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Wholeheartedly

 

Jesus is… 

 

Welcome to Difficult Teachings. 

Life is difficult. We can accept that or get aggravated, but we cannot change it. The mistake we make is to believe that life should be easy. The problem isn’t that life is difficult. It is supposed to be difficult. The problem is when we expect life to be easy or go in search of an easy life.

The quest for an easy life seeks to avoid all difficulty and friction. This is impossible, so we become agitated and angry. All our efforts to avoid the difficulties of life lead us away from everything that is deeply satisfying. 

The obstacle we face as individuals (and as a culture) is that it is impossible to embrace the difficult teachings of Jesus while we are so committed to our quest for the easy life. And so, we are confronted by a question: Are we willing to give up our love of comfort and our quest for the easy life? 

Over the next 40 days we are going to explore the 40 most challenging teachings of Jesus. Along with each of these teachings we will explore the practical fruits and blessings that come from embracing that teaching. It is my hope that with each passing day you will be more convinced than ever that today’s culture is bankrupt and that the ancient path of Jesus is worth exploring more deeply than ever before. 

 

You may agree or disagree with the forty I have selected. That’s okay. I hope you will comment below and together we can have a vibrant discussion. I would like to make clear that I have made no attempt to try to rank them in order. I believe that would be impossible. 

 

Now let’s take a look at the first of Jesus’ difficult teachings. 

 

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” It is from Matthew’s Gospel, chapter 22, verse 37. 

 

This is the Shema Prayer. It is the most repeated prayer in the Jewish tradition, because they believe if you spent your entire lifetime trying to live this one prayer, you would live a deep meaningful life that was exceedingly pleasing to God. 

 

Let me ask you: Have you ever done anything wholeheartedly? Have you ever made a wholehearted attempt to live the teachings of Jesus? What do you have to lose? What’s the worst that could happen? How long will we hold onto the bankrupt ideas and philosophies of our age? Are you ready for a new beginning? A fresh start? 

 

This difficult teaching is about commitment. Do you struggle with commitment? Do you like to keep your options open? Have you been taught to prioritize options over commitment?   

 

The more options and opportunities you have the harder it is to commit, and we live in a world of almost limitless options and opportunities. I get that. But leaping from one distraction to the next will never fulfil us.

 

The best things in life require commitment. Deep relationships, personal development, mastering a craft or career, and spiritual growth all require commitment. Commitment costs in the short term, but in the long term itbears amazing fruit. 

 

Why are we so allergic to commitment? Because it turns our lives upside down. Commitment rearranges your priorities and turns your life upside down, so who and what you commit to really matters.

 

Make no mistake, if you fully embraced even one of these teachings we are exploring together, that one teaching would turn your life upside down, but in the most wonderful ways. 

 

Here’s the thing. The easier we try to make life, the harder it becomes. Great joy is often the result of great effort. Throw yourself into this wholeheartedly and miracles will happen. Somewhere deep inside, we are all yearning to throw ourselves into something wholeheartedly. This is the right thing. A difficult thing, but the right thing. 

 

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” 

 

Have a great day… and remember, don’t just be a spectator, be a participant, add a comment below and join the conversation.

 

And if you liked the video, you’ll love the book! Click here to order.

 

 

Who Is Your Neighbor?

 

Jesus is… 

 

Welcome to Difficult Teachings. 

 

One thing that is critically important to keep in mind as we make this journey together is the definition of difficult. Difficult: requiring much effort to accomplish. The most important thing to understand about difficult is that it is not impossible. Too many people think that the teachings of Jesus are impossible, and that is not so. History is full of men and women who have celebrated life through these teachings.

 

Now, let’s take a look at today’s teaching. 

 

“Love your neighbor as yourself.” It is from Matthew’s Gospel, chapter 22, verse 39.

 

If you thought loving a perfect God was hard, wait till you really try to love your imperfect neighbor. People can be obnoxious, selfish, irritating, impatient, arrogant, and endlessly creative in their ability to annoy you.

There are two astoundingly difficult aspects to this phrase from the Gospel. The first is that Jesus assumes that you love yourself. This is perhaps what is most radical here, and also what is most often overlooked. It may also be one of the hardest aspects of the Christian faith to live. Jesus invites us to a total love of God and a generous love of neighbor, but he assumes that we already love ourselves. “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” There is a connection between our ability to love ourselves in a healthy way and our ability to love our neighbor. If you despise yourself, and many of us do at different times in our lives, that needs to be attended to. 

The second is the question asked by the lawyer in Luke’s Gospel, “Who is my neighbor?” (Luke 10:29). The world is full of desperate need and destructive want. When we put our wants ahead of other people’s needs, we abandon our humanity. Who is my neighbor? That is the question of questions. It is one of the biggest questions of all. It challenges our morality, ethics, virtue, and worldview. When it comes to both world affairs and our individual quest to live authentically, this is a huge question. Who is my neighbor? One day I hope to write a book on this question alone. All I will say here is that the more we grow in wisdom and holiness, the more people we tend to include in our answer to this question. And for the saints, there were no strangers, just neighbors.

 

Jesus sets up this triad of teachings as the essence of the Gospel: Love God; love yourself; and love your neighbor. All are necessary to live the rich and full life of a disciple.

 

Once upon a time there was a young man who wanted to be a great saint. He spent hours each day in prayer and reading the holy Scriptures. One day, he said to God, “I love you above all else.” A moment later, he heard a voice from the heavens say, “Prove it.” The young man reflexively responded, “How?” And the voice from the heavens replied, “Love your neighbor.”

Love of neighbor is proof that we love God. 

“Love your neighbor as yourself.”

 

Have a great day… and remember, don’t just be a consumer, be a disciple. Change a life today by sharing this video with someone else!

 

And if you liked the video, you’ll love the book! Click here to order.

 

 

Do Not Worry

 

Jesus is… 

 

Welcome to Difficult Teachings. 

One of the biggest mistakes we can make when it comes to the spiritual life is to think that it will be easy. When you know something is going to be difficult you prepare for it and approach it with a certain mind set. If you expect something to be easy, there is a tendency to approach it lackadaisically. The psychological damage we can do to ourselves when we approach something difficult with the mindset that it should be easy is vast. When the thing we are approaching is a spiritual teaching, we can do vast spiritual damage to ourselves also. 

The teachings of Jesus are difficult. It is important to approach them with the mindset that great effort will be required and rewarded. 

Now, let’s take a look at today’s teaching. 

 

“Do not worry.” 

 

Jesus repeats this teaching in several places throughout the Gospels. In the Parable of the Sower, Jesus talks about “the worries of life” choking the Word, making it unfruitful. But this teaching is central to one of my favorite passages which is in Matthew’s Gospel, chapter 6, verses 25-34.

 

“Do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.”

I have many great memories of leading people in prayer and meditation on this passage. I always chose it for our reflections the first day on pilgrimage, to encourage people to leave whatever troubles were brewing at home and be fully present to the experience of the pilgrimage. 

Most people spend a lot of time worrying. We are anxious about so many things.

Worry and anxiety are often the result of violated boundaries. Not other people violating our boundaries, but violating our own boundaries. We think we are responsible for things we are not responsible. I’ll say it again, a lot of worry and anxiety is born because we think we are responsible for things we are not responsible. So, next time you are anxious and worried, ask yourself, “Am I responsible for the thing I am anxious or worried about?” It may be someone else is responsible, and it may be that the things you are worried about are in God’s hands and His responsibility.

It’s natural to have a passing concern about this or that, but as that concern crosses our minds, we find ourselves at a fork in the road. 

One fork in the road leads to the land of rumination. Our minds delight in ruminating on problems. We think all our worry and anxiety is working toward a solution, but it isn’t. We think all this ruminating is accomplishing something. It isn’t. Our minds don’t want to solve the problem once we get down this path, because it delights in ruminating on it. The easiest way to test this truth is to notice that our minds ruminate on situations that we have absolutely no influence over. No amount of ruminating is going to bring us control over that situation. 

The other fork in the road leads high into the mountains. It is the path of prayer. This is definitely the road less travelled. We would rather worry uselessly about things we cannot change, than pray with purpose to the One who can change all things. 

When you are anxious or worried, observe yourself, do you pray? If not, why not. 

Trusting God is the antidote for worry and anxiety. Prayer is a simple expression of trusting God. Turn your worry into prayer. Trust. Surrender. Believe. Receive. 

 

“Do not worry.” Trust. Surrender. Believe. Receive.

 

Have a great day… and remember, don’t just be a spectator, be a participant, add a comment below and join the conversation.

 

I Am the Way

 

Jesus is… 

 

Welcome to Difficult Teachings. 

 

Jesus was very clear about who he was and what he was here for, and he wants to help you develop that same clarity.

 

In John’s Gospel Jesus gives seven very clear descriptions of himself.

 

"I am the vine.” John 15:5. "I am the light of the world.” John 8:12. "I am the good shepherd.” John 10:11. “I am the gateway.” John 10:9. "I am the resurrection.” John 11:2. "I am the bread of life.” John 6:35. And today’s difficult teaching, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” John 14:6.

 

Today, we are going to focus just on the first part of this quote. Jesus says, “I am the Way.”

 

The world says there are many ways to get wherever it is you want to go. The world says chart your own course, make your own way. The world says you are the master of your journey. The world makes it sound easy and enjoyable. Jesus disagrees.

 

With Frank Sinatra we often cling fiercely and foolishly to our independence and announce, I’m going to do it “My Way!” There is a personal path for you to walk, but it is not discovered by pridefully asserting our will. It is discovered by humbly surrendering ourselves to the will of God.

 

“I am the Way,” Jesus said. It was in response to a question Doubting Thomas had asked, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?” (John 14:5).

 

When you reflect on Thomas’ question, Jesus’ answer is unexpected and perplexing at first. Why? Because of the way we think. The disciples wanted Jesus to say, do this and this and this. They wanted him to say, these are the seven things you need to do, or the four steps that will get you there, or the five things to avoid. They were looking for a map, a linear path, some clear directions, warnings about danger along the way, and a list of what they needed to pack for the journey.

 

But Jesus says, no need for elaborate plans, you don’t need to pack anything, just stick with me. Stay close. Just be with me, I am the destination you are constantly obsessing about. 

 

It’s the being that we struggle with. Some of Jesus’ teachings are about doing, but many of them are about being. We prefer doing over being, because doing distracts us from the becoming we are called to and ignoring. That’s why we find it so difficult to be still and quiet. And that’s why all of Jesus’ doing teachings are preceded by being teachings. It is by simply being with Him that we are prepared to go out into the world and do something meaningful. 

 

We live in a world full of people who are lost and pretending they are not. Sometimes we are one of those people. And to some extent we are all lost and needed to be found all over again.

 

Today’s difficult teaching is a beautiful invitation. Jesus says, “I am the Way.” He is the way from darkness to light, from anxiety to peace, from dissatisfaction to fulfillment, from death to life, from meaninglessness to purpose, from nothingness to everything that matters. 

 

Have a great day… and remember, don’t just be a consumer, be a disciple. Change a life today by sharing this video with someone else!

 

And if you are enjoying the video, you’ll love the book! Click here to order. 

 

 

Ask. Seek. Knock. 

 

Jesus is… 

 

Welcome to Difficult Teachings. 

 

One of the most powerful forces at work within us is motive. What people do and say can be interesting, but why they do what they do and say what they say is almost always fascinating. Motive reveals our deepest fears and desires. 

 

It also plays an important role in today’s difficult teaching.

 

“Ask and you will receive. Seek and you will find. Knock and the door will be opened to you.” It is from Matthew’s Gospel, chapter 7, verse 7.

 

When people think of the most challenging teachings of Jesus, this is probably not one that quickly comes to mind. But asking, seeking, and knocking are much more difficult than we realize. 

 

Asking is a risk. Seeking is a risk. Knocking is a risk. They all require humility and vulnerability. But most of all, they demand wisdom. If you ask for the wrong thing and it is given to you, you are probably worse off than if you had never asked at all. If you seek the wrong thing and find it, you may be distracted for the rest of your life from your true path. If you knock on the wrong door and it is opened to you, and you are invited in and welcomed, you may get comfortable and never find the right door.

 

The reason most people don’t ask, seek, and knock in prayer is because they want things that they know God does not want for them. We know our motives and desires are not aligned with God’s, and so, we leave him out of it. 

 

Imagine if instead of asking God for wisdom, Solomon had asked for an extra thousand head of cattle. What a colossal and epic misstep that would have been. You and I can see that as we reflect upon his life and the history of his people, but we misstep in similar ways every day. God stands willing to give us so much, and we ask for so little. 

 

This is the wisdom to the asking, the seeking, and the knocking. Forget about whatever it is that you want, and even what you think you need. Ask Him to teach you want to ask for. Ask Him to teach you what to seek. Ask Him to teach you where to knock. 

