Saturday, February 28- Knowing the Answers

knowledge

I love knowledge! I have an unusual and rather eclectic reservoir of facts and data that roll around in my cranium. In fact, do you remember the “know it all” character of Cliff Clavin from the TV show Cheers? I like to refer t myself as a thinking man’s Cliff Clavin! I have also referred to myself as a fount of useless knowledge!

We are constantly quizzing each other at my house. “Name the group who recorded that song.” “What movie have we seen that TV actor in?” Who wrote that book?” It’s pretty constant! We also like to watch Jeopardy. My wife and I have been watching that show for YEARS and we have made our kids Jeopardy fans, as well.

Both of my sons have done Scholastic Bowl. My older son did it his last two years of High School. My younger son got an earlier start. The school district we were in at the time started Scholastic Bowl in 6th Grade. But in his 5th Grade year, they didn’t have enough 6th Graders so they “cherry picked” a couple of 5th Graders…including my younger son. So he is a High School Freshman in his 5th year of Scholastic Bowl! I enjoy going to the meets. They have a pretty wide variety questions. Some seem like giant softballs…they are so easy to “hit”. Others, however, seem…well…HARD!

And that leads me to today’s thought. Have you noticed that when you’re sitting in front of the TV watching Jeopardy, or sitting in the “peanut gallery” watching the Scholastic Bowl Meet, that the answers seem SO obvious and SO easy? BUT…when you are the one under the microscope, being asked to offer an answer to something, it suddenly doesn’t seem so easy!

I think the same thing is true about our faith. We see someone else talk about it or share their feeling about it and we think, “Yeah…that makes sense. That’s really pretty easy.” But then someone asks US a faith-based question…and we are suddenly stricken with a bad case of “cat got your tongue”!

I can’t tell you how many people have shared with me, in my 18 years of ministry, that they’re “not very good at sharing their faith”. People share that they simply don’t know enough about the Bible- they can’t quote it chapter and verse. Therefore, they feel, they are not ready to share their faith. They don’t know enough of the answers.

But do you know what I have figured out? Being able to quote the Bible well is an amazing skill. Being able to perfectly frame your faith, using words and phrases that are straight out of a seminary, is awesome. But I am convinced that, at the end of the day, people really aren’t all that interested in those things. They may appreciate them, but they don’t tend to see them as life-changing.

Instead, people want to hear one thing- how has Jesus Christ changed your life? What has He done for YOU lately? That’s what they want to hear. Why? Because they want to know if this whole “Jesus” thing can positively impact their life. And if they hear that it HAS impacted your life, then they receive yet another affirmation that perhaps there really is something to this!

So don’t worry so much about “the right answer”. Who gets to decide what “the right answer” is, anyway? Instead, focus on the Good News of Jesus Christ. Focus on His power and love. Focus on how He has changed your life…for the good…forever!

Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and come back again tomorrow and stick with Jesus!

Tomorrow- Jesus of Nazareth: The Advocate

Friday, February 27- Snowmaggedon

snowmageddon_big

We had an INTERESTING Wednesday night this week! It all started around 11AM. The forecast was for snow…starting in the early afternoon. And the forecast was a pretty decent amount of snow- 6 inches or so. So then the topic was- do we keep all of our Wednesday evening events as scheduled OR…do we start cancelling?

The first domino fell at precisely 11:17AM. My younger son texted me from school…he HAD permission, thank you very much!…to tell me that they were getting out early because of the impending snow. Our Wednesday evening Kid’s Ministry follows what the local school district does, so after calling the woman in charge of that ministry to confirm, that meant it was cancelled. One down!

I then started calling other people. I called the Bell Choir Director, the Choir Director and the woman in charge of the group planning that night’s dinner. The Bell Choir Director was already 2 “ringers” down, so she was willing to go either way. The Choir is getting closer and closer to the Easter Cantata, so the Choir Director wanted to have practice. The woman in charge of the dinner said they were good to go with dinner. I was more than willing to have my Bible study for whoever came, as was the Director of Youth and Children’s Ministries. So…it was ON!

