Tag Archives: believe

Believing is Seeing

 John 1:6-14

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As I continue to contemplate John’s usage of “the Word,” for the Son of God, two additional thoughts come to mind. First, “Word” is capitalized. The writer seems to be emphasizing that Jesus is the source or author of all truth and knowledge. Second, when I revisited the creation account in Genesis chapter 1, one statement was repeatedly made, “and God said.” Each element of the created order was spoken into existence using words. “The Word” spoke creation into existence.

Here are my thoughts on verses 6-14 of John chapter one. As I read I immediately notice another John is introduced, not the fishermen turned gospel writer, but a baptizer. His role, according to the text, was to testify that Jesus is the spiritual light of the world. In other parts of the Bible we are told that this John (a) is a relative of Jesus (Luke 1:36-66); (b) his job was to prepare the way for Jesus by preaching a fiery message of repentance (Matthew 3:1-12). John baptized (with water) those who have confessed their sins. There had to be something unique or compelling about the message of John the Baptist because people were talking about him. He was drawing large crowds of people from all over the territory of Judea to hear him speak.

John the disciple then shifts gears back to the subject of light. Spiritually speaking, if we turn (repent) from our sinful ways and reorient ourselves to the true source of light, then we are able to receive life-giving salvation. I am reminded of how plants orient their leaves to maximize the energy they can produce by the sun’s light. Later on in John’s gospel, Jesus proclaims that he is the way to salvation, the source of truth and life (John 14:6).

Next, John emphasizes that light of the world, Jesus, literally entered the world as one of us. He was a helpless babe just as I was. He grew from a child to an adult just as I did. As Jesus aged and matured he followed the Jewish religion of his family, adhering to rituals, observing festivals and performing the required sacrifices.

John tells us that Jesus’ own people did not recognize him as the Messiah even though they were looking for one. Jews of his day were under Roman governance. They were oppressed and longed for a messiah to come, someone who could lift them from the yoke of oppression. They believed the Messiah would establish God’s kingdom and rule it just as King David had done countless centuries earlier. Not only was Jesus not recognized as the Messiah, his fellow Jews rejected his claim that he was (is) the Son of God.

From here, John identifies the true children of God. “Believe” and “receive” is the terminology John uses to establish the criteria for becoming a child of God. Believe in the name of Jesus, who he is and what he stands for. Receive him into your heart, which equates to placing Him on the throne of your spiritual self.   A throne previously governed by a person’s self-will, which by the way, habitually rebels against God. The goal, then, of the devoted Christian is to orient his or her will towards the will of God by continually seeking God’s will for their life and responding accordingly.

Spiritually, “believe” and “receive” equates to believing is seeing. With the Holy Spirit’s guidance, one can experience and understand things he or she has been spiritually blind to previously such as attitudes and behavior. This would seem to run contrary to what we have been taught by our culture, where “seeing is believing,” sort of a try before you buy approach. Are you tired of believing only what you see (or hear) or are you ready to reach out in faith, to believe and truly see?

“Then Jesus said to him (Thomas), “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”” John 20:29

 

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Favorite Words

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Grace, it’s extended by a person and not a creed.
It reached out to meet me, a wretch in need.

Belief, let’s just say it’s required of me,
For Jesus to cleanse my heart and set me free.

Faith, more than a belief God is loving and just,
It’s an anchor that holds safely in life’s stormy gusts.

Trust, faith can’t wield its power without trust,
A willingness to be guided—dawn to dusk.

Hope, born out of faith it never grows old,
It’s an assurance death has no claim or hold.

Love, a litmus test applied to the faith I hold.
When directed towards others, Jesus’ story is told.

Because

imagesWe face many obstacles in life.  Some of them deal with our physical reality such as illness, injury, competing against others and personal achievement.  Other obstacles challenge our minds and emotions like academics and relationships.  But what about spiritual obstacles?

Enter the word because.”  It fascinates me when I think about it in a spiritual sense.  Because seems like a harmless enough word.  I probably started using it when I was three years old (I’ll have to check with Mom on that one).  Used in a spiritual context, it appears to have a dual meaning.  On one hand, people believe, because?  When pressed, folks in this camp are not really sure why they believe what they do.  Perhaps belief stems from family tradition or a creed or simply just “because.”  On the other hand, there are those who believe, because!  These folks are speaking from personal experience. There is a certainty or conviction that supports their belief.  This dual portrayal of the word begs a question, “which camp do you find yourself in?”  Perhaps a story would explain my point more clearly.

I imagine Because to be like a mighty river snaking through the landscape of our lives.  And just like every other river it has two shores.  One shore is swampy, continually subjected to flooding and lacks firm ground.  This shore is canvased by travelers who are content with being told how to be religious.

The opposite shore stands high and dry and is established on firm ground.  I imagine its edge to be lined with boulders, making it impervious to erosion by the river.  On this shore are those who have a certainty about their faith, which comes from a personal experience.

Once upon a time I wandered the swampy shoreline, plodding through the muck and mire.  I tried hard to elevate my standing by being very religious.  As time passed, I congregated with others who shared my view.  Trying to be good should count for something, and we believed it would eventually get us to the other side of the river.  Surely there’s strength in numbers.  How could so many people be wrong?  The people on the other side of the river are no better than us.  Together we planned to build a bridge across the river.  We thought we deserved to be on the other shore.  The soggy, spongy ground was not able to support a foundation for the bridge, however.  I found myself becoming restless.

c49b083be3e74a0e2ad56f4d3267af75I decided to search closer to the shoreline of the river Because for another means to cross it.  I happened to discover a derelict one-person craft.  People on the opposite shore saw I had located the craft and began to shout, “get in the vessel.”  They called the vessel “Faith.”  These people claimed I could use the boat for free because its owner had paid for my passage.

I hesitated by the river’s edge.  The appearance of the water rushing past was intimidating.  It’s current was frighteningly strong.  I spotted whirlpools and rapids that I would have to engage if I attempted to cross.  The boulders lying just beneath the surface of the raging water would certainly destroy the vessel Faith.  I eyed the boat once more and noticed its interior contained only a simple wooden poll.

This looked more and more like a suicide mission.  There’s no way I could make it across on my own.  Overcome with sadness, I began to back away.  As I did, my eyes caught the movement of people on the other shore once again.  Hey, wait a minute.  Is this how they made it across?  Those people, the subjects of my gaze, were shouting more words of encouragement.  I strained my ears to listen, “come experience what we’ve experienced,” they cried.
I thought about what they said.  I was tired of trudging around in the muck with nothing but uncertainty to look forward to.  The people shouting from across the river had something I didn’t have and I found myself wanting it.   I turned back to the river and launched the vessel called Faith and jumped in.  There was no turning back, I was committed.  To my surprise, the moment I laid my hands on the wooden poll I was immediately transported to the other shore.images

Today, I stand on the rock solid shore of certainty.  It is a blessed and humble feeling to be here.  I have discovered a special kinship with travelers on this side of the river.  The belief we share is based on a personal experience, of being carried across the river in Faith.

Having once been on the other shore myself, I will not judge those who have not come.  Instead will I call out to them, “Come, experience what I’ve experienced.”  Take the journey in the vessel of Faith across the river of Because.