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Category Archives: "I AM"

3 weeks before Easter I decided that I would read through the Gospel of John leading up to Easter. It is one of my favorites and is so full of deep theology and rich emotion. It was truly a wonderful thing. Not only was I reading it, but I also decided that I would use a journaling Bible that Alan got me for Christmas.

Recently I have discovered an amazing group in the cyber world who are involved in the illustrated faith movement. I call it a movement, although some may not consider it so.

Illustrated Faith is a group of people (which is primarily women, but not completely) who illustrate verses, songs, art, etc in the margins and pages of their Bibles. It is a form of art worship. Some are great at lettering, others at drawing. Some us stamps, stickers and scrapbooking skills. Really there is no right or wrong way. Some cover the words up with illustrations so they can’t be read, but others purposely avoid that. If you have a chance, check out this site.

So I thought I would share my pages I journaled from the Gospel of John.

For the first chapter, there are so many great verses I wanted to highlight that I choose 3. The word, Jesus is the light of life, and the lamb that takes away the sin of the world.

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The second chapter I wanted to highlight the central theme of belief and journal some thoughts about that. What I hope is to pass this Bible down to one of my kids and it be a treasure of my faith.

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Chapter 3 I again highlighted “belief”. Jesus repeats this phrase over and over in the gospel. Belief in Him is what brings about eternal life.

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Chapter 4 is the woman at the well, so I choose to draw a coffee cup. Also highlighted a verse from Matthew about harvest.

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In chapter 6, I wanted to journal a little about the significance of Jesus’ “I Am” statement, but didn’t have much room. I used a “tip in” which is adding a photo or paper that can be folded back.

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“You call me out upon the waters, the great unknown where feet may fail….”

The background story for this song (Jesus walking on water) is found in three of the 4 gospels. (Matthew 14:22ff, Mark 6:45ff, and John 6:16ff)

It is immediately following the feeding of the 5,000 (from 5 loaves of bread and two fish). I think it is significant to look a little closer than that at the background. Before Jesus feeds the thousands of people he hears of some tragic news. John, the baptizer, had been killed. How closely Jesus knew John is not clear. We know that Jesus and John were cousins (Luke 1); we also know that Jesus was baptized by John (Mt 3:13ff, Mk 1:9ff, Lk 3:21ff); and that John knew of Jesus’ growing ministry and following. Even after John was arrested, he had sent messengers to ask Jesus if He was the One, the promised Messiah (Matt. 11:1ff). Jesus then explains to the crowd the greatness of John, his significance, and calling. For sure, Jesus knew of John and loved him for being obedient to his calling. When the tragic news comes to Jesus that he was beheaded, like any person who has found out about the loss of a loved one, he withdraws from the crowd. Jesus gets in a boat to try to escape.

The crowd, also hearing of this news I’m sure, decide to gather around Jesus. I can picture the news spreading from town to town. Not only did they hear about the tragic and selfish death of John, but they hear of how Jesus is escaping away to grieve. They come out in droves. As Jesus’ boat lands, he sees the crowd that has gathered to be near him. Perhaps they have come to show their support. Maybe they came to just see for themselves. Instead of getting away from them, Jesus is filled with compassion and love. He wants to use this opportunity to touch them, to offer comfort. He understands the significance of John’s life as well as his death, but he also knows the limited understanding of the people that follow him. He knows of their desperate attempts and needs. Not just the immediate needs that we often seem to get stuck on, like food, shelter, popularity.

Jesus gets out from the boat and begins to heal the sick that have come. He spends the whole day meeting the needs of the people, putting his own needs aside. His disciples come, as the sun begins to drop. The remind Jesus that it is almost dark and there is no fast food joints near by. The encourage him to dismiss the crowds; they’re probably famished. Jesus, in his infamous way, turns it on them.

“You feed them,” he says. I’m sure Jesus knows the limited food that the disciples have. The crowd later is counted. (5,000 men, plus women and children) Jesus knows they can’t do it, alone that is.

