Explore God - Is Jesus Really God?

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Is Jesus Really God?

For all of us, there was a time when we didn’t fully understand who Jesus was.  And yet, billions of people over the course of the past two thousand years have reached the conclusion that there is something special about Jesus. That he was no ordinary man. How did they come to that conclusion?  Well, let’s take a look.


Jesus is God in the flesh, who came to restore our relationship with him. How do we know that?


The Trinity is a recurring theme throughout Judeo-Christian Scripture:


Genesis 1:26-27 
Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.


John 1:1-5,14-18 
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.  And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. ( John bore witness about him, and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.’”) For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father's side,  he has made him known.


• Prophecy

   • Psalm 2:1–8 (written at least one thousand years before Jesus lived): predicts Jesus’s life and reign


Psalm 2:1-8 
Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord and against his Anointed, saying, “Let us burst their bonds apart and cast away their cords from us.” He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord holds them in derision. Then he will speak to them in his wrath, and terrify them in his fury, saying, “As for me, I have set my King on Zion, my holy hill.” I will tell of the decree: The Lord said to me, “You are my Son; today I have begotten you. Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession.


Matthew 22:41-46 
Now while the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them a question, saying, “What do you think about the Christ? Whose son is he?” They said to him, “The son of David.” He said to them, “How is it then that David, in the Spirit, calls him Lord, saying, 44 “‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at my right hand, until I put your enemies under your feet”’? 45 If then David calls him Lord, how is he his son?” And no one was able to answer him a word, nor from that day did anyone dare to ask him any more questions.


• Isaiah 53:5–6 (written hundreds of years before Christ): predicts his suffering and the reconciliation it enabled 


Isaiah 9:6-7
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.


Isaiah 53:5-6
But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.


In the midst of a fiercely monothestic Jewish culture, in the Babylonian Exile the stateman and prophet Daniel foresaw the following:


Daniel 7:13-14 (NIV)
“In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all nations and peoples of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.

• Teaching • Matthew 26:64–65: Jesus accepts the messianic title, Son of Man, claiming equality with God 

Matthew 26:63-65
But Jesus remained silent. And the high priest said to him, “I adjure you by the living God, tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God.” Jesus said to him, “You have said so. But I tell you, from now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.” Then the high priest tore his robes and said, “He has uttered blasphemy. What further witnesses do we need? You have now heard his blasphemy.

John 6:44-46
44 No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day. 45 It is written in the Prophets, ‘And they will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me— 46 not that anyone has seen the Father except he who is from God; he has seen the Father.

Jesus has a fantastic sense of self-awareness

John 8:56-59 
56 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.” So they picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple.

John 10:27-39
27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand. 30 I and the Father are one.” The Jews picked up stones again to stone him. Jesus answered them, “I have shown you many good works from the Father; for which of them are you going to stone me?” The Jews answered him, “It is not for a good work that we are going to stone you but for blasphemy, because you, being a man, make yourself God.” Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your Law, ‘I said, you are gods’? 35 If he called them gods to whom the word of God came—and Scripture cannot be broken— 36 do you say of him whom the Father consecrated and sent into the world, ‘You are blaspheming,’ because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’? 37 If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me; 38 but if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.” Again they sought to arrest him, but he escaped from their hands.

John 14:9 
Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?

Mark 2:7–11: Jesus claims godly power

Mark 2:5-12 
And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts, “Why does this man speak like that? He is blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?” And immediately Jesus, perceiving in his spirit that they thus questioned within themselves, said to them, “Why do you question these things in your hearts? 9 Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise, take up your bed and walk’? 10 But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins” —he said to the paralytic— 11 “I say to you, rise, pick up your bed, and go home.” And he rose and immediately picked up his bed and went out before them all, so that they were all amazed and glorified God, saying, “We never saw anything like this!”

• Resurrection

John 2:19: Jesus metaphorically predicts his death and resurrection

John 2:19
Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.”

Matthew 28:16-20 
Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them.  And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Acts 10:25-26 
When Peter entered, Cornelius met him and fell down at his feet and worshiped him. But Peter lifted him up, saying, “Stand up; I too am a man.”

• History

• Regarding the truth of Jesus’s death, resurrection, and divinity, Peter Kreeft muses: “Why did thousands suffer torture and death for this lie if they knew it was a lie?” “What force sent Christians to the lions’ den with hymns on their lips? What lie ever transformed the world like that?”

 • Aquinas argues, “If the Incarnation did not really happen, then an even more unbelievable miracle happened: the conversion of the world by the biggest lie in history and the moral transformation of lives into unselfishness, detachment from worldly pleasures and radically new heights of holiness by a mere myth.”

External early testimony to Jesus’ divinity by Roman non-sympathizers:

“Nero fastened the guilt ... on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace. Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of ... Pontius Pilatus, and a most mischievous superstition, thus checked for the moment, again broke out not only in Judaea, the first source of the evil, but even in Rome....”

-Tacitus A.D. 62


“On the eve of the Passover Yeshu was hanged. For forty days before the execution took place, a herald ... cried, "He is going forth to be stoned because he has practiced sorcery and enticed Israel to apostasy."

-Babylonian Talmud A.D. 70-200


“They were in the habit of meeting on a certain fixed day before it was light, when they sang in alternate verses a hymn to Christ, as to a god, and bound themselves by a solemn oath, not to any wicked deeds, but never to commit any fraud, theft or adultery, never to falsify their word, nor deny a trust when they should be called upon to deliver it up; after which it was their custom to separate, and then reassemble to partake of food – but food of an ordinary and innocent kind.”

-Pliny the Younger in A.D. 112


What do you say about Jesus? Is he merely a good teacher, a prophet, or a wise man? Is he more than that?


