100 Days of Awesome: Day 2 – Guilt

 
One of my favorite things that I get to do from time to time is to speak to groups of students. Today, my friend Aaron and I made a trip north to the tiny town of Marshall, AR to speak at a church. It was, in a word, awesome. 

I spoke about guilt. Why? Because it’s something we all struggle with.

But if I have learned anything at all on my journey with God; its this…

Guilt is banished by love and truth; Fear-of-God deflects evil. (Proverbs 16:6 MSG)

God’s love is amazing. We all have done things we are guilty of. We carry that guilt around. Many of us have had things done to us we had no control over, and often we carry guilt around for those as well.

Guilt is dangerous. It’s like a slow fire that burns and burns until one day there is nothing left. Guilt is disastrous. However, guilt can be banished.

If guilt is a fire that burns. Love is an action that walks into the flames. Jesus is that love. He comes into the middle of our guilt and stands in the gap.

Jesus is also our truth. He said it himself…

I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the father except by me. (John 14:6 NIV)

If guilt is a fire that burns, and love runs into the flames, truth overcomes the fire itself.

The facts are in. Guilt comes via sin. Commission and omission. Sometimes given, sometimes received. The wages of sin really are death. But the truth of Jesus Christ is bigger than the fact of death.

Guilt is a fire. It burns. It can ruin you. And if you don’t fill your life with the love and truth of Christ—it will. Give it all to him. He can handle it. He’s awesome like that.

You can’t stand in the fire and be angry at the flames. 

Get rid of guilt. Get it gone. Pronto. Step in and step up to the good life God’s got for you. It’s bigger and better than your bad day.

Stay awesome.

I Love My Bible: Attitude Matters

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I am 34. I have been reading the Bible pretty much every day for over 22 years. But I didn’t always read it the way that I read it now.

My dad is a high school art teacher—so growing up he, myself, and my kid brother all rode to and from school together every day. It was a cherished routine chocked full of memories. One of the constants from that season of life was a nearly daily stop at an automotive parts store managed by my uncle.

My brother and I would grab a stool and settle in for what was sure to be a long stop, my dad loves to talk. And my wonderful aunt who often helped around the store would inevitably strike up conversation with my brother and I. The talk almost always turned quickly to the Word of God.

“Nathan, you been reading your bible?” She would ask in her dearest friendly voice.

“Yes ma’am!” I would fire right back. But I hadn’t been. At least not like she meant. She wanted to know if I had actually been trying to read and understand it on a regular basis.

True enough I had a bible. It was an old school style King James Bible complete with all of the thee’s, thou’s, shouldests, and such. It also had a handy zipper and nifty little portrait of some Caucasian guy (presumably Christ) holding a sheep on the cover.

I would unzip it and thumb through its pages on occasion, but not with any real desire or intentionality. But my aunt kept asking, and I kept pretty much lying about it.

…until…

I started feeling bad about it. I mean even an 11 year old knows you shouldn’t lie about reading the Bible. So I stopped lying about it. My answer didn’t change. I still told my aunt that I had been reading, but from that point on it was the truth.

What began as an attempt to assuage my guilt and dodge a difficult question transformed into a daily habit which has since directed the course of my entire adult life.

The Bible is more than book (actually it’s a library.) It is bigger than the sum of our collective moral posturing. It is more powerful than the poets, prophets, statesmen, and martyrs who penned its many truths. It is not to be worshipped, though it is meant to be a spotlight that shines on the recipient of all our adoration.

And you will get out of it in direct proportion to the attitude accompanying your heart when at last you arrive at the border of its pages and paragraphs.

Because it is full of information but it also full of so much more.


More in I Love My Bible.
Why I Don’t App

To Claus?

to_claus

I was one of those guys that swore off Santa Claus before I was a dad. Wasn’t gonna happen. My kids won’t believe in that stuff. Now I’m a dad. Our first son is nearly 3 and the second one will be here in April. Where do we stand? How do we handle it?

We tell the truth.

Santa Claus is like Batman, Captain America, or Buzz Lightyear . He has a lot of movies. Everyone knows who he is. But he isn’t real. He is pretend.

But what about when he isn’t pretend? What about when you can see him or talk to him? What about when he’s at the mall? That is a fat guy with a beard. Kids sit in his lap and talk to him, kind of like grandpa. He is pretending. Like when my son says he wants to fly like Buzz Lightyear and I pick him up and run across the house while he extends his arms and shouts “To Infinity and Beyond!” We are pretending.

Where do presents come from? People who love you, work hard for the money they use to buy them, and don’t cheat with pretend magic powers. You don’t have to earn your presents. It has nothing to do with being bad or good. It has everything to do with being cherished and probably a little spoiled. There’s nothing pretend about overtime, deadlines, and income taxes.

We pretend a lot in our house. We have bear hunts, and super hero adventures. We build snake guns out of Legos and block towers for the Ethan monster to destroy. And we have a blast.

Why?

I made a pledge never to lie to my kids. Not even “white lies.” I don’t tell him the super heroes we love are real. I don’t tell him Santa Claus is real. I don’t tell him eating his vegetables will make him big and strong like Hulk.