 

Have a great day… and remember, don’t just be a spectator, be a participant, add a comment below and join the conversation.

 

And if you liked the video, you’ll love the book! Click here to order.

 

 

Deny Yourself.

 

Jesus is… 

 

Welcome to Difficult Teachings. 

 

What would happen to a group of people who were encouraged from the day they were born to indulge every whim, desire, and fantasy that entered their minds? Little imagination is needed, because sadly, tragically, we are now witnessing whole generations of people who have been raised on this misguided ideology.  

 

Now let’s consider it from another viewpoint. How often do you say no to yourself? When was the last time you said no to yourself in something that was difficult? Are you clear about the value of saying no to yourself?

 

Today’s difficult teaching is…

 

“Deny yourself.” It is from Matthew’s Gospel, chapter 16, verse 24.

 

For context, the whole verse reads, “Then Jesus told his disciples, “Anyone who wishes to follow me must deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow me.” 

 

Self-denial is the condition that Jesus sets for discipleship. Why is denying ourselves so important? Is it the centerpiece of Jesus’ teachings? No. Why then does Jesus set it as a foundation of discipleship? It’s about freedom and self-possession. The essence of Jesus’ teaching is love, but you can only love to the extent that you are free, and we are only free to the extent that we are able to say yes or no to anything. This self-possession determines our capacity for love. For love is to gift ourself to another, love is self-donation, and you can only give yourself to the extent that you possess yourself. 

 

Someone who has no self-control is completely incapable of love. We see this on full display in people seriously addicted to drugs and alcohol. On the other hand, someone who has great self-control, who can direct his or her thoughts and actions at will toward what is good, true, noble, and just, is truly free and capable of immense love. 

 

This is what Jesus desires for you. He wants his disciples to be capable of immense love. This requires the freedom of self-possession, which can only be developed through the rigorous spiritual discipline of denying yourself. 

 

You will notice also that Jesus’ mandate is “daily,” not some days, occasionally, or when we feel like it. Mastery of anything requires daily practice. 

 

Denying yourself in small things, tiny things, seemingly insignificant things, helps you to develop soul strength just like lifting weights would help you to develop muscle strength. You focus on your work when you would rather indulge a distraction, you go for a walk when you don’t feel like it, you have water instead of juice, you have an apple when you really feel like potato chips, and each of these tiny acts of self-denial sets you free, increases your self-possession, strengthens your soul, and exponentially expands your capacity to love and be loved – and Jesus wants you to love and be loved immensely.

 

This single idea of denying self is enough to understand why people in today’s culture are rejecting Christianity at an astounding rate. They see it as a limitation and imprisonment. Addicted to the selfish and childish notion that freedom is the ability to do whatever you want, whenever you want, they enslave themselves in a thousand ways and are anything but free.  

 

And yet by rejecting the life Jesus invites them to, they alienate themselves from the one thing they desire more than anything else: love.

 

The self-denial that Jesus invites us to is not life-limiting, it is life-expanding. At World Youth Day in 2001, Pope John Paul II said, “Jesus does not ask us to give up living, but to accept a newness and a fullness of life that only He can give.”

 

We do not lose ourselves by denying ourselves, we find ourselves and come into full possession of the-very-best-version-of-ourselves. 

 

The ability to deny oneself seems to be at an all-time low in today’s culture, and loss of self at an all-time high. They are directly related. If the discipline of denying ourselves leads us to discover ourselves, then the rejection of this discipline causes us to lose ourselves. 

 

The teachings of Jesus are full of paradox. It is by denying ourselves that we are set free to live life to the fullest. 

 

Have a great day… and remember, don’t just be a consumer, be a disciple. Change a life today by sharing this video with someone else!

 

 

Love Your Enemies

 

Jesus is… 

 

Welcome to Difficult Teachings. 

 

When people speak of love they are usually referring to romantic love, but romantic love is a poor guide to the vast universe of love, and a distorted lens through which to understand love. So, let’s start at the beginning. 

 

What is love? To love is to will the good of the other. To love is to desire what is good for the person you are directing your love toward. This has nothing to do with feelings or romance. 

 

Today’s difficult teaching is… 

 

“Love your enemies.” It is from Matthew’s Gospel, chapter 5, verse 44.

 

There are two reasons we struggle with this teaching that I would like to discuss briefly. The first is the obvious, we cannot imagine ourselves loving our enemies. But that’s because we are confused about what love is and isn’t. The second is blinding reality that if we are called to love our enemies, we are called to love everyone. 

 

Does God really want us to love everyone? Yes. How is that possible? Well, it certainly isn’t possible if we carry our distorted romanticized ideas of love into the quest to live out the difficult teachings of Jesus. 

 

Love is not the same as like. Love is a Divine summons and like is a personal preference. You can love someone without liking them. You can love Someone and detest the things they do, radically disagree with their opinions, and find their approach to life completely repellant. 

 

Us human beings are experts at creating exceptions to the rule and just as good at making excuses. Many of Jesus’ teachings illuminate our excuses and neutralize our exceptions. This teaching may be at the top of that list. 

 

Jesus knows that if you can love your enemies, you can love everyone. If your enemy sits within Jesus’ definition of neighbor, who isn’t your neighbor? 

 

Here we see the genius of the Gospel on full display again. Learning to love your enemy is life-shifting, because the realization that you can love your enemy puts your relationship with people who frustrate you, annoy you, and inconvenience you in a whole new perspective. 

 

Love your enemies. Desire good things for the people who frustrate you, annoy you, inconvenience you, gossip about you, try to harm you, and indeed hate everything about you and all you represent. What does that look like in practical terms? When someone upsets you by cutting in front of you on the road or by taking a parking place you are about to pull into, desire patience for them, desire peace and serenity for them. 

 

There is one last point that is worth pondering here. Jesus assumes you will have enemies. He expects you will have enemies. This means, that if we don’t have enemies, we are probably doing something wrong. We might have lost our salt and our light. 

 

Of course, it would be easy to go and amass a whole bunch of enemies for all the wrong reasons. It may seem ironic, but it’s important to have the right enemies for the right reasons. 

 

Here are some questions to consider: Do people despise you for your holiness or your wayward humanity? Are the people against you men and women of great character and virtue? Are you hated because of the best of your humanity or the worst of your humanity? 

 

“Love your enemies.” Another beautiful but difficult teaching. Desire good for others. The more you desire good for other people, the more those good things will come into focus in your own life. 

 

Have a great day… and remember, don’t just be a spectator, be a participant, add a comment below and join the conversation.

 

 

Come to the Quiet

 

Welcome to Difficult Teachings. 

 

Are you living a life of focused intention or a life of distraction? We live in a world full of distractions. Is your life less busy and distracting or busier and more distracting than it was a year ago, or five years ago? Take your bearings. Is your life moving in the right direction?

For two thousand years, the world has become increasingly noisy, busy, distracting, but Jesus’ invitation is unchanged: Come to the quiet. 

 

Today’s difficult teaching is… 

 

“Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” It is from Mark’s Gospel, chapter 6, verse 31.

 

There are many times when Jesus went away to a quiet place to pray, and times when he invited the disciples to come to a quiet place. But this is different. Jesus invites the disciples to come away to a quiet place just to rest. 

 

There is so much in this single verse. The first thing that strikes me as we move beyond the surface of the words themselves is the practical care and concern Jesus had for his disciples. He was the one doing all the heavy lifting, but his concern was for them. And now his concern is for you. 

 

“Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.”

 

This single verse contains five directives. Let’s take a look at each of them and explore why we find them difficult.  

 

The first directive is “Come.” Jesus is calling us away from whatever it is we are busy with. It can be hard to step away from whatever it is we are doing. This is especially true when we are stepping away from doing something we consider productive to simply be. 

 

The second directive is “with me.” The presence of Jesus is transformative. His mere presence is an examination of conscience. His presence is a force so great that we are compelled to assess our lives. His presence shines light on all the ways we are not aligned with Him. This can be uncomfortable until we realize that he wants to renew, restore, and refresh us. 

 

The third directive is “by yourselves.” Stepping away from the crowd is essential to communing with God. The irony is we fear we may miss out on something while we are communing with the Creator of the universe. That fear of missing out often leads us to miss out on everything that matters most. 

 

The fourth directive is “to a quiet place.” We are so unaccustomed to the quiet that it makes us uneasy at first. Our restless souls are unaccustomed to settling into the quiet and simply being. But the journey is long and difficult, and Jesus knows that without respite our ability to live and love fully will be diminished. 
 

The fifth and final directive in this verse is “and get some rest.” Jesus invites us to this sacred quiet because it refreshes the soul, and from this quiet emerges the clarity necessary to continue the journey. Without rest as disciples, we lose our joy, and then our service to others languishes as we become irritable and resentful.

 

When was the last time you felt calm, peaceful, tranquil, and at ease? But more importantly, how long are you going to put off the next time?

 

“Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” It’s a difficult teaching to live, but a beautiful teaching that reveals all God’s care and concern for you. Will you let Him care for you in all the ways He desires to? 

 

Have a great day… and remember, don’t just be a spectator, be a participant, add a comment below and join the conversation.

 

And if you liked the video, you’ll love the book! Click here to order.

 

 

The Narrow Way

 

Welcome to Difficult Teachings. 

 

The easier we try to make life the harder it gets. There are plenty of charlatans ready to promise an easy way for each and every aspect of our lives, and plenty of fools willing to follow. Let’s not be among them. 

 

The Dutch philosopher, Baruch Spinoza, concluded his work The Ethics with this line: All things excellent are as difficult as they are rare. 

 

Why is excellence so rare in any arena? Because it is difficult. If it were easy, it would be common. Why then would we expect the aspect of life that is supremely important to be any different? The inner life is difficult, but the joy that comes from throwing ourselves into this quest has no limits. 

 

Today’s difficult teaching is… 

 

“Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is easy, that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard, that leads to life, and those who find it are few.”

 

This is from Matthew’s Gospel, chapter 7, verses 13-14.

 

Our lazy human nature is ever seeking the easy way, the path of least resistance, the most pleasurable or convenient option. But are we ever better for it? 

 

The wide road lays before us the seduction of pleasure, but pleasure always gives less than it promises, and is completely incapable of delivering what we truly desire, which is fullness of life.

 

Jesus is clear. The wide path is easy and leads to destruction. The narrow way is difficult and leads to life. We find ourselves at the crossroads, this fork in the road, dozens of times every day. The narrow path to one side and the wide path to the other, the easy way to one side and the difficult way to the other. Which will you choose today? 

 

There are no signposts except those in our hearts. One reads life and other says destruction. The choice is yours, and mine, and it is a choice we are constantly making. Are you choosing life or destruction? 

 

If we cannot find or justify easy and convenient, we next look for excuses and exceptions. I can’t find one. I cannot think of a single area of life where the easy road leads to success. Personal finances, health and wellness, career, study and scholarship, dating and marriage, parenting, all require the discipline and effort of the narrow way. The wide road leads to destruction in every area of life. The discipline of the narrow way is indispensable. 

 

The illusion we subscribe to is that the narrow way and the wide road both lead to the same destination. They don’t. 

 

“Enter by the narrow gate.” It’s a difficult teaching, but like all of these difficult teachings we are exploring together, it does unlock the secret to the deepest desires of our hearts. 

 

What we have discovered here is that he narrow way isn’t an actual path, it is a way of walking any path. The discipline that defines the narrow way is a necessary condition of anything worthwhile as a human being. Look for the narrow way in all things. It may be heart-wrenchingly difficult at times, but it will always deliver on its promise. 

 

Have a great day… and remember, don’t just be a spectator, be a participant, add a comment below and join the conversation.

 

 

Humble Yourself

 

Welcome to Difficult Teachings. 

 

The battle between humility and pride is central to the spiritual life. Pride contaminates anything that is good, destroys relationships, and blinds us to what is good, true, right, and just. It is the source of all moral evil. But what is humility, why does it matter, and how do we grow in this essential virtue? 

 

C. S. Lewis observed, “Humility is not thinking less of yourself, its thinking of yourself less.”

 

Today’s difficult teaching is… 

 

“Every one who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

 

This is from Luke’s Gospel, chapter 14, verse 11.

 

Now, wanting to be exulted could be in and of itself driven by pride, but there is another definition of exalted. Exalted in this sense of a state of extreme happiness.

 

Humility is essential to spiritual flourishing, and yet, it seems to be more misunderstood than understood. Humility is highly desirable, and yet, it has been shunned by the modern world for the most part.

 

We live in a world dominated by pretending, and pretending is exhausting. So, there is no point trading one type of pretending for another. And this is often what happens in our first attempts to grow in the virtue of humility. 

