Believing 5

There are so many illusions that can fool the eye.  Magicians who perform on stage or on television are masters at fooling people into thinking they see something that is not real.  We can try to trust our own eyes and think that we should only believe what we see, but there are times when seeing is still not believing because it shouldn’t be.

Today’s passage is part of a response from Jesus after teaching a group of followers.  Many could not accept his teaching and fell away.  Others tried to remain faithful but were confused and had doubts.  What does Jesus say about the Spirit?  What does he say about the flesh – mortality?  What does the teaching of Jesus do for us?

One of the biggest hurdles that people have with the teachings of Jesus is that they look at them from an earthly perspective, a human point of view.  We try to make sense of what is being said by thinking of them with our limited ability to reason.

The things that Jesus taught were frequently of a higher nature than what most people are able to comprehend.  Not everything that Jesus said can be taken literally or converted into something concrete so that it might be understood.  We must expand our thinking to accept a more spiritual meaning behind what Jesus taught.

Jesus came to earth to express compassion on people in very real and tangible ways.  He healed the sick.  He drove out demons.  He fed the hungry.

But much of what he did was also an indication, a shadow, of much greater truths.  The healing he offered not only restored the physical bodies of many but was also meant to show that the presence of God’s love could heal even our mental and spiritual failings.  The life that Jesus spoke of was a spiritual life, an everlasting life, an eternal connection to the Almighty God.

The things of mortality, the things of the flesh and of humanity are on a much lower level than what Jesus was talking about.  And so we must see that the words of Jesus, the teachings of Jesus were the spirit of God’s love moving us to draw nearer to the loving embrace of the Trinity.

We may not be able to see the physical form of God, the Father, or Jesus or the Holy Spirit.  But when we believe, when we accept that Christ died and rose again for our eternal salvation, to give us the love of God, then we will see in our hearts that God is real.  We will see through the Spirit that God is with us and loves us, and then their will be no doubt in our faith.

DAILY CHALLENGE:  What will help you see God in your heart?

Believing 4

Hebrews 11:1 sums up our attitudes as Christians.  “Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.”  That is faith.  It is certainty, conviction, absolute belief in those things that we may not be able to see with our physical eyes or touch with our hands.  Faith is belief in those things we hope for – the hope that the resurrection of Jesus actually did take place.  We are saved from sin and death and hopelessness through the sacrifice of Jesus.

And with this faith we have a joy that wells up inside us.  We are convinced of those things we have not witnessed with our mortal eyes but which we see with our soul and spirit.  We know in our hearts and in our souls that God is real and that His love for us is real.

And with that knowledge, that conviction, we can raise our hearts and our voices in praise of the eternal love that God has for us.  What does the psalmist encourage us to do?  Why do we praise God?

There are no words in this psalm that speak of the tangible essence of God.  It does not bear witness to how God looks or any other description of His physical appearance.  Instead it speaks of where God exists and what God has done.

God exists in his sanctuary.  This may be the heavenly realms where God resides or it may be the places where we gather to worship Him, in a church, in a home, in the beauty of nature.

We are urged to offer praise to God for His acts of power.  We do not see the hand that causes the miracles of life and creation but we see the results.  We see God in all that He has made and all that He does in our lives.

We should praise Him for His surpassing greatness.  Again, this is nothing that can be identified as a physical attribute of God.  This is the mighty movement of God in the world.  When we see His mercy, when we feel His comfort, when we witness His love displayed in life we should give praise to the unseen God whose work is made real and visible in the world.

We cannot see the physical being of God but we can see God in our belief.  When we believe in God and believe in His love exhibited through the sacrificial act of Christ we see Him in our heart and our lives.  We see God in the beauty of the world and the acts of love shown by many.

DAILY CHALLENGE:  What helps you to know God is real?

Believing 3

If you have ever been to the doctor and had your reflexes tested you know what it is like to do something over which you have no control.  When the doctor taps your knee with the mallet your leg jerks.  If you have ever tried to stop a yawn, control your hiccups, or stop breathing for a long time you are familiar with uncontrollable actions.

Such is the case with the followers of Jesus after the resurrection.  What had the ruling religious leaders told the disciples NOT to do?  What did they do?  What reason is given in verse 29?  What reason is given in verse 32?

The Sanhedrin mentioned in this passage is like a high court of the Jewish religion.  These were religious leaders and teachers who convened and had authority over the people the same way a court of law would today.  They wanted the apostles, the disciples and other believers, to stop talking about Jesus and all that he had taught.  They were getting people all riled up.

But the apostles were not able to obey this command.  It is also probably true that they did not want to obey the command, but in his response Peter declares that what they were doing was no longer under their control.  God had moved them to preach and teach and there was no way to stop it.