Dinner starts at 5:15PM. At 5:20PM, the Choir Director called me. Since we talked last, she had more choir members drop out because of the conditions…which were going downhill fast! So, at that moment, the Kid’s Ministry was cancelled. The Bell Choir rehearsal was cancelled. And the Choir rehearsal was cancelled. And the weather was getting worse and worse!

We had 30 people for dinner that evening. (We usually have around 90!) And the food was GREAT! In fact, we had so much food that many of those in attendance got a “to go” container to take home! Then the Youth Bible Study and the Adult Bible Study happened. The Youth study had 3…counting the leader. My Adult study had 13. I usually have 26-30!

Should we have cancelled the whole evening? Perhaps. Perhaps…not. Based on how the evening NORMALLY goes, was this evening a bit of a bust. Perhaps. Perhaps…not. The truth is this- I’m a bit of a “numbers” guy. I don’t stand at the door of the church and count the people who drive by as being in attendance. I don’t even pad the numbers of those INSIDE the building, like some of my clergy brothers and sisters are want to do. (I figure that I want to know how many people are ACTUALLY in attendance. I already KNOW how many I WISH were!) But I DO pay attention to the numbers. While they aren’t the only measuring stick, by any stretch, they DO matter.

But on a night like this past Wednesday, the events of the evening were about more than the numbers. Those of us who were there had a great time. There is a “pioneer spirit” that comes out when folks brave the elements to get together. It makes you feel like you…overcame…something…together. We ate together. We sat around for an hour and talked about angels in the Bible. We prayed together. I saw people out cleaning each other’s cars off. Folks were shoveling snow. We walked folks to the door. people told people, “Drive safely home.”

So Snowmaggedon came. (In fact, Snowmaggedon has come SEVERAL times this winter!) But it didn’t…it couldn’t…dampen our spirits or diminish our enthusiasm. Oh, it TRIED! But it FAILED!

Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and come back again tomorrow and stick with Jesus!

Tomorrow- Knowing the Answers

Thursday, February 26- I’m a Busy Guy!

BUSY

I have shared before that being a pastor…at least the way I go about it…is a busy job. I am constantly going from one thing to the next. I am often telling someone, “No, I can’t do that. I have an appointment. But if you’re free at 3:30…” I would guess that, on average, I put in 60 hours each week.

I DON’T say that to get sympathy. If I didn’t love it…I wouldn’t do it. And with my ADHD, I NEED to be always on the go. They say that sharks have to keep moving through the water or they drown. That’s how I feel- I have to be in constant motion!

But I have noticed an interesting phenomenon lately. Someone will come up to me, wanting me to do something, and they will preface the conversation with, “I know you’re a busy guy, but…” Or I go to visit someone- or someone comes to visit me- and near the end of the conversation, they will say, “Thanks for taking time to talk with me. I know you’re a busy man.” I also have people who stop by the church, come to the door of my office (which is intentionally always open, unless I am having a private conversation with someone) and say, “Are you busy?” My mom taught me to not lie, so I say, “Yes…but I’ll be busy if you wait and come back in an hour, so…come on in!”

I appreciate the fact that they know I stay busy. I would not be happy if the congregation I was serving had the notion that I didn’t work very hard. Not only are they paying my salary, but how can I ask other people to do all they can to further the cause of Jesus Christ if I’m sittin’ around eatin’ bonbons and watching Days of Our Lives?!

I have a standard response to those who say, “I know you’re busy, but…” And that response is this- “I AM a busy guy. But THIS (ministry) is what I’m supposed to be busy doing!” Ministry is an interesting profession. It is neither fish nor fowl. Am I a CEO of a company with a pretty decent sized budget? Yes. Am I a manager, responsible for a staff of employees? Yes. Am I a public speaker, weekly writing and preparing an 18-20 minute presentation (or in my case…two of them) to be delivered multiple times? Yes. But am I also a…pastor who needs to be available for people who are in a time of need? Yes.

Being a pastor is a delicate balance between spiritual guide and CEO. Sure- some days one takes precedent over the other. But I have found that if you can’t, over the long haul, adequately balance the two, the church has little chance to be as healthy and effective as it can be.

Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and come back again tomorrow and stick with Jesus!

Tomorrow- Snow-mageddon

Wednesday, February 25- The Journey to the Cross: The Baptism

journey to the cross

After a hardy rainstorm filled all the potholes in the streets and alleys, a young mother watched her two little boys playing in the puddle through her kitchen window. The older of the two, a five-year-old, grabbed his brother by the back of his head and shoved his face into the water hole. As the boy recovered and stood laughing and dripping, the mother ran to the yard in a panic. “Why on earth did you do that to your little brother?” she said as she shook the older boy in anger. “We were just playing church, Mom,” he said. “And I was baptizing him …in the name of the Father, the Son and in…the hole-he-goes!”
Tonight we start a new Sunday evening sermon series that will lead us to Easter. This series, The Journey to the Cross, will walk through Jesus’ adult ministry, stopping at some key places along the way to see how they lead, ultimately to the cross of Good Friday and the empty tomb of Easter morning.
Tonight, we begin…at the beginning- the beginning of Jesus’ adult ministry, that is. We find John the Baptizer, standing in the Jordan River, baptizing new believers. John- a Hebrew term meaning “Jehovah is gracious.” His name was divinely given when the angel Gabriel appeared to John’s father. Zechariah was in the temple, the Holy of Holies, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. when suddenly Gabriel is standing in front of him. He had a very singular message to deliver, “Your wife Elizabeth will have a child. It will be a boy, and you must name him John.” Not “you SHOULD name him”. Not “you might want to name him”. “You MUST name him John.”
Not coincidentally, Elizabeth was the cousin of…Mary. And when Mary found out she was pregnant with Jesus, she went to see her cousin Elizabeth, who was about 6 months farther along in HER pregnancy with John. When Mary drew near to Elizabeth, John leapt for joy within his mother’s womb.
As it all turns out, the angel Gabriel wasn’t the first one to prophesy about John’s coming. Seven centuries earlier, the prophet Isaiah spoke of “the voice of one that cries out,” one who would “prepare in the wilderness the way of Jehovah”. In the last book of the Old Testament, the prophet Malachi declares: “Behold, I send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me: and the Lord, whom you seek, will suddenly come to his temple; and the Messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, behold, he comes, says Jehovah”. John was clearly a key figure in laying the groundwork for Jesus’ ministry to come.
John’s description is brief and stark. He wore a “camel’s hair” garment, secured by a leather belt. His diet consisted of locusts and wild honey. Not coincidentally, this description is reminiscent of the Old Testament prophets, particularly Elijah. But despite his appearance, his influence was phenomenal. Hundreds, if not thousands, were baptized by him. And his success was based on what? Nothing more than the message he preached.
John was, above all else, the preparer. He was sent to prepare the people for the coming Messiah. Both Isaiah and Malachi had announced that fact. And the fact that Christianity became such a resounding phenomenon is, in some way, a commentary on how well John accomplished his mission.
Matthew 3:13-17 Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John. But John tried to deter him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” Jesus replied, “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.” Then John consented. As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”
In 18 years in the ministry, I have done somewhere in the neighborhood of 140 baptisms, give or take. Along with a LOT of baptisms done in the church, at the Baptismal fount, I have done some others in rather…unusual places. I have done a total of three baptisms in an outdoor hot tub that sat out on a promontory that stuck out into a lake. I have done one in a hospital whirlpool, because the patient couldn’t leave the hospital but wanted to be immersed. I even had the extreme joy of baptizing my younger son. I’ve baptized newborns, toddlers, kids and adults. And I did one baptism in a NICU (neonatal intensive care unit) in a major hospital in St. Louis. There was a decent chance that the baby wasn’t going to survive and the parents wanted him baptized. How could I possibly say no? And after those 140-ish baptisms, in a variety of settings and circumstances, there is NEVER a time when a baptism seems commonplace or routine. Each one is special and powerful.
John was offering baptism for the forgiveness of sins. So it was no wonder that he was reluctant to baptize Jesus when He came down to the river. He understood Jesus to be completely without sin- a lamb without blemish. But Jesus understood that there was a pln- things were designed to happen in a certain way…for such a time as this. So when John was reluctant, Jesus reassured him. “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.”
As Jesus came UP out of the water…the power and the presence of God Himself came DOWN out of the Heavens. God’s Spirit, like a dove, came down and lit on Jesus. And then…and then…God’s voice was heard from Heaven. Those who were gathered at the river that day HEARD THE VOICE OF GOD! Not just with their hearts…but with their ears! God spoke! “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”