“I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic—on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg—or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to. Now it seems to me obvious that He was neither a lunatic nor a fiend: and consequently, however strange or terrifying or unlikely it may seem, I have to accept the view that He was and is God.” —C. S. Lewis


If everyone of us—me included—decided to set our life’s compass to Jesus’s bearing, I believe we’d impact the entire world.  Will you join me?

Bottom Line:

Because of His own testimony about Himself, Jesus is either God or a fraud. There is no logical middle ground. Jesus demonstrated His deity through prophecy, teaching, and the resurrection.

Reflected by writers of the New Testament:

Titus 2:11-14 
For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.

Second City Church - Explore God - Pastor Rollan Fisher 2019

Explore God - Is Christianity Too Narrow?

explore god chicago

Is Christianity Too Narrow?

• To nonreligious people, religion almost always includes some odd—and even narrow-minded things—such as:

   • Legalism

   • Judgment

   • Hypocrisy (in its worst incarnations)

• But when people attempt to bridge the gap between God and us, the seen and unseen, the temporal and eternal, by definition, it’s bound to include some unusual things.

• The problem is when these things are human additions rather than genuine attempts at

connecting with God.

   • Religion is humanity’s attempt to reach God.

   • Christianity is God’s attempt to reach humanity.

This is not new. In fact, the Bible speaks to the narrowness of religion and how to maintain faith in a culture of unfaith.

Acts 17:16-31 
Now while Paul was waiting for them at Athens, his spirit was provoked within him as he saw that the city was full of idols. So he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and the devout persons, and in the marketplace every day with those who happened to be there. Some of the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers also conversed with him. And some said, “What does this babbler wish to say?” Others said, “He seems to be a preacher of foreign divinities”—because he was preaching Jesus and the resurrection. And they took him and brought him to the Areopagus, saying, “May we know what this new teaching is that you are presenting? For you bring some strange things to our ears. We wish to know therefore what these things mean.” Now all the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there would spend their time in nothing except telling or hearing something new. So Paul, standing in the midst of the Areopagus, said: “Men of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious. For as I passed along and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription: ‘To the unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, for “‘In him we live and move and have our being’; as even some of your own poets have said, “‘For we are indeed his offspring.’ Being then God's offspring, we ought not to think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of man. The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.

   • Paul demonstrates how to maintain faith in Jesus among a people who are not comfortable with exclusive claims about God.

   • Paul asked the Athenians questions, complimented their search, and then, when asked, proclaimed the truth with gentleness and respect.

• When Paul preached about Jesus and the resurrection (v. 18), he began to contrast Christianity with other religions. Most religions can be described as humanity’s attempt to reach God. But Christianity is God’s attempt to reach humanity. Through the person of Jesus, God extends grace to everyone. His gift is broad, available to anyone who will receive it.

“All claims are exclusive.  The Gospel is an exclusive truth but it’s the most inclusive exclusive truth in the world.” - Timothy Keller

How do we know this?

God’s exclusive claim

John 14:6 
Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

*The cross and its necessity

Someone has to pay the price for our sin and rebellion against a holy God.  Either we’re going to pay it ourselves, or Jesus, the sinless, blameless Lamb of God, already did for us. 

Galatians 2:20-21 
I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.

Hebrews 9:22
Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.

God’s inclusive heart

Ezekiel 33:11 
Say to them, As I live, declares the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live; turn back, turn back from your evil ways, for why will you die, O house of Israel?

1 Timothy 2:1-6 
First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time.

The emotional response to faith

People don’t care, ignore the issue, neglect it or cast it off as long as possible to live how they want to.

"I had motive for not wanting the world to have a meaning; consequently assumed that it had none, and was able without any difficulty to find satisfying reasons for this assumption. The philosopher who finds no meaning in the world is not concerned exclusively with a problem in pure metaphysics, he is also concerned to prove that there is no valid reason why he personally should not do as he wants to do, or why his friends should not seize political power and govern in the way that they find most advantageous to themselves. … For myself, the philosophy of meaninglessness was essentially an instrument of liberation, sexual and political." --Aldous Huxley, Ends and Means (London: Chatto & Windus, 1946), pp. 270, 273

John 3:16-21
16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. 19 And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. 20 For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. 21 But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.”

Does your lifestyle prompt others to ask why you live the way you do?  If not, what needs to change?

• Are you satisfied with practicing religion and striving to reach God?  Or will you accept God’s free gift and reconciliation through Jesus Christ?

I pray that our church can be a community of people who are so winsome that the world cannot ignore it. I pray that we’ll be bombarded with questions about why we do the things we do (or don’t do), go the places we go, and hang out with the people we do. And then I hope we have the faith, the courage, the gentleness, and the respect to share our faith boldly and humbly.

• Imagine if we all were able to do that this week. Would the world accuse us of being narrow- minded?  I hope not. I hope people will say that we’re the most welcoming, loving, and inclusive people they know.

Bottom Line:

God provided a way for everyone to have peace, forgiveness and eternal life. This is profoundly inclusive—not exclusive. Following Jesus is different from every other faith on earth in that He sacrificed to get to us, rather than us sacrificing to get to Him. Most religions boil down to humanity trying to reach God, but Christianity is God reaching humanity.

Second City Church - Explore God - Pastor Rollan Fisher 2019

Explore God - Why Does God Allow Pain and Suffering

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Why Does God Allow Pain and Suffering?

Pain and suffering are the product of a fallen world separated from God. 

We long for Eden, what people view as a utopic existence and society.  God longs to bring people back here, in the paradise of God.

This topic is important to all of us. We are all touched by pain and suffering in such realms as our:

  • Jobs, relationships, finances, family, school, unforeseen deaths, violations, systemic societal injustices, sexism, agism, health issues, crime, poverty, bigotiries...

