His Plans for You

A few years ago I conducted a survey in my congregation in order to get to know more about the needs and concerns of my congregation. One of the questions I asked was, “If you could ask God any question, what would you ask?” Across the board, from senior citizens down to high school kids, I heard this answer again and again: “God, what is your plan for my life?”

It’s a question young people may ask as they decide what to do with the rest of their life. Mid-lifers may ask it as they consider whether they should stay in their profession or do something different. Seniors may ask it as they retire and have more free time on their hands. “God, what do you want me to be doing?”

Behind this question, I believe, is a fear of insignificance. We don’t want to look back on our lives and discover they didn’t count for much. We want a sense that we made a difference.

Well, in today’s text, Jesus opens our eyes to the answer to that question when He tells us to follow His Son. It is not enough to simply believe in Jesus; we must also follow Him. His words Ð follow me Ð literally mean, come after me. Let me lead you and teach you about what makes life significant.

When you think about it, we all spend our lives following some one or some thing. The question is who or what. Some of us follow ourselves, our own understanding. We believe we have what it takes to put a good life together, but we are disappointed.

Sometimes the voice of the tempter, the devil, calls us and invites us with a promise that he’ll show us what makes life work. That, of course, is deadly.

Sometimes we find ourselves listening closely to people we admire only to be disappointed as the reality that they are only people Ð not God Ð hits us.

When Jesus says to follow Him, He’s asking you to commit yourself to living with Him at the center of your life. It’s so much more than simply making a decision about Christ. It’s following Him and getting personally involved with Him. It’s letting Him take over the leadership of your life. Just as the planets revolve around the sun in our galaxy, God wants your life to revolve around the Son of God and let Him lead. He wants you to submit to His will and transfer your personal authority from yourself to Him. “Submit to my will and let Me teach you my better way.” That can be difficult for a lot of people to accept.

Joseph Stowell, the former president of Moody Bible College, writes, “By far, the greatest challenge (in life) is the transfer of personal authority from us to Jesus. Even though we call Him Christ and refer to Him as Lord, few of us want Him to be the unconditional leader. We live with the sense that we can do a fairly good job managing our own lives. We come to Him for advice and keep Him on hand in case of an emergency, but to transfer full authority to Him is less than appealing.”

To follow Jesus is to surrender yourself to His care and let Him take over. It means to literally say, “Jesus, I am willing to do what you tell me to do. I am ready to take upon myself those things that You call important and make them important in my life.” Following Jesus is a commitment that can be difficult for us to take on.

I just finished reading a book by Kyle Idleman in which he writes, “At the church where I am a pastor, someone sent an email asking to be removed from church membership. The stated reason for leaving read simply as follows, ÔI don’t like Kyle’s sermons.’

“That begs for some kind of explanation, so I decided to call the person. I called him on my cell phone and when he answered, I simply said, ÔHey, this is Kyle Idleman. I understand you’re leaving the church because you don’t like my sermons.’ There was a brief silence. I had caught him off guard just as I had planned.

“It was awkward for a moment, and then he started rambling, trying to express what he meant. Somewhere in the middle of his lengthy explanation, he said something, which was not meant to be encouraging, but caused me to breathe such a sigh of relief that tears actually came to my eyes! So I grabbed a pen and wrote down what the man said. ÔWell,’ he said, Ôwhenever I listen to one of your messages, I feel like you are trying to interfere with my life.’

“ÔYeah, mmm, that’s kind of my job description.'” Kyle said, “But do you hear what this man is saying? He’s saying, ÔI believe in Jesus; I’m a big fan, but don’t ask me to follow Him. I don’t mind coming to church on the weekend and praying before meals. I’ll even slap a Jesus fish on my bumper, but I don’t want Jesus to interfere with my life.’ When Jesus defines the relationship He wants with us, He makes it clear that being a fan without making any real commitment is not an option.”

C. S. Lewis, in his book, MERE CHRISTIANITY, wrote, “Jesus Christ says, “Give me all of you. I don’t want just so much of your time and so much of your money and so much of your work. I want you! I have not come to torment your natural self, but to kill it. No half measures are any good. I don’t want to cut off a branch here and a branch there; I want to have the whole tree down. I don’t want to drill the tooth or crown it or stop it, but to have it out! Hand over the whole natural self Ð all the desires that you think are innocent as well as the ones you think are wicked. The whole outfit. And I will give you a new self instead. In fact, I will give you myself. My own will shall become yours.'”

