November 2007 - Posts
Fact #4 - Jesus made extreme claims.
We're not talking extreme claims like "I can hold my breath for 10 minutes" or "I can burp the entire alphabet without stopping." This is even beyond claims that other religious leaders made. They said they knew the way to God, Jesus said He IS God. This is why you can't categorize Jesus as just a good teacher or moral example. He went around saying things like "I'm going to raise myself from the dead", "I can forgive sins", and "I've always been around", etc. Good teachers and moral example type people don't go around saying crazy, whacked out things. If they do, we don't trust them anymore, right? Unless, of course, they could prove that their apparently crazy claims were actually true. Jesus did, people saw it, they wrote it down; it's called the Bible.
Fact #3 - Jesus lived a perfect life. Jesus didn't live a good life, or even a great life. He lived a perfect life. As in perfection. As in, He never ever ever sinned. Never thought badly about a person. Never told little white lies (or big black ones either). Never once in 33 years of life did He mess up in word, action, or even thought. And it's not like He didn't face temptation either. Can you imagine doing battle with Satan himself? Or how about refusing to be angry towards the malicious, hateful Romans who beat Him, whipped Him, and nailed Him to a cross? If you do any sort of research on other religious leaders, you will discover that they were far from perfect in their words and actions, which is why they never claimed perfection. They wouldn't dare. But Jesus did - check this out: Read John 8:46: "Which of you can truthfully accuse me of sin?" (John 8:46) And no one could. If you've ever seen The Passion, they tried at His trial, but those weren't truthful accusations, no one could find fault with Him, they had to make stuff up.
Fact #2 - Jesus' mother Mary was a virgin at the time of His birth. So if you're even just a little familiar with the way the whole pregnancy and birth thing works, you realize that the words "virgin" and "birth" don't usually go together. This is why Jesus' birth was such a miracle! The fact that Mary was a virgin shows that Jesus' Dad is a holy God, not a sinful man. No other religious leader has made that claim- nor would they. Those first two facts alone establish Jesus as the most unique person who ever lived, but tomorrow we'll get into even more amazing facts.
For every 100 people there are probably 100 different opinions about who Jesus is. That's why if you even think about opening your mouth and talking about Jesus, you better be ready - because that is not a name you can say without getting some kind of reaction. Mentioning Jesus has a crowd splitting opinion-shouting effect that forces you to know what you are talking about, so we should want to make sure we all know what we are talking about, right? When you mention Jesus to a group of people, a very common reaction is: "Yeah, I know about Jesus, but I believe that He was just one religious teacher just like all the other religious teachers. What makes Him so different?" At this point you have an awesome opportunity...that is if you actually do know what made Jesus completely different, unique, and totally distinct from all other men and women who claimed to know the way to God, Nirvana, the path of enlightenment, etc. etc. But the fact is, most Christians - don't know. In their hearts there is belief in what Christ did, but in their heads there is confusion about who Christ is. So let's get the facts straight so you can shoot straight about Him with your friends, family, and co-workers who desperately need to discover the true Jesus Christ!
We are going to cover six main facts about Jesus that completely sets Him apart from all other religious leaders over the next several days.
Fact #1 - Jesus has always existed. In John 8:58, Jesus said, "Before Abraham was, I AM". He was responding to a sarcastic and stupid question thrown at him by the religious rulers of the day: "You aren't even fifty years old. How can you say you have seen Abraham?" (John 8:57) Jesus had just told them that He knows Abraham - a guy who has been dead for thousands of years. So they come back with: "Wait, you're not even 50 years old, so how could you be 2000 years old?" Brilliant. As if someone could live that long? So Jesus' response tells us that He's not 50, He's not 2000, He's infinity. He had no beginning, He will have no end. He has always been around as the second Person of the Trinity. No other religious leader has always been around. They all were born at some point- which was the beginning of their existence. When Jesus was born, it was not the beginning of His existence, it was the beginning of His humanity. Jesus, as God, took on human flesh when He was born. That's sorta unique - wouldn't you say?
