Who Jesus Is.

I mentioned in my last post that “The majority of people thought they were entirely good enough (for heaven) on their own.” 

This has been the most difficult thing about evangelism – apathy towards Jesus. Not a lot of people care. 

Hence, we have a problem – We live in a society that is so casual about Jesus but so committed to themselves. 

And it’s a problem because there exists a God who reigns. He holds all power and all authority, and he created us. He knows us and wants us to know him. And he has revealed himself. 

God revealed himself to us through his word, and that Word appeared in flesh and lived among men. His name is Jesus. 

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 
The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. – John 1:1, 14

The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. – Hebrews 1:3 

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by him all things were created… – Colossians 1:15-16a

Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world. – 1 John 2:1b-2

He declares:

  • I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty. – John 6:35
  • I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life. – John 8:12
  • I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. – John 10:9
  • I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me – John 10:11
  • I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies – John 11:25 
  • I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. – John 14:6 
  • I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. – John 15:5

Of course there is significantly more to Jesus than would ever fit into a short blog post. The entire Bible is about him, and that’s why it’s so important for us to be reading the whole thing.

But I’ve heard from a lot of people lately, this idea that God is who they want to believe him to be. Except our understanding of him has no actual bearing on who his character really is. “I Am who I am” God told Moses in the wilderness (Exodus 3:14). 

We can know the truth of who this God actually is, because he told us. And he offers us a response – to come to him. To believe in him, follow him, enter through him, and remain in him. (John 6:35, 8:12, 10:9, 11:25, 14:6, 15:5)

I also realize it isn’t always so simple. God is complex, holy, supernatural. We will never be able to fully grasp the supremacy of who he is. But I was so convicted myself by a sermon recently that our primary issue isn’t knowledge or resource. Our issue is our treasure. We simply do not value Jesus as much as we value ourselves. 

Yet if these last two posts are a highlight reel, illuminating our sinful condition against a God of endless glory, then we should see a tremendous gap. And if that gap reflected the whole story, then I’m not sure our response would matter much. We may as well stay casual about Jesus and committed to ourselves, because we’d never be able to reach him anyways.

Except he reached us. He loved his people so much that he chose to come down, chose to take the consequence of our sin and chose to credit us with his righteousness. 

Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God – John 1:12

And that changes everything. 

We will never begin to see Jesus for the beauty and majesty that he is until we first respond to his invitation. Come. Believe. Follow. Enter through. Remain. He is the one worth our commitment to.

When we put our faith in Christ, he lifts us out of death and darkness and brings us into an eternity of life and light in himself. He brings us into his family. And he brings us into his kingdom, where he will reign forever and ever. 

And that – that is not something for us to be casual about.

—–

“A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic – on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg – or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.” – C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity 


Jesus is:

  • Immanuel (Matthew 1:23)
  • Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6)
  • The Son of God (Luke 1:35)
  • Teacher (John 1:38)
  • The Cornerstone (Ephesians 2:20)
  • Brother (Hebrews 2:11)
  • Friend (John 15:14)
  • Messiah/Christ (John 1:41)
  • Servant (Isaiah 42:1)
  • Savior (Titus 1:4)
  • Lord (Romans 6:23)
  • God (John 1:1)
  • King (John 18:37, Hebrews 1:8, Revelation 17:14)
  • The Sacrifice (John 1:29, Hebrews 10:10, 1 John 1:2)
  • Mediator (1 Timothy 2:5)
  • Priest (Hebrews 4:14, 7:24)

Read: John – The whole book. It details who Jesus is and his seven “I Am” statements. Specifically John 1:1-18, 1:29-34, 18:36-37, 19:11 also point to who he is.

Philippians 2:9-11, Hebrews 1, 4:14-16, 1 John 1:1-4

Process: There is a lot of scripture included in this post! Take some time with it. 

And be honest. Make a quick list of maybe 10 things that come to mind when you think of who Jesus is. Then, go through some scripture and write down 10 things about who Jesus says he is. How do the lists compare? Spend some time in prayer, asking God to continually correct your view of him, to help you overcome any unbelief. 


Sing: Worthy of your name
What a beautiful name

Resources: Kid’s Devotional, I Am – 40 Reasons to Trust God

Sermon, Joby Martin – The Word Became Flesh (also available on Podcast)
Sermon, Tim Keller – The Word Made Flesh
Sermon, Cam Triggs – The Model Prayer

Related: A Challenge to Dig Deeper
Why We Should Know God

Did Jesus Really Exist?
Who Is Jesus

Who We Are.

Especially as we enter a new year, a lot of people are filled with hope for a fresh start. We want to better ourselves, to become the “best version” of us, to lean into our purpose and to find fulfillment. And I think one of the most practical ways for us to begin any of that is to have a right view of ourselves. 

