An Ordinary Life

Pathway to a castle

Thomas Chisholm was born in a log cabin in Franklin, Kentucky in 1866. He became a believer at the age of 27 and a Methodist preacher at the age of 36 despite a lack of formal training for the ministry. Unfortunately, after only a year poor health made it impossible for him to continue as a pastor.

He later opened up an insurance office in New Jersey where continued ill health limited his income for the remainder of his life. He once said this regarding his humble circumstances, “God has given me many wonderful displays of his providing care, which have filled me with astonishing gratefulness.”

As he looked back, he saw God’s faithfulness though all the disappointments and frustrations as well as in His unfailing provision for him.

Inspired by Lamentations 3:22-23, he wrote the words to the hymn “Great is Thy Faithfulness” in 1923. He sent his poem to his friend William Runyan who added music to the words. The hymn became popular in churches throughout America after Billy Graham started using it in his crusades.

Unlike the story behind the song “It Is Well with My Soul,” Thomas Chisholm wrote this song toward the end of what he regarded as an “ordinary” life. As he looked back, he saw God’s faithfulness though all the disappointments and frustrations as well as in His unfailing provision for him.

After receiving direction to do so, I have spent the last few weeks adding more of my story to a book I am writing. This has stirred up many memories of the dark times in my life. I remembered walks late at night crying out to God in the midst of great personal pain. My time of affliction was long and filled with much despair.

I remember reading Lamentations 3:22-39 during this time and wondering if I would ever see the Lord’s compassion again or the end to my grief.

Now, however, as I look back at how the Lord rescued me from my trying circumstances and healed the deep wounds of my heart, I celebrate His faithfulness.

After I finished the task of adding my story to the opening chapters of my book, I listened to “Great is Thy Faithfulness” on YouTube. As I reflected on the words, I felt like every phrase of this hymn applied specifically to me. I especially liked the words, “Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow.” The Lord gave me strength even at times when I did not even realize it and faithfully renewed my hope of eternity when my outlook for this life seemed so dim.

God has been exceedingly faithful to me in bringing me through all my ups and downs. He has brought me to a place of rest that I could not have imagined twenty years ago. Where would I be without His unfailing goodness to me?

Although Chisholm may have regarded his life as ordinary, God has used the words he wrote to bless millions. His testimony of God’s faithfulness through the everyday messes of life has resounded through the church for many decades.

We never know how the Lord can use our lives. Even through what might seem mundane to us, He can use our experiences and testimony in ways we cannot imagine. When he wrote “Great is Thy Faithfulness,” Chisholm may have thought his words would drift into obscurity as have the many other poems he wrote. He likely could never have imagined the lasting impact of what he penned so long ago.

God’s plan for our lives even extends beyond the here and now.  In eternity, we will see the full end of God’s faithfulness as we see His purposes for all we endure on earth. In His hands, each unique (and even ordinary) story will fit perfectly into a beautiful and amazing kaleidoscope that will bring Him glory forever.

There we will continue to celebrate and sing of God’s great faithfulness for thousands of years to come.

We will fully understand just how much the Lord can use ordinary lives. It’s what lies at the end of our paths that matters the most.

 

Prison to Paradise

oct-2013-074

During our visit to Savannah, Georgia last year, my wife and I came across a painting, La Parabola, at the Telfair Academy for art. The painting, shown above, depicts the entire life of a woman in two separate panels. I felt a sense of sadness as I initially studied the painting.

Cesare Laurenti (1854-1936), who painted La Parabola in about 1895, intended his work to depict the progression of “human life . . . The race toward pleasure, until clouds of weighty thoughts and sorrow come to disturb the serenity of the young soul.” On the left panel, we see a young girl racing toward adulthood and the joys of romance. On the right, we see images of the same woman ever advancing in age toward death.

Is this not why our hope matters so much? If this painting represents the totality of our existence, we have no hope.

But because of Jesus, such is not the case. He is alive and we will be with Him, perhaps soon. This is the resurrection hope of 1 Corinthians 15; all believers will someday have an immortal body just like His.

So, you might ask. What is the big deal? Don’t all believers see this? Yes . . . and No.