What does God want me to do with the rest of my life? Follow His Son, Jesus Christ! Commit myself to putting Him at the center of my life, living with Him at the lead, and getting to know Him. The disciples made a decision to follow Jesus. They reorganized their lives and lived with Him at the center for the rest of their lives. They discovered many wonderful things about God, His love for people, and what life is all about.

How do we do the same? Our church has a mission statement to connect people to a growing relationship with Jesus Christ through worship, small groups and serving. The first part of it is to worship. It is a priority to be fed the Word of God and be reminded of God’s plan of salvation for all people. In the worship service, we learn of God’s forgiveness, love and mercy, and the greatness of His power. We are also reminded that we are not alone in this world as we are lifted up on the praises of God. Worship is not an elective in the discipleship course.

We also believe in the importance of being involved in a Bible study. Members of a study gather around the Word on a weekly basis and learn of God’s direction for their lives. They challenge one another, hold each other accountable, and put the Word to work in their daily living. They take care of each other and pray for one another. Those small group Bible studies have changed many lives in this congregation. Wherever you are, find an individual to join you in studying the Word of God.

Finally, we encourage our members to serve others. Jesus wants to stretch us. He said to us, “I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me drink.” When we show kindness to someone, we soon discover Christ really is with us and life really can be a wonderful thing with Him leading us in service.

Those three things are right out of the book of Acts. The first church gathered around the apostles for teaching and worship. They prayed, they took care of one another, and they served in their community. The good will of all was upon them. Those who do that will find the abundant life Jesus promised. It is the joy of being forgiven and having an eternal home and a joy-filled, power-filled life.

Notice, however, the promise that Jesus ultimately attaches to His command to follow Him. “Follow me and I will make you fishers of men.” Jesus is building a kingdom in this world, and He wants to use us. As we attend worship, go to Bible studies, and serve others, God is training us to impact people positively for the kingdom of God and bring them to Jesus Christ. Be a missionary in the sphere of influence God has placed you. That is your mission field. I’m not sure it matters to Him how you make your living; what matters most to God is that you follow Jesus where you are by helping people see how much God loves them and pointing them to Jesus as their rescuer. It’s your number one calling in life!

As those disciples dropped their nets and began a course on catching people, they learned the power of prayer. Every day as they, in prayer, asked for God’s leading, they learned the power of caring for people. Before Jesus preached to the people, He had compassion for them. They learned the power of the Holy Spirit as He changed people’s lives. They learned the power of location, location, location Ð You can’t catch fish if you are just sitting in a church pew. Instead, you must be amongst those who make you uncomfortable, those who are not like you and whose behaviors make you uncomfortable. Jesus calls us into the world to be fishers of men, and those are the ones He is calling us to catch! You can’t catch fish unless you go to where the fish are.

That is what the disciples learned. They were trained, and they changed history. In the book of Acts, we read how thousands of lives were changed by those who were trained by Jesus. That is where the excitement, adventure, and fun lie. It is in being used by Jesus to touch the lives of others. I don’t know about you, but I want to be a history maker like that.

That is what I want to do with the rest of my life. What about you? Would you like to do something like that with your life? I invite you to pray this commitment prayer with me:

Jesus be the center of my life. Make me into a history maker. Use me to bring others to you.

He Left Home So You Could Come Home

I don’t know about you but I am missing Christmas already. I love the festivities, the family get-togethers, the great food, and the lefse people from my congregation give to me at Christmastime. But what I miss the most are the Christmas carols. It seems like everywhere you turn, whether at a shopping mall, in an elevator, or at the church, the Christmas tunes are playing in the background. And they remind us of what a loving and kind God we have and what trouble He’s gone through to make us His own.

What is your favorite Christmas carol? If you’re sitting with someone today, take a moment and tell them the name of your favorite Christmas carol.

Well today I want to talk with you about what some people have called the FIRST Christmas carol. The Apostles would occasionally write letters using songs that were being sung in the early Church to make a point about Jesus. Such was the case in Philippians chapter 2. It is basically a Christ or Christmas carol.

This little Christmas carol has three stanzas. The first stanza I refer to as the CRADLE. It talks about Christ becoming one of us.