I did a mission trip one summer and spent day after day talking with people on the boardwalk about life and spirituality. And the most common theme that I heard was a belief that people would go to heaven if they hadn’t killed anyone. That was it. The majority of people thought they were entirely good enough on their own.

We all want to be good enough. We all want to be accepted. I think we were made for that. I also think that at some point, when we try to do life our own way, it stops working. We become exhausted, we’re filled with shame and regret we didn’t expect, we sense a conviction for something different… somehow we find disappointment. And we face a choice. We can keep pressing and continue striving, or we can sink into the truth of God.

But what does that mean? Where is an anchor? In a world that is overflowing with ideas and individual truths, how do we navigate?

We can look to the one who made us, who made all things. We can look to the Word of God, the Word who became flesh and lived among us. Jesus. We look at the things He has said.

What does the Bible say? Who are we? 

  • For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. – Romans 3:23
  • Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. – Colossians 1:21
  • Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. – 1 Corinthians 6:9-11
  • As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air… we were by nature objects of wrath. – Ephesians 2:1-3
  • Remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. – Ephesians 2:12
  • At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. – Titus 3:3
  • For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it. – James 2:10

Stay with me – Because, I know, these are the verses that no one highlights, the ones I don’t ever see on coffee mugs or t-shirts. And still, these are exactly the kind of verses and foundation that we need to start with to understand the magnitude of beauty and compassion of our God. 

In America, the culture is that we feed this over-inflated view of ourselves: we are all good people who have within us what it takes to be great. 

But it’s completely opposite to the Bible that categorizes us all as sinners and declares an outcome of death and wrath.

Part of the reason I write is to remind us that Satan is a liar. Sin and self amplification seem great a lot of the time. A lot of sin is fun and feels good and seems to be rewarding. But if the Bible is true, then in the end, anything apart from God leads to death. 

But I also write because an accurate view of ourselves and our sin amplifies our view of God by exposing the depth of his love and sacrifice for us. We are all wicked, hopeless sinners. And we all need a savior. We need someone to take away the bad for us. And we need someone to fill up the good works for us. And that someone is Jesus. He takes our place and erases all the bad things so those verses can now describe the old us. And He, in his goodness and generosity – makes us new.

Upcoming posts will describe in greater detail the character and salvation of Jesus, the eternal identity we find in Him, and the purpose and confidence that gives us as believers. There is hope, and there is real encouragement. There is life available, for all people, for all eternity.

But for now – I challenge you to lean into these verses. Whether they are new or familiar, take some time to read over them, to consider the reality of our original position before the Almighty God, to repent of our sins, and to praise Him for his greatness and for still choosing us. 

—–

Process: What are some initial thoughts or feelings that came up when you read through the verses? Write a few things down. How does your view of life and morality compare to what the Bible says? What is difficult to digest or understand? Talk with someone this week about it.

—–

Read: Exodus 20
Matthew 5:17-37, part of Jesus’ famous “Sermon on the Mount”

What comes to mind when you read some of the law and commands of Jesus? What do you think about the height of the bar that is set?

How does it affect your view of bettering yourself?

What are your thoughts around being “made new”?

—–

Ironically, I think most people could all agree that Moses, King David, Paul who had been Saul and wrote most of the New Testament… that these people are all in Heaven. Except they were all murderers. 

All lives are created equal by the same God and of the same insurmountable value. But the point is that the greatness of God far surpasses the greatness of our sin. We are never outside his reach.

—–

There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death. – Proverbs 14:12

“The gospel says that you are more sinful and flawed than you ever dared believe, but more accepted and loved than you ever dared hoped.” – Tim Keller

—–

Sing: King of Kings – Hands down, this is the most played song in my home and car. And running. With my eyes closed and arms raised. Yep. It’s just such a powerful presentation of the Gospel and the authority of Jesus.

Related: Sinners, The Gospel, and a Charge for the Church

New Years for All Year – Encouragement to read through the whole Bible

I never opened my Bible on Christmas. 

I wasn’t impressed with my priorities, but as I put my kids to bed that night, I snuggled up with my daughter for a bit by the tree lights. And as I laid there with her, I thought, this girl’s understanding of the Christmas story didn’t hinge on this one day. 

While I hope that we can have some better traditions going forward, I can’t help but think it’s so important, so necessary to build lives rooted in the Word – year round. The celebration of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus should never be reduced to a holiday. Because a relationship with someone could never be sustained with such scarce attention.

Several years ago, I read the book Radical, by David Platt. It’s both powerful and intense. And at the end, he had several challenges for his readers. One of those challenges was to read the whole Bible. So I took his challenge. And this is my challenge for readers today: read the whole Bible.

