Price of Freedom

I was just thinking about freedom, and that it always comes at a cost.

That cost is blood. 

 Just think of it.  Our fledgling country was oppressed by the English crown.  We were taxed without representation.  We fought for our freedom.  Many, many, were killed.

Blood bought our freedom.

The Civil war.  All killed were Americans.  But the war was not fought for land, or money, but to make men free.

Freedom attained through shed blood.

Or think of the trench warfare fought during the WWI.  Miles of trenches.  Machine guns, barbed wire, mustard gas.  Men fighting savage hand-to-hand battles to free Europe.

Many thousands were killed to attain that freedom.

Which was purchased with blood.

WWII.  The Emperor of Japan and Hitler’s failed attempt at world domination.  Millions killed in death camps.  A war fought across Europe and the Pacific.  Many, many, many Allied soldiers killed.

Freedom bought with blood.

Wars upon wars.  Korea, Viet Nam.  Iraq.  Afghanistan.  Perhaps not all thought of as “noble” conflicts, such as the first world wars.  But none fought for gain, or territory.

For freedom.

Blood is always the cost.

And then I think about Jesus.  I think about blood shed for freedom.  I think of a man laying on his face in Gethsemane, sweating blood on my behalf.  I think of a man

                                             son of man

having his back, arms, legs shredded by whips on my behalf, to attain my freedom.  I think of steel spikes being driven at an angle through bundles of wrist nerves, to maximize the pain.  Of those same nails being driven through feet positioned on a wooden block.  I think of blood running to the ground.

For my freedom.

My freedom.

The freedom of many.

The freedom of all, should they desire.

Purchased through blood.

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Sometimes

Sometimes I do the wrong thing, even when I don’t want to.

Sometimes I say the wrong thing, even when I don’t mean to.

Sometimes I assume the worst, rather than hope for the best.

Sometimes I act before thinking.

Something I speak before thinking.

Sometimes I think about myself first.

Sometimes I act solely for my own benefit.

Sometimes I forget to thank God for everything, and wonder where He is instead.

Sometimes I hurt people without meaning to.

Sometimes I hurt myself.

Sometimes I make assumptions.

Sometimes I do what I want, rather than what is best.

Sometimes I don’t tell people simple things, and they then become complicated things.

Sometimes I neglect my responsibilites as fiancee, and friend, and now, father.

Sometimes I hold onto my feelings, rather than sharing them.

Sometimes this distills into something poisonous.

Sometimes I lash out defensively.

Sometimes I just lash out.

Sometimes I am not a good person.

Sometimes I sin in lots of different ways.

Sometimes I am human, and need to remind myself that God is not.

Sometimes I need to throw myself on the altar, and do not.

Sometimes I make it about me, and not about God.

Ecce homo

I always thought I’d have to be perfect for God, or perhaps more accurately–that I would have to be perfect to know Him.  That’s what it seemed like, anyway.  The Christian people I knew growing up certainly seemed that way.  The guy that led the youth group I went to for a while as a teenager was like that.  Not that he said he was perfect–he was just this tower of faith, and love, and patience for the handful of obnoxious teenagers in his charge.   That was someone I could never even imagine being.

Then there were the “others.”  The people that I met through the church my brother went to for a while. 

You know who I mean. 

These were men and women who did all they could to draw attention to the wonderful Christian lives they were leading. To make sure everyone could see how they obeyed the “rules” set forth by God. That is, when they weren’t picketing places and telling people everything they did that was wrong, which would be sending them to hell, eventually.

Observe my faith, and be awed.  See how much I care about the virtue of my children, and how willing I am to protect it, at any cost.

It was all about THEM.  They spent so much time being uber-Christians, that I knew I could never meet that sort of standard.  I would never be able to serve a God who demanded such things.

I would never be perfect.  And if I tried to be, the person I was now would always, always undermine any potential I might have for the future.

That person was far from perfect.

That person was flawed, and broken, and wounded.

That person–that man, was a liar.

That man lusted, and drank to complete excess, and blasphemed.

That man stole, and coveted, and was full of self-pity and entitlement.

That man indulged in relationships empty of all but sin.

That man did not honor his mother and father, even when they were alive.

That man felt he was such a bad friend that he helped drive someone to a bullet.

That man did anything and everything he could to willfully run from God.

That man resisted salvation with every fiber of his being.

That man thought that since God made his life difficult, then he would damn well stay away from Him.  It was not that he doubted God’s existence.  He didn’t–not anymore. He had seen things that convinced him God was real, and cared, but only for those people who led perfect and flawless lives. As servants.

There was no way that man was going to give up his own will for the will of another, even God.

He just didn’t want anything to do with Him, or what he had to offer, which was subjugation.  Conformity.  No sense of self.

That man had no concept of anything but self.

That man did not care about anything, or anyone, because it seemed that no one cared about him.

Why would God want anything at all to do with that man?  And since that was the man I was, what would be the point of approaching God with any sort of entreaty?  He would tell me to pee up a rope.

But then something happened.

