Proof and Faith What does evidence have to do with believing in Jesus?

“I want proof.”

So many of us say these words when confronted with the idea of God, much less the idea of following Jesus.  In order to make the existential jump of faith, most of us want some evidence.  At least a little.

But it doesn’t end with the beginning of a faith journey though, does it?  Nope.  Those of us who follow Jesus often want proof before we trust God with a new area of our lives, an important decision, etc.  We want an inkling of what God is up to before we fully hand over the reins.

Is this normal?  And is this okay?

Our Need for Proof

Not much needs to be said here.  The bald truth is that most of us humans are an un-trusting lot, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.  And un-examined faith is pretty boring.

But sometimes we can take our desire to hold definitive proof in our hands too far.  We can demand evidence that is so clear that it can’t be controverted.  This level of scrutiny is just silly.  We don’t ask for this kind of proof when we fall in love, flip the light switch, or buy food from a local grocery store.

But we often demand proof in this way when it comes to faith.  And I honestly think that’s okay.  It’s okay to need some level of confidence before going all in.  To do otherwise would be irresponsible after all!

In John 4.43-54 we read about an official who needs some proof for his faith too.  We see this in three stages, and these three stages I believe will sound familiar to many of us.

Faith in Jesus’ Potential

I’ve written a little bit about this official before, specifically about how even though he was privileged, Jesus cared for him.  But how did their interaction begin?  What was its genesis?

The story starts with this man having a sick child.  He’s probably at the end of his proverbial rope.  I imagine that he’s sought out the best care that a government official could afford.

Then he catches wind of the fact that Jesus was back in Galilee.  This is the same Jesus who had dome miraculous things in the area already.  So, based only on this potential, the official makes the trek from Capernaum to Cana to visit Jesus.  When he arrives, the official begs and pleads with Jesus to heal his son (v. 47).

I think this kind of faith is the kind of faith that helped many of us begin our journeys with Jesus.  We probably saw the difference that Jesus made in the life of someone we loved and we wanted some of that for ourselves.  That’s faith in Jesus’ potential.

The proof that we’re looking at is in the lives of the followers of Jesus, the transformations that they’ve experienced, etc.  But this faith in Jesus’ potential is only really the first step.  It’s believing in what Jesus did for someone else.  It’s the kind of faith that leads us to Jesus.

(As a quick aside, this is the attractional life idea that I talk about quite a bit on my blog and podcast.  If we live the human life of Jesus in our human lives, then our very lives will serve as proof of Jesus’ potential for others.  Our lives can be the catalysts that first lead people to Jesus!)

Faith in Jesus’ Words

Once the man’s faith in Jesus’ potential led him to Jesus, the official then was privileged to hear Jesus’ words with his own ears.  Jesus says to him “Go, your son will live” (v. 50).

And the official has faith in these words which he demonstrates be obeying Jesus’ command to go.  John puts it interestingly in v. 50: “The man took Jesus at his word and departed.”

Where was the proof though? you may ask.  And I don’t have a solid answer.  Once this official met Jesus, based on his potential, he must have experienced something of the force of Jesus’ personality.  He must have felt his love.  He must have caught the vibe of his wisdom.

How do we know this? Because even though Jesus’ first response to this man was cryptic and a bit odd (“Unless y’all see signs and wonders, y’all won’t believe” [v. 49]), the man still obeyed Jesus.

As followers of Jesus we must move beyond faith in Jesus’ potential to having faith in Jesus’ words.  And how do we demonstrate this faith?  Despite however unclear we think God may be most of the time, when we do have a clear call from him, we’ll take him at his word and obey.  That’s the kind of faith that trusts in Jesus’ words.

(As a quick aside, if we follow through on this step, we’ll start living the kind of lives that serve as proof of Jesus’ potential for others.  Think about it: Jesus clearly calls us to do some very appealing things: love our neighbors, love and pray for our enemies and those who oppose us, care for the outcast and under-resourced, etc.  If we did these things as followers of Jesus, people would be drawn to us instead of being repelled by us!  God doesn’t want us to obey because he needs us to as if he were some desperate autocrat!  He wants us to obey because in so doing we will further his will to reconcile all things to himself through Christ Jesus!)