In all honesty, it took me five years to read through the Bible in a year my first time. But every time I go through it, I learn new things. And every time I go through it, I add more question marks. It’s a journey, and it’s a relationship, and it is so wildly worth the attention. Jesus is so wildly worth the attention, because, for some reason, he thinks we are so wildly worth his attention.

Personally, I’ve made a decision to read through the Bible every other year, so I can dig deeper into passages in the interim years.

You make time for the things that matter to you. Sometimes it’s a greater sacrifice, and sometimes things fall into place better. Sometimes it’s choppy, and sometimes you’re able to do all the reading in one sitting. Sometimes you get behind, sometimes you get more behind, and sometimes you can catch up a bit. It’s not about being perfect, it’s about being present. It’s about being available to our heavenly Father, who knows us and wants us to know him.

In general, it takes about 15-20 minutes of reading per day. There are a whole host of plans and resources available, and I have a few favorites linked below. 

However it works for you, whichever method or combination is most practical, my encouragement for the new year is to read the whole Bible. Get to know the God who made you. Dive deeper in your understanding of context – to specific passages and to the Bible as a whole. And, “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen,” (2 Peter 3:18).


Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law. – Psalm 119:18
I love praying this every time I open my Bible, asking God to reveal whatever he wants me to know or see.

Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates. – Deuteronomy 6:4-9
I’m a mother of 3 littles. I get it. Sometimes you simply can not talk to your kids about Jesus when you’re walking down the road. Because the walk is more like a sprint, panting as you chase after those racing bike wheels. Or the walk is more of a painful drag, carrying home a screaming, melting down child. But God is Sovereign. He is Lord over time. He is Lord over moments. And if we ask him for opportunities to chat with our kids or spouses or friends or neighbors… He can give it to us. 

For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks. – Luke 6:45


Resources:
NLT One Year Study BibleOption 1 or Option 2
Personally, I think this is a great start for someone who is more new to reading the Bible. This was the first one I read through. The NLT translation is more readable and easier to understand. You get some Old Testament, some New Testament, Psalms and Proverbs each day. And there are commentary/devotional notes.

NIV Chronological Bible
This is actually the book I am just finishing. It’s been amazing. I’ve never read the Bible chronologically, and this has helped to piece so much together. It also includes commentary and historical context.

Multiple plans on the Holy Bible app. (Find plans – Search – Bible in one year)

Podcast – 1 Year Daily Audio Bible, Brian Hardin

5-Day Bible Reading Plan
I love that this plan allows you to read in your own Bible. This will probably be the next one I do.

Try to do this with someone! Grab a family member, a friend, a co-worker, and read it together. And then talk about it! What are you learning? What don’t you understand?

And just for fun… pens and highlighters.

Please, please, feel free to reach out with any questions or if it isn’t in your end-of-year budget to purchase a new Bible! 


Additional Reading: Objections to reading the Bible
Comparing Bible Translations

The greatest gift

There is a God and his name is Yahweh. He is I Am. He is Creator. He is Most High. He is All-Sufficient. He is Lord. He is Holy and Righteous, Just and Love. He created the world and all that is in it. And it was good. It was good until the first two people he created turned from him to themselves. They chose to disobey God and instead follow their own desires, and sin entered the world. So a curse was put over man, and they were separated from God. And that curse and that separation have fallen over every man since. 

Every person sins. Every person ever created turns from God to themselves. And God’s punishment for sin is death, separation from his own pure holiness. Since God is Just, sin has to be punished. But by his abounding grace, God offers the guilty a gift. Instead of leaving us to own own deserved damnation, the Judge sent an appointed one to be judged. 

Jesus. God in flesh. Fully man, fully God. He came down from Heaven to live the perfect life that no man could. And he died the death that every man deserves. He became sin so we could be right with God. He completed the good works, and he satisfied the conditions of the punishment. And anyone who would believe in this man Jesus, who would confess his name and trust his Lordship, can be saved. He can be made right with God. He can trade the sin and the shame for righteousness and holiness. He can be spared the punishment and can be adopted into the family of God. Forever. For as a member of God’s family, we are promised an inheritance and a kingdom that will never perish, spoil or fade.


God said to Moses, “I Am who I Am. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: I Am has sent me to you.” – Exodus 3:14

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. – Genesis 1:1

God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. – Genesis 1:31

And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.” – Genesis 2:16-17

When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. – Genesis 3:6

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God – Romans 3:23

For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. – Romans 6:23

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. – John 3:16

For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will. – Ephesians 1:4-5

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade – kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. – 1 Peter 1:3-5


Spend some time in prayer and reflect on these verses or any others that point to the greatness of God and the mercy and compassion he chose to pour out over his people who would believe and confess his name. Praise and thank him for the greatest gift ever given – Jesus.

