“Back to the Basics” (part 3 of 3)

Pillar #3–the proof.  One of the three most important foundations of our faith that we must believe, beyond a shadow of a doubt. #1–Jesus Christ was a real man. #2–Jesus Christ was the Son of God who died and rose again. And #3–The Bible is the Word of God.

This is yet another topic that I feel like people are quick to say, Duh, obviously. Of course it’s the Word of God. But, again, there are a number of elements that go into this belief. A number of elements that are really helpful to be reminded of frequently.

You see, the Bible is obviously the first thing that people associate with Christianity.  Just as the Torah is associated with the practice of Judaism,  the Quran with the practice of Islam, and so on. But what IS the Bible? What all does it represent? Why should we just believe everything it says? Who wrote it? Why are there so many different translations and versions? And can’t I just search for verses when I need them for motivation or inspiration?

I’ll explain, in brevity, an overview of this fantastic book.  The Bible is composed of the Old Testament and the New Testament. The Old Testament, which is also recognized by the Jewish faith, was written by divinely inspired prophets. Don’t let that term intimidate you–essentially, the Old Testament was written by individuals who were spoken to by God long before Jesus was ever born. Individuals who recognized that there was a greater power at work and were communicated with by our King.  They were able to communicate their understandings in writing and document historical information from as far back as the creation of the universe.  Fantastically, all of their stories and translations lined up perfectly with one another’s AND came to fruition in the future and the New Testament–giving validity and evidentiary support to all of their prophecies.

The New Testament, on the other hand, picks up at the birth of Jesus, and serves as historical documentation of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ–written by Jesus’ disciples and well as other individuals involved with Jesus throughout His life. Essentially, it is a documentation of all that this fantastic man taught, all of the miracles He performed, and all that “proves” the magnificence of God.

Since the Old Testament was written by prophets inspired by God, and the New Testament was written about the Son of God, we MUST believe that the Bible, as a whole, is the living, breathing Word of God.  You may be wondering what I mean when I say the “living, breathing” Word of God. But the words in the Bible are exactly that. There are individuals who have read the Bible cover to cover, memorized the pages, and teach of its magnitude. Those individuals, who seemingly should know all there is to know about the Word, STILL read through it and find new meanings to new applications, daily. You see, there are no defined meanings for the words of the book.  It was not God’s intent to give us a history book to study. It was His intent to give us a reference that human beings could open until the end of time, and constantly learn and grow from.  It was His intent to provide us with a means of communication directly to Him. That’s not meant to sound mystical or eerie, it is simple fact. The Bible is a book of beauty that opens a door to His Kingdom.

Recognizing that it is, in fact, the Word of God, we can’t allow ourselves to be “cultural Christians”. We can’t just open the Bible when we need a motivational quote or a neat scripture. We can’t just pull out the pieces we want to believe. If we are going to believe one single word in the Bible, we HAVE to believe every single word. It is not our right to pick and choose what we think is true.  As Christians, we have to recognize that it is the Word of God, and challenge ourselves to live by it. To apply it. To work, daily, to obey it. We have to study it and to challenge ourselves and the people around us, constantly, to grow in our relationship with our King.

Being a Christian is not easy–especially in the world we live in today. It is not glamorous or comfortable or simple.  Being a Christian is not just being a good person.  It is hard, it is challenging, and it is humbling.  It requires us to be MEN and WOMEN. Real men and women of God.  It requires us to have integrity and humility and understanding.  It requires us to set aside our egos and our desires and our dominance. It requires us to humble ourselves, daily, and realize that our world and our lives are not just about US. It requires us to give up control and to be different. God wants a relationship with us. He wants us to love Him like He, unconditionally, loves us. Do you believe? Are you up for the challenge?

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“Back to the Basics” (part 2 of 3)

I want to keep the explanation of these three pillars as simple as possible.  There are countless scriptures and historical principles I could throw at you, but the belief of those scriptures touches on the third point, and that is something we have yet to cover, so I will write with simplicity and generalization for this segment.