Faith in Jesus’ Fulfilled Promises

Lastly, as this official is on his way home, in obedience to Jesus’ words, his servants meet him and tell him that his son has been healed.  Upon further investigation of the evidence, the official learns that the child was healed at the exact time Jesus said that he would live.

This promise of Jesus was fulfilled.  And people witnessed it.  Firstly, the child witnessed it.  Then the servants.  The rest of the family.  The rest of the household, including all those who worked with and for this official.  And John tells us that, based on the fact that Jesus’ promise was fulfilled, the entirety of this man’s household believed (v. 53).

This is amazing!  Jesus’ fulfilled promised served as proof for those of this man’s household.  They probably then heard the story about how the official obeyed, perhaps also inspiring them to learn to obey as well.  And as they obey, they’ll experience Jesus coming through on his promises, which, in turn, will inspire others.

That’s a cycle that I want to be a part of of!

(As a quick aside, let’s do this!  Let’s get turned on to Jesus, obey him, and then celebrate when his word comes to pass.  In so doing, we’ll serve as testimonies and proof of the potential of Jesus to change the lives of others!)

 

What do you think?  What role does proof play in having faith?  And how does our faith and obedience influence those who may be far from God?  Let me know in the comments below!

Fear: 5 Ways It Trips Us Up How trusting God can trump our trepidations

Fear is a strong.  There aren’t many things that can motivate us more.

Sadly, advertisers and news organizations know this.  They present products and news to us in ways that play to our fears, manipulating us to behave and believe in the ways they want us to.

But there is another way brothers and sisters!  It’s not an easy way and I certainly haven’t totally figured it out.  But fear can be trumped by trust for the follower of Jesus.

Trust > Fear

5 Ways Fear Trips Us Up

But despite this truth — that trust is greater than fear — our fears can really get in the way of us following Jesus well in the real world.  I’m sure there are dozens of ways this can play itself out, but below I’ve listed 5 that I experience or readily see in places I frequent.

