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Archive for the month “April, 2013”

Friday Review: “The I AM Statements of Jesus”

“Jesus in the Present TenseI_AM_StatementsofChrist

Here’s something for those who would like to go a little deeper into the Scriptures during the “I AM” Series at The Life Church on Sundays.  Or if my posts have stirred your interest in the topic this is a good resource to accompany you in your Bible study.

I love the title “Jesus in the Present Tense”.  It speaks to me of insight, immediacy and involvement.  I do not expect to be a passive observer while reading a book titled this way.

It tells me that the author will not limit himself to prodding theological expositions or exegetical drudgery.  Though Wiersbe does not disappoint if you are interested in Scripture references.  Wiersbe’s writing is a veritable cornucopia of supporting Bible references.

Wiersbe moves the reader through the initial Moses question of whom shall I tell them sent me and then into Apostle John’s usage of I AM.  He then follows in straightforward fashion a review of the seven I AM statements of Jesus.  He then adds a section one would not expect, one about the cross and the shame quoting from the OT.  He follows this up with “I AM Jesus” from the Book of ACTS and completes the book with a look at the responses we can have to the revelation of the Great I AM “Living and Serving in the Present Tense”.

As an accompanying work to a study on the I AM statements of Jesus it is quite good.  As I mentioned Wiersbe has loaded this book with scripture references and cross references.  How deep you go is up to the reader.  The book reads well and is instructive even without taking the many tangential explorations offered.

The book is an easy read.  Wiersbe truly hits his stride in The Door and The Shepherd sections where examples and application abound.   The earlier sections are instructive and, yes, full of scripture.  But I couldn’t help feeling that Wiersbe was just giving me surface thoughts (don’t get me wrong, Wiersbe’s been at this a long time and his surface thoughts beat many preachers deep reflections).  But if given a little bit more time to write he would have unlocked some secret revelation vault and would have knocked the reader’s socks off with additional insights and examples. 

The Door (or Gate) section impressed me the most.  How could anyone provide so much inspirational insights about “I AM the Door”.  But he does and then nicely weaves it into The Shepherd chapter.    

I recommend the book.  Easily accessible.  Full of insights.  Great title and focus on “Jesus in the Present Tense”.  Our relationship with Jesus is now and we have a relationship with source of the Seven I AM statements. Jesus is our Bread of Life, our Light, the gate and shepherd caring and protecting us. He is the resurrected one who brings us Life. Not only does he lead the way, he is the way!  Not only does he show us truth, he is the truth!  He not only brings us into life, he is the life!

The True Vine section that focuses on abiding is true food for the soul and rest to the weary.  Abiding epitomizes the Present Tense we are to live in.  I am reminded of books like Brother Lawrence’s “The Imitation of Christ”, Murray’s “Abiding in Christ” and Watchman Nee’s “The Release of the Spirit”. 

The study of the seven I AM statements of Christ will not be an end in itself.  It will spur you on to want to know Jesus more and more.  Wiersbe book is a great resource to have as you pursue the Great I AM! 

Amazon’s Audio-Digital Combination

To go through the book I used a combination of Audible (audio) and Kindle (digital, paperless). There is a wonderful app that Amazon has in place now that automatically synchronizes between your reading and your listening.  It’s called “Whispersync for Voice”.  If you read pages 12-25 on the morning and then use audio on the way to work, the audio will not start at the last place you listened it will ask you to choose… 1) last time you listened 2) furthest point via reading.  Your audio can “sync” up to page 25 right off and you continue in the book without skipping a beat!

There is an even newer addition to reading experience available from the folks at Amazon… it’s called “Immersion Reading”.  On your Kindle Fire HD you can listen and read at the same time while the Amazon app highlights the words being read!


Friday Review: What Is Marriage?

What Is Marriage?: Man and Woman: A Defense


I’ve been looking for a book that promotes man-woman marriage from a non-religious perspective.  I wondered if there was such a publication. 