If you haven’t made a decision to follow Christ and want to do so – you can pray something like this:

Lord, I want in. I want you to be my Father. I want to be welcomed into your family. I want to be in Christ. I’m sorry for my sins, sorry for the times I’ve done life my own way. I want that to change – I want to follow you. I trust you, Jesus, to cover my sins and to take over my life. Please lead me and guide me. Amen

There is nothing magic in the words, but there is absolutely something supernatural in the repentance of heart and surrender to the Savior, the lover of our souls. 


Sing: He Has Come For Us
Born in Bethlehem
Behold the Savior
O Come O Come Emmanuel


Related Posts: The Sufficiency of Insufficiency
The Gospel
The Gospel of El Roi
The Sale of the Gospel
In Christ and In Airplanes

No word will fail.

Independent of our relationship with God, He Is. He is All-Sufficient, All-Knowing, All-Powerful. He is Most High, and he is Lord.

And his word is true. 

He is truth. Not my truth, not your truth, not all our truths. He alone is truth. 

It has brought so much peace and stability lately to reflect on these verses and the foundational principle that God’s Word is true. Even if I think I’m spiraling, even if I’m questioning my theology, even if I don’t understand it all – His word is true. It is true because he said so. He declared it. And he has the greatest authority. He created life, he died, and three days later he was raised back to life again. He is living, and he reigns. And he will continue to reign for all eternity.

Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. – Deuteronomy 6:4

I am the Lord, and there is no other; apart from me there is no God. – Isaiah 45:5

Before me every knee will bow; by me every tongue will swear. – Isaiah 45:23b

“…my words, which will come true at their appointed time… For no word from God will ever fail… Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!” – Luke 1:20, 37, 45

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life.” – John 14:6a

This is the disciple who testifies to these things and who wrote them down. We know that his testimony is true. – John 21:24

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. – 2 Timothy 3:16-17

That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. – Philippians 2:10-11

He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” – Revelation 21:5

“God will invade. But I wonder whether people who ask God to interfere openly and directly in our world quite realise what it will be like when He does. When that happens, it is the end of the world. When the author walks on to the stage the play is over. God is going to invade, all right: but what is the good of saying you are on His side then, when you see the whole natural universe melting away like a dream and something else – something it never entered your head to conceive – comes crashing in; something so beautiful to some of us and so terrible to others that none of us will have any choice left? For this time it will be God without disguise; something so overwhelming that it will strike either irresistible love or irresistible horror into every creature. It will be too late then to choose your side. There is no use saying you choose to lie down when it has become impossible to stand up. That will not be the time for choosing; it will be the time when we discover which side we really have chosen, whether we realised it before or not. Now, today, this moment, is our chance to choose the right side. God is holding back to give us that chance. It will not last for ever. We must take it or leave it.”
― C.S. Lewis

Related posts: Credibility of the Bible, A Challenge to Dig Deeper

You said it.

It’s been an interesting season for me – spiritually, emotionally, relationally… interesting. 

I’ve taken a step back from a lot in efforts to stabilize a bit, and while I’m still not exactly sure what God’s teaching me, what I’ve sunk a significantly deeper into is something that’s available to all believers: God’s truth – His Word, His promises and His character. 

Life can be tough. For everyone, for every reason. But what’s so different from traditional “religions” and knowing Christ is relationship. Religion tells you to press on, to keep doing what’s right, to keep striving. The pressure is on you. But life in Christ is a release. It’s a surrendering of pressure and performance, giving it to Him in exchange for the completed work of the cross. It’s intimacy in leaning into the hard and complicated. It’s asking questions and waiting for answers. It’s trusting what’s been said and believing for what’s to come. And it’s a foreshadowing of the perfect communion between the Creator and the created that will last for all eternity.

And yet… I think the circumstances of life and the weight of emotions can confuse us sometimes. I think they can make us question the things that God has said or that we’ve learned to be true. And that can be a really tough spot. 

But praise God that he is relational. Praise God that we can bring all our junk, all our questions, all our emotions to him.

During worship at church one morning, I was frustrated and distracted. But as I poured it out before the Lord, something clicked:

You should never have picked me for anything. You know the depths of my sin. You knew this would happen. I have no place being here.
This is your fault. You shouldn’t have picked me.
Except you did. 
So now you have to do it. You have to restore things, because you said you would work everything for good. You have to remain available to me, because you said you would never leave. You didn’t have to declare any of this, God. But you did. You chose to make the promises. You chose to walk alone through the pieces with Abraham. So you have to do it. You have to keep your promises because you said you would, and you said your word would never fail. You said it. 

