconciled with God – to have forgiveness and lasting peace and one day go to heaven. All that is required is to trust in Him.

This, then, is the great gift offered by God that first Christmas: forgiveness of sins and peace with God through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. 

‘In this the love of God was displayed where we are concerned: in that God sent His Son into the world so that we might live through Him. In this is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins…’ (1 John 4:9-10)

‘For God so greatly loved and dearly prized the world that He gave up His only begotten Son, so that whoever believes in (trusts in, clings to, relies on) Him shall not perish but have eternal life.’ (John 3:16)

Monday, 5 November 2018

Is ‘Many Truths’ a Lie?


A SHORT SERIES OF BLOGS BASED ON THE RUMOUR MILL (Aletheia Adventure Series Book 6) –
EXPLORING THEMES AROUND TRUTH AND LIES 

Solve this conundrum:
How many versions of the truth can be true?

The answer seems kind of obvious, doesn’t it?
Surely only ONE can be absolute truth!

How can any version of the truth be true, if other versions of the same philosophy, event, person, belief… are also true? It’s nonsense to portray truth like that! What court in the land would accept half a dozen contradictory witness accounts as all being absolutely true? Nothing would ever be established as indisputable fact. There would be no absolute truth on any level.

‘There is no nonsense so gross that society will not, at some time, make a doctrine of it and defend it with every weapon of communal stupidity.’
Robertson Davies, Canadian Novelist, 1913-1955

And yet, in current thinking, the answer seems to be that an infinite number and variety of versions of the truth can be true, at least for you – particularly when it comes to personal philosophical ideas and beliefs, including religious beliefs. In an effort to allow that everyone is entitled to their own ideas about how to live, what to believe, how the world began, why we are here, what is the meaning of life… in order to cater for the fantastically wide (and weird) variety of ideas that are crowding the minds of human beings, anything and everything is allowed to be so-called ‘truth’. 

“I'm not strange, weird, off, nor crazy: my reality is just different from yours.” 
Lewis Carroll

Of course, the tolerant acceptance that it’s fine to believe anything is no foundation for that dearly-held something being true. No matter your strength of mind, or the strength of your desire that a pet belief is true, it doesn’t alter reality. Deep down, every thinking person must realise that. No matter how nice, or plausible, or desirable a particular ‘truth’ or belief sounds, that doesn’t make it true! Real, absolute Truth must have a foundation in facts that can be investigated.  

In The Rumour Mill the White-Jacket Meddlers are a key part of the plan of the land of Err to overcome the city of Aletheia. These Meddlers are the masters of lies and deceit. Not necessarily obvious lies – they wear white jackets because they enjoy nice little white lies and cosy half-truths. They manufacture subtle changes to the truth, twisting and turning it such that you never know what was absolutely true – and what was not. They admit that the truth could be many things.

In fact, truth could be precisely what you wanted it to be.
[The Rumour Mill]

The plan to muddle, dilute, twist, and change the absolute Bible Truth which was fundamental to the power of Aletheia, was certain to succeed! The One Truth would stand no longer!

‘…As for their truth which they hold so precious, soon there will be no truth left. They won’t know what to believe! Then they will gladly join with the Council of Err. They will, at last, share our own truths and values!”’
[The Rumour Mill]

Test the truth of these 2 statements about God and love:
1.      God is love
2.      God is love, therefore everyone will ultimately be in Heaven

The first is a quote from the Bible and is true (I have reasons for that assertion – contact me if you want to know why I believe that!); the second is a twisting of the first statement and is not true. It is precisely the kind of lie the Meddlers would enjoy slinging at the city of Bible Truth to undermine the pure, undiluted Truth, and the value of the gift of God’s salvation. And it is precisely the kind of lie we can be saturated with today. We will hear the truth twisted and changed a little and turned into even a small, seeming innocuous lie; we might even like it and begin to believe it. Ever heard of, read, ‘liked’ on Facebook etc. sayings like…


Look inside yourself for the answers - you're the only one who knows what's best for you.

No one saves us but ourselves. No one can and no one may.

