Wednesday, September 17, 2014


Something New: Seven “I Am” Statements of Jesus

One of the best things about reading through the New Testament with a group of 10th grade boys is that I get to learn right along with them. I’ve found over the years that I can still learn new things even when I read something in the Bible that is familiar to me. This was the case when we recently read the Book of John and all of the “I am” statements by Jesus caught my eye.

In the Old Testament, “I Am that I Am” is the common English translation of the response God used when Moses asked for his name. “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). No doubt, Jesus is communicating through John that Jesus is in fact God, the great I Am.

Is Jesus the great “I AM” of your life? That is the most important question. He also wants to be your “I Am” in seven other distinct ways. Here are those seven “I Am” statements.

1. “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). In other words, just like manna from heaven, Jesus is the One who spiritually sustains us.

2. “When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “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) Literally this means that those who join Jesus as one of His followers will not be ignorant of spiritual matters but will have the power of understanding especially of the spiritual truth that brings eternal life. In Him we gain spiritual understanding and wisdom for living.

3. “I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. He will come in and go out, and find pasture.” (John 10:9) Salvation is found through Jesus, He is the gate to the Kingdom, and no one can enter except through Him.

4. “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” (John 10:11) A few would be willing to risk their lives to protect their sheep, but our Shepherd knowingly and willingly died to save us, because there was no other way. Jesus is our good shepherd and He paying our entrance fee with His life.

5. Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.” (John 11:25-26) Here we learn that even though a believer experiences physical death, he will still have life.  Whether we die before the rapture or are taken live in it, He has guaranteed our eternal life with God.

6. Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6) There is no other way into the presence of God than by accepting the Lord’s death as payment in full for our sins. Jesus is the only one who can do this for us

7. “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) It’s important to understand that salvation is not a fruit bearing event, so in this statement Jesus was talking about our life after we’re saved.  This statement reveals that for the balance of our life on Earth, the things we do in His strength, out of gratitude for what He’s done for us, are the only things that matter.

Monday, September 15, 2014


Sweeping America: Making God in Our Own Image One of Three Forms of Godlessness Described by Plato

During 2014, there has been a rash of high-profile Americans pubicly “remaking” God in their own image. Most recently it was a “Christian” singer who said she was gay and proclaimed that “her” God was okay with it. Turns out, the theology that she uses to justify her behavior and demand acceptance from fellow Christians is nothing new. Plato actually described and condemned it in his great final work, “The Laws.” I was required to read “The Laws” in one of my final political science classes in college.  In “The Laws,” Plato identifies three forms of “atheism”  (or what we might today call “godlessness” or perhaps “secularism”).

The denial of divity is what Plato describes as the first form of atheism. This is the idea that there is no God or are no gods and no supernatural reality. Today, this is usually want we mean when we use the term “atheism.”

The second form of “atheism” described by Plato does not deny divinity. However, it says that God or the gods do not concern themselves with human affairs. Sometimes you will hear people use the term “deism” as a label for this view. I do know some people who would fall in this category as well as some historical figures who are said to have been “deist.”

Then, just as Plate described, there is the popular third form of “atheism” in America that accepts that there is a God and that God is concerned with human beings. However, this “God” is soft-spirited, easily appeased and makes no stringent moral demands of humans. This “God” wants us to like ourselves so it is fine with him if we do pretty much as we please. He is an “I’m okay, you’re okay” divinity.

The mortal threat to Christianity today does not come from Plato’s first and second forms of atheism, but from the third. Few believers are likely to be led astray by the arguments of the first or second form of “atheism” because the defects of those arguments are easy to see.

However, many believers  are being led into Plato’s third form of atheism which is belief in an imaginary God made in the image of man with our traits of expressive individualism and me-generation liberalism. It is a convenient “God” that is always willing to say, “do whatever you feel like doing, darling; I love you just the way you are.”

Be careful America: we serve a mighty and Holy God that cannot stand sin (as discribed in the Bible). Our Holy God is the one that gets to determine what is sin, not us.

Friday, September 12, 2014


The Original Word of Mouth Marketer

I’ve been working on some materials for a presentation I’m giving on “word-of-mouth” marketing. There is a ton of research on marketing methods. Everyone is looking for that magic bullet that gets people to a program or moves them to action. The fact is, there is no magic bullet. However, there are lots of marketing tools: social media, media releases, tv and radio, newsletters, etc. None of them can do the job of marketing for your organization on their own.