I thought about the first American Thanksgiving and how the people had this big pot-luck thanksgiving meal and praised God for a great year. They praised God for a new land, they praised God for new neighbors, and they praised God that He had blessed the crops of their field. Bottom line—they were thanking God for all their STUFF! They were thanking God for their prosperity. They felt rich and blessed. That is the beginning of what we Americans now call Thanksgiving.
A little girl was praying the other night and she said, "God, thank you for my family, thank you for my house, thank you for my dog, my room, my toys and my new jacket. Amen."
That about covers it, right? Thanks for all my STUFF!
A high school kid just got a new IPOD for his birthday. That night he said a quick bed time prayer. "God, thanks for the IPOD. Wow. You really came through. Amen."
Is that what prayer is all about?
Is that what Thanksgiving is all about?
After all... it's not bad to stop and thank God... is it?
If you think about these kids and if you think about the first American Thanksgiving... you notice the same thing. As I thought about this, I was reminded of this type of celebration in the Scriptures going all the way back to II Chronicles 31. Ezra is writing this account for a very specific reason. People in Ezra's time were struggling, like many of us, with their prosperity and blessings; they were so blessed by God they did not know how to thank God for such blessings. They realized that they sounded like that little girl and that high school kid praying, "Thanks for all my STUFF!"
They didn't know how to thank God for their prosperity without focusing on the prosperity and not on God. Too often we focus on the blessing and forget the actual source of our prosperity.
Ever feel that way? Ever feel that you don't know how to really thank God?
Well, in this passage, EZRA writes a success story. And the success story he writes is in the book of II Chronicles, chapter 31. He tells them, "Hey, we had a king by the name of Hezekiah who was concerned about the lack of meaningful worship and the lack of knowing how to thank God for the many blessings they were all experiencing. So this King Hezekiah sets out a way to thank God and outlines a profile of what that worship should focus on."
Hezekiah helped them switch the focus from OUR STUFF to THE GOD WHO GAVE US THAT STUFF.
And that's what our focus should be this Thanksgiving.
It case you forgot just how bad Chuck Norris is, here is a little reminder....be thankful you haven't encountered Chuck, and that you are still alive....!
When the Boogeyman goes to sleep every night, he checks his closet for Chuck Norris.Chuck Norris doesn't read books. He stares them down until he gets the information he wants.There is no theory of evolution. Just a list of creatures Chuck Norris has allowed to live.Outer space exists because it's afraid to be on the same planet with Chuck Norris.Chuck Norris does not sleep. He waits.Chuck Norris is currently suing NBC, claiming Law and Order are trademarked names for his left and right legs.Chuck Norris is the reason why Waldo is hiding.Chuck Norris counted to infinity - twice.Chuck Norris can lead a horse to water AND make it drink.Chuck Norris doesn’t wear a watch; HE decides what time it is.Chuck Norris can slam a revolving door.Chuck Norris does not get frostbite. Chuck Norris bites frostWhen Chuck Norris was denied an Egg McMuffin at McDonald's because it was 10:35, he roundhouse kicked the store so hard it became a Wendy's.
When Chuck Norris falls in water, Chuck Norris doesn't get wet. Water gets Chuck Norris. How much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could Chuck Norris? ...All of it.
Chuck Norris doesn't actually write books, the words assemble themselves out of fear.
The grass is always greener on the other side, unless Chuck Norris has been there. In that case the grass is most likely soaked in blood and tears.
When Steven Seagal kills a ninja, he only takes its hide. When Chuck Norris kills a ninja, he uses every part.
When taking the SAT, write "Chuck Norris" for every answer. You will score over 8000.
Chuck Norris invented black. In fact, he invented the entire spectrum of visible light. Except pink. Tom Cruise invented pink.
On his birthday, Chuck Norris randomly selects one lucky child to be thrown into the sun.
Chuck Norris grinds his coffee with his teeth and boils the water with his own rage.
Archeologists unearthed an old english dictionary dating back to the year 1236. It defined "victim" as "one who has encountered Chuck Norris"
Chuck Norris ordered a Big Mac at Burger King, and got one.
Chuck Norris and Mr. T walked into a bar. The bar was instantly destroyed, as that level of awesome cannot be contained in one building.
