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untitled 1428310 m Jesus + Facts + Faith + You = ?

Jesus + Facts + Faith + You = ?

Sometimes people look at me like I’ve got lobsters coming out of my ears.

I’ve become familiar with this look. It precedes them unfriending me on Facebook and uninviting me from the party with their “not-nuts” friends.

I see this look right around the time they realize I actually believe that all that stuff in the Bible is true.

  • Yes, this God I can’t see created the entire universe. (The alternative, that it “just happened”, is, by the way, ridiculously dependent on faith… just saying)
  • Yes, Jonah was swallowed by a big something (whale, fish, whatever) and spit out later.
  • Yes, I believe Jesus was not just a nice guy, but the Son of God. He said so. (Here, Here, Here and Here, just to name a few) These are the kinds of things that made people try to throw Jesus off a cliff. They eventually murdered him for what he said.

So I believe all this stuff actually happened. And I don’t just “believe” like I “believe” that the Buffalo Bills could, in theory, win a Super Bowl. I’m not just wishing it to be true. I think it is. I know it is. Factually. Scientifically.

Does that make me some kind of lunatic? Should someone call DSS to prevent me from further indoctrinating my children with this insanity?

Or is there something to it?

You can funnel the entire argument of whether the Bible is true down to the life and ministry of its’ central character, Jesus.

Jesus’ short life and ministry changed the course of history.

The events of this man’s life were so significant that our calendars date back (roughly) to his birth.

  • But did Jesus really live?
  • Did Jesus really do the things the Bible claims?
  • Did Jesus actually rise from the dead?

Before I make decisions today that are based on those events long ago, I need to know a few things. I bet you do too.

The good news is that there’s plenty to know.

The New Testament is far and away the most well-documented text in ancient literature. Smarter people than me have done lifetimes of work documenting this. (Watch these videos)

The bulk of the New Testament was on paper (ok, parchment) well within the lifetimes of eye witnesses to the actual events that took place. That means that if it was completely unfounded it would have been written off as tabloids rather than proliferated throughout the entire known world.

The men who wrote it down paid for their beliefs dearly. They did not author it as a fictional account. Many were murdered for the very words they penned, but they did not recant.

Luke, the doctor, who had an eye for detail, opened his Gospel account with these words:

Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word. With this in mind, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I too decided to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught. (Luke 1:1-4)

Doesn’t sound like the opening of a fairy tale.

More compelling to me, though, is the testimony of those closest to Jesus.

John, Jesus’ best friend, personally witnessed his life, death and resurrection.

He stamped his writings with this statement:

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. (1 John 1:2)

Hmm… “heard” “seen” “looked at” “touched”… doesn’t sound like vague ramblings to me.

  • John walked with Jesus.
  • John ascended the mountain with Jesus, witnessing the Transfiguration. (Matthew 17)
  • John leaned back against Jesus at the Last Supper. (John 13)
  • John was given responsibility for caring for Jesus‘ mother after the crucifixion. (John 19)

What would it have been like to share a meal with your Savior? To watch Him interact with others? To hear Him call your name?

John tells us at the conclusion of his account of Jesus’ life:

Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written. (John 21:25 NIV)

So the written testimony we have about Jesus is just a fraction, a representation, of the whole of what He did.

Jesus’ followers, His disciples, left everything to follow an uneducated man from an obscure town. They faced persecution, even martyrdom, for what they claimed to be true. Yet they didn’t fall away. Their relationship with God so radically transformed them that they could not allow this burning message to die with them.

Two thousand years later, God is still writing His story of redemption through Jesus.

The story continues in and through you.

Jesus, pointing ahead to his bodily departure from Earth, told his disciples:

Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. (John 14:12)

These verses unsettle me.

  • We will “do the works” Jesus did?
  • We will “do even greater things than these”?
  • “Who? Me? You?”

Hard to believe. Yet my Jesus says it’s true. So it must be.

The question now becomes,

“Will we allow Him to work in and through me? Or will I hold back?”

Jesus + Facts + Faith + You = ?

  • What kind of story is Jesus writing with your life?

  • I’d love to hear about the story God is writing through you.

Freedom is Fragile

January 21, 2013 — Leave a comment

Freedom.

It’s easy to forget that just a few decades ago men and women in America had to endure persecution just to say, “Every man, woman and child should have basic human rights.” It’s mind-boggling to think that, just because of a person’s skin color, many used to be treated as second-class citizens.

Every free person should be reminded that the freedoms we take for granted aren’t necessarily guaranteed. In fact, if you take a brief glance at the history of the world you quickly realize that the free societies we live in today are the exception rather than the rule.

Please take 2 1/2 minutes and watch this excerpt of Dr. King’s speech.