So why was Jesus baptized? Jesus was baptized to so that we could be reminded that God calls each of us into new territories. He was baptized to show us that there comes a time when we each have to step forth and more fully accept God’s call on our lives. And the minute we quit asking God, “What’s next?” is th minute we quit moving forward. And when we quit moving forward, we separate ourselves from God.
A life lived in the shadow of God is full of moments when we are called to step up- as individuals, as families, as a church. This church is SMACK in the middle of just such a time. We are being called to step up to the plate in a major way. We are called to learn from the past, live in the present and dream toward the future. I believe with all my heart that there is no limit…NO limit…to where we can head if we stay focused on what God is calling us to do.
So why was Jesus baptized? He was baptized so we could see that timing is everything. He was baptized so that we might be willing to step up and accept the calling that God has placed in front of us. God loves us SO much that He ripped open the heavens, broke into time and space and came down to earth as a human…so that we might know a better way.
So why was Jesus baptized? He was baptized so we would be fully aware of His continued claim on our lives. Remember, John heard the voice of God that day. He saw the visible form of the Holy Spirit descend upon Jesus like a dove at the river. And he spent the last days he had on earth as a witness to that fact, John’s importance in God’s divine plan is summed up best by none other than Jesus himself. In Matthew 11:11, He says, “Among them that are born of women there has not arisen a greater than John the Baptist.”

Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and come back again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!

Tomorrow- I’m a Busy Guy!

Tuesday, February 24- When is a Mountain NOT a Mountain?

Mount_Elbert_Colorado_md

I love the Rocky Mountains! I first visited them when I was about 5 years old. We had friends who owned an A-framed cabin up in the Rockies. My family drove out there…DROVE out there (why is it that Kansas seems to take 8 DAYS to traverse, east to west?) and got to spend a week in the cabin. It was one of the coolest vacations…ever!

About 7 years later, my mom, dad and I drove out there again. (Kansas STILL seemed 8 days wide!) That time, we stayed in a motel in Grandby, Colorado (not NEARLY as cool and rustic as an A-framed cabin in the mountains) and drove farther into the Rockies every day.

Several years later, I went with my older son to an event he was a part of on Boulder, Colorado. We drove the group of kids he was a part of into Rocky Mountain National Park on their “free” day. For me, it was like going home again! Then a year later, my wife, older son and I led a mission trip into inner-city Denver, Colorado. Again, we drove the group up into Rocky Mountain National Park on our free day. Fast forward even more years. My wife and I went on an anniversary trip to…ready?…Denver, Colorado! And we, once again, spent time up in the Rockies. Did I mention that I love the Rocky Mountains?!

Just a few weeks after the mission trip to Denver, we went to…Maine on vacation. (Hah! You thought I was going to say Colorado, didn’t you?!) We stayed in an awesome cottage RIGHT on the rocky coast of Maine. The cottage was great. The scenery was great. The trip was great.

One of the many things we did while we were there was visit Acadia National Park. It is, may I just say, a BEAUTIFUL park! And we were told that one of the main features of the park was Cadillac Mountain. Well, having JUST been in the Rockies a couple of weeks earlier, we were excited about seeing another mountain. As we drove there, we wondered where the mountain was. Then we realized- it was the…hill that was in front of us!

Mount Elbert is the highest peak in the American Rockies, with a height of 14,440 feet. Conversely, Cadillac Mountain has an altitude of…1,528 feet. That’s just a bit shy of 1/10th the size of Mount Elbert! The truth is that the topography is pretty radically different in the Rockies than it is in Acadia National Park in Maine. They each call their highest point a mountain. But they are radically different.