So many believers today live as though this world is all they have. They live their lives inside the one-world perspective of Laurenti’s painting seeing only their slow and painful progress through this life. They voice a belief about heaven, but it fails to impact their lives. Without a focus on Jesus’ return and life with Him in eternity, the hopes of so many believers becomes earthbound, wrapped up solely in worldly outcomes that often lead to despair.

A One-World Outlook

The problem with living with such a one-world outlook is that it offers no vision of the joys of eternity. It’s like a prison from which one cannot escape. Sure there are many good experiences along with the bad as we progress through life, but without a heartfelt anticipation of the excitement of eternity, we remain trapped in life’s slow progression not unlike what is depicted in the painting by Cesare Laurenti.

It’s when we lose sight of the non-ending joy ahead for us that our losses become unbearable, our fears overwhelming, and our frustrations with life greater than we think we can bear.

Years ago, experienced the futility of living life in just such a way. As a young pastor, I welted under the weight of tragic circumstances that entered my life. Even though I loved to teach about future things, I still lived with a one-world perspective. When my life turned upside down, to put it mildly, I lost sight of forever. I lived as though only this life mattered.

I longed for earthly success at the expense walking faithfully with the Lord with a focus upon what He had for me both here and forever.

My response to the turmoil in my life demonstrated that my hope had not reached my heart. I was not yet living with a two-world outlook on life. I longed for earthly success at the expense walking faithfully with the Lord with a focus upon what He had for me both here and forever.

A Two-World Perspective

It was when I took the two-world perspective of 2 Corinthians 4:17-18 to heart that the Lord began His work of healing in my heart. I finally understood the truth of Paul’s words in Romans 8:18 that “the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed in us.”

As I grasped the importance of the unseen eternal realities versus my temporal pursuits, my fears became far less daunting and my frustrations with life eventually faded away. My losses were very significant, but when I weighted them against the glory of eternity and God’s eternal purposes they diminished both in scope and importance.

Beginning with Jesus’ return for us, we have a hope more wondrous than we can imagine.

I finally saw the futility of living as though everything depended on what happened to me in this life or on what I could accomplish. So what if I got all that I wanted? Did it really make a difference from the standpoint of eternity or two thousand years from now? How could that compare to living a life of trust dependent on Jesus? What will matter the most in eternity when I stand before the Lord?

Beginning with Jesus’ return for us, we have a hope more wondrous than we can imagine. This is why New Testament believers looked forward to Jesus’ appearing to take them home with such great anticipation. This lifted their gaze upward in the midst of great persecution found comfort and encouragement to continue taking courageous stands for the Lord.

We find this eager anticipation all through the New Testament.  In Philippians 3:20 Jesus said, “But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.” The sense here is of eagerly anticipating Jesus’ return as in 1 Corinthians 1:7 as well.

In Titus 2:13 Paul describes believers as “waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ.” Jesus’ return is our blessed hope. We will someday share in His resurrection life. Jesus is our blessed hope; He is coming to take us to be Him (John 14:1-3).

Our hope matters. This is why Satan does everything he can to take our eyes off of it. First, he introduces false teachings into the church that focus believers solely on earthly dreams. If Jesus has already returned, as some false teachers proclaim, then what do we have to look forward to? Are we not back to living bound to the ups and downs of whatever comes our way locked into a one-world perspective?

Second, if the devil cannot dissuade us through such false ideas, he does all he can to take our eyes off the great joy ahead for us. He will keep our focus on the prison of this life rather than the joyous paradise that awaits us.

The Path to Paradise

Years ago, John J. Davis wrote a commentary on Genesis called Paradise to Prison. The title, of course, depicts the effect of sin on the human race. God created Adam and Eve and placed them in paradise, the Garden of Eden. Sin entered the world and along with it death. Adam and Eve did not die right away, but became trapped in the path toward death with no escape. They found themselves imprisoned by their rebellion against God.

It’s Jesus, however, who turns our prison into a sure hope of dwelling in paradise forever.

We are not any better off for knowing Christ if an eternal and resurrected life is not in our future.