I met a series of people that either told me about Jesus, or showed me his love in a very practical way.  Nothing was demanded of me, and a picture was painted of a very different sort of Jesus than I was accustomed to. 

This Jesus just loved.  

The Jesus I heard about was less concerned with a litany of rules, and more concerned with gathering lost sheep.

This Jesus cared about that man, just as he was.   Right then.

Not as he should be.

This God was in the business of healing, not condemnation.

This Jesus was a physician, and a Father.

I began to develop a different sort of awareness, and sought more and more knowledge.

I sought knowledge of God.  I began to hunger and thirst for righteousness.  I began to heal.

And I began to realize in my heart that perfection was not required.  A strict set of rules did not have to be observed to know God, and to be his child.  The Jesus that I learned about loved me in my state of disgrace, long, long before I ever sought him.  He loved me enough to endure the whip, and the crown of thorns, and the cross.  Enough to walk a steep path with a heavy piece of wood balanced on his bloody shoulders.

Sometimes now I think about Pilate bringing Jesus before the crowd after his flogging and telling them “behold the man…”

I see  myself in that crowd.  Looking up at a bloody, battered, and silent man.

I see myself calling for his death.

And he looks at me then.  He is far away, but he sees me there.

And he goes to the cross for me, even then.

Even then.

When I accepted him as Lord, it was not simply just an “aha” moment, where all things suddenly wiped off my slate (though it was that, too).  When I accepted His life, I also accepted his death, and entered into it.

I had to–it was for me.

And when I did that, the man I had been began to change.  A little at first, but then more and more.

With the awareness of  God’s love and acceptance, rather than judgment and condemnation, I began to grow, and I began to heal, and I began to care.

This man could treat people the way he wanted to be treated.

This man had genuine friendships.

This man could love, and be loved.

This man saw beyond himself.

This man longed to conform to his Father’s will for his life.

This man learned about life beyond short-term gratification,

This man saw the only cure possible for what ailed him.

This man began to put away childish things.

And with the knowledge I’ve gleaned over the past few  years, I have learned that only when I sought God’s vision for my life could I even begin to be anything approaching the person I had been designed to be, even before I was born.  What I had been doing for most of my life was trying to navigate the world without any real sense of direction.  It was really something wonderful the first time I wondered which way I should go, and heard my Father say, “This way…”

I remember the man I used to be.  But I am no longer him, though he is still a part of me.

I am a new creation, a new man.  I am not perfect, and I never will be.  I still struggle, and I still sin, and I still need to be forgiven.  But I am on a different path now.  I am walking toward God instead of away from him. I’m a husband, and a father of two boys who are just amazing examples of the wonder of God.

I am a new man.  Not always the easiest thing to remember, but that doesn’t make it any less true.

A new man.

Inside/Out

I used to wonder why it was so hard to change my behavior. Even knowing Jesus, this was difficult to do. I remember praying and praying for God to help me be better at things, or rather, at NOT DOING THEM. But it was like Paul said:

14We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. 15I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. 16And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. 17As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. (Rom 7: 14-17)

I knew my behavior was sinful (many behaviors, in many ways), but anything I tried did. Not. Ever. Work.

what’s going on inside of me

I despise my own behavior

this only serves to confirm my suspicion

that I’m still a man in need of a savior -DC Talk

And I would wonder why God would never change my behavior, no matter how earnestly I entreated Him. It wasn’t until the past year or so, after much healing, and much prayer, that I realized why:

God does not change behavior, he changes hearts.

I needed to change my heart. Or rather, I needed Jesus to change it from within.

26 I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. (Ezekiel 36:26)

It was this realization that just….shattered me. I could apply it to so many parts of my life, so many struggles. Even now I think about it.

Struggling with lust, or pornography, or acting sexually? Don’t just ask God to change your behavior, ask him to change your heart, to reach into it and find that Love that transcends all other types of love, and all substitutes for it. It’s been my experience–and part of my struggle–that my own struggles with these things were simply that. A search for something to fill the void–the sucking chest wound–the perceived absence of love had created in my life.

I had to ask God to fill that dark vacuum with light. With Love.

Or my struggles with my eating, or diet (which remain). Why is that so damn hard to change?

Because, even though I know better, what I’ve been praying for is for God to change my behavior. To take away desire. To take away my tendency to do what I don’t want to do instead of what I do.

Not to find what is lacking in my heart that causes me to eat like a Roman at a banquet, and replace it with a desire for Him.

Not to find that part within me that causes me to want to please everyone and replace it with a desire to please Him.

Not to find that place within me I retreat to when it gets hard, and dark, and cold, and to speak truth to me there.

Not to find the real me, the ME God wants me to become within the person I am right now.

I want to be that person, and I want to do those things, and I want to struggle less with certain things, and I want to see God everywhere, because he IS everywhere. But to do that, I also need to to this:

5 Trust in the LORD with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
(Proverbs 3:4)

I needed to trust in the Lord with all my heart.

I needed to trust the Lord with all my heart, every part of it.

I needed to be changed from the inside out.

And once I did that, I began to feel the desires of my heart become the desires of His.