After everyone is seated, Jesus takes the 5 loaves and two fish, prays over it, and begins to break it apart. He miraculously feeds all the people there. Not only is everyone full, there are 12 baskets full of left overs, far more than what they started with.

It’s now dark, the end to a very long and emotional day. After the crowd is dismissed, Jesus tells his disciple to get back in the boat and go across the lake to the other side. He was going to stay behind.

I can’t imagine what must have been going through his head. Perhaps Jesus still needed more time to grieve the loss of John. Maybe John’s death was a reminder of what was to come for himself, death on the cross. Just maybe, Jesus was overwhelmed by the needs of the people for a Savior and yet was hurt that all they could focus on was what they could physically benefit. It’s not clear, but it does say that Jesus went up the mountain by himself and prayed through the night.

All three passages make it clear that Jesus is alone on the land while his disciples are making their way across the Sea of Galilee. In Mark 6:47 it says that the disciples are about half way across the lake. In John it says that they are 3 to 3 and a half miles from the shore (the lake is about 6 miles wide). As the disciples are going, there seems to be some storm that comes. They are struggling against the tide.  Jesus, still on land praying, sees them struggling, and decides to go to them and help.

It’s dark out on the water. The disciples, some who are trained fishermen, are struggling against the storm. Them, out on the water they see something. I’m sure the waves are rising and falling. Maybe they aren’t certain they see someone.

Wait, there it is again.

Whoa, there is a ghost coming. We are going to die, I’m sure they are thinking.

As Jesus gets closer, he calms their fears. They aren’t seeing a ghost. Jesus really is walking out to them on water. How can this be? Remember, Jesus is God. He created the world and the laws of physics that we are bound to, but he is not. How can he heal? how can he make something out of nothing? how can he walk on water? He created it. He can do what he wants and is not limited like we are.

Take courage! (literally, Cheer Up)

It is I. (I am)

Don’t be afraid. (Stop being afraid)

I love this. Why do we need to stop being afraid and cheer up? The I AM- Yahweh, God Almighty, the One, Maker, Lord- He is with us and on our side. I have blogged many times about the significance of I AM. I AM is God’s holy name. {Here, and here are a couple of them.} We come to God, most the time very unsure and scared, with our troubles. He meets us with the answer- HIMSELF.

Both John and Mark’s accounts end here with Jesus getting back in the boat. John says that immediately the arrive on the shore. I’ve always wanted to hyper speed.

Matthew paints a little more of the scene. Peter, being the outspoken try anything kind of guy, says to Jesus, “if it’s you, tell me to come on the water.” Did Peter doubt it was Jesus, or did he want Jesus permission. I don’t know. Peter knew that was an amazing sight. He knew he could never do it without Jesus.

“Come,” Jesus calls, giving Peter permission. The invitation is there. Step out of the comfort zone. Never mind the fact that the boat is somewhat an illusion of control. Peter is invited to step into total trust and reliance.

He steps out of the boat. Was he timid, like a child who partly hangs on to the edge? Did he swing his legs over and walk out? Maybe he even cautiously stepped out, reaching out to Jesus hands. As Peter saw the wind blow up, and perhaps the waves move under his feet, he was filled with fear. That moment of total trust was lost to fear. {I’ve done that many times.} He begins to sink. It’s lost, that moment.

SAVE ME!

Jesus reached out, and lifted him up, but not without a rebuke. “Why didn’t you believe?” {ouch} The disciples later also get rebuked about doubt when they worry about food to eat. (um, he just fed an entire town of people with nothing.)

They both climb into the boat. I’m sure if you were to look at the other disciples faces every one of them would be wide-eyed, jaws dropped. Those in the boat worshiped Him as the Son of God.

Life is a journey. There are times along this journey that I am victorious in my faith. Given a difficult situation, faced with fear, I choose to believe. Sometimes I was left with disappointment and confusion. Other times I felt victorious, knowing that my faith had helped me endure that difficult time. Then there were all the other times that I was like Peter. I stepped out with full intention of trusting God. I wanted to show that I had this huge faith. Then the waves rose up and I sank. I was left licking the wounds of doubt. I wasn’t as amazing as I thought. My faith had failed. I had failed.