Paul said this, “If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied” (1 Cor. 15:19). Why? If we have no hope beyond our current lives, we remain trapped in the prison of sin and death that entered the world with Adam and Eve. We are not any better off for knowing Christ if an eternal and resurrected life is not in our future.

But such is not the case; in Jesus this is precisely the sure outcome of His salvation.

Jesus is the only way to this eternal life, to the paradise that awaits us beyond the here and now. He is the reason we can endure all our afflictions and setbacks. We know a better day is coming. We will spend eternity with Him experiences joy beyond what we can imagine.

Do you know Jesus as your Savior? Are you looking forward to paradise after death? Jesus died a cruel death on the cross so we could receive eternal life. He rose again confirming the validity of all His promises.

If you have not yet done so, please turn to Him before it is too late. He is waiting for you!

 

 

The Nightmares of Yesterday

church-white

As I drove away I thought, “My faded memories of yesterday are real, not just bad nightmares from so long ago.” I had gone back to the town and to the church building where I was the pastor many years ago. I remembered my high hopes and great excitement for the new ministry opportunity. I absolutely loved being a pastor and desired to accomplish great things for the Lord. Everything in my life suddenly turned upside down while there, however, rivaling any bad dream of my past.

I also felt a deep sense of peace and calmness in my heart on my way back home. Yes, the trials were exceedingly painful and severe, but the Lord had delivered me through all of them. The restoring process was quite long, but Jesus has healed me from all the wounds and resulting fears and panic attacks.

During the long healing process, I wrote the story below for myself, to focus my thoughts on the future rather than on what had happened in my past. Perhaps this is why biblical prophecy remains such a passion of mine; it continues my focus on the future.

Here is what I wrote about 25 years ago:

____________________

The Land of What Will Be

The past is a lonely place. We so often journey to this land by ourselves, relive its memories in the solitude of our minds, and linger there, thinking about what might have been.

This barren land of What Might Have Been bears a striking resemblance to Neverland where Peter Pan fled to escape reality. Like boys refusing to grow up, we so often refuse to let go of the faded dreams of our past, now only a faint memory. We tenaciously hold on to the past not realizing that there is only air in our hands. I know; I have visited this deserted isle many times.

Our stay in the land of What Might Have Been is risky. There the pirate of our souls attacks us with his sharp arrows:

“You fool! You should have known better.”

“HA! You got what you deserved.”

“You are the guilty one!”

“It’s all your fault, you know, you should have seen it coming.”

And on it goes in the land of What Might Have Been. No overgrown boy in tights flies to our rescue in this realm. We are there seemingly all alone, feeling the pain, shouldering the burden, and soaking our pillows with tears.

Failed plans, broken relationships, crushed dreams, and telephone conversations with old friends can all take us back to this desolate isle where hard as we might try, nothing changes.

There is another land, however, called What Will Be. It’s a joyful place. Those burdened with the past rarely feel the great joy and happiness of this brighter shore.

Two Men on a Journey

There were two men, however, who with help were able to leave the barren land of What Might Have Been and experience the joy of the land of What Will Be.

As we join these men traveling to their home in the early evening, we notice their heads hanging low. They are despondent, like many of us at times. As tears run down their cheeks, they rehearse the events of the past few days. The one who was to save their nation had been killed, put to death as a common villain.

“If only . . . . If only he had lived. What would it have been like? Freedom from bondage. A safe home for our people. If only he were still alive. Can you imagine how great that would be?”

As they languished in the land of What Might Have Been, a familiar stranger approached from behind and asks, “What are you guys talking about?”

“Are you the only one in this country who does not know what has happened these past several days, how Jesus of Nazareth was betrayed and put to death?” they reply. “Now, to make matters worse, women have visited his tomb and reported that it is empty. They say an angel told them that He is alive. What could have happened to the body?”

Undaunted, the stranger becomes their teacher explaining the ancient Scriptures to them. “The prophets clearly foretold that the Messiah would have to suffer first, and then enter into His glory,” He tells them. Beginning with Moses, he then proceeds to give them a course on Old Testament prophecy far surpassing all that had ever been given since that time.