 

Humility is truth. It is false to devalue yourself or your talents. That isn’t humility. Humility is acknowledging the source of your talents. God is the giver of all gifts, the origin of all our talents and abilities, and the source of all goodness and every blessing. You can have exceptional abilities and be humble, you can be an exceptional human being and possess deep humility.

 

Humility isn’t about pretending to be small and fragile. The humblest people I know have a very powerful presence. They have a very strong sense of self. They also tend to have a beautiful awareness of reality. 

 

Humility is also sometimes thought of as weak, but nothing could be further from the truth. Humility is tender and meek, and yet it possesses extraordinary strength, because in it we realize the unquenchable source of our strength. Our strength is in the Lord, as the Psalm says (Psalm 46). 

 

Our desire for humility grows the more we understand what it actually is, and how it differs from pride. 

 

Prideful arrogance is repugnant. Humility is also supremely attractive. 

 

Pride wrestles with the whole universe, trying to get everyone and everything to conform to our will. Humility surrenders gently to God. 

 

Pride is impertinent, disrespectful, and rude. Humility is well mannered and respectful. 

 

Pride thinks only of self and now. Humility thinks of everyone and everything, forever.

 

Scratch just beneath the surface and you will discover that pride is small, mean, and scared. Humility is all-encompassing, generous, and trusting.

 

Pride is restless. Humility is peaceful and at ease. 

 

Jesus invites us to a life of humility because he is supremely interested in our happiness. Through each of these difficult teachings Jesus desires to lead us to a level of fulfillment that far exceeds our wildest imaginings. But the journey to that place of immense fulfillment requires that we let him lead and that we attentively follow.

 

And here we may have stumbled upon the most important and practical aspect of humility. Only a humble soul can be led. It takes real humility to quiet our desires, and all the distractions of the world, and listen to the voice of the Spirit. And it takes humility to follow wherever that voice leads. 

 

Teresa of Avila proposed that a little humility is more valuable than all the knowledge in the world. These difficult teachings seek to rearrange our values and priorities, and turn our lives upside down, which as it turns out will be right side up. 

 

Have a great day… and remember, don’t just be a consumer, be a disciple. Change a life today by sharing this video with someone else!

 

And if you liked the video, you’ll love the book! Click here to order.

 

 

Do Not Be Afraid

 

Welcome to Difficult Teachings.

 

The most dominant emotion in our modern society is fear. We are afraid of rejection and failure, afraid of losing the things we have worked hard to buy, afraid of criticism, afraid of certain parts of town, afraid of certain types of people, afraid of suffering and heartache, afraid of change, afraid to tell people how we really feel… 

 

Fear has a tendency to imprison us. Fear paralyzes the human spirit. What do you fear? 

 

Today’s difficult teaching is… 

 

“Do not be afraid.” 

 

This is from Luke’s Gospel, chapter 12, verse 32. But it is also the phrase Jesus used more than any other phrase, and the most common saying in the entire Bible. Between the New and the Old Testament, the phrase appears more than one thousand times. 

 

What’s the opposite of fear? The opposite of fear is confidence. In this context the source of that confidence would be trust. Trust in God. 

 

The antidote for fear is trust. On our money it says, “In God We Trust.” But do we? And if we don’t trust God, in whom are we placing our trust? This is a very important question, because let me tell you, if we don’t trust God, we have very good reason to be anxious, afraid, stressed, and all out petrified. 

 

This is why our culture is so riddled with these emotions, because we have abandoned God. The obvious question this leads us to is, if we aren’t placing our trust in Him, in whom are we placing our trust? The answer to this question unveils the scary truth. Ourselves. Think of any crazy analogy and it fits. That’s like entrusting your five-year-old to drive your newborn child to the supermarket to do the grocery shopping. 

 

Over and over, throughout the Gospels, Jesus says, “Do not be afraid.” He doesn’t say it to placate people. It’s a bold invitation to place our trust in Him. 

 

None of these difficult teachings are about doing. They are all about being and becoming. That’s why none of them invite us to a single act. Each is an invitation to adopt a new approach to life. Each is an opportunity to develop a new soul trait. These habits of the soul are what lead us to thrive as individuals and make a difference in the world. 

 

There are two ways I have found fruitful to develop trust and confidence in God. The first is simply to ask for it. Ask God to increase your trust and confidence in Him. The second is to look back on your life and identify times when God was at work in your life. You didn’t know it at the time, but it is clear to you now. Meditate on how He worked in your life at those times. By recognizing the times when God has worked powerfully in our lives in the past, we find the strength to hope and trust that He will work in our lives in the future… and that he is working in our lives right now. 

 

Have a great day… and remember, don’t just be a spectator, be a participant, add a comment below and join the conversation.

 

 

The Paradoxical Path

 

Welcome to Difficult Teachings.

 

If you were looking to fill your life with goodness and happiness, with fulfillment and satisfaction, with all the finest blessings available to humanity, where would you start?

 

The world and our humanity often lead us astray in this quest, and the teachings of Jesus present a stark contrast to the path the world prescribes. 

 

Today’s difficult teaching is… 

 

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for justice, for they will have their fill.

Blessed are the merciful, for they will obtain mercy.
Blessed are the pure of heart, for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted for their righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

 

This reading is from Matthew’s Gospel, chapter 5, verses 3-10. These eight blessings are known as the Beatitudes and were presented as part of the Sermon on the Mount. 

 

Everywhere you turn in the Gospel’s you find paradoxes, and that is certainly true here in the Beatitudes. What is a paradox? Something that seems untrue or absurd that upon investigation you discover to be true. Why does Jesus use so many paradoxes? I don’t know. But I do know this. Jesus is himself the ultimate paradox. He is the God-Man, and that is the paradox of all paradoxes. 

 

We could spend the rest of our lives studying these verses. They provide an endless spring of wisdom to explore. So, where do we start. 

 

I think the paradoxes serve to capture our attention, to help us to realize the magnitude of the summons that Jesus is placing upon our lives. 

 

This is the uncomfortable and often unspoken truth. The path Jesus is inviting us to walk through these difficult teachings is not a slight variation of the path the world is offering or even the path we are on. His path is radically different. 

 

The magnitude of his invitation forces us to make a decision. In the Beatitudes Jesus lays out a path that is counter-intuitive and counter-cultural and clearly labels it the path of the Blessed. 

 

Have a great day… and remember, don’t just be a consumer, be a disciple. Change a life today by sharing this video with someone else!

 

 

You Will Be Persecuted

 

Welcome to Difficult Teachings.

 

Think about all the groups and clubs and teams that have tried to entice you to join throughout your life. How do they do it? They tell you about all the benefits, how it will help you, how much fun you will have, and generally try to make it overwhelmingly appealing. And if it is at all possible that something might go wrong or not be so pleasant, they bury it in print so small and voluminous that nobody reads it until it’s too late. 

 

Jesus doesn’t do that. He is not interested in manipulating or coercing people to follow Him. And unlike anyone else he is brutally honest about the fact that you will suffer and the various forms this suffering will take. 

 

Today’s difficult teaching is… 

“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you and utter all kinds of calumnies against you for my sake.” 

This is from Matthew’s Gospel, chapter 5, verses 10-11.

 

Jesus isn’t saying, “Listen, if you decide to make this journey with me there is a slight chance that you will get persecuted.” Here and in other places in the Gospels, He promises His people persecution. He isn’t saying, “You might be persecuted.” He is saying, “You will be persecuted.” 

 

There is however a key word in this verse. Righteousness. We don’t talk about righteousness anymore. People used to say things like, “He was a good and righteous man.” But not anymore. If we take a look at the definition, we gain insight as to why this word has all but disappeared from the modern vocabulary. The definition of righteousness is, “The quality of being morally right.” We don’t hear much about righteousness anymore because nobody wants to talk about morality, because talking about morality requires that some behaviors be deemed right and others wrong. And today’s culture is allergic to such clarity. 

 

So, when we are persecuted, and we all are at times, it’s important to differentiate between two types of persecution. There is the persecution that has nothing to do with your faith and the fact that you are striving to be a disciple of Jesus, and the persecution leveled at you because you are awakening something in others by your words or actions that they would rather be left to sleep. Don’t confuse being persecuted for your own shortcomings with being persecuted for the striving to love and share the Gospel. 

 

“Blessed are those who are persecuted.” This being the case it is also important not to intentionally avoid persecution in a way that causes you to abandon Jesus and His way. 

 

Life is difficult. Following Jesus is difficult. We only make it harder for ourselves when we try to make it easy. 

 

Have a great day… and remember, don’t just be a spectator, be a participant, add a comment below and join the conversation.

 

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Follow Me

 

Welcome to Difficult Teachings.

 

Two of the key designations that Jesus assigns to his disciples are follower and servant. In this world obsessed with position, power, and status, it is easy to see how these roles that are essential to discipleship get overlooked. 

 

Our obsession with leadership is particularly fascinating. People are told from childhood, be a leader, be a leader, be a leader. And now we have a world where everyone wants to lead, and nobody wants to follow. Yet, despite all the focus we have placed on developing leaders, the world is experiencing a devastating poverty of leadership. 

 

The reason is astoundingly simple. It is impossible to be a great leader if you do not first learn to follow. There is no greater preparation for leadership than to be a committed follower. 

 

Today’s difficult teaching is… 

 

“Come, follow me.”

 

This is from Matthew’s Gospel, chapter 4, verse 19. 

 

“Come, follow me.” When you hear these words, where does your mind go? What do these words stir in your soul? Do they arouse caution, excitement, fear, or is it something else? 

 

What if someone called you up this afternoon and said, “I got you front row tickets and backstage passes to see your favorite band.” How would you feel? Imagine you won tickets to the Superbowl. How would you feel? 

 

When Jesus says, “Come, follow me” it is the most amazing invitation in the history of the world. Why aren’t we more excited? He is inviting you and me to join him on the adventure of a lifetime that goes everywhere worth going to do everything worth doing. But we keep putting him off. Or we say that we will go, and then change our minds. Or we try to customize the itinerary, picking and choosing what we think will be interesting and enjoyable. 

 

Are you following Jesus? If not, why not? And if you’re not following Jesus, who are you following? When I wander off the scary answer is I am following myself. But the scary, scary answer is nobody. Sometimes I wander off and I am just wandering aimlessly in this modern desert.

 

From time to time, we all need to renew our commitment to following Jesus. Perhaps today is that day. Maybe we just need to sit in the classroom of silence and say yes again to following Jesus. 

 

And if you want to try to follow Jesus like never before, I have only one piece of advice: Stay close. 

 

Several years ago, I visited Istanbul to give a speech, and while I was there, I visited the Grand Bizarre. The word bizarre means “covered market.” The Grand Bizarre is one of the largest and oldest in the world. It is comprised of more than 4,000 stores, sixty-one streets, spans 333,000 square feet, and is visited by more than 250,000 people every day. 

 

This provides an analogy for this life and following Jesus. The life of a disciple is like a person who meets Jesus outside the entrance of the Grand Bizarre. Jesus says, “Come, follow me.” The person chooses to follow Jesus, and Jesus proceeds to make his way through the Grand Bizarre. Along the way he stops to talk to people and comfort people, heal people and feed people. But along the way there are a million distractions. 

 

It is intense and insane, a sea of humanity bewitched by a thousand trinkets, all the time completely unaware that the treasure they seek is walking among them. 

 

The follower is easily mesmerized by shiny things, and then looks up to discover that Jesus is gone. The follower searches frantically to find Jesus, but again gets distracted, and again, and again. 

 

Jesus doesn’t do this as a game of any type. It is a serious endeavor. He is intensely interested in people. He wants to lead his followers deep into people’s lives, so we can serve others as powerfully as possible. 

 

It doesn’t matter so much how many times the follower gets lost or distracted. What matters is how many times he returns to following Jesus with renewed commitment in his heart. 

 

When Jesus exists the other side of the bizarre the follower’s life is over, and Jesus looks over and says, “Well done, my good and faithful disciple.” 

 

The Grand Bizarre is a microcosm of the whole world and your whole life. Following Jesus is like walking through the Grand Bizarre. 

 

Stay close. If we don’t follow closely, we don’t have a chance.

 

Have a great day… and remember, don’t just be a spectator, be a participant, add a comment below and join the conversation.

 

 

Pluck Out Your Eye

 

Welcome to Difficult Teachings.

 

I met a man a couple of years ago who lost a leg in an accident, and he introduced me to a friend he had met at rehab who had lost an arm. It is a horrible thing to lose a limb. Their lives are forever changed. But I was having coffee with them one day and one of the guys said, “Do I wish I had my arm? Sure. But life is more important than a limb. That accident could have killed me. An inch to the left or an inch to the right, and I could have been dead. And every time I am with my wife and children, I remember that, and I am grateful.” 