We tend to do that in our everyday life, don’t we? There are some things in life that are legitimate mountains. Maybe it’s a health issue that is pretty serious and pretty scary. Maybe it’s the loss of a loved one. Maybe it’s a failed relationship. Maybe it’s the sudden and unexpected loss of a job. Maybe…maybe…maybe. But regardless of what it is, there are lots of things that come up in life that are legitimately mountains.

On the other hand, there are lots of things that we THINK are mountains…but they aren’t. You know what I mean. Something comes up and we blow it WAY out proportion. Or something MAY happen, and while we wait to see if it WILL happen, we imagine every horrible outcome possible.

The truth is that we need to keep things in perspective. We need to sort out the Mount Elberts from the Cadillac Mountains. We need to recognize the true mountains for what they are. AND…we need to define the itty-bitty mountains as just that. Not everything is a flat-out emergency. Not everything is life or death.

And how do we best perform that triage? (Google it!) Prayer. Stayed connected to God in prayer and you will have a much better handle…a MUCH better handle…on the peace and the discernment that only He can offer you. And when you have that, you will do a much better job of distinguishing between the mountain and the molehill!

Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and come back again tomorrow and stick with Jesus!

Tomorrow- I’m a Busy Guy!

Monday, February 23- I Can Confirm That!

ConfirmationClip

I am teaching a Confirmation class right now. Every Sunday afternoon, the members of the class gather with me and our Director of Youth and Children’s Ministries. And the very first day we met, I asked them a simple question. “Why are you here?” Now, before they could answer, I added this. “We all know the ‘right’ answer. I don’t want to hear the ‘right’ answer. I want to hear what you REALLY think. So if ‘Mom made me come’ is the truth…feel comfortable to say that.” I got a variety of answers, but some of them DID allow as how…Mom made them come! And I assured them that was OK. We could still work with that!

Then, one of them looked at me and said, “Why are YOU here?” Good question! And with my sarcastic sense of humor, there are nearly countless potential answers for that good question!  But here is how I replied. “The truth is that, after a full morning at church, there’s a part of me that would be JUST as happy to be next door at the parsonage…taking a nap! But the larger part of me genuinely enjoys being with you!”

As hard as Confirmation class can be, “shoehorned” into the middle of an already busy Sunday, it is one of the highlights of my ministry each year. I get to spend time with awesome young people. I get to hear what they say, see what they think, and share a bit of space with them for a season. And then, when it’s all said and done, I get to baptize those among them who haven’t yet been. I then get to confirm them and bring them in as full members of the church. Pretty cool stuff!

An example of how awesome it can be happened just yesterday. Every week, I close the class with prayer. And every week, I tell them that they have the opportunity to be the one to pray. I’m not going to single them out and ask them/make them pray…just give them the opportunity. And every week thus far, they have declined. Until, that is, yesterday! I made the offer and one of those in attendance…raised their hand. And they prayed. And they offered up…a GREAT prayer!

In the end, let me say two things:

  1. anybody who says “these kids today” simply aren’t hanging with the same kids I am, and
  2. while the youth and children are certainly the future of the church, they are very much a vital part of the PRESENT of the church!

Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and come back again tomorrow and stick with Jesus!

Tomorrow- When Is a Mountain NOT a Mountain?