The second pillar of our foundations is, easily, the most important.  It is the pillar that leads to our salvation and a principle that we MUST believe, beyond a shadow of a doubt, if we choose to call ourselves Christians.  We discussed that pillar #1 is the recognition that Jesus Christ was a real human being. We also discussed that He was exceptional, different, and lived for a purpose. How was He capable of living so perfectly? How was He capable of performing miracles and walking with such guidance? That is explained in pillar #2…we MUST believe that Jesus Christ was the son of God. The Son of God who died and rose again for US.

Now, this principle seems basic, but there is an incredible amount of information encompassed in that understanding.  It’s not enough to say, Okay, yes, I believe He was the son of God...and check that off the list. There is much to be understood if you recognize that truth. I will try to summarize:

First and foremost, this encompasses the belief that there is a God. A God so fantastic, it is impossible to explain His magnitude. A Creator of the heavens and the earth.  The Alpha and the Omega. The Beginning and the End.  A God that cannot be described in earthly terms, because the human mind is incapable of understanding “Him”. (We only refer to God as “He” and “Him” because that is a simple way of wrapping the human mind around the concept.) God is not human, and is not one thing. God is an entity.

Secondly, this pillar encompasses the belief that, in order for God to “prove” to us, essentially, that He exists, He sent a portion of Himself in the form of a human being–Jesus Christ. A Son. This man of earthly flesh and blood was sent to teach. Sent to spread the Truth. Sent to show grace and mercy and forgiveness. Sent to tell all who would listen that God existed. He was sent to lead by example and to inspire. He was sent to share the Word of God. Sent to enlighten generations, for the remainder of time, that God was True and real and good. And He did so magnificently. He proved himself time and time again. He was also sent to die…which leads us to the next point.

The third belief that this pillar encompasses is that this man died for us. Throughout His life on earth, He made clear that He would eventually be crucified. He would eventually be killed. But He promised, to all who believed and to all who still refused to believe, that He would come back to life.  As the ultimate “proof” to everyone that He was, in fact, the son of God. Jesus Christ promised all that He would rise. And in His death, and His rebirth, we would be forever forgiven of our sins and capable of receiving salvation.  All we had to do was believe in Him. Let me emphasize the most incredible point here…in order for us to FOREVER be forgiven and to be SAVED and spend eternity in heaven, He asks us to BELIEVE in Him and to believe in God. To pursue Him and to live for Him. This man DIED for us, in the most brutal and shameful way possible, so that WE could be saved. In order for even the men who were murdering Him to be saved. I tremble at the thought. What an incredible King.

That leads us to the real zinger! 🙂 The best and most beautiful belief that this pillar encompasses…..HE DID IT! He was murdered. Crucified on the cross. And this man, this earthly man, “STUCK IT TO THE MAN!” haha. He rose! He came back to life, just as He said He would!! There are countless historical proofs of this. Countless documentations of this Truth. The man ROSE! The Son of God rose! He proved it to everyone! Incredible. In Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection, it made all that He taught, and all that He shared in His life, completely valid. What is there to argue here? Jesus did it!

So we have now touched on the first and second pillars of our foundation as Christians. #1. The recognition that Jesus Christ was a real man. #2. The recognition that Jesus Christ was the son of God and that He died and rose again. As I said before, all three elements of our foundation are interconnected, so that leads us to pillar #3…the proof. Everybody seems to want the proof.  Now a days, to simply have faith that something happened seems like an impossibility to people. Everyone wants MORE proof. Fortunately, God planned on that. And He left us the greatest proof of all…

(to be continued)

“Back to the Basics” (part 1 of 3)

So, now that I have finished sharing my personal testimony with you, it’s time to embark on this incredible journey together and grow closer to our King! Before I begin, I really want to thank you for following up to this point. Can you believe it has already been a month? I hope you are as excited as I am for what this year has in store. It’s my belief that, no matter age, race, gender, social class, or any other “category” this world may label each of us in, we are all beautifully equal and we ALL have the ability to learn from one another and be inspired by one another.  It has been such a blessing hearing from SO many; I hope you understand how much you play a role in this challenge. You are the one encouraging me and keeping me focused. So let’s get started!

