Lessons Learned from my fourth year of Marriage

Sarah & Justin-46
Make time for Jesus. This is the first priority. Sarah is my second.

My wife likes the little things. She does a dynamite job caring for our home, even though at this moment our home is in transition. Managing a home is a lot of work filled with many little tasks and no pay. By doing the dishes, changing the laundry, or vacuuming for Sarah can be a huge help to Sarah.

Ask the hard questions. I can read Sarah. She wears her feelings freely on her face. As her husband, I want to go deeper than asking, “How are you doing?” or “What’s up?” That usually goes nowhere. She likes when I asks her questions. She wants to answer.

Listen well. Asking questions is good, but like most dudes I have a natural tendency to listen in order to fix, but often Sarah isn’t looking for a quick fix. She wants me to listen. That in itself is helpful.

We are more alike than we are different. Sarah is not from Venus and I am not from Mars. We are earthlings, moreover, we are children of God made in His image. In God’s eyes, Sarah is a princess and her value is priceless.

We are distinctly different thinkers. Sarah is a verbal processor, while I am a ponderer. The beauty of marriage is discovering how these compliment rather than conflict.

Encourage friendships. Sarah has great friends. When Sarah comes back from a cup of coffee or prayer gathering with the ladies she is re-juiced. It is worth carving out the time to kick Sarah out of the house so she can spend time with her companions.

Snuggle. Sarah likes it when I sit next to her. I mean butted up next to her. Touch is a big thing to her. As a couple, it is good to be intimate often. Touch her heart before you touch her body.

Expect to be sanctified. My sin is so obvious to Sarah. Living with another person, especially a spouse exposes how self-centered I am. God uses Sarah to chisel at my core and I am becoming more selfless. It hurts, but it’s good.

Pray for wisdom. I cannot be the man Sarah needs me to be alone. I need God.

See entries from years past:
1st anniversary
2nd anniversary
3rd anniversary

the gift that keeps on giving

These are some beautiful reflections by my wife Sarah on Christmas.

I can only imagine that both Mary and Joseph were exhausted. For the last 5-9 months as people learned of her pregnancy, Mary had lost friends.  Even her family frowned.  “Really?  You didn’t do anything wrong but you’re pregnant?  An angel you say?  Ok Mary, well, let’s not talk about it.”

If you’ve never had close friends turn their back on you, then you probably don’t know what Mary felt like. And this wasn’t one friend, this was like maybe ALL but one or two.  Mary and Joseph were alone.  Who was going to cook for her after the baby was born?  Who was going to be there to be excited about how cute he was?

Eight days later, there was one person who would be excited.  He had read the ancient writings and he knew that God had promised to come to earth in Bethlehem.  This was the One. The One who would pay.

In that moment, God began to pay for the wrongs that we do every day.  It wasn’t about being “good.”  Nothing that was simply “good enough” could stand in the presence of God.  He is GLORY itself.  Nothing with even one little spot can be allowed there, because there is ONLY goodness there.  Otherwise, we could still hurt each other in God’s presence.  No, he can’t let it be like that.  It WILL be perfect.  Perfect peace.

In that one moment, a sheltered life inside of the womb was born into a dirty room with animals, into the hands of people who had hurt and stolen and even killed with those hands.  A baby.  A baby who could only cry for milk.  Why would God come like that?  He chose it. He chose to be normal. Except for one thing: He would pay.

But Mary and Joseph believed.  They believed that God had a holy perfect place which was the only thing that made sense in a world filled with disappointment and apathy.  They were not born only to suffer with age and die.  No, they were born to see the perfect face of God, but they could not get there with “good enough” actions.  Someone must remove every last action that was not done out of love and thankfulness to God.  How could you erase the past?  It was too big to pay for.

But, maybe you HAVE had someone turn their back on you.  The first time it is simply excruciating.  The one and only person you love with all your heart.  On that last day of Jesus’ physical life, the first day began to make sense.  On that last day, the Father that had looked down with love on his Son, turned his back on him and the Son’s heart literally broke with blood and water mingling.  Why would the Father do that?

Until that moment, as God in the flesh, Jesus was perfect and without even one action of selfishness.  But, in that moment, His destiny was realized – to take all the sins of the world and their punishment onto Himself.  God then turned his back and poured out His wrath and death into the body and heart of Jesus. Jesus paid for you.  Every action that is not pure, was put on Jesus.  It wasn’t a symbol or a legend.  He died. And he didn’t deserve to.  We deserve it.  And we will face a physical death, but after that . . .

God wants once again to be with us.  Emmanuel.  His life. His gift.

man is responsible to God

There are many different views about what God is like. He can be depicted as a nice old man upstairs or an ogre under the toll bridge. We often make God what we want Him to be like rather than who He really is. The God of the Bible is often different than the popular persona of Him. The way we—including many Christians—like to picture God is not the way God. What is God like to you? Here are some common views of God voiced by people today:

God is like a Grandpa. The grandpa-God is popular, forgiving, and a generous giver. Whenever we do something wrong he smiles and says, “It’s okay, I understand, don’t worry, I love you. Here’s some ice cream.” He is positive and reluctant to punish—sometimes forgetful. Grandpa God loves to spoil and send home his grandchildren satisfied.