  • Here’s what we’re not going to do: 

    •  We’re not going to solve the issue of pain and suffering. 

    • We’re not going to minimize pain and suffering and provide simple platitudes like, “All you need to do is pray.” 

  • Though we might not be able to figure it out enough to make perfect sense of it, we can be confident that God has a reason. 

Quotes related to pain and suffering: 

“God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” —C. S. Lewis


“The most beautiful people are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.” —Elisabeth Kübler-Ross


“In order to have great happiness you have to have great pain and unhappiness— otherwise how would you know when you’re happy?” —Leslie Caron

“Our heavenly Father understands our disappointment, suffering, pain, fear, and doubt. He is always there to encourage our hearts and help us understand that He’s sufficient for all of our needs. When I accepted this as an absolute truth in my life, I found that my worrying stopped.” —Charles Stanley


“Although the world is full of suffering, it is also full of the overcoming of it.” —Helen Keller

God:

God’s not uninterested in your circumstances. Like any good father, he desires good things for his children. Believe it or not, there’s an entire book of the Bible that addresses issues like these.

  • Background to the book of Job:

    •  Style: prose and poetry

    • Purpose: history and prophecy

    • Date: It might be the oldest book in the Bible. Either way, it’s a few thousand years old. 

    • Author: We know this person believed in God, but not much more info is given.


Job 1:1-22
There was a man in the land of Uz whose name was Job, and that man was blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil. There were born to him seven sons and three daughters. He possessed 7,000 sheep, 3,000 camels, 500 yoke of oxen, and 500 female donkeys, and very many servants, so that this man was the greatest of all the people of the east. His sons used to go and hold a feast in the house of each one on his day, and they would send and invite their three sisters to eat and drink with them. And when the days of the feast had run their course, Job would send and consecrate them, and he would rise early in the morning and offer burnt offerings according to the number of them all. For Job said, “It may be that my children have sinned, and cursed God in their hearts.” Thus Job did continually. Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came among them. The Lord said to Satan, “From where have you come?” Satan answered the Lord and said, “From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking up and down on it.” And the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil?” Then Satan answered the Lord and said, “Does Job fear God for no reason? Have you not put a hedge around him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. But stretch out your hand and touch all that he has, and he will curse you to your face.” And the Lord said to Satan, “Behold, all that he has is in your hand. Only against him do not stretch out your hand.” So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord. Now there was a day when his sons and daughters were eating and drinking wine in their oldest brother's house, and there came a messenger to Job and said, “The oxen were plowing and the donkeys feeding beside them, and the Sabeans fell upon them and took them and struck down the servants with the edge of the sword, and I alone have escaped to tell you.” While he was yet speaking, there came another and said, “The fire of God fell from heaven and burned up the sheep and the servants and consumed them, and I alone have escaped to tell you.” While he was yet speaking, there came another and said, “The Chaldeans formed three groups and made a raid on the camels and took them and struck down the servants with the edge of the sword, and I alone have escaped to tell you.” While he was yet speaking, there came another and said, “Your sons and daughters were eating and drinking wine in their oldest brother's house, and behold, a great wind came across the wilderness and struck the four corners of the house, and it fell upon the young people, and they are dead, and I alone have escaped to tell you.” Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head and fell on the ground and worshiped. And he said, “Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord  gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong.


Job 2:1-13 
Again there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came among them to present himself before the Lord . And the Lord said to Satan, “From where have you come?” Satan answered the Lord and said, “From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking up and down on it.” And the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil? He still holds fast his integrity, although you incited me against him to destroy him without reason.” Then Satan answered the Lord and said, “Skin for skin! All that a man has he will give for his life. But stretch out your hand and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will curse you to your face.” And the Lord said to Satan, “Behold, he is in your hand; only spare his life.” So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord and struck Job with loathsome sores from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head. And he took a piece of broken pottery with which to scrape himself while he sat in the ashes. Then his wife said to him, “Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die.” But he said to her, “You speak as one of the foolish women would speak. Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?”  In all this Job did not sin with his lips. Now when Job's three friends heard of all this evil that had come upon him, they came each from his own place, Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite. They made an appointment together to come to show him sympathy and comfort him. And when they saw him from a distance, they did not recognize him. And they raised their voices and wept, and they tore their robes and sprinkled dust on their heads toward heaven. And they sat with him on the ground seven days and seven nights, and no one spoke a word to him, for they saw that his suffering was very great.


Job never asks, “Why me?” Instead we can almost hear him asking, “What now?” 


Other passages to consider: 


God’s Judgements 

Isaiah 26:9-10 
My soul yearns for you in the night; my spirit within me earnestly seeks you. For when your judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world learn righteousness. If favor is shown to the wicked, he does not learn righteousness; in the land of uprightness he deals corruptly and does not see the majesty of the Lord.

Psalm 119:67 
Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep your word.

God’s Mercy

Romans 8:18-25 
For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.


God is preparing you for another world full of redemption, life, redemption and healing.  This fallen world is not all that there is. 


“We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.”  
- Martin Luther King, Jr.


Revelation 21:1-4 
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

God’s Discipline 

Hebrews 12:9-11 
Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

God’s Glory

John 9:1-7
As he passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him. 4 We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work. 5 As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” Having said these things, he spit on the ground and made mud with the saliva. Then he anointed the man's eyes with the mud and said to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). So he went and washed and came back seeing.

God’s Suffering

Christ on the cross displayed our God entering into our suffering to inevitably set us free from it by his substitutionary work.  


God’s Love

At the end of the day, we trust in his goodness and his divine plan.  

Romans 8:28-39
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised— who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

2 Corinthians 4:8-10
We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies.


Romans 8:18
For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.