 

Both men have amazing prosthetic limbs, but I wonder what that’s like, and then my mind gets to thinking about times past when there was nothing like that. They have prosthetics for everything today. It’s amazing. Life changing and remarkable for people who have tragic life-altering accidents. 

 

Something jolted me back to the conversation with the guys in the coffee shop. I had been daydreaming for a minute. Then something else in the coffee shop caught my attention. Two tables over, a man was speaking to his girlfriend in a way and with language that was so foul and dehumanizing that at first, I could not believe it was happening. Just as the realization of what was happening dawned on me the man stood up and stormed out, leaving the women sitting there sobbing. 

 

One of the men I was with, the man with the prosthetic leg, stood up, grabbed the napkin container, walked over and passed it to the women for her tears. 

 

He may not have a leg, but he has so much that the man who abused his girlfriend doesn’t have. And there is no prosthetic replacement for what that man doesn’t have. There is no prosthetic for an amputated soul. 

 

Today’s difficult teaching is… 

“If your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and throw it away.” 

This is from Matthew’s Gospel, chapter 18, verse 9.

 

The idea of plucking your own eye out is, I suspect, as disgusting to you as it is to me. But look at all the other things we do that hurt us and make us less than who we are capable of being. Are they little things? Maybe. But at what point do lots of little things end up being massively self-destructive. 

 

There is something in your life that is creating an obstacle between you and God, an obstacle between you and the-best-version-of-yourself, an obstacle to you loving other people deeply. You don’t need me to tell you what it is, you either know or with a little soul-searching will discover it. Pluck it out of your life and throw it away from you. 

 

All new beginnings, all fresh starts, require a bold leap. 

 

Have a great day… and remember, don’t just be a consumer, be a disciple. Change a life today by sharing this video with someone else!

 

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Whoever is Not Against You

 

Welcome to Difficult Teachings.

 

There are a handful of scenes in the Gospels where Jesus appears to contradict himself. This of course is not the case, but if we ever get that uncomfortable feeling, we should investigate. Otherwise, doubts can begin to grow and chip away at our faith. 

 

Today’s difficult teaching is… 

“Whoever is not against us is for us.”

This is from Mark’s Gospel, chapter 9, verses 40.

 

This appears to contradict what Jesus says in Matthew’s Gospel, Chapter 12, verse 30, where Jesus says, “He who is not with me is against me.” 

 

The first thing to keep in mind anytime an apparent contradiction appears is that the Bible was not written in English, and the original language of the writer should be consulted. 

 

Another route to understanding is context. We have all had our words taken out of context and presented as meaning something completely different than what we intended. Nobody has suffered this more than Jesus. 

 

In the first passage from Mark, Jesus is teaching his disciples about discerning people. In the second passage from Matthew, Jesus is teaching his disciples about the discernment of spirits, in particular, demonic spirits, not people. 

 

Throughout the Gospels Jesus instructs his disciples about the discernment of ideas, people, and spirits. Some principles apply to all three and some are particular to one. 

 

But let’s return to today’s difficult teaching, which is, “Whoever is not against us is for us.”

 

This is going to be a critical lesson in the years ahead. Truth, values, and the importance of character and virtue, are all under attack in today’s culture. The inevitable extension of the cultural battle is that our religious liberties will continue to come under more and more pressure. The erosion of these liberties has always been the act of tyrants and despots, and usually preceded by the erosion of other civil liberties. 

 

It is critically important that we keep in mind that, “Whoever is not against us is for us,” because I believe times are coming when all people of goodwill, all people of faith and values, are going to need to band together or we will be destroyed.

 

I do not say this to provoke fear, but rather preparation. And the first preparation is in today’s difficult teaching. Be careful who you cast aside as not being for us, don’t assume that someone who is not vocally for us is against us. Jesus is clear, “Whoever is not against us is for us.”

 

Have a great day… and remember, don’t just be a spectator, be a participant, add a comment below and join the conversation.

 

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Sell What You Own

The Teachings of Jesus are… Noble, Grateful, Intentional, Bold, Generous!

 

Welcome to Difficult Teachings. 

There are many themes that connect Jesus’ teachings. One of the mega-themes is generosity. Generosity is at the heart of every one of Jesus’s teachings. Time and again, he invites us, encourages us, and challenges us to be generous with God, neighbor, and self. And each of his teachings invites us to live a life of heroic and staggering generosity. 

Here are just some examples of Jesus’ teaching that contain a bold invitations to live generosity.

“Love your neighbor as yourself.” 

“Whoever has two should share with someone who has none.”

“Sell what you have and give to the poor.” 

“Forgive seventy-seven times.”

“Lay down your life for others.”

There is a scene toward the end of Schindler’s List that always make my eyes fill with tears. The war is over, and Oskar Schindler and his wife are fleeing. Having saved so many Polish Jews from certain death, he is now hunted himself. He essentially purchased his workers from corrupt Nazi officers under the guise of needing them to work in his new factory, but in truth he was buying them in order to save their lives. 

In the scene, Schindler is walking toward his car surrounded by the eleven hundred grateful Jews. Now that it is over, he comes to the crushing realization that he could have done more, that he could have saved more lives, that he had been selfish and wasted so much money. He says, “I should have sold the car, why did I keep the car? I could have got two more people.” He pulls a gold pin from his jacket and says, “This is gold. I should have sold it. I could have got another person.” Then Itzhak Stern, the Jew who worked with Schindler to bring all this about, grabs hold of Schindler and says, “You did so much. Look around you. Eleven hundred people are alive because of you.” 

Schindler was by no means a perfect man, but what he did was heroic, and still he felt he had not done enough, as if he could have and should have done more. Millions around him were doing nothing, but still he knew in his heart that he could have done more. 

 

Today there are fewer than four thousand Jews in Poland. There are more than six thousand descendants of the Jews Schindler saved around the world. 

Most of us live far from the heroic generosity of Schindler. He went to extraordinary lengths, risking his own life, to save Jewish lives during the Holocaust. But it would be a shame to come to the end of our lives and realize that we could have done so much more for others. 

We cannot do everything, but that doesn’t mean we should do nothing. Don’t let what you can’t do interfere with what you can do. And what we can do, all of us, is make small sacrifices, and simplify our lives in some small ways, so that others can discover the truths that led us to where we are today.

Today I want to invite you to become a Dynamic Catholic Ambassador. The Ambassadors are the amazing group of people who make everything happen at Dynamic Catholic, allowing us to reach tens of millions of people every year, with a life-changing message of hope and inspiration in our weary world. How do the Ambassadors accomplish all this? By contributing $10 a month, sharing the message with people who cross their paths, and praying for this critical mission.

 

Click the button below and become an Ambassador today. We look forward to partnering with you to change millions more lives in this culture that so desperately needs this message. 

The difficult teachings of Jesus invite you to live a life of staggering generosity! So, don’t just be yourself, be your most generous self!

 

 

Judging Others

 

Welcome to Difficult Teachings.

 

There are times when Jesus is abundantly clear, and times when it requires more effort to really understand what He is trying to share with us. Today’s teaching has abundance of clarity. 

 

Today’s difficult teaching is… 

“Do not judge.” 

This is from Matthew’s Gospel, chapter 7, verse 1.

 

One way to go back and meditate on each of these difficult teachings would be to ponder the question: When I reject this teaching through my thoughts, words, and actions, what does that say about me?

 

Judging others is the teaching we are exploring today. When we judge others, what does that say about us? 

 

The first thing is says is that we are lazy, because judging is a short cut. It requires very little thinking, and it requires almost no emotional intelligence. 

 

Our brains are wired to make quick judgements so that we can move through this world and not get crippled by every situation that captures our attention. But people are not situations, and they are not things. Each person is mind-bogglingly unique if we pause long enough to experience that person. 

 

When you believe someone has judged you and misjudged you, you feel misunderstood. You have been misunderstood because the person didn’t take the time to understand you. The laziness of judgement requires little critical thinking, no emotional intelligence, and is almost entirely self-centered. Judging is about us, not the other person. Through the act of judging, we place ourselves at the center of the universe and set up a hierarchy of superior or inferior, better or worse, and more than or less than.

 

Earl Nightingale observed, “When you judge others, you do not define them, you define yourself.”

 

Jesus wants us to go beyond the laziness and injustice of judgement to see and experience the whole person. He wants us to access our capacity for empathy, patience, and understanding. This teaching is an invitation to see people for who they really are, not through the lens of self, not through the lens of our insecurities, but through the lens of acceptance. 

 

Have a great day… and remember, don’t just be a consumer, be a disciple. Change a life today by sharing this video with someone else!

 

And if you liked the video, you’ll love the book! Click here to order.

 

 

Forgiveness

 

Welcome to Difficult Teachings.

 

Has anyone ever really wounded you? How do you feel about that person? How long has it been? If you saw that person walking down the street tomorrow what feelings would arise within you? Would your heart begin to race? Would you panic? Turn around and walk the other way? Hide? Be seized with anger, fear, bitterness?

 

If you have ever been really hurt, wounded, betrayed, had your life put in jeopardy, been physically or emotionally abused, or had your heart broken maliciously, you have had to deal with the issue of forgiveness and will be dealing with it for the rest of your life. 

 

Today’s difficult teaching is… 

 

“Then Peter came up and said to Him, ‘Lord, how many times shall my brother sin against me and I still forgive him? Up to seven times?’ Jesus said to him, ‘I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy-seven times.’”

 

This is from Matthew’s Gospel, chapter 18, verses 21-22.

 

What did Jesus mean when he said forgive someone seventy-seven times? Scholars have been debating it for two thousand years. Most people see it as an invitation to forgive a person endlessly if they keep offending us. That may certainly be the case. I am not a biblical scholar. 

 

But my own experience leads me to understand this passage differently. My God-given reason and my limited understanding of God’s dream for us suggests that I shouldn’t put myself in a position where the same person could offend, hurt, or abuse me in any way, seventy-seven times. 

 

My own experience of being hurt by others does however suggest another possibility. When I have been hurt, really hurt, and I have been, I find it isn’t enough to forgive that person once. I will forgive that person, or at least I will believe I have forgiven that person, but then something happens. It may be three days later, and it may be three years later. Something will remind me of that person and what he or she did to me, and my heart will be seized with bitterness, resentment, even rage. And in that moment, I realize that I have not fully forgiven that person, and that I need to forgive that person again. 

 

Sometimes we need to forgive the same person seventy-seven times for hurting us once. We need to forgive them seventy-seven times, not for wounding us over and over again, but because the one time they wounded us was so deep that it keeps getting infected and each time it does we need to forgive one more time. 

 

Have a great day… and remember, don’t just be a consumer, be a disciple. Change a life today by sharing this video with someone else!

 

And if you liked the video, you’ll love the book! Click here to order.

 

 

Woe to You

 

Welcome to Difficult Teachings.

 

Jesus has some very direct and harsh words for some of the people he meets throughout his public life. And there are many things Jesus says in the Gospels that I would not want him to say to me personally. 

 

Many of these were directed at the Scribes and the Pharisees. We have spoken already about the Beatitudes, where Jesus presented a series of sayings that began with, “Blessed are you…” In the twenty-third chapter of Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus presents a series of Beatitudes in reverse, a series of sayings that begin with, “Woe to you…” There are seven teachings in this series, here we are going to focus on just one. A similar set of sayings are directed to everyone in Luke’s Gospel (Luke 6:24-26).

 

Today’s difficult teaching is…

 

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and of the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup, so that the outside also may become clean.”

 

This is from Matthew’s Gospel, chapter 23, verses 25 and 26.

 

The definition of woe is a condition of deep suffering from distress, misfortune, regret, affliction, or grief. The definition of a hypocrite is a person who puts on a false appearance of virtue or who acts in contradiction to his or her stated beliefs and values. 

 

We have all been guilty of pretending to be something or someone we are not, or something more than who we are, and we know when we are doing it. Today’s difficult teaching is a stern reminder of something we know in our hearts, and that is that these types of behaviors lead to misery and affliction. 

 

What’s critical to understand is that Jesus isn’t saying to the Pharisees I am going to inflict woe on you. He is not cursing them with affliction and misery. So, what is he saying? He is simply saying that those types of behaviors inevitably lead us to a state of woe, an overwhelming misery and distress. It isn’t something Jesus is going to do to the Pharisees, or something he wishes upon the Pharisees, it is something the Pharisees are doing to themselves. He is just pointing it out, like an obvious statement of fact. He might as well be saying 1 + 1 = 2. The same is true of the Beatitudes. He is simply saying, these types of behaviors lead to these types of blessings, and these other types of behaviors lead to these types of woes. 

 

As always, the choice is ours. 

 

Have a great day… and remember, don’t just be a consumer, be a disciple. Change a life today by sharing this video with someone else!

 

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Let Your Light Shine

 

Jesus is… 

 

Welcome to Difficult Teachings. 