God is like Santa Claus. Some think God is like a Cosmic Easter Bunny, Mr. Rogers, or jolly old St. Nick. “He sees you when your sleeping, He knows when your awake, He knows if you’ve been bad or good, so be good for goodness sake.” He likes to give lots of gifts; blessings to all good kids and coal to the bad kids. All we have to do is ask and He will give us whatever we desire, like a genie in a bottle. The problem with the Santa Claus God is that the older we get the harder it is to believe that He is real.

God is like my Buddy. Some think God is like a casual friend. We go together like milk and cookies or macaroni and cheese. We text and Facebook each other often, but it is nothing more than casual and fun conversation. We like to call on Him when we need a friend because he is non-judgmental and low-maintenance. He will look out for us, but doesn’t interfere with our personal business.

God is like an Unfair Judge. Some think God is commonly known as the overbearing, always anger judge. He wears a long flowing judicial robe and carries a gavel waiting to inflict punishment and pain on sinners. He keeps a list of our tardies and demerits. This God is overly involved in our daily lives and world events. He is angry at sin and rightfully punishes the unfaithful. Feeling guilty?

Is God like some of these characteristics? God is loving, forgiving, and blessing. He is a friend. He is just and angry at sin. God is very different—compared to you and than most popular concepts of Him. As we read through the Bible we see that God is not like us. We have already discussed that I believe the Bible is absolutely true, which includes what that Bible says about God. He is set apart. He is in a class of His own. He is not untouchable or unattainable; rather He is distinct in His divine attributes. Here is what the Bible says God is like and humanity’s responsibility to Him:

Man is responsible to God because He is an indefatigable Creator

In the first verse of the first book of the Bible it declares, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” [Genesis 1:1] Everything exists [i.e. mountains, mammals, microorganisms, Milky Way] because God is—including you and me [cf. Genesis 1:26-27]. God spoke and it was. The Bible says that the creation itself sings of it Creator, “The heavens declare Your glory” [Psalm 19:1; cf. Romans 1:19-20].

God is a beautiful Creator. As the Creator of the universe and everything He does not get tired, “Have you not known? Have you not heard? The everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, neither faints nor is weary.” [Isaiah 40:28] It is true God rested the seventh day of creation not because He was tired, but as a model for His creation who is not omnipotent. As Creator, there is not a job God cannot handle, “Ah, Lord God! Behold, you have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and outstretched arm. There is nothing too hard for you.” [Jeremiah 32:17]. The affairs of seven billion people on this planet are not outside His job description either.

Now there are some people that argue, “So what if God made all that is and me? That doesn’t mean He is intimately involved in the affairs of His creation nor govern over it? Even if He is governing, He is not doing a very good job!” This is easily debunked when we look at the remainder of the Scripture that follows Genesis 1. From Genesis 2 through Revelation 22—even now—God is intimately involved in the lives of His people. God is alive and at work. Since He is my Creator and Originator, He owns me and expects me to obey.

Man is responsible to God because He is infinitely Holy

Not only is God a Creator—He is infinitely holy. In other words, God cannot sin. It is not that He doesn’t know the nature of sin; rather His holy character prevents Him from sinning. When getting a glimpse of God, Isaiah see angelic beings praising God saying, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!” [6:3] God is holy, which means He is sinless. When Isaiah saw God for who He was [holy], he also saw himself for who he was [unholy].

Since God is sinless He cannot be prejudiced [Acts 10:34-35]. He cannot break a promise [Psalm 89:34]. Therefore, He does not know of a sin He cannot not forgive nor think of a better plan of salvation than His own [Exodus 34:6-7]. God is who He says He is—perfect and infinitely holy. Since God is holy, He expects holiness from His creation. There is no sin in His heaven. Those whose sin is not covered by the blood of Christ will not be in heaven either.

God is not a garbage man throwing out our sinful trash without a cost and delivering to the local dump never to be recovered again. Our sin does have a severe cost: death [Romans 3:23]. Sin must be judged. Yet in God’s grace He sent Jesus Christ to pay the ransom for my sin and He stands as my advocate before the throne. When I commit my life to Christ His blood declares me, “Not guilty!” He loves righteousness and justice.

In Summary, what is God like? He is not like us. He is Creator and Holy. He is perfect and without sin. Since God is my holy Creator I am responsible to Him. He owns me. I report to Him. He is the standard by which I live by and will be judged. If you want to know about what God is like look at Jesus [Read the accounts of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John]. Is this your God? Do you know Him?

God Is

Part 1 of 3 Why Worship Matters

We live in a culture [as others before us] willing to worship anyone and anything. We will pack arena’s to sing our favorite songs from our favorite band. We will be first in line at the movie theatre to see the next biggest summer blockbuster. We will pack sports stadiums and worship teams and players with loud cheers and waving our banners. Last December Sarah and I went to our first fridged Packer game at Lambeau Field. There was some worship going on that day! Later we thought, as great as the game was, “Heaven is going to be awesome!”

We are about all worship. It is not easy to define real worship in a culture that readily worships anyone or anything. Worship is about what we live for [who we are]. Every day, all day, everywhere you go, you worship. It’s what you do. It’s who you are. You can’t stop it or live without it. Worship is a way of life. It is a whole-life response to God’s greatness and glory. You are a worshipper before you are a father, mother, sister, brother, boss, employee or student. Worship is simply about value. Worship is our response to what we value most.