1 Peter 5:9-10
Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.

Romans 5:3–5
Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

When things go bad for you, how will you respond?

   • Will you lament or will you look forward?

   • Will you ask, “Why me?” or “What now?”

   • Will you remain bitter or seek to be better?  Can you imagine if our entire community decided never to play the victim? 

Can you imagine if our entire community decided, like Job, to ask not “Why me?” but “What now?” no matter our circumstances?

Because God is greater than we are, we cannot fully understand or explain all of the problems we encounter. However, we can be certain of God’s perfect power, his perfect timing, his perfect purpose, and his perfect love.

Second City Church - Explore God - Pastor Rollan Fisher 2019

Explore God - Is There a God?

explore god chicago

Is There a God?

We all think about God from time to time, even if we conclude we do not believe. It’s nearly impossible not to consider it occasionally. 

Here are some letters that children have written to God:

Dear God, I read the Bible. What does “begat” mean? Nobody will tell me. Love, Alison 

God, I bet it’s very hard for you to love all of everybody in the whole world. There are only four people in our family and I can never do it. —Frank 

Dear God, Are you really invisible, or is that just a trick? —Lucy 

Dear God, I wish there was no such thing as sin. I wish there was no such thing as war. —Tim 

Dear God, Maybe Cain and Abel would not kill each other so much if they had their own rooms. It works with my brother. —Larry 


The problem for some of us is, if God doesn’t write back, eventually we wonder if he even exists. Have you been there before? Are you there now?

God:

The good news is that God is not intimidated by our questions—and neither is Second City Church. If you have questions about God, you’re welcome here, because all of us have questions. We’ve all written letters to God. Even if it wasn’t a literal letter, we’ve all tossed up prayers in the midst of struggles. And God welcomes those questions. Though he might not write his name in the sky or respond to your letter with a handwritten note, he’s given us lots of indications of his presence.

• Natural indicators such as creation and beauty.

Psalm 19:1-4 
The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge. There is no speech, nor are there words, whose voice is not heard. Their voice goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world. 


Romans 1:19-23 
For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.

All of these things point to what theologians call God’s general revelation.

There are principles that point to God’s “fine-tuned universe.”  Examples include:

  • Earth’s distance from the sun

  • Gravitational Force

  • The combination and concentration of atmospheric gases

  • The charge of subatomic particles that make up our molecular structure 

  • The human genome and the intelligence necessary for its orderly composition 


The Anthropic Principle 

An Explore God resource article spoke of a discussion noted pastor Timothy Keller conducted with a brilliant young scientist struggling with belief in God.  These were their conclusions:

  1. The existence of something rather than nothing—that is, our very existence—is more likely if a creator exists than if one does not.

  2. The universe is orderly to a remarkable degree, and in more than one way. (Natural laws are both simple and uniform, the capacity for reproduction is pervasive, and great complexity is produced using only a very small number of elementary particles interacting according to a small number of laws). Any one of these features suggests that it is more likely that the universe is the product of design than that it is the product of random forces impelling purposeless particles that resulted in accidental stability. Taken together, these two statements are even more formidable as an argument for a designer.

  3. Value—both moral and aesthetic—appears to be an objective feature of the world (and not merely imposed by human preferences), a fact much more likely to be the case if a creator exists than if the universe is a grand accident.

  4. Human consciousness and intelligence are more likely the products of a conscious and intelligent creator than of a physical universe devoid of either.

  5. Humans have numerous features that are more easily explained by theism than by metaphysical naturalism, if only because metaphysical naturalism currently explains all human capacities in strict terms of their ability to enhance survival. Among such features are the possession of reliable faculties aimed at truth, the appreciation of beauty, and a sense of humor. Metaphysical naturalism also does not explain why humans possess (or at least convincingly appear to possess) free will.

• Ethical indicators such as conscience and a sense of right and wrong.

Romans 2:14-16 
For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus.

“If God does not exist, everything is permitted”
- Fyodor Dostoyevsky 


In other words, the fact that we all have an innate sense of right and wrong is an indicator of a God who instilled morality in us.

Could there really be any such thing as horrifying wickedness [if there were no God]? I don’t see how. There can be such a thing only if there is a way that rational creatures are supposed to live, obliged to live. . . . A [purely naturalistic] way of looking at the world has no place for genuine moral obligation of any sort . . . and thus no way to say there is such a thing as genuine and appalling wickedness. Accordingly, if you think there really is such a thing as horrifying wickedness ( . . . and not just an illusion of some sort), then you have a powerful . . . argument [for the existence of God]. -

Alvin Plantinga


Yet there’s more. 


The Scriptures, prophecy, etc.

The health code contained in the Law of God

In over a 1000 year period, men from various socio-economic backgrounds, professions and periods of both geopolitical turmoil and peace wrote over 300 prophecies concerning the coming of a Jewish Messiah who would be the Savior of the world.  All of these were fulfilled in the life, miracles, death burial and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. 


Special Revelation in the person of Jesus Christ

Hebrews 1:1-4 
Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.


“Creatures are not born with desires unless satisfaction for these desires exists. A baby feels hunger; well, there is such a thing as food. A duckling wants to swim; well, there is such a thing as water. Men feel sexual desire; well, there is such a thing as sex. If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.” —C.S. Lewis

“I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.” -C. S. Lewis


Is the evidence convincing? Statistics show that 80–85 percent of people believe in God (even among those who do not consider themselves religious). Are you among them? Even more, are you living as if God exists?

“What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.”
- A. W. Tozer


If each person here were truly to live not only as if God exists, but like he cares for us and has a plan for us, what would change in our lives? In our families? In our schools and workplaces? In our neighborhoods? In our city? Imagine if we lived as if God were with us always. It would be enough to change the world.

