Sunday, April 23, 2017

The Seven I Am Statements of Jesus: Who is Jesus?


Audio Message:




Who is Jesus? Who is it really that we’re following? What did Jesus say about himself, and his identity? We talk about Him enough don’t we? Jesus this, Jesus that, but who is Jesus? 

The prophet Isaiah, an Old Testament prophet wrote about Jesus, and who he was, before Jesus was even born. In fact there are dozens of descriptions in the Old Testament about who Jesus was, even before he was born into the world. Isaiah wrote:

“He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem. Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted." -Isaiah 53:3-4 NIV




Yet at the beginning of John’s gospel, which is what we’ll be looking at today, it’s also said about Jesus, that he is the Word. Which is a phrase that seems to describe Jesus as a voice of God in the world. John wrote:

John 1:1-5, 9-14 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4 In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind.5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome[a] it.

9 The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world.10 He was in the world, and though the world was made through him,the world did not recognize him. 11 He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. 12 Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— 13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.

14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

John this guy, two thousand years ago said “We SAW HIM.” We hung out with Jesus. And we witnessed his glory day in and day out. They chilled with Jesus. They hung out with him all the time and he mentored them. Anybody here ever had a person mentor them? Support them? Spend time with them? That’s what Jesus did with the first disciples, the first Christians.

The gospel of John is by far my favorite gospel. I really think it was written down by John for just our time in history. If you’ll open your bibles to John, that’s where we’ll be looking today.

We talk about Jesus a lot. We use his name a lot. But how well do we know him? How well do we know and obey the one we follow? We’ve got to stay in the word of God, the Bible. The more we read it, the more it becomes a part of our mind. And we access Jesus through the word.

Jesus said that through the word he had given his disciples, they had been made clean. The word of God is our most direct means of accessing God and being transformed by God.

Today we’re going to specifically talk about the 7 I Am statements of Jesus in John. The 7 “I Am” Statements of Jesus are a great way to build in your mind a framework of who jesus is and what his position as our “savior” really means. I’d encourage you to memorize one or more of these “I am” statements. And recite them in your prayers to God. And recite them to yourself when your struggling or in need.

What comes into our minds when we think about Jesus is the most important thing about us. That’s what A.W. Tozer a great Christian pastor said. And it’s true. Everything hinges on our relationship with Jesus Christ. So let us pay the most careful attention to what Jesus says about himself.

In John Chapter 6:35-40 It says: 35 Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.36 But as I told you, you have seen me and still you do not believe.37 All those the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. 38 For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. 39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all those he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. 40 For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.”

1. Jesus said, “I am the bread of life.”


Therefore according to the word Jesus is our sustainer.

He provides for all our needs. Which is why we have food to eat and water to drink. That’s why I always thank God before I eat any meal. I encourage you to do the same. So many people, even Christians don’t pray before their meals. And I think to myself, what are they doing! God has given us such abundant food in this country, yet we don’t thank Him? Are we so entitled, and so snotty to think that we deserve all this abundance? We don’t deserve anything. We receive what God gives us.

Jesus loves us. He is our bread of life. Whoever comes to Jesus will never go hungry or thirsty. Jesus indicates how we should live in response to this gift: Live to do God’s will, and not our own wills. That’s what Jesus did. He did the Father’s will perfectly. We are called to do the same, to live as God wants us to live.

Challenge the lies of the world: Do you provide for you? Are you the ultimate source of what you have? That is a lie of the world. That we have to force things in our lives to go a certain way by manipulating people and circumstances to meet our needs. Ultimately our real provider is Jesus. And we can live that way, with that mindset.

2. Jesus said I am the light of the world. 

Jesus is our illuminator

From John chapter 8 verse 12: “12 Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

What a mysterious saying. What did Jesus mean by this, to say he is the light of the world? I think several factors play into this. First, the word of God says that Jesus actually holds reality together. In this way, Jesus is the light of the world, in that he guides reality. Yet we get another clue about light and darkness earlier in the book of John, in chapter three it says:

John 3:20-21 (NIV) says: 20 Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. 21 But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.

So we who choose to follow Jesus, step from the darkness into the light. The darkness is a place of hiding, of fleeing from god. We hide the evil we do, and refuse to accept that God is real and that we are accountable to Him. But those of who follow Jesus, are willing to admit, yes we do everything in the presence and sight of God, we step into the light, and say yes, I am under God’s light, I choose to show that what I do is done before God. We live in the light of Christ. And this isn’t always easy. Because if there is sin in our lives, addiction, sexual sin, masturbation, pornography, lying, cheating, stealing, that light of Christ burns those areas of our soul. And we’re convicted by those areas. And we’re disturbed deeply by them. If you really belong to Jesus Christ, and then you go and sleep with some random girl or guy, let me tell you, you’ll have a very hard time enjoying it. Because your living in the light, and you’ll know that you’ve done that before God. The light burns the sin out of our lives. Because we can’t stand the sin when we live in the light. We want it gone. We hunger and thirst to be holy and righteous. Which feels better than any fleeting pleasure of sin.

Before I knew Jesus I couldn’t see much. I couldn’t see any thing really. I was blind. I kinda understood that I was human and I existed and I suppose to I don’t know, get a job, or go to college, or have a family or something. But I had no idea what life was really about. Couldn’t really figure it out.

But when I came to know Jesus, finally I could see what life was really about, and what the meaning of life was.

3. Jesus said I am the gate. 
Jesus is our doorway.

John 10:7-16 says: “I tell you the truth, I am the gate for the sheep. 8 All who came before me[a] were thieves and robbers. But the true sheep did not listen to them. 9 Yes, I am the gate. Those who come in through me will be saved.[b] They will come and go freely and will find good pastures. 10 The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.