Though I am totally supportive of heterosexual marriage on a religious basis I did not see how the government could not offer the rights and privileges of the marriage contract to homosexual couples.  In my mind the government had no basis for defining the word marriage.  The only basis they would have would have to come from history, culture or science. 

But since the government had forgotten why they began licensing marriages and why they began to encourage marriage with tax breaks and benefits I saw little hope of recovering an original societal view of marriage. So my thinking moved to removing marriage from the discussion and promoting “civil unions” so that the concept of marriage was outside government control.

But then I came upon this book by what seemed like happenstance, it was a nice serendipitous discovery.

On Amazon the book description reads:

Until yesterday, no society had seen marriage as anything other than a conjugal partnership: a male-female union. What Is Marriage? identifies and defends the reasons for this historic consensus and shows why redefining civil marriage is unnecessary, unreasonable, and contrary to the common good.

Originally published in the Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy, this book’s core argument quickly became the year’s most widely read essay on the most prominent scholarly network in the social sciences. Since then, it has been cited and debated by scholars and activists throughout the world as the most formidable defense of the tradition ever written. Now revamped, expanded, and vastly improved, What Is Marriage? stands poised to meet its moment as few books of this generation have.

Rhodes Scholar Sherif Girgis, Heritage Foundation Fellow Ryan T. Anderson, and Robert P. George offer a devastating critique of the idea that equality requires redefining marriage. They show why both sides must first answer the question of what marriage really is. They defend the principle that marriage, as a comprehensive union of mind and body ordered to family life, unites a man and a woman as husband and wife, and they document the social value of applying this principle in law.

I encourage the interested reader to check out a very fascinating commentary by a former Princeton University student John G. Burford IV about Robert P George.  He took some courses that George taught and was profoundly affected.  He notes how George is not a pushy, petty, axe to grind conservative professor but that he seeks to respond clearly and honestly to disagreement without trying to villianize the opposition.

As for the book, it is a thoughtful and thought-provoking treatise. It repeatedly reminds the reader that this is not a focus on homosexual rights or denial thereof or on religious justifications. Rather it is a look at what marriage is and what it has been and what its purpose is.

Will gay rights advocates minds be changed?  The staunch hardcore activist would be considered a marriage revisionist by the authors.  The revisionist feels it is time to redefine marriage in terms of caring and committment.   The authors would say that marriage should not be revised and redefined and give a number of good reasons why not.

I doubt that anyone who is gung-ho to make sure gays get every right that has been previously denied them will change their minds but it’s possible.  Unfortunately for many the very definition of marriage presented by the book would be seen as the result of the oppression that has been put on homosexuals for eons.

I do recommend the book if you seek to better understand how marriage came to be, why it is viewed the way it has been prior to recent attempts to revise it. It’s worth the time and worth having some calm and civilized discussions afterward.

The “I AM ___ Series” at The Life Church

The I AM Series

I-AM-Web New Series at The Life Church 11234 Balls Ford Rd Manassas, VA 20109

Sundays 9:00 AM, 10:45 AM & 12:30 PM

Pastor David Baird has started a series on the Seven “I AM” Statements of Jesus.  Each statement is rich in meaning and significance for our lives.  As one man said, “It is Jesus in the present tense”.

But why “I AM”?  “I AM” is actually the name that God asked Moses to use in the response to the question that the Israelites would surely ask.  “Who sent you?”

Then Moses said to God, “If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?” God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.” And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’” Exodus 3:13-14

 God wanted to be known as “I AM WHO I AM” or simply “I AM”.  The heavy emphasis on the present tense gives the impression of timelessness or someone beyond time.

The word used for “I AM WHO I AM” is YHWH.  No vowels as it is not to be spoken! The people of Israel would add the vowels of Adonai and the result would be YAHWEH or more familiar to many of us… JEHOVAH.  This then is the name of God that was given to Moses and the people of Israel at the time of the Egyptian captivity and the subsequent Exodus.

Later Jesus would use this name in describing himself.  “Before Abraham was, I AM.”

Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad.”  So the Jews said to him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?” Jesus said to them,

“Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” John 8:56-58

This statement by Jesus has drawn attention to seven statements known as the “I AM” statements of Jesus found in the book of John.  Each statement contains the words “I am” followed by a descriptive noun that describes who Jesus is and what he means to those who put their full trust in him.  Many see each statement as a description of a characteristic of God. 

Pastor David will be looking at these statements over the coming weeks and pointing us to the character and provision of Christ in our lives NOW.  It is not the Jesus of the past that we look at only but it is the Jesus who comes into our lives now in the present tense.  Through these messages you will come to know Jesus as the one who sustains and provides for us, who brings us light and guidance, who cares for us and provides life in abundance with great purpose, significance and fulfillment.


The messages are also available online if you are not in town, not able to come or would just like to listen to the Bible says about the Great I AM.

Link to the website of The Life Church

Link to Watch & Listen to Messages

The Thomas Doubt Affair: Day Eight, The Encounter

“Put your finger here, and see my hands”


Sunday after the Resurrection, Jerusalem circa 30 AD

It’s the end of a long arduous week for the disciple Thomas and for his fellow disciples and friends.  So many questions must have been asked, so many debates and arguments, every theory espoused,  every option analyzed… there could have been so much tension and apprehension and yet in the end we see grace.  They are still altogether.

Did any of them know what was coming the Sunday after?  Probably not. Though there seems to be some anticipation on the part of Peter, John and the others.

Jesus must have assured them he would come back again and so they may have said to themselves… let’s wait in the same place together.  John says they were “inside again”.  But this time with Thomas!

The doors are locked… fear of the Temple Guards?  …of the Roman Guard? Probably.  Doors were locked first time, right?

And then it happens.  Not through the door or window but right through whatever Jesus appears.  He stands among them. After an initial rumble of astonishment the room became still and silent awaiting Jesus to speak.  The apostle John describes it this way.

26 Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.”

Words that were a healing balm after such a week. Peace falls on the group.  All eyes are glued to the smiling Galilean, the resurrected Lord.  Then with a look of concern he turns and Thomas’ eyes catch his.

27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” 28 Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” John 20:26-28

Thomas does not hesitate to respond not with probing fingers and examining eyes but with the testimony of testimonies!  He doesn’t ask, “Why did you make me wait so long!”  or “Was I not worthy enough to see you last Sunday!?!” or “What misery you put me through!”

When we see the Lord face to face we too will be overcome not with our questions and our hurts but with His glorious presence. The awesomeness of the moment is captured for us.  This man who questions and challenges like the best of any 21st Century skeptic has nothing to say but “My Lord and My God”.

Every time I read this I cannot picture it without seeing the Doubting One falling to his knees in joyful astonishment.  Eyes wide open rapidly filling with tears of relief and amazement.

“My Lord and my God!”

This is not an “OMG it’s you!” exclamation.  It is a confession of one who has been with Jesus throughout his ministry, who has seen the love, the compassion, the truth and the power of his presence, the power of the miracles and now the power of the resurrection.  “Let us go that we may die too” rings hollow in the face of the Risen Saviour.

Jesus is Lord and Jesus is God come in the flesh.  The cross was the way to salvation.  The resurrection guaranteeing its efficacy and power.  This moment is emblazoning itself on his heart and mind.  The disciples stand in rapture wanting to cheer and scream but somehow this has knocked their breath away.

For the sake of many Thomas has not settled for easy believism.  And yet right now he must be a little ashamed of his lack of faith. It all seems quite obvious and quite clear and logical.  Jesus had to die, the sinless sacrifice.  Thomas cannot help but see this truth.

But at this moment everything fades as he gazes upon the Incarnate One, Jesus, risen from the dead and Thomas falls to his knees and worships!

The Thomas Doubt Affair: Day Seven

“OK, so where is Jesus?”

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASaturday, Jerusalem circa 30 AD

It is the 7th day (counting Resurrection Sunday) since Jesus rose from the grave and appeared to Mary Magdalene, Peter and all of the disciples… except Thomas.