Why does worship matter? Why must worship matter to me? Why is it so important? Worship matters because GOD IS and His character demands my worship [Isaiah 6:1-3].

God is alive.

Isaiah says, “I saw the Lord.” Uzziah is dead, but God still lives. “From everlasting to everlasting, You are God” [Psalm 90:2]. God has no beginning or end. He does not depend anything or anyone to exist. God was alive when this universe banged into existence. He was alive when the Buddha and Muhammad walked the earth. He was alive when JFK was shot. He was alive when a tsunami sweep away Indonesia, and earthquakes rocked Haiti and Chile. He will be alive ten trillion ages from now when all the puny people in power are long forgotten. But not God, He always has been and always will be alive.

God is authoritative.

“I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne.” He is the Supreme Court, the Legislature, and the Chief Executive. Heaven is not coming apart at the seams. He holds it together. He sits on a throne. He rules with peace and control. He has authority over our lives even though we may never acknowledge Him.

God is omnipotent.

“I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne high and lifted up.” God’s throne is higher than every other throne signifies God’s superior power to exercise His authority. No opposing authority can nullify the decrees of God. What He purposes, He accomplishes. “My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose” [Isaiah 46:10].

God is majestic.

“I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne high and lifted up, and the train his robe filled the temple.” You have seen pictures of brides whose dresses are gathered around them covering the steps and the platform. What would the meaning be if the train filled the aisles and covered the seats and the stage, woven all of one piece? That God’s robe fills the entire heavenly temple means that he is a God of incomparable splendor and honor. His creative fullness spills over in excessive beauty. God loves to wow us.

God is revered.

“Above him stood the seraphim; each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew.” No one knows what these strange six-winged creatures are [not some chubby winged angel babies], and they never appear again in the Bible. When one of them speaks, the foundations of the temple shake [v.4]. These are magnificent creature that most of us would be wowed by, but God wows them.

God is holy.

“And one called to another, ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts!” God is in a class by Himself. When asked for His name in Exodus 3:14, He said, “I am who I am.” What is God’s holiness? [Hebrew Qadesh, Greek Hagios, separate/different] 1 Samuel 2:2, “There is none holy like the Lord, there is none besides You.” Isaiah 40:25, “To whom then will you compare me, that I should be like him? says the Holy One.” Hosea 11:9, “I am God and not man, the Holy One in your midst.” And repeated throughout the Scripture is the theme: “YHWH alone is God” [Ex.22:20; 34:14; 20:5].

God is incomparable, unfathomable. It determines all that He is and does and His ways are not determined by anyone. His holiness is what He is as God, which no one else is or ever will be. Getting a glimpse of God’s holiness will rock your world to the core. There is no way to scale mountain and heights of God’s holiness [not even in this message or our lifetime]. “The Lord is in his holy temple; let all the earth keep silence before him” [Habakkuk 2:20].

God is glorious.

“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts, the whole earth is full of his glory.” The glory of God is the seen of God’s holiness. God’s holiness has gone public in His glory. When God shows himself to be holy, what we see is glory. In Leviticus 10:3 God says, “I will show Myself holy among those who are near Me, and before all the people I will be glorified.”

Worship matters because GOD IS. His character demands my worship.

this is not a playground, it’s a battlefield

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My brother Colin and I use to pretend to play war. We would play for hours on the land by the lake in the summers. We would set up army men and throw rocks at each other. I would usually win because I was 10 years older than him, but he would get mad, throw a hit and kick all mine over. Yeah, I would let him win.

Now these battles were just for fun. Life at times can be a battle too. When the warfare hits home it is not so fun.

1. Our battle is against the ENEMY OF GOD. Eph.6:12 “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.” Our enemy is slick, stealth, sly and so powerful. This is why the Bible often calls life a battle, fight, or a war.

2. In this battle we have the STRENGTH OF GOD. Eph.6:10 “Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might.” Like God would often say to Joshua, “Be strong and courageous…the battle belongs to the LORD” The power that created the universe is the power He gives you to fight against sin, temptation and the world.

3. In this battle we wear the ARMOR OF GOD. Eph.6:13 “Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.” God has issued you the armor when you enlisted in the Lord’s army. It is your responsibility to wield the God-given weapons of warfare.

4. In this battle we boast in the GLORY OF GOD Gal.6:14 “May it never be that I would boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.” We do not fight alone. Our champion is Christ. He is our Divine Warrior!! Armies would often have chants for their champions, not a “hip-hip-hooray!” or “I don’t know what you been told, but our champion is really bold.” But more like, “He will rock you, sock you, and knock you out!!” [or something like that!?]. When we cheer on our champion we boast in His glory. Jesus always wins.

ARE YOU READY TO TAKE THE ON HEAT? ARE YOU READY TO FUEL YOUR FLAME FOR GOD? ARE YOU READY TO FOLLOW GOD “INSIDE THE FIRE”?

back in the US of A

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We are back! Wow, what a journey!! I am sad that it is over, but looking forward to taking the lessons learned and applying them back home. The trip has put a greater fire within my inward parts to head back to the land of great need. Here are some of the lessons I have learned while in the Congo:

People everywhere have needs. The people of the Congo have needs and so do those in the USA, Canada, and uttermost parts of the world. The job is daunting and daring. In reality, it is a job no man can do alone, but only a force of people motivated by compassion for the needy, impoverish, and broken.