The Bermuda Triangle used to be the Bermuda Square, until Chuck Norris Roundhouse kicked one of the corners off.
Check out BJ's post today if you haven't already, he really hit the nail on the head, like he always does. BJ, you're my hero. I love you brother. You want to know what made everybody come to hate Jesus when he was here on earth, what made him so contriversial?
You see, a long time ago, God gave us the law, His law, no one elses. Not Moses law....God's law. From that time to the time Jesus began his ministry something happened. Something I like to call fluff. Tradition. A certain way we do things. Religious leaders then took that law and viewed it as a barrier or rules. In essence, they are. But this law is also freedom in God that is unmatchable. The kind of freedom we all desire to have. They thought to themselves, if this is God's law and this is our barrier, then why not add another barrier to keep us really safe. If one rule is good, another one on top of that would be even better. Right? These added rules, even though they may be good things, are NOT what God had for us, in essence, they are fluff.
So, for about 1500 years, more fluff, and more barriers were added to God's law. What made Jesus so unliked was that when he got here and started bringin' the truth. Jesus cut through 1500 years of fluff in His three years of ministry. He cut through all that extra stuff and said no, THIS is God's law, and this is what He meant, not all this fluff from all you religious leaders who don't know what's going on. Wow. Think about the body of believers you worship with, your church, think about how old your church is. Most of us attend a church that is less than 100 years old. Every try to change something, or the way you do something in your Church? Tough, isn't it? If it's hard to change tradition that is less than 100 years old, imagine 1500 years of tradition from the Religious leaders. All of the sudden this rebel shows up wanting change the way you do things in church that have been done that way for 1500 years! And, on top of that He claims to be God's son! Craziness. No wonder everyone hated Jesus the way they did.
Oh, but guess what, there was a method to His madness. You see, his purpose, was the redemption of mankind, to free us of all the bad things we do, sin. And he turned the world upside down by doing so.
The whole issue of truth is in question these days. Television, movies, magazines, and most of the media are constantly bombarding us with the idea that all truth is relative. Of course there is one place that still believes in it-or at least used to.
How many have heard this question: Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you God?
It's what they ask witnesses in a court of law right before they testify for or against an alleged criminal. I guess the idea is that if a person's future or even life hangs in the balance of what you may or may not say, it's sort of important that you get your facts straight, right? I have another question for you. One that is even more important than if you were standing in a courtroom before a judge with someone's life on the line, because the way you answer this question will determine your verdict when one day you are standing in the ultimate courtroom before the ultimate Judge with your eternal life on the line.
The question is this:
"Do you swear to know the absolute truth, the whole absolute truth, and nothing but the absolute truth, so help you God?"
You see, there are only two ways to answer this question. There are those that say "no". These are the folks that don't believe in such a thing as absolute truth (i. e. a truth that applies to all people everywhere for all time), so why would they swear to know it? To them, everybody makes their own "truth," and it greatly offends them when anyone comes along and says differently. And this isn't just a small group of people, either. According to a Gallup Poll, 52% of volunteer church leaders don't believe in absolute truth!
Why do you think many people have given up on the idea of absolute truth? The problem in denying the existence of absolute truth is that you put yourself in a self-defeating position. By saying there is no absolute truth, you are making an absolute statement presented as a truth. In other words, these people are saying something like this:
It is an absolute truth that there is no absolute truth.
That's like me saying: "I cannot speak English."
Duh! I just did!
When you think about it, there are absolute truths all over the place. Take gravity for example. If you drop an object and there is nothing attached to block its descent, it is going to fall. You can argue against it, refuse to believe it, call it offensive, whatever. None of these things will change the absolute truth that while on earth, gravity exists. There are also absolutes in other areas: aeronautical engineering, medicine, and science. I know I'm glad the person who designs airplanes believes in absolute truth and is not just "winging it!" Or how about your doctor? Don't you feel a little more secure knowing that he or she went to school and learned the truths that apply to medicine?