We were created by a God who knows us and wants to be known by us. He chose to reveal himself. He chose to reveal his name, he chose to reveal his character. And he chose to make himself available to us again by way of his son. 

I’m not sure God actually needed my reminder that morning of what he’s promised. But I sure did. I continually need the reminder, and I don’t think I’m alone.

In the next couple weeks, I have a handful of shorter posts highlighting a few things God has declared true, in addition to a longer, complete summary of the Gospel of Jesus, using only Scripture, compiled by one of my closest and wisest friends. These upcoming posts may not be filled with tons of new information, but rather the intention is to empathize with those struggling, to encourage, and to collectively confess and declare promises of God. That together we might worship and exalt the name of Jesus. That we might celebrate and delight in the greatest gift ever given.


May God be gracious to us and bless us
and make his face shine upon us,
that your ways may be known on earth,
your salvation among all nations.

May the peoples praise you, O God;
may all the peoples praise you.
May the nations be glad and sing for joy,
for you rule the peoples justly
and guide the nations of the earth.
May the peoples praise you, O God;
may all the peoples praise you.

Then the land will yield its harvest,
and God, our God, will bless us.
God will bless us,
and all the ends of the earth will fear him.

– Psalm 67

Hearing from God

I wonder if trusting in God is easier when a situation is far out of our control. 

When my heart is really troubled and I’m super upset, I run to God because there is nowhere else to go, because I have no idea what to do. But if my heart is only partially troubled, then I can solve for myself. I run elsewhere: Starbucks, my phone, the freezer door where I keep the chocolate… 

Every day I face “partially troubled” moments. Less often, I face moments of complete despair.

In John 10, Jesus talks about being the Good Shepherd, the One who cares for us, his sheep. “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me” (John 10: 27).

It’s easy to dismiss everyday stresses and fill my life with coffee, screen time and chocolate (specifically, Reese’s pieces cookies from Aldi…). But if I turn to those things instead of turning to God and trusting in Him, then his voice will grow fainter, and worse, I’ll become less familiar with Him. 

I know, it’s so basic and might seem so obvious, but I find myself needing this reminder over and over again. Turning to things other than God is just so much easier and provides such immediate gratification.

But like with anyone you turn away from when things get tough – it ruins the relationship.

Years ago, I did a summer mission trip. Upon arrival, I sat in a large room with about 120 other college students, and a leader told us that by the end of summer, we would be able to recognize each person’s voice. Yeah right, I thought. 

But as that summer came to a close, I would sit in that same large room with my eyes closed, playing a game with myself to see if I could name each person as they spoke. And the leader was right. I had spent so much time with that group of students that summer that I could discern each of their voices.

This is what I have learned – God speaks to us in a lot of different ways: through his Word, sermons, prayer, wisdom in others, life events, dreams… he can communicate however he wants. But like all those students’ voices were so unfamiliar to me at the beginning of that summer, God’s voice will remain unfamiliar to us if we aren’t regularly spending time with Him.

God cares about every detail of our lives. He wants us to come to him, always, for everything. He wants to lead us. He wants to shepherd us. 

Before Jesus died, he told his disciples to not let their hearts be troubled. He told them to trust God. To trust Him. Because he was going to prepare a place in Heaven for his people. But it didn’t mean fluffy comforters and cute throw pillows. It meant standing in their place, bearing the weight of God’s wrath for their sin. For our sin. 

Though it cost him everything, he went all the way for us. 

Guaranteed, we will mess things up. But praise God because the work is already finished. For anyone who receives him, Jesus wipes away our sins and fills the resume with his righteous deeds. The point of us coming to the Lord is not so we get it right or earn favor or repair what’s broken. The point is relationship. Worship. To enjoy God. To love him because we are already loved by him. 

Starbucks, my phone, the decadent soft cookies from Aldi… they don’t care about me. But Jesus? He cares. And he calls us to not let our hearts be troubled. He calls us to counter the trouble with trust. 

Trust him, go to him, learn his voice and be shepherded by him.


And from the opposite end – To the one who is doing everything they can, all the studies, all the prayers, all the “things” and still feeling lost:

I was sitting outside one night, half praying, half thinking, worrying about missing God’s direction. What if I wasn’t praying enough? What if I wasn’t listening enough? What if I was blinded by a sin I didn’t even realize?

And as I sat there, God reminded me – there is nothing I could ever do to silence his voice.

The love that God has for us is so vastly more than we can even grasp. And it isn’t based on the greatness of our faith or the efforts of our Bible and book studies. His love is based on his character – his character that doesn’t falter and doesn’t change. 