I can only do so much alone. We were able to meet over a hundred different people while in the Congo. Mostly pastors, youth leaders and youth. They have many questions and various needs. I can only give so much. I can count on my hands and toes the numbers of individuals who approached us for food, clothing and money. I make more in a day than they do in a year, yet I was unable to fulfill the needs of everyone. Am I required to. No. However, as the old proverb states, “to whom much is given much is required.”

Need is a strong word. A need is something I cannot live without (ie. food, water, and shelter). We think we need lots of things. When truthfully we want a lot and need little. It is hard to be convinced you need little. It is equally as hard to convince other who have little that you (who have much) cannot fulfill their needs.

God is the only one able to fill the void. I cannot throw money or resources at physical or spiritual poverty. If I do I will spoil rotten a growing baby (for more on this click here). Only God change change a life. I can make ones life better for a time, but God can make it better for eternity.

I need more of God. I think of Jesus countless encounters with wealthy and poor, needy and satisfied throughout the Scriptures. His motto to all peoples is, “I must increase and you must decrease,” “follow Me,” “bear your cross,” and “in your weakness I will be made strong.” In other words may there me less of me and more of God. The greatest need I have is not more spiritual books, money for a new roof or garments to keep me warm, but a wholly relationship with my Creator and Sustainer. I need the Great Provider, God.

Check out our travel photos.

a consuming fire

Getting a glimpse of God

I remember as a young whipper-snapper that a group of us went to Green Bay to see the Packers practice. As a little boy this was a big deal, a real cheeseheads dream. You could see the big stars practice. The players would ride in on their bikes, high five the kids, stop for autographs. I got to meet actual players. I still haven’t washed my right hand!? Thousands of people would flock around the practice field just to get a glimpse of their favorite football player. We are all excited to get a glimpse into the lives of the rich and famous, get a sneak peak at the summers hot new blockbuster, and more.

I wonder what would your response be to getting a glimpse of God?

1. Fear God’s Holiness (Hebrews 12:18-21)

Modern people are not accustomed to fearing God. Fearing God is something primitive people do—along with bowing down to the sun and sacrificing virgins to volcanoes.

Even Christian people are not used to fearing God. You might say, “That sounds way too Old Testament. What about the love and grace of God? After all, John says: “Perfect love casts out fear.” Fear is for the spiritually immature, right?”

There’s a tendency for modern folk to think in terms of God offering man a contract—agreement between equals. “You’re ok, I’m ok. Every thing is ok.” NOT!! Ancients did not make that mistake. The 10 Commands were like terms of a treaty—the kind made between the conqueror and the conquered. No complaining or bargaining. Accept the terms unconditionally.

SHOULD WE FEAR THE LORD?

Let’s look at what the Bible says:

  • “The Fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Prov.1:7; 5:21; 8:13; 9:10).
  • “The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.” (Ecc.12:13)
  • “Do not call conspiracy all that this people calls conspiracy, and do not fear what they fear, nor be in dread. But the LORD of hosts, Him you shall regard as holy. Let him be your fear, and let Him be your dread” (Isa. 8:12-13)

You say, “That’s all from the OT!” What about Phil.2:1? “work out your salvation with fear and trembling”

The meaning of fearing God comes into clearer focus if we can imagine what it would be like to actually see God. This hasn’t happened too many times, but it is awesome to have an unfiltered experience with the living God! Isaiah said, “woe is me. I am a man of unclean lips,” (6:1-5) and when John saw the awesomeness of Christ and fell at His feet as a dead man (Rev.1:9-18).

When I was a kid I randomly bumped into things. My mom finally realized after multiple bruising that I needed glasses. I where glasses to see and protect me from potential danger. Fearing the Lord protects me from destruction. Sin makes me dumb. Following God is so smart.

The Bible clearly commands us to fear the Lord. It is a mixture of terror and awe, not just reverence and respect. Fear of the Lord is an appropriate response to the practical awareness of who I am before God. John Piper says, “To fear God is to view God as so powerful and awesome that I would not dare run from Him, but to Him.”

copper 1copper 2When I was in high school I took a ski-trip with my step-dad out West. We skied a lot. I have one memory that sticks out in my mind. On our last day we went to Copper Mountain (12,300ft.) We decided to take a trip to the summit. The ski lift got us close, but we still had about a half-mile climb to get to the peak. I thought I was going to die. When we got to the summit it was an amazing experience (“This is the sanctuary of God”). You could see for miles, the air was brisk, and God’s glory was awesome. I remember crying out to God. Then it dawned on me we had to go down this mountain. The only way down was to jump about a 20-foot cliff to the powdery slope. I had the feeling of terror mixed with wonder was one of the most exhilarating experiences of my life. This must have been something like the Israelites’ experience with the living God–terror mixed with wonder. It was something God did not want Israel to forget.

