A common catch phrase in pop culture these days is the comment, “I see you.” It is used as a way of simply saying, “I recognize your recent accomplishment.” But it has recently taken on the connotation of “I understand where you are coming from,” “I realize what you are going through,” and even “I notice you as a potential love interest.”
Many times Jesus “sees” people where they are in significant ways. In John 1:47-49, we read, “Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said of him, ‘Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!’ Nathanael said to him, ‘How do you know me?’ Jesus answered him, ‘Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.’ Nathanael answered him, ‘Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!’” Jesus sees Nathanael as a good disciple even before Nathanael knows it. Nathanael responds with faith and gratitude. Jesus sees each of us the same way. He knows the potential within us to serve him even before we do sometimes. It is our role to respond with excitement to help others see what Jesus sees in each of us: devoted followers of him.
In another place in Scripture, Jesus “sees” people in another way. In Mark 6:33-34 we read, “Now many saw [Jesus and the disciples] going and recognized them, and they ran there on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them. When [Jesus] went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. And he began to teach them many things.” Jesus sees that the crowds who ran to meet him are lost in their faith and he sees that they need help from him for spiritual direction. They are literally chasing him down for guidance. And Jesus obliges by teaching them through his Word. Jesus sees us searching for meaning in our lives too, and he stops to teach us through the words of Scripture and through our prayers with him. He reminds us that we who are lost have been found in him. We see him now as our Leader and Teacher and Friend.
Thank God today that Jesus says “I see you!” to us and means it!
Ombré, meaning “shaded” in French, is the blending and gradation of one color hue to another, usually from dark to light. It is becoming an increasingly popular technique in fashion, hair color, nail art and baking. I recently heard the term used by one of our authors to describe a sky at sunset.
The more I thought about the term ombré, the more I realized the concept has religious overtones, if you will. When we think of the death and resurrection of our Lord, for instance, that is an ombré moment as Christ moves from the darkness of death on Good Friday to the light of life on Easter. Mary Magdalene came to the tomb on Easter morning “while it was still dark,” John 20:1 tells us, but the light of the sun gradually rose as she began to realize that the Son of God had risen.
The concept can also be applied to our experience of sanctification, as we gradually grow closer and closer to becoming more like Christ. As the Bible says, “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit” (2 Corinthians 3:18). It is a process for us to develop in our faith from the darkness of disconnect with our Savior to the brightness of unity with him. Living within the shades in between can be difficult, though, when doubt and certainty mix, as they must have for the disciples on Holy Saturday. But if ombré has taught us anything, it is that things will only grow brighter. Our lives will become more beautiful with our Savior with each passing day. And our relationship with him will only become more saturated with his glory.
In the story of the Tower of Babel in the Bible, we read that people on earth at one time all spoke the same language. In their arrogance, they decided to start building a massive tower that would reach to the heavens. But God confused their language, the Bible says, taking their power away and humbling them (Genesis 11:7). The building of the tower stopped and the people scattered to various parts of the world.
The story of the Tower of Babel has some vital applications to our circumstances today. I am thinking now about how many groups of people in the world are starting to speak the same languages of hate and discord no matter what their native languages may be. They are building “towers,” if you will, of influence and power that are negatively influencing the advance of the kingdom of God in the world.
Into the growing spread of divisive language, our God enters and breaks up the network of hostile talk to replace it with a language of love, which is then spread to all the world. The result is a discourse that is grounded in Christ and not on ourselves. It is a communication that is built on giving and not taking away. The language of love transcends all other languages and fosters forgiveness over domination.
God wants there to be no more babbling about what we dislike in one another, but, instead, an understanding that we work better together when we speak first in love.
During the past year with more people staying home, the time people spent watching shows and movies on streaming services rose sharply. According to one news report I saw, one activity that increased the most was binge-watching. For those of you who don’t know, binge-watching means viewing a series of movies or episodes of a show one after the other at a single sitting or over several days in a row. There is a certain delight that people receive in finishing a set of movies or all the seasons of a show in a relatively short amount of time.
The whole idea of binge-watching got me to thinking about how we might apply the same principle to our reading of the Bible. Could we engage in Bible-binging, if you will, as part of our daily and weekly routines? There are many programs that offer a way to read the Bible every day for a year or two or three to complete the reading of the entire Old and New Testaments by the end. This can be a very rewarding and satisfying practice. But I am thinking more of just our general approach to Bible reading. Is it something that we set aside chunks of time for and that we are excited to take a deep dive into?
It should be, of course, but we can find a million and one reasons not to read our Bibles these days. But now is the time we need the Bible the most. The stories inside of God’s people through the ages are true life experiences of love, betrayal, reunion, suffering, triumph, learning, growing, and ultimately salvation in our Savior Jesus who provides us with a happy ending to our lives. Sounds a lot like the aspects of some shows we binge watch, doesn’t it? But the stories of the Bible can help us and guide us in our everyday lives more than any TV show can.
So why not try some Bible-binging this week and pick a book or a section of Scripture to read in blocks of time over a period of days? Let the Holy Spirit move you and inspire you to read the Bible with fresh eyes and with a new-found curiosity and joy in the words that our God is sharing with us and just waiting for us to read for the first time or again. Let the Bible-binging begin!
If anyone wishes to be first, he shall be the last of all and the servant of all. Mark 9:35
Who are people who are usually thought to be first? You might
say the richest or the ones with the most powerful jobs, or the ones who are
famous or who star in movies and television shows.
Who are people who would be thought of as last? Maybe you would say people who are poor or homeless, or people who are meek and shy.
Jesus lets his disciples know that those who want to be first
will be last of all. This is a way of saying it doesn’t matter how rich or
famous you may be in the kingdom of God. If being rich and famous is most
important to you, then you will be last in the kingdom of God because you do
not put God first.
It is those who are poor in the things of this world who are put first in the kingdom of God because God looks out for the poor and lowly and cares about those who are humble the most. God chose a stutterer named Moses to lead the Israelites out of Egypt. God chose the little shepherd boy David to be king. God chose Mary, a simple young girl, to be the mother of Jesus. All over Scripture, God chose the last person you would expect to be the first person he picked.
What does this mean for you and me? It means that we should not
seek to be first in the things of this earth. We should not run to be first in
line or the first person to get served. We should be humble and let others go
before us. Whenever we put ourselves last, we are putting ourselves first with
God, because he loves those who put others above themselves.
So put yourself last on this earth that you might be first in
the eyes of God. You will be blessed.
Happy Easter to you all! When the women went to the tomb on that first Easter, they expected to be greeted by a large stone rolled in front of the door. Instead, the found the stone rolled back and an angel announcing, “He is not here! He is risen, as he said” (Mathew 28:6). As they ran from the tomb, the women met Jesus, who said, “Greetings!” And they came up and took hold of his feet and worshiped him (Matthew 28:9). Then Jesus said to the women, “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee, and there they will see me” (Matthew 28:10).
The progression of events on Easter is a good indicator to us of how we should approach this special day. We should not let anything block the good news of Easter, but roll away all those things that prevent us from seeing the empty tomb and hearing the resurrection message. We welcome the risen Jesus with worship and awe and humility, as the women did. Then we should go and share the good greetings from our Lord that he is alive.
Welcome, worship and witness. It’s all pretty simple, really. The events of Easter Day map out for us a pattern of living that is easy for us to remember and powerful in what it accomplishes. Won’t you join me in following the three W’s of Easter every day of our lives? For every morning is Easter morning from now on.