Rest in his love. Believe the things he has said. Love him and pour your heart out to him. Do it again and again and again. And trust him. Trust his timing, trust the knowledge and wisdom he’s already given you, and let him shepherd you. He will not let you get lost.


Then they called on the name of Baal from morning till noon. “O Baal, answer us!” they shouted. But there was no response; no one answered… the prophet Elijah stepped forward and prayed: “O Lord… let it be known today that you are God in Israel… Answer me, O Lord, answer me, so these people will know that you, O Lord, are God, and that you are turning their hearts back again.”
Then the fire of the Lord fell and burned up the sacrifice…
– 1 Kings 18:26, 36-38

Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God. – Psalm 42:11

I am still confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord. – Psalm 27:13-14

Pray continually – 1 Thessalonians 5:17

I say to the Lord, “You are my Lord; apart from you I have no good thing.” – Psalm 16:2


Read: John 10:1-21
Consider: What stands out to you? What does this passage teach you about Jesus? 
Think back, how have you seen the Lord “go ahead” of you (vs 4)?
What does it mean to be known by Jesus (vs 14)?
What impact does it make to consider Jesus’ authority (vs 18) and what he did with his authority?
Spend some time discussing this passage with a small group.


Sing: Good Grace, Hillsong United
Make Room, Community Music

Do you see anything?

It’s so interesting that Jesus asks the man, “Do you see anything?” Jesus is God. He knew that the man’s sight was not entirely restored. I wonder if it was a test. I wonder if he asked the man if he saw anything to test the man’s faith, to see if the man believed that Jesus could and would heal him. 

He looked up and said, “I see people; they look like trees walking around.” (Mark 8:24)

The man had seen before. He knew what people and trees looked like, what they were supposed to look like. 

Maybe he thought restoration of sight was all Jesus could do. Maybe he only thought the gift of an encounter with Jesus was to be able to see like he used to be able to.

But shouldn’t an encounter with Jesus do so much more for us than simply restore what once was? 

Jesus asked if the man saw anything, and ironically, the man missed what mattered most. He missed Jesus. He looked around at people walking, people uninvested in his life, uninvested in the miracle as they went about their business. The man looked and saw them instead of looking into the face of the Son of God, right in front of him. 

But the man stayed by Jesus. And Jesus stayed by the man. Jesus put his hands on the man’s eyes once more, and “then his eyes were opened, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly” (Mark 8:25).

Surely, this time, the man must have seen Jesus, must have looked into the eyes of his Savior that second time. He must have seen Jesus, and he must have seen Jesus seeing him. And then everything else would have been clear. 

What is it for you?

Jesus is so near, so personal to care to ask, “Do you see anything?”
Do you see him working anywhere? Do you see even a partial miracle? 
Do you see him

Because the heart of the gospel is that Jesus sees you. He sees you in need of healing, he sees you in need of a miracle. And though it cost him everything, he made a way. He came to your rescue.

Lost in sin, unable to tip the scale so the good outweighs the bad, every single one of us is in need of a Savior. We need someone to step in for us – someone to accomplish all the good things we fail to achieve, and someone to take the burden of the punishment we deserve. We need someone to grant us access to the Father, to make us right before God. 

And Jesus did. 

But it becomes personal to us when we let Him take us by the hand and away from the crowd, away from the chaos of this life. It becomes personal when we have an encounter ourselves and see Him in our own lives. It becomes personal when we let him open our eyes. 

Get alone with Jesus. Do you see anything?

If I need any reminders lately, it’s to keep my eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of my faith. It’s to turn to him, to meditate on his character, to believe his words, to trust his love. I write this in nearly every post and could never stress enough – again and again, it is always about Jesus.

However long it takes us to see, however long we look around at our circumstances or the lives of others who seem to have it all together, however long we continue to mess things up and miss the point, Jesus is right there. He wants to give us sight, he wants to heal us, and he wants to satisfy us. He wants us to see him. And he wants us to see him seeing us. We just have to shift our gaze.

—–

Turn your eyes upon Jesus
Look full in his wonderful face
And the things of earth with grow strangely dim
In the light of his glory and grace

—–

Therefore, holy brothers, who share in the heavenly calling, fix your thoughts on Jesus, the apostle and high priest whom we confess. – Hebrews 3:1

Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. – Hebrews 12:2

Look to the Lord and his strength; seek his face always. – Psalm 105:4

But my eyes are fixed on you, Sovereign Lord; in you I take refuge – do not give me over to death. – Psalm 141:8

My heart says of you, “Seek his face!” Your face, Lord, I will seek. – Psalm 27:8

—–

Read: Mark 8:22-25
Consider: What stands out to you from this passage? 

Spend some time in prayer. Write out a response to Jesus’ question to you, “Do you see anything?”