Who is your God? Is He feared? One day you will appear before this God. Every person who has ever lived will appear before Him. You think you will tell Him how you’ve been a good boy or girl; or give Him a piece of your mind for how your live went on earth. No, you will approach Him in fear and trembling. You will be there, we will all be there. This is the God we will meet. The story doesn’t end there. Ready for some good news? There is this holy God “but…”

2. Gratitude for God’s Grace (12:22-24)

The amazing grace showered on you when you come to the God:

  • to Mount Zion—we may come to a literal mountain in Jerusalem that represented the heavenly Zion
  • to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem—but we come to the dwelling of God.
  • to innumerable angels in festal gathering—we come backed by a 10,000 x 10,0000=100,000,000 (minimum) member choir of angels in their party clothes.
  • and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven—the believers, church (ecclesia), any firstborns here today? All receive a special rank and privilege. We will be “enrolled in the Book of Life (Rev.3:5; 13:8; 17:8; 20:12, 15) If you are not enrolled you are not there!
  • and to God, the judge of all—God is there.
  • to the spirits of the righteous made perfect—we will be like Christ! All that things that bug me about you, and you about me will not be there!!
  • and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant—HE IS THE CENTERPIECE OF HEAVEN. We come to see the One and Only, the Supreme, who gave us the New Covenant. We come to our Savior and Redeemer.
  • and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel—we come through the Atoning blood of Christ through which we have forgiveness of sins. Christ’s sacrifice was better than Abel’s (cf. Gen.4:10). Though Abel’s sacrifice (and ours) is acceptable to God because of faith—it has no atoning power (it represented judgment and vengeance). Jesus’ is (Col.1:20).

Whoohoo! That will be the day!! Are you grateful for the work of Christ? Do you know the God of Mount Zion? (1 Jn. “These things were written that you might know you have eternal life through Jesus Christ”) Do you know that you know that you know Him. Forgiveness and repentance in Christ!

How should I respond to this holiness and grace of God?

3. Worship by Total Submission (12:25-29)

My Response (v.25): I will do what He says. When He says jump, “I will say how high?”

My Response (vs.26-29): I will worship. I give my best to God, I give my first to God, I reserve the most to God. I honor Him, respect Him, awe Him. I do not walk through life casually, placing a checkmark on my fridge that I went to church today. I totally submit to Him and worship for our God is a consuming fire.

Getting a glimpse of God means…
I fear God’s holiness: Do you fear God? Does it show up in your actions?
I have gratitude for God’s grace: Are you thankful for His mercy?
I worship by total submission: Do you worship Him as a living sacrifice?

real questions: prove it?

Ned Anzers: God if you are real…why don’t you prove it?

If you were to draw a picture of God what would He look like? No one really knows what God looks like. Billions of people down through history have tried to paint God in the shape of an animal, as fire or water, in the stars or sun, as distant gods, inner gods, peaceful gods or fearful gods. Some even say there is no God. Almost everybody has a different view of God from each other. Wouldn’t it be nice if God decided to reveal Himself once and for all? Imagine what it would be like to see God, talk to Him, touch Him, sit down and eat with Him.

Jesus says something very amazing.

“Any one that has seen Me has seen the Father.” (John 14:1-14) Many thousands of people saw, touched, talked and ate with Jesus. They kept record of it so that people would know that God does exist. As we read the Bible people tell us over and over again, “God does exist. We know because we met Him.”

Couldn’t these people make this stuff up? Jesus never claimed to be God, did He? In fact…

Jesus claims to be God more than once.

Jesus claimed to be equal with God got people mad (John 10:30-33). He also puts Himself on equal terms with God:

  • John 8:56-58 (Ex.3:13-14) “I AM.”—Jesus claims God’s name as His own.
  • John 8:12; 9:5 “I am the Light of the world.”
  • John 6:35, 48 “I am the Bread of Life.”
  • John 15:1 “I am the True Vine.”
  • John 10:10-11 (Ezek.34:11,14) “I am the Good Shepherd.”
  • John 11:25 “I am the Resurrection and the Life.”
  • John 14:6 “I am the Way, the True, and the Life.”

These are stunning words from Jesus, but they are also dangerous words. It would be like going into Ross Aid Stadium and saying I am a Badger fan.

Anyone can claim to be God, can’t they? Yes. Muhammad Ali said, “I have wrestled with an alligator! I tussled with a whale! I handcuffed lightning, threw thunder in jail! Only last week, I murdered a rock, injured a stone, hospitalized a brick. I’m so mean, I make medicine sick! I am the greatest!” Ali knew that if you are going to talk this way that you better back it up or else you will be the laughing stock of the world.

Jesus did what He said.

He controlled the weather (Luke 8:24 “stopped a storm”, handcuffed lighting and threw thunder in jail)

Impressive, but that couldn’t it have been a coincidence? Sure. Yet everyone around Jesus agreed that He did amazing things. He feed 5000 people with a boys school lunch box, He walked on water, He cured sickness, paralysis, blindness, deafness, and brought the dead to life. When Jesus walked the earth, it was as if He owned the place. Well, He did create it (John 1:1-4).

Couldn’t He have tricked people into thinking He was who He was? What Jesus did were not tricks. There was no David Copperfield or CGI. Jesus enemies could not expose Him as a fraud. Jesus did not use His power for wealth, status, or fame. In fact, Jesus was prophesied about hundreds and thousands of years before He was born (where He was born, how He would die, etc.). He fulfilled every prophecy.

Jesus did what He did to prove that God exists.

When Jesus walked the earth that He proved God is real.

listen and obey even on a rainy day

I love rainy days. Why not jump in a puddle when you are already wet? Didn’t your mom tell you not to jump in puddles as a kid?

