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Believing “Into” Jesus

There are only a few stories that all 4 Gospels writers tell, the feeding of the 5000 is among them. After the story, we get a unique perspective from Jesus’ best friend John,

“Believe me,” replied Jesus, “you are looking for me now not because you saw my signs but because you ate that food and had all you wanted. You should not work for the food which does not last, but for the food which lasts on into eternal life. This is the food the Son of Man will give you, and he is the one who bears the stamp of God the Father.” (John 6:26-27)

Jesus’ statement, “You ate that food and had all you wanted…” sounds like he is getting onto the people for coming back for a simple provision of food, for missing the bigger offer, for believing “small”. Jesus is indicating that the people are coming back for another light meal. He sensed they were timidly asking for “just a little more Jesus and we will leave you alone… If it’s not too much trouble Jesus we will be over here…if you have time.” Sound familiar?

Jesus overlooks the small thinking and continues,

29 “The work of God for you,’ replied Jesus, ‘is to believe in the one whom he has sent to you.’”

This phrase “the work” occurs 150 times in the Hebrew and Greek texts. The first time we see “the work” is in Gen 2:2 “By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work.” God was obviously doing the work that, “lasts on into eternal life” (above), and any Jewish male raised in that culture would have been very aware of the work. So when Jesus uses this phrase he is connecting the listeners that day all the way back to the beginning of the story. That was the work then (for God) and this is the work now.

Jesus uses a phrase right after the word believe that is only fully understood in the Greek, εἰς (into). Believe into. This is a much different idea than believing in something. To believe in is to buy into a concept or accept something as factual. To believe into is to commit to someone not knowing what the outcome will be. “I am with you Jesus and I believe that life with you is the only way to go.” Believing into is going “all in” without any guarantee of how things are going to go in this relationship with Jesus. It involves commitment, risk and trust in the person not certain outcomes.

So, are we believing big or believing small? Do we believe in, or into Jesus? The promise is eternal life (which is not some time in the future but includes today) for those who believe big and believe into himself. I want that…I want Him.

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Do We Really Want Rest?

Many followers of Jesus know Matthew 11:28-30 by heart. At least the first part,

“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.”

It sounds amazing! Most of us identify with the words weary and heavy-laden. We live in a culture that almost prides itself on being weary and heavy-laden. We tell one another stories about how busy we are, how tired and overworked and important we are. Weariness happens to us just by association, and we also allow it to happen.

I like the sound of Jesus’ voice here. His words echo like cool water on a fresh burn after touching something hot. Many of us hear his words and we want what he is offering, or do we, do we really want rest? The way we structure our day, our week, our month, our year screams that we don’t really want rest. Eugene Peterson’s version of verse 28 is quiet the invitation,“Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life.”

How often do we really come to him and get away with him. If we want what he is offering, this almost unimaginable rest that our bodies, minds and souls crave, then we have to accept the invitation. We have to actually carve out time and space in our day to get away with him and him alone.  Jesus goes on to say,

“I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace.” (v 29) If I am reading this correctly, Jesus is actually going to be the one who teaches us how to rest. Man, we need that! We need to be taught how to rest.

The unforced rhythms of grace. What a great translation! Eugene, or should I say Jesus is onto something here. It is a rhythm that is being offered, a rhythm that we can lean into or reject. Jesus is offering us rest, offering to teach us how to rest. Will we take him up on his offer?

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Learning to Know

In today’s culture we have to learn to know. We often think we know, but we don’t. We don’t know. We have to learn to know, and we have to be committed to the learning in order to experience real knowing. Learning to know takes time. Learning to know requires that we get out of our own heads, and our own version of the way we see life.

Many Greek words don’t translate well into English. The word γινώσκω is among them. In English the word γινώσκω is translated know, or to know. This is a dangerous translation in a society that highly values knowledge. We already know, I mean come on. And if we don’t actually know we at least want to be perceived as knowing. Think about it. Someone begins to explain something and our minds quickly go into response mode. We either think, (or respond with) I already know this, or we prepare our statement back to them in our minds while they are telling us something they know.

But real knowing takes time and requires surrender. I requires giving up what we think we know about ourselves, others or God in order to actually learn to know the truth. Jesus said, “Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.” (John 17:3) The only way to know is to learn to know…

 

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Unbelief Has Power Too

In Luke 10 Jesus makes it pretty clear that there will be serious consequences for any family or town that does not believe. “When you enter a house, first say, ‘Peace to this house.’ If a man of peace is there, your peace will rest on him; if not, it will return to you.” (v.5) Jesus then takes it a step further, “When you enter a town and are welcomed, eat what is set before you. 9Heal the sick who are there and tell them, ‘The kingdom of God is near you.’ 10But when you enter a town and are not welcomed, go into its streets and say, 11‘Even the dust of your town that sticks to our feet we wipe off against you.”