 

Stick around today at the end of this reflection I have a treat for you…

 

The longest-night and the shortest day of each year is the Winter Solstice. It occurs December 21st in the United States and June 21st in my homeland of Australia. This year sunrise will be at 7.17am and sunset will be at 4.32pm. That’s a short day and a lot of darkness. Sometimes our lives can feel like they are stuck in the Winter Solstice. Light can be hard to find, and the darkness can seem all consuming.

 

Sometimes a culture can enter a season like that. I suspect we are entering such a season now, and that it will get a lot darker before the sun rises on something new. 

 

There is plenty of darkness in this world. It seems to get closer every day. There were times in my life when it felt a lot further away. 

 

The question is: What are we going to do about it? 

 

Life is choices, and we always have options. But some are always better than others, and one is usually best. 

 

This is a quote I have always found settling when the darkness seems overwhelming. “It is better to light a candle than you to curse the darkness.” The quote has been attributed to Eleanor Roosevelt, Confucius, John F. Kennedy, Francis of Assisi, and many others. What matters more is how we apply it to our lives. 

 

How we decide to deal with the darkness in our lives, in the world, and in our own souls is a life defining decision. 

 

Now let’s take a look at today’s difficult teaching and see what Jesus has to say on the matter. 

 

“Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” 

 

It is from Matthew’s Gospel, chapter 5, verse 6. 

 

This was my school motto from grade 4 through grade 12. In Latin, Luceat Lux Vestra. Let your light shine. Barely a day passes when I don’t hear this phrase in my head. Let your light shine. For those nine years of school we were constantly encouraged and challenged to prepare ourselves to go out into the world and let our light shine. 

 

The world can seem dark and negative at times. But as Christians, Jesus invites us to be a light in the darkness. In a world where so many people believe that the darkness cannot be overcome, we are called to remind people that throughout history there have been horrific disasters, tyrants, wars, and tragedies, but the ways of goodness and love cannot be extinguished. They live on in you and me.  

 

It's easy to give into negativity and let the darkness swallow a conversation, an afternoon or evening, a day, a week, but we are called to be people of hope and possibility. 

 

Jesus says to us, “You are the light of the world.” Jesus says to us, “Let your light shine.” 

 

You possess and incredible power. It is the light of Christ alive within you. But are you sharing it with the world? And why is this light within you so powerful? Because darkness cannot stand light. It only takes a tiny ray of light to destroy a whole bunch of darkness. 

 

“Let your light shine.” 

 

Have a great day… and remember, don’t just be a spectator, be a participant, add a comment below and join the conversation. And if you liked the video, you’ll love the book! Click here to order.

 

(Add Eliot Morris, This Little Light of Mine). 

 

 

Lust of the Eyes

 

Jesus is… 

 

Welcome to Difficult Teachings. 

 

One of Jesus’ most difficult teachings to align our lives with in today’s hypersexualized culture is his teaching around maintaining custody of our eyes. For most people the first question that arises here is: What is custody of our eyes? It simply means controlling what you allow yourself to see. 

 

The saints considered the gift of sight to be sacred and believed they had a responsibility to guard carefully what they set their gaze upon. 

 

Like so many of life’s choices, what we choose to look at either helps us become the-best-version-of-ourselves and leads us closer to God, or it leads us to betray self and God. 

 

The reality is we are bombarded with images every day that endanger the health and well-being of your soul. When we say that today’s culture is hypersexualized, most people don’t even blink. The reality is that our culture has gone beyond that and is becoming increasingly pornified. 

 

The other impact factor to consider here is that the eye is not content with seeing. In Ecclesiastes 1:8, Solomon advises “the eye is not satisfied with seeing.” So, if the eye is not content with seeing, if seeing does not bring the eye satisfaction, what? 

 

We see and then we covet. The definition of covet is: a yearning to possess. Coveting is more than a simple wishful desire to have something. It is a strong and persistent yearning to take something that belongs to someone else. 

 

To covet is to want what is not rightfully ours. It is to want what is unhealthy for us in mind, body, and soul. And it is said that coveting leads to one of four acts: theft, lying, adultery, or murder. 

 

So where do we begin. Begin by controlling the things you have control over. The excuse we use is that we cannot control everything we look at. Don’t let what you can’t do interfere with what you can do. Begin with the content you decide to consume each day. Are the things you are viewing in books, magazines, movies, television shows, and on the internet good for you soul. 

 

This may seem radical, but that is just an indication of how far our culture has wandered from virtue in this regard. And what we are discussing is far less radical than the difficult teaching we are focusing on today.  

 

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” 

 

This is from Matthew’s Gospel, chapter 5, verse 27. 

 

There is an epidemic of adultery taking place in our society by society’s definition, by Jesus’ definition it is an all out plague. 

 

Later in Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus says, “The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is sound, your whole body will be full of light; but if your eye is not sound, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!” (Matthew 6:22-24)

 

Our eyes are vital to our spiritual health. Today Jesus challenges us to rethink how we are using and abusing the gift of sight. 

 

Have a great day… and remember, don’t just be a spectator, be a participant, add a comment below and join the conversation. And if you liked the video, you’ll love the book! Click here to order.

 

 

Acknowledge Me

 

Jesus is… 

 

Welcome to Difficult Teachings. 

 

While all of Jesus’ teachings are difficult to live, some are more difficult to live than others depending on our seasons of life, where we are in our spiritual journey, and the culture we live in. The difficult teaching we are going to explore together today was a lot easier to live ten years ago, and it is my belief that given the direction our culture is moving in, this teaching is going to be increasingly difficult to live with every passing day. 

 

Now let’s take a look at today’s difficult teaching.

 

“Everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven; but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.”

 

It is from Matthew’s Gospel, chapter 10, verses 32-33.

 

We will be tested on this teaching. The landscape here in the United States has shifted dramatically over the past ten years, and it is now more acceptable than any other time in our nation’s history to be anti-Christian. Keeping in mind that there have been times in our nation’s history that were appallingly anti-Christian, and anti-Catholic in particular. 

 

Today things are said about Christians in the mainstream media that would never be said about people of Jewish, Muslim, or Buddhist faith. And while I do not like to be pessimistic, I do think the signs are there that things will likely get much worse in the coming years. 

 

And so, the question becomes, are we willing, ready, and able to acknowledge Jesus? If we are willing, that getting ready, preparation, is essential to being able when the moment presents itself. 

 

Preparation is essential. If you need to think it through in the moment, you will miss the moment. You need to prepare for the moment, whether it is at a dinner party or a public setting, at work or with family and friends. You cannot predict what it will look like, who will say what, but you can predict what your position will be and how you will voice your belief. 

 

Later in Matthew’s Gospel Jesus speaks about the end of times, and many coming to him saying, “Lord, Lord, do you not remember…” and Jesus says, “And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you evildoers.’

 

Today’s difficult teaching essentially says if you disown Jesus, Jesus will disown you. Imagine for a moment Jesus denying you before the Father. It’s a haunting scene if you really meditate upon it. Imagine Jesus saying to you, “I never knew you; depart from me, you evildoers.”

 

Is it hard to imagine? Not if you think of it like this. Have you ever had someone who pretended to know you more than they actually do? It happens all the time. And for public figures and celebrities its endemic. 

 

What it really comes down to is this. Don’t pretend to know Jesus, actually get to know him in real and meaningful ways. 

 

Have a great day… and remember, don’t just be a spectator, be a participant, add a comment below and join the conversation. And if you liked the video, you’ll love the book! Click here to order.

 

 

Draw From the New and the Old

 

Jesus is… Ever New!

 

Welcome to Difficult Teachings. 

 

Jesus loved to speak to people in parables. In the middle of Matthew’s Gospel he presents a series of parables about the kingdom of heaven. 

 

The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sows good seed in his field…

 

The kingdom of heaven is like leaven…

 

The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed…

 

The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in a field…

 

The kingdom of heaven is like a merchant is search of fine pearls…

 

The kingdom of heaven is like a net thrown into sea to gather fish of every kind…

 

After describing the kingdom of heaven in these many ways, Jesus then concludes with today’s difficult teaching.

 

“Therefore, every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like a householder who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old.”

 

It is from Matthew’s Gospel, chapter 13, verse 52.

 

It’s one of those lines that makes you stop and say, “Huh?” It seems especially vague in contrast to the clarity of the preceding parables. But let’s take a closer look. 

 

Whenever I stumble upon a passage like this in the Bible, I try to break its individual elements down as a way to uncover a deeper understanding. Let’s look at the five elements of this saying. 

 

The first is the phrase “every scribe.” What is a scribe? The scribe had an important position in the community among first century Jews. In Ezra 7:6 we discover that the specialty of the scribe was the law of God and the words of God. His job was to know the scriptures. A scribe spent his life studying God’s words and knowing as much as he could about their content and application. The scribes were Israel’s teachers of the law. 

 

The second phrase is “who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven.” Scholars believe that Jesus is referring to a scribe who has converted to Christianity. The reason will become clear in the fifth element. 

 

The next phrase is “like a householder.” The householder, the steward or master of the house is responsible for ensuring that his storeroom is full and that it contains everything necessary to provide for his family. 

 

The fourth phrase is, “who brings out of his treasure.” The word treasure here does not refer to gold and jewels. The Greek word that is used means “a place” not a treasure in the sense the English word for treasure suggests. The word is closer to treasury, treasure house, or storeroom. 

 

This storehouse would be filled with food, clothing, and other provisions necessary to take care of everyone in the household. 

 

The final phrase in the saying is, “what is new and what is old.” At a meal, the wise steward would balance serving his oldest store with fresh produce, so that nothing was wasted. In clothing his household, what we know as hand-me-downs would be used to ensure new fabric was used most efficiently for the entire household. 

 

Th real treasure the householder possesses is his knowledge and wisdom. His treasure is discernment. There is never enough of anything in the storeroom to save a fool from his foolishness.  

 

And finally, most scholars agree that to some extent Jesus was referring to the new and the old traditions, and what would become the New and the Old Testaments. Remember, Matthew was writing primarily for a Jewish audience. Matthew’s ideal was that a learned Jew should become a disciple of Jesus and be able to blend the riches of the old and the new covenant. 

 

For you and me, the lessons are many. The one I will focus on here is the need for our thinking to be dynamic and discerning. People have always been attracted to certainty. We find it comforting in a world filled with uncertainty, and the more uncertain the world becomes the more people cling rigidly to their certainties. This is why so many seek comfort in religious rules.

 

We are called to know more than the rules. We are called to engage our God-given minds in vibrant and critical thinking, called to discern each situation, called to meet people where they are and lead them to where God is calling them to be, and for that we need the emotional intelligence to discern the right balance of old and new to draw forth from our storehouse. 

 

Here is a simple example. It is widely believed that patience is a virtue. But patience is not always a virtue. If someone is beating a child, you don’t wait patiently for them to finish so you can discuss the matter. The wise householder Jesus describes would know when to be patient and when to enact a holy impatience. 

 

Another example would be selecting food for an infant child. You don’t feed a baby steak and lobster. You bring forth from the storeroom what is most appropriate for each person at that particular time. 

 

The householder is not blindly activating ridged rules. He is wise and discerning, engaged in active thinking, observing and reflecting, and making sound decisions based upon these dynamics. May we all become such wise stewards. 

 

Have a great day… and remember, don’t just be a spectator, be a participant, add a comment below and join the conversation. And if you liked the video, you’ll love the book! Click here to order.

 

 

Confront Those Who Wrong You

 

Jesus is… 

 

Welcome to Difficult Teachings. 

 

When someone wrongs you, how do you deal with that? Wherever two or more are gathered there will be a dispute before too long, and how disputes are handled is one of the main differences between people of faith and the pagans. 

 

There are two common ways that are harmful to everyone involved. The first is to gossip about the matter. To speak far and wide with people who can do absolutely nothing to resolve the situation, all the time assassinating the character of the person involved. This poisons you and everyone you involve. 

 

The other is avoidance. Avoid the person, avoid the topic, pretend it didn’t happen or that is doesn’t matter. 

 

Avoidance is defined in this sense as “the practice or an instance of keeping away from particular situations, environments, individuals, or things because of either (a) the anticipated negative consequence of such an encounter or (b) anxious or painful feelings associated with them.”

 

We engage avoidance as a coping strategy, but it almost always leads to increasing stress and anxiety, and has a way of spreading into other areas of our lives. We are speaking of avoidance in the case of a dispute when someone has wronged you, but the same avoidance can easily manifest as procrastination, daydreaming and ruminating, and passive aggression. 

 

This avoidance results in our hearts growing bitter and resentful. Jesus proposes a different path in today’s difficult teaching.

 

“If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you.”

 

It is from Matthew’s Gospel, chapter 18, verse 15.