Then, like Peter, Jesus did it anyway. When I was out-of-the-way, Jesus steps in and does what only he can do. Those times of faith were never about me and what I “can do” for God. I remind myself, it’s about HIM.

Isaiah says it this way,

When you pass through the waters,
 I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
you will not be burned;
the flames will not set you ablaze.
For I am the Lord your God, (Literally I AM)
the Holy One of Israel, your Savior;
I give Egypt for your ransom,
Cush and Seba in your stead.
Since you are precious and honored in my sight,
    and because I love you,
I will give people in exchange for you,
nations in exchange for your life.
Do not be afraid, for I am with you;
I will bring your children from the east
and gather you from the west.
I will say to the north, ‘Give them up!’
and to the south, ‘Do not hold them back.’
Bring my sons from afar
and my daughters from the ends of the earth—
everyone who is called by my name,
whom I created for my glory,
whom I formed and made.” (emphasis mine)

Isaiah 43:2-7

Jesus will do it, because his name is at stake. Believe, and it will be even more amazing.

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One of the miracles I wish that I could see is the feeding of the 5,000 men. It is so hard for me to imagine. The amount of food for that many men, and to think of all the children and women that weren’t counted. Did the bread multiply in the basket as it was taken out, or did it overflow immediately after Jesus prayed over it?

Is it any wonder that the people during this time wanted Jesus as their king. Think about all the hungry people who could be fed on a regular basis. It seems to me all the popular kings over time were the ones who cared for the peoples needs rather than hording riches for themselves.

This is the background for the first I AM saying in  the gospel of John. If you were to look at this word: I AM in the Greek is it literally ego eimi. Translated it means literally I AM. God has made it very clear that he alone is God and there is no other. He has reserved the name I AM for himself. I find it interesting to note that both the Assyrian and Babylonian empires fell because they claimed for themselves ” I am, and there is no other.” (Isaiah 47:8,10; Zeph. 2:15) At the pinnacle of their kingdom they thought they ruled supreme. In the Greek the  “I am” found in both these passages is the same ego eimi found in the gospel of John. Before long the great and mighty empires came tumbling down by another kingdom, but not before God had sent his message that HE is the I AM. (Isaiah 45:5-7)

After the great feeding the people began to wonder who this man Jesus was. The disciples were exhausted from the long day, so Jesus dismissed them to cross the lake ahead of him while the people began to disperse. The Jews of this time were awaiting the promised Prophet. (Deut. 18:15) They came to understand this as the promised Messiah. After all the conquering that had occurred they imagined the King to be a physical king returning Israel to the glory days of David. Jesus knowing their intentions and false understanding of the Messiah withdrew from the crowd. (John 6:14-15)

As evening approached our attention is drawn to the disciples as they cross the Sea of Galilee. They are half way across (v 19)  and a storm seems to be approaching. As they glanced across the lake they see the strangest sight. Jesus is making his way toward them, not by another boat, but walking through the waves and water. This brings me back to the Isaiah 45 passage.  Here God reminds them, “I created the heavens and everything in them.” All the earth submits to the creator. How did Jesus walk on water? He created the water and the laws of gravity are defined by his power. Only he can make what is known to us that seems like an impossible thing possible. The I AM can create and uncreate.  As if this wasn’t enough, after loading into the boat with the disciples they travel through time and space and find themselves “immediately” on the shore. They find themselves breaking the laws of time and space. Forget Sci-Fi. Mark this down as another miracle I want to see.