Jesus said again and again, “I’m telling you the truth.” Not my truth, not a truth, not one of many truths, but the truth. I love that about Jesus. I so desperately want to know the truth about this messed up, yet beautiful and mysterious world we live in. Jesus gives me the truth. It isn’t always easy to hear, but at least it’s the truth. And we have to love the truth if we’re going to recognize it.

Jesus is our doorway into the truth. He is literally the door through whom we walk to receive new birth, eternal life, an entirely new life, from the dead world that we come from. Emptiness, darkness, sin, decadence, Jesus removes it all. But we have to come through Jesus, not through ourselves, or our ideas, or by way of a pastor or preacher, or through religious ceremonies. We have to come personally, you, alone to Jesus and ask Him to be your savior, to remove your sins, and give you new birth through the power of the Holy Spirit.

It’s the truth. But only through Jesus. But in Jesus we find a life of purpose, a rich and satisfying life. I used to be a drug addict. Emptiness, loneliness, confusion, ego, pride, all of those things encompass that lifestyle. And it’s lame. It’s boring. Jesus gave me a life that means something. Where I can do things that are important. He can give that to you too!

The lie of the world this relates to is self-sufficiency. The world tells us, the television, which I like to call the “tell lie vision” tells us we have to do it ourselves. Me, me, me! What I want! I deserve it. It’s all about looking to ourselves and our aspirations and our dreams and our goals. That isn’t what we’re called to. We’re called to look to Jesus, and enter through him. Not our own opinions. Forget our own opinions, most of them are wrong. Look to Jesus and the word of God, and embrace those views, they are the truth. Just as Jesus said, I am telling you the truth. Take it or leave it.

4. Jesus said I am the good shepherd. 

Jesus is our leader.

Now in the same chapter, just one verse after Jesus says that he is the gate. He continues and says:

John 10:11-18 (NLT) says,“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd sacrifices his life for the sheep. 12 A hired hand will run when he sees a wolf coming. He will abandon the sheep because they don’t belong to him and he isn’t their shepherd. And so the wolf attacks them and scatters the flock. 13 The hired hand runs away because he’s working only for the money and doesn’t really care about the sheep.

14 “I am the good shepherd; I know my own sheep, and they know me, 15 just as my Father knows me and I know the Father. So I sacrifice my life for the sheep. 16 I have other sheep, too, that are not in this sheepfold. I must bring them also. They will listen to my voice, and there will be one flock with one shepherd.

17 “The Father loves me because I sacrifice my life so I may take it back again. 18 No one can take my life from me. I sacrifice it voluntarily. For I have the authority to lay it down when I want to and also to take it up again. For this is what my Father has commanded.”

Not only is Jesus our gate of entry, our doorway to salvation, Jesus also goes along with us on the journey. It’s kind of like Lord of the Rings, the heroes go on their quest, and Gandalf comes with. That’s what Jesus does for us. He comes with us, and protects us on the journey of life. Not only that, but he leads us. And ultimately he laid down his life for us. Jesus says that he knows us, and we know him, if we’re part of his family. And he says they’ll listen to my voice. And surely we do, don’t we? That’s why we read the Bible and study the gospels.

Jesus also says that he lays down his life voluntarily, which is what he did on the cross. No one took him by force and sent him to the cross. He’s God on Earth, if he wanted he could strike down everyone around him with a mere thought. But no, he goes voluntarily, he knew he had to, to die for our sins. To receive the punishment we deserved.

5. Jesus said I am the resurrection and the life. 

Jesus is our life giver.

John 11:20-27 says: "Now Martha, as soon as she heard that Jesus was coming, went and met Him, but Mary was sitting in the house. 21 Now Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 But even now I know that whatever You ask of God, God will give You.”

23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.”

24 Martha said to Him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”

25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. 26 And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?”

27 She said to Him, “Yes, Lord, I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.”

We all know the historical event of Mary and Martha. Their brother died. And Jesus came, and raised Lazarus from the dead. Why did Jesus do this? What was the meaning of this event?

One of the worst things about life is that we grow old and die. In fact it’s so normal, that we don’t even hardly think about it. We just assume that we grow up, then start getting wrinkly, then eventually we die.

Jesus is the only one who can deal with this issue of death. And fundamentally at the core of the gospel is that Jesus Christ tells us that if we believe in him we can live forever. Forever. So I think Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead to show us quite clearly that he was God and he had the power to raise us from the dead after we die as well. Plain and simple, if you want to live forever, believe in Jesus. He can raise us from the dead, he’s shown us he can, when he raised Lazarus.

6. Jesus said I am the way, the truth, and the life. 
Jesus is our road home.

Jesus is sitting down with all the disciples. And things are happening. The wheels of reality are turning. The establishment has put up with Jesus and his teachings, his miracles for this long. Jesus has been fought and attacked and mobbed and the religious leaders are just about done with him. In fact one of his twelve, Judas, has decided to betray Jesus. Jesus is having the last supper with the disciples. And they are all super sad, because their best friend is telling them some very bad things are about to happen. And Jesus can tell his friends are sad. So he says:

John 14:1-7 says: “Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me. 2 There is more than enough room in my Father’s home.[a] If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you?[b] 3 When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am. 4 And you know the way to where I am going.”

5 “No, we don’t know, Lord,” Thomas said. “We have no idea where you are going, so how can we know the way?”

6 Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me. 7 If you had really known me, you would know who my Father is. From now on, you do know him and have seen him!”

Jesus is so awesome. He says, dude, Thomas, I am the way. Come through me, I’m your God. You’ve been with me all this time. Thomas didn’t get it. Many of us struggle to “get it” too I think. But we can come to understand these things. If we’re diligent about pursuing Jesus.