 

There is the mark of genius and simplicity, as well as the mark of justice and goodness, in what Jesus is proposing here. The Gospel challenges us to face life head on, not to skirt the truth, not to avoid challenges. 

 

Have a great day… and remember, don’t just be a spectator, be a participant, add a comment below and join the conversation. And if you liked the video, you’ll love the book! Click here to order.

 

 

Hell is Real

 

Jesus is… 

 

Welcome to Difficult Teachings. 

 

Among Jesus’ most unpopular teachings is his unambiguous assertion of the existence of hell. There are 162 references to Hell in the New Testament, and 70 of these were spoken by Jesus himself. And yet, according to a Pew study, 37% of Christians in the United States do not believe in hell.

 

Jesus’ teaching on the existence of hell clearly establishes the personal responsibility that humanity seems so keen to shirk. 

 

 Now let’s take a look at the verse that contains today’s difficult teaching.

 

"Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell."

 

It is from Matthew’s Gospel, chapter 10, verse 28. 

 

The role we allow fear to play in our lives is significant. Like so many things, it exists for a reason and has a rightful place. We were created with the ability to fear in order to protect us from wandering too close to cliffs where we could slip, fall, and die. This metaphor applies to an infinite number of situations we encounter throughout our lives, but also has spiritual implications that span eternity. 

 

We fear so many things. Our fears often reveal our values and our standing in the spiritual life. The more we trust God the less we fear. The more we value eternity the less we fear in this life. But when our values and priorities get distorted, we begin to fear the wrong things. And when we fear the wrong things, we make poor decisions. 

 

So, what is Jesus saying to us today? Hell is real. And if you are going to fear something, fear that. 

 

The saints spent a great deal of time contemplating eternity in the presence of God. They spent time pondering the last things: death, judgement, heaven, and hell. Our unwillingness to turn our minds and conversations toward these things says something about us that warrants further exploration. 

 

Whatever the existential nature of hell may be, Jesus teaches with unmistakable clarity that it does indeed exist, that it is within our power to avoid, and that it is worth avoiding. 

 

This teaching is a chance to reassess what we value, what we fear, and whether or not we value and fear the right things. 

 

Have a great day… and remember, don’t just be a spectator, be a participant, add a comment below and join the conversation. And if you liked the video, you’ll love the book! Click here to order.

 

 

Whatever You Do for the Least

 

Jesus is… 

 

Welcome to Difficult Teachings. 

 

Throughout his life Jesus was constantly drawing attention to people that we avert our attention from. He was constantly placing the poor and the marginalized of every type at the center of the Gospel narrative. Placing them in clear view where we could not miss them without also missing His central message. 

 

Today’s difficult teaching is the longest I have selected. While it could be reduced to a single verse, I feel compelled to include the entire parable. 

 

It is from Matthew’s Gospel, chapter 25, verses 31-46. 

 

“When the Son of man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne.Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate them one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will place the sheep at his right hand, but the goats at the left. Then the King will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, O blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see thee hungry and feed thee, or thirsty and give thee drink? And when did we see thee a stranger and welcome thee, or naked and clothe thee? And when did we see thee sick or in prison and visit thee?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.’ Then he will say to those at his left hand, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ Then they also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see thee hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to thee?’ Then he will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it not to one of the least of these, you did it not to me.’ And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

 

The message is clear. Whatever you do for the least. There are times when we avoid the least among us, times when we begrudgingly attend to their needs, times when we judge and resent them, and times when we are so caught up in ourselves that we don’t even notice them. In none of these instances are we the-best-version-of-ourselves. When we are at our best, we don’t just tend to them as they cross our paths, we lovingly seek them out. 

 

Have a great day… and remember, don’t just be a spectator, be a participant, add a comment below and join the conversation. And if you liked the video, you’ll love the book! Click here to order.

 

 

Be Prepared

 

Jesus is… 

 

Welcome to Difficult Teachings. 

 

We prepare for all sorts of things at different times in our lives. And what we prepare for reveals what we consider to be important. We prepare to play football games, to sit exams, and to host parties. We prepare for emergencies, and we prepare for the arrival of new babies,

 

Preparation increases the chance that we will have a wonderful experience. 

 

The mere fact that we are capable of preparation reveals extraordinary gifts unique to human beings. Our ability to look into the future and imagine various situations and outcomes is a fantastic expression of human intelligence. 

 

And what we prepare for, and how we prepare for different things, reveals our priorities. How we prepare announces loud and clear to everyone what we think matters most. And when our values are distorted, we waste our time, effort, and resources preparing in the wrong ways for the wrong things.

 

We see an example of this on full display in today’s culture around wedding planning. Should a wedding be a fabulous celebration? Absolutely. Is the wedding more important than the marriage? Absolutely not. If couples spent as much time and intentionality preparing for marriage as they do preparing for the wedding would people have better marriages? I believe they would. Does it make sense to spend more money on the wedding than the couple will save in their first 10 years of marriage? I suspect not. 

 

This single event provides a thousand windows into what we value as a society, and how those values influence, and indeed direct, what we prepare for and how. 

 

Today’s difficult teaching is about preparation. 

 

“Stay alert—for you do not know when the master of the house is coming, whether in the evening, at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or in the morning.” 

 

It is from Mark’s Gospel, chapter 13, verse 35.

 

There are so many times in life when we find ourselves unprepared. Though it is worth noting that in most cases, it isn’t because we were incapable of being prepared, but rather than we had chosen to focus on other things, or that our focus on other things prevented us from seeing the need to prepare. 

 

First aid kits are a form of preparation. Survivalists have “go-bags” ready in the event of a disaster. I remember each time Meggie was pregnant, about a month before the baby was due, she would pack everything she needed to go to the hospital for the baby’s arrival. When you are going on a trip, you consider where you are going and what you will need. 

 

In today’s difficult teaching, Jesus is simply saying, you are going on a trip, you don’t know when you will be making this trip, consider where you are going and what you will need for a successful journey. What makes it difficult? It is the not knowing. This requires a state of constant vigilance. Stay alert. Be prepared. Don’t let the trivialities of life distract you from reality and importance of eternity. Don’t trade a moment of pleasure for an eternity of happiness. 

 

Have a great day… and remember, don’t just be a spectator, be a participant, add a comment below and join the conversation. And if you liked the video, you’ll love the book! Click here to order.

 

 

Not on Bread Alone

 

Jesus is… 

 

Welcome to Difficult Teachings. 

 

All of Jesus’ teachings draw our attention to the spiritual realities that we can so easily overlook if we become too absorbed in the physical realities of this world. The world is amazing. It captivates all of our senses. Encountering Jesus awakens and captivates our spiritual senses. 

 

Now let’s take a look at today’s difficult teaching.

 

“It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

 

It is from Matthew’s Gospel, chapter 4, verses 3-4.

 

I have spent my entire adult life writing. It is a glorious and frustrating pursuit, and sometimes gloriously frustrating. Trying to put into words things that defy description, trying desperately to share with other people directions to an intense joy, this is what I spend my days and nights doing. We have all had moments when we search our minds for a word or phrase that perfectly encapsulates what we are trying to say, but the word or phrase seems just out of reach. Multiply that by infinity and that is the life of a writer on many days. 

 

But then, occasionally, the words will form perfectly, just as you envision. I had a moment like that several years ago. It was an idea I had been trying to put into words for at least a decade. And then one day, the words just nonchalantly appeared on the page. Thirteen words that summarize what I have spent my life trying to encourage people to consider. They first appeared in my work Life is Messy, and I share them with you again here.  

 

“The greatest threat to your happiness and wholeness is your unrecognized spiritual needs.”

 

We fool ourselves into thinking we can live on bread alone. We fool ourselves into thinking this world is all there is. It is natural to favor what can be seen over what cannot be seen, but our hearts and souls, our will and intellect, make us capable of prioritizing what matters most regardless of whether or not it is seen or unseen. 

 

Our lives have become physical feasts and spiritual famines. Today’s difficult teaching is a reminder that nothing in this physical world can satisfy us. It is a reminder that everything in this physical world is incapable of satisfying us. It is a loving reminder to tend to our spiritual needs. 

 

Have a great day… and remember, don’t just be a spectator, be a participant, add a comment below and join the conversation. And if you liked the video, you’ll love the book! Click here to order.

 

 

Not an Earthly Kingdom

 

Jesus is… 

 

Welcome to Difficult Teachings. 

 

Jesus’ teachings are not all difficult in the same ways. Some are difficult to comprehend, some are difficult to live, some are difficult to remain mindful of. Some we notice ourselves wandering away from, others we unconsciously abandon and are surprised over and over again when we become conscious of what we have done. 

 

Every generation has made the same mistake Jesus’ disciples made in relation to the teaching we are going to explore today. 

 

Now let’s take a look at today’s difficult teaching.

 

“My Kingdom is not an earthly kingdom. If it were, my followers would fight to keep me from being handed over to the Jewish leaders. But my Kingdom is not of this world.”

 

It is from John’s Gospel, chapter 18, verse 36. 

 

It is so easy and tempting to focus on worldly politics and neglect the non-political realties of eternity. It is so easy to get so caught up in political engagement that we neglect our spiritual needs and responsibilities. And if the reason we give ourselves for our political involvements and obsessions are themselves religious, it is easy to find ourselves justifying our neglect of the spiritual life, or indeed confusing political engagement with spiritual engagement. All the time Jesus keeps reminding us that His Kingdom is not of this world.

 

And it is here that we stumble upon one of the central struggles we face in our attempts to follow Jesus and live out the Gospel in our practical everyday lives. It would be relatively easy if we could abandon the politics of this world altogether. We cannot. For the Gospel places demands upon us to participate in public life. It requires us to engage as citizens. 

 

We are not called to embrace heaven and reject earth; we are called to embrace both. 

 

We prefer all or nothing scenarios, but the Gospel provides few if any. It is so much more dynamic than the ridged set of rules that religion is so often accused of championing. The teachings of Jesus require us to have one foot planted firmly in this world and one in the next.

 

We were born into this world and we are political creatures. Perhaps we were endowed with this faculty as another need for survival. I do find it fascinating that there is no categorical antonym for the word political.  Even the person who says he is apolitical is taking a political stance. 

 

In today’s difficult teaching, Jesus also subtlety points out the problem that is inherent with kingdoms of this world: they need to be protected and that usually means fighting. 

 

We all have kingdoms. I have seen people build kingdoms at work and kingdoms at home, I know people who have money kingdoms that they rule over, and we all in some way have a kingdom of possessions. Some may be larger, some may be smaller, it matters not. It is the kingdoms themselves, regardless of size, that cause the problems. 

 

You see, kingdoms need to be protected. And in protecting our kingdoms we are often drawn into direct conflict with the Gospel. This can take many forms, but two are common. The first is this, we fight. The fight can take on many forms, it need not be physical. It could be political or ideological. It can take the form of exclusion or elitism. We have developed an almost endless number of ways to fight without raising arms. At the same time, we have developed a staggering array of ways to destroy each other physically also. The one thing I know for certain about kingdoms and fighting, the bigger the kingdom the bigger the fight, when it comes time to protect it. 

 

The second way kingdoms lead us to violate the Gospel is this: All our human hungers lead us to want to maintain our kingdoms, and this leads us to do things that violate what we know to be good, true, right, and just. 

 

The maintenance of earthy kingdoms is spiritually expensive, and often results in spiritual bankruptcy. 

 

This question confronts us at every turn: How can we further His Kingdom when we are so wrapped up in our own kingdoms? The unavoidable truth here is that we cannot. Dismantling our own kingdoms, unwrapping ourselves from them, developing a healthy detachment from the earthly kingdoms that we are necessarily responsible for, is part of the spiritual quest for the rich and poor alike, for the powerful and the powerless. 

 

The richest and the poorest among us both have enough money and things to destroy their souls. And even the least powerful among us has enough power to ruin his or her soul. It is clear how much damage a lot of money and a lot of power can do, but it’s amazing and often overlooked how much damage a little bit of power can do, and a little bit of money. We have all encountered people with small spirits who are given a little power and the result is disturbing. 

 

We underestimate how much character is required to hold money, possessions, and power, without endangering the health of our souls. 

 

Jesus reminds us today that his Kingdom is not of this world, and by doing so, reminds us of the dangers earthly kingdoms present. 

 

Have a great day… and remember, don’t just be a spectator, be a participant, add a comment below and join the conversation. And if you liked the video, you’ll love the book! Click here to order.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Shake the Dust

 

Jesus is… 

 

Welcome to Difficult Teachings. 

 

One of the threats to our quest to live as disciples of Jesus is our desire to be liked by other people. This desire often leads us away from anyone or anything that causes us to take an honest look at who we are becoming and the life we are living. Our desire for approval and acceptance affects the direction of our lives and is largely born from our various insecurities. 

