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Author Archives: Ron Bontrager

A Look Beyond What to Why

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A Look Beyond What to Why

We are continuing our blog series, Christmas through the Eyes of John.

The Apostle John had special eyesight. He was a lot like Superman with x-ray vision and can see into deep space. John saw the whole story. He took us beyond what happened and led us to why it happened.

John seemed to be able to see the cosmic battle between darkness and light. It’s why God chose him to write the Book of Revelation. He saw our fight with sin and the encounters we’d have with demonic forces.

And unlike any other writer, John saw the power of love. So much so, he became known as the Apostle of Love (I always want to say that with a deep voice). John was kind of the Barry White of the gospel writers.

John was so fixated on love that his name evolved into John the Beloved. If you look at how many times he mentions love in his writing compared to the other gospel writers, its kind of astonishing.

  • Matthew – 11 times
  • Mark – 5 times
  • Luke – 12 times
  • John’s Gospel – 44 times
  • John’s Epistles – 40 times

Only John captured the depth of God’s love for our broken world and wrote what is arguably the greatest verse in the entire Bible, John 3:16: “God loved the world this way: He gave his only Son so that everyone who believes in him will not die but will have eternal life,” (GW).

It’s interesting that all the other writers completely missed the profound statement Jesus made on love; “By this shall everyone know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another,” (John 13:35 GW). That’s such a clear call that should guide every church.

Jesus said we should be known more for our love than for our judgment. In the very next verse John 3:17, says Jesus didn’t come to condemn the world … the world was already condemned. He came to save the world through the power of God’s love. It seems to me the church needs John’s writings more today than ever.

Christmas is all about love and during the Christmas of 1885 Christina Rossetti wrote:

“Love came down at Christmas, Love all lovely, Love divine; Love was born at Christmas, Love incarnate, Love divine; Love shall be our token, Love be yours and love be mine.”

We’re going to look at three things John says about love that will make all the difference in the next few upcoming blogs. Stay tuned!

You can watch the complete message on video or listen to the audio here.


Jesus Incarnated … Christmas through the Eyes of John

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Jesus Incarnated … Christmas through the Eyes of John

Our job is to do exactly what Jesus did. Jesus INCARNATED.

Break down the word carnivorecarnalflesh.

As followers of Jesus our job is simple. We do what Jesus did. Jesus incarnated. We incarnate. We enter the world of others. We don’t come to condemn, we come to understand their world and to care.

We are touched by Jesus, and we, in turn touch others. It’s really simple. This is the message we heard from Christ and are reporting to you: God is light, and there isn’t any darkness in him (1 John 1:5 GW).

Throughout the rest of John’s pastoral letter, he seems to deal with the same themes over, and over again:

  • The brokenness of our flesh.
  • The pain and darkness of our world.
  • The endless battles between life and death.
  • And the unlimited power of Jesus love that overcomes the world.

The amazing book of 1st John ends with a great awareness: We know that we are from God, and that the whole world is under the control of the evil one. We know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding so that we know the real God. We are in the one who is real, his Son Jesus Christ. This Jesus Christ is the real God and eternal life. Dear children, guard yourselves from false gods (1 John 5:19-21 GW).

Aren’t you glad that Jesus came in the flesh to give hope to my flesh and bring peace to a broken world!

Watch or listen to the complete message here.


John Helps Us See Jesus in the Flesh

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John Helps Us See Jesus in the Flesh

There’s another reason God sent His Son in the flesh.

God sent his son, Jesus, so we could see God, we could touch Him, we could hear His voice and feel His love for us.

So John writes, The Word of life existed from the beginning. We have heard it. We have seen it. We observed and touched it. This life was revealed to us. We have seen it, and we testify about it. We are reporting to you about this eternal life that was in the presence of the Father and was revealed to us. This is the life we have seen and heard. We are reporting about it to you also so that you, too, can have a relationship with us. Our relationship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. 4 We are writing this so that we can be completely filled with joy (1 John 1:1-4 GW).

By the time John wrote his letter to the churches, some were already following a false doctrine that claimed Jesus wasn’t really human. They believed that Jesus did come and appear as a man, but He was not in really human. He was a Spirit. He ate with man: he suffered with man: he even experienced death, but it was for appearances only.

They doubted the gospel narratives and mocked the supposed miraculous conception and birth of Jesus, questioning whether He was even on earth before His ministry began at the presumed age of 30.

Even in this very day, there are many people who seek to to discredit both the divinity or humanity of Jesus, or flatly deny His existence on earth.

In John’s letter to the churches, his passion was to show Jesus as fully God and fully human. John wants us to know that Jesus lived life in the flesh, so we could live victoriously over the flesh.