Bottom Line:

Evidence of God comes from creation, morality, intelligence, and love. Once we establish that there must be a God, we are ready to discover who God really is.


How should I respond?

John 1:1-5,9-14
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. 

The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world.  He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people  did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

Second City Church - Explore God - Pastor Rollan Fisher 2019

Explore God - Does Life Have a Purpose?

explore god chicago

Does Life Have a Purpose?

Most of us do not spend a lot of time thinking about our purpose, at least on a cosmic scale. But the times we do can be pretty troubling, especially if we suspect that there is no purpose. On the other hand, even for those who believe that our lives are heading somewhere—who believe there is an ultimate meaning—finding answers to life’s simple, everyday questions can be difficult.

Who should I spend time with? Where should I work? How should I spend my money?


“Then what is life for? To die? To kill myself at once? No, I am afraid. To wait for death till it comes? I fear that even more. Then I must live. But what for? In order to die?”

- Leo Tolstoy 

Ernest Hemingway wrote, “Life is just a dirty trick, a short journey from nothingness to nothingness.”

“They give birth astride of a grave, the light gleams an instant, then it’s night once more.” - Samuel Beckett

Henry David Thoreau said, “The mass of men live lives of quiet desperation.”

The first person to write, in detail, about this search for meaning was king over the ancient nation of Israel. King Solomon was more rich, powerful, and wise than any living person. He had it all, tried it all, and discovered some profound things as a result.

Ecclesiastes 1:2 
Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher, vanity of vanities! All is vanity.

Ecclesiastes 1:16-18 
I said in my heart, “I have acquired great wisdom, surpassing all who were over Jerusalem before me, and my heart has had great experience of wisdom and knowledge.” And I applied my heart to know wisdom and to know madness and folly. I perceived that this also is but a striving after wind. For in much wisdom is much vexation, and he who increases knowledge increases sorrow.

Ecclesiastes 2:4-6 
I made great works. I built houses and planted vineyards for myself. I made myself gardens and parks, and planted in them all kinds of fruit trees. I made myself pools from which to water the forest of growing trees.

Ecclesiastes 2:8-11 
I also gathered for myself silver and gold and the treasure of kings and provinces. I got singers, both men and women, and many concubines, the delight of the sons of man. So I became great and surpassed all who were before me in Jerusalem. Also my wisdom remained with me. And whatever my eyes desired I did not keep from them. I kept my heart from no pleasure, for my heart found pleasure in all my toil, and this was my reward for all my toil. Then I considered all that my hands had done and the toil I had expended in doing it, and behold, all was vanity and a striving after wind, and there was nothing to be gained under the sun.

Ecclesiastes 3:10-14 
I have seen the business that God has given to the children of man to be busy with. He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man's heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end. I perceived that there is nothing better for them than to be joyful and to do good as long as they live; also that everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil—this is God's gift to man. I perceived that whatever God does endures forever; nothing can be added to it, nor anything taken from it. God has done it, so that people fear before him.

Ecclesiastes 5:10 
He who loves money will not be satisfied with money, nor he who loves wealth with his income; this also is vanity.

Ecclesiastes 12:1,7,13,14
Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come and the years draw near of which you will say, “I have no pleasure in them”;

and the dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit returns to God who gave it. 

The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.  For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil.

Conclusion: Life is meaningless without God. But God gives everything meaning.

One of the fastest growing religions in America is “practical atheism,” which is populated by those who claim to believe in God but live as if he doesn’t exist.

“The greatest single cause of atheism in the world today is Christians who acknowledge Jesus with their lips and walk out the door and deny Him by their lifestyle.”

- Brennan Manning

When you are taking your last breaths, will you be longing to have earned more money, achieved more status, or networked with the right people?

Matthew 6:25-34 
25 “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? 28 And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, 29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31 Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. 34 “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

You are invited to embrace Jesus’s challenge to seek God’s kingdom and discover your purpose in light of God’s plan.

Bottom Line:
Every person on Earth was created to know and love God personally. Life is meaningless without God, but God gives everything meaning.

Second City Church - Explore God - Pastor Rollan Fisher 2019

Declarations Of The New Year - Part 2

Declarations Of The New Year

My Eyes Will See the Salvation of God!  

Epiphany Sunday

What can the early years of Jesus let us know about how we should approach our New Year?

You will always have a mixture of experiences, hopes and expectations going into a new season. Simeon, Anna and Jesus represented these for us as we learn to:

Walk With God 

Talk With God

Run With God


Walk with God


Luke 2:22-40 
And when the time came for their purification according to the Law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every male who first opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord”) and to offer a sacrifice according to what is said in the Law of the Lord, “a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.” Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord's Christ. And he came in the Spirit into the temple, and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the Law, he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said, “Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel.” And his father and his mother marveled at what was said about him. And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.” And there was a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years, having lived with her husband seven years from when she was a virgin, and then as a widow until she was eighty-four. She did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day. And coming up at that very hour she began to give thanks to God and to speak of him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem. And when they had performed everything according to the Law of the Lord, they returned into Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. And the child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom. And the favor of God was upon him.

Old Faithful

Here we’re reminded of the importance of God’s spoken word. 


Simeon walked with God and therefore had the Holy Spirit upon him to give him great expectation of God’s salvation and moved him to see it at Christ’s appointed hour of revelation. 


Isaiah 43:18-21
“Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. The wild beasts will honor me, the jackals and the ostriches, for I give water in the wilderness, rivers in the desert, to give drink to my chosen people, the people whom I formed for myself that they might declare my praise.

These words were life to a man’s soul like Simeon who after years of faithfulness, could have gotten into a rut of just expecting the same old thing - “this is just our lot in life (under the Roman oppression)”.  


Talk with God


Simeon had a word from God, a promise that had been spoken to him that he would see the salvation of God in his lifetime.  He had a life where he heard from God.