Another interesting fact pops up in all of the research: “word-of-mouth” marketing is, hands down, the most effective at getting people to act or respond to a request or need.

What is “word-of-mouth” marketing? Well, have you ever had a friend call you to tell you about a great new restaurant or a new store in town. By the end of the phone conversation, you were ready to make reservations for dinner, or pack up the family to go shopping. These simple conversations with our friends and co-workers will direct us to good doctors, fine dining or the best family movie this season. The word of a friend or an associate is accepted as trustworthy, and influences our decisions much more than any known form of advertising.

Just when we thought our brand new logo and jazzy radio commercials were sure to bring people to our programs – it turns out the “word-of-mouth” marketing is even better. The key is to give customers and supporters something to talk about since “word of mouth” marketing is basically getting people talking on your behalf.

Turns out, Jesus was a master at this! He apparently understood human nature very well. He performed miracles, fulfilled prophecy and taught about having a relationship with God which gave his followers lots of things to talk about themselves. He also called disciples and he gave them a clear “word of mouth” marketing directive:

Matthew 28:18-20 – “And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age."

There you have it, the “word of mouth” marketing directive from Jesus. If it was good enough for Jesus and the spread of his church, it is surely good enough for our organizations! But at the same time, as believers, let’s not forget to use our mouth to talk about Jesus and his church.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014


What is truth? The Question that Still Haunts Pilate

What is truth? It is a great question. It also happens to be the question Pilate asks of Jesus in John 19:38. It is a question that still gets asked today. There are all sorts of people around us that don’t know what “truth” is, and they don’t know what “truth” involves. Some don’t believe in universal truths and others believe we can each create our own “truth.” Instead of seeking truth, many chase after idols, their desires, and every new fad or trend that comes passing by them.

But the question still begs a good answer. What is truth? Could the historic portions of the events between Jesus and Pilate in the Bible help to provide a contest?

When Jesus was asked that question by Pilate, he didn’t answer. Could it have been because he knew Pilate’s heart was hardened? (Think of the Pharaoh and Moses). Pilate is a reminder that the truth cannot simply be told to an adult and they be expected to believe it. It was evident that Jesus was already not believed among those He had already been around in His ministry. It is possible to be blind to the truth.

Another thing I think of when I hear the question is about “having trust” in another individual. Discovering the truth is easier when there is trust. This begs the question: do you trust Jesus? He already loved you even before you understood love. If you know Jesus you know, you can trust Jesus. Ultimately, love and trust work together and each one makes the other easier.

So I go back to the original question asked of Pilate: “what is truth?” Could Pilate trust Jesus? Did Pilate have a child-like faith? Could Pilate simply be told what the truth was of God and be expected to believe it? If Jesus told Pilate to set Him free because He was the Son of God, would Pilate have done it? Honestly, I think the answer to all of those questions is “no.”

Pilate, I am sure, was an intelligent man. He was a man of position because of his leadership and because of his devotion to the Roman Empire. He knew his job, and he was involved with the people around him. He lived in a world where trust was of no use to him or those he served. The Jewish culture around him was allowed, under Roman rule, because it was necessary to continue running a society that the Romans had conquered. The Roman Empire needed the influence of the Jewish leaders to make it more practical to govern. All of these things contributed to Pilate and his meeting with Jesus that day: influence, politics and corruption.

I think the Bible makes it clear that Pilate did not believe that day. He had been hardened by the life he had lived. I do want to believe that Pilate was curious of Jesus. The Jews had come to him to have someone executed for reasons he did not understand or believe. He knew his laws did not apply (this was a religious matter) but he also saw the political realities. However, Pilate could not believe. He could not believe because he was unwilling to take that first step of faith. The fact that God already knew what action Pilate would take is of no consequence. (Sounds like the Pharoh and Moses again) Pilate's act of allowing Jesus to be crucified because of his unbelief allowed God's people to be saved from the bondage of sin. The miracle was our salvation.

What evidence did Pilate have that Jesus was who He said He was? What evidence could Jesus give? Was Pilate willing to research this and find out? Pilate could not and would not believe because he was unwilling to seek the truth. If you are unwilling to believe, then you will never know the truth. What is truth? Believe in Jesus as who He said He was. Seek Him out and have Faith enough to trust Him and the truth will be revealed to you. Seek the truth, and you will find it. (John 8:31-32)

Tuesday, September 09, 2014


What is the key to Leadership?