Jesus arrival even confuses the people. They ask about when he arrived. Jesus, knowing their intent begins in a discourse about their true intentions. I always thought it a curious thing that Jesus said they were looking for him, not because of seeing miraculous signs, but because they were fed bread. Could it be that the people didn’t even know that their feeding was a miracle and sign? Perhaps they assumed Jesus had bought all the food or maybe even planned for the giant picnic. We do know that the disciples knew of the miracle, because Jesus asked them to provide the food for the people. (John 6:5-8)

So it is asked, “What does God require?” This is an age-old question. Most people count on their good outweighing any bad they may do. Jesus answer is unexpected.

“Believe in the one (God) has sent.” John 6:29

This is important to note, because this is the point Jesus is making for the following discussion. It is belief in Jesus as the only way for salvation that can please what God requires. No amount of religiousness, self-effort, well intentions, or sacrifice will please the demands of God. Belief. Not only in God, but belief that Jesus is the Son of God and satisfies God’s judgment by dying on the cross, and returning to life.

I find it interesting to also note Exodus 14:14. The Israelites have just left Egypt. The Egyptians are in hot pursuit and gaining. The newly freed people are in tight spot, because there is no seemingly way out. Moses directs them, don’t worry be still. No action is required from them to be saved except to believe. Believe that God will fight for them.

Like many today, the Galileans were unwilling to believe without seeing some sign. They make the mistake of saying that Moses gave the manna from heaven. Jesus clears this misconception and clarifies more the purpose of his coming. It is not to rule as king. It is as if he is saying, “I am the God of Moses in human flesh.”

It is here that Jesus proclaims, “I AM the bread of life.”

I have already spent time explaining I AM  here and the significance of names here, but what is Jesus talking about when he says he is the bread of life? Further in this passage Jesus even goes on to say that we must eat his flesh. What in the world?!?

Bread (or any food) is the sustenance to life. I believe that Jesus is saying is that he is the source of eternal life. He already cleared the air that he isn’t here for everyday business. Jesus is talking about spiritual life. To eat the bread, spiritually speaking, is to believe in Jesus alone for salvation.

Jesus makes this even clearer to the Galileans by using their own example, the manna. The ancestors, Jesus explains, ate manna but still died. What Jesus means by this is that the sacrificial system and laws that were established under Moses were never able to save the Israelites. It has always been their belief in God that saves them.

To know Jesus as the bread of life is to believe that he is the Son of God. To believe that the only way of salvation was through the death of Jesus on the cross. To believe that he conquered death and the penalty of sin by coming back to life. To believe that I could never do enough to please God, and confess of my need for a savior. Finally to believe that Jesus alone can save me and make me clean.

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I am one of the worst people at remembering names. It is always impressing when someone I have just met can remember my name, but I have to really work at remembering others. Kids seem to make friends where ever they go. I have tried to teach them to learn other kids names by telling them that someone is not a friend unless you know their name. This is my way of encouraging them to not be like me.

It is the same way with God. He wants to be known by his name, not the random one size fits all. He isn’t the same God of all religions depending on which path you choose to take. There is one God. His name, as I have already mentioned is I AM.

In my last post we had looked at Moses at the time when God first asked him to be the leader of the Israelites exodus from Egypt. I want to fast forward time to when Moses has come down the mountain with the commands of God. The Israelites had convinced Aaron to make that golden calf, many people died, and Moses was seriously questioning his role as leader.

Moses would often meet with God in a tent. There is one occasion in particular I want to focus in on. It is found in Exodus 33:12 ff.

Moses is extremely frustrated with the people. The I AM has chosen them to be his people, and they in return could almost careless, or so it seems. At his whits end, he brings his case to God. 1. “You (meaning I AM) have told me to lead these people, but haven’t shown me who will help.” (Clearly he couldn’t count on his brother for help). 2. “You say you know my name, but I need more than that. ”

Moses then asks God to do a couple things. The first is to “teach me your ways”. How can Moses follow God is he doesn’t know where he is going? And more than that, how can he live a pleasing way when he is full of sin? This is true even for us. God is perfect. We are not. You can’t mix oil and water. Moses is no better off than I am. How can I live a life that pleases God when I can’t even imagine what he is like? Moses’ desire was to know God and to have continual favor.