Be true to yourself.

In your inner self you have the strength to change the world!


These all sound kind of wise and true, right? But ask yourself of any of the above: what is the measuring stick by which you can assess the truth of these statements? What source of light can illuminate what is true, and what is not?

As we’ve seen in a previous blog, Jesus Christ claimed to be ‘The Truth’ – to speak it, to define it, to embody it, to determine it.

The measuring stick by which you must wisely assess the subtle ‘truths’ by which we are surrounded, is the Word of God, the Bible:
which contains the revelation of the Truth –
the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Monday, 29 October 2018

Opened Eyes

A SHORT SERIES OF BLOGS BASED ON THE RUMOUR MILL (Aletheia Adventure Series Book 6) –
EXPLORING THEMES AROUND TRUTH AND LIES 

“Your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
Genesis 3:5, the Bible

The promise of enlightenment! What an enticement this is! And I think it holds a clue as to how society in general thinks today.

Picture the Garden of Eden: a perfect paradise of beauty, inhabited by a young couple who were genetically perfect. They’re made ‘in the image of God’ [Genesis 1:26] – with the ability to speak, learn, remember, appreciate beauty, understand and manage plants, rule the animal kingdom and much more. They likely had an intellect we can’t imagine and will never attain. They were created with free-will – they had the capacity to understand instructions, to interpret signs and commands, to comprehend meaning, to love, to worship, to obey.


Into this world of unimaginable beauty, comes the serpent – Satan himself. He’s there to test their allegiance to their Creator, to the God of Heaven (and ultimately to try and claim that allegiance for himself). There’s only one thing this perfect couple have been told they must not do, and he will try to convince them to do it. We know the story. They make a deliberate choice to explore this other possibility – in direct disobedience to the God of Heaven, they overthrow the one restriction He has placed upon them, and they choose to ‘be like God’, to determine their own destiny.

They fail; they fall; and the whole of the created world falls with them.

And after the pattern of this first rebellion,
the rebellion against our Creator continues today.

By instinct we want to determine our own destiny, develop whatever beliefs we fancy, worship as we please, do good or evil as we please – even to the extent of determining what IS good and evil and re-writing the moral law which is written in our beings by our Creator God.

It’s this will, this desire to determine our destiny, that leaves us so susceptible to a lie. If there is no ultimate Controller of right and wrong, no ultimate Determiner of what is the truth about the biggest issues – for example, the origin of the universe, the purpose of life, what is good and what is evil, whether there is life after death – we make up the ‘truth’ ourselves: we individually, or as collective societies, determine ‘truth’ and create a dilemma from which it is hard to extract ourselves.

Our eyes are opened to good and evil:
and yet we are blind.

You see, we open ourselves to the conflicting thoughts summed up in these two statements:

Current thinking:
There is no such thing as ABSOLUTE TRUTH!

Quandary:
But how can that statement be ABSOLUTELY TRUE…? 

Which we will explore further in the next blog:
Is ‘Many Truths’ a Lie?

Monday, 22 October 2018

What (or Who) is Truth?

A SHORT SERIES OF BLOGS BASED ON THE RUMOUR MILL (Aletheia Adventure Series Book 6) –
EXPLORING THEMES AROUND TRUTH AND LIES 

This isn’t a new question. It has been the quest of mankind from the beginning of time to search for truth – whether absolute truth or a version developed by ancient philosophers and religious figures to satisfy human need.

But this question was asked on one particular occasion to the one Person, Jesus Christ, Who actually knew the answer, and more than that: Who was the living embodiment of The Truth!

‘Pilate said to Him, “What is truth?”’
John 18:38, THE BIBLE

We don’t know how this question was asked – puzzled, sarcastic, angry, interested? But Pilate’s question was never answered, although the Lord Jesus revealed the answer to His followers:

‘Jesus said, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life.”’
John 14:6, THE BIBLE

We don’t know why Pilate’s question wasn’t answered. Perhaps he already knew the answer and no other revelation of the Lord Jesus was necessary. All we know is that the Truth stood before the Roman Governor, and he failed to acknowledge Him.