The majority desires to be told what to do; yet only a minority has no desire to actually do what they are told.  It is a peculiar contradiction that leaves many floating without a purpose on a sea of self-devistation.  Many have said, “I have committed my life to Jesus my Savior, but what do I do now?”

The answer is simple.  It is simple, but not necessarily easy.  You see simple rarely equals easy.  That is why many have such a disparagement for simplicity.  So, what do I do now?  Listen and obey.  Listen and obey what? God’s Word; hear and do what God says. This answer almost always produces a volatile response.  It robs me of excuses.  It breaks down my defenses.  It leaves me completely vulnerable.

James 1:22 But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves.

Dueteronomy 13:18 if you will listen to the voice of the LORD your God, keeping all His commandments which I am commanding you today, and doing what is right in the sight of the LORD your God.

Listen and obey, that’s it? Some ask for a formula or creative checklists take the heart out of the equation.  We crave a formula.  We want our 10 steps to spiritual success, 5 easy steps to an “on fire” relationship with God, 3 “P’s” for purity, and a quirky acronym for GOSPEL. I’d buy that because I desire a nice, safe, cute Christianity that is non-offensive and void of power.  Rather just give me something measurable, something that I can get my hands around and then store on a shelf for a rainy day. Not! A rainy day theology means that I want my faith on stand by, just in case there is an emergency.

Sad to say, it doesn’t work that way. Following Jesus is not a one-size-fits-all proposition.  Listening and obeying is risky.  It leaves room for human error: Is it really God speaking to me? How do I know it is God not the spicy Indian food I ate the other day? This is the point: I can communicate with Him and ask questions, and He answers through the Bible. Hear, His voice is right at our finger tips in His written Word. Just listen and obey.  Rarely is it all that complicated.  We argue.  We contemplate.  We ask three friends if they think it was really God’s voice and the moment passes.  We don’t obey.  And we miss out on the divine.

Listening and obeying must be done.  I cannot rely on someone to listen to God for me.  It doesn’t work. In a world where everything is prepackaged, Christianity doesn’t seem to work.  It is too difficult.  Many are far too busy to do something so silly as listen. You cannot purchase God’s plan for your life at your local Christian bookstore.  They don’t have it.  He doesn’t come prepackaged. God knows the outcome of our obedience:  Obedience changes the world, and disobedience perpetuates the ho-hum (Micah 6).

real questions: 3 in 1?

Ned Anzers: The idea of the Trinity seems farfetched. How can three persons be one God?

Though the word “Trinity” is not found anywhere in the Bible, the theology behind it is seen throughout. The Trinity does not follow logic, but we must understand that theology is not always logical. In mathematics 1+1+1=3, but in the Theology Proper 1+1+1=1. John Wesley once said, “Tell me how it is that in this room there are three candles but one light, and I will explain to you the Trinity.”

I believe in one Triune God, eternally existing in three persons—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—co-eternal in being, co-identical in nature, co-equal in power and glory, and having the same attributes and perfections. (Duet.6:4). The Trinity is the doctrine that God is one essence in three co-eternal, co-equal persons (Mt. 3:13-17; Mt.28:19-20; Gen.1:1, 1:26; Jn.1:1, 20:28; Acts 5:3-4; 2 Cor.13:14).

The Bible clearly states that God is One (Ex.20:2-3; Duet.6:4; 1 Cor.8:4). I do not believe in Tri-theism (three separate Gods), but only one God. However, it is correct to say that there are three members of the Godhead. First, God the Father is God (Eph.1:3; 1 Cor.8:6). Second, God the Son is God (John 1:1-14; John 8:58; John 20:30-31; Phil.2:6-8). Third, God the Holy Spirit is God (Acts 5:3-5; 1 Cor.3:16). The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are united together as One as is seen in the Great Commission (Mt.28:19-20) and the baptism of Jesus (Mt.3:13-17).

In conclusion, God eternally exists as three persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and each person is fully God, and there is one God. Broken down, this amounts to three propositions: God is three persons. Each person is fully God. There is one God. In addition, it’s helpful to elaborate on the fact that when we say, “God is three persons,” we mean that he is not just one person, and that the persons of the Trinity are not to be confused. So we can also say: The Father is God. The Son is God. The Holy Spirit is God. The Father is not the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit is not the Father. The Holy Spirit is not the Son, and the Son is not the Holy Spirit. The Son is not the Father, and the Father is not the Son.


Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology, 226

The diagram is adapted from Answering Islam: The Crescent in Light of the Cross by Norman L. Geisler and Abdul Saleeb

real questions: God?

We as human beings have questions. Big questions. Significant questions. Questions about life, God, and the future. As a pastor, I often get questions from people inside and outside our church. These questions are real and expect real answers. I will begin a series of blog-entries that show some of these questions and seek to provide them with biblical answers.

Ned Anzers: I think that the largest reason I believe in God is because I was taught to. If I were born in an Islamic, Jewish, or atheistic family I think it is safe to say I would be what I was taught. Surely this is not what God wants my faith in him to be founded. In the past I have asked myself why I believe in God and have found ‘answers’ but after deliberating on them I no longer feel they  hold any weight. My question is this: Why do you believe in God?

This is a very good question. Can I ask you a question in return?