Sunday, February 22- Jesus of Nazareth: Creator

Jesus of Nazareth Main Creativity is an interesting thing. A wealthy businessman walked into a Bank of America location in downtown Chicago and asked for a $100 loan. The amount seemed odd for someone of his stature, but what followed seemed even more odd- he He offered his $75,000 luxury Mercedes-Benz sedan as collateral. The loan officer was surprised by the whole thing, but since there was absolutely nothing wrong with the deal…he agreed and approved the loan. One year later, to the day, the wealthy businessman walked back into the bank, repaid the $100, along with the 10% interest…which amounted to $10…and asked for his car back.
The loan officer, who had a full year to wrestle with this odd transaction, could no longer stand it. “Excuse me, sir- I’m sorry but I just HAVE to ask; why on earth did you borrow $100? Did you really need the money so badly that you were willing to leave your beautiful luxury automobile with us for a whole year?”
The wealthy businessman looked the loan officer in the eye and said, “Son, you’re missing the big picture. You have to think outside the box. You have to be creative. Where else in downtown Chicago could I find such a great parking place for only 10 bucks a year?!”
Psalm 33:6-7 The unfathomable cosmos came into being at the word of the Eternal’s imagination, a solitary voice in endless darkness. The breath of His mouth whispered the sea of stars into existence. He gathers every drop of every ocean as in a jar, securing the ocean depths as His watery treasure.
Today, we begin a new Sunday morning sermon series that will take us all the way to Easter morning. This series, Jesus of Nazareth, will look at 7 names for Jesus- 7 descriptive titles that, when combined, will help us get a more complete, clear picture of Who He is…and what He can mean in our lives. Today we start at the very beginning- Julie Andrews says that’s a very good place to start! Today, we consider that Jesus is The Creator. And what better place to see Jesus as The Creator than the beginning of the Gospel of John. It’s thought that, even though Matthew is the first Gospel listed in the New Testament, the Gospel of Mark was actually the first one written- around 55 AD. The next Gospel written is thought to ne Luke- around 60 AD. Matthew would be next- around 70 AD. And thn the Gospel of John- around 90 AD. And the further the Gospels got from the actual events, the more detail they felt they needed to include and the earlier their story starts. Mark starts with the beginning of Jesus’ adult ministry. Luke backs the story up a bit and starts with John the Baptist, the soon-to-be herald of Jesus, being born, a few months before Jesus’ own birth. Matthew backs it up even further and starts with a genealogy, explaining the line from Abraham to Jesus. Then John comes along and backs the story WAY up, starting…in the beginning.
John 1:1-5- Before time itself was measured, the Voice was speaking. The Voice was and is God. This celestial Word remained ever present with the Creator; 3 His speech shaped the entire cosmos. Immersed in the practice of creating, all things that exist were birthed in Him. His breath filled all things with a living, breathing light- A light that thrives in the depths of darkness, blazes through murky bottoms. It cannot and will not be quenched.
A guy owned a bait and tackle shop. And in the window, he had a hand-lettered sign that read, “Buy Your Fishing Tickle Here”. One day, a man walked up to the counter and set $50 worth of fishing gear on the counter. As the proprietor rang up the sale, the customer said, “I actually didn’t come in here to buy anything, but I saw these and couldn’t pass them up. I came in here to tell you that you have a misspelling on your sign. It says ‘Fishing Tickle’ when it should say ‘Fishing Tackle’. I’m surprised nobody else has said anything.” As the shop owner completed the sale, he replied, “Oh, lots of people have told me about the sign.” “Really? Then why don’t you change it?” As the shop owner handed the man the bag of merchandise, he smiled and said, “Every time somebody drops in to tell me, they always buy something. Here’s your change. Have a nice day!”
As I said earlier, there are 4 Gospels- Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. The first three- Matthew, Mark and Luke- are collectively known as the Synoptic Gospels. The word “synoptic” literally means “together sight”. These three are called the Synoptic Gospels because they have a common approach- they see things in a similar way. They are, in many ways, biographical. They tell of the life of Jesus, focusing on stories and His teachings.
The Gospel of John is wholly other. It is not a biography. Instead, it’s sole intent is to help the reader understand that Jesus is God in human form. John 20:30-31 perhaps best captures that fact- “Jesus did many other miraculous signs in front of his disciples. They are not written down in this book. But these are written down so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. If you believe this, you will have life because you belong to him.”