Now a strange tension must have developed that we 21st Century readers of the gospels do not experience.  Jesus might have told his disciples to stick around Jerusalem saying he’ll be back next Sunday but we have no evidence that he did.  If not then by Saturday I am sure the disciples are being challenged more and more about the first appearances.  The question would be… OK if Jesus showed up last Sunday where is he now?

And who would ask that question more than anyone else?  Thomas of course.  In his mind his case might be getting stronger.  “OK, so where is Jesus?” he would certainly ask.  I’m sure he had gone through some serious doubts, anxiety, anger and frustration that he was the only one that missed out.  And he might have even gone through a moment or two of regret for his almost thoughtlessly issuing his belligerent challenge.

I remember when my boys were young and we had two or three big “Where’s Waldo?” books.  The idea was to look through each large page covered with miniscule men, women and animals in a plethora of confusing outfits and pick out Waldo.  Where was Waldo?  We would spend an unending amount time until finally a Waldo sighting occurred.  A cheer would rise up in triumph each time it happened.  But we as parents at least knew there was at least one Waldo on each page.  Not so for our band of disciples… at least when it came to seeing Jesus again.


So with confusion growing inside the circle of disciples, outside of their group explanations had been created for the empty tomb,

11 While they were going, behold, some of the guard went into the city and told the chief priests all that had taken place. 12 And when they had assembled with the elders and taken counsel, they gave a sufficient sum of money to the soldiers 13 and said, “Tell people, ‘His disciples came by night and stole him away while we were asleep.’ 14 And if this comes to the governor’s ears, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.” 15 So they took the money and did as they were directed. And this story has been spread among the Jews to this day.

I doubt that Thomas gave them much heed.  The other disciples acknowledged the empty tomb but would have absolutely no reason to perpetuate such a ruse with Thomas.  So where was Jesus?

Yes, the disciples would be hounded by such a question… Thomas would hammer them with it.  It’s been a week… and no Jesus!

Also with the Sanhedrin’s accusations flying about the holy city it was not a safe place to hang out if you were a disciple.  You were being accused as a grave robber.  And you were spreading rumors based on obvious lies that Jesus had risen from the dead as your defense.  Tensions must have been high in the city.

You would be wise to lay low as one of the original twelve.  Hiding out but wondering… where is Jesus?  They would say to themselves, “We really need him to show up.  Thomas is pestering us saying that he would not believe us unless he sees him face to face touching his wounds. And the other disciples who had not seen him but believe need a little reassurance.  And heck, we could use a little wisdom on how not to get arrested!”

Ever been on the spot where you wondered where Jesus was when you needed him?  Don’t fret he will show up.  Sunday’s coming!  Maybe you should even go back to the place you last encountered him.  That’s what the disciples did.  They made sure Thomas was with them this time!

The Thomas Doubt Affair: Day Six

“Thomas, The Skeptic for Our Time”  


The Apostle Thomas (Didymus)

Friday Jerusalem circa 30 AD

It is the 6th day since the resurrection non-appearance for the disciple Thomas, the only one to miss encountering the risen from the dead Saviour Jesus.

How do you stand stalwartly against your closest friends and tell them they are all wrong… that they didn’t see what they say they saw?   How do you stick around with them and not have some touchy encounters? Or for that matter full-blown angry exchanges?

Thomas the skeptic… he’s the pain in the butt friend that doesn’t believe anything without a dozen fact check sites reviewed.  He’s got the latest scientific findings on how Adam and Eve couldn’t have existed along the Tigris and Euphrates.  He’s got the latest reported Bible contradiction, hot off the presses.

When he gets saved he still asks the hard questions but you know it wasn’t the road of blind faith that he took.  In fact you look to him when someone asks you the tough questions about the Shroud of Turin, or how the latest militant atheist attack holds no water or how to deal with the latest scientific discovery that somehow shows that Jesus was really married or how one should reply to the newest theological theory of how Jesus body was buried in a heap and the dogs ravaged the grave.  The 21st Century is a tough time to be a Christian (not that it wasn’t before). 