Jesus makes the most astonishing statement. And it’s beautifully put. John 14:6 is my life verse. After my parents divorced when I was 16 I went on a rampage. I just like, threw up my hands and said I’ve had enough. Because I had honestly tried so hard to do as I was told and fit into the system. I tried to get good grades, but the classes were awful and the teachers didn’t care about what they taught. I tried to be a good sports star just like my dad wanted, but the coaches were corrupt, they pushed their own sons to starting positions. They did nothing when I was mercilessly mocked and bullied by the other players. Everyday I would go to school, get bullied by the preps, then go to practice, get bullied by the jocks, then I’d come home to my parents screaming at each other in the hallway. So I’d go in my room, and cry, and turn on Korn.

When my parents split my dad refused to talk to me because I quit basketball. I started doing pills, and the preps got scared, because they knew how much they bullied me, so they got me expelled. And I was expelled. I woke up in a mental hospital and was told I was expelled.

For the next 10 years I just said screw it, I’m not gonna care about anything. I’m gonna do whatever feels good, I’m gonna do drugs, and I’m gonna chase girls, and I’m gonna kill myself eventually. That was the plan. But part of me was wondering what life was really about, because the public schools, the material life, the videogames, the parties, it all felt empty.

Years went by, as I wondered what the meaning of life was. Why am I here? What should I do? Jesus Christ answered all of my questions in one sentence in John 14:6 when he said, “I’m the way, I’m the truth, and I’m the life.” Jesus is the way to live. Follow his example. Jesus is the meaning of life, Jesus is truth itself. And what is the meaning of life? Well because Jesus is the life, I can live forever. Eternal life is the meaning of life.

7. Jesus said I am the true vine. 
Jesus is our source.

In the final I am statement of Jesus, the 7th, Jesus is saying, so now you know me, I’m your savior now, and Jesus is saying, “remain with me.” Don’t get lost, you’ve got to stay connected to me. He says:

John 15:1-8: “I am the true grapevine, and my Father is the gardener. 2 He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more. 3 You have already been pruned and purified by the message I have given you. 4 Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me.

5 “Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing. 6 Anyone who does not remain in me is thrown away like a useless branch and withers. Such branches are gathered into a pile to be burned. 7 But if you remain in me and my words remain in you, you may ask for anything you want, and it will be granted! 8 When you produce much fruit, you are my true disciples. This brings great glory to my Father.”
All the odds are stacked against you out there. The world of sin will try to rip Jesus away from you, through temptations, through boredom, through family, drugs, sin, and through friends among many other things.

I urge you, cling to the Bible as if your life depended on it, because it does. Cling to prayer, because communication is the beating heart of our relationship with God. If we aren’t doing this two simple things, we aren’t a Christian, we’re nobody.

If we stay plugged into Jesus, then we’re gonna do great things. That’s what Jesus means by bearing fruit. If we remain in Christ’s love, by following him day in and day out, then we’re gonna grow, change, and do incredible things.

Many of my friends say that they got saved, that they encountered the risen living Jesus Christ when they were young, 5 years old, 8 years old, 10, 13, 15, 17, 18. Still others tell me they didn't encounter Jesus until much later in their lives.  It can happen for you now. Maybe it already has. But I want to offer the opportunity for you to make that commitment to Jesus today. Right now.

So let me present the gospel to you. Essentially, this is the gospel: Humanity fell away from God, long ago. And ever since the human race has been lost in sin. We all know we’re sinners, that we struggle with stealing, lying, cheating, using others, drugs, addiction, and all sorts of sins that entangle us, hurt us, and hurt those we love. The truth is we’ve sinned against God. And everytime we sin it adds to this list of the wrongs we’ve committed against God.

Unfortunately, no matter how hard we try to be good, we can’t do it. I know, I’ve tried to be good. Sin always seems to overcome all the good I try to do.

But God decided long ago that he was going to come into the world, and defeat the sin problem. That is why God became Jesus Christ, born as a man, and Jesus lived a perfect life. He never sinned once. He was fulfilling the mandate for each person to live as God desires us to live. He served others, healed the sick, spoke the truth, and loved his friends. Jesus willingly went to the cross, he wasn’t forced, he went of his own choice. Jesus was whipped until his back was bloody. He had nails driven through his hands and feet. And he was mounted up on the cross, to die slowly.

And on the cross, all of my sins, the entire debt that I had accumulated, all my sin, was placed upon Jesus Christ while he was on the cross. When I believe in Jesus, all my sin is transferred to Jesus. And in return, I receive his perfect righteousness. It’s like I put on Jesus as a garment of pure white. 




So it’s a simple trade. Jesus receives all my sin, and I receive his righteousness. Jesus died on the cross. He cried out father why have you forsaken me? And at this moment God the Father turned his face away from God the son, and condemned him as payment for the sins of you and me. Jesus lay dead for three days in the tomb. And then Jesus did the impossible. He was resurrected from the dead. So not only does Jesus pay our debt through his death on the cross, but he also resurrects from the dead, to show us that He is God, and that He will give us eternal life. He was saying with his resurrection that if you believe in me you will be resurrected after your death and you will live forever. Just as Jesus lives forever, right now. Jesus is alive right now. 




 If you believe three simple things, and insist in your mind that they are true, then you will be saved:

1. Jesus is God and man and lived perfectly, never sinned.

2. Jesus our savior died on the cross paying the debt you owned for the sins you’ve done over your life.

3. Jesus resurrected from the dead and is alive right now in heaven and he is coming again. We believe that through Jesus resurrection we are given new life as well, we are born again by the Holy Spirit.

Believe in your heart, and testify with your mouth. Very simple.

Who do you say that Jesus is? Is he just some guy? Or is He God your savior? 