Related Posts: Eyes to See
El Roi, The God Who Sees
The Gospel of El Roi

The Sale of the Gospel

“I started giving more and more of my life back to Jesus, and in Him, I have found freedom, joy and stability that I could not find anywhere else.”

That’s what I originally had written in my last post. And it’s true. It’s also not constant. This side of salvation, I have freedom, joy and stability in Christ, unlike anything I’ve experienced elsewhere. And this side of eternity, there are also times I feel trapped, angry and insecure. 

Recently, I’ve been studying the Gospel of Mark. Jesus regularly heals people and regularly tells them to keep quiet, to not tell anyone about what he did. At face value, it seems strange, especially when you know the great commission is to go and tell about what Jesus has done.

But before Jesus’ death and resurrection, we see him encouraging people to keep quiet about his miracles because he doesn’t want that to be the reason people come to him.

All of Jesus’ earthly miracles pointed to a greater miracle, to the gospel, to himself. The best was still to come. Jesus didn’t want to just give people temporary healing, temporary relief. He wanted to heal their souls, to give them eternal relief. He wanted to give them himself.

I can get so caught up wanting the fruit of knowing Jesus (love, joy, peace, patience…) that I forget to simply stay tethered to the Vine. And I can get so caught up in wanting others to have that fruit that I fear I can unintentionally offer it over the Giver himself.

The gift of the Gospel isn’t joy, it’s Jesus. In Him, we will bear fruit, we will have joy, because the Vine is healthy, the Vine is secure. Fruit will come. It will come this side of Heaven, and it will come in it’s fullness for all eternity. 

But I’ve found myself so challenged lately – do I come to Jesus just because I want joy, freedom and stability? Or do I come to Jesus because I want him?

And when my emotions are absent those good feelings, is Jesus enough? Is his presence, his promise, his gospel sufficient? 

I fear too many of us come to Jesus only because we want something from him, and not because we want him. I fear too many people come to Jesus to escape hell, opposed to coming to Jesus for restoration with the One whom a relationship with matters most. 

Heaven isn’t the sale of the Gospel. 

John Piper is quoted, “Could you be satisfied with heaven, if Christ were not there?”

The first time I heard this, years ago, I knew the right answer was “no”, but I also couldn’t figure out why heaven wouldn’t satisfy if it held every other good thing. 

Yet ironically, the concept is such a fundamental part of my story. I had everything I ever wanted. And I was not satisfied because the one thing I was missing was Jesus.

I stayed up late the night before my last post was scheduled to publish, editing and praying for the words to be clear that He is the reward, He is the one who brings satisfaction to our souls and graciously gives good things out of our relationship with him. 

My prayer remains the same now – for myself, for any reader, and for the Church across the nations. May he satisfy us because he is Sufficient. He is El Shaddai. Whatever our circumstance, whatever our situation, whatever our emotions, He is enough. 


“The most important (commandment),” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” – ‭‭Mark‬ ‭12:29-30‬ ‭NIV‬‬

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. – Galatians 5:22

Related Posts: El Shaddai, Lord Almighty, All Sufficient


But alas, how little fit for heaven are many who talk of going to heaven, when they die, while they manifestly have no saving faith and no real acquaintance with Christ. You give Christ no honor here. You have no communion with Him. You do not love Him. Alas, what could you do in heaven? It would be no place for you. Its joys would be no joys for you. Its happiness would be a happiness into which you could not enter. Its employments would be a weariness and a burden to your heart. Oh, repent and change before it be too late! —J. C. Ryle, from his sermon “Christ Is All” (on Col. 3:11)

Additional Resource: The Critical Question for Our Generation, The Gospel Coalition


Stepping in: What does the Bible say about Heaven? Read – Revelation 4 & 5. Spend some time in prayer and in worship as you read and reflect on the verses.

Journeying further: What do you say when you share your faith? Do you share your faith? Spend some time in prayer, asking God to remind you of what he’s done and who he is, praising him for his work and his character, and asking God to give you opportunities and people to share the Good News with.

A challenge to dig deeper – Why? Part 2

Why do you believe what you believe?

Why do I believe the Bible?

As I wrote and thought about this post, a whole lot of reasons came to mind. But there are two that have had the biggest influence: a personal reason and a practical reason.

Personally – nothing has changed my life more than the Gospel. When my husband and I were living in Chicago years ago, I had everything I ever wanted. I had the guy, the big city, the social life and the best wardrobe and shoe collection I could ask for. 

