The Truth Principal

Buy the truth and do not sell it; get wisdom, discipline, and understanding. Proverbs 23:23

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Ideas Have Consequences

Everyone has presuppositions. Presuppositions are the core truth claims we accept as absolutely true and from which we accept or reject all other truth claims. We call these core presuppositions, our worldview. Unfortunately, we all accept some truth claims as true without examining their validity. In fact, most of us have accepted some opposing truth claims as true, simply absorbing them from our culture (everyone “knows” that …). I sometimes find it disheartening that so many believers who claim to believe that God’s Word is true and inerrant, have so many presuppositions inconsistent with that belief.

As a Christian, what should be your core presuppositions? The most foundational of all is God – that He exists, that He is Who He says He is: the Creator of the universe, Father, Son, Holy Spirit, that He is good, all knowing, eternal, unchanging, love, sovereign, just, Savior, righteous, and so on. Second to who God is would be believing God’s Word is true and inerrant. Creation, fall, redemption are essential truths of a biblical worldview. If we really believe these truths, if these are our presuppositions, then we should examine every other truth claim against these truths and reject any that compete with it.

For example, if the world says that people are basically good but God’s Word says everyone is fallen, sinful from birth (Psalm 51:5, Romans 3:23), we have to reject the idea that people are basically good and realize that without Christ, they are naturally sinful. Since the world holds the supposition that children are basically good, when children sin, the world assumes something in their environment caused this since it could not have come from within, so the world tries to control the environment. Of course, the reality is that it doesn’t work because their presuppositions are faulty. Romans 7:18a says, “For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature.”  So from a biblical worldview, I am not surprised when someone sins and I know that it can come from their own desires (James 1:14-15) rather than an external influence.

Why is it important to discuss this heady stuff? For two reasons. One is so that we can be more intentional about examining our presuppositions so that we can live consistent with what we believe to be true. Ideas have consequences. What you accept as true affects your decisions, actions, words.

Several years ago, before I became principal, I was a lead teacher. I was sent in to observe another teacher because of some concerns that had been raised about that teacher. While I was observing the class, I found the teacher’s class management very different from my own and I kept thinking, “They should sit down and be quiet.” As the teacher was teaching, the conversation was noisy. Students weren’t raising their hand to get permission to speak. It was more chaotic than what I was used to. Still, after the interaction, students got busy and they were working and learning. As they were working I noticed a student standing at his desk near the front of the class. I waited for the teacher to tell him to sit down. She didn’t. I watched. Maybe she didn’t realize he was standing. She did but didn’t say anything. That’s when my presupposition was challenged. I thought about that student (a previous teacher would complain that he won’t sit down and be quiet) and about that teacher (known to be ADHD herself) and it occurred to me that maybe an ADHD teacher knows best what to do with an ADHD student. Until that moment, it had never occurred to me that it might be okay to allow a student to stand to do his work. Why not? Because my whole life teachers always said, “sit down.” It’s just the way we “do school”. It was a presupposition I had absorbed along the way that had never been challenged. Is it more righteous to sit than to stand? Of course not! The reason for having students sit is that it is less distracting for the students and the teacher, and most students perform better sitting at a desk. But for some, like this student, being allowed to stand transformed his ability to focus and function at school.

If we are going to “buy the truth and not sell it” we are going to be open to examining the presuppositions that we are working with and adjusting them when we find they do not line up with truth.

The second reason it is important to understand worldviews is because it helps us understand and give grace to the world we live in. There have been a lot of changes in our American culture in the last few years. Things that used to be “wrong” are now considered “right”. This is possible when there is “no absolute truth”. Some Christians are outraged with each step the country takes away from a biblical view of reality and other Christians have accepted without question or with compromise some of these changes. While I understand the outrage, should we be surprised? In a world that believes evolution is true, that rejects God, and believes that everyone creates their own “truth” we should, at some level, anticipate the path our country is taking or the events that play out in our society. When we teach our children that they are just evolved animals and there is no absolute truth or right and wrong, then why not kill the people you don’t like? If they are animals and not image bearers, what’s the big deal? There is no intrinsic worth. It’s the survival of the fittest (unless of course we or our loved ones are not in the “fittest” category). Why not lie or cheat to get what you want? When Christians try to engage in debate it frequently backfires because we are starting with fundamentally different worldviews, We are arguing from two very different places.