As the two men approach their home, they feel their hearts burning with hope. They invite the stranger in for supper; and there, as He gives thanks and breaks the bread, they recognize Him.

“This is our Master. He is alive! He has risen from the dead! He is here, in our home, eating at our table!”

As soon as these disciples recognized Jesus, He vanished. Immediately, they got up and raced back to Jerusalem, their feet barely touching the ground.[1]

Our Call to Hope

The same Savior who brought hope and joy to those saddened travelers so long ago knows all about our shattered dreams, crushed hopes, and troubled hearts. He comes alongside us in our pain and feels all the pangs of our loneliness.

Yet He also stands at the edge of the desolate land of What Might Have Been and bids us to leave this desolate territory.

It is not a call to fame and fortune, at least not in this life. We may discover that our circumstances do not change. They may even get worse. The disciples who reveled in the resurrection that first Sunday long ago would face years of persecution for their faith. Except for John who suffered banishment, they would all be put to death for proclaiming the resurrection.

What, then, is the appeal of the land of What Will Be? Hope!

This is not, however, the type of anticipation we think of when we express a desire that the weather will be sunny and warm tomorrow. It may storm all day or even snow.

This hope is certain. Our future joy is just as sure as Christ’s resurrection, which guarantees it with absolute certainty for all those who know Him.

But how does this hope sustain us?

The Example of Jesus

Jesus Himself gives us the best illustration of how it works.

First, consider all that He endured. Betrayed by a trusted companion. Condemned in phony and illegal trials, although He had never done anything wrong His entire life. Denied by a close friend. Beaten, whipped, and mocked by the very men He had created. Nailed to a cross, the cruelest form of execution ever imagined. Scoffed and ridiculed while gasping for air on a cross full of splinters. And worse of all, separated from His beloved Father in heaven.

How did He survive all that? What kept Him from losing His mind? How was He able to forgive and reach out to others in midst of such cruel torture?

Hebrews 12:2 explains how He did it, “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.” Can you imagine a joy so great as to carry someone through all that torment, grief, and agony? Jesus could.

And the good news is that He is willing to share it with us. On the night He was betrayed, Jesus spoke of His home in heaven (the place of joy that sustained Him on the cross) and promised His followers that He would return to take them to a special place He was preparing for them inside that home.[2]

The glory of this future gathering in heaven caused the Apostle Paul to proclaim that the sufferings of this life were really nothing compared to the joy and splendor we will experience in eternity.[3] (If you think Paul had an easy life, read II Corinthians 11:23-33.) Jesus revealed to Paul that the future joy of eternity would make his enormous earthly afflictions seem small in comparison.

Our Eternal Hope

Our hope is this: Jesus has shed His own blood so that we might possess eternal life and enjoy a future joy far beyond anything we can imagine here on earth. And He has risen from the dead to demonstrate that this is no pie in the sky promise. It is real. It is certain. He is coming again.

Will we return to the land of What Might Have Been in a vain attempt to recapture failed dreams? Will we put our ultimate hope in earthly tomorrows that hold no certain promise except that they themselves may someday become candidates for the bleak realm of What Might Have Been?

Will we let Jesus transform our grief into joy as we look forward to the tremendous joys of eternity awaiting all who know Him as their Savior?

Or, will we place our trust in the One who has cancelled all the charges against us and promised us a certain and secure future, one that even the worst of circumstances on earth cannot destroy? Will we fix our eyes on eternity and let that gaze be our strength in a troubled world? Will we let Jesus transform our grief into joy as we look forward to the tremendous joys of eternity awaiting all who know Him as their Savior?

We have a choice. We can remain in the land of What Might Have Been and let the enemy of our souls ravage us with his relentless charges. Or, we can put our lives in the hands of a loving and gracious Savior who longs for us to experience the love, forgiveness, and joy He so freely offers to all who trust Him. The land of What Will Be is real and a place of overwhelming joy and all-encompassing hope.