Anna had a different challenge.  

Overcomer


Here we’re reminded of God’s written Word

Anna faced unexpected disappointment early in her marriage.  However, the tragedy in her life pushed her further into God rather than away from Him,  to a life of prayer and fasting to see the salvation of God.  This also needs to be our response.  


Prayer and Fasting Week


Psalm 27:13-14
I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living! Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!


These words had to be life to someone like Anna, who with continued fasting and prayer expected to see the salvation and goodness of God despite her difficulties.

Run With God


Our Lord

Here we’re reminded of the application of God’s Word


Jesus learned to walk, talk and run with God in his Heavenly Father’s house.  It prepared him to be a bringer of salvation and one who see it over and over again in his earthly life and ministry.  We need to have the same expectation (as we go into things like our Explore God Outreach). 


“I Must Be In My Father’s House”

Luke 2:41-52
Now his parents went to Jerusalem every year at the Feast of the Passover. And when he was twelve years old, they went up according to custom. And when the feast was ended, as they were returning, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. His parents did not know it, but supposing him to be in the group they went a day's journey, but then they began to search for him among their relatives and acquaintances, and when they did not find him, they returned to Jerusalem, searching for him. After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers. And when his parents saw him, they were astonished. And his mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us so? Behold, your father and I have been searching for you in great distress.” And he said to them, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father's house?” And they did not understand the saying that he spoke to them. And he went down with them and came to Nazareth and was submissive to them. And his mother treasured up all these things in her heart. And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man.

“I will not glory, even in my orthodoxy, for even that can be a snare if I make a god of it... Let us rejoice in Him in all His fulness and in Him alone.”

D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones


Matthew 9:27-31 
And as Jesus passed on from there, two blind men followed him, crying aloud, “Have mercy on us, Son of David.” When he entered the house, the blind men came to him, and Jesus said to them, “Do you believe that I am able to do this?” They said to him, “Yes, Lord.” Then he touched their eyes, saying, “According to your faith be it done to you.” And their eyes were opened. And Jesus sternly warned them, “See that no one knows about it.” But they went away and spread his fame through all that district.


Jesus’ life and ministry were shaped and directed by this dedication to his Father’s house, Word (the Scripture) and purposes.  In the new year we need a present work which leads to an eternal reward. 

Present Work

Have a purpose

New Year’s Resolutions 

Isaiah 42:8-13 
I am the Lord; that is my name; my glory I give to no other, nor my praise to carved idols. Behold, the former things have come to pass, and new things I now declare; before they spring forth I tell you of them.” Sing to the Lord a new song, his praise from the end of the earth, you who go down to the sea, and all that fills it, the coastlands and their inhabitants. Let the desert and its cities lift up their voice, the villages that Kedar inhabits; let the habitants of Sela sing for joy, let them shout from the top of the mountains. Let them give glory to the Lord, and declare his praise in the coastlands. The Lord goes out like a mighty man, like a man of war he stirs up his zeal; he cries out, he shouts aloud, he shows himself mighty against his foes.


“The greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short; but in setting our aim too low, and achieving our mark.”

Michelangelo Buonarroti


*Is the one deed worth it even if the world continues to be fallen around you?

YES. 

Psalm 5:1-3,11-12 
Give ear to my words, O Lord; consider my groaning. Give attention to the sound of my cry, my King and my God, for to you do I pray. O Lord, in the morning you hear my voice; in the morning I prepare a sacrifice for you and watch. 

But let all who take refuge in you rejoice; let them ever sing for joy, and spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may exult in you. For you bless the righteous, O Lord; you cover him with favor as with a shield.

Have a plan 

“Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face.”

Mike Tyson

How people respond in PANIC MODE

Devil drives us to non-sensical decisions 

Like gunshots fired in a crowded room - the panic causes more harm than good

Why would you leave your God or church family during a dark time?

Get counsel from seasoned leaders, down, not those who would panic with you. 

Have a group of godly people to counsel you

*A DIY job gone awry 

The bigger the job, the more input is needed. 

Don’t make plans or pursue even godly ambitions alone.  Pursue the counsel of God through the righteous in Christ 

*Joseph and Mary treasured up all the things that were said about Jesus in her heart to anchor their souls when their hearts were being tested/pierced. 

To see the salvation of God, you must receive Jesus’ work already done for you on the cross.  His sinless life was not only our model but our provision for meeting God’s righteous requirements.  Christ’s sacrifice on the cross was our substitute for a debt of wrath for our sins against a Holy God.  Christ’s  resurrection three days after his death and burial is the promise of forgiveness, new life in the land of the living and eternal life in Him.  Turn away from the old life of sin today and see the salvation of God as you entrust yourself to Jesus his Son who has come to deliver this good news!

Second City Church - Declarations Of The New Year- Pastor Rollan Fisher 2019

Declarations Of The New Year - Part 1

Declarations Of The New Year

My Forgetfulness, His Faithfulness

Philippians 3:1-14 ESV
Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord.  To write the same things to you is no trouble to me and it is safe for you. Look out for the dogs, look out for the evildoers, look out for those who mutilate the flesh.  For we are the circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God, and glory in Christ Jesus and put not confidence in the flesh— though I myself have reason for confidence in the flesh also.  If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless.  But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.  Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

The Point

No matter how proud or how ashamed we are of our past, there is a battle waged in us and around us to find our identity in Christ alone.  We must forget what lies behind, abandoning our past by faith in Jesus Christ and entrusting it to the cross for our forgiveness, and press on to the only goal worth our entire lives: the goal of knowing Jesus Christ fully and being with Him eternally. When we recognize the incomprehensible eternal worth of Christ Jesus and His love for us as shown on the cross, we will see our past as God sees it: our successes as rubbish compared to Christ’s success of perfectly pleasing God the Father and our failures as opportunities to glory in Christ and His limitless mercy, grace, and love.