  1. Fear can block love — 1 John 4.18 says that “perfect love drives out fear.”  But the flipside of this aphorism is true too, namely that in the absence of love, fear thrives.  In a recent post of mine on Facebook (and on this blog) this has really come to light for me.  (In the next few lines I’m going to make some assumptions, I apologize in advance.)  In my opinion, due to the highly vitriolic and unhelpful ways in which certain corners of the print, broadcast, and internet media have reported on the Syrian refugee crisis, many Americans are exhibiting lots of signs of irrational fears about Syrian refugees.  These fears create an environment in which people call the people running for their lives from the violent conflict in Syria all kinds of horrible things.  In some instances Americans have very directly wished death on these refugees.  But I wonder how things would have been different had we all started with love instead?  Would we have been as apt to listen to erroneous and one-side reports about this refugee crises?  Would we have been as willing to name-call and demonize the refugees and those who are seeking to show them compassion?
  2. Fear can feed our biases — There’s a funny song from a musical called Avenue Q called “Everybody’s A Little Bit Racist” (consider this your content warning!).  And while it’s very likely true that we’re all a little bit racist, perhaps the gentler way of saying the same thing is that we all make decisions in our lives based on explicit and implicit biases.  This is very often a good thing.  Biases can be benign and can be based on past experience, thus creating shortcuts for our thinking in the present.  However, if left unchecked, our biases can also create great amounts of tension, hatred, and even out-right racism in our lives.  And when we add fear to the mix, this concoction becomes even more volatile!
  3. Fear can prevent us from serving — Service is central for a follower of Jesus.  In fact, Jesus himself said that he came to serve, not to be served (Mark 10.45).  And those of us who follow him are to imitate him (Philippians 2.5), including his desire to serve.  However, fear can block us from serving others.  We can worry and become anxious that those we serve are somehow a threat to us, even when there’s no evidence to support these feelings.  And sometimes it can escalate even further, with our fears convincing us that certain people don’t deserve our service for one reason or another.  Check this out though: in Luke 1.74 the priest Zechariah sings a prophetic song about the impact that Jesus was going to have — through Jesus, God has “enabled us to serve him without fear.”  As crazy as it might sound with our human ears and sensibilities, serving others as God leads is worth whatever risks may be involved.  Obeying God should trump all things for a follower of Jesus, including (and especially) our fears!
  4. Fear causes us to become slaves — When we are in the grips of real fear, there’s not much else that we can do except focus on that fear.  Here’s a silly example, that I’m using with permission, to highlight this idea — my wife’s fear of bugs and spiders.  When she sees one, especially if it’s a cricket or a spider, all the rest of the world starts to melt away.  She locks in on that creepy crawly and forgets all about everything else (including that 5am is not a good time to shout bloody murder!).  I’m convinced that our fears can do the same thing to us as followers of Jesus.  If we are fearful of people who live on the other side of town, for example, then we can become a slave to this fear, allowing it to dominate our thinking and our actions.  So instead of loving all people and incarnating the good news of Jesus and his kingdom among them, we look down on them, judge them, and avoid them at all costs.  This is not how things should be for us as followers of Jesus!  Here’s how Paul put it in Romans 8.15: “The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.””  In other words, our ability to call on God as sons and daughters of the Most High can and should destroy all our debilitating fears that threaten to enslave us!
  5. Fear can prevent us from sharing the gospel — In Philippians 1.14 Paul writes the following: “And because of my chains, most of the brothers and sisters have become confident in the Lord and dare all the more to proclaim the gospel without fear.”  What he is getting at is that the example of how God was using him while he was in prison was inspirational to others, even allowing them proclaim the gospel without fear.  Unfortunately, we don’t always look to examples like Paul’s and we allow fear to prevent us from sharing and embodying the good news among our friends, families, and neighbors.  And this isn’t just some minor thing that we can put off until later.  No!  Being bearers of the good news is our central calling as followers of Jesus!  In Matthew 28 Jesus told his disciples that they were to make disciples of all people and that same Great Commission applies to us today!  Brothers and sisters, we mustn’t let our fears prevent us from fulfilling our purpose as followers of Jesus!  Instead, we must trust God, looking to inspirational examples as needed and allowing him to push our fear away with his love.

So what’s the solution to all of this fear?  We must begin with love, keep our biases in check, serve others no matter what, not allow ourselves to be enslaved, and proclaim the good news.

But how?

Trust Jesus.  Simple to write; difficult to live!

Trust > Fear

 

What do you think?  What are some other ways that fear trips us up as followers of Jesus?  How can we combat our fears?

Ash Wednesday

What is Ash Wednesday?

Ash Wednesday is the first day of Lent and Lent is an ancient Christian tradition of having a season of fasting and meditation prior to Easter.

Ash Wednesday

By: Tim

Since the Church is made up of such a diverse set of people, some of us will be very familiar with Ash Wednesday and others won’t be familiar with it much at all.

Some of us grew up in faith contexts where Ash Wednesday was highly emphasized, even ritualized. And because of this we may have very strong associations with it from our past, whether positive or negative.

And others of us, like me, grew up in contexts where Ash Wednesday was hardly mentioned and never observed. And because of this we may very drawn toward or repelled away from it.

Either way, we observe Ash Wednesday as Christians, not out of obligation or tradition. Nor do we observe it to show others how holy and amazing we are as we go about our days after having received ashes.

No, there’s is a deeper reason why we commemorate Ash Wednesday – it is a reminder to us that the brilliant joy of Easter doesn’t come without a great cost.

That cost is that the sinless one, Jesus Christ, had to become sin for us. There could be no greater cost than that.

So Ash Wednesday is the beginning of the time where we examine why Jesus had to pay that cost. And the “Ash” in Ash Wednesday gives us a good clue as to why Jesus had to pay that cost.

