I Ate All the Blueberries

Sorry honey, they are all gone. I guess we will just have to get more…

This last Saturday my lovely wife and I took a trip to Costco for the free samples. While we were there we also did some shopping. My favorite purchase of the day was a 2 lb. box of plump, juicy, mouthwatering blueberries.

Now, I know what you are thinking. What did we need 2 lbs of blueberries for?

We needed them for eating, of course!

So, over the next few days, I did just that. Eat blueberries.

I ate blueberries so much so that earlier today, I actually found myself typing the words, “how many blueberries is too many blueberries?” into the Google machine.

I was happy to read the very first sentence my search produced. “When it comes to fruits, you can’t go wrong with blueberries.”

The article went on to talk about serving sizes and whatnot, but at that point, I didn’t care anymore. I got the answer I was hoping for and that was all that mattered to me.

“You can’t go wrong with blueberries.” That phrase was really the only thing I remember reading because it was really the only thing I wanted to see.

And that got me thinking, we as humans tend to be harmfully selective in our fact-checking. Often-times many of us will only focus on what we want to hear and see while ignoring the rest of the facts. The results are an incomplete picture of the truth. And an incomplete truth is a complete fallacy.

In this case, I stopped reading the health article because it’s first sentence justified my actions. I didn’t feel guilty gorging myself because, in my mind, the article told me it was “o.k.”

This seems like a really silly example but the underlining problem, for many of us, can be much more harmful.

Selective and biased fact-checking has led to the rise of “fake news” (from both sides, by the way.) Media outlets run stories that are designed to make us either feel good about ourselves or to be outraged at someone or something else. All this is done in an attempt to allow us to justify our feelings towards those topics or people. Remember, an incomplete truth is a complete fallacy.

Or to put it simpler, a half-truth is a total lie.

Incomplete facts often lead to wrong actions for wrong motives. That’s why the Bible, in 1 Thessalonians 5, tells us to “test everything” and to “hold fast to what is good.” The instruction is there because we humans have a tendency to so easily be led astray by “nice” sounding half/incomplete truths. That’s why we need to always be doing full and unbiased fact-checks in our lives.

So, here is a list of things/people that you should always be fully fact-checking:

  • Your Facebook feed. (Do I really need to explain this one…)
  • Your favorite pundits. (Don’t get tunnel vision.)
  • Your friends. (Even people who love us can accidentally lead us astray.)
  • Your family. (Even people who love us can accidentally lead us astray.)
  • Your Pastors. (Even people who love us can accidentally lead us astray.)
  • Your own heart. (Jer. 17:9- The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick.)

My final thought as I finish this final handful of blueberries would be the most important one: we need to be fact-checking against the backdrop of the Bible. The Word of God is everything we need for life and godliness, (2 Peter 1:3) and God has given it to us for our benefit.

If it doesn’t line up with the truth of the Bible, then it is an incomplete truth…and we all know what those are.

“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.”

Philippians 4:8-9

God is Good.

Can I just start off this post by stating an obvious and simple, yet jam-packed phrase?

God is good. Like, really really good.

I typed “good” into the Google machine looking for some synonyms and got the following.

Excellent. Exceptional. Favorable. Great. Marvelous. Satisfying. Wonderful. Superior. Ace. Boss. (Those last two make me chuckle, but they are still so true.)

The point is, God is so good, so amazing, and so incredibly other-worldly that all of these words, both, perfectly describe Him, and at the same time fall incredibly short.

The depth of God’s goodness has absolutely no end. He is wholly perfect and perfectly holy.

So, you might be wondering what happened? Why am I spending all this time praising God for His goodness? What big news do I have? What awesome thing happened to me lately that I am responding to and writing in such a way?

Nothing…and Everything.