So, what did the Lord Jesus Christ mean when He claimed to be the Truth? Does it hold the key to our search for truth today? I think that it does. Here is a claim to not only speak the truth, but actually to be the truth – to embody it, to determine it, to define it. It is the claim of the Lord Jesus to be what the Bible says He is – the Son of God – Almighty God revealed in human form; the Creator of the Universe becoming a man.

He designed the universe; created the earth, the planets, the stars; wrote the laws of nature, of physics and mathematics; inscribed on human souls the moral law and conscience that sets human beings apart from any other creature.

‘Without Him nothing was made that was made.’
John 1:3, the Bible

This is one reason why He not only knows what is true, and speaks what is true, He actually defines it: 
ultimate and absolute Truth is determined by Him.

In The Rumour Mill, the plan of the land of Err is the destruction of the city of Aletheia. Aletheia’s determination to uphold the Truth of the Bible, and to deny that there is any alternative ‘truth’, brings the wrath of those who are quite happy with the most weird and wonderful alternatives – as long as the notion that every belief is equally valid prevails.

In other words, the thinking of Err – and of western society – is that no matter what you believe, it must be subject to certain shared values. Such as:
·    Compromise – even if a belief goes against the law of God and the teaching of the Bible;
·      Equality – even if things aren’t objectively equal and valid;
·      Respect – even if it isn’t something that is respectable;
·     Acquiescence – that you must bow to this higher societal thinking for the ‘good’ of all.

But this way of thinking, this disgust, even hatred, of the notion that there is objective Truth and that it’s not up to each one of us to determine it, goes much further back than current thinking.

In fact, it goes back to the very dawn of time itself. And this is the subject of our next blog:

Opened Eyes


Monday, 15 October 2018

What Defeats Lies?

A SHORT SERIES OF BLOGS BASED ON THE RUMOUR MILL (Aletheia Adventure Series Book 6) –
EXPLORING THEMES AROUND TRUTH AND LIES 

Long before we discovered that words can be used to trick us, the Bible clearly demonstrated how words were used to deceive: in fact, in the first questions and answers ever recorded in the Bible. This conversation went as follows:

‘And he [Satan] said to the woman [Eve], “Can it really be that God has said, ‘You shall not eat from every tree of the garden?’”
And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat the fruit from the trees of the garden, except the fruit from the tree which is in the middle of the garden. God has said, ‘You shall not eat of it, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’
But the serpent said to the woman, “You shall not surely die. For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing the difference between good and evil and blessing and calamity.”’
Genesis 3:1-5, the Bible, Amplified Version

It’s the oldest question, and the most fundamental doubt, in the world:
Can it really be that God has said…?

Casting doubt on the character and intentions of God, twisting the truth, making an alternative version of ‘truth’ much more appealing – this can all be seen in this first deception. It’s precisely what the Government of Err planned to do in The Rumour Mill – aided by the wicked Meddlers (who in turn have their own agenda entirely!).

‘If the ideas were subtle enough, with just enough truth twisted by exaggeration, with a bit of spice and interest added for good measure, people would believe anything!’
[The Rumour Mill]

So, the question is, what will stand against lies, and defeat the poisonous slander of Aletheia’s enemies? Should the people of Aletheia sling counter-accusations? Fight back? Vehemently defend their reputation and their honour? Sue them for slander or libel? Preach? Protest? Destroy?
What would you do?
Would you…

‘Love your enemies…’ [Matthew 5:44]

In the fight against the Rumour Mill – the horrible, terrifying home of the Meddlers – a weapon is woven, so powerful that the hordes of evil, who are used by human beings to generate lies and slander against the people who stand for Bible Truth, are utterly destroyed. Picture the shrieking hosts of Meddlers who occupy a ghastly, ghostly ruin. The around is filled with the poison that they thrive on; it’s their food and drink and source of strength. They are drunk with wicked lies and deceit. But descending on their headquarters…

‘Through the poisonous white vapour, a layer of spectacular beauty was slowly enclosing the Meddlers, glimmering and shining like a thousand radiant diamonds. Hoarse cries of horror and consternation rang through the ranks. Their curses and howls and shrieks and raucous cries rang far and wide…
They were gasping for air, slowing suffocating under the covering of patient love and prayer and supplication that they could not possibly survive beneath.
Their air was poison; they had no ability to breathe the pure fragrance of love.’
[The Rumour Mill]

Can truth defeat lies? On a day-to-day level, when individual disputes, and individual lives, are affected and even ruined by deceit and lies, the truth does not always win. There have been tragic miscarriages of justice because truth did not prevail; and ruined lives and reputations because a lie won.