Ultimately the choice is yours.  God offers us the sacred gift of choice.  You can believe conspiracy theories from the internet, about gnostic gospels and Da Vincian conspiracies made up in novels, or you can push aside all those lies, and trust in Jesus.  History attests to Christ.  He really existed.  The Bible is a historical document, with thousands of manuscripts that match one another.  Myths that preceeded Christianity have little in common with Christian history, which is based in fact, not fiction.  And the amazing harmonious complexity of the universe leads us to consider the fact that we live in a designed universe, tailored to support human life.  

Those are the facts.  But the choice is yours.  I offer it to you now.  Jesus once asked the disciples: Who do you say that I am?  And Peter replied, "Your are the messiah, the son of God."  How will you respond?  The choice is yours, make a good one. 


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4. Seven Objections to the Bible and Seven Reasonable Responses
5. 10 Answers to Common Questions Raised by Skeptics
6. Secular Views vs. Christian Truth
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Sunday, April 16, 2017

Resurrection Sunday: He is Risen!


Accompanying Video:



Message Audio:


As I journeyed to see family this last week I drove through the great woods of Wisconsin. And I looked at the trees along the road, and they looked like bundled up cord wood ready for the fire. Always right around this time of year, the trees look so dead. All their leaves have fallen off, and it seems like no life could possibly come from them. I looked at them realizing that in less than a month they would all be budding with green life. But my mind couldn’t quite comprehend it. See, Looks can be deceiving.

Today as we conclude our journey with Christ to the cross we consider the greatest event in the history of the world. That event is the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Like the trees before spring, Jesus appeared by all measurable standards to have died a brutal death on the cross. He had been whipped, he had been mistreated, charges were layed against him that were false. He was questioned by the roman governor, and the governor, to appease the jewish leaders, agreed to the crucifixion of the son of God. Jesus was made to carry his own cross up the hill, the garbage dump, where he would be crucified next to two criminals.

Jesus died on the cross. He suffered greatly, and he died. In fact the roman soldier who was there actually plunged a spear into the side of Jesus. There was no reaction, no jerk of pain, no reaction, Jesus was dead.

John the disciple of Jesus saw all of it happen. So did Jesus’ mother. The day ended, night fell, and the son of God was dead. It must’ve seemed to the disciples as they gathered together in hiding, with the doors locked, that evil had triumphed over good once again. Their dear friend, their teacher, mentor, and God was dead. What could they do? They must’ve assumed it was all over. They must’ve began planning the future, considering what they might do, and how they might proceed forward. For all Jesus had promised, it had all come to nothing. The depression, the sorrow in the room must’ve been palpable.

It's interesting that three full days went by. Three days can go very quickly, or it can seem like an eternity. I imagine for the disciples it must’ve felt like an eternity. Those days must’ve rolled by like molasses in January. One day, next day, and the next.

The women, Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James, went to the tomb on the third day, to care for the body of Jesus, and they were astonished to find the tomb was empty. Where could Jesus’ body be? Who took him?

Then something remarkable happened. The women were astonished at what they saw.

The women came back to the rest of the disciples and told them this wild story of two glorious bright beings who appeared to them and told them Jesus had “risen.”

Luke chapter 24 reveals two beings that glowed like lightning, and said to the twomen: ““Why do you look for the living among the dead? 6 He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: 7 ‘The Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.’

Now if I was one of the guys I would probably say, yeah, right, whatever. I’d probably accuse them of making it up. And then I’d dismiss it as delusional thinking. They saw what they wanted to see! But then something incredible happens. The greatest surprise imaginable.

Jesus walks through the door, and shows himself to his disciples. He walks right over to Thomas, who was refusing to believe the women, that Jesus was alive, and he said to Thomas, put your hand into the scars on my hands, and into the hole in my side. Stop doubting, and believe. And for many of us, Jesus is saying to us, stop doubting and believe. I am your God and I am risen from dead. The grave cannot hold the son of God.

We must believe that Jesus Christ was resurrected from the dead by God our Father. That is central to the gospel. And if you think about it, if God can make the universe from nothing, resurrecting Jesus from the dead really isn’t that hard is it? Jesus is risen.

Jesus appeared to the disciples numerous times, one of the most beautiful I think is when Peter is out fishing, and Jesus appears on the shore, and Peter is so excited to see his friend, his brother, his God he jumps right out of the boat and swims to shore. Jesus shares a meal with them. And later he sits with Peter and asks him a question. He asks Peter: Do you love me? And Peter replies. Yes Lord, I love you. Jesus asks Peter this question three times, because earlier, when Jesus was betrayed by Judas, Peter had denied knowing Jesus three times. Did Jesus hold this against Peter? No. He invites him to proclaim his love for Jesus three times as an act of repentance.

If Jesus was dead, it would’ve been easy to prove it. All the Jewish leaders had to do, all the Roman authorities had to do was produce the body of jesus and say here he is, he’s dead, and Christianity would’ve died on that day. But they didn’t, they couldn’t, because Jesus was alive and walking around.

Some suggested that the disciples stole the body of Jesus from the tomb, because they were so obsessed with proving that Jesus was the Son of God. But if they did that, do you think they’d all be willing to die for a lie? History records that all of Jesus original disciples were killed for their testimony, aside from John. If they were lying, if they stole the body, don’t you think facing death they would confess the truth to save their lives? They never did, each of them died saying that Jesus was alive and God.

He is risen. Jesus had to be nailed to the cross, scorned, and left to die to pay the cost of our sins. Jesus paid the debt of our sins on the cross. But Jesus Christ also had to rise from the dead, to show that not only had he paid our debt, but he had also adopted us as his beloved children, and given us eternal life. If God can raise Christ from the dead, which he did, then he will also raise us from the dead after we die, to enjoy relationship with Him in the eternal city, the new Jerusalem.