God answers Moses by saying “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” The word for presence is literally “with”. Moses is begging God to not leave him alone, and the I AM says “I AM with you.” The fire and smoke that leads the people out of Egypt is God. After the time they didn’t need the physical presence of God to lead them. Israel understood that it was the Presence of God that drove out the nations and gave them their inheritance. Throughout much of the old testament we see the presence of God and the deliverance he provides. It was all leading up to Christ. In Matthew 28, Jesus promises to be with us to the very end. We see this fulfilled with the Holy Spirit.

The second thing Moses asked for was for himself and the nation to be distinguished from everyone else. Moses knows the people. He knows that they will never make it to the promised land. Being certain of the rebellion that will follow over the next couple years, Moses is asking for some insurance on retirement.

The I AM brings it all back to the beginning. He says “I will do it, because you please me Moses, and I know your name.” What is so significant about his name? Literally it means drawn from water. Is it the name God knows? In a sense yes. Who is it that is drawing Moses out to be the leader? The I AM is who makes the man. God is pleased with what He is doing in Moses.

Moses is then satisfied with the great task ahead. He is ready for God to reveal his glory.

I love this. . . .The I AM then tells Moses that He will pass by. Not because Moses is so great, but because God has called him, he has given Moses the name as leader. Moses might not know himself as a great leader, but I AM does. The LORD knows Moses by name and now wants Moses to know him- I AM. He says, “I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the LORD, in your presence.”

Did you get that? Essentially he is saying, “buckle up, you are about to go on a wild ride.”

There is nothing particularly in Moses that God likes. He makes that clear in verse 19. Yet there is this beautiful relationship budding between a pathetic man and the great God of the universe. It is normal to strive for significance, but often I find myself falling much shorter than I imagined I would. I have found in my own life that the true identity I have, the only real significance is who I am in Christ.

My desire is to not only see the glory of God, but to also reflect that glory to others.

“And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” 2 Corinthians 3:18

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Having kids, it’s not uncommon to get their names confused. I remember correcting my mom growing up, and now my kids often correct me when I am calling them by the wrong name. After having our third child I think the wires in my brain were really crossed. For some reason every time I was talking to my daughter I called her Buttercup, and every time I mentioned our pet rabbit’s name I called him by my daughter’s name. Sure a rabbit and new born are both cute, but that is all they had in common. It seemed the harder I tried not to call my daughter by the pet’s name the more I called her Buttercup.

Although most of this study will be from the gospel of John, I think it is important to take a little time and look at the first use of God’s name: I AM.

Most people are familiar with Moses. He was placed in a basket into a river as an infant by his mother. She did this as a way to protect him from death. The daughter of Pharaoh found him floating while she bathed and decided to raise him as her own son. As time passed, Moses grew and was educated and a leader in the Egyptian court. When we first see Moses as an adult we find a character that is very full of himself. He is well educated, respected, and full of power despite his true identity as a Hebrew.

Being a person of high responsibility requires exercising responsible reactions to trouble. This is where Moses failed. He sees another Hebrew being beaten by an Egyptian, takes matters into his own hands, and ends up killing the Egyptian. As life seems to go, rumors spread, and his heroic act seems to be common knowledge, however he is not the perceived hero he hoped to be. He does what any person would do who is afraid of losing all he has succeeded in. He turns tail and runs for his life.

After forty years of hiding in the desert we find Moses in a different light. He is no longer the official full of pride and authority. He is a shepherd living a humble quiet life in the desert, alone. Nothing has been resolved for the Israelites, however. They are still enslaved. There is a new Pharaoh. When the people cry out for help it stirs God to action.

He appears to Moses in a bush on fire that wasn’t burning. As Moses approaches, God calls to him. I think it is interesting to note Moses’ reply, “here I am.” (This is the same reply of Abraham (Gen. 22:1), Jacob (Gen 33:11) Samuel (1 Sam. 3:4) and Isaiah (Is. 6:8).) There is a brief introduction from God about from the beginning how he chose out the Hebrew people to be a nation He choose out. He includes the entire plan and history up to this point. He then explains to Moses how the plan will continue. Moses will go to Pharaoh and bring the people out of Egypt.

