Monthly Archives: December 2019

I AM the Way, and the Truth, and the Life

It’s the evening before Jesus’s execution. The day – the entire week – has been filled with conflict and high drama. Jesus and the Twelve have just eaten the Passover Seder, which was different from any Passover meal they had eaten before.

Following the meal, Jesus says something that shocks and frightens them: he won’t be with them much longer. He is going to leave and they can’t go with him (John 13:33). So Peter asks Jesus where he is going. When Jesus’s answer doesn’t satisfy him, he asks: “Why can’t I go with you?” Though Jesus does not directly answer his question, he makes it clear that he must travel the path that lies ahead alone. Neither Peter nor the rest can accompany him.

It was in this setting that Jesus spoke the now famous words: “Do not let your hearts be troubled.” But their hearts are troubled. When Jesus says, “You know the way to the place I am going,” Thomas gets frustrated and blurts out: “We don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?”

Jesus’s answer to that question unveils the sixth of the seven great I AM statements in the Gospel of John: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life.” If these men could understand this, they would be able to keep their hearts untroubled. They would be able to trust God. If we could understand this, we could do the same. Continue reading

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The Wisdom of Humility and the Humility of Wisdom

The great English New Testament scholar F. F. Bruce counseled his readers to avoid being dogmatic about issues. If one is right, he pointed out, dogmatically defending one’s position does not make it any truer nor is it likely to convince others. It usually has the opposite effect. If one’s position is mistaken, being dogmatic can only be harmful.
F. F. Bruce understood that even the brightest of us still “sees through a glass darkly” and only the best of us remembers that fact and holds positions humbly. Only God sees things as they are—and we are not God. Though we can see things truly, we cannot see them wholly. To insist that we do is to make fools of ourselves by making believe that we are equal to God.
As I write this, I am looking over the top of my computer screen, out the window, and across the road at a barren elm. What I see is a vase-shaped, leafless tree, jostled slightly by the wind. Its trunk has a bald spot, where the bark has fallen away. I know that morel mushrooms sometimes grow around dying elms in the Spring. I know that splitting elm for firewood is a lousy job.
Yet there is more about that tree that I don’t know than I do. I do not know how old it is. I do not know how deep its roots are. I do not know its molecular structure. I cannot see its atomic bonds. I don’t know what the squirrels that chase each other through its branches sense when their feet grip its bark. I don’t know the degree to which is contributes to the replenishment of the ozone layer. I know some things about that tree, but I do not know it as God knows it.
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The Good Shepherd, Part 2 (John 11)

We’ve got to learn to live backwards. That is, we need to learn to live out of our future and not just out of our past. Most people are driven by the unalterable past into an unknowable future, but Jesus’s people can be pulled into the future by the call of the knowable – though always more than comprehensible – God.
People who are driven by the unalterable past are frequently filled with regrets over former days and fears over future ones. They are haunted by would-haves, could-haves, and should-haves and threatened by might-be and could-be possibilities. Only people who learn from Jesus how to live out of the future can be fully alive in the present.
That future can be summed up in a word. No, it’s not “heaven”; it’s “resurrection.” Continue reading

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The Man Who Led the Attack on Pearl Harbor

December 7th is the anniversary of the 1941 Japanese surprise attack on the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor in 1941, a day which, according President Roosevelt, would live in infamy.

My friend Hugh Hansel was an adolescent in 1941. He had gone fishing on a sunny Sunday in northwest Ohio and, when he returned home, he found the adults agitated and fearful. Over the next couple of years, Hugh watched older schoolmates go off to the war. He saw how they and their parents wept at their parting, and his young heart developed a deep hatred for the Japanese.

Fast forward to the next decade. Hugh had himself seen combat in Korea. After returning home, he and his wife Phyllis moved to Upland, Indiana, to attend Taylor University and pursue a degree in education. While he was there, it was announced that Captain Mitsuo Fuchida, the man who led the attack on Pearl Harbor, would be on campus to speak. Signs began going up around Upland, calling on people to boycott Fuchida’s speech.

But Hugh wanted to see the monster who had attacked an unsuspecting enemy. He was filled with hate toward the Japanese generally and toward Fuchida in particular. Yet, by the time Fuchida’s speech ended, he had experienced a complete change of mind. He waited for Fuchida, not to give him a piece of his mind but to shake his hand.

The story he heard Fuchida tell was remarkable. Continue reading

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I AM the Resurrection and the Life

I love books and libraries and bookstores – especially used book stores. I like the feel of uncoated paper against my fingertips and the smell of old leather covers that linger in the air.

I have been helped in my life as a disciple of Jesus more than I can say by books. A.W. Tozer was my guide, as was A. B. Simpson. The unknown author of The Cloud of Unknowing, William Law, Brother Lawrence, Julian of Norwich, F. B Meyer, Andrew Murray – how they all helped me. C. S. Lewis rose through the clouds like the sun after a storm. Chesterton, Kreeft, Williams, Willard, Foster, Wright – the names go on and on.

I have learned much from these people – my debt to them is too great ever to repay. But all those who have helped me most have helped by bringing me into an encounter with Jesus, not just an idea. Books and authors, as much as I treasure them, are not and can never be a substitute for Jesus. At their best, they lead to an encounter with the real Jesus is real life.

Real life – our real life, with all its joys and sorrows – is where we meet Jesus. It is where Martha and Mary met him – in the midst of the biggest crisis of their lives – when Jesus introduced himself as the Resurrection and the Life. Read John 11 to get ready and come prepared for an encounter with Jesus.
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