How is your belief in God different than your relationship with God?

To answer your question, I will give you both a short and a long answer.

Why do I believe in God? In short, I choose to believe in God. That’s my snapshot answer. If it is not satisfying I will try to give you a clearer panoramic picture of why I choose God. Actually, it is more like He chose me

The long story:

I grew up in a home that believed and taught about God. We were Catholic (by title and church attendance). My priest baptized me as a baby, yet I don’t remember a thing because I wasn’t even old enough to eat smashed carrots. I went to Catholic mass every week because my grandparents took (and sometimes dragged) me there. I went to Catholic Sunday School (called Catechism), and had my first communion. We called ourselves Christians, but I had no understanding what that meant. I believed in God too.

As I grew older church became less satisfying. God was still real, but less desirable. There was this disconnect between God and me. God was like some cosmic grandfather that I never talked to or understood. He was like some story my family told me, but almost like He was an ancestral fairytale. Little did I know this was a very small and insignificant view of a very big God.

I was a troubled kid. I had an appetite for attention. I didn’t “feel” like I received it at home, so I was sort of a class clown around school. I was well liked by my peers. I was a friend to all kinds of people. I truly treasured the attention I received from my peers. When the attention would wear off, I would do something wild and crazy to get attention. It would draw a crowd and satisfy my tastes buds for a bit, but more often I would get into trouble.

My quest for attention led me to friends that were bad influences and not law abiding. I found myself doing things I never intended or desired to do just to be around people that I thought cared. These friends introduced and diverted my attention to girls, pornography and vandalism. Note: I was still involved in church and considered a rather good kid. Overall, inside and out, I was left feeling empty, lost, confused, full of questions, needing hope, and handicapped by my guilt. I was to the point of thinking suicidal thoughts. God seemed even more distant.

My parents took me to see a local psychologist. This ended up being a waste of money. The school enrolled me in special classes. The only thing this meant was getting picked up early for school by the short-bus. I was both embarrassed and frustrated with my life.

In junior high, my mom and step-dad moved. I lived further away from my dad, which really broke my heart. Life seemed like it couldn’t get any worse.

We started going to a different kind of church because my mom and step-dad were dissatisfied with the churches of their youth. I did what most kids do: went to church because I had to. There was something about this Wausau Bible Church that was different than St. Al’s. First, most everybody had a Bible. Second, most everybody was friendly. Third, most everybody talked about God or with God as if He was a close companion. This all seemed very strange to me. On the other hand, I was quite curious. We continued to go. We bought Bibles, even though I could not understand it. I got plugged into the youth group and learned new things about God that I never knew before.

I remember clearly some of the lessons from my junior high boys Sunday School class. Here are 3 that I challenged my thinking and ripened my heart:

Judges 3:1-15

Not only a weird story about a fat king, but a lesson on Idolatry. The people are testing God. God is ready to hear their cries and deliver, but there is a need for a deeper deliverance than they desire. They desire deliverance from their situation, when God desires they to have a spiritual Deliverer. This passage gave me a radical view of Gods purposes. I need Him. I need a Deliverer. I have idols in my life that have taken His place.

Psalm 27

This song of David is a BIG picture view of life, not just reactive living. David is incredibly honest with God. He is living in a world of trouble [enemies, rejection, fear, etc]. Yet among all the trouble he is God centeredness [v.4, 14]. That is incredibly weird. I had to ask myself the question: when trouble comes where does my heart go? Not to God, but my attention in stuff or silliness that did not satisfy.

Colossians 2:1-15 

This passage hit me square between the eyes and stuck my heart with the present active benefits of God here and now. It showed me how a life without God is foolishness [vs.1-5]. I am victimized by my own foolishness. It showed me the power I have over sin in Christ [v.9]. The indwelling presence of God is given to do what He has called me to do. It is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me…and gave Himself for me. It shows me the freedom of having a relationship with Christ [v.13-14]. I do not have to hide, live in shame, worry about exposure, because Christ forgives all my sin, weakness and guilt. No more fatalism.

I was left with God, I thought “I really didn’t know Him,” but ached in my heart to have a relationship with Him.  I did not treasure Him, but knew only He could satisfy my loneliness and desire for attention. Instead of seeking His attention, I sought to put my attention on Him. It was then I fully understood I needed a Redeemer/Deliverer/Savior. I was lost, but now He found me. Thus, in July 1992, I humbled my view of self and my view of God. No longer did I believe in Him, but I began a relationship with Him.

Well, that’s the long version of His Story with me. Like you, I wonder what if I was born into a Hindu, Muslim, or Jewish family. Would I believe the Truth? Would God in His grace rescue me from a bogus view of God? Then I wonder, why did He choose me? All I can answer is, “Alleluia!!” I thank God that He did! I pray that I would be used to help others see God is real and that He desires a relationship with them.

I would encourage you to take ownership of your belief in God [Acts 16:31]. Take your parents teaching on God and make it your own.

who or what is in control here?

Today, there is a lot of uncertainty in American (and the world): the stock market is devaluing, gas and food prices are skyrocketing, there is threat of terrorism, there is political distrust on a reckless scale, and the American pride/patriotism is becoming as distant as the American dream. There doesn’t seem to be any solution, only a worsening problem. 