I find that in sports, as well as in school and relationships and work, it is unbelievably beneficial to go “back to the basics” and periodically re-visit the fundamentals of what we do.  At times, we get so comfortable in our successes, that we have the tendency to unknowingly become stagnant in our progress and growth. But, if we take a little time to humble ourselves and study the core principles of our activities, it’s often refreshing and beneficial.  With that being said, what are the core principles of our faith? If somebody walked up to you today and asked you what it is you believe, what would you say? How would you summarize all that Christianity entails quickly enough to keep their attention? And would you truly believe your own words? What are the foundations of your life?

It’s easiest for me to break it into 3 points. Three core, elementary principles that we MUST believe, beyond a shadow of a doubt. Three fundamentals that are all interconnected and are the basis of our Christian walks.  It is not up to us to pick and choose which one we like best, we must be convicted in all three, wholeheartedly.

First, and most simply, we have to believe that Jesus Christ was a real man.  A human being that walked this earth and was bound by all of the same temptations, tendencies, desires, and abilities as you and I. He was real. He is a historical figure.  There is little that can really even be debated about this point because it is simply historical knowledge. He was a human being that existed.

It’s a bummer for Jesus that there wasn’t internet or twitter or cameras back then, because it seems like, now-a-days, the only content people will believe is the content the pops up on their iPhones.  The content they can physically see.  But all it takes to prove this human being’s existence is a trip to the library. Christianity is not the only religion that recognizes that this man was very real.  He was a magnificent man and a true leader.  He was a man who lived with purpose and a man who lived PERFECTLY.

That’s the one factor that boggles my mind the most.  This man lived in a way that no other man had lived before Him and that no other man has lived since Him.  He lived PERFECTLY! He was bound by all of the same human limitations we are bound by, and He STILL lived without flaw.  He was never afraid to live completely differently than every single person around Him.  He was never afraid to defy the kings and leaders of the land in order to stand strong by what He believed. Can you even imagine? It’s hard for me to even wrap my head around sometimes. And it gets me SO fired up.  This man was exceptional! He was 100% convicted in His purpose and He never faltered.  He never stumbled.  Good grief, I stumble daily. I stumble hourly. Yet this man lived His entire life and never lost His footing.  He was completely obedient, no matter the sacrifice or suffering He had to endure. And He taught, passionately.

Whether or not you choose to recognize this man as the son of God, which is a point we will look at tomorrow, you cannot deny that this man was exceptional.  He was real and He was fantastic.  He was a genuine leader and He stood strong on the principles of everything we should strive towards.  He must be respected.  He was a human being that must be respected.  It drives me crazy to sit through history class and leadership class and listen to all of these other individuals addressed (Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., Desmond Tutu, Hitler, George Washington, etc.) for their exceptional leadership and sacrifice, yet modern culture refuses to print and teach content about Jesus Christ. HELLO! He was the greatest leader that ever walked the face of this earth.  He set the example for every single individual that has followed Him.  He, single-handedly, built the framework for what leadership is and how we should strive to live our lives!

I could ramble on for hours about this first point, but the basics of this first fundamental are simple.  We must recognize and give validity to the man, Jesus Christ.  He was a human being that deserves every single person on this earth’s respect. All spiritual and religious components aside, He was a human being that must be celebrated. Because He did it all correctly. And He never failed.

How, then…you may be wondering…was this human being capable of such perfection? How was He able to perform all of the acts that He did and resist all of the temptations? How was this man capable of living so flawlessly? Well, that leads us to the second pillar of our foundation…

(to be continued)