He is risen. This moment changed all history. It was the surprise that established the kingdom of God, the church on Earth, setting it’s foundations in stone. All of our hope is upon the resurrection of Christ. And if he were here bodily with us right now, as he was with the disciples, we would see the scars on his hands and on his side, where he was pierced for our transgressions, and slaughtered for our mistakes. Yet he is risen. He did everything for us. Jesus has become all things to us and everything is about Jesus. Praise God for this mighty gift. He is risen!




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Friday, April 7, 2017

How to live as a consistently growing Christian


Brass tacks, let's talk practical application.  What are the most common practices that underpin a legitimate growing Christian faith?  I consider in my own life, how I can be a real, genuine follower of Jesus.  Not just a faker, or a part time believer.  What does it look like where the rubber meets the road?  How can I grow as a Christian?

As the word of God says, "Let us move beyond the elementary teachings about Christ and be taken forward to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death, and of faith in God" (Hebrews 6:1 NIV).

One of the most important parts of the Christian life is communication.  We are living in a relationship with God almighty.  Relationships require communication. I try to pray at least three times a day. 

The greats of Christianity prayed sometimes 1-3 hours a day, often in the morning.  The scriptures say Jesus often went away to lonely places to pray (Luke 5:16).  I tend to pray about 5 min in the morning, not more than 1-2 minutes at lunch, if that, and at night is my major prayer time, when I tend to pray about 10-30 minutes.  Many would probably say that isn't enough.  I know many Christian greats prayed for hours each day, but I always think of the scripture which says "The gentiles think by their many words that they'll be heard" Matthew 6:7.  Who said that?  Some guy named Jesus.  Interesting.  And he followed that statement saying, "instead pray like this" and he indicated the Lord's prayer.  I pray the Lord's prayer every night, and I tend to follow that up with intercession in the form of the five finger prayer.  I also take time to express my emotions and deepest thoughts to God.  I think our prayer life should be growing in vibrance and length if we are growing Christians.  

Here's one I never knew: Buy a good Bible! And put it in a leather case. Carry it with you to church, and carry it with you throughout the week.  Ding ding, that's correct!  I never knew that really.  I kept giving away my Bibles though, so I'd always find myself without one.  If you don't have a Bible, get one, obviously.  But consider it your constant companion, put it in a case, highlight, underline, jot down notes in the margins. The Bible isn't a novel to be read once and discarded, it's to be studied, examined closely, and considered.  

Though with smart phone Bible apps and websites today, many use those more so than paper print Bibles.  I certainly use Biblegateway.com and Biblehub.com among many others, but I also use a good paper print Bible.  I like the new living translation, and the NIV is also excellent.  For straight up accuracy, I recommend an ESV or NASB, but for modern language, evangelism, and such, I recommend the NLT or the MSG.  

I have a really, really hard time picking up a book to read.  It's insanely difficult for me.  If you have that same problem, I recommend listening to audio Bibles.  They are available free on Biblegateway.com and other sites.  Or just buy it from Christian Audio or Christian Book dot com.  And listen.  But I still have to read that paper copy, I really do.  I had such a hard time with that.  So I asked God, Please help me with this reading thing, I'm not good at it.  And he did.  He provided to me (through a gift) a small hand held Bible that I found I could hold up and read in bed quite comfortably.  And God established the pattern in my life, where I do now lay down every single night, and I read 1-2 chapters from the New Testament.  It isn't that hard when we ask God for help.  It really isn't.  

Study Bibles are great.  Two I recommend are the Reformation Study Bible and the NIV study Bible. The Matthew Henry commentary is also quite awesome.  

Thirdly, have a good daily devotional.  Read it in the morning before you go to work.  Some say this is impossible.  I understand, it seemed impossible to me.  Once again, we ask God for help and suddenly the pattern is established and we enjoy it.  Let me tell you, if your married, one of the most beautiful things to do is read a morning devotional with your wife or husband and discuss it.  Truly a beautiful practice.

Here are some daily devotionals I recommend:
Jesus Calling by Sarah Young
Take Time to Be Holy by Samuel Logan Brengle
My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers
Morning and Evening with Charles Spurgeon

Attend local church services four times a month (every Sunday).  What a shocker right?  It's amazing how many people will only attend services once a month, or twice a month.  It seems to be the new normal.  I know for me personally, I need to be fed four times a month through full worship services. 

It's not hard to find a decent church.  Google churches in your area.  Try out a few until you find one that is spirit-filled and biblically driven.  If your out of town a lot, fine, attend a church wherever you happen to be.  There are churches everywhere!  Something I look forward to on vacation or when I'm out of town is getting a fresh perspective from a church or denomination I've never learned from before.  If your church is dead or non-biblical, then find a different one.  

But let me be clear, church shopping isn't a cool thing to do.  If your firmly part of a good church community, stick around, even if something bad happens, try to work it out.  Sometimes people will bounce from church to church, leaving every time something happens.  That's just not a healthy thing to do. Community, relationships, church in general is messy.   But be willing to work out conflicts when they occur, don't just run.  I've made this mistake in the past, it's not a good thing to do.  Resolve those conflicts, because the church family is your family and it matters.  

Take part in a small group or weekly Bible study.  These are awesome.  Sometimes I would look forward to small group more so than church services themselves.  If one small group doesn't work out or you don't jive with the personalities, ask to be linked up with a different one.  I didn't attend small groups at first because the first one I tried I really didn't like the people, eventually I asked to be part of a different one and in that one I made lots of friends and had a great experience!  Small group, Bible study, is just wonderful. Sometimes it's deeper and more thought-provoking and meaningful that the church services.  Why?  Because we are participating and really studying the word.  I have a bit of a problem with some small groups at bigger churches, because they rarely open the Bible.  It's all just videos of mega-church pastors and videos of preachers.  And the Bible is never studied.  Try to find one where they actually open the Bible, or work through studies of the Bible!  