Not quite sure what that says to us today living in homes, cities and towns, but it doesn’t sound too good.   Jesus seems to be saying to his disciples that if people in a home or town or city do not believe, then they will be left to do life on their own, apart from God. I drove by a church a few weeks ago that had the scripture on their reader board,

“Bless’ed is the country whose God is the Lord” My thought: Great verse, not encouraging.

Unfortunately that verse does not describe the United States, not even close. I’m afraid if Jesus or His followers were to enter our towns today He would seldom be welcomed. Oh wait, he does visit.  He’s here, are we welcoming?

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“Do you believe…”

If there is a pinnacle question in the 4 Gospels, it is revealed in Matthew 9. Jesus has just come off of a pretty good run of healings that he attributes to belief. “As Jesus went on from there, two blind men followed Him, crying out, ‘Have mercy on us, Son of David!’ When He entered the house, the blind men came up 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, ‘It shall be done to you according to your faith.’”(27-29)

Do you believe that I am able to do this? This is the question that stopped me in my tracks ten years ago in a car ride with my friend Stu. That is a primary question that you and I are being asked every single day, throughout the day. I literally think about this question or some variation of it each day. Actually, it’s not so much a question as it is a statement, often said out loud by me, directed to Jesus. I have the same response as the two blind men, “Yes, Lord.” As I encounter a situation, a relationship, the stress of the day, something that I didn’t expect, my response is, “I believe that You can do this.” Nothing in me at the time may feel like this is possible, whatever this is in the moment, but I still proclaim belief. The two blind men that day had no reason to believe Jesus would heal them, but they believed anyway and Jesus honored their belief.

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To Deny is To Believe

The humanness of Jesus is refreshing. He is a lot like us and wants to know how things are progressing. He spent a few years telling and showing people who God is and is looking for a report from his closest followers about how things were going. “And it happened that while He was praying alone, the disciples were with Him, and He questioned them, saying, “Who do the people say that I am?’ They answered and said, ‘John the Baptist, and others say Elijah; but others, that one of the prophets of old has risen again.’” (Lk 9:18-19)Not exactly the response Jesus was hoping for, but at least his friends were being honest with him.

Now for the bigger question: And He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” And Peter answered and said, “The Christ of God.’” (v.20) Now Peter was a Jew. For him to say that Jesus was the Christ meant that he believed that He was the Messiah that the Jews were looking for. This is huge! Most of the Jews didn’t let it cross their mind that this one named Jesus could be the Savior.

In his next statement to the disciples that day, Jesus defined what it meant to truly believe in Him. “And He was saying to them all, ‘If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it.’” (v.23-24)

What?! That can’t be what it means to believe! Ask me to do anything but put my selfish desires aside. Jesus knew the impact of this statement, and He knew what it would mean for those who chose to deny: life!

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Butch, Sundance and Jesus

One of my favorite Western movie scenes is from Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. In the scene “The Kid”(Robert Redford) is accused of cheating. The man who accuses him stands up, puts his hand on his gun and is ready for a fight. Butch (Paul Newman) says, “Sundance, let’s just get out of here.” The man’s response, “Wait, you’re the Sundance Kid, I didn’t know that….if I draw on you…you’ll kill me.” Sundance: “There is that possibility.”

There is a sort of Sundance kid feel after Jesus heals a blind man in John 9. The blind man is confident in who he is and in what Jesus has done for him. Of course, the Pharisees question the validity of the man’s new found sight, so he states very clearly to them what happened. “The man they call Jesus made some mud and put it on my eyes. He told me to go to Siloam and wash. So I went and washed, and then I could see.” (Jn 9:11) The Pharisees weren’t having it! They didn’t believe the man so they called his parents. After the parents caved to authority they went back to the man to try and get him to admit that Jesus was not from God. I love this next part! “I have told you already what happened and you did not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you want to become his disciples, too?” (v.27) This infuriated the lawmakers and they threw the man out.

Jesus heard that they had thrown him out, and went and found him. He asked him, “Do you believe in the Son of Man? The man said, “Point him out to me, sir, so that I can believe in him. Jesus said, “You’re looking right at him. Don’t you recognize my voice?” “Master, I believe,” the man said, and worshiped him.

It wasn’t just sight that was restored that day. This man came face to face with the God of all things and his life was radically changed for the better.  Once he realized it was the Son of Man standing in front of him, he worshiped and believed.

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A Model For Prayer

I was encouraged in 2000 through a seminar to spend daily time with the Lord, and took the presenter, Tom Raley, up on his challenge.   In my early years of doing daily time I followed Tom’s recommendation to a T. This is what he taught me: When you wake up in the morning, “Good morning Jesus. Thanks for a good night sleep. Look forward to being with you.” After that spend a few minutes in each of these:

  1. Praise
  2. Thanksgiving
  3. Guidance – read scripture and pray over calendar for the day
  4. Dedication of the day to the Lord
  5. Intercession – pray for family and those you minister with and to
  6. Petition
  7. Meditation – pick out something from your time with the Lord that you can walk with the rest of the day.

