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Brutal Truths

As we approach Holy Week and the end of Lent, I take a minute to pause and ask myself, what have I actually accomplished over this journey the last 40 days? Have I truly stayed committed to what I said I would sacrifice during this time? Did I stay in prayer? Did I look inward and truly search my heart and open it to the Lord? Did I keep my eyes on the cross? Was I committed to strengthening my relationship with Jesus? Did I focus on coming out on the other side with a deeper commitment to my faith?

In talking to many people during this period, I have heard, more than once, from believers and non-believers, "If you are a believer (Christian, person of faith, feel free to insert what you will) why do you only do these things only one time a year? Shouldn't you be doing them all the time?" or "Christians do not participate in Lent." My favorite has been, "I do not need such a practice to grow closer to Christ because I am a Christian. Thats the problem with some of you Christians, you don't get it."

I think we have already addressed that Christians do indeed participate in Lent. It is not required. In fact, the beauty of Christianity is there are no rituals or conversions that must take place. There is only one thing that must take place. Here is the first brutal truth: when we do that one thing, truly from the depth of our being, it should compel us as a new being to do other things - not out of obligation, not out of religious doctrine, not out of outwardly accolades but out of an inward desire - a spiritual awakening - a soul transforming process and life changing awakening to drive us to that which we have been enlightened.

I should be doing these things all the time. I should be in constant prayer. I should be doing things that cultivate my relationship with Jesus Christ. I should be reaching out to my Creator in all things at all time. I should be in a constant state of worship. I should find myself studying the Word with a ferocious need. I should be striving to be focused on the battle transpiring in the spiritual realm. My focus should be on what transpired on the cross and remembering I was bought with a price.

The second brutal truth: I am human. I am not perfect. I will always fall short. I am a sinner. I will doubt. I will stumble. I will fall. I will fail. My faith will be shaken. I live in a world where the enemy is constantly circling me. I will be tempted. I will face trials. I will face the darkness. I will find myself in valleys. I will be frail and sick. I will be faced with evil. I have emotions and feelings that will lead me in one direction. I have a world that shows me and tells me one thing often contradicting that which I believe. I have guilt. I have shame.

As it wears on me, I have a decision, I can throw in the towel; I can go through the motions or I can keep going. I have a Savior who loved me so much, He died for me. Even though I was dead in my sin, He loved me so much, He was willing to take my place. He knows I am not perfect. He knows everything about me and yet He did it anyway. He is there and He tells me to keep going, He says come back to me. He says I will never leave you - you are never alone. In moments I waiver, I cling to Him and I can make it. Even in my darkest moments, my shame and guilt, He still loves me. Something the world never does. He is always with me, in front of me, never leaves me and He never gives up on me.

Third Brutal Truth: Matthew 25:21, 23: " “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!” We hear this so often especially when we are talking about "when I die, I cannot wait to hear..." I have spent a lot of time this Lent season thinking about this. I cannot say I live my life with this goal. The first thing I want to hear Jesus say when I am standing in front of God is, "Yes Father, I know her." Why? John 14:6 says: “Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” If I do not know Him and He does not know me, I am not getting into Heaven regardless of how I lived my life. Do I have a personal relationship, a true relationship with Christ? Good deeds, being "good", is not enough. I cannot do it on my own. I only do it through Him. Period. It is not up for debate. I live my life with this goal - to know Him. To make Him known in all I do. To make His love, His Grace, His Mercy known to all I meet. I want to walk in His footsteps - not other Christians - but His. I will fail. But with the help of the Holy Spirit whom He sent I can get up and keep going.

Fourth Brual Truth: You either have genuine faith or you don't. There isn't a correct amount or incorrect amount. It is something you cultivate and grow. It always starts small and grows. There will be times it shrinks and times it grows but all it takes is a tiny amount. Matthew 17:20 tells us " “He replied, “Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” It has never been about the size of your faith; it is about how genuine it is. In order to cultivate genuine faith you have to work on it; put in some effort. Most importantly, never forget it is like building a fire. The fire may die down but when you "feed" it, it can rage and build back up. The key is never let it burn out and go cold.

I fail God. I know I am not the perfect Christian. I never claim to be. As hard as I try, I have more short comings than I care to openly admit. Over the past month, I have spent time seeking revelation and discernment with God on a litany of topics. I have opened my heart and mind. I have time to slow down and dive in to matters and baggage I have carried - baggage I have taken to Him before but failed to leave with Him. I have used this time to refocus and rejuvenate while whole heartedly seeking amends. I have listened a lot more but more importantly, I have heard.

While I consider myself to have a strong faith, I realize I have periods when my faith is stagnant. I find myself going through the motions out of habit. I never feel obligated. For me, it is a part of who I am. I have taken this opportunity to learn ways to take my mighty mustard tree and revel in how something so small can grow so huge yet without care can wither. I cannot take shelter or a nap under a withered tree. I cannot swing from brittle branches.

I ask myself as I ask you, what do you long to hear the most? Well done or yes, Father I know them? One will inevitably lead to the other if you have but a mustard seed of genuine faith, will it not? Is your faith genuine or are you just going through the motions? How do you know or do you even care? Are you one of the ones who believe that if you say the words, "Yes, I want Jesus to live in my heart..." you are saved from hell so it must be OK to keep doing what you are doing and you get a free pass into heaven because after all you did technically "accept Christ as your Savior?" Did your life change or did you merely mask it all with words? The brutal truth is it is a heart thing. You can fool the world, you can fool your family, you can fool your friends, you can fool everyone but you cannot fool God. He knows your heart. It is not too late. You have not run too far. He can turn the well done into knowing you. He can water the mustard seed and grow it into a massive tree. He can turn the words you said into conviction. You no longer have to put on an act; you can start living it out. It is all a decision. Right now. Right here. In this moment. Thats the final brutal truth: He longs to welcome you into the family. He wants you to come home. He cannot wait to shower you with His mercy, His Grace, His love. You are forgiven. All you have to do is ask.

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