Regularly share your faith in Jesus.  This is my favorite thing to do.  I love to share my faith.  And I love to find new ways to share it.  Go to all nations and preach the gospel!  Baptize them, and bring them in.  That's our mission.  Be creative.  Be bold.  This is one of those rare Christian activities where the presence of God will astonish you.  You'll be amazed.  It isn't easy though, and this is when the enemy will come against you most ferociously.  The enemy doesn't care if your a silent Christian.  But when you start telling people, wearing it on your sleeve, sharing Bible verses on social media, emailing your friends, writing blogs, giving your testimony, and ministering and meeting with people you know to tell them more, better watch out, because now your really living your faith.  That's when the spiritual warfare will come upon you, but that's a different subject.  

Second aspect of sharing faith in Christ centers on participation in church ministries and volunteering.  This is a vital part of what we do.  There is an absolute crisis of volunteering in the non-profit world and in the Christian ministry world.  Where are the dynamic Christ-followers who yearn to serve?  When I first got saved I wanted to serve in church ministries.  I got involved with prayer team, with creative team and with planning committee. In the Salvation Army, I serve by going into the nursing homes and visiting with the elderly, visiting elderly in their homes who have a hard time getting out, boys club, youth ministries, and camp trips.  How can you get more involved at your local church?  There are so many ways to serve, from picking up trash along highways to evangelism outreaches.  If your church doesn't have ministry opportunities volunteer at your local Salvation Army food pantry, friendship kitchen, St. Vincent De Paul, Big Brothers Big Sisters, Seventh Day Adventist pantry, Red Cross, or other non-profit entity.  

Growth means study, I really believe that.  I love to read books, listen to audiobooks, and learn.  Growth is fun.  It should be too. Watch presentations by the greats on You Tube.  And read lots of books, if your like me, bad attention span, listen to audiobooks.  Here are twelve of my favorite books (in no particular order) for additional study and growth in Christian faith (I could name two hundred but for the sake of time and space we'll stick with this list)

1. I don't have Enough Faith to be an Atheist by Norm Geisler & Frank Turek
2. The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence
3. The Pilgrim's Progress by John Bunyan (get it in modern english unless you prefer the old style)
4. Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis
5. The Strategy of Satan by Warren Wiersbe
6. Knowing God by J.I. Packer
7. The Cross of Christ by John R.W. Stott
8. Tortured for Christ by Richard Wurmbrand
9. The Power of Positive Thinking by Norman Vincent Peale
10. The Pursuit of God by A.W. Tozer
11. Has Christianity Failed You by Ravi Zacharias
12. Orthodoxy by G.K. Chesterton

Lastly, change literally everything in your life to revolve around Jesus Christ.  Didn't say it would be easy, but it is quite possible.  In fact the more I commune with God and ask him to set me free from sins in my life, the more I realize that it is inevitable.  Let me say that again, it is inevitable, every dirty nasty piece that still hangs on will be gone, gone, gone in the fullness of time.  It is inevitable, like the rising of the sun in the morning, nothing can stop it. God's power, His work in me is unstoppable, it can't be defeated, and He will accomplish it all.  So it isn't so hard, in fact, if your surrendered to Christ, it will all happen, in His timing.



Related Posts:
1. How do I become a Christian?
2. What is the Gospel?
3. Does man need God in Western Civilization
4. Seven Objections to the Bible and Seven Reasonable Responses
5. 10 Answers to Common Questions Raised by Skeptics
6. Secular Views vs. Christian Truth
7. The Power of Love in Western Culture
8. Outlook for a Revived American Christianity
9. Questions on Salvation and God
10. Processing the Past and Being Restored

Monday, April 3, 2017

Why Am I Here: Beauty, the Universe, and the Search for God

CC 2.0 via Pixabay
Beauty surrounds us.  We see it everyday, the blue sky, the clouds, the night sky, and all these gorgeous mysteries. If you live in the city it's relatively obscured, isn't it?  Out here in the country, in upper Michigan it's amazing.  It's astonishing to see the wildlife, the forests, and the bright lights in the heavens.  

One might be tempted to forget that we exist on a sphere orbited by a smaller sphere, together orbiting a giant ball of fire in the midst of interstellar space. Yes, I know, it's not really fire, it's hydrogen and helium. Gas and plasma. Don't fact check my idioms.

We must find time to ponder the complexities of life.  We must find time to think about the harmonious wonders of the natural world.  And even beauty, yes that pervasive yet fleeting conjugation of mystery, wonder, and love.   

We are often urged: Don't think too much about it just live your life.  Don't wonder too much about the meaning of life they say. Just live your life and stop asking questions. After death comes the nothingness, right?

I have a hard time believing that when I look up at the sky.  Or when I gaze at the moon at night or the sun in the day.  Beauty, awe, and glory seem to me to be hints that there is something much greater beyond it all. It draws me to consider things like biology, evolution, the origin of life, and the big bang. 

The naturalistic suggestion of evolution from space rocks and stellar dust billions of years ago has never sat well with me.  I don't think it's a particularly feasible suggestion for the origin of species. But it's a great way to evade that pesky God question. 

I think the anthropic principle (fine tuning of the universe) and the statistical improbability (1 in 10 to the 80th power) of the universe coming about by chance utterly destroy the concept of an unguided, uncaused universe.  That and the cosmological argument, that anything that begins to exist must have a cause; the universe began to exist at the big bang, requiring a cause, and that cause must be spaceless, timeless, omnipotent and personal... well, that about does it for me.  