“Who, being in the same nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.”

Jesus stepped down from Heaven to become one of us. He became God in the flesh.

Leif Anderson, one of my favorite preachers, tells the story of a mission trip he took to Manila in the Philippines where he found a huge garbage dump on the outskirts of the city. It was heartbreaking because thousands of people made their homes on that dump site. They constructed shacks out of things other people had thrown away. In the mornings, the children would scavenge through the garbage for food. People had been born, grew up, and died on that garbage dump. They built their shacks there and raised their children there. They lived their whole lives there without ever going anywhere else.

“It’s an astonishing thing,” Anderson writes, “but Americans also live on that garbage dump. They are missionaries, Christians who have chosen to leave their own country and communicate the love of Jesus to people who otherwise would never have heard it.”

It is amazing that people would leave what they have to go and live in a garbage dump. However, it is not as amazing as the journey the Son of God made from heaven to earth. He knew where He was going and what the sacrifice would be. Yet He journeyed from heaven to earth on a mission, to save you and me. That’s the first verse of this carol.

The CRADLE. Jesus was born into this world. He was God in the flesh.

The second stanza is what I call the CROSS stanza. It reads as follows: “Éand being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to death, even death on a cross.” Jesus didn’t come into this world simply to teach us or to give us some knowledge about God. He came to live a life of obedience and ultimately give His life on the cross. Why did He do it? He did it to rescue us from the predicament of the human race. All of us have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. None can work their way back into a friendship with God or have a hope of going to the everlasting home with the Father. It was a hopeless situation. When Christ Jesus stepped into this world, it was to rescue us from that. He paid the penalty for our sins on the cross so we could cross the bridge back into a relationship with the God who loves us.

Finally, we have the CROWNING stanza! “Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” God didn’t leave Jesus in the tomb, He raised Him up on the third day. Now Jesus reigns in power and authority over this whole world. He has defeated the power of sin and death and Satan. He has the final word over this planet of ours. It’s a promising future for those of us who place their trust in Jesus Christ. God has exalted Him!

This is a beautiful Christmas carol! It tells the whole story. Christ in the cradle, Christ on the cross, Christ being crowned and exalted! When you look carefully at this carol, what comes to my mind was that Christmas is really about leaving home. Jesus who was with the Father Ð left home.

Joseph Bailey, a Christian poet wrote, “Tonight this Christmas eve, I will sing praise to the Father that stood on heaven’s threshold and said farewell to His Son as He stepped across the stars to Bethlehem and Jerusalem.”

Christmas is about Jesus stepping across the cosmos into our little world on a rescue mission. Why did He go to all that great inconvenience when He had it so good where He was? Jesus left His heavenly home so you could come home. He left home so you and I could come home to the heavenly Father who created us, who loves us, and who sent His Son to make it possible for us to come home.

What’s your picture of God? Jesus has given us a wonderful picture of the Father waiting at home for the rebellious son to come back, and then welcomes him with open arms when he arrives. Jesus says, “Do not be worried and upset. Believe in God and believe also in me. There are many rooms in my Father’s house, and I am going to prepare a place for you. I would not tell you this if it were not so. And after I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to myself, so that you will be where I am” (John 14:1-3). He came to earth to bring us home again that we might have a friendship with God and never be separated from Him. That we might live and breathe every moment in this life with Immanuel, God with us, walking with us every step of the way. Wherever He is, that’s home, friend. It is being in a personal relationship with the God who made us, who knows what makes our life work, and who truly does love us.

It is interesting to note that this song leaves us with an invitation. After talking about all that Jesus has done, God exalted Him Ð for what reason? So that every knee should bend to Jesus. So that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. Bending the knee to Him is to surrender to Him and say, “Take me, I’m yours. I want to serve You all my life.” To confess Jesus is Lord is to say, “Jesus, not only are you the Lord of the world, but you are also the Lord of my life! Take over and show me the way.” The writer of this song says that when we kneel and acknowledge Him as our Lord, it pleases our Father in Heaven.

Wherever you are this day, I would invite you to take a knee. If you love Christ, if you want to follow Him, or if this message has encouraged you to get involved with Jesus, take a knee. Bow before Him. Then, after you have done that, pray this with me: “Jesus, you ARE Lord. Jesus, be MY Lord. Jesus, I want to serve you the rest of my life. I love you.