Feeling over whelmed and much more humble Moses replies in a classic way, “Who am I?” (Are you noticing a theme yet?) God assures Moses that it will not be him, but God who leads them away. He even blesses Moses with signs and wonders. Moses being certain that God has chosen the wrong man based on his previous failures, tries some other tactic: “What if they ask me your name?”

This is significant for a number of reasons. In Chapter 6 God tells Moses how the forefathers (Abraham and sons) knew God only as God Almighty. They knew an attribute of Him. They were shown a quality of God. Now God was ready to reveal to the people more of who He is. He wants them to identify Him and identify WITH Him.

The other significance we see is when we compare the Egyptian gods. The ancient Egyptians had over a hundred gods to worship and serve. If they needed more sun that would pray to Ra, the sun god. The Israelites, however, could only identify their God by “my father’s god”. They had no identity with the one they were suppose to worship.

God answers Moses with his personal name. “I AM WHO I AM.” If that was too long to say, God even gave himself a nick name: I AM.

You find this name through out the rest of the old and new testaments. You must understand a little about how to identify it. The Israelites understood that they were to not use God’s name in vain. Out of fear of writing it down and then being destroyed, they made a way to write his name in code: YHWH (Yahweh). Then later this was translated from German as Jehovah. YHWH is marked in most translations with LORD in all caps. There is also the translation of Lord, but this is taken from the more general sense of Lord, Adonai.

With the knowledge of God and His plan to free the Israelites, Moses was commissioned to go to the Israel people and share this with them. The I AM of the universe was calling them to enter into a relationship with Him. He would be their God, and they would be His people. He was then to go to Pharaoh and tell him the same message. After being rejected by his own, Moses knew Pharaoh would also reject him.

God speaks a mighty word to Moses. “See I have made you like a God to Pharaoh…” This is most significant because of who Moses was going to be addressing. Pharaoh was seen by his own people to be Ra, the god of the sun. The greatest and most powerful of the Egyptian gods. The I AM was going to make Moses like a god to Pharaoh, that is, equal in power and authority to Pharaoh himself.

In these few chapters we have already seen some of who the I AM is. He is not limited to one power or quality. All that exists, all the needs we could ever have, all there has ever been known or will be known is found in the I AM. He is the creator, powerful one. Before there was sun and stars he created light. He is love, power, passion, peace, hope, joy, comfort, on and on. Yet, in his greatness, he desires for us to know Him and be known by Him.

This was the beginning of understanding I AM. Through time, God would continue to reveal who he is. I have a little more to add about Moses, but for now I will conclude with this song by Casting Crowns:

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I remember the very first time I grasped the understanding of God’s name. Most people think God’s name is, well, God. They may also refer to Him as The Father, or a number of other names. His name is “I AM”.

I was barely watching the Ten Commandments one time a few years ago. It was when the Israelites were still in slavery. One of the actors replied, “we don’t even know God’s name. How is he going to save us.” Up until the burning bush, they had only known God as “the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.” No wonder they were so skeptical. Would you want to vote for an anonymous President? I think not.

I AM doesn’t seem like much of a name. When it is stated like that it seems impersonal to me. I think the better way to read his name is like this:

I AM. . . .

Nicole Nordeman produced a song several years ago titled I AM. No matter the phase of life, or the need we have, good times, or very hard times it is God that is the I AM of my circumstance. He identifies with what I am going through, but more than that, He completes it. He fills my deepest need by sending his son, Jesus, to clear out the hole left by sin, and fill it with Himself.

I will be weak, unable to speak,
still I will call You by name
“Creator, Maker, Life-sustainer,
Comforter, Healer, My Redeemer,
Lord and King, Beginning and
the End, I am, yes, I am.”

This will be the first of several posts in this category. Let the journey begin as we discover who I AM is.

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