In the Bible ashes have two primary associations: 1) one who is repentant would apply ashes to him or herself as a sign of repentance; and 2) the other is that we are mortal: From dust we came and to dust we will return.

So during Lent, and especially on Ash Wednesday, we remember that Jesus paid a great cost to deal with our twin problems of sin and death.

Let’s take an honest look at ourselves, our mortality and sinfulness, and let’s remember the hope found in Jesus that he is making all things new!


Honesty

Friends, Ash Wednesday is all about honesty…and let’s get real for a minute: being honest can be hard. Let me give you two examples from my life:

When I was probably in second grade I wanted to get a toy that was on the top shelf of my book shelf. So I would climb up the book shelf in order to reach it. When my parents would see me doing this they would tell me to stop because they didn’t want me to fall and get hurt. Well, as you probably have guessed already, I continued to go for that toy on the top shelf anyway. On one particular occasion I climbed up and reached for the toy…grabbed it…and the whole shelf and all of its contents fell on top of me! I cried for help, “Daddy help me! Help me!” And when my Dad came in the room he asked me what happened. I thought for a second and said, “I don’t know…the shelf just fell on me, Dad!”

Another time that being honest was hard was when I had just begun learning to cook after my wife and I were married. The first thing I ever made was a pasta dish that was really yummy! The next day I decided to go big and tried to make stuffed pork loin. I plated the meal and sat it out on the table and it looked great! But when we bit into it was dry as a bleached bone in the sun! After a minute or two my wife looked up at me and lied, saying, “Honey, this is really good!” even though it was more like ten-year old piece of beef jerky than a stuffed pork loin!

Being honest can be tough. And being honest about ourselves and our failings can be especially difficult. So as we observe Ash Wednesday, we might have a hard time being honest about our sinfulness and our mortality. We might not really want to take a long, hard look in the proverbial mirror because we know who will be looking back at us.

But that’s what Ash Wednesday is all about, an honest appraisal of our human condition. And it was this human condition that necessitated that Jesus pay the staggering price he paid for us at Calvary.

In Mark 1.15 we find the basic message of Jesus’ teaching, his mission statement if you will. The following words are found there: “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!”

For the rest of this blog I simply want to look at three parts of this verse in light of Ash Wednesday: the kingdom of God, repentance, and believing the good news.

Kingdom of God

Let’s start with the kingdom of God. This phrase does not refer solely to heaven or the afterlife. Nor does it refer to a physical location with borders and a castle. No. Instead it refers to the reality of the rule of God that Jesus inaugurated when he was alive and that he will bring to fruition when he returns.

The kingdom of God is something that those of us who follow Jesus as king demonstrate with our lives. Those of us who live as subjects of King Jesus are called to live our lives like he really is our king – lives of worship, lives of community, and lives of service; lives of love for God and others.

When viewed in light of Ash Wednesday, we are reminded of the way in which we were allowed to be subjects of King Jesus – he died for us, paving the way for us to become citizens of his kingdom.

So in light of this great grace that has been offered to us, what should we do? We should repent and believe the good news. That’s what Jesus said in Mark 1.15.

And, if you’re like me, then you may be thinking something like this: I repented and believed a long time ago when I first accepted Jesus as my lord and savior. And while that first confession is very important, our repentance and believing doesn’t stop there!

Repent

So in light of Ash Wednesday, let’s repent, which means to turn from our ways and toward God’s ways. Let’s repent of the bad things we’ve done, the good we’ve left undone, and the systemic injustices we’ve let slide. Let’s repent of our broken, sinful natures and begin to become more like Jesus through the work and power of the Spirit!

And let’s repent of all the ways we’ve not been honest about our sinfulness and mortality. Let’s repent of pretending to be perfect. Let’s repent of letting our fear of death consume us.