The Gift of Hope

It’s a tradition in our family every Christmas to watch the movie, “It’s a Wonderful Life” with Jimmy Stewart. In the opening scene of that movie, the head angel calls Clarence, a second-class angel, to give him an assignment. Clarence is trying to earn his wings, so he receives an assignment to help a fellow named George Bailey. When Clarence asks if he is sick, the head angel responds, “No. It’s worse than that. He’s discouraged.” George Bailey, you see, was lacking hope. Oh, how we need hope.

Major Harold Kushner is a former POW in Vietnam. He tells of the devastating effects of hopelessness on human beings. One 24-year-old American Marine was a POW in his camp. The Marine decided to cooperate with the Viet Kong, and so he said to them, “If you promise to let me go, I’ll cooperate in whatever way I can with you.” They agreed, and so the man became a model prisoner, even becoming a leader of the camp’s reform group. However, after awhile it became clear the enemy had been lying to him. When this realization took hold of him, that Marine became a zombie. He refused to do any work and rejected all offers of food and discouragement. He simply lay on his cot sucking his thumb. In a matter of weeks he was dead. Hopelessness can do us in.

The human spirit needs hope to survive and thrive. Perhaps you’ve heard the saying, “Where there is no hope for the future, there is no power for the present.” God created human beings with a craving for hope. God is frequently described in the Bible as the God of Hope who wants to give us His hope. Hope is woven throughout all of Scripture, from the beginning of the Old Testament to the end of the New Testament.

When I talk about biblical hope, I’m not talking about wishful thinking, like, I hope my stocks go up this year, or I hope my favorite sports team wins the world series. I’m not talking about blind optimism either. What we are talking about is the hope God wants to give to us. It is a confident, deep-down expectation that God is willing and able to fulfill the promises He’s made to us. It’s all about confidence, and it’s our anchor.

The Christmas story really is a story about hope. God breathed hope into the shepherds that first Christmas, didn’t he? The people had been longing for a Savior for many years. The angels’ words Ð I bring you good news of great joy. To you is born this day in the city of David a Savior who is Christ the Lord Ð stirred their hearts with hope. The shepherds knew their long wait was over. When the angel spoke to them, he was basically announcing that God was up to something big. The promise of a Savior, a Messiah sent by God, had now come to pass.

A few years ago I received a Christmas card that I saved. It says, “If our greatest need had been information, God would have sent an educator. And if our greatest need had been technology, he would have sent a scientist. And if our greatest need had been money, God would have sent an economist. But our greatest need was forgiveness, so God sent a Savior.” That is what Jesus did for us. He went all the way to the cross for for us where He paid for our sins. Then God raised Him on the third day, and the gates of heaven are now open for all who put their trust in that Savior, Jesus Christ.

The Apostle Peter later wrote of the living hope given to us through Christ’s resurrec-tion. Jesus really is God and has the power to fulfill God’s promise to us. That is our hope. Because God raised Jesus and affirmed Him in all He said, we can place our hope in Him. He is our hope. We have hope in Christ because we are absolved of our past. We can begin each day with a clean slate because of what Jesus did for us at the cross.

A few years ago a movie came out with Billy Crystal called City Slickers. It was about three guys who were having a mid life crisis, so they went on a cattle drive to try to find themselves. However, one of them had a major meltdown. His life was falling apart. He’d done some things he regretted, and he just didn’t know what he was going to do with the future. But Billy Crystal’s character said to him, “Remember when we played ball as kids, Phil? When we hit the ball up and it would get stuck in a tree or something, we’d always call out, ÔDo-Over! Let’s do it over!’ Well, here is your chance now. You can have a do-over. You can start over again. Don’t stay where you are.”

Jesus Christ’s middle name is “Do Over.” He doesn’t offer us a cheap do-over, but one that cost Him His life at the cross. Because of that sacrifice, God’s justice and forgiveness meet, and we get a do-over. We get a new start with Jesus as our Savior.

We also have a hope within us because we have the assurance of an inheritance that is ours to claim Ð the promise of everlasting life. Dr. Lewis Smedes, one of my favorite authors, wrote a book called, “How Can it Be All Right When Everything Is All Wrong?” One chapter is about the hope we have for heaven. He talks about the squares in his date book. Each square represents a day of his life, which he fills with the busyness of the day as well as structured activities. Although he can only live one square at a time, each has an invisible door leading to the next square (day).