* By Tom Raley – Practicing Spiritual Discipline

After a few years of using this model I began to branch out to other tools. The devotional book titled, “A Guide to Prayer” has been a great companion on this journey of daily time with the Lord. It gives a daily psalm, scripture reading and reading for reflection for the day. This is a great tool for someone starting out on a journey of daily time. For three years I did the One-Year Bible and it was fantastic. It got me deep into scripture each day and provided a grounding for my faith.

What I learned from Tom and from my own experience these past sixteen years is that a plan is vital. Without a plan we are wander. To get up each morning and know where to begin our time with Jesus is essential for longevity. If we are serious about making time with the Lord a priority, then follow a plan that becomes a simple ritual will lead to vibrant life in Jesus.

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The Lord Will Provide

My oldest daughter turned 10 last week, what?! Without trying to sound too spiritual or freaky, her name came from the Lord. I was in a seminar one evening when my wife was pregnant, and the teacher was sharing about the story of Abraham and Isaac. What stood out to me in the story that day is that it took place on Mt. Moriah. The speaker finished the telling of the story by saying, “Abraham called the name of that place, The Lord will provide. In the mount of the Lord it will be provided.” (Gen 22:14) As that section of teaching came to a close I heard from the Lord, “This is to be your daughter’s name.” You can imagine the scene at home later that night with my wife. First of all, Moriah wasn’t on the short list of names we were considering. Second, how was I supposed to tell Anna that the Lord told me our daughter’s name? I went home, gave Anna the play-by-play and she responded very graciously, “If that is what the Lord told you then Moriah it is.”

Moriah means, “the Lord will provide.” This week I wrote this to my little girl in her 10th birthday card.

MORIAH:

  • it’s who you are in so many ways! I don’t know if we have ever told you, but your Mom and I had a hard time getting pregnant. It took almost three years and we wondered if we were going to need to adopt. Then one day we found out your Mom was pregnant and we were so thrilled!!! The Lord provided you as our first daughter.
  • Twenty years ago your Mom and I both left our jobs that we were doing, she was selling shoes to athletes and I was working for a business counting money. The Lord told us both to leave our jobs and work with teenagers. We went to work for Young Life and He has provided the money we need to live every day since. Your name is a reminder of how God always takes care of our family.
  • Your name teaches you and us to put our relationship with God first above everything else. Abraham was willing to sacrifice his only son because he loved God most. God the Father was willing to sacrifice Jesus on the cross because he loved YOU MOST!

Did you know Moriah that you are God’s favorite! He is your true Father and he loves you so much. I get to love you too and be your Dad here on earth. I get to provide for you and teach you, but most of all I get to point you to your real Father. You are loved Moriah, so so loved by Him and by me. You are His daughter and you are my daughter and I get to love you along with Him. I love it and I love you!

Happy Birthday Sweet Girl.

Love,

You Dad

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The Lord’s Prayer Got Cut Short

The Lord’s Prayer does not end with, “For thine is the Kingdom, and the Power and the Glory forever.”   It’s just not in the text.   Not only does it not end there, but it doesn’t end. I’m not sure why we have cut it short, but according to Luke, Jesus kept right on speaking when the one of his disciples said, “Lord, teach us to pray…” (Luke 11: 1) The rest of Jesus’ answer to the question goes like this:

5       Then He (Jesus) said to them, “Suppose one of you has a friend, and goes to him at midnight and says to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves;

6          for a friend of mine has come to me from a journey, and I have nothing to set before him’;

7          and from inside he answers and says, ‘Do not bother me; the door has already been shut and my children and I are in bed; I cannot get up and give you anything.

8          “I tell you, even though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his persistence he will get up and give him as much as he needs.

9          “So I say to you, aask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.

10          “For everyone who asks, receives; and he who seeks, finds; and to him who knocks, it will be opened.

11          “Now suppose one of you fathers is asked by his son for a fish; he will not give him a snake instead of a fish, will he?

12          “Or if he is asked for an egg, he will not give him a scorpion, will he?

13          “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?”

If I am reading this passage correctly Jesus is telling his disciples to be persistent, very, very persistent in their praying. Kenneth Wuest in The New Testament: An Expanded Version explains verses 8-10 this way:

I (Jesus) am saying to you, though he will not give to him, having arisen, because of being his friend, yet on account of his persistence, having arisen, he will give him as many as he is needing. And as for myself, I am saying to you, Keep on asking for something to be given, and it shall be given you. Keep on seeking and you shall find. Keep on reverently knocking, and it shall be opened to you. For everyone who keeps on asking for something to be given, keeps on receiving, and he that keeps on seeking, keeps on finding, and to the one who keeps on reverently knocking, it shall be opened.

This consistent Asking, Seeking, Knocking requires belief, active belief, confident belief that Jesus will and wants to respond to your needs today.