As I was writing this I found this beautiful prayer, which is adapted from Isaiah 58:

We have chosen to fast, not with ashes but with actions, not with sackcloth but in sharing, not in thoughts but in deeds. We will give up our abundance to share our food, home, and friendship. We will share where others hoard. We will free where others oppress. We will heal where others harm. Then God’s light will break out. God’s healing will come. We will find our joy in the Lord. We will be like a well-watered garden. We will be called repairers of broken walls. Together we will feast at God’s banquet table. (From Godspace; slightly altered)

That’s the kind of repentance that Ash Wednesday brings to my mind – turning from our selfish ways and turning toward God’s giving ways.

Believe the Good News

But we’re still left with “believing the good news” in Mark 1.15. In light of Ash Wednesday, what does it mean to believe the good news?

For starters, “believe” isn’t the best translation of the word that Jesus used. In Greek one word stands behind the three English verbs: believe, have faith, and trust. And in most cases, the best translation of this one Greek verb is “trust.”

So what does it mean to trust the good news, especially in light of Ash Wednesday? Well, trust is an active word; it’s not something that I can just do only in my head. Trust requires action.

Living a life that demonstrates that we trust the good news will look like more and more like the life that Jesus lived when he was here on earth. One of my favorite authors, Hugh Halter, says it best: A disciple of Jesus is someone who lives the human life of Jesus in his or her human life.

How do we do that? It’s much simpler than we’ve made it over the years.

Lenten Challenge

In fact, to prove my point I want give you a challenge…

During Lent this year make this your fast: Fall in love with Jesus anew. Each and every day read through half a chapter of Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John. Jot down things that you see Jesus doing. How is he treating others? What does he talk about? What actions does he take? What does he seem care about? Then pray for the Holy Spirit to help you become more like Jesus today than you were yesterday. Ask God to create opportunities for you to demonstrate your trust in the good news where you live, where you work, and where you play.

Treat people like you see Jesus treating people in the Scriptures.

Talk about the things you see Jesus talking about.

Do the things you see Jesus doing.

Care about the stuff you see Jesus caring about.

So on this Ash Wednesday it’s time we were honest with ourselves. We need to live like Jesus is our king by repenting and trusting in the good news! As we look back into our lives and see pain, sin, death, and brokenness, let’s not forget that Jesus died for us so that we could live for him!

Let’s do that brothers and sisters – Let’s live for him!

 

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ISIS: A Response

I don’t even know where to begin other than with sorrow.

My heart is full to the brim with sorrow over the deaths of 21 Egyptian Christians on a Libyan beach at the hands of ISIS militants.

And where there is sorrow, many other emotions can quickly follow.  I know for me there’s an indignation that wells up in response to this extreme persecution.  I want these ISIS militants to pay for what they’ve done.

But almost at the same time a real feeling of helplessness arises too, since I know that violence almost always only results in more violence.

So how should I, a follower of Jesus, respond?  What’s a gospel-centered reaction?

 

ISIS

ISIS Militant leading their Egyptian captives to the place where they would be beheaded.

Initial Reaction to ISIS

It’s hard, if not impossible, to control one’s first response to something.  It just happens.

And my first response to the news out of Libya was sadness.  My heart fell for the families of the slain.  I was deeply saddened by inevitable damage done to Christian-Muslim relations.  And I was heartbroken at the way that so many would surely talk about God, violence, and retribution, whether Christians or otherwise.

In fact, as I first heard this news one line of Scripture continued to run through my head: “Darkness is my closest friend” (Psalm 88.18b).  This must be the sentiment of so many right now: the family, friends, and neighbors of the deceased; most people living in Egypt and Libya; many of my friends here in the US who originate from Egypt; most Muslims; most Christians; all Coptic Christians; and, frankly, most people in the world.

 

Now What?

The sorrow caused by the actions taken by ISIS is real and can’t be minimized.  No words or actions will mitigate it.  Time will not erode it.  It will just be there — to be sure, more acute at some times than others.

But sorrow can’t be the last word of this story.  Sorrow can’t win the day.  There has to be a broader response — a reaction that will embrace the darkness but prepare us for God’s glorious light.

And that response is trust.