____________________

This forward gaze to eternity sparked considerable healing in my life in the years after I wrote this story. This is one reason I am so passionate about writing about our hope. It’s not just a matter for theologians to debate, it’s something that redeems our troubled past, relieves our fears of the future, and gives us an unfailing hope for what lies ahead. This is why I write about our thrilling hope; it’s so much more than theology to me!

Where is your ultimate hope today? Does it rest in this troubled and chaotic world or in Jesus and His promises of a glorious eternity?

    [1]Luke 24:13-35

    [2]John 14:2, 3

    [3]Romans 8:18; 2 Corinthians 4:17, 18

Why Such Little Excitement?

 

Alaska Sunrise
“We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed.”

We have so much with which to be excited as we look forward to Jesus’ appearing to take us home, but so often we lose our eagerness for it. Why does this happen? Why do even seasoned students of prophecy sometimes lose their eagerness for eternity? Why do I lose my excitement for what lies ahead?

It’s so easy to live as though this lifetime is all we have, is it not? We get up, go to work, drive home, eat, watch TV, and go to bed. We do a hundred different things throughout the day that focus our attention solely on this life and soon we forget about forever.

We dwell in the anxiety of the moment rather than in the thrill of hope that comes from a joyous expectation of what lies ahead.

I am not saying we must concentrate on eternity all day long; we would never get anything done at work or at home. But so often we go about our daily routines with a one-world perspective oblivious to the joys ahead for us in eternity. In essence, we live as though we have no hope beyond the grave despite what we claim to believe. We dwell in the anxiety of the moment rather than in the thrill of hope that comes from a joyous expectation of what lies ahead.

Why do we lack the eager anticipation of the apostles and early believers regarding the return of Jesus? I believe this happens for a variety of reasons:

Misconceptions

How often have we seen depictions of lonely glorified believers sitting on clouds strumming harps? With such a caricature of eternity, it’s no wonder believers lose their eagerness for heaven. Such a picture dampens our anticipation and understandably so.

Better to live for the moment than wait for an eternity of loneliness sitting on a cloud somewhere in the sky.

Scripture, however, tells us we will reign with Christ in his earthly kingdom and then forevermore throughout eternity. Doesn’t that sound a whole lot better than the popular misconceptions of heaven?

Yes, we will sing praises to our Lord throughout eternity; this will be an unstoppable response at seeing the wonders of eternity and fully recognizing all that Jesus did to bring us home. However, our life in heaven will be so much more exciting and better than sitting on hard pews during a lengthy worship service.

I love the movie It’s a Wonderful Life, but someday we will be far more than aspiring angels jumping into icy waters to earn our wings. Scripture says we will “judge angels” (1 Cor. 6:3). I am not sure of all that implies, but it certainly distinguishes us from them.

“I’ve Heard That Before”

Back in the 1960s’ and 1970’s, eschatology became a hot topic. Many churches emphasized the imminent return of Jesus. I remember Jack Van Impe coming to my church to teach on prophecy for an entire week. I felt the excitement of waiting for Jesus’ soon return. He could come at any time!

However, many decades have passed since that time. Believers in large numbers have lost their expectancy of Jesus’ soon return and often respond with “I’ve heard that before” to messages telling them to be ready for it. Having looked for Jesus’ appearing for so long myself, I understand the sentiment that finds it difficult to remain watchful as the years fly by.

Yet as we see prophecy begin to be fulfilled in our world today at an amazing pace, if there was ever a time to be watchful, it is now! The signs increasingly point to the soon beginning of what we know as the tribulation and thus to Jesus’ soon appearing that happens before its onset. Can it be much longer before he returns? Don’t let the phrase, “I’ve heard that before,” take your eyes off the prize! Jesus could come at any moment!

Silence

Unfortunately, rather than increase their focus on Jesus’ return for us as the signs multiply all around us, many churches remain silent. Such silence not only takes our eyes off eternity but also deadens our joyous expectation of Jesus’ appearing. How can believers today look forward to something they never hear about?

The passing references to everlasting life that we do hear from our pulpits fail to excite us. Assurances of an undefined eternity do little to instill eagerness in us for it. This is why we need a renewed focus on what Scripture reveals about the joys ahead for us rather than bland affirmations of heaven, which do so little to stir our hearts, relieve our anxieties, or comfort us in the midst of sorrow.