But ultimately Truth will win the day and destroy all empty illusions and lies. Because The Truth was embodied in a Person who created, defined, and explained it. The answer rests in the character of God (as it did in the Garden of Eden – Adam and Eve would not have made the wrong choice if they had trusted what God said); it is finally revealed in the Person who came to show us what God is really like.  

More of this in the next blog:
What, or Who, is Truth?

Monday, 8 October 2018

The Power of Words

A SHORT SERIES OF BLOGS BASED ON THE RUMOUR MILL (Aletheia Adventure Series Book 6) –
EXPLORING THEMES AROUND TRUTH AND LIES 

I once came across a rhyme which I’ve never forgotten. I believe it was written in the 1880s, to Laura Ingalls (in the book ‘Little Town on the Prairie) – advice from her mother when Laura is ashamed of something she’s rashly said. I think it is sound advice:

‘If wisdom’s ways you wisely seek,
Five things observe with care,
To whom you speak
Of whom you speak
And how
And when
And where.’

There is a power behind words which is evident in the world around us. Fake news; biased reporting; exaggerated headlines; outright lies glossed over by terms such as “according to sources close to...”. Words can twist and turn and misrepresent facts, people, events, politics, religion, opinions, worldviews. Words can destroy people, make or break governments, erode trust, influence beliefs. 

Who would have thought that the assembling of letters in a chosen order, whether in writing or in speech, could be so powerful, so pernicious, so devastating?

If you know anything about the Bible, you will understand that it demonstrates and explains plenty about the use of words. The Bible teaches that we have the power, in words, to do great good, or great harm. Sadly, we often cause harm with our speech:

‘The human tongue can be tamed by no man. It is restless evil, full of deadly poison...’
James 3: 5-9, from the Amplified Version of the Bible

This is certainly something that the Government of the land of Err understands in The Rumour Mill. This is the final book in the Aletheia Adventure Series. It describes the most odious attempt to destroy Bible truth (represented by the city of Aletheia), on the part of the land of Err (which represents all the enemies of the truth of the Bible). Already the land of Err has attempted to overcome Aletheia with open invasion and war. But as this didn't work, what would?

‘The Governor’s foot slipped unexpectedly… she stopped and inspected her shoe – on the sole of which was a squashed, slimy, still-wriggling worm. Her lip curled in a sneer. She wished the troublesome city of Aletheia was as easily overcome as this helpless worm... Quietly, she said, “We let them destroy themselves.”’
[The Rumour Mill]

What can be more effective than open assault?
What about the poison of rumour and the destruction of lies?

In a future blog we’ll think about the one Person who lived on earth, the Lord Jesus Christ, Who only ever spoke Truth (in fact, who is The Truth). Words can be used for good! To quote Proverbs 25:11 in the Bible (Amplified Version):

‘A word fitly spoken and in due season is like apples of gold in settings of silver.’

We can’t control the flow of words about us; we will never stop the printing of lies; we can, however, through the power of God, change and manage what we say and discover the secret of how to discern the truth (more on this in a future blog!). In The Rumour Mill we will discover how the grand plan of the government of Err, to use rumour and lies to destroy the Truth of Aletheia, played out.

‘Yes, the Rumour Mill, the terrifying headquarters of the Meddlers, would conquer the Truth of Aletheia.
With lies.’
[from the Prologue of The Rumour Mill]
What force will be strong enough to protect and defend the city from the powerful poison of lies?
To be continued in the next blog in this series:
What defeats lies?