As time goes on and he gets older, the squares seem to get smaller until finally, the square does not have a door opening to the next. How many squares he has left until he reaches that final square of his life, or how he fills them, is not as important as what will happen when he reaches that final square. When that time arrives, Dr. Smedes writes, we all will be faced with two possibilities.

The first is that we will suffocate inside of it. We may have strutted our petty pace through each day only to be seduced into this blank square that silences our sounds forever. We may have pretended to be somebody special, but we now are alone.

The second possibility is much different. We will soon discover the reason the final square has no door is that its walls cannot hold a door. The four unmovable lines that once held us inside are erased. That day our life will turn out to be the beginning of life in a new dimension. We will be free of the square’s confines, because the walls of regulated time have fallen away. The last square does not hold death, but a new dimension of life.

This is the Christian Gospel Ð a promise. The last square of our life becomes an introduction into a new, expansive world of perfect peace. When we believe that promise, we have Christian hope fixed on the last square of our date book. Hope bets that the last square is not a closed closet commonly called the casket, but a front door into a new world. That is our hope.

Sheldon Vanauken once described his experience as a student studying under Dr. C. S. Lewis. As Vanauken was preparing to leave the country, he had coffee with C. S. Lewis. They talked about theology and other big matters, such as dying. When it was time to go their separate ways, they shook hands and Lewis said to him, “We’ll see each other again. I don’t believe in saying goodbyes.” Then, as Vanauken crossed the street, he heard Lewis yell out after him, “After all, Christians never have to say, goodbye. Only, we’ll meet again.” That is our hope.

The gift of hope has been given to each one of us. Jesus Christ has come into this world, and He is offering the gift of hope to you. Come home to Him and receive His gift of hope. It is the gift of being absolved of your past into a future with Him forever in His eternity. It is a gift that each one of us must take to himself or herself.

I encourage you this day, my friends, to go into the year 2014 with a living hope in your heart that only Jesus Christ can give to us. Hope to you this new year.

No More Guessing

A little girl was on the living room floor drawing pictures when her father said, “What are you drawing?”

“A picture of God,” she said.

“Don’t you know that no one knows what God looks like?”

“They will when I’m through,” she stated.

How do you picture God? If someone were to ask for a few descriptive words of God, what would you say? I’ve heard people describe God in some rather strange ways through the years, and it is usually based on popular sentiment or imagination. It could even be called folk religion.

Some people view God as the great time keeper in the sky. At a funeral, someone might say, “His number was up.” Others might say, “God helps those who help themselves.” Some picture God through nature. While we can see the vastness and majesty and creativity of God in the vastness of our universe, it does not give us an accurate picture of God. I once heard someone say God created man in his own image, and man returned the favor. However, all of these statements are really nothing more than imagination and folk religion. So where do we look to see what God is like?

As we study the Bible, we find God’s footprints in history throughout the Old and New Testaments. We can also find Him actively working in our world. From that we can form some conclusions of God.

The Apostle John tells us in his Gospel that if you want to know what God is like, you simply have to look at Jesus. In today’s text, he writes,”No one has ever seen God; the only Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he has made him known” (1:18) Even Moses, who was very close to God, has not seen Him. In the book of Exodus, when Moses asked to see God’s glory pass before him, God told him to hide his face and look away. It was impossible to look at God. However, to look at the face of Jesus is to look into the face of God and understand what God is all about. So if you want to quit guessing about God, walk with Jesus and get to know Him.

What qualifies Jesus to show us God? John writes that first of all, Jesus is God, the only Son. At the beginning of his Gospel, John says, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God” (1:1) John is describing Jesus as the Word made flesh. The angel described Jesus to Joseph as Immanuel Ñ God with us.

I love a little illustration Billy Graham used awhile back in a Christmas devotional. He tells of a little boy whose father was working overseas. As the boy longingly looked at a picture of his dad, he said, “Don’t you wish Dad would just step out of that picture and be with us?” Graham goes on to say, that is what happened at Christmas Ð God stepped into our world to be with us in the person of Jesus Christ. To see Jesus is to see God. “The Father and I are one.”