Now consider this:

  • This was his final speech. He was assassinated the next day.
  • Fortunately, his words about equality came true. Thanks in large part to Dr. King and his fellow workers, America turned a corner in the battle of equal rights.

His words eerily haunt my mind and soul each time I listen to them. I am sure he sensed the looming danger all around him. Death threats were real and persistent. This man had a family that he didn’t want to leave behind. So what kept him going? Our only conclusion could be that he valued freedom and equality more than he valued his own life. Wow.

My question is this:

  • What do you believe in so deeply that you would give your life for it?

An even better question is:

  • What is worth living a life of sacrifice for?
 Remembering my Grandfathers

Memorial Day

I don’t have to look far for an example of what it means to serve our country.

The young man next door just returned from serving in Afghanistan. His family is of course ecstatic, as they should be. He has endured not only intense training, but has daily put his life on the line for the safety and security of others, dutifully carrying out the will of his country. I thank him every chance I get.

As I have prayed for him over these past months, I have often been reminded of the freedoms I am afforded due to the service of such outstanding men and women. Because others serve:

  • I get to sleep at night without threat of harm in our homeland.
  • I get to raise my daughters in a peaceful land.
  • I get to enjoy the benefits of a stable government.
  • I get to serve the Lord and do His work without being oppressed.
None of these freedoms are guaranteed. They’re not automatic. Millions in this world live without what we often take for granted. Our freedoms are bought and paid for by the blood, sweat and tears of our military families, and we owe them at least a debt of gratitude.

I think of prior generations, who sacrificed so much to lay our foundation of freedom. My uncle Don served in Vietnam, courageously carrying out his duty during an unpopular and thankless war. I hope we never again treat our troops the way we did then.

My Grandfather Wood served in the Navy during WWII, travelling the world by sea as it seemingly came unhinged on land. I cannot imagine the intensity of those years. The outcome was not written. Brave men had to wrest a better future from the hands of those bent on evil.

Just following the war, my Grandfather Wickman came of age to join, and sailed the seas as well. I am forever indebted to this generation. We all are. I am also blessed to still have my Grandpa with us. Today he’ll be at our home for a celebration of life. My daughters have birthdays to celebrate in May, and our family and friends are gathering. We’ll take time to pray before we eat, remembering all those who have gone before us, securing our freedom.

I just asked my 10 year-old, “Who was Saint Patrick?”

 Meet the Real Saint Patrick

Saint Patrick’s Cross

Her reply? “Umm…” Shuffling awkwardly, eyes darting for an answer.

“Ok,” I followed up, “why do we celebrate Saint Patrick’s Day?”

“Umm… because… he was the first Irish man to come to America??”

“Sigh…”

Most people have no idea why Patrick’s life was worth celebrating. For the record, he wasn’t the Lucky Charms leprechaun. He was a passionate priest who revolutionized the spiritual landscape of a pagan land.

Did you know…?

  • Saint Patrick wasn’t Irish. He was a Briton from an aristocratic family in NE England.
  • He was was abducted and enslaved in Ireland by the Celts, a brutal tribal people.
  • After 6 years of enslavement he was able to make a daring escape aboard a boat sailing back to England.
  • At age 48, God called him back to Ireland to take the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the pagan tribes who had enslaved him.
  • Patrick and his band of missionaries set up Christian communities that welcomed pagans, loved them, included them.
  • They spoke the same Gospel they always had, but transformed their methods to open the eyes of a pagan culture.
  • Under his ministry, 700 churches were planted, 1,000 priests were ordained, and 30-40 of Ireland’s 150 pagan tribes became substantially Christian.
  • He also became the first public person to speak out against slavery, which effectively ended in Ireland in his lifetime.

The Roman church considered the Celts barbarians, impossible to evangelize. Patrick’s knowledge of their culture, gained by his years in slavery, told him otherwise. The pain of slavery and separation from home, family and life as he knew it was the one thing that God ended up using to turn the world upside down.

Saint Patrick’s life wasn’t about green beer, shamrocks or driving snakes out of Ireland. It was about bringing the hope of Jesus Christ to others by living out Christianity among them. This is the kind of true story that changes the world. This is the kind of story I want to live. This is worth celebrating.

You can read all about Saint Patrick, his heart and his life in George Hunter’s “The Celtic Way of Evangelism“. It’s a fantastic read.

I’ll allow this prayer of Saint Patrick summarize the focus of His life:

…Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me, Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me, Christ on my right, Christ on my left, Christ in breadth, Christ in length, Christ in height, Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me, Christ in the mouth of every man who speaks of me, Christ in every eye that sees me, Christ in every ear that hears me.