My Forgetfulness

What do I need to forget (repent of) that wages war against my soul being found in Christ alone?  EVERYTHING that lies behind. This is why Jesus said to even enter the Kingdom of Heaven you must be born again.  This is why Paul says he has been crucified with Christ and no longer lives but Christ lives in Him. The great exchange it has been called: my sinful life for his righteous life. Everything consists of:

  • My failures

  • My rebellion

  • My fears

  • My successes

  • My hopes

  • My dreams

  • My ambitions


My prejudices

His Faithfulness

When we “forget” our past and remember the love of God shown in the cross of Christ and the power of God shown in the resurrection, we can move forward free from sin in the confidence of God’s love and acceptance.

‭‭1 John‬ ‭1:8-10‬ ‭ESV‬‬
If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.”

‭‭Philippians‬ ‭1:6‬ ‭ESV‬‬
“And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.”

‭‭Philippians‬ ‭2:12-13‬ ‭ESV‬‬
“Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.”

The Prayer

Lord, reveal to us by your Spirit the eternal worth of Jesus Christ, revealing Him as the only way by faith to a God based righteousness. Give us faith to lay down our lives with all our fearful failures and self righteous successes, in exchange for Christ’s righteousness, that we may receive the miracle of the freedom and joy of being found in Him alone, here and now and for all eternity.  This is salvation. Amen.

Second City Church - Declarations Of The New Year- Pastor Cole Parleir 2018

Declarations Of The Advent - Part 4

Declarations Of The Advent

His Pleasure, My Peace

Luke 2:1-21
In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. And all went to be registered, each to his own town. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn. And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them. And at the end of eight days, when he was circumcised, he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.

His Pleasure 

We come to the manger to WORSHIP.  This is adoration in its purest form.  When we say we worship God, it means that we live for his pleasure.  I’m continually asking the question, “How can I please him in my thoughts, my actions, my speech, my use of time, talent and resources?”   I know all of these things by his commands.

2 Corinthians 5:9-10 
So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.

There is no true peace without the worship of the Son of God, because...

It is life by design, life according to plans of the Creator (think about the functioning of a car). 


“Blessed are the single-hearted, for they shall enjoy much peace. If you refuse to be hurried and pressed, if you stay your soul on God, nothing can keep you from that clearness of spirit which is life and peace. In that stillness you will know what His will is.”

Amy Carmichael


As the shepherds were on the periphery in that time within that culture, the devil tries to push you out, to marginalize you, discourage and disconnect you so that you would be ineffective in the Kingdom.  However, God sends his angels to look for you and bring you good news of glad tidings and reengage you in the Kingdom.  

My Peace

God’s Peace Will Be Among Those With Whom He is Pleased

Know Jesus Know Peace

You can still find Christ in the manger (wherever circumstances seem non-ideal). 

How to enter into his peace:

2 Corinthians 5:11-15 
Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade others. But what we are is known to God, and I hope it is known also to your conscience. We are not commending ourselves to you again but giving you cause to boast about us, so that you may be able to answer those who boast about outward appearance and not about what is in the heart. For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you. For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.

“A great many people are trying to make peace, but that has already been done. God has not left it for us to do; all we have to do is enter into it.”

Dwight L. Moody

It is at the cross of Jesus Christ that we enter into this peace.  We must repent of (turn away from) our sin and put our trust in the sacrificial death, burial and resurrection of Jesus for the forgiveness of our sins.  In this manner we are reconciled to God, brought back into his peace and live the rest of our lives for his pleasure.  

Second City Church - Declarations Of The Advent - Pastor Rollan Fisher 2018

Declarations Of The Advent - Part 3

Declarations Of The Advent

My Spirit Rejoices in God My Savior

Reasons to Rejoice

Renewing that Joy

After the Annunciation where the angel Gabriel announced to the Virgin Mary that she would conceive by the Holy Spirit and become the mother of the Christ, came the Magnificat, the song of Mary. 

Luke 1:39-56
In those days Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a town in Judah, and she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, and she exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.” And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant. For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name. And his mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts; he has brought down the mighty from their thrones and exalted those of humble estate; he has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, as he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his offspring forever.” And Mary remained with her about three months and returned to her home.

Blessed is she who has believed...

Reasons to Rejoice

*What reasons has God given us to rejoice?

There is not one blade of grass, there is no color in this world that is not intended to make us rejoice.

John Calvin

Jesus’ entry into the world provides powerful and tangible answers to the ills of the world such as:

  • Broken Families 

  • Racism

  • Sickness and Disease

  • Poverty 

  • Depression and Fear

  • Loneliness and Purposelessness 

An example of posts to help proper meditations (author of the chart unknown):

Renewing that Joy 

How do I renew that joy?

  1. Cry out to God

Psalm 51:1-13

Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin! For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment. Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me. Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being, and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart. Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones that you have broken rejoice. Hide your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit. Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will return to you.

  1. Meditate and Reflect on what Jesus has done for you

Isaiah 43:1-13
But now thus says the Lord, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior. I give Egypt as your ransom, Cush and Seba in exchange for you. Because you are precious in my eyes, and honored, and I love you, I give men in return for you, peoples in exchange for your life. Fear not, for I am with you; I will bring your offspring from the east, and from the west I will gather you. I will say to the north, Give up, and to the south, Do not withhold; bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the end of the earth, everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.” Bring out the people who are blind, yet have eyes, who are deaf, yet have ears! All the nations gather together, and the peoples assemble. Who among them can declare this, and show us the former things? Let them bring their witnesses to prove them right, and let them hear and say, It is true. “You are my witnesses,” declares the Lord, “and my servant whom I have chosen, that you may know and believe me and understand that I am he. Before me no god was formed, nor shall there be any after me. I, I am the Lord, and besides me there is no savior. I declared and saved and proclaimed, when there was no strange god among you; and you are my witnesses,” declares the Lord, “and I am God. Also henceforth I am he; there is none who can deliver from my hand; I work, and who can turn it back?”