Romans 1:21-25 explains, “For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.” Our culture has rejected God and put themselves in His place – each as their own little reference point, measuring everything against their own desires and beliefs. We have very different perspectives based on what we hold to be true!

But we have truth on our side. Although our culture has a slippery moral compass, they still have a sense of right and wrong that betrays their worldview, but it is distorted and self-centered. Romans 2:15 says, “They show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts sometimes accusing them and at other times even defending them.” They have exchanged the truth of God for a lie, but since it is a lie, it doesn’t fit with reality and in many ways they have to live contrary to what they purport to be true. They are tragically lost, deceived.

What would happen if Christians, instead of debating with the lost, lived a life more consistent with what they claim to be true? What if we were more intentional about living lives of righteousness and integrity, loving our neighbor as ourselves, loving God, overcoming evil with good (Romans 12:21), and devouring and applying His word so that in every way we could live blameless lives in the midst of a “crooked and perverse generation”? Then maybe we would shine among them like starts in the sky (Philippians 2:15). That is my prayer.


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Get Understanding

Is it possible to “know” something without understanding? Have you ever taken and aced a test because you knew the right answers, but you didn’t really understand the content or why they were the “right” answers? Are there any facts you know but don’t understand? I know my iPhone works, but it is still miraculous to me. I have no understanding of how or why it works – just that it does. Although I can use it without understanding it, I cannot duplicate it, improve on it, or explain it. I lack understanding where the iPhone is concerned.

As an educator, I want my students to get understanding. I don’t want them just to be able to regurgitate the right answers. I want them to understand why they are the “right” answers and how to come to that conclusion themselves. I don’t want them just to plug in the numbers and functions of a math or algebraic equation. I want them to understand place value and all of the mathematical or algebraic principles so they can apply the information in new equations or new situations. I want them to be able to solve problems! Understanding is a depth of knowing. Someone who understands, “get’s it”.

Webster’s 1828 dictionary gives an excellent description of understanding. It defines understanding as “The faculty of the human mind by which it apprehends the real state of things presented to it, or by which it receives or comprehends the ideas which others express and intend to communicate.”

Have you ever had a conversation with a spouse, friend, or  family member and either heard or said, “you don’t understand”? We all want to be understood. In the context of relationships, we know that understanding goes beyond the actual words used to communicate. It reaches beyond the words and searches out the motives or intent. Someone who seeks to understand takes into consideration the expressed emotions, facial expressions, and body language – anything that can give insight and contribute to our understanding.

In the Bible, understanding is frequently paired with wisdom. How do we get understanding? Sometimes, God gives it as He did for Solomon (1 Kings 4:29, Proverbs 2:6). Understanding can also come by obedience to God’s law or precepts (Psalm 11:10, Psalm 119:104), reading God’s Word (Psalm 119:130), or heeding correction (Proverbs 15:32). Most of the time, understanding requires effort on our part. We have to seek it out, go after it, get it.

I want my students to get understanding.

“My goal is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.”

Colossians 2:2-3

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Get Discipline

What do you think of when you hear the word discipline? Do you think of a child being corrected? An athlete in training? What does it mean to get discipline? If you read through all of the Bible verses that use the word “discipline”, the context often implies a consequence or punishment for wrong behavior and always implies correction.

Hebrews 12:11 says, “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful! Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.”

What is the purpose of discipline? The purpose is correction. Correction is needed when anything is wrong. Correction sets things right; it corrects our course when we have strayed.