Don’t get me wrong, trust is probably the hardest thing to do right now.  Who can we trust if people are capable of this sort of evil?  What government can we trust to keep us safe if buildings in the USA, offices in France, and beaches in Libya are all compromised?  And how can we trust God if he allowed this atrocity (and ones like it) to happen?

This is my contention: We must trust or the only choice we have is to give in to the darkness.  And I, for one, will not give in to the darkness!  I refuse to let the shadows of this life cause me to forget that the light that’s on the other side of the thing casting the shadow.

And this is no pie-in-the-sky kind of hope I’m talking about.  No.  What I have in mind is a level-headed, open-eyed trust.

This is what it might look like…

Trust in the Wake of ISIS

How can I trust anything or anyone, much less God, in the wake of the horrific crimes committed by ISIS? Here are a few initial ideas that might help.  However, I fully realize my limited perspective and expertise and I am fully willing to listen to any other ideas that you might have.  Please share them in the comments below.

  1. Don’t be surprised.  When something awful happens we’re always surprised.  What’s up with that?  It’s as if we’ve forgotten the reality of what it means to be human.  We’re horrible to one another.  Horrible.  People have always done disgusting, inhuman things to one another. And yet we’re always surprised.  And it seems that Christians might be the most surprised group of all.  Why?  Have we not read our Bibles?  Have we not read the words of Jesus himself?  Jesus said, “If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also” (John 15.20).  He also said that with blessings come persecutions (Mark 10.30).  Jesus knew that his message of the good news of the kingdom of God will butt heads with the kingdoms of this world.  He knew that danger and drama could be real possibilities for his followers.  And this has come true in each generation of followers of Jesus.  Persecution is a reality that we must deal with until Jesus brings his kingdom to fruition when he comes again.  So, friends, let’s not be surprised when it comes!  Instead, let’s prepare for it, trusting in the goodness of God in the face of the greatest evil humanity can muster!
  2. Pray.  There’s no way to move forward through this mess without prayer.  What ISIS has done (and will likely continue to do) is horrible.  And our chief response shouldn’t be warmongering, hatred, and wide-sweeping generalizations about all Muslims.  No.  Our chief response to the horror brought on by ISIS should be prayer.  Let’s turn to God with our complaints, pains, and confusion.  Let’s seek his wisdom during this volatile time.  Let’s pray like Nehemiah, the Psalmist, and others, begging God to deliver vengeance on behalf of his people.  Through prayer we are reminded of our place in this world — and that place is certainly not on the seat of judgment and revenge.  That is God’s seat alone.  But our prayers should also be for peace, the comfort of those who are mourning, and a swift resolution to this crisis.  Moreover, our prayers should also be for our enemies.  Jesus couldn’t be clearer about this: “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5.44).  Could there be a harder command to fulfill right now?  How are we, am I, supposed to love and pray for ISIS?  I’m not sure exactly, but here’s a starting place.  I need to remember that I am a sinner, through and through.  I’m worse than I know that I am.  I’ve done more wrong that I can recall, I’ve left more good undone than could ever be recounted, and I’ve consciously and subconsciously participated in systemic sin from the moment I was born.  I’m a wretch.  And if it wasn’t for the grace of God in Jesus Christ, I would be far, far from God right now.  I’m in no place to judge anyone.  Is what the ISIS militants did wrong?  Of course.   Unequivocally.  But I’ve done so much wrong in my life too.  Only God can judge us.  So what can I do if not judge ISIS?  I can love them by praying for them.  I can pray for God to intervene in their lives.  I can pray for God to give them dreams of his love and beauty and healing.  I can pray that they will experience the same life-giving grace that I have in my life.  I must pray for them.  Why?  Because otherwise I will hate them and not love them, which is in direct violation of Jesus command to love my enemies.  In order to trust God through this ordeal, I must turn to him in prayer.
  3. Embrace the mystery, the unknown, the scary, and the awkwardness. In order to move forward and to trust again, I must simply embrace the fact that this world is messed up.  There are many things that are beyond my comprehension and control.  I can’t understand how ISIS could do this heinous act.  I can’t wrap my mind around the fact that God did not intervene.  I can’t deny the fact that I have experience some truly illogical fear over the last few days.  And I can’t get over the frustrations I feel regarding each of these things.  But, if I’m honest, there is so much of life that is mysterious, unknowable, scary, and awkward.  I shouldn’t be surprised that these events have reminded me of this reality.  Friends, we must admit that we can’t figure everything out.  There is a God, and not one of us is him.

