Category Archives: God’s Grace

True Confessions of a First Time Dad: The Gospel According to American Girl

I had heard rumors about it…I've seen the effects of it…I even knew it was coming, but I wasn't prepared. 

Yep it's the American Girl store. 

Wall to wall dolls floating in sea of dresses, outfits, proportionally sized dogs, doll hospitals, hair salons with adult stylists, and aisle after aisle of passed out father's overwhelmed by the experience. 

It's an experience because it isn't just a normal day at a normal store getting a normal doll.  No, no, no. You see, American Girl develops a whole world for you to enter into with your doll. 

Each year they create a new doll and cast a young girl that looks just like her to bring the doll to life.  You can buy a DVD about the dolls.  You can have tea with your dolls.  You can get clothes for you to match your doll.  You can even get glamour shots with your doll for a Christmas card.  For crying out loud, even the bathroom stalls have holders for the dolls so you don't accidentally dunk them!

Even the shelving of the products was thought out since they are at two different heights for two types of people; the parents with the green and the little girls with needs. 

All this marketing genius is for a doll that will most likely be put in a Rubbermaid container after a few months with the other $5 toys.  But it works and has made getting a doll fun and down to the level of the kids. 

I wonder if we as Christians could learn something from this type of approach?

I mean, I wonder if we do a good enough job bringing the Gospel down to the level of the people we are talking to or even interacting with on a daily basis? 

Now, I'm not saying we should create a store like American Girl to talk to people who are interested in Christianity, but you'd have to think the Noah's Ark section of the store would be pretty sick (FYI, sick = cool).

However, there may be something to be said about tailoring the way we talk with people about God that is at their personal level which may be more effective.  Instead of trying to impress ourselves as we talk at them about all that we know, maybe we should start by asking what they know and start there? 

For instance, I'm certain the lady that styles hair at the store knows full well she is styling doll hair and not human hair.  I'm sure she could get paid way more if it were a human in the chair, but she knows that her role in the experience is for that little girl beaming from ear to ear at the counter in front of her.  At that moment it isn't about her needs as an adult, but about the needs of the little girl.  When we truly want to share our faith with someone, we need to remember it is about the needs of the person we are talking to and not ours. 

Who cares if you’re the CEO of the company and are talking to a floor worker at lunch about the church you go to?  Who cares if a mom takes her son out paintballing to talk about having Christ-like character?  Who cares if you take your wife shopping just to spend time talking about life and Jesus?  So what if you look a little foolish!? 

I'm telling you (and me) that we should care way less about how we look or feel and more about how the other person feels about Christ. 

At its core it breaks down this way: If I look foolish for a moment, but the person accepts Christ would I care?  Of course not!

I just think all of us could spend more time learning from American Girl's approach and less time with our small group of Christian friends that get together to talk about how much we all have it together.  We need those moments of sharpening and encouraging, but it doesn't do any good if we don't pop the Christian bubble and get out and impact our world.  Believe me…people are dying to know way more about a Savior, and not one that will get put in a box in the garage someday.  

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Rolling Through The Stop Signs Of Life

It seems like when I'm driving around the Southside of Chicago that stop signs are treated like suggestions instead of laws.  It could be bone dry out, but that won't stop Mr. "My Time is More Important Than Yours" from rolling through the 4-way stop so he can get home 7 seconds faster. 

I wish I could say that Lloyd Christmas' words from Dumb and Dumber "Hey, I guess they're right. Senior citizens, although slow and dangerous behind the wheel, can still serve a purpose. I'll be right back. Don't you go dying on me!" was the excuse for all the people I see, but I can't.  It is multi-generational.

If you think about it, the society we live in is really held together by a thin line of faith and trust in the people around us.  I mean, if a line of cars completely ignored the stop light at a busy intersection there really isn't much you as a driver wanting to go the other way can do.  We trust that the other drivers around us will abide by the same laws we know and stop, yield, signal, and turn when and how they are supposed to. However it only takes one person to ignore the rules and disaster strikes.

We also have faith that the laws that are established are created with our safety and best interests in mind.  I don't think anyone can say that a stop sign is made just to make people mad or to be used as a college sociology experiment, although that would be interesting research to see. 