John also calls Jesus, “. . . the only Son . . .” Jesus was absolutely unique from any other being. He is specially beloved. An only son has a unique place and a unique love in his father’s heart. Jesus is as close and as intimate with the Heavenly Father as a person can get. He knows His Father’s heart.

John goes on to say, “. . . the only Son . . . has made him known” (1:18). Jesus has taken us on a tour of God, so to speak. He has drawn a picture for us of our Heavenly Father. God Ð that distant, unknowable, invisible, unreachable person we worship, has come to us clothed in flesh and blood to make Himself known. There need be no more guessing about Him.

I’d like to share with you a few things I’ve discovered about God in my own walk with Jesus through the Gospel stories.

One of the first things that jumps out at me is that God has a great love for all kinds of people. Jesus is as comfortable with prostitutes as with priests. He never rejects anyone who comes to Him, but receives all with mercy and compassion. He stopped and touched lepers, who were considered untouchable. He blessed children, who were sometimes considered extras, and welcomed them into His arms. He was equally at home with Simon the Pharisee as with the sinful woman who washed His feet. And God is the great King of the Universe and Creator of all, we can call Him “Abba,” which means Father. Jesus makes God known through His actions, which are merciful, kind, and gracious. He reveals that we will not be rejected when we turn to Him in repentance, no matter what our history might be. God knows about us and cares about us.

As we listen to Jesus, we discover what God thinks of us. He describes God as a shepherd who searches for lost sheep until He finds them and then rejoices. God is like a father welcoming home a rebellious son who broke the father’s heart. Without Jesus, we are lost, but in His sight we are valuable, precious and important. He knows us and rejoices when we come home by turning to Him in repentance. Jesus revealed the heart of God to us on the cross as He expressed His great love in those outstretched nail-pierced hands. He tells us, “I love you that much.”

Jesus shows us how much God detests human sin. We see his anger and wrath when he drove the money-changers and marketers out of the Father’s temple, for they had turned the Temple into a mockery in God’s sight.

Jesus also shows us what God wants from us. He said, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent” (John 6:29), and “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes has eternal life” (John 6:47). God wants you to have eternal life with Him in the hear and now and into the ever after. He does not want us to perish but to have eternal life. That’s why He sent Jesus to die on the cross Ð to pay for our sins, so that by trusting in Christ we may have the gift of eternal life.

Jesus also tells those of us who trust Him how God wants us to live the rest of our days as His followers. He gave us an example when He washed His disciples’ feet. Then He said, “So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you” (John 13:14). Jesus was a servant-God who calls us to be servants.

After His resurrection, Jesus breathed on the disciples and said, “As the Father has sent me, so I send you” (John 20:21). God wants us to be His witnesses, to tell others about what He has done for us through his Son Jesus Christ.

Jesus made all this about God known to us so there need be no more guessing. He gave us many other witnesses also who testify to the truth Ð such as the Prophets in the Old Testament and the Apostle Paul in the New Testament. Jesus is the reflection of God’s glory and the exact imprint of God’s very being. Paul described Him in the book of Colossians as the self miniaturization of God, the visible image of the invisible God. Jesus Christ shows us God in a comprehensible way.

Origen, an early Church leader, gave us the analogy of a village with a huge statue so immense one couldn’t see what it was supposed to represent. Finally, someone miniaturized it so people could see the person it honored. Origen said, “That is what God has done for us in giving us His Son.”

If you want to know God personally and enjoy a close friendship with Him, simply get to know Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Place your trust in Him and what He’s done for you, and then spend time in getting to know Him. The way to get to know Jesus is to open up the Bible and carefully study the Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. You cannot get to know God by doing an end-run around the Gospels. John tells us they were written so that we may know Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and through believing, we may have life in His name.

As we begin a new year, I challenge you to work your way through the Gospel narratives by reading one chapter a day. Jesus is eager to show Himself to you and reveal His Father’s heart to you. Then, as you read those stories, ask yourself what you learned about God from Jesus’ words and actions.

John gave his testimony: “We have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s only Son full of grace and truth.” God can give you a testimony like that as well. Then you can join John in saying, “I have seen his glory, I know the Heavenly Father through Jesus.” That can happen. How? By following God’s advice to St. Augustine. “Take and read.” Take and read.