  1. Communicate with other believers so that you might intentionally remind one another of the reason for the season 

Luke 1:67-80
And his father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied, saying, “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he has visited and redeemed his people and has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David, as he spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets from of old, that we should be saved from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us; to show the mercy promised to our fathers and to remember his holy covenant, the oath that he swore to our father Abraham, to grant us that we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies, might serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him all our days. And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, to give knowledge of salvation to his people in the forgiveness of their sins, because of the tender mercy of our God, whereby the sunrise shall visit us  from on high to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.” And the child grew and became strong in spirit, and he was in the wilderness until the day of his public appearance to Israel.

Second City Church - Declarations Of The Advent - Pastor Rollan Fisher 2018

Declarations Of The Advent - Part 2

Declarations Of The Advent

I Will Prepare for the Coming of the Lord

The Themes of Advent 

Week 1: Prophecy 

Week 2: Preparation 

Week 3: Joy 

Week 4: Adoration/Peace

“The second week focuses on preparation: Over many centuries, God prepared the hearts of the Jews for Christ's coming, just as He is now working in our hearts to prepare us for Christ's second coming. “

- Benjamin Hettick


How do I prepare for the coming of the Lord?

  1. Recognize his nature

  2. Recognize his work

  3. Recognize your role 


Luke 1:5-25
In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah, of the division of Abijah. And he had a wife from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. And they were both righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord. But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were advanced in years. Now while he was serving as priest before God when his division was on duty, according to the custom of the priesthood, he was chosen by lot to enter the temple of the Lord and burn incense. And the whole multitude of the people were praying outside at the hour of incense. And there appeared to him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense. And Zechariah was troubled when he saw him, and fear fell upon him. 13 But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John. And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, for he will be great before the Lord. And he must not drink wine or strong drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother's womb. And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God, and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared.” And Zechariah said to the angel, “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years.” And the angel answered him, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I was sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news. And behold, you will be silent and unable to speak until the day that these things take place, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their time.” And the people were waiting for Zechariah, and they were wondering at his delay in the temple. And when he came out, he was unable to speak to them, and they realized that he had seen a vision in the temple. And he kept making signs to them and remained mute. And when his time of service was ended, he went to his home. After these days his wife Elizabeth conceived, and for five months she kept herself hidden, saying, “Thus the Lord has done for me in the days when he looked on me, to take away my reproach among people.”

Luke 1:26-38
In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin's name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy— the Son of God. And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.” And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.

How do I prepare for the coming of the Lord?

  1. Recognize his nature - Jesus would be fully God and fully man

Hypostatic union - Jesus is:

Fully God

WONDERFUL COUNSELOR, MIGHTY GOD, EVERLASTING FATHER, PRINCE OF PEACE

Fully man 

Son of the Most High God, born of a virgin woman

Christology

"He is God from the essence of the Father, begotten before time; and he is human from the essence of his mother, born in time; completely God, completely human, with a rational soul and human flesh; equal to the Father as regards divinity, less than the Father as regards humanity. Although he is God and human, yet Christ is not two, but one. He is one, however, not by his divinity being turned into flesh, but by God's taking humanity to himself. He is one, certainly not by the blending of his essence, but by the unity of his person. For just as one human is both rational soul and flesh, so too the one Christ is both God and human."

- Athanasian Creed 


The name IMMANUEL (reference Isaiah 7:14) means “God with us” and indicates Jesus’ identity (fulfilled in Matthew 1:23).

*This helps you relate to Jesus properly. 

  1. Recognize his work - 

Jesus means “the Lord Saves” and specifies what Jesus does, as opposed to Immanuel, which speaks of who Jesus is

*This helps you receive from Jesus humbly

  1. Recognize your role - CONSECRATION of no wine or drink was John the Baptist’s preparation. You need to ask yourself what it is that God would have you refrain from, and what he would have you give yourself to to be most useful in the hand of the Lord.  This is consecration. 

*This helps you run after Christ’s purposes passionately 

What does God want to birth through you to shape the world for His Kingdom?

Find your voice

It may be a business or an organization to help the poor that gives glory to God.  It may be helping establish a church to proclaim his truth in a city.  It may be children who will be disciples carrying Christ’s name to the nations.  Whatever it is, like John the Baptist, you are called to help restore families, turn the wicked to righteousness and help make people ready to meet the Lord Jesus.

Luke 1:26-38 
In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin's name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy— the Son of God. And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.” And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.

“Worrying is carrying tomorrow's load with today's strength- carrying two days at once. It is moving into tomorrow ahead of time. Worrying doesn't empty tomorrow of its sorrow, it empties today of its strength.”

- Corrie Ten Boom

Matthew 24:30-31 
30 Then will appear in heaven the sign of the Son of Man, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. 31 And he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.

Titus 2:11-14 
For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.

  1. If you’ve never considered Jesus, put your trust in him today as God and Savior to prepare for Christ’s inevitable return.  The cross of Jesus provides for forgiveness of sins that you might meet him as an adopted child and not a foe. 

  2. Wherever you are, repent of your self-centered living and serve Jesus as King - in your relationships, with your time, with your resources, with your pursuits

  3. Actively develop a heart of consecration that you might develop a life that’s useful in helping others become ready to meet the Lord

     

Second City Church - Declarations Of The Advent - Pastor Rollan Fisher 2018