And so, John starts in the beginning. And that doesn’t mean the beginning of Jesus’ adult ministry. It doesn’t mean the beginning of His earthly life. It means THE BEGINNING. Before there was time. Creation. John is clear to tell us that Jesus wasn’t just some good guy Who hacked the wrong people off and paid for that mistake with His life. Instead, He is the very essence of God Himself. He IS God, in a form that we can better wrap our heads around. And that means He is responsible for the act of Creation.
Christianity isn’t simply a charming philosophy that’s interesting to talk about and debate at cocktail parties. It’s not about intellectual exercise- it ‘s about a relationship with a Person…One Who is essential to our faith. Trying to take Jesus out of the Christian faith would be like trying to take oxygen out of the air we breath- it’s simply not possible. Other world religions focus on the teachings and philosophies of their founders. We focus on a personal relationship with our Creator.
Jesus Christ is the most influential, talked-about Person in human history. More books have been written about Him, more music composed about Him, more pictures painted of Him and more plays performed about Him than any other person…ever. Why? Other “famous” people come and go, here for a brief time and then fade into the annals of history. But Jesus Christ has staying power. He impacts the human condition just as much in the 21st Century as He did in the 1st Century.
Why should we follow Jesus? Why should we devote our lives, and the lives of those dear to us, to Him? Why should we believe in Jesus? Here are three simple yet powerfully transformative reasons why:
1. We should believe in Jesus…because He is God. John doesn’t begin his Gospel in an historical context like the beginning of Jesus’ adult ministry or the birth of John the Baptist. Instead, he begins…in the beginning. Eternity. Outside of time itself. The Bible itself begins there- “In the beginning…” John starts with God and His eternal purpose. And once there, he immediately tells us that the Word- in the Greek “logos”- was not only WITH God…the Word WAS…IS…God. The great Greek philosopher Aristotle had what he called the “ingredients for persuasion”. He said there were three of them and they were ethos, pathos, and logos. Ethos is an appeal to ethics- convincing someone of the character or credibility of the persuader. Pathos is an appeal to emotion- a way of convincing an audience of an argument by creating an emotional response.
Logos is an appeal to logic- a way of persuading an audience by reason. And while ethics and emotion certainly play a role in connecting someone to Jesus, it’s no accident that it is logos…reason…The Word…that John turns to. Jesus offers both an ethical and emotional connection. But it is reason that takes our faith beyond an emotional, excited utterance. Jesus is…plainly and simply…God. The Word is eternally God, the Word is equally God and the Word is essentially God. The Word IS God.
2. We should believe in Jesus…because He is the Bringer of Life. John sees the transformative power of life. He uses the word “life” 36 times in his Gospel, while no other New Testament book uses it more than 17 times. The gift of life is important. And Jesus is the author and originator of life. He provides the light that combats the darkness of this world. And the spiritual light that Jesus offers can’t be quenched by the darkness of the world. A single candle can penetrate 30 miles of darkness. Darkness simply can’t overcome light. Jesus brings life- both physical and spiritual.
3. We should believe in Jesus…because He is the Creator. John not only tries to explain Jesus’ connection to God. He also tries to explain Jesus’ connection to His creation. He is the uncreated Creator. Through Him, all things were made and without Him..there is nothing. He is the Lord of Heaven and Earth.
Colossians 1:15-16- He is the exact image of the invisible God, the firstborn of creation, the eternal. 16 It was by Him that everything was created:the heavens, the earth, all things within and upon them, all things seen and unseen, thrones and dominions, spiritual powers and authorities. Every detail was crafted through His design, by His own hands, and for His purposes.
Jesus is the Creator. He is OUR Creator. And He demands a response. We can’t simply ignore Him. He is one of three things. Either He’s a liar- what He says simply isn’t true. Or He’s lunatic- He THINKS what He says is true…but it’s not. OR…He is the Lord. We can’t simply ignore Him. We have to make SOME response. And we have those 3 choices before us. If He’s a liar, then wash your hands of Him. If He’s a lunatic, then feel sorry for Him. But if He is Lord…then follow Him. Give your life to Him. Commit yourself and those dear to you to His never-failing love.
To deny Jesus is to deny God the Creator. He is God. He is the Originator of Life.He is the Creator. The Creator became His creation so that He could bring us true life…life abundantly, life eternal. Believe in the Creator. In Him, there is life.
Do you accept that Jesus is Who John claims He is? Do you have personal relationship with the uncreated Creator? If you don’t…you can.