Of course the 2nd law of thermodynamics (entropy) ought to invalidate evolution right off the bat, but then they say, "oh the universe is a closed system so the 2nd law doesn't apply."  To which I would reply, "what evidence do you have to say that the universe is a closed system?" Just as much evidence as you have for the multiverse, none. But science lately is getting a bit ridiculous.

Many journals and magazines end up violating the laws of scientific inquiry, like occams razor, which cuts off the multiverse very quickly.  But they don't really care about their own rules. They just want to prove their presuppositions.  And if you view Wikipedia articles on entropy or occams razor or murphys law, you notice that these article writers start to try to redefine these terms and ideas when these ideas invalidate their presuppositions.  Very unscientific and dishonest.  It's so tough these days to discern between those pushing an ideology and those seeking after the truth. But we haven't been as interested as we should've been about truth!

We're a generation that doesn't think as much as we should.  We millennials that is, and post-millennials, we prefer to let the cult of the "experts" think for us.  But it turns out the experts have their own agenda.  

Even the studies produced by groups and agencies are becoming suspect because the motivations and desired outcomes from the scientific studies seem to affect the results more and more.  It's tough to tell when a business funds a study, and desires a certain outcomes, and they get that outcome... well, should we trust the study?  Oddly enough when the study reaches the desired outcome then the money keeps flowing in for more studies!

We millennials have not always been big thinkers.  But I think that's changing!  Oddly enough, thanks to websites like You Tube, Twitter, Soundcloud, and Facebook.  We're able to access good information and invibe it in ways that suit us.  If we prefer to read we can choose from tons of news sources, legitimate and otherwise.  We have access to tons of information via the internet.  Personally I learn best by watching and listening, so I find myself listening to internet radio and watching You Tube a great deal.  

I try to encourage everyone I meet to have an attitude of growth, studying, and all out enjoyment of learning!  Learning is awesome. 

You may have gotten a terrible impression from public schools and colleges that learning sucks.  Believe me, in the classroom it certainly can be awful. But when I seek out learning on my own terms, it can become a real joy.  

I love to learn about history, especially american history and european history.  I also love science, biology, and astronomy.  And I love to hear from leading political thinkers.  I enjoy reading books about apologetics, the Bible, the history of religion, theology, and sociology. 

I try to find presentations on You Tube and listen to great minds share their perspectives.  Here are some thinkers I recommend you check out: (Just do a You Tube search and watch.)
-Ravi Zacharias (philosophy/religion)
-Robert George (politics)
-William Lane Craig (apologetics & science)
-Ben Shapiro (politics)
-Os Guinness (culture)
-Diana West (history of politics)
-L. Brent Bozell (media)
-Mary Eberstadt (history of religion)
-Theodore Dalrymple (worldview, economics)
-Pat Caddell (politics of party)
-Tony Perkins (religious liberty)
-Michael Ramsden (RZIM apologetics)
-Tanya Walker (RZIM apologetics)
-John Ankerberg (science & faith)
-Carly Fiorina (business & politics)
-Hugh Ross (science)
-Francis Collins (science)
-Stephen Meyer (philosophy of science)
-Dennis Prager (Judaism/politics)
-John Lennox (mathematics)
-John R.W. Stott (theology)
-Nabeel Qureshi (Islam/Christianity)
-Norm Geisler (history and religion)
-Frank Turek (apologetics)
-Mike Lee (politics)
-Alan Keyes (constitutional law)
-Christina Hoff Sommers (feminism)
-Ben Sasse (politics)
-Vince Vitale (apologetics)
-Jim Jordan (politics)
-Mark Levin (politics)
-Ken Ham (science and faith)
-J.I. Packer (theology)
-R.C. Sproul (theology and apologetics)
-David E. Bernstein (politics)
-Allen West (politics)
-Sheriff David Clarke (politics and law)
-Trey Gowdy (politics and law)
-Ted Cruz (politics and media)

Learning is a joy.  Learn to learn. Learn to love to learn.  Apply yourself to this journey.  Don't expect colleges, schools, and universities to educate you.  They certainly have that capability.  But ultimately learning is done on a personal basis.  That's what I believe.

So the beauty of life urges us to seek after the supernatural.  The origin of species and the fantastic nature of our universe leads us to consider a personal intelligent designer.  Our desire to seek after this complex universe and to understand the philosophies, worldviews, and presuppositions around us draws us to study, learn, and grow in the information age. So much information is available at our fingertips in so many different formats, it's a blessing.  

As we grow, learn, and seek after the truth we come to consider who God is.  And in the Book, God reveals himself to us through his son Jesus Christ.  That is the inexorable truth I came to eventually.

Humility is key to this journey.  An open mind is vital.  But the ultimate goal of an open mind is to find the truth and to embrace that set of values and principles.  Then we seek to apply those principles to live a good life.

What is our mindset on a daily basis?  As we grow and learn are we considering the finite events of our life in the context of an eternity beyond death?  If so, we will tend to live a provocative lifestyle of peace.  That is the hope anyway.  If we seek after God with an open heart and an open mind, we will find Him.  And through Him we will discover the meaning of life, the universe, and everything. 

That's where I'm at anyway. I've grown and lived for about 32 years now, and I've come to be fully convinced on the weight of evidence and personal experience that God is real. 

I've found that Jesus Christ his son is a historically reliable person who really existed and walked the Earth. The complex harmonious nature of the universe and this planet lend great credence to suggestion of a divine creator. I've seen personally this living savior at work in my life, when I called out to him in a state of intense despair and addiction.  And now being delivered from that inescapable prison I find myself convicted, called, and confirmed in the church as a sharer of his truth. He's given me a mission. My goodness it's simply astonishing.  