That’s why Doubting Thomas and his stubborn skepticism concerning the resurrection should be a comfort and an encouragement to us post-modern 21st Century folks.  He asks the tough questions and takes nothing for granted.

The caricature of the 1st Century disciple can be none too pretty.  Often viewed as uneducated, superstitious, unscientific, not writing vital information down while relying on verbal tradition, the 1st Century disciple’s testimony can be portrayed as unreliable, gullible, even Neanderthal and decidedly inaccurate.

Into that dingy unflattering portrait steps Thomas (aka Didymus).  He holds back his patented sarcasm and takes a moment to ask for real evidence.  He refuses easy believism.  There is possibly a little bitterness in his refusal to accept the report as true. This is human nature.  Arrogance, pride, bitterness, unforgiveness, deception, anger and fear serve to block us from accepting what deep down inside we know is true.

“But he said to them, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.” John 20:25

So Thomas standing in as a proxy for the 21st Century person whether skeptic, seeker or saved poses the criteria for his belief.  Though we will not be able to see the physical marks of the nails and put our fingers into the resurrected Christ’s side there is one who has,  who has done it as the skeptic, as the doubter and we can be assured in the truth of what Thomas will soon declare…

“My Lord and my God!”  John 20:28

Thank you, Thomas, the skeptic for our time!

(This is part 2 of The Thomas Doubt Affair , a forerunner of a longer piece in 10 parts which is in the works)  COMMENTS WELCOME!

The Thomas Doubt Affair: Day Three

thomas-the-apostleTuesday, Jerusalem circa 30 AD

It’s the third day of the Resurrection which occurred on Sunday and the disciples of Jesus, Peter, John and the rest are giddy with glee that the risen Christ has appeared to them all.  Mary Magdalene first to see Jesus is beside herself as are the other women, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, Salome and of course, Jesus’ mother Mary.  There is an atmosphere of exhilaration that surrounds them whenever they see each other.  Their hearts are filled with anticipation and wonder… wondering when they will see Jesus next and what this will all mean for them now that the Master has overcome the grave.

However there is a small cloud of gloom that hovers over the party.  It’s when the disciple named Thomas comes into the room.  You see the Lord did not appear to him on Sunday.  Thomas was missing. Like the other disciples his world was shattered.  He had invested himself 100% in Jesus as Messiah.  But then Jesus was led out of Gethsemane under heavy guard, was rapidly tried and convicted.  And then the death sentence and the crucifixion.  Every hope and dream he could ever imagine came violently crashing down around him.

He was probably hiding out that day or getting drunk or doing something, anything, to get his mind off this greatest of tragedies. 

Then Jesus, alive from the dead appears to all the disciples but him.  Yes, it appears that he was the only one NOT to see Jesus.  When Peter, John or Mary try to tell him about it he bitterly and even sarcastically rebuffs them.

 24 Now Thomas, one of the Twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.”

But he said to them, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.” John 20:24-25

It’s been two days.  Things are not going good for him. Not at all.

But this “Thomas Doubt Affair” or “The Case of Doubting Thomas”  will serve us generations to come.  For Thomas is not an easy believer, no gullible superstitionist, no ignorant 1st century man who blindly follows along.  He suspects that maybe they’ve all been drinking the kool-aid and he is not about to partake in any such tomfoolery.  He needs answers, he needs more.  He asks the hard questions for us.  He represents the 21st century skeptic who must have more than possible mass hallucination as evidence.

But it won’t be easy.  It’s been three days already and he’s growing a bit impatient with all this joyful celebration and unbridled happiness. Mad, they must all be mad. Mad as hatters.  Little does he know what lies ahead in 5 more days.

(This is Part 1 of The Thomas Doubt Affair… check out Part 2 Day Six “Thomas, The Skeptic for Our Time” )  COMMENTS WELCOME!

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