And then I began to change.

Not with a “poof,” and a puff of smoke.

With a struggle. I still struggle. I struggle every day.

But something about having a strong back to help carry my burdens, and sins, to carry my yoke upon His own shoulders makes all the difference.

When I am able to give Him my burdens, then I the knowledge that I am a new creation actually reaches my heart.

12 Top Beer Myths

12 Most common beer myths exploded

Beer is living proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy

–Benjamin Franklin

Beer gets a bad rap. It’s blamed for so much of society’s ills, when it should be celebrated as one of the finest beverages created.

There are a number of persistent myths and urban legends about beer that are passed around that unfairly distort the facts and confuse beer drinkers.

At LegendsOfBeer.com, we’d like to set the record straight and explode 12 of the most common beer myths, for once and for all. So take a read of these myths and the truth behind them and start spreading the good beer news!

Photo by elkojote

Myth #1: The Guinness served in Ireland is different to the rest of the world

Actually, the Guinness served in Ireland is most likely the same as that served in Boston or Berlin. However, many people will attest that Guinness simply tastes better in Ireland, which is why the myth spread. There’s a certain amount of sentimentality in this myth, but when you dig into it, most of the reasoning is pretty circumstantial.

There are a few reasons why it may taste better in Ireland – most likely freshness and rapid keg turnover (a pub in Dublin will serve the freshest Guinness in the world) – but the actual product is not any different that the black stuff served around the world. Also, a Guinness drinker in Ireland is guaranteed to have their drink poured correctly in Ireland than in some parts of the world, which will have an impact on the quality of the experience.

 

Myth #2: Lite beers will help you lose weight

On average, a lite beer will have 90-100 calories, while a regular beer might have under 200. In the grand scheme of things, lite beers will contribute very little to your dietary goals, and considering their typical lack of taste, you’d be better off drinking one or two regular beers.

 

Myth #3: Dark beers are stronger in alcohol

The color of beer has no relation to its alcohol content. For example, Guinness, one of the most popular dark beers has an alcohol volume of 4.2%, while several light-colored Belgian beers have alcohol content of 8%+.

 

Myth #4: Corona beer contains urine

This was a nasty rumor claiming that Mexican brewery workers were relieving themselves into the beer. Allegedly, the rumor was spread by a Heineken distributor and was only refuted following a lawsuit by Corona.

 

Myth #5: Imported beers are stronger than American beers

Traditionally, American beers measure their alcohol content by weight, while many other countries (across Europe and in Canada) measure by volume. The alcohol by weight figure will always appear lower than the alcohol by volume – for example, 4% ABW = 5% ABV, hence the myth creation.

 

Myth #6: Beer should be served ice-cold for best flavor

This is an unfortunate myth perpetuated by the major commercial breweries – especially for their lite beers. The fact is, flavor typically diminishes when beer is served ice-cold. It may make for a thirst-quenching, refreshing beverage, but often bears little resemblance to traditional beer. Several beers are, in fact, best served much closer to room temperature or slightly cool and are considered undrinkable when icy cold – such as Guinness and many of the traditional English ales.

 

Myth #7: The best beers have green bottles

Another myth that circulated imported beers. Brown glass is the best color to protect beer from light, which is why most beers are bottled with it. A shortage of brown glass in Europe during the last century led to many breweries using green glass to bottle their beer – therefore, green bottles represented imported beer for many years and people incorrectly assumed the color indicated a better beer.

 

Myth #8: “Beer before liquor, never sicker – liquor before beer, in the clear”

This is common drinking advice shared but not scientifically true. In reality, alcohol is alcohol, and the overall quantity you imbibe will determine your resulting (in)sobriety or hangover. Drinking beer before drinking hard liquor may prolong the onset of inebriation. However, it won’t ultimately matter whether you drink beer first or last; it’s the quantity of alcohol that does the damage.

 

Myth #9: You can’t get a hangover from drinking organic beer

If only being eco-friendly was this rewarding! This myth is based on the idea that organic beer is cleaner or purer than other beer, but there’s no existing proof that it manages to avoid giving hangovers when consumed in sufficient quantities.

 

Myth #10: Beer will raise your cholesterol levels

Beer actually contains no fat and no cholesterol! Perhaps this is one reason that Guinness was originally advertised as good for your health.

 

Myth #11: A good beer must be high in alcohol

Many people unfairly associate low alcohol with low flavor. There are plenty of poor quality beers that are high in alcohol content, and the opposite is also true. Some of the famous Belgian and German beers have traditionally high average alcohol content – perhaps 8% or 10%. However, the alcohol content is only one feature and doesn’t necessarily account for the good taste. In England, many of the best mild ales have alcohol content of 4% or less – resulting from a higher tax on stronger beer. Of course, the advantage is finding good-tasting, lower alcohol beers is that you can drink more of it!

 

Myth #12: Beer kills brain cells

Possibly the most damning of all beer myths, and we’re happy to explode this for you. An Australian study has determined that beer is not responsible for killing brain cells as was once thought.