Actually the people who say there is no absolute truth actually do believe in them when it comes to things like gravity and science. But when you start to apply the same principle to morality and religion, they can get pretty uptight pretty quickly. Maybe that's because deep down they know that if there is absolute truth that applies to everyone everywhere in morality and religion, they might have to (heaven forbid!) CHANGE their lifestyle and choices!
They can't handle the truth!!!
The truth is that there is absolute truth that applies for all people in all places for all of time. The reason it exists is because it comes from the God who created all people and places and is outside of time. He wrote a book called the Bible, which contains the only inspired words of the Creator of the universe. The only place you will find absolute truth is in this book. It's not in the Koran, and it's not in the Book of Mormon. Those books were written by flawed men with flawed ideas. The Bible was written by a perfect God with perfect ideas...period. Jesus said,
"I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me." (John 14:6)
Notice He didn't say, "I am a way, a truth, and a life..." Jesus made the boldest statement ever made, that there is truth and it exists in Him. That's about as absolute as you can get, wouldn't you say? Jesus also said this: "And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." (John 8:32) Obviously if there wasn't such a thing as truth, then Jesus would have been lying when He said this. But since He IS the truth, He cannot lie, which means that His statement about the existence of truth is true!
So let's go back to our original question. Do you swear to know the absolute truth, the whole absolute truth, and nothing but the absolute truth, so help you God? One day God will ask all people how they responded to the claims of the Truth - His son Jesus. Those who denied the absolute truth of the gospel message will be denied entrance into heaven. Sadly enough, at that moment they will be the biggest believers in absolute truth that ever lived. Unfortunately it will be too late and they will live eternity in a place called hell. Those who know the Truth by trusting in Jesus for their salvation will get their reward for believing Jesus: an eternity in heaven.
Decide today to become a truth seeker. Read the Bible as the very words of God to build your life on. Don't fall into the post-modern trap of "anything goes because there are no absolutes," because that road is the surest and quickest way to a miserable life and an eternity in hell - and that's the truth!
Last night I had to teach the hardest lesson I have ever had to teach. When you put your all and give everything you have into a lesson, you come away exhausted. Especially when it's about a subject that isn't very popular. What was this lesson on that was so hard to teach you ask? Hell. Yea, I talked to my kids about Hell.
Have you made up your mind on the whole 'heaven and hell' thing? Probably a good time to start thinking through this issue, because just like a rash, ignoring it won't make it go away. So let me throw a couple truths your way, so you can be sure you, your family, and your friends can be ready when time runs out, because, time will run out.
Death is immediately followed by judgment
Each person is destined to die once and after that comes judgment. (Hebrews 9:27)
According to this verse, people die one time, and then it's time for judgment. No reincarnation, no second chances, do not pass go, do not collect $200. So if you're thinking about putting off what you decide about heaven and hell until after you leave this earth, I wouldn't recommend it.
After the judgment, people are sent either to heaven or hell
And I saw a great white throne and the one sitting on it. The earth and sky fled from his presence, but they found no place to hide. I saw the dead, both great and small, standing before God's throne. And the books were opened, including the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to what they had done, as recorded in the books. The sea gave up its dead, and death and the grave gave up their dead. And all were judged according to their deeds. Then death and the grave were thrown into the lake of fire. This lake of fire is the second death. And anyone whose name was not found recorded in the Book of Life was thrown into the lake of fire. (Revelation 20:11-15)
That's it. Lake of fire, or stay in the presence of God (i.e. heaven). This scene is not a dream, it's actually a vision John had of an event that will take place in the future. So how do you get your name in the Book of Life? Jesus plainly tells us in John 3:16-18:
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. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only Son.
Those that believe (trust) in Christ go to heaven, those who don't go to hell. No lines, no wait.
No wait a minute Uncle J. This whole heaven-hell-fire-brimstone-judgment thing is just a scare tactic made up by crazy as a squirrel power hungry Christians.
And I wish that were so. Do you think I somehow enjoy the thought of a place called hell? Wouldn't it be great if the afterlife operated like a Disney movie meets Starbucks, where everyone goes to heaven- including all dogs - and we get to 'order' just the kind of heaven we want?