John says, “We saw Him. We touched Him. We heard Him.”

In fact, even though Jesus is not here, we still see him! The truth is, we still touch Him! Jesus is still changing our lives, still helping us to overcome the brokenness around us and in us.

And nothing has changed! We too can experience Jesus. He touches our hearts. He speaks to our minds. He fills us with joy.

Watch or listen to the complete message here.

John Sees Humanity

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John Sees Humanity

As we continue our blog series, Christmas through the Eyes of John, there’s another word that John often visits. It’s the word flesh, which is sometimes translated humanity.

It’s one of the great themes of John’s writings. The Word became human and lived among us. (John 1:14a GW).

God didn’t send an angel to earth to communicate His love for all mankind. Instead, God chose to send His Son Jesus.

Maybe God said, “Son, I want you to go to earth and find out what the human experience is all about. I don’t want man that I created to think I’m a distant God. So, Son, go find out what it’s like to spend nine months in the womb. Find out what it’s like to grow up fully human … to experience flesh and blood … to know toil and to experience physical pain. I want you to taste sorrow and to know the deep hurt of losing a family member.”

“Maybe he said, “Son, I even want you experience the challenge of temptation that every human being feels so strongly.”

So, He did. The Word became FLESH. The Word took on humanity.

Today I can say with all confidence there is nothing about your life, nothing about your struggles, temptations and pain that God doesn’t fully understand through the experience of His Son who became flesh.

Watch or listen to the complete message here.

This is the third blog in a series: read John Sees a Battle and  Christmas through the Eyes of John.

John Sees a Battle

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John Sees a Battle

John writes, In the beginning the Word already existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was already with God in the beginning. Everything came into existence through him. Not one thing that exists was made without him. He was the source of life, and that life was the light for humanity. The light shines in the dark, and the dark has never extinguished it (John 1:1-5 GW).

John sees a battle that we cannot see with our eyes. John sees a battle between light and darkness, between good and evil, between life and death, and he’s telling us that is the world that we live in.

John says that is the reality. You will encounter darkness in this world and in your own heart too. You will fight against the forces of death in this world and in your own life.

But John believes the power of love is greater than the power of hate. He teaches that love will win the day, and in the end, love will prevail. And these themes are visited throughout John’s gospel and his Epistle to the churches.

You can experience the message this blog is taken from (audio or video) here.

Christmas through the Eyes of John

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Christmas through the Eyes of John

Today we begin a Christmas blog series, but don’t worry. We won’t be talking about shepherds, mangers, and a pregnant woman taking a long trip on a short donkey.

Our series is a study from the Book of 1st John. And yes, this is the same John who wrote the Gospel of John and the Book of Revelation.

I think the other gospel writers acted sort of like reporters. They told us what happened at the birth of Jesus.

Matthew wrote; “The birth of Jesus took place in this way,” and he unpacked the details. Luke began with; “I thought it’d be a good idea to write an orderly account, so you know what has been told is true.”

And they wrote the stories they heard from others because none of them were at Jesus birth. They wrote about angelic visitors, wicked rulers and two common people chosen by God for an uncommon task.

But John wasn’t much like a reporter. He was more like a mystic. John told us why Jesus birth happened; why He came, and why it mattered.

When John shares the story of Jesus, He doesn’t take us to the manger. He takes us to the beginning. I mean, the very beginning, to eternity past, to a time before our world, our universe existed.

Going all the way back, John writes, In the beginning the Word already existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was already with God in the beginning. Everything came into existence through him. Not one thing that exists was made without him. He was the source of life, and that life was the light for humanity. The light shines in the dark, and the dark has never extinguished it (John 1:1-5 GW).

So, go with me on a journey in my upcoming blogs over the next few weeks, as we see Christmas through the eyes of John.

Open Our Hands to Serve

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Open Our Hands to Serve

The church will grow when we open our hands to serve.

Even if we open our doors and our hearts, if we don’t open our hands and engage our gifts in the church it cannot grow. Our vision is to see Lakeview become a unique place in our city. God is opening the door to reach out to the poor and to immigrants in meaningful ways beyond just providing a temporary fix.

The Westside International Academy is opening within a few weeks. It’ll be a top-notch academy for kids from 6 weeks to 5 years old. We will be teaching multiple languages. We will offer a top curriculum. Most of all, we will be giving them Jesus and touching families, rich and poor.

I’m told we have 10,000 apartment units within a 2-3 mile radius of our church. How many kids come home to an empty apartment? God willing, we are going to launch after school care in 2018.

Our heart to reach our community can only be accomplished if you open your hands to serve!


To listen to the entire message, click here. Watch this service on video here. 

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