But I wasn’t happy. I felt so hollow. None of my stuff was actually that great. I knew something was missing, and I knew exactly what it was because I had had it before. I had Him before. I started giving more and more of my life back to Jesus, and as I did, it rekindled a relationship unlike anything else I’ve ever known. My sin, my love for myself and the things of this brief and temporary world had long overpowered my love for God. There was no denying my wrong choices and gaps in morality, which ruined my relationship with God and left me sentenced to Hell. But on the cross, Jesus took all that sin and selfishness and took my punishment for me. He stood in my place that I might have a restored relationship with the Father, for now and for all time.

The Gospel has changed my life.

But some might argue that all that is just “good for me”, to which I would agree, unless the Bible is actually true. 

Growing up, I used to believe in the validity of the Bible because I was so captivated by creation. I just couldn’t believe that we came to existence from nothing. My dad was a big influence, as well. One of the smartest people I know, he was a big reader of apologetics, or reasoning arguments, so my interest in the subject would grow as he shared things he learned with me. It led me to my own research, which included a high school paper on creation versus evolution. I was blown away. These were a few highlights:

  • Evolution violates basic laws of thermodynamics. The first law states that energy cannot be created or destroyed. The popular Big Bang theory would have needed some extraordinary supernatural occurrence to produce the amount of energy it would have taken to create an entire universe. The second law states that every system moves from order to disorder, in a degenerating direction to increase the total entropy of the universe. After the Big Bang, there would have been a substantial amount of disorder to overcome. 
  • Some of the oldest evidence of life was rock thought to be 3.8 billion years old. Upon closer examination, these rocks proved to be formed only from weathered crystals. The method of carbon-14 dating has given living snails an age of 2300 years as well as growing trees an age of 10,000 years.
  • From perspiration to blood clots, the body always knows what to do, when to act and how long to perform in order to continue functioning. With an unfathomable number of chemical reactions occurring every second, the body is the most incredibly crafted machine
  • The giraffe has a neck that can stretch six feet high. In order to get blood to the brain, blood must pump viciously against the forces of gravity. Contrarily, when the giraffe bends its head down to get a drink of water, the blood must flow with the force of gravity. To prevent the brain from exploding, the giraffe has valves in its neck that close and reduce blood flow as well as an extra compartment that acts like a sponge to soak up other blood.
  • Between each peck, the woodpecker opens its eyes, focuses, and then pecks again. If it did not open its eyes between pecks, the force would be so great that its eyeballs would pop out. 

So fascinating!

But ultimately, as I continued to grow in my faith and figure out for myself exactly what I believe and if I think it’s worth giving my life over to, I came to rest on the cross. Scholars don’t have a lot of debate over Jesus’ existence, but the reality of the grave is what makes or breaks the entire Gospel.

The grave was empty. 

The grave was empty after Jesus died and was buried in it. There was no chance the Roman officers would have taken him down alive. And he would have been so brutally beaten that he would never have been able to recover in a tomb. 

Jesus appeared to hundreds of people after his crucifixion. He sat with them, he walked with them, and he ate with them. And many of those people lost their lives to their testimony of the resurrection, because they would not stop telling people about this man Jesus, who was killed and then was alive. Jesus, the Savior of the world. The one who took their place, the one who took our place. 

There is much, much to be said about this topic, so I have some of my favorite resources linked below. But ultimately – Jesus proved his deity when he walked out of that grave. The prophecies were fulfilled, death was conquered. Nothing in all this world has impacted my life as much as believing in this man, my Savior, my Lord. And that impact will last for all eternity, forever worshipping the One I call Father, the King of all Kings.

—-

Years ago, I went on a mission trip to Ocean City, New Jersey. I walked the boardwalk daily, talking with people that summer about life, death and religion. Every time I asked people why they believed what they did, or asked what it would take for them to believe in God, they had no answer. 

What is it for you? Why do you believe the things about life that you believe? If it’s possible to have confidence about what happens after death, wouldn’t you want it?

—–

Resources – 
(This is of course not an exhaustive list – just a few that have impacted me the most)

Books:
The Case for Christ, Lee Strobel
The Case for Faith, Lee Strobel
The Case for Easter, Lee Strobel (short, significant read)
Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis
God’s Crime Scene, J. Warner Wallace

Viewing:
– God’s Not Dead – this is a movie, so it’s less content-rich, but still addresses basic arguments, trailer
The American Gospel – a documentary, significant for believers and those searching
Incredible Creatures That Defy Evolution – there are 3 in this series

Podcasts:
The Bible and History, Tim Keller
Doubt, Joy and Power, Tim Keller

What’s Happening in Afghanistan? Jennie Allen
I don’t know any other religion that transcends nations the way that the Gospel does. It makes me think of the words in Acts – “Leave these men alone! Let them go! For if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. But If this is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God.” (Acts 5:38-39)

“A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic – on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg – or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.” – C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity