Veritas

As you may know, I am a woodworker. I fell in love with woodworking at an early age when my parents gave me a Handy Andy tool chest of woodworking tools – saw, square, coping saw, block plane, hammer, ruler, etc. I remember finding scraps of 1×2 pine and cutting them into 2″ lengths to make play bales of hay. I think I may have maxed out at about 250 “bales,” enough to make a pretty good sized haystack. If my memory serves me right, that might be the era when my dad was continually frustrated when unable to locate a 1×2 when needed.

My love for woodworking intensified in 8th grade when I took wood-shop, taught by one of my all-time favorite teachers, Mr. Briggs. It further intensified when I married my wife, Barb. Her dad was a a really good woodworker so I learned from him. I ended up inheriting many of his power tools 15 years ago when he ‘retired’ from the hobby. Over the past 10-15 years (thanks to my son, Nate) I have complemented my power tool collection with a plethora of hand tools – some old (i.e. 100+ years), some new. Veritas Tools is one of my go-to manufacturers of quality hand tools. I have contributed a fair amount to Veritas’ bottom line as I’ve expanded my hand tool collection. Here are a couple examples…

I learned a new word recently – verity. Verity, I discovered, is derived from veritas, the Latin word for truth. In the last posting (Hesed and Emet) we looked at hesed, the powerful, rich, and robust Hebrew word describing God’s steadfast love and mercy toward his people. We looked at an example from the Psalms: “Steadfast love and faithfulness meet; righteousness and peace kiss each other” (Psalm 85:10, ESV). The word faithfulness in this passage is emet, another rich and robust Hebrew word describing God’s character

The Theological Workbook of the Old Testament suggests that emet can be translated into English as faithfulness or verity (truth). Emet carries an underlying sense of certainty and dependability. As with the example above, emet is often coupled with hesed, creating a synergism of two of God’s strongest attributes. (Keep in mind the definition of synergy – the combined effect is greater than the sum of the individual attributes.)

I get the chills when I ponder this. Hesed, combined with emet, provides a powerful glimpse of who God is – love and faithfulness, mercy and truth. We can be certain of and depend on his steadfast love.

Then we remember that Jesus is the visible expression of the invisible God (Colossians 1:15), the God of hesed and emet. Maybe John had hesed and emet in mind when he said that Jesus became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth (John 1:14). Ponder this for a while. Maybe you’ll get the chills, too.

The Visible Expression of the Invisible God…

Circa 1973. God had drawn me into youth ministry through Young Life, a non-denominational outreach to teenagers. I was serving teenagers in my hometown, working full-time, and pursuing an engineering degree taking classes a couple nights a week. In the midst of it all, I tried to read scripture with some consistency and with some success. In the 70s, we didn’t have the availability of scripture translations and paraphrases as we do today, but we had a few – King James, Revised Standard, New American Standard, The Living Bible, The Good News Bible, and a favorite of Young Life staff, the J.B. Phillips New Testament.

Early into my Young Life experience, at a volunteer leader training, we were pointed to Colossians 1:15Now Christ is the visible expression of the invisible God (Phillips). The passage, it was explained, was a cornerstone to Young Life talks – we wanted kids to know the real God and the real God made himself visible through Jesus. Jesus revealed God’s character, compassion, and heart for people. In preparing Young Life talks, I diligently worked at helping kids see this Jesus, the visible expression of the God they could not see. A few months into the beginning of my Young Life tenure as a volunteer leader, a thought occurred to me: I didn’t know God or Jesus, save a few stories I learned in Sunday School*…..

In the midst of a fairly busy schedule, I embarked on a year-long quest to know God. It didn’t start as a year-long quest. It started as a one-time reading of the the Gospels in my brand new J.B. Phillips New Testament, underlining and highlighting with a red colored pencil as I progressed. After an initial read, I decided to read them again – Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John – marking the pages with a different color. I was amazed to discover how much I didn’t observe in the first go-around. So I read them again. I soon realized that my eyes were drawn to passages that were already highlighted. So I bought a new bible of a different translation and repeated the process, highlighting new discoveries about Jesus (and thus about God).

Seven translations and a year later I felt I was ready to adequately venture into other parts of the New Testament as well as the Old Testament. As I look back 45 years, I have to believe that year was one of the most transformative experiences of my faith journey. It’s what likely saved me from the tenets of Moralistic Therapeutic Deism. It set me up to know Jesus (not just about Jesus). It set me up to give decent Young Life talks. It set me up to be a better husband and father. It set me up to learn to read Scripture exegetically. IT SET ME UP FOR LIFE!

I am amazed how few people have actually read straight through the Gospels even one time, which is why I give everyone I mentor the exact same assignment – read through the Gospels. When done, I usually have them repeat the process. Invariably, I get the same response – it was a transformative experience (a common ‘practical theology’ theme, you’ll notice). If you happen to be one that has never done a read-through of the Gospels, then you know what I would suggest. I sincerely hope you would heed the suggestion. My heart aches when I realize how few Christians spend time in the Gospels, and thus with Jesus. How else will we ever know Him?

* I had the privilege of joining a group of people to hear George Barna give a researcher’s perspective of what is needed to develop our young people in today’s culture. He said research shows that most church children and youth teachings tend to focused only on about 20 basic Bible stories. (In one of these posts we will need to discuss “kindergarten faith.”)