Nothing- in the sense of what most people might think warrants praise and adoration. My life looks pretty much the same as it did last week. I don’t have any awesome or exciting news. I have often heard people say (and I am sure I have said it before as well) something along the line of, “God is so good…here is what happened.” It is almost as if “God is good” is the introduction to some bigger and better news that we have. Now, it’s necessary and appropriate to give God the glory for the things He has done in our life.

But in reality, “God is good” is the best and most important thing that we say. That phrase shouldn’t only be an introduction of good news to come, it is the good news.

God is good. Period. It doesn’t matter if we have good news to share or not. It doesn’t matter if we are in the midst of a good situation or bad. God is good regardless of our perspective.

So, in that line of thinking, no, nothing extraordinary happened to me. God just simply being God is more than enough for me to exclaim, “God is good!”

But, at the same time…everything has happened. I woke up this morning. As I write I am enjoying the comfort of one of God’s many gifts to mankind-coffee. I have an awesome, beautiful, adventurous, and brings-happy-tears-to-my-eyes-when-I-think-about-her wife. I have a wonderful church family. I have a wonderful family. I have the coolest job ever. And I have hope for eternity.

So, yeah. God has given me every reason to stand up and shout, “God is good!”

But, once again, God’s goodness isn’t dependent on my situation. Even if all those things I listed above were, in one moment, taken away from me…God would still be good. He would still be worthy to be praised. Because His ways are not our ways and His thoughts are not our thoughts. His ways and thoughts are so much higher and more incredible than ours. (Paraphrasing Isaiah 55:8-9)

Psalm 34:1-3 says, “I will bless the Lord at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth. My soul makes its boast in the Lord; let the humble hear and be glad. Oh, magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt his name together!”

Did you catch that? “at all times.” God deserves to be praised because He is good. Time, situation, and feelings shouldn’t get in the way of that.

What about you? Can you shout out loud that God is good? Today, will you, regardless of what the rest of the day looks like, recognize that there is a great, big, awesome, and good God who is worthy of being praised, and will you praise Him?

Today, even though it’s just another average day, I have every reason to say, “God is good!”

Life and Basketball

Basketball is fun and exciting. But basketball in the month of March is…really really fun and really really exciting!

The NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament is one of the most dramatic events in all of sports. Each year, without fail, the Tourney is filled with nail-biting finishes, dominant performances, and feel-good underdog stories.

Just a few days ago I was watching the last few minutes of a game, right as my wife and I were getting ready to leave for dinner. I had never watched either of the two teams before (and my bracket was busted) so I didn’t care who won or who lost. But let me tell you, those last two minutes were so incredibly entertaining. Every other play was met with my audible response. I stopped getting ready and stood, just a few feet from the T.V., with my eyes wide.

“Honey look at this replay!” I exclaimed at one point.

I was so enthralled with the game that I was undeterred by my wife’s apathetic response.

The game ended, I finished tying my shoes, and I walked out of the house with an adrenaline rush. Basketball in March is awesome.

Each team, whether they are an underdog or powerhouse, they all have one final goal. To win. To cut down the nets and be declared the best. To be champions. To leave a legacy. To have that “one shining moment.”

But “one shining moments” only last for a moment. Unforgettable plays eventually become forgotten. Champions are replaced, and last year’s records don’t count for anything the next season.

As I watch this year’s tournament I can’t help but think about the brevity of our lives. I know, I admit that is a strange thing to think about during an exciting game, but it’s true. Life is short. It occurred to me the other day that this year, and actually for a few years now, I am older than everyone playing in the tournament.

Just like that, in the blink of an eye, I’m an old man. Ok, that’s a tad bit dramatic, although my wife does keep finding grey hairs on my head. But the truth is still true, life is a lot shorter than we give it credit for.

With that being said, here are a couple of verses and thoughts that come to mind.

Isaiah 40:8 says that the grass withers and the flowers fade. You know what else withers and fades? Hearing and eyesight. But the verse doesn’t stop there. It continues with, “but the Word of our God will stand forever.” I can’t think of many more comforting words than that. God’s Word is full of promises and encouragements for those who put their trust in Him. If his Word endures forever, then that means that His promises to us endure forever as well.