 

Well, that’s all I have.  We must learn to trust God again.  We can’t let time-bound circumstances influence our eternal relationship with God.  We have no choice by to turn to him, to place our full faith in him, and to continue to follow him.

 

If you have any thoughts you’d like to share, please do so in the comments below.

 

(Just FYI, I will be moderating the comments carefully, so please abstain from hate speech, racist remarks, bad language, and the like.  Thanks!)

Trust: John 2.1-12

Jesus’ first miraculous sign in John is one of my favorite stories in all of the Gospels!  In fact, I love it so much that I plan on blogging about it from several different angles over the next few days.

And to get things started I want to look at this story from Mary’s perspective.  Spoiler alert — Mary’s perspective is defined by one word: trust.

 

Mary’s Perspective

The story of Jesus turning water into wine has been interesting to me for decades.  When I was younger, I was surprised to learn that Jesus’ first miracle in John involved him creating wine because the religious context I grew up in taught that all alcoholic drinks were to be avoided at all costs.

Later, while in college and seminary, the sociological background of this story began to intrigue me, specifically the elements of honor and shame that are part of this story.  And that’s right where I want to start, with the honor and shame system and how it impacted Mary.

So in the story what we see is that Jesus, his friends, and his mom attend a wedding.  This wedding was in the town of Cana, which is a neighbor city to Nazareth, Jesus’ hometown.  And one of the first details that we learn about this wedding is that the wine was gone.

Why is this detail important?  Why would John include it?  For one main reason, at least in my estimation: the wine running out brought shame on the family organizing the wedding.

Since I didn’t grow up in an honor/shame culture, this part of the story is hard for me to understand.  So maybe an analogy would help…

Imagine that you were invited to a wedding.  When you arrive at the venue, everyone is standing outside because the venue has been double-booked!  Everyone is in their best clothes.  The bride and groom are ready to go.  But the family who booked the venue is embarrassed and frustrated.

These feelings are similar to what the family in this story would feel if they were made aware of the problem of the wine running out.

And who is the person to step in and prevent this shame from coming to fruition?

Mary.

And who does Mary turn to in this time of need?

Jesus.

Mary trusts Jesus.  Maybe she remembers what she was told about Jesus when she was pregnant (Luke 1.26-38).  Maybe Joseph has passed away, as is commonly believed, and Jesus was her nearest male relative to whom she could turn, which was the societal norm of the day.

 

Trust in Jesus

Whatever the case, Mary trusted Jesus.  She asked him for help.

And despite Jesus’ strange response, which we’ll talk about in a future blog, Mary tells other people to do whatever Jesus says.

So Mary’s trust doesn’t just stay private, she shares it with others.

Friends, whom or what do we trust?  Many of us would say that we trust Jesus, but our actions sometimes say otherwise.

From our obsession with our stuff, it could be said that we trust our possessions.

From our constant pursuit of more things, it could be said that we trust in our ability to consume.

From our protection of our autonomy, it could be said that we trust ourselves first.

From our focus on our families to the detriment of those in need around us, it could be said that we trust our families.

This list could go on and on.

The truth is that we seem to be willing to trust just about anything and anyone except Jesus.  How do we know this?  Because we aren’t doing a great job of following Jesus.  If we trusted him, we would follow him more closely.

If we trusted Jesus, we would be centered on his mission to make disciples and bring about justice for those most in need.

If we trusted Jesus, we would spend less time judging the sin of others and more time loving them.