The silence in so many churches regarding the amazing truths of eternity sadly dulls our anticipation of the amazing joys ahead for us in forever.

Without the exciting biblical vision of our future hope, it’s difficult to imagine how heaven can be any better than IPhones, smart TV’s, electronically-equipped cars, comfortable homes, and a host of other items that add enjoyment and comfort to our everyday lives. Can heaven really surpass the comforts and wonders of this life? Yes! Absolutely! The silence in so many churches regarding the amazing truths of eternity sadly dulls our anticipation of the amazing joys ahead for us in forever.

Not only that, the silence in many churches adds to the prevailing confusion about Jesus’ appearing. Without sound teaching about our hope, many Christians fall victim to false teachings that take away their hope in Jesus’ return and keep their eyes focused on earthbound goals and aspirations where hope and joy eventually fade away.

Teaching Without a Two-world Perspective

When churches ignore a biblical two-world perspective that includes eternity, they can unwittingly make things such as happy marriages, good parenting, and wise financial planning, our ultimate hope rather than Jesus’ return. Of course, biblically-centered teaching on such matters is absolutely essential. Without a two-world perspective integrated into such instruction, however, these things can easily become the consuming focus of our lives rather than our hope in Jesus’ appearing and eternity with Him.

The danger comes from placing our hopes on temporal results where so many factors, including the sinful choices of ourselves and others, negatively impact the outcomes we so greatly desire. The New Testament teaches believers to expect difficult times in this life (James 1:2-3; 1 Pet. 1:6, 4:12-13). Scripture promises us paradise in eternity, not now. We set ourselves up for great disappointment when we define anything in this life as our ultimate hope, even if it’s biblical and desirable.

To Sum Up

With all the things of this life continually shouting for our attention, it’s sometimes difficult to stay focused on Jesus and what He is now preparing for us in heaven. Even as someone who often writes about such things, I also feel the pull to put too much of my hope in what I see around me. But I also know from experience that it’s my hope of eternity that relieves anxieties and encourages me on a daily basis.

In today’s stress-filled world, we need more than dull platitudes regarding eternal life. We need our eyes fixed on our wonderful eternal inheritance that is reserved in heaven just for us (1 Pet. 1:3-4, 13). Once there, we will wonder why we ever thought that anything in this life could even come close to comparing with the joys of eternity.

 

Is Jesus an Islamophobe?

Processed with VSCOcam with 5 preset

Would Jesus’ teachings fall under the modern day usage of the term Islamophobic?

Let’s begin our examination of this by looking at how this term was recently used in a Senate confirmation hearing. On June 7, 2017, Senator Bernie Sanders accused Russell Vought, President Trump’s nominee to be Deputy Director of the White House Office of Management and Budget, of being “Islamophobic” and because of that unfit for office.  He concluded his questioning with this remark, “This nominee is really not someone who this country is supposed to be about.”

The cause of the Senator’s angst was an article Russell Vought wrote in defense of Wheaton College pertaining to their firing of a professor who claimed there was no difference between Allah and the God of the Bible. Here is what he wrote in a publication called Resurgent, “Muslims do not simply have a deficient theology. They do not know God because they have rejected Jesus Christ, His Son, and they stand condemned.” Sanders considered Vought to be Islamophobic based on this statement.

Would Jesus agree with Russell Vought or with Senator Sanders? Let’s put it to the test.

What Did Jesus Claim about Himself?

Jesus asserted that He is the only path of salvation. In John 14:6 he says, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”  Jesus’ claim here is unmistakable. He stated that no one can be saved; no one can come to the Father apart from Him. Jesus clearly claimed to be the only path of salvation available to all men and women.

So far, Jesus would agree with Vought’s statement. Since Muslims reject Him, they cannot know God or receive eternal life. According to the Quran, Jesus is a great prophet, but certainly not God nor the way of salvation. Muslims place Muhammed above Jesus and worship Allah, an ancient moon god, rather than the true and living God, whom Jesus revealed at His coming. They have a long history of opposing both Jesus and His followers, to say the least.