The laws are put in place for our own good, but yet people still roll through life because they feel they are better than the law or they think their way is right.  However, just as rolling through a stop sign will set you up for a T-bone (and I don't mean from Smith and Wollenskys) so will rolling through the directions God gives us.

We read in Proverbs these words:

"There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death." – Proverbs 16:25

"Wow Brian this seems a little extreme!  I mean isn't comparing my not stopping at a yellow light and death a little much?"  Or to bring it to a spiritual point, "How does me sleeping with my girlfriend before I'm married and dying have anything to do with each other?"  I guess it depends on which car you are in.

I just wonder if we ever stop and think about what our decisions to not follow God's direction in life do to other people.  We usually try to motivate change from the internal drive to do better for ourselves, but what about the drive to do better so you don't jack up somebody else?

When my friends were killed in a traffic accident back in high school it wasn't their choice to get hit by that drunk driver.  They didn't choose to drive into his lane on the highway.  No, their lives were affected because of the decision of someone else to think their way was right.

To bring it closer to home, maybe you call yourself a Christian man, attend church regularly, read the Bible every morning, call your grandmother regularly, and volunteer at the animal shelter on Tuesday nights.  But in your relationship you tell your “new to the faith” girlfriend it's ok to sleep together before you’re married because you are "married in your hearts".  Death still happens.  A little bit of the purity of that young woman died.  The image she has of a Christ-like relationship is shattered.  All because you rolled through a stop sign designed by God because you thought it wasn't hurting anyone.  

Our sin has a ripple effect that radiates far beyond our personal space and impacts the lives of so many more people than we will ever know.

The beautiful part of this Proverb though is what the opposite effect of it can be.  If we take a second to re-write it in the positive it would read. 

"All the ways of God are right, and will bring life." 

Now that's a saying you can put on a t-shirt!  It's also a verse that you can trust to live your life by without any regret. 

God's design is for us to not roll through the stop signs He made, but to trust that the guardrails He designed are meant for our protection and for those around us we love.  So take an extra second and come to a complete stop…it may just save a life…not just yours.

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Go To Your Room And Stop Being Stupid!

"Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but whoever hates correction is stupid." - Proverbs 12:1

I remember writing a paper for a college English class at the University of Nebraska that really has stuck with me.  I have no idea what the paper was about, but what I do remember was getting back the first draft from the teacher and having it be so covered with red correction ink it was dripping.  It looked like the script of a horror movie coming alive on the page!

Well, after following the guidance of my teacher and looking at where I messed up, I turned in my final draft of the paper the next week.  Along with the paper, I attached a brand new red pen in the package and a note saying "I thought you may need this after my last one.  Sorry about that." Listen, I wasn't voted Class Brown Noser in high school for nothing.

In the end, I got a 100% on the paper and actually got an A+ for the entire semester. So needless to say, I took the direction of my teacher and fixed my mistakes.

I'm fairly certain I've never met anyone in all my different interactions in life that loved to be corrected or disciplined.

  • Not one of my baseball teammates ran up to me after a terrible day batting and said "Boy, I can't wait to meet with coach tomorrow and have him tear my behind apart!"
  • My brothers never got excited wondering what our dad would do to them when he got home and found out they broke the dry wall in the basement.
  • I've never met a girl that loved sprinting into my office to tell me she cheated on her boyfriend just to see what I'd say. 

Correction and discipline are not naturally woven into the human condition to be enjoyed like holding a baby or kissing your wife.  In most cases they are avoided with the same intensity as the perfume sprayers at the mall.  Our minds attach a negative connotation to both of them but in different ways. 

Correction is often seen as a sign of weakness where the person feels that the correction comes out of the need to fix your screw up.  We feel like everyone is watching and pointing at us. 

Discipline on the other hand seems to incite the feeling of being put in the corner or sent to your room because you did something wrong.  For my Catholic friends out there the nuns with the rulers would enter the picture here.

None of us enjoy having our bubble touched. We will kick, scream and even threaten violence to anyone that dares to pop the personal bubble we place around us. The bubble that says "I'm fine; everyone else is jacked up, and if it ain't broke why fix it?" Bubbles filled with old high school yearbooks, participation ribbons, employee of the month certificates, and whatever else helps to keep us built up inside. But have you noticed that it doesn't take much to pop these? 

Little things like an odd look or a misread text message can be just as destructive as a cheating spouse or an intervention for a drug problem. The bubbles pop very, very easily. 

I can relate. I wish I had more pats on the back than wagging fingers in my face, but what I’ve come to realize is that by resisting correction I'm missing out on God's desires for me. In fact by resisting He calls me stupid. Seems harsh, but once again…He's right!

The reason is that God's correction is not meant to show you how dumb you are, it is meant to put you on a path that is better than your current path of destruction. It would have done me no good if my teacher looked at my paper and said "Looks great!" just so I could feel good about myself. God would not be a loving Father if He didn't provide course corrections to us in our life.

Additionally, God's discipline, whether passed out directly from the Big Man upstairs or through thoughtful words of loved ones or a pastor, are not meant to put you in your place like a child.  They are meant to lovingly keep you from further damage and help you avoid the freight train of sin that is ready to smack you in the face the way you are headed.

So you and I can either learn to see the correction and discipline we receive as knowledge to become more spiritually mature, or we can punch the messenger in the face and keep living in our sensitive personal bubbles.

Just know, sooner or later, no matter how hard you try….Pop! 

 

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Daniel and the Lion’s Den – The After Party

“At the king’s command, the men who had falsely accused Daniel were brought in and thrown into the lions’ den, along with their wives and children. And before they reached the floor of the den, the lions overpowered them and crushed all their bones.” – Daniel 6:24

Now, before I touch on this verse I’d really love for you to read the rest of Daniel 6 so you have some context, but if you can’t here are the cliff notes.

In one of the most ironic and odd Bible stories we tell our children before they go to bed, this is the classic story of Daniel and the lion’s den.

Daniel is a highly regarded prophet of God and a really, really, really good one at that.  At this time in his life he is a high ranking administrator and because of his success not well liked by some people.  As a result, his critics look to catch him breaking a law they convinced the King to pass banning the kingdom from praying to anyone except the king for the next 30 days.

Daniel being a strong man of Faith did not budge in his devotion to God and as a result was sentenced to be eaten alive by lions.  The king himself was anguished at having to do this, but the law he passed was unshakable.  So down in the pit of lions Daniel went for the night as the king went home to try and sleep.

At the break of day, Scripture says, the king rushed back and found Daniel still alive in the den.  Daniel’s exact response was “O king, live forever!  my God sent his angel, and he shut the mouths of the lions.  They have no hurt me, because I was found innocent in his sight.  Nor have I ever done any wrong before you,O king.” (Can you see why this dude was loved? :) )

However, here is where we jump into the verse above.

After hugging Daniel and most likely apologizing for the whole lion thing, he turns his attention to the yahoos that forced the king’s hand to kill this Godly man.

As we read, the punishment seemed almost fitting.  Take the punishment you tried to inflict on an innocent man and apply it the person who deserves it.  However, we notice that it wasn’t just the men that suffered the punishment.  It was the entire family that was mauled by the lions and whose bones were crushed.

Now wait a minute.  That doesn’t seem fair.  What did the kids and wives do?

In that culture this was very common.  You see, it all came down to eliminating any and all threats to the throne.  So instead of killing just the men and running the risk of the sons growing up to seek retribution, the king just eliminated everyone involved so he didn’t have to worry about keeping up with all the offspring.

So as a result the family of these men also received the punishment for their actions.  They were collateral damage.

Don’t kid yourself.  This still happens all the time today.

Families and loved ones suffering the consequences of someone else’s actions, mistakes, slip-ups, decisions…sin.  Lives mauled to pieces as collateral damage.

  • It’s the couple that gets a divorce because they “fell out of love” who have to watch as their kids are turned to dust through the process.
  • It’s the husband that decides to gamble his paychecks away thinking it will only affect him who then has to live through the “lions” of distrust and financial ruin along with his wife.
  • It’s the teenager who believes that “everyone is drinking so I should too” who soon finds out that going to college or getting a job is a lot harder with a DUI and a criminal record.  Not to mention the devastation of a mom who just had to post bail for their child.

We do not live life in a vacuum.  Our actions, decisions, and their effects are not isolated to only us.  They ripple out to many, many, many more people.

Without a doubt we should desire to remove sin in our life for the sake of our relationship with Christ, but additionally we should be spurred on by the families we love.

I don’t know of anyone that would be excited to see a hungry lion being brought home.

 

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Truth Be Told #4: Don’t Fast Like A Criminal

"Worshiping God involves more than observing an outward ritual;

there must be an inward obedience and submission to the Lord." -Warren Wiersbe

Do you know why most criminals get caught?  It is because they can't keep their mouths shut.  Sooner or later Bubba has to tell someone that he stole a pack of cigarettes from the gas station so he can feel tough and then…wammo…handcuffs baby.  Most detective work is just waiting around for Mr. or Mrs. Criminal to tell someone with one more brain cell than them about the crime and then the cops go pick up the perp after who they told rats them out. 

We may not all be criminals, but all of us on some level want people to know what we did. 

I mean sit around a table at dinner with more than 3 people for 10 minutes and you'll find that to be true.  One story leads to another story that leads to another better story that leads to an even better story that is only half true which leads to someone knowing someone which leads to your dad somehow having had dinner with Frank Sinatra. 

We all want to feel important and to have people notice us. 

That is the crux of what Jesus is talking about in this truth.

 "When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you." – Matthew 6:16-18

Now fasting in its simplest sense is deprive yourself of something you want such as food or water for a period of time so in the moments of their desire you can refocus your attention to God.  Fasts can last hours or days but the reason for them stays the same.  It's about refocusing on God.

I've fasted in times of great stress or at a time when large decision was looming to truly seek God's direction and guidance.  In all honesty though, I am a light weight when it comes to fasting and in fact one day is very hard for me, but the challenge is always a draw to me.

The difficulty with a fast, in most cases, is not about the food it's about the heart.  When you are in the middle of fasting or even just starting out it is such a temptation to announce it to someone.  To maybe subtly let it slide that it's the reason you can't each lunch or it is the reason you are so irritable.  It would be such a great confidence boost if someone would say "wow, that's awesome!" or "I wish I was disciplined enough to do that."  Those little boosts seem harmless, but what it may do to your spirit could be crushing.  What Jesus wants us to do in our times of fasting is not seek the approval of others, but seek the face of God. 

Jesus tells us that if our desire is for the approval of those around us, we have received our reward.  However if we fast in worship to Christ and not reduce it to grimacing and moaning for sympathy we are told our reward is eternal.  It simply takes us keeping our mouth shut and our soul open.

So the next time you are considering fasting, try not to fast like a criminal, but rather fast as a Christ follower should.

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Truth Be Told #3: Stuffed Animal Prayers

“And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.” - Matthew 6: 5-8

My daughter Aniston is such a good baby and I don’t even know how to thank God enough for her each day.  One of my favorite times of day is the morning when she wakes up.  It usually will happen sometime between 7:00 and 7:30 am and I’ll be downstairs having coffee when I hear her start to stir.  She never cries when she wakes up but rather just starts to talk.

To give you an accurate picture, in her crib is at least 3 dolls, 6 blankets, 6 stuff animals, and a couple of random toys.  All of these have been hand selected by her over the course of consecutive nights because of her apparent inability to go to sleep without them.  It looks like a Toys R Us threw up in her crib.

My wife and I guess this is who and what she is interacting with when she wakes up, but what is not in question is that she is talking up a storm.  What we also have found is that she does not like us to rush in right away when she first wakes up.  In fact she will not be a happy campier at all if you do.  She needs this time to talk it out and get herself ready for the day.  Eventually she will say “Mommy” or “Daddy” and then we can come get her.

So it begins. J

Why as we get older do we lose this?  Why do we get so “smart” and “aware” that we lose the ability just to relax and talk?

Let’s take God out of the equation for a second here because we even have a tough time talking to each other without looking at our watches, having an agenda, or feeling guilty.  In some ways conversation has turned into an art form that is only done by the professional or we just talk to hear our selves speak.

This is what Jesus was dealing with in Matthew when He saw what the Religious were doing to prayer.  These men would stand in the most public of locations in the busiest sections of town to pray aloud for all to hear.  Jesus didn’t beat around the bush when He calls them hypocrites.

  • Is it bad to pray out loud?  No.
  • Is it bad for people to hear you while you pray?  No.
  • Is it bad to pray out loud for all to hear so everyone will look at you and think you are God’s gift to all that is holy?  Bingo!

Jesus is saying “Don’t you see that when you are praying it’s ultimately between you and Me so why not go to a place where it is literally you and me?”  To be clear, I don’t believe that a closet is the only place where Jesus wants us to pray. Scripture even encourages us to pray unceasingly, but it would be tough to fulfill anything else in the Scripture if the prayer had to occur in a broom closet.  So of course we need to get out of the closet and into the World, but from time to time you need to just get alone and be with Christ.

I mean if I wanted to bring up some heavy stuff about me to my earthly dad I sure wouldn’t want it to be in the middle of the mall where everyone could hear me screaming about it to him.  Now if I wanted to brag about how awesome I was to him I wouldn’t mind a microphone and maybe a studio audience, but again that’s not the point of prayer.

Just like telling everyone how much you do for the poor corrupts the act of service so does arrogantly praying out loud for notoriety corrupt prayer.

This Truth again comes back to the heart and the motivation for prayer.  My motivation should not be rooted in being praised by someone for how eloquently I spoke, but rather motivated in wanting to talk to my Dad.

The truth is that the people around you care way less than you think they do and God cares way more than you can ever imagine. So maybe take some time tomorrow morning, grab your stuffed animals, and before you get up just talk to your Dad.

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Truth Be Told #2: Jesus and Phoebe Buffay

Nothing like starting a blog with a clip from Friends…check this out before you read on.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HCHu1E0ca4E  

So do you agree with Phoebe?  Is there such a thing as a selfless good deed?

I can't tell you how many rabbit trails this blog has taken my mind down.  If the old school typewriter was still in use I would have ripped out and crumpled up 20 sheets of paper by now.  Even reading these words of Christ's didn't seem to help much.

“Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.

“So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you." – Matthew 6:1-4

Do you see the slipperiness of this idea?  The glaring abuses of this principle are not what trip me up.  I can see where using people for your personal gain are bad.  I understand the hypocrisy in feeding the homeless just so you can call the media to come and film it.  That I get.

The WD40 moment for me was that even in the most purest of hearts or humblest of Christian action there is gain involved.  Christ Himself, in verse 6, says "Then your Father, who see what is done in secret, will reward you."  So it appears that either way you slice it there is reward for the things we do. This, for me, was mind boggling and frustrating to wrap my mind around.  Because in my brain it seemed that any type of gain for my efforts made me devoid of any selflessness. 

So to put this in the context of Christ’s words in Matthew, we see the efforts of helping the poor in front of the equivalent of a NBC5 reporter for earthly notoriety vs. quietly feeding the poor without anyone around and eventually being rewarded in heaven by God the Father both work to my gain.  How is that possible?

It wasn't until I gave up the notion that the reward wasn't a bad thing that I figured it out.  I mean it only takes a quick flip through Scripture to see that God is a giving and generous God over and over and over to His people.   For crying out loud He is building us a room in Heaven so He must even get creative in how He rewards us!  So the idea that He is looking to not reward us for doing good seemed to be antithetical to who He was entirely. 

I had to look deeper and see that it was the motivation of the act that determined the holiness or unholiness.  I mean at the end of the day 50 lunches given to homeless people fills their bellies just the same, but the question of what fills your soul remains. 

  • Is it filled with pride or love? 
  • Is it overflowing with expectation or humbled by how generous God is to us?
  • Is it calloused with pity or softened with compassion?

The Truth that Jesus is calling us to is that our service to others should be acted out of the natural flow of being a humble, generous, Christ follower and not out of forced, calculated, results expectant effort.  Our motivation is not one of “What will this act do for me?”, but “How could I not help after God has been so gracious to me?” 