What is the Key to Leadership? Honestly, based on my experiences in 2013 and 2014, I now have an answer but it isn’t what you are probably expecting to hear. I would urge anyone seeking instruction on leadership to look first to the Bible before any of the self-help books that have been written.  I'm going to share my answer at the end of this blog. But first, I have a few observations.

I've been reading a lot of content recently about leadership and leading change. I often get to the end of the article or book feeling a little empty. I mean there are good points and observations but seldom a "hard and fast" rule and never a silver bullet that works in all situations. At least I’m not finding a solution in books or one-day classes. Books and conferences provide good principles and take away sentences that make people feel good but normally they are things that are difficult to do on your own or in your own power. Most of us have constraints on what we can do either due to finances, supervisors, or other time demands on our life.


Take Bill Hybel's book "Simplify" for example. From the cover of the book: "When we spend our lives doing things that keep us busy but don’t really matter, we sacrifice the things that do. ... If you crave a simpler life anchored by the priorities that matter most, roll up your sleeves: Simplified living requires more than just cleaning out your closets or reorganizing your desk drawer. It requires uncluttering your soul. By eradicating the stuff that leaves your spirit drained, you can stop doing what doesn’t matter—and start doing what does."

Hybels basically says we must live with "margin" in our lives so we can respond to needs when they arise but also have time to rest. Well, that is easy to say if you are the CEO of a very large organization with lots of staff doing work you tell them to do, hired help at your house, and grown children. Sort of reminds me of politicians who tell us "I feel your pain, I understand your needs," and then they leave the rally in a limo with a speakers check for $500,000 and go back to an $18 million dollar home with a maid. They don’t understand the challenges my wife and I face with both of us working jobs that are more than 9 to 5 jobs just to make ends meet, teenage children that are busy with activities and need us to drive them around and help with homework, all while juggling church and family responsibilities that are important. Giving as advice to “simplify” is, well, a little too simple.

I’ll admit that living with “margin” is a great goal but when your child needs to be driven to band practice and you have to wait to pick him up after school and you are the only person available to do that … your “margin” gets eaten up sitting in your car. Typically, I spend that type of “margin” time thinking about things I need to get done and expanding my “to do” list.


Then there are plenty of secular leadership programs and books that talk about leading change, leading people, and rallying people to pull together as a team. The marketing for these leadership events sound like a silver bullet. Here is a recent example I received by email: “Using experiential learning exercises as a metaphor for what it takes to lead a high performing team, this professional development workshop will help you explore the interpersonal and organizational advantages of working together. You will leave the class understanding the need for organizational change, able to identify leadership strategies that create a thriving culture for change, better able to adopt and accept change, able to understand the needs of those faced with adopting change, and equipped to use communication strategies that create awareness, acceptance, adopting and advocacy of change initiatives.” Whew, I’ll be ready to change the world after this class!

As with any conference or program, there are many fine examples of training that has helped and you can even find people who will give you a success story or two about their leadership success. But often times, these success stories come at the expense of a wife and/or children. They also often have a lot of “I” in them and statements that suggest that if you can just dream it work hard enough, it will happen.


Let me suggest that there is really only one thing that matters more than all of the other studies and suggestions: prayer to enlist God’s help. That is it. That is the key to leadership.

Without it, we are just people tossing around ideas and theories that sometimes work but often do not. We can have good ideas of course. We can even find success that merits patting ourselves on the back (and allowing others to do the same). But the fact is, God is the author of our successes. God sees the big picture, God knows what is coming next and God does speak to us (through the Holy Spirit).

I discovered this past year while serving my church in a leadership role that every team presents a different challenge. No list of ideas for building consensus in a team or even running focused meetings works in every situation. In fact, I found that when I was more dependent on God and less dependent on me, things worked out better. Therefore, I should add that a second key to plugging in to prayer and allowing God to take the lead is humility. We have to admit we don’t have the answers and we have to admit that we need God’s help. We have to admit that we can’t and shouldn’t make decisions based solely on our own muscle or brain power.

Without prayer, without seeking God in leadership moments, we are just like a squirrel gathering nuts in the fall. We scurry around, hides nuts, bury nuts and eat nuts in a flurry of activity but lacking foresight in regards to what winter has in store, unable to influence any of it, and really unable to impact it. Yes, as a leader we do have to do the work and get others to join in the fun but if we are not humble and seeking God in prayer, we are just wasting our time.

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