I am not one to use scare-tactics causing fear in the eyes of others about the future. Neither do I want to predict hell-fire or fatalism. I simply wanted to share a few articles I came across this week (thanks to Frank my local economist): The Rise of the Rest and Peak Oil: Life After the Oil Crash

What do we do? Is there any hope? Who or what is in control here? As said on the front cover of Douglas Adams’, Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, “DON’T PANIC”. Here are…

4 Essential Truth’s to Know & Do:

1. I do not need to fear [Rom.8:15; Ps.27:1; Ps.56:3-4].

2. God is in control [1 Chron.29:11; Prov.19:21; Rom.8:28-29].

3. This is not the end [Acts 16:31; John 3:16].

4. Those who trust in Him will survive [Prov.3:5-6; Jer.17:7; 1 Tim.6:17]!!

God of this city

Now that we are back in the US of A it is time to do a little of DR08 in L-town. I am challenged to share with our community the good news of Jesus Christ. May God use the E85 FUEL mission team to impact our city.

E85 FUEL, what does it mean? E = evangelism team; 85 = well the only thing I can think of is that we “partying like it were 1985”,  have our sights on the eternal as in “back to the future”, and are cheepy-cheepy like biofuel; FUEL = our student ministries. Quirky, I know.

10 Things God Can’t Do

  1. God can’t get tired. Have you not known? Have you not heard? The everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, neither faints nor is weary.—Isaiah 40:28
  2. God can’t take on a job he can’t handle. Ah, Lord God! Behold, you have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and outstretched arm. There is nothing too hard for you.—Jeremiah 32:17
  3. God can’t be unholy. And one cried to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!”—Isaiah 6:3
  4. God can’t be prejudiced. In truth I perceive that God shows no partiality. But in every nation whoever fears him and works righteousness is accepted by him.—Acts 10:34-35
  5. God can’t break a promise. My covenant I will not break, nor alter the word that has gone out of my lips.—Psalm 89:34
  6. God can’t remember sins he’s chosen to forget. I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions for my own sake; and I will not remember your sins.—Isaiah 43:25
  7. God can’t create a loser. Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ.—2 Corinthians 2:14
  8. God can’t abandon you. Be strong and of good courage, do not fear nor be afraid of them; for the Lord your God, he is the one who goes with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you.—Deuteronomy 31:6
  9. God can’t stop thinking about you. How precious also are your thoughts to me, O God! How great is the sum of them! If I should count them, they would be more in number than the sand; when I awake, I am still with you.—Psalm 139:17-18
  10. God can’t stop loving you. Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore with lovingkindness I have drawn you.—Jeremiah 31:3
Exert taken from the book titled 101 Things God Can’t Do©1996 by Maise Sparks.

The Gift of Worship

Worship
Worship s a huge thing.
We look forward to worship every week.
When the music includes one of our favorites, we say, “The worship was great!”
When the music stinks, we yawn and wonder why the worship wasn’t very good.
We leave churches because of the “worship style”.
Worship s a huge thing. 
 
Have you ever wondered if we’re more concerned with what worship does FOR us
And less concerned with the Object of our worship?
It seems like it’s more about what we GET not what we GIVE.
It would be like taking a gift to a friend’s birthday party, but keeping it for ourselves.
 
Worship is all about GIVING our lives (again) to God. 
Worship is not about the feeling we receive when we sing.
Worship is not about convincing God to bless us.
Worship is not about whether or not the guitar is too loud.
Worship is not about what’s happening on the stage.
Worship is not about entertainment, lighting or sound.
 
Worship is not about us at all.
IT’S NOT ABOUT US.
It’s about Him.
And we enter through the gateway of the cross.
At the cross, we surrender, love, cry, dream, give up, shut up, kneel, confess.
We look to God, and place Him about all else
Because He is worth it! 
 
Live gets crazy and painful.
No one can deny that.
Job stress, divorce, death, addictions, parenting, loneliness.
No one is asking you to pretend that those things aren’t affecting you.
DON’T PRETEND.
You’re just being invited to bring that stuff to the cross, and to simply gaze at Jesus.
And as you look at Him, allow your response to be
Worship 
 
-unknown
 
 

quit church

Why do so many young adults quit church? 
 
Three out four young adults walk away from the church. Their is a laundry list of reasons why they walk away from the church: they want a break (27%), church is too judgmental (26%), they move away to college (25%), busy with work (23%). And I would add to this list that churches today lack a ministry that reaches out to young adults. So no wonder they wander off to find something else that will cater to their “needs”.
 
On the positive side, the 30 percent who kept attending church cited solid spiritual reasons, including: “it’s vital to my relationship with God” (65%) and church “helps guide my everyday decisions” (58%)
 
Quiting church during your college and early career years can cause a lot of problems in ones future life. The years between 18 and 25 young adults are making some of the biggest decisions of their lives: living on your own, college, marriage, family, etc. If God is not in these decisions, it is a recipe for hardship. Not to mention, the future of the church is weakened without the involvement of today’s young adults. When you remove the Solid Rock foundation it is difficult to lean on anything else.
 
I want to make a plea to all young adults: don’t be a quiter. I want to take liberty in quoting a popular rapper from the 1980’s: Church, it’s  “too legit, too legit to quit”-M.C. Hammer
 
Stats taken from USA Today newspaper August 6, 2007