I had always wondered at the meaning of life and now I finally found it.  But that's where I'm at, maybe you aren't there yet.  And that's fine.  Be where you are.  Everything has a time, I really do believe that.

So let's see here, I've got two arms and two legs and I apparently exist and have these interesting thought patterns and precarious emotions, and various indexes of knowledge and wisdom, and ideas, and there is this physical world around me, where I interact with other bipeds and they skitter about doing what they do, in these cities of humanity, in this post-industrial age of computers and iphones and such.  It's all really quite bizarre.  

I have these senses, feeling, tasting, seeing, hearing, smelling, and all this various stimuli.  And I look around in awe and wonder how do I live this life and what should I do? People get old and die, so what should I do with the seconds, minutes, hours, days and years assigned to me?  How should I spend them?

Then again I must consider finances, work, family, housing, transportation, and eating among other things.  And how to keep all that working properly.  It can all get quite overwhelming and hectic.  

So apparently I've come to this appoint of receiving this Jesus Christ as my savior, and believing in his moral, spiritual, physical substitution on the cross, being brutally slaughtered as a stand in for myself oddly enough, as a payment for my own accrued debts that are called "sins."  But this becomes increasingly normative when considering that a God-created universe must of course be moral in nature.  And my own innate sense of right and wrong seems to concur with that.  So it makes a certain amount of sense to me.  Though my "feelings" tend to rebel against it my mind tends to own up to it, while a certain part of my feelings seems to grudgingly admit "yes, I've sinned."  Even when it prefers rebelling at such a suggestion given the spirit of the age.  

In short I've come to the point of becoming a Christian, something I thought I'd never do, in fact at times in the past I'd sooner die than ever do something like that.  I've become the bigot I guess, according to the spirit of the age.  This obviously doesn't bode well for my popularity.  No it certainly does not.  

But I made it my goal to seek after truth, and this is where it's led me.  So despite all the negatives, so be it.  Despite not particularly liking it, I still go with it.  

In becoming a Christian I've embraced a certain set of instructions, principles, and presuppositions that I seek to follow on a daily basis.  Much like the american constitution restrains government, the Bible restrains and sets various bars for my conduct and character.  It is particularly difficult let me tell you. But not impossible and at many times quite joyful.  

I try to consider four key areas in the application of this worldview. Then I try to apply them in my daily life and see the world through those lenses. Those perspectives are: origin, meaning, morality, and destiny.  

I try to learn about various disciplines as I've outlined, like politics, history, sociology, science, and other areas and I absolutely delight in seeing how they fit into my worldview and how I can see those things more accurately based on the truth of the Christian worldview.  Some would say well your putting on blinders and in reality, to me it feels like I'm putting on reading glasses. I can see more clearly all of these disciplines from a Spirit filled perspective.

I try to share my worldview via writing, speaking, preaching, video and in anyway I can really.  If Christianity is really the truth I've got to tell people!  I need to carry the gospel to people.  And that is the basis of another area of how I live out this worldview, it's my mission.  And I'd like to challenge you: What is your mission?  Here's a hint: Discover your passions and you'll learn more about your mission.  

What about companionship in life? How can I meet my partner? Apparently an important part of life is meeting a companion and having a family.  Very interesting.  I don't think it's necessarily a requirement, yet it seems to be ingrained in our souls.  It's a desire within us, so we follow after it.  And the Bible tells us that doing that is fine, just follow the basic guidelines of behaving in a romantically biblical manner.  So trying to bang as many girls as you can, or sleeping around with as many guys as you can, well, that just isn't in the cards.  Not a big deal, just don't do it that way.  Wait patiently for your true love, right?  That isn't so bad. Patience is a virtue, as they say. 

Enjoying friendship with people in the world can be part of life as well.  Enjoying fellowship with other humans is a real joy.  Cultivating a close life-long friendship has always been a goal of mine.  I don't have it now but I hope I will.  

Building a legacy of faith and family I assume will become a part of my life as I grower older.  That would be a part of my life where I look to pass on my ideas and values to the next generation through my children and grandchildren.

Still another area where I find a passion is with politics, and trying to shape a better world. I look to help improve the United States, my home nation.  Part of my identity is my national identity, my citizenship on Earth.  Yet my true identity is as a citizen of heaven.  
You see how you can explore your own interests and find where your mission goes.  But ultimately your mission is something you'll find in a mystery called "the will of God."  If you can operate within that will of God, find that river and flow along in it, in your boat of life, you'll find yourself in the vocation and mission you were destined for.  It's a beautiful thing.  I've found that in my life after so many years of not knowing which way to go in life.  

A timeless truth I've found in this Christian life, of living the will of God is that in Christ and His mission for me I become more myself that I ever could've been apart from Him.  In God I become who I was always supposed to be.  It's beautiful.

In conclusion the goal is to live within the will of God by believing in Jesus Christ and living out a life of faith, sharing His gospel with others.  The ultimate end of the will of God is that it leads out of this broken world, out of our broken selves, and into a fully redeemed and perfected version of ourselves in a fully redeemed and perfected new universe.  Ultimately the will of God leads us out of this fallen earth and this fallen universe, and into a perfect restored universe, the new universe, and the new Earth, where we will explore realities we can't possibly imagine now.  The road leads Home, a Home we've never known yet long for within. The ultimate end of God's will, in Christ, is eternal life in a beautiful, sublime, perfect reality where we will live forever.  

Beauty, origins, the search for God, philosophy, and our life mission are all leading through Christ, through the will of God to a perfect universe.  That is the goal and the meaning of life. If you aren't there, so be it, but I hope someday you will be.  Give it time and think about it. The mind recoils, but the spirit is willing.


CC 2.0 Night Sky Paranoramic via Flickr
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