Jesus claimed to be God in the flesh and His resurrection forever verifies all His claims, including this one.

In John 10:30 Jesus also said this, “I and the Father are one.” The Jews who heard this immediately took up rocks to stone Him; they recognized His words as a claim to be God, one and the same with the Lord God of the Old Testament, the creator of all things. Jesus claimed to be God in the flesh and His resurrection forever verifies all His claims, including this one.

Russell Vought’s statement so far stands in agreement with Jesus.  Muslims do not know the only true and living God since they reject Him in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. Because Jesus is one with God the Father, one cannot reject Jesus and at the same time claim to know God. That’s simply impossible. You cannot reject God and at the same time claim to know God.

Are Those Who Reject Jesus Condemned?

The other part of Vought’s statement, the one that perhaps caused Senator Sanders the most trouble, was that Muslims who reject Jesus “stand condemned.” Would Jesus agree with this assertion?

Yes. Look at what Jesus said as recorded in John 3:17-18, “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.”  Jesus here boldly asserts that those who do not believe in Him are already condemned by virtue of their rejection of Him.

Vought’s statements regarding Islam align perfectly with the teachings of Christ; those who reject the Savior are “condemned already” and we have already established that Muslims do indeed reject Him.

Does this make the teachings of Jesus Islamophobic? Perhaps in the modern day usage of the term but in reality, absolutely not!!

Jesus died a cruel death on the cross; He shed his very blood so that all people, including the followers of Islam, might have eternal life. Jesus gave His life so that all people could find life and salvation by believing in Him (see John 1:12).

In John 15:13 Jesus said this, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone would lay down his life for his friends.” Jesus does not fear or hate Muslims; he died so that they might find eternal life in Him. He loves Muslims so much that He shed His own blood for them.

Since 2001, millions of Muslims have turned to Jesus and become heirs of eternal life. Some estimate there may be as many as a million Christian converts in Iran alone. I recently read that Muslims in Indonesia are currently turning to Jesus in record numbers. The life and hope they could not find in Islam they now forever possess in Jesus. I rejoice that so many former Muslims are now brothers and sisters in Christ.

We all equally need a Savior; there is no distinction. We all need Jesus.

In essence, this is not a matter regarding any one religion or race or any other grouping of people. Everyone, without exception, needs the life that only Jesus offers.  Apart from Him, no one can know God or find eternal life. We all equally need a Savior; there is no distinction. We all need Jesus.

I truly pray that Senator Sanders someday turns to Jesus and finds the joy, peace, and eternal life that can only be found through putting one’s faith in the Savior. The senator has every right to reject Vought’s nomination, but sadly his words reflect more of a rejection of Jesus than of the nominee.

 

 

It’s the Resurrection Part 2: Jesus’ Claims

cross-sunset-sunrise-hill-70847

Since gravity is true, regardless of our ability to jump we always come back to the ground (I return a bit quicker than most since I can’t jump very high). If we drop something, it goes down rather than up. If we trip, we fall unless we regain our balance in time. Since gravity exists, certain things naturally flow from that.

If Jesus can predict the timing of His rising from the dead, it follows that we can trust the claims He made about Himself.

Likewise with Jesus’ resurrection, since He rose from the dead certain other things are necessarily true as well. If Jesus can predict the timing of His rising from the dead, it follows that we can trust the claims He made about Himself. It’s an unbreakable chain.

Think about it for a moment, if He indeed walked out of the tomb on the third day exactly as He predicted, and we know for certain He did, this adds an undeniable authority to everything else He said does it not? It validates beyond any doubt all His many other assertions. The empty grave establishes the credibility and supernatural character of Jesus; He is no ordinary man.

Let’s consider some of the key claims Jesus made about Himself in this light.

Jesus Claimed to Be God in the Flesh

I want to revisit Jesus’ claim to be God as this is crucial to building my case for why I believe what I do. In John 10:30 Jesus made this remarkable statement, “I and the Father are one.” The Jews who heard these words immediately picked up rocks with which to stone Him to death because they recognized Jesus was claiming equality with the Lord God of the Old Testament. They regarded His claim as the height of blasphemy.