 

God wants to love you out of all your insecurities. It’s a beautiful truth. If you sit with it and allow it to sink deep into your heart and mind it will change the way you live. 

 

God wants to love you out of all your insecurities. As we grow spiritually we become less interested in people’s opinions and more interested in God’s. As we grow spiritually our need for the affirmation and approval of others diminishes. 

 

Johannes Kepler, the 17th century German scientist, famously observed, “I much prefer the sharpest criticism of a single intelligent man to the thoughtless approval of the masses.” Along those lines, the approval of the whole world is worthless if the approval of God is lost. 

 

The need for other people’s approval is in direct opposition to discipleship. Our desire to be liked will prevent us from making difficult choices and announcing hard to hear truths. 

 

You can seek the approval of men or God’s approval, but you cannot seek both. 

 

Now let’s take a look at today’s difficult teaching.

 

“If any one will not receive you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet as you leave that house or town.”

 

It is from Matthew’s Gospel, chapter 10, verse 14.

 

Once we decide to share the truth of the Gospel with others through our words and actions, we will experience opposition. Jesus’ counsel in these situations is to move on. If we stay, our desire for the approval of others may cause us to massage the message or abandon the Gospel altogether. 

 

But we experience opposition for reasons other than announcing the Gospel. Opposition may arise because we are simply wrong about something. Opposition will arise if we behave selfishly in relationships. Opposition may arise because people disagree with our opinions. 

 

And much damage can be done when we apply Gospel principals to our wrongdoing, selfishness, and opinions. For example, if someone corrects us for something we have done that was hurtful to others, shaking the dust from our feet as we leave their house would be to compound our error. 

 

Our response to someone disagreeing with our opinions should be different to someone disagreeing with the Gospel. There is a difference between our opinions and the Gospel. Though you wouldn’t know it listening to how vigorously some people proclaim their opinions. And as we grow in holiness our opinions align more and more with the Gospel with every passing day. For we discover that any opinion that opposes God’s opinion is not worth having. 

 

Have a great day… and remember, don’t just be a spectator, be a participant, add a comment below and join the conversation. And if you liked the video, you’ll love the book! Click here to order.

 

 

What to Expect

 

Jesus is… 

 

Welcome to Difficult Teachings. 

 

So much of life is shaped by our expectations. A great deal of the pain and suffering we experience in life is caused not by the actual events of our lives, but by the expectations we carried into those moments. When our expectations are not met we respond with disappointment, resentment, anger, frustration, and loss of trust. It is one thing to respond to an event or another person in these ways, it is something completely different to respond to God in these ways.

 

There is no shortage of people on this planet who are disappoint with God, resentful of God, angry with God, frustrated with God, and have lost trust in God. 

 

Why do they feel this way? And perhaps we have all felt this way, to varying degrees at different times. It happens because an event doesn’t conform with the image we have of God in our minds. How we imagine God should be and what we imagine God should do collide with the reality of God. Our expectations of God are not met. 

 

Our expectations play an important role in life, and the expectations we have of life as a disciple of Jesus can support or destroy a life of faith. 

 

Now let’s take a look at today’s difficult teaching.

 

“If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you.”

 

It is from John’s Gospel, chapter 15, verse 18. 

 

Jesus describes a number of things we can expect in our quest to follow Him and share His life, love and message with the world. Persecution, hatred, and rejection are all part of the life we are called to live.

 

We would prefer a different type of Christianity, but whatever that may be, it’s not Christianity. And in the quest for a Christianity that does not require us to live the disciplined life of a disciple or suffer as Jesus forewarned that we would, we create expectations that will be crushed by the reality of life. 

 

Today’s difficult teaching invites us to reflect on what our expectations are. What do we expect of ourselves, others, and God? Are these expectations aligned with reality? What do we expect life as a disciple to be like? Are these expectations likely to be disappointed, and if so, how could that potentially damage our faith? 

 

Our expectations are often a futile effort to predict and control the future. This is especially true when they are built on the sandy foundations of human desire. If we are going to go down the road of expectation, let us base our expectations on The Rock of Jesus’ teachings. 

 

Have a great day… and remember, don’t just be a spectator, be a participant, add a comment below and join the conversation. And if you liked the video, you’ll love the book! Click here to order.

 

 

Sell What You Own

 

Welcome to Difficult Teachings.

 

Today’s difficult teaching is… 

 

“Sell what you own and give to the poor.” 

 

This is from Mark’s Gospel, chapter 10, verse 21. 

 

I don’t like this one. I struggle with this one. You see, I have some great stuff. But the truth is, I have too much stuff. There have been a number of times in my life when this realization has rocked my world. Most recently it was about two years ago. Since then I have been trying to give things away, sell things, give more to those in need, avoid buying too many new things, and generally reflecting upon how things, stuff, and possessions, complicate our lives and weigh down our spirits. 

 

A fundamentalist interpretation of today’s difficult teaching is dangerous unless we are called to a monastic life of poverty. It would be reckless and irresponsible to sell everything I owned and give all the money to the poor. I have responsibilities that require some of those resources. 

 

Our state in life, vocation, and our station in life, profession, require us to have certain possessions and resources. But as life progresses things change. There are things I have now that I will not need when my children have grown into adults. 

 

But I have friends whom I admire very much who have a goal that I would like to make my own. Their goal is to own nothing, or as little as is possible, when they die and leave this world. 

 

If you have ever had to handle someone’s affairs after they die you know that even those of moderate means can leave behind a massive amount of stuff. As relatives sort through it, they often wonder, “Why did he hang onto this stuff all this time?” “Why didn’t she enjoy these things more instead of keeping them packed away?” 

 

We all have a little of the rich young man from the Gospels in us. We yearn for powerful and profound spiritual experiences, but shy away when we see what is involved. 

 

Jesus is challenging us today to assess our attachment to the things of this world, to audit what we have and what we need, to consider if we are using what we have in ways that help or hurt our souls, and to be more generous with the poor in all its forms. 

 

Have a great day… and remember, don’t just be a spectator, be a participant, add a comment below and join the conversation. And if you liked the video, you’ll love the book! Click here to order.

 

 

Turn the Other Cheek

 

Jesus is… 

 

Welcome to Difficult Teachings. 

 

Would you steal from God? Do you think stealing from God would bring blessings to you? I think most people very quickly come to the conclusion that that is not a great idea. But hold that thought and we will return to it in a moment. 

 

One way to understand a culture is to explore how it governs its appetite for revenge. For reasons I don’t understand, a desire for revenge is part of the human condition. 

 

What is revenge? “The action of inflicting hurt or harm on someone for an injury or wrong suffered at their hands.”

 

When someone causes us to suffer it is natural for us to want them to suffer. Our desire for them to suffer is in some ways a desire for them to see us, hear us, and know the pain they have caused. When someone causes someone we love to suffer our desire for revenge can be even greater than if we had suffered ourselves. This is in some ways born from a need to act in a situation where we were helpless to prevent evil. 

 

But the Scriptures are clear when it comes to revenge. “Vengeance is mine,” says the lord. We find this in both Deuteronomy 32: 35 and Romans 12: 19-21. 

 

So, let me ask you again, would you steal from God? Do you think stealing from God would bless you and your family? 

 

To seek revenge is to steal from God. “Vengeance is mine,” saith the Lord. When we seek vengeance we are stealing from God. But if we are not going to seek to inflict revenge upon those who harm us and those we love, what are we to do? 

 

Now, let’s take a look at today’s difficult teaching.

 

“If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also.”

 

It is from Matthew’s Gospel, chapter 5, verse 39.

 

Over and over throughout the Gospel Jesus counsels us about how to treat people who offend us, harm us, persecute us. Turning the other cheek is just the first step. The next is to pray for them. The step after that is to do good to them. And the step after that is to love them. Our appetite for revenge prevents us from praying for them, doing good to them, and loving them.

 

It is easy to talk about, but very, very difficult to do. 

 

Where do we start? I find a healthy starting point anytime I find myself struggling to live one of Jesus’ difficult teachings is to pray for the desire to want to live that teaching. Desire precedes action. So, I ask God to give me the desire to live out that teaching in my life. And if we pray long and hard enough for the desire, He will answer that prayer every time. Then before too long, the desire turns into action. 

 

Have a great day… and remember, don’t just be a spectator, be a participant, add a comment below and join the conversation. And if you liked the video, you’ll love the book! Click here to order.

 

 

Repent

 

Jesus is… 

 

Welcome to Difficult Teachings. 

When John the Baptist first appeared in the desert of Judea, this was his message: “Repent, prepare the way of the Lord.” (Matthew 3:2) Later, when Jesus began his ministry, he led with this message: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” 

This is today’s difficult teaching.

 

It is from Matthew’s Gospel, chapter 4, verse 17.

Repent is a powerful word. But what does it mean for you and me, here and now, more than two thousand years later? It means the same as it did to the people walking around the dusty pathways in their sandals, trying to inch closer to Jesus as he passed through their town or village. Repent means “to turn back to God.” 

I find myself needing to turn back to God many times a day, in ways small and large. It is not a matter of guilt, and it is not a shameful thing. It is simply that at his side I am a better person—a better son, husband, father, brother, friend, colleague, employer, neighbor and citizen. Over time, I have also come to realize, quite painfully, that when I turn away from God, I am also turning my back on my true self. 

Do you need to turn back to God today? Do you need to repent? 

If we are honest with ourselves, if we can stomach a moment of truth, if we are willing to give truth a place in our lives above all our excuses and justifications, I think we each discover for ourselves that we need to turn back to God. We often turn away from God, sometimes in small ways, just for a moment, and at other times in much larger ways. Turning our backs on God is an inner action. It is quite possible for people to turn their backs on God and still go to church every Sunday. The external actions don’t guarantee the internal disposition. Have you turned your back on God? 

Very few people turn their backs to God completely. Most of us just turn our backs on him in one or two areas of our lives. Most of us turn our backs on God in one corner of our hearts. In what area of your life have you turned your back on God? 

Every journey toward something is a journey away from something. If we need to turn back to God at this moment in our lives, we also need to turn away from whatever led us away from God and keeps us away. It may be that certain people have led you to stray from God—perhaps possessions have distracted you from your true and authentic self, or maybe pleasure has seduced you into walking a wayward path. Whatever has distracted you, it is important to realize that you cannot journey to a new place and at the same time stay where you are. 

Walking with God demands that we bring order to our lives and put first things first. Sometimes it is just as important to know what you are journeying away from as it is to know what you are journeying toward. 

Have a great day… and remember, don’t just be a consumer, be a disciple. Change a life today by sharing this video with someone else!

 

And if you liked the video, you’ll love the book! Click here to order.

 

 

Servant

 

Jesus is… 

 

Welcome to Difficult Teachings. 

 

Some people think of Jesus as just a good guy, others as a prophet, some as a sage, and yet others as the Messiah, God, and Savior. At one level or another, Jesus is almost universally admired. Yet, few people consider him as a relevant leadership model for their lives. 

Jesus gave birth to a method of leadership. Throughout history, all the great kings, queens, and emperors have measured their strength, power, and greatness by their wealth and the number of servants they ruled over. But the greatest leader of all time, did not come to be served. Jesus came to serve.

This is today’s difficult teaching…

“He rose from supper and took off his outer garments. Then he took a towel and tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and dry them with the towel around his waist. . . . When he had washed their feet and put his garments back on and reclined at table again, he said to them, “Do you realize what I have done for you? You call me ‘teacher’ and ‘master’ and rightly so, for indeed I am. If I, therefore, have washed your feet, you ought to wash one another’s feet. I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do.”

It is from John’s Gospel, chapter 13, verse 4-15.

 

Jesus had the heart of a servant. 

Even some of his disciples were expecting him to use his power to rule in some earthly capacity, but again Jesus’ methods of leadership were very different from anything that had ever been experienced before. For thousands of years, kings, queens, and emperors had been sending their people off to die for them. Jesus was the only leader who chose to die for his people. 

Jesus’ whole method of leadership focused on turning the hierarchy upside down. The model of leadership that Christ himself left us was one of service and sacrifice. 

If you use your power – and believe me we all have some – to make people do things they don’t want to do, you are not a leader; you are just another dictator or tyrant. But if you can inspire people to do things that are difficult but good for them and their community, then you are a leader. 

The most effective leaders operate based on authenticity not authority. Our own times have an abundance of so-called leaders standing at the crossroads pointing us down a path they have never traveled themselves. But what we need are authentic leaders, men and women willing to lead humanity along the right path with the example of their own lives. 

The laws of authentic leadership seem to have been universally proven throughout human history, whether in business, in battle, in the sporting arena, or in the Church. 

At different times, we are called upon as leaders. Some as mothers and fathers, others as CEOs and presidents. Whatever form of leadership we are called to, let us exercise it with one thing in mind: we are here to serve and lead others in powerful service. 