As children, most of our discipline comes from external sources – our parents, teachers, and others in authority over us. They are training us toward righteousness, both in our thinking and in our actions. By the time we have grown into adulthood, the training of our youth should have produced in us “self-discipline”. We are self-disciplined when we know the right thing to do and choose to do it even if it is hard work or unpleasant or we don’t feel like it.

As an employer, I both enjoy and trust the employees that are self-disciplined. I know they will do what I expect them to do and I do not need to keep checking up on them; they don’t require micro-managing. In the event that employee gets a little off course, they listen and willingly heed correction. I love the employee who is proactive and asks questions to ensure they are doing what is expected! These employees are also esteemed by their coworkers because they always carry their own weight and are able and willing to help others. They take responsibility for their actions.

When an employee lacks the self-discipline necessary for their job, it affects everyone around them. Their coworkers are frustrated because they are not pulling their own weight and I am frustrated because I feel like I have to check up on everything they are doing. Most new policies or rules come about as a result of someone who is undisciplined. Have you noticed that? Until “Undisciplined Employee” came along, no one had to be told to do “X”. It just naturally followed “W”. When Undisciplined Employee is told that X must follow W they may say “okay” but not follow through, or they may say, “It’s not in the policy manual” and therefore conclude they don’t have to do it. Eventually this employee either gets in line because of the external discipline (employee discipline write-ups, adjustments to rules and policy manuals) or they leave or are fired.

As a parent and an elementary school principal, I want my children and my students to fully connect the truth of Hebrews 12:11. We say a hearty “amen” to the first part – that discipline is unpleasant and even painful. Then we often read past the rest which is the best part! For those who have been trained by it, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace. Who wouldn’t want that?

If we are going to “get discipline” we are going to choose to do what is right even if it is hard and painful because we see the end result! Like an athlete preparing for an event, we know that the hard work pays off. It makes doing the right thing easier the next time; doing right becomes more natural, routine. We also will not only listen to correction or feedback, but look eagerly for it. How can I fine tune what I’m doing now? How can I get better? Someone who is seeking to get discipline, knows they are fallen and imperfect, and we all are even if we don’t admit it to ourselves and each other. We are still in need of help and correction. Someone who is getting discipline wisely goes after it rather than waiting for it to come to them.

If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all. Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live! 10 They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness.

Hebrews 12:8-10 (NIV)

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Get Wisdom

Webster’s 1828 Dictionary defines wisdom as: “The right use or exercise of knowledge; the choice of laudable ends, and of the best means to accomplish them.  This is wisdom in act, effect, or practice.  …It differs somewhat from prudence, in this respect; prudence is the exercise of sound judgment in avoiding evils; wisdom is the exercise of sound judgment either in avoiding evils or attempting good.”

Wisdom is the right use of knowledge. In other words, it is the right or appropriate application of truth, especially truth from God’s Word. It’s knowing the right or best thing to do or say and doing it. The Bible says that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. If we want to “get wisdom”, we must begin with God’s Word.

Many years ago, my small group at church decided that we would memorize the book of James. One day as I was practicing chapter 1, I was reciting, “…Consider it pure joy, my brothers, when you face trials of many kinds because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom….”  When I got to this point, I stopped. Persevering through trials makes us mature and complete – not lacking anything, including wisdom. It suddenly occurred to me that if we lack wisdom, and ask God for it, He may choose to give us wisdom by allowing us to face trials. Wisdom frequently comes through experience, persevering through trials. Haven’t you found this to be so?

Since my initial memorization of James 1, I have persevered through some trials I would never have imagined and certainly not have chosen. I can see how it has changed me, tempered me, matured me. God uses everything in our lives, even the most devastating, for our good and His glory if we persevere and trust Him through them. When I’m willing for God to use my suffering to shape and teach me, then even the most grievous trials I have persevered through have given me wisdom and depth of insight that I deeply treasure.  Proverbs 3:13 says that those who find wisdom are blessed and Proverbs 8:11 says that wisdom is more precious than rubies and nothing that you can desire can compare to her.