Peter points out that many of them were witness to the crucifixion and resurrection.  They had known Jesus.  They had heard him teach.  They had seen him after he rose from the dead.  This was reason enough for them to be preaching about Jesus.

But he also includes others who were teaching about Jesus.  Even those who had not known Jesus in the same way the disciples did were filled with the Holy Spirit.  With the presence of the Holy Spirit they were convicted of the truth about Christ and were also moved to preach about him.  They believed even though they had not seen.

Yet in their belief they were able to see the holiness of Jesus.  They had not witnessed with their eyes.  They had seen Christ in their hearts with the aid of the Spirit.

We are unable to be witnesses to the bodily form of Jesus.  We have not seen Christ.  Yet we should believe in him.  We should know that he is Lord and Savior.  And in this knowing, in this believing, we can see Christ in our hearts.

And with the vision of Jesus in our hearts, a vision that comes from belief, we also will be compelled to share the good news of the resurrection.  We will not be able to control ourselves if we truly have faith.

DAILY CHALLENGE:  What will help you believe in Jesus?

Believing 2

Ah.  One of those gems of a passage in the Bible.  Everyone – EVERYONE – knows doubting Thomas.  It has even become part of our lexicon to call someone a “doubting Thomas.”  Poor Thomas, known for millennia as the fool who didn’t believe.

But I think we are being far too unfair with Thomas.  What is said about Thomas in verse 24?  What did Jesus say in verse 29?

The story starts off with the innocuous and often overlooked statement that Thomas “was not with the disciples when Jesus came.”  We can look back at Thomas and shake our heads and say that he should have had faith.  But we don’t say the same thing about the other ten disciples.  They believed because they saw Jesus.  He came into their locked room and showed them his hands and side (John 20:20).

Is Thomas any different than the others?  I don’t think so.  The other disciples were hiding and likely had their doubts.  But Jesus made it easy on them; he showed them his wounds before they had a chance to ask.

Is Thomas any different than we are?  I don’t think so.  So many people hope and pray and ask that God will show them some kind of sign to indicate that He is real.  They want that indisputable proof that Jesus is indeed alive and that God truly is the Master of all the universe.

We all doubt just as much as Thomas did.  We all would like that proof.

But Jesus tells Thomas that his seeing is what brought him faith.  Jesus points out that those who have faith without the proof are blessed.  And isn’t that what faith is all about – believing in the unseen?

Although Jesus was speaking to Thomas I think his comment was meant for the other disciples and for us.  “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

If we are to be Christians then we must believe that Jesus is our Savior and Lord.  We must believe that he died and rose again.  We must believe that we are to live with Christ in our hearts.  And if we can do that we will be blessed – not just with good things from God, but blessed with the wonderful comfort of knowing Jesus is with us in all things.

Seeing is believing, but believing is also seeing.  When we believe without seeing then we will see Christ in our lives and in our hearts.  We will see God in all that is around us if we can believe first.

DAILY CHALLENGE:  How can your faith help you see God?

Believing 1

Although the day of Easter may be over, the celebration of Easter should continue.  Jesus did not rise from the grave to shock and impress a small group of people and excite and delight them for a single morning.  Jesus rose from the dead and continues to live even today.  We must embrace the living Lord in our lives.

After the resurrection in the morning Jesus appeared to Mary Magdalene in the garden near the tomb.  Where are the disciples according to this passage?  Why are they behind locked doors?  What did Jesus show them?  What are all the things he told them?

While Mary was probably overjoyed at seeing Jesus and knowing that he had risen from the grave the disciples did not enjoy that same excitement.  They were afraid that they might be arrested next for following Jesus.  They feared they might also be executed as Christ was.

So, as the day of the resurrection passed the disciples hid in the upper room and kept the door locked so they would be safe.  But the locked door did not keep Jesus out any more than the sealed tomb kept Jesus in.

The risen Lord appeared to the disciples and showed them his wounds from the crucifixion.  In that moment they were quickly convinced of the reality of Jesus being alive.  And in his appearance he blessed them.  He offered his peace to them, not once but twice.

From there he gave them authority to be the foundation of the Christian church we know now.  He gave them the authority to forgive sins.  He gave them the presence of the Holy Spirit.  And he commissioned them to go out into the world and preach as he had done.

Regardless of the troubles and challenges we may face in life we cannot spend our time hiding away from life.  We must allow Jesus to enter in to be with us.  When we accept and completely believe in the risen Christ we are blessed with the Lord’s peace.  But we also join in with the disciples and receive the authority to live out Jesus in the world.  We are given the ability to forgive.  We are given the commission to preach and teach about the love of God.

DAILY CHALLENGE:  How can you keep the door of your faith open to Jesus?