If we trusted Jesus, we would be like Mary, letting our trust move from being private to becoming public.

And if we trusted Jesus, we would demonstrate less and less that we trust other things and people more than him.

 

What do you think about Mary’s trust in John 2.1-12?  And how do you think that we, as followers of Jesus, could demonstrate our trust in him more and more?  Let me know in the comments below.

 

God’s Timing: 5 Traits

Have you ever been anxious about an upcoming event?  Have you been worried that you aren’t where you think you should be in life yet?  Have you fretted about why you haven’t started the supposed next life-stage yet?

On the other hand: Have you been totally surprised by the perfect timing of a phone call from a friend?  Have you been encouraged by how certain circumstances in life seem to line up just right and just in the nick of time?  Have you ever been so glad that that thing you wanted to come so quickly didn’t because it would have caused you to miss important opportunities?

If any of these things apply to you as a follower of Jesus, then you’ve experienced God’s timing!  And as you and I strive to be more and more on mission with Jesus, then we need to be more and more in sync with his clock!

 

What Is God’s Timing Like?

Timinig

By: Kainet

  1. God’s Timing Is Mysterious:  Here’s an example: When will Jesus return? Who knows but it will be like a thief in the night.  And God’s timing in many stories in the Bible illustrates that human beings have to live within the tension of God’s mysterious timing.  For instance, Jacob wanted to marry Rachel but was tricked into marrying Leah instead.  He had to wait for 14 years until God granted him the thing that he wanted!  That’s crazy!  We don’t and can’t always understand God’s timing.  We have to live and obey in the tension.
  2. God’s Timing Is Wise: God has this uncanny ability to do things at just the right time.  It’s almost like he knows what he’s doing!  Here’s an example from my life: When I was deciding which university to go to, I had narrowed my choices down to two.  So I planned to visit them both on the same day together.  The one I liked better was first.  But when I got on campus, I hated it!  It was ugly, the professor I wanted to meet was unavailable, and the people weren’t friendly.  Then we went to the second one and it was great…especially in comparison to the first one.  If I had seen them in a different order I may have had different feelings, which could have led me to a different school, which would have meant that I’d never have met my wife.  God’s timing is wise and we have to trust it!
  3. God’s Timing Is Timely:  This one just sounds silly.  But it is so true!  We’ve all heard stories of people who receive the perfect sum of money at just the right time.  We’ve all had the experience of a friend or family member calling or dropping in with just the right timing.  And many of us have felt strangely compelled to reach out to someone, only to find out that God used us to help them in a special way at just the right time.  God also will sometimes step in just at the right time to help us when there’s a need.  I immediately think of the story of Abraham and Isaac and how God sent a ram to get caught in a thicket at just the right time to prevent Abraham from sacrificing his son.  God’s timing is always right on time!
  4. God’s Timing is Good: This one is probably the hardest one for me.  Why?  Because I think that my timing is good.  I think the way that I would schedule things out is good.  I think my life-plan is good.  And those things may be pretty good.  But when they’re good it’s only because they line up with the goodness of God’s timing.  So sometimes this means that God will withhold things that we thing we may need or want because he can see the bigger picture and therefore he knows what is best for us.  This is a handy reminder that we must have faith in the fact that God’s timing is always a realization of the fact that God has our best interests at heart.
  5. God’s Timing is Divine: Here’s a verse about God’s timing, among other things, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways” (Isaiah 55.8).  It is fair to add here that God’s timing is not our timing.  And since God is smarter, more resourceful, and more selfless than all of us, his timing should always be trusted.  Why then do we so often trust our own timing instead of his?  The answer is simple: we’re proud.  At the bottom is plain ol’ selfish pride that makes it hard for us to accept God’s timing.

 

Friends, it’s high time that we begin to accept God’s timing and stop trying to manipulate him into doing things on our timing!  He’s the all-knowing, all-powerful Creator of the universe.  He can do with our calendars as he sees fit!

 

When you think of God’s timing what comes to mind?  Share some thoughts and stories in the comments below!