How much better to get wisdom than gold,
    to get insight rather than silver!

Proverbs 16:16

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Buy the Truth and Do Not Sell It

The year I introduced “truth” as the theme for my students, I came across Proverbs 23:23. It quickly became my theme verse; it so succinctly describes my mission! “Buy the truth and do not sell it; get wisdom, discipline, and understanding.” There is so much packed into that powerful little verse!

Let’s start at the beginning. “Buy” implies that the purchase has value. You would not buy something that you didn’t value. To buy also implies a “cost”.  For those of us who “buy” unpopular truths, the cost can be tremendous. For some, it has cost their lives. So if we are going to “buy” the truth, we need to be absolutely sure that it is “true truth”.

When I was a little girl, it was common to use the term “buy” to indicate our level of belief of someone’s story. “I’ll buy that!” meant “I believe that!”

Truth is defined in Webster’s 1828 Dictionary as “Conformity to fact or reality; exact accordance with that which is, or has been, or shall be.” What an excellent definition! Notice that truth is tied to reality, not someone’s perception or preference. This is what I referred to as “true truth”.

So in practice, someone who “buys” the truth is willing to hear truth even if it hurts to hear, and we are willing to adjust our presuppositions to line up with what is true rather than trying to bend the truth to fit our preferred presuppositions.

If we understand the value of the truth we have purchased, then we certainly will not be willing to sell it. What does it look like to “sell” the truth? For my students, it might be that student who witnessed a classmate doing something harmful to another student, but out of fear or a desire to be accepted, didn’t speak up either to protect the student or to report the incident. The truth was “sold” to buy acceptance or avoid discomfort. It might be that time that we go along with the crowd when we know the crowd is wrong or doing the wrong thing. It might be those times we are in denial and act contrary to the truth because we do not want to believe or accept the truth, even though deep down, we do know it. It would be any time we do not let the truth we know to prevail in our decisions or actions, presumably because, at the moment, we are valuing something else more than the truth.

Jesus said that He is the truth. (John 14:6) In God’s economy, it is never necessary to “sell” the truth for some “greater good”. Do not sell it!

As the principal, buying the truth and not selling it might look like this:

  • I listen to my teachers or school parents and consider their feedback, even when it hurts, and I search for and consider what is true in what they say, and adjust accordingly.
  • I listen to students – even and especially those in trouble. I want to know the full picture of what transpired and why. I want to get the full perspective of all involved so I can discern what is true about the incident.
  • I reflect on my decisions, policies, and procedures to ensure they are soundly based on truth and if they are not, make corrections and apologies.
  • Most of all, it means I read God’s Word often and carefully to ensure I recognize the truth from the lie and to firmly establish biblical presuppositions.

What does buying the truth and not selling it look like when you put it into practice?

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Why the Truth Principal

In recent years, truth has lost its meaning in our culture. The postmodern acceptance of “your truth” and “my truth” in place of “the truth” has corrupted our understanding and seeped into our thinking until it has lost all value and meaning. This should be troubling to everyone. As a Christian educator, this is deeply troubling to me. What is education if it is not passing truth down to the next generation?

Isaiah 59 speaks of a similar culture. Verses 14 – 15 (NIV) say:

So justice is driven back,
    and righteousness stands at a distance;
truth has stumbled in the streets,
    honesty cannot enter.
 Truth is nowhere to be found,
    and whoever shuns evil becomes a prey.

The Lord looked and was displeased
    that there was no justice.

As an elementary principal in a Christian school, I want my students to know there is truth. I want them to understand the nature and source of truth. For the past few years, my students and I have been learning about truth, the One who is the Truth, and various truths from God’s Word. The Truth Principal is born out of a desire to share with others, especially my own children and grandchildren, what we have been learning, and to inspire you to courageously “buy the truth and do not sell it”.