But my 'wishing' can't change the facts anymore than people who disagree with heaven and hell just because they don't like the idea, can change the facts. This is called 'argument by outrage', I disagree with you, therefore it must not be true.
The Person who knew heaven and hell to be true was Jesus. Sure, He preached love and forgiveness, but He also mentioned (quite often) heaven and hell as very real places that are the final destination for all humanity. What gives Jesus credibility? The fact that His views on heaven and hell come from seeing them firsthand. If you personally witnessed the horrors of hell and the joys of heaven, wouldn't you make it your mission to let people know? Exactly, which is why He did.
And that's exactly why you and I better check the time to make sure we're ready...because time will run out before you know it!
Maybe I have low expectations of myself, but I haven’t done very well with success in the past. I am a lightweight for approval, and when I get some it usually intoxicates me pretty quickly. A compliment, a good comment posted on something I wrote, an encouraging phone call all have me desperate to pat myself on the back and essentially tell God adios.
One thought that I have used to temper that scenario is that “unless I’m good, God won’t give me good stuff.” I think that’s pretty common in a performance driven society. You earn incentives. Bonuses are given at the end of a year, not the beginning. Everything is evaluated. Everything is measured. Gifts are not free. Praise is produced not given.
But maybe that’s wrong. I listened to a Joyce Meyer on the radio and she mentioned the book of Joel. I thought she had mispronounced Job because I forgot for a moment that there was such a book. (Sometimes I am not a very good Christian.) Anyway, in her segement, she gave a great example of the rhythm of God. Here’s what Chapter 2:25-27 says:
25 “I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten—
the great locust and the young locust,
the other locusts and the locust swarm
my great army that I sent among you.
26 You will have plenty to eat, until you are full,
and you will praise the name of the LORD your God,
who has worked wonders for you;
never again will my people be shamed.
27 Then you will know that I am in Israel,
that I am the LORD your God,
and that there is no other;
never again will my people be shamed.
Those verses are beautiful and I’m tempted to just camp out on the idea that God felt compelled to repeat the phrase “never again will my people be shamed.” That is awesome, but there are five really simple words I want to point out.
The words are “I will” and “Then you will.” By themselves they’re not that extraordinary, but in this context they become flares to a lost people. The thing I love about them is that they explode my notion of an “If then God.” See, I sometimes feel that God will bless me if I am good enough. If I am holy enough, am a good enough husband/Christian, then I’ll be blessed.
God doesn’t work that way though, does he? We get the good stuff first. We get a party just for coming home. We have plenty to eat and then we praise. We have great things worked in our favor and then we know that he is the Lord our God. I heard a minister once say that God’s gifts are so great they’re almost wasteful. I agree.
Give up your "if then God." Don’t try to manufacture praise, let it flow naturally out of the goodness that gets poured over us.
All you need to do is read. The Listen to God Day is possible because we have 774,746 words in 66 books that are directly from the mouth of God. How do I know this? Check out this amazing statement:
"Men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit." (2 Peter 1:21)
This verse is from the Bible and is talking about the authors of the Bible. The Bible is the inspired word of God. God said everything He needed to say to the human race and 40 men from three different continents took over 1500 years and put it down in one conveniently wrapped yet supernaturally powered book. When you read it, you're not just reading - you're actually tuning in to the God station - and believe me, it's playing your song.
The Bible is one of the most important things on earth. Don't believe me? Well, let me ask you a pretty important question. How's life going to work out for you without reading the instructions? Or put another way - do you really believe you can discover the best path for your life without listening to the One who designed life in the first place?
If you answered 'yes' to that last question, here's a good piece of advice for you-
There is a path before each person that seems right, but it ends in death.
Oh yeah - that's advice from the Bible. It's telling us that even though we think we're the stuff and we know the stuff, we actually are on a fast track to destruction. It's telling us that left to ourselves, we sort of think and do stupid things. Which is why I'm so glad I'm not left to myself - and that I have a book that allows me to see and live life from God's perspective - and believe me, you need that perspective. We all do. We all need comfort, encouragement, guidance, correction, or maybe even just an amazing story about an amazing God when our lives seem...well...less than amazing.