I never want to limit my ability to speak truth into his young and sponge-like mind and heart in a way that could undermine the BIG truths we already discuss on a regular basis. Things like love, generosity, kindness, (we recently had to tackle the notion of death and afterlife) and truth.

What about Jesus? We tell the truth. Christmas is all about celebrating the birth of Jesus. We have nativity scenes (at least 6 because my wife is Christmas-crazy). It’s important, we talk about it. But we don’t have to overcompensate. We don’t have to cram it down his throat in a half-guilty bid to outshine Santa Claus because Santa is never really part of the equation.

We might do it different than you. If you want to do the Santa thing go for it. Your house. Your rules. But we won’t. We don’t. And if I judge you a little bit for it, well—I’m only telling the truth.

October 4 – What Is Truth?

John 18:28-40

Pilate said to him, “What is truth?” After he had said this, he went back outside to the Jews and told them, “I find no guilt in him. (John 18:38 ESV)

What is truth? That philosophical pursuit has been the chief question for many thinkers across history. What makes something true? What makes something untrue? And what the implications for either?

Pilate was faced with the truth of Jesus’ identity. A truth each of us must also face. Pilate had the added complication of a volatile geopolitically charged climate. You and I must merely answer the question of the truth of Christ for ourselves.

We’re not told of Pilate’s answer. We don’t know what he determined truth to be. However, he did state that he found Jesus to be not guilty of the charges leveled against him. He found him undeserving of the death penalty. And then, in action both contradictory and concessional—he turned Jesus over to be crucified as an appeasement for the Jewish mob.

Pilate’s own mixed wonderings about truth led to his perplexing actions. And it is a reality in which we share. Our view of truth will shape our actions. What we believe in forms the context and motivation for all of our most meaningful behavior. So, it might be a good time to go look in the mirror and ask the person staring back, “What is truth?”

September 11 – In Truth

John 17:10-19

Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. (John 17:17 ESV)

Is truth objective? Is it subjective? Does it change based on the situation and individual? Is it constant regardless of circumstances?

People have been arguing about the nature of truth for a long long long time. Philosophers, theologians, and various other thinkers have defined and redefined their take on truth numerous times over the years. That’s not to say they’re right, or even close. But the general consensus is that truth is personal, flexible, and private—which is false.

Jesus prayed his high priestly prayer and included a lengthy bit about the disciples and what he hoped for them. He asked God to “sanctify them in the truth.” A singular declarative statement which narrows truth down to something more pointed than the generalities and vagueness our modern era passes for truth.

Jesus went on to define truth. He said that truth is God’s Word. In other words, Jesus believed that the Bible, for him it was the Old Testament, was the truth that God would use to redeem, changed encouragement and instruct his people. I am encouraged to know that Jesus saw our need for centralized truth. I am even more encouraged to find that he had prepared that truth before those men were ever even born.

And here is the big idea for you and I. Jesus wants us to be sanctified, cleaned, and set apart, through the careful reading and application of the Bible. Because it is not enough to think we know truth. No, we need to be in truth.

August 31 – Jesus the Way

John 14:1-14

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. (John 14:6 ESV)

We live in a time when people proclaim that there are many paths to heaven. For some people the only acceptable explanation of death and the after life is one that is an all inclusive possibility. Based on his own words, it is impossible to follow the teachings of Jesus to the fullest human degree possible and not discount the idea of an all-paths-lead-to-heaven belief system.

Jesus boldly and plainly declared that he was the only way to heaven. Why? Because he is the path to God. He is the connection point. He is the intermediary, the advocate, the sacrifice, and the King. We are coheirs with Christ only because he was first an heir of all that God has in store for us.

There is no secret spell. No hidden agenda. No duplicitous schemes in the story of Jesus. He lived perfect. He died meaningfully. He rose again assuredly. For you, and for me. That he might be the way, the truth, and the life for all that would seek after a way to the Father.

August 14 – Astray

Matthew 24: 3-14

And Jesus answered them, “See that no one leads you astray.” (Matthew 24:4 ESV)

When I travel I try to stay really focused. I like to know my destination, try to plan all major stops, and I attempt to avoid distractions. Unfortunately, that kind of focus is not always easy to maintain.

Jesus and his followers were certainly no strangers to traveling. They walked all over the countryside, and rode in ships fairly often as well. They knew what it meant to venture forth with purpose. And that is what Jesus had in mind when he warned his people not be lead astray.

It was a timely warning for the soon-to-be Church leaders. Soon they would be the ones guiding the movement, and Jesus wanted them to keep their heads. It is a timely warning for us as well.

The apostles and disciples had to worry about a lot of people seeking to exploit the burgeoning Christian movement. Today, we must be wary of those who continually attempt to hijack the world’s largest religion. There are a myriad of reasons and devices used to misdirect people in pursuit of Spiritual truth. We need to be extra vigilant in discerning who we follow, and how we lead.

Jesus warned that we should be careful not to be lead astray. We want our generation to be good stewards of the Gospel. We do not want to be lead astray, but neither should we want to lead others astray. Lets keep Jesus at the center and love as our motive.