Jesus had the heart of a servant, and he offers us a heart transplant. He offers to remove our diseased and broken heart and replace it with his Sacred Heart.

 

Have a great day… and remember, don’t just be a spectator, be a participant, add a comment below and join the conversation. And if you liked the video, you’ll love the book! Click here to order.

 

 

You Can Lose Your Soul

 

Jesus is… 

 

Welcome to Difficult Teachings. 

 

Have you ever been terrified? I suppose we have all had scary experiences in our lives as children and as adults. I remember being terrified of some of my teachers as a child. I’ve had some terrifying experiences on planes over the years. I’ve been in terrifying parts of the world. And I will never forget having a shotgun held to my head in a robbery, by a fidgety drug addict who was shaking so much from withdrawals I was afraid he would pull the trigger by mistake. 

 

I know what it means to be terrified. I have been terrified. 

 

Today’s difficult teaching is about knowing when to be terrified and what to be terrified of. Now, you may be thinking, but I thought the thing Jesus said more than anything else was, “Do not be afraid.” This is true, but as always, context matters. When Jesus said do not be afraid these words were usually accompanied by words or inference to the effect of “You don’t need to be afraid because I am with you.” But if we are not with him, that changes everything.

 

Now let’s take a look at today’s difficult teaching.

 

“What do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul?”

 

It is from Mark’s Gospel, chapter 8, verse 36. 

 

The revelation we should be ever mindful of here is the fact that you can lose your soul. You can lose your soul. It’s worth reflecting on that from time to time. More than that, I think it’s worthy of deep meditation. It’s easy to forget in this world so full of distractions and seductions. And it is a mistake to forget this.

 

You can lose your soul. This reality should terrify us, and we should welcome the terror, because it exists to protect us from experiencing what the terror represents. 

 

Knowing when to be afraid is common sense; knowing what to be afraid of is wisdom. We should be more afraid of losing our souls that falling of a ten-thousand-foot cliff. And the truth is, metaphorically, spiritually, we live our lives tippy toeing along the very edge of a ten-thousand-foot cliff.

 

Every decision matters. In a culture that is constantly attempting to deny and diminish personal responsibility, the Gospel reminds us time and time again, that personal responsibility is central to the human experience. 

 

Go gently about this world. Life should be lived carefully, not recklessly. We should be careful with each other. People are fragile and wounded, be gentle and thoughtful. To live life to the fullest is to live life thoughtfully.  

 

Have a great day… and remember, don’t just be a spectator, be a participant, add a comment below and join the conversation. And if you liked the video, you’ll love the book! Click here to order.

 

 

The Eucharist

 

Jesus is… 

 

Welcome to Difficult Teachings. 

 

When we have made a mistake, done something hurtful, or are simply wrong about something, and someone else is bringing that to our attention, that can be very difficult to hear. Depending on the state of our soul, we may or may not be able to listen. Depending on the disposition of heart, we may or may not be able adjust our behavior or opinions to align with the truth being presented to us. Depending on the depth and strength of our character, we may or may not be able to be grateful to the person delivering the message. 

 

When Jesus was walking the dusty roads along the northwestern shore of the Sea of Galilee, his listeners struggled to understand and embrace some of his teachings more than others. But none more than today’s difficult teaching. More than any other teaching it was the one that his followers and critics alike struggled to get their hearts and minds around. Nothing has changed since then in this regard. 

 

Let’s take a look at today’s difficult teaching.

 

“Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you; he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.” 

 

It is from John’s Gospel, chapter 6, verses 53-54. 

 

This is a central moment in Jesus’ public life. There are two moments when the people really struggled to understand what Jesus was saying. When Jesus told them to tear down the temple and he would rebuild it in three days, and what he is saying today about being the Bread of Life. 

 

There are three other verses in this discourse that I would like to explore briefly with you, but it’s worth reflecting on this whole section of John’s sixth chapter from verse 22 to 71. It is rich with meaning and foreshadows not only the rest of Jesus’ life, but also the life of the Church ever since. 

 

How did the people respond? They had three reactions. Here is the first. 

 

“The people then disputed among themselves, saying, ‘How can this man give us his flesh to eat?’”

 

We make so many assumptions and we believe our assumptions. But in truth, in most situations, we should question, challenge, and test our assumptions. Because the wrong assumptions make it impossible to reach valid conclusions.

 

It’s subtle, but do you see the assumption in the verse I just read. I’ll share it again.  

 

“The people then disputed among themselves, saying, ‘How can this man give us his flesh to eat?’” (John 6:52)

 

Did you catch it? “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?”

 

They are operating under the assumption that Jesus is just a man, and that assumption makes it impossible for them to understand what Jesus is saying, never mind believe. 

 

If a homeless person tells you he is going to give you a letter of recommendation and a full scholarship to Harvard, you would be naturally skeptical and dismissive. That’s the kind of situation that is playing out in this part of the Gospel. They won’t accept who Jesus really is and so they are incapable of comprehending all he can do for them. 

 

Then we move on to their second reaction. And this reaction is especially relevant today given all that is transpiring in our culture. 

 

“Many of his disciples, when they heard it, said, “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?” (John 6:60).

 

Notice, they didn’t say, “We don’t understand” or even, “We don’t want to live this teaching” or “Can you explain this a little more?” They didn’t even want to listen to it. They didn’t even want to hear it.

 

This is the attitude of today’s culture and not only in relation to matters of faith. The poverty of mind and spirit has descended such that this is now the attitude of the culture toward objective truths and scientific and biological realties. 

 

For thousands of years a person who refused to acknowledge reality was considered a denialist and mentally ill. Today you can deny reality and be celebrated as enlightened. Is that not a sign that the culture itself is very sick indeed? 

 

I was reading about mental illness recently for a project I am working on and came upon this description of Schizophrenia which is a tragic and desperately sad mental illness. “Schizophrenia is a serious mental health condition that causes disordered ideas, beliefs and experiences. In a sense, people with schizophrenia lose touch with reality and do not know which thoughts and experiences are real and which are not.” 

 

It was the last line that got me thinking about today’s culture. “People with schizophrenia lose touch with reality and do not know which thoughts and experiences are real and which are not.” 

 

When we are not willing to even listen to the other side of an argument, we dangerously open ourselves to deception and tyranny of the worst kind. When a culture begins to deny objective reality it is teetering on the edge of destruction. 

 

To understand how far our culture has wandered from the Gospel, you only need to consider that objective truth cannot even be uttered in many situations today.

 

But We digress. The people’s third reaction to Jesus in the bread of life discourse was to abandon Jesus. 

 

“After this many of his disciples drew back and no longer went about with him.” (John 6:66)

 

On this Holy Thursday we are reminded that from the very beginning, the Eucharist has been a lightning rod, a point of contention and division. Regardless of what we have thought before or believe now, let us ask the Lord to open our hearts, minds, and souls to a deeper understanding of the Eucharist today, and with each passing day for the rest of our lives. 

 

As we enter into this Holy Triduum I offer you one point to meditate and reflect upon. 

 

There is a church in Avila, Spain, built in the site of the childhood home of Saint Teresa of Avila. In the sacristy where the priests prepare for Mass there is a large wooden crucifix on the wall. The crucifix is surrounded by these words, which have been painted on the wall.

 

“Priest of Jesus Christ, celebrate this Holy Mass as if it were your first Mass, your last Mass, your only Mass.”

 

Let this be our resolution this week. From now on, each time you go to Mass, let us participate and celebrate it as if it were your first Mass, your last Mass, your only Mass.”

 

Have a great day… and remember, don’t just be a spectator, be a participant, add a comment below and join the conversation. And if you liked the video, you’ll love the book! Click here to order.

 

 

Lay Down Your Life

 

Jesus is… 

 

Welcome to Difficult Teachings. 

 

On Good Friday we remember Jesus’ supreme act of laying down his life for us and his invitation to us to lay down our lives in the service of the Gospel.

 

We are mistaken if we think the choice is between laying down our lives and not laying down our lives. The question is not, are you going to lay down your life? No, that’s not the question. The question is, what are you going to lay down your life in service of?

 

We all lay down our lives for something. When I was a teenager, I played on the golf team for a local club. Something struck me even at that age about a group of guys who were always at the club. They played golf and would meet for drinks in the club house, they sat on the board of the club, and would insert themselves into all manner of situations that arose on the course and around the club. The gold club had an extensive groundskeeping crew to tend to the course and the gardens, but I would even see some of these guys pulling weeds out of the gardens for hours at a time. 

 

Much later I realized that we all lay our lives down for something and they were laying down their lives for the golf club. It was their whole life and that is sad and tragic. I have often wondered since, did they do it intentionally or did it just sort of happen? Were they conscious of their choice or did they just unconsciously stumble into it?  

 

Today’s difficult teaching is this… 

 

“No one has greater love than this: that he lay down his life for his friends.”

 

It is from John’s Gospel, chapter 15, verse 13. 

 

We all lay our lives down for something. What are you laying your life down for? Are you doing it intentionally or unconsciously? 

 

Some people lay down their lives by working hard and making sacrifices to support their families. Some people lay down their lives in defense of goodness and freedom. Some people lay down their lives in service to God and His people. Some lay down their lives in service to the poor. Others lay down their lives by spending their lives serving others through their professional calling. Some lay down their lives to raise their children. 

 

Most of us lay down our lives for some combination of causes, some better than others. Most of us lay down our lives driven by a variety of motives, some born of love and others distorted by selfishness. 

 

The point is, you are going to lay down your life, you are laying down your life. We all spend our lives for a cause. Today is a day to reflect, to consider who and what you are laying your life down for, to make the necessary adjustments, and to plead with Jesus for the grace to lay down our lives lovingly and heroically. 

 

Have a great day… and remember, don’t just be a consumer, be a disciple. Change a life today by sharing this video with someone else!

 

And if you liked the video, you’ll love the book! Click here to order.

 

 

Resurrection

 

Jesus is… 

 

Welcome to Difficult Teachings. 

 

What is it in your life that needs to be resurrected this Easter? Perhaps it’s a relationship, maybe it’s your personal finances, perhaps it’s your health, or maybe it’s your career or spirituality. Whatever part of you or your life needs to be resurrected today, I pray that you start to be blinded by the light as the stone slowly begins to roll away from the entrance to the tomb. 

 

What are the most important events in history? We have spent the past several days reflecting on them and reliving them. The whole world changed on Easter Sunday. It was an earth-shattering, life changing, historic event. To reflect on it should inspire awe in us.

Rising from is the ultimate proof that Jesus is God and it is also the central premise of Christianity. This is the main event. Without the Resurrection Christianity is foolishness, Paul tells us (see 1 Corinthians 15:12–14). 

Did the Resurrection of Jesus actually happen? Though there is plenty of evidence to suggest it to the open and honest heart, I cannot prove it. There has to be room for faith; otherwise, it wouldn’t be called faith it would be called certainty. And just as the opportunity to not love is essential to love, uncertainty is essential to faith. 

But if it did actually happen, if Jesus did rise from the dead, what else is left to be said? And what does Jesus have to do to convince you? Thomas made very specific demands. He wanted to be able to put his hands into Jesus’ wounds. 

This is today’s difficult teaching. 

 

“Believe in me.”

 

It is from John’s Gospel, chapter 12, verse 44. 

 

We place different levels of trust in different people. We believe certain people will do what they say they will do or are capable of various things. What is it that builds that trust, what is it that fosters that belief? If they are well foundered, they are based on knowing the person. 

 

Wherever you are in your faith journey, if you yearn for a deeper faith, a stronger faith, a more practical faith, a faith that keeps you focused on what matters most and give you the grace to let go of what matters least – spend more time getting to know Jesus!

 

It’s an interesting thing, whenever I spend time prayer, reading the Scriptures, discussing the faith with people, socializing with people who believe, and studying the faith, my faith increases. Through all these experiences I come to know Jesus more, and the more I know him the more I believe in Him. 

 

The only people who don’t believe in Jesus are the people who don’t know Him. Knowing Him makes it impossible not to believe in Him. And so, my Easter desire for you this year, is that each day you will take the time to get to know him a little more. If you do, I am certain that… Something wonderful is about to happen!

 

Happy Easter! May the Resurrection of Jesus fill you with new life, and may God bless you and all those you love this Easter. It has been an honor to make this journey through Lent with you. I hope you have had your BEST LENT EVER!

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Official Portrait for The Culture Soluti

About the Author

Matthew Kelly was born in Sydney, Australia. He has dedicated his life to helping people and organizations become the-best-version-of-themselves. Kelly is a New York Times bestselling author, an internationally acclaimed speaker, and a business consultant to some of the world’s largest and most admired companies. He is the author of more than thirty books, which have sold more than forty-five million copies and have been published in more than thirty languages.

 

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