Hebrews 9:27 says, “it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment.” Each and every one of us will have to give an account for what we do here in this short brief lifetime. Even those who trust Jesus will have to give an account for their actions or inactions. What we do in this life, even though it is short, really does matter.

Ephesians 5:16-17 says that we should be, “making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore, do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.” We can’t afford to let opportunities slip away from us. Each and every moment is important. As John Piper would say, “Don’t waste your life!”

What we do in this temporary life impacts our eternity. Yes, life is short, but Jesus came to earth to ensure that all who put their trust in Him don’t need to worry about perishing, but instead He offers eternal life. Real and lasting life can only be found in Jesus. He gave us a “one shining moment” on the cross that will last forever.

Soon the Sweet 16 will become the Elite 8. Then the bracket will be whittled down to the Final Four. After that, there will be a champion (*cough* Kansas…erhm what) and just like that, the tournament will be over.

Soon you will get older, and sooner than you realize, it will be your time to exit the tournament. What kind of effort will you give? What kind of legacy will you leave? Will you be a champion?

“Only one life,’ twill soon be past,

Only what’s done for Christ will last.”

-C.T. Studd

What’s In A Name?

I recently was having breakfast with a very good friend and he asked, “So, why do you call your blog “The Sidebar? What’s the meaning behind it?” I explained it to him and now I feel as though this would be a great time to explain it to you as well.

You see the definition of a sidebar is something along the lines of a ‘thing’ that is written, spoken, or given in addition to something else. Let me put it this way, have you ever been talking to a person and all of a sudden, a thought pops into your head and you interrupt yourself? Something like, “Hey, look at that beautiful German Shepherd—by the way, did you know that German Shepherds are the second most popular dog in America?”

This additional information usually is connected to the original thought and provides helpful details. In websites and newspapers, sidebars help to support the main articles and provide a roadmap for reading the whole issue.

Sidebars are secondary to the main point but helpful nonetheless.

So, why would I want my blog posts to be secondary to something else? Because the Word of God is always the primary, everything else comes after.

If you read and enjoy my posts, praise God! That’s awesome! I am so glad and thankful that you take the time and effort to read what I put together. But please, and hear me on this, please don’t let these Sidebars be a substitute for the real thing, for the main thing. The main thing is and needs to always be the Bible, God’s written word to us. His love letter to us, the people He created.

Psalm 119:9-11 is a passage that is a good reminder of why we ought to be soaking in the Bible on a daily basis.

“How can a young man [or young woman, or old man, or old woman for that matter] keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word. With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments! I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.”

We read the Bible in order to draw us closer to God, to keep us from sin, and to guide us in the way of life. The incredible man, D.L. Moody is credited as saying, “The Bible will keep you from sin, or sin will keep you from the Bible.”

It’s called The Sidebar because it is secondary to the main thing but still helpful. There is another reason why I chose this particular name.

Have you ever sat down with a friend to enjoy coffee and some deep conversations when all of a sudden something that is said catapults your mind in a completely different direction? You begin talking about one subject and by the time you walk away the conversation has changed topics a dozen times.

If you are anything like me then this probably happens to you a lot. It’s not a bad thing. People and things remind us of other people and things. One idea makes us think of another related idea. It’s just how our minds work.

That is the goal behind a Sidebar. As we face various situations, issues, and events may our minds be continually drawn back to the truth. What if everyday situations would cause us to focus, or refocus, on something relatable and far more important. What if we continually related the real-life situations we face with the real-life biblical truth. These connections between everyday events and the truth we find in God’s Word are not hard to make when we allow God to work in our lives.

Romans 12:2 challenges us, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

I hope that this quick little Sidebar in your day has drawn you to focus on the incredible God who loves you and the awesome Word He has given you. That has been and will continue to be the goal of this blog.

“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” -Philippians 4:8