In John 14:8, Philip said this to Jesus, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” In response, Jesus told his disciple he had already seen the Father, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father” (v. 9). Jesus claimed to be the perfect revelation of His Father in heaven. He claimed to be God in the flesh.

When we look at Jesus, we see an exact reflection of our Heavenly Father who by His word created the universe out of nothing.

The writer of Hebrews put it this way, “He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature” (Heb. 1:3). When we look at Jesus, we see an exact reflection of our Heavenly Father who by His word created the universe out of nothing.

Can you see how Jesus’ resurrection plus His claim to be God in the flesh adds unmistakable value to all His other assertions?

Jesus Claimed to be the Only Way of Salvation

Jesus’ claim to be the only way of salvation is perhaps His most controversial one today. People recognize Jesus as someone great, but dismiss the necessity of putting their faith in Him alone for their salvation. They do not see Him as necessary for their lives.

Jesus made this claim about Himself in John 14:6, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Perhaps the most recognized verse in all of the New Testament, John 3:16, echoes this exact same exclusivity, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” Jesus said it’s only those that believe in Him that do not experience God’s wrath, but receive eternal life

The brutality of Jesus’ death adds further weight to this truth. If we could save ourselves by keeping the Law, being moral, or by our good works, do you really think that the Father would have allowed His Son to endure such extreme agony on the cross? Of course not!

If there was any other way of salvation, do you not think the Father would have spared His only Son such a brutal and horrendous death? Absolutely!

Jesus suffered and died precisely because there was no way for the Father to provide eternal life apart from faith in Christ and His death in our place.

Jesus Claimed to be the Resurrection and the Life

In the next claim we will consider, Jesus again emphasizes that He alone is the way of salvation. In John 11:25-26 Jesus said this about Himself, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. . . .” In claiming to be “the resurrection and the life” Jesus promises that all who believe in Him will live, even if they die.

We have no ability whatsoever to save ourselves; only He is capable of bringing us safely to eternity.

Do you see the essential relationship between this claim and Jesus’ resurrection? If Jesus’ bones are buried somewhere in Israel, then our belief that we will rise again to new life someday is also buried with them. When Jesus physically walked out the grave, He demonstrated His ability to give eternal life to those who believe in Him.

This is why only He can offer salvation to a lost humanity. We have no ability whatsoever to save ourselves; only He is capable of bringing us safely from this life to eternity. That’s why it’s so necessary that we put our trust solely in Him.

Those who believe in Jesus will someday rise again to a glorious and wonderful life. Jesus’ resurrection guarantees this for all who truly know Him as their Savior.

Jesus Claimed to be the Long Awaited Messiah

If I was a Jewish Christian living in the first century AD, this would likely have been the first claim of Jesus that I would have mentioned. Jesus claimed to be the long awaited Messiah spoken of throughout the entire Old Testament. He is the Christ that the prophets, beginning with Moses, said would come to Israel one day.

The woman knew of the hope for a Messiah and Jesus simply responded saying that He was the One, the hope of Israel.

Interestingly, Jesus first claimed to be the long awaited Messiah while talking with a Samaritan woman, “The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ). When he comes, he will tell us all things.” Jesus said to her, ‘I who speak to you am he’” (John 4:25-26). The woman knew of the hope for a Messiah and Jesus simply responded saying that He was the One, the hope of Israel.

This sampling of Jesus’ key claims about Himself helps us understand why the resurrection is so foundational to all that we believe. The remarkable claims Jesus made about Himself are true because Jesus walked out of the grave on the third day, exactly as He predicted. If not for His resurrection, all of His claims would be meaningless because He could not be God. And if not God, then incapable of keeping the many wonderful promises He made to us.

However, because He rose from the dead, we have hope. He is our risen Savior.

These claims of Jesus are building blocks upon the sure foundation of our faith, the resurrection of Jesus. From here, we will keep on building. In the coming posts, we will take this a step further; we will start looking at some of the implications of Jesus claims. My next post will seem a bit off topic at first, but it will soon be clear how it relates.