If we are honest, we ALL are needy and yet God didn't hesitate to send aid to us in the form of Jesus.  His earthly reward for that service was death on a Roman Cross, but in the end His heavenly reward is seeing us face to face in eternity. 

How great is our God that we can share in that victory…so take that Phoebe! :) 

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Truth Be Told: Jesus Christ Lawman

"I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished." – Matthew 5:18

There was a show on A&E TV called Steven Segal Lawman.  It followed the now D-list actor Steven Segal while working as a Sherriff in the New Orleans area.  It was a mish mash of random junkies recognizing Steven and asking for his autograph while being tazed, but it was also mixed with sporadic bits of wisdom from the slurred speech of a wanna be Sherriff.  However, Steven would always say that he respected the badge he wore and wanted to bring justice to the streets of New Orleans.  To shrink wrap it, Segal was saying he liked the law and wanted people to follow the laws which were created to protect us. 

Written, spoken, cultural, or otherwise we all love laws until we break one. 

  • Speed limits are great until we get a ticket for”only going 5 over". 
  • Construction Zones should be kept safe until it keeps you from getting to the Bulls game on time.
  • Lines seem like a perfect organization method until we get stuck in a long one so then of course we cut in.

One of the myths about Jesus was that he was a renegade rule breaker.  Some people have morphed him into a teenage skate boarder running from the cops when the try to rail grind at the mall.  When in reality Jesus was much more a Lawman than we care to give him credit. 

The Pharisees were freaking out about Jesus for many reasons, but a big ulcer they had was that they felt he was disrespecting the Old Testament Law given by God to Moses.  These laws were really broken up into three categories: ceremonial, civil, and moral.  If you are in need of some "light" reading feel free to thumb through Leviticus to get an idea of the complexity and magnitude of these laws.  The Religious leaders of the day made it their goal their religion to follow these rules to the tee.  We even learn later that they were so legalistic that they tithed their spices to make sure they were in accordance.  However the sad truth was that they law that they were following so closely was primarily designed to point to the One they hated…Jesus. 

"I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished." – Matthew 5:18

Jesus did not come to destroy the law or disobey the law; rather He was the fulfillment of the Old Testament Law.

  • In Jesus the laws of ceremonial cleansing were fulfilled through His death, burial, and resurrection.  All that remained was for us to worship and love Him as God.
  • In Jesus the laws of civility were fulfilled as He demonstrated how these were lived out in perfect practice.  Although Old Testament culture may be difficult to relate to modern day, the principles are timeless.
  • In Jesus the laws of morality were fulfilled and demonstrated by Christ for our pursuit.  Although we will stumble and fall we look to the One who was perfect as our guide. 

Sadly, the men that studied the laws the closest were missing out on the Reason the laws were written and missing out on the Joy of their fulfillment. 

Equally as sad is that even today we are missing out on that joy in Jesus.  Without Jesus, we also look to the law as either a deterrent or a comfort to our faith. 

It deters some by its magnitude and impossibility causing us to lose heart and lose faith.  And impossible wall that we can never climb and are sometimes reminded of by the religions.

The law gives some comfort thinking that if they get enough of the right pieces in place they will somehow please God by their works and neatly kept spice racks.  These people look down upon those that can't keep up with their faith or don't have the discipline to submit themselves to all of that is expected. 

The good news is that for those of us that have found our identity in Christ we are free from both of these views.  We understand that we can never follow all the laws to make us right with God and we also agree that we don't have the strength to climb the insurmountable wall it creates, but we know One that can and did conquer it for us.  

The Truth is that Jesus came to stop our endless pursuit of the Law and begin our endless pursuit of Him. 

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Truth Be Told: A Blog Series on Jesus and the Truth

I remember when I was in 6th grade I lied to my mom. I told her that the purple teddy bear that I had taken to school was NOT to give to my girlfriend Sara. That was not true. It was for Sara…and she loved it…and I did like 5 more pull-ups in gym class I was so pumped up.

But mom found out…not good…not good at all.

Sara was a good girl, don't get the wrong idea. She was a choir girl for crying out loud. No seriously we were in choir together so that makes her literally a…oh never mind.

The big deal was that I lied to my mom about something stupid. It wasn't that the truth was a bad thing it was just I was embarrassed about telling my mom so I lied. I was afraid of what the truth may get me.

In our society, truth is a rare gem hidden in the middle of the filth of deceit. Tucked down between the couch cushions of the world that tells us to "win at all costs" and “not to worry about who gets hurt in your pursuit of #1”…is the truth.

Ironically we all want the truth. We all respect truthful people not liars. We all want an honest doctor not one that bends the diagnosis. We all want an honest teacher that tells you how your child is doing not one that says everything is fine even when they are in the 2nd grade for the 8th time. We all want a spouse that you can trust and not have to wonder where he or she is at night. We all desperately want truth, but yet we still run from it.

  • The truth is eating too much will put strain on your heart, but we still overeat.
  • The truth is smoking is almost guaranteed to give you lung cancer, but we still puff.
  • The truth is divorcing your husband to be with your boyfriend won't bring you happiness, but many still do it.
  • The truth is that rooting for Cubs will give you an ulcer, but we still cheer for them.

Sometimes the truth hurts, but so does getting a shot at the doctor. Sure you could avoid the doctor, but you also will pay the price for that decision.

Recently, in my personal study in the Gospel of Matthew I became more and more aware of the phrase "I tell you the Truth". It is a phrase that Jesus uses 78 times in the Gospels and He uses it without any prejudice to the audience He was speaking to. Whether it was a gathering of people, the Pharisees, scholars, Sadducee, criminals, or His very own disciples everyone was subject to a Jesus "truth bomb" from time to time. It seems that truth is truth regardless of who Jesus was talking to.

So over the next few blogs I'm excited to take some time to walk through the "I tell you the truth" portions of the Gospels. It will take some time and I'll most likely throw in different stuff because of course Aniston is a walking source of material, but I'm anxious to see what God will do through our journey.

All of us, including me, will have two choices when we unpack the truth Jesus teaches.

Accept it and uncomfortably grow.

-OR-

Ignore it and comfortably stay the same.

 

Regardless of how we respond…

the Truth is still the Truth.

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Jesus and Heart Disease

81,100,000 people in the United States have one or more forms of cardiovascular disease according to the American Heart Association.

Jesus knew this would happen.

Coronary heart disease caused 425,425 deaths in 2006 and is the single leading cause of death in America today.

Jesus knew this would happen.

Controllable risk factors for heart disease include smoking, obesity, drinking, poor diet, stress, and lack of exercise.

Jesus knew this would happen too.

"Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with dissipation, drunkenness and the anxieties of life, and that day will close on you unexpectedly like a trap. For it will come upon all those who live on the face of the whole earth." - Luke 21:34-35

Take a moment and be honest with yourself.

What is weighing your heart down?

Fight the urge to just say "Oh, I'm fine." or to brush past the question as you carry on with your day. Stop and think about how heavy your heart is right now.

  • Is it waterlogged with anxiety about your job, family, finances?
  • Is it bloated with guilt from this weekend's one night stand as you searched for love?
  • Are the chains of addiction causing it to quiver with fatigue?
  • Has it flat lined because you need people to feel sorry for you and that's why your life is always one "crisis" after another?

All of us at some level have heart disease and Jesus knew it would happen.

But…

He also gave us a cure.

"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your soul. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." – Mathew 11:28-30

Before you do anything else today maybe take a moment and stop to pray this prayer. If you are a non-Christian and don’t dig the praying deal go ahead and jump ahead to the end, but feel free to at least take a read if you want.

"Jesus, I know that I have chosen to let my heart be weighed down by the sin of this world. I have sinned against you by not trusting you can provide for all my needs and I've tried to do it on my own. I am tired of being weighed down by the burdens of this world and I need your help. I am giving up my yoke of sin and placing it on your shoulders. I choose to take your yoke and will live my life free of anxiety, addiction, depression, and pride. I will find rest in You and You alone. Forgive me Father and strengthen my heart with your Love. In Jesus Name, Amen."

I pray that God is able to start doing heart surgery on you and I today. Yes, it will hurt, the recovery may take awhile, but in the end it will be worth it.

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