The words thudded onto the bottom of my deep well of disbelief.
I give you my word.
How many times have people said those words, only to disappoint me, hurt me, or deliberately betray me?
The thought of trusting people made me flinch, so how could I learn to trust a God I couldn’t see?
That pesky part of my human nature triggered a defense mode after I inventoried scars from a lifetime of let downs.
Just about every time I let my guard down, put my trust in someone, or opened my heart to hope, I got used and abused. When things were going well, I adopted the hurt-them-before-they-can-hurt-me mantra.
Some would explain my response as a natural reflex, as wisdom, as boundaries, or a survival skill. I call it a plain ol’ case of fear.
Sure, wisdom is necessary when living in a fallen world.
Boundaries are healthy and holy tools.
Fear, on the other hand, imprisons God’s people and creates a distorted view of faith that will never help us nurture relationships with God or others.
How can we stop fear from controlling us?
Scripture gives us a glimpse of how we can start living in freedom instead of fear.
In John 4:46-54, a man approached Jesus. He didn’t seem to know the Lord personally.
He simply acted on a hunch that what people were saying about Jesus was true.
This “certain royal official” came to Jesus with nothing to offer but a raw and desperate belief that Jesus could help him, right where he was in the moment.
It wasn’t his own life at stake, though. This man interceded in a face-to-face prayer on behalf of his son.
He begged Jesus to travel over twenty miles on foot and heal his son (v. 47).
Secured in the belief that Jesus was able, he opened himself up for ridicule and rejection.
Though short, this wasn’t a drive-by-prayer or an over the shoulder afterthought on the way to the next place prayer. He wasn’t praying while distracted by multitasking.
His son was dying.
His need had a deadline.
One curt request became an on-your-knees-Lord-please sob of a prayer. Maybe even a prostrate-before-God prayer.
I’ve been there.
Begging for a breakthrough. Pleading for peace. Crying out for relief. Clawing to the fading edge of hope.
Wanting. Waiting. Wondering if God heard the prayers whispered in the dark, if He realizes the depth of desperation.
Jesus’ response doesn’t really seem directed at the royal official. It’s almost as if the Lord’s looking this broken father in the eyes and clumping the bystanders into the conversation.
“Unless you people see miraculous signs and wonders,” Jesus told him, “you will never believe.” (v. 48)
The royal official appears to notice he might be losing the Lord’s individual attention and offers a quick redirect.
“Uh, hello. Just in case you forgot about me, I’m the one with the dying kid. Would you, like, move a little quicker?” (interpretation totally mine)
He actually says, “Sir, come down before my child dies.”
How many times have we watched God working wonders all around us, while seemingly ignoring the fact that we’re held together with strings of cotton candy?
We compare our circumstances, our pain and our problems, against those of others, as if ranking importance of severity would get God’s attention or make Him pick up the pace.
When we fuss and pout, demanding our need take priority on God’s Must-Fix List, we risk missing out on the Lord’s hints of promises He intends to keep.
In verse 48, Jesus announced He was about to do something epic.
The royal official, caught up in his own moment, missed the promise.
“Open your eyes, people. I’m about to give you one of those miraculous signs and wonders.” (translation mine, verse 48)
Jesus says seven words to the fearful father in verse 50a: “You may go. Your son will live.”
And the man goes.
“The man took Jesus at his word and departed.” (v. 50b)
Reading the rest of the story, we discover the sick child was healed the moment Jesus spoke those seven words in the “seventh hour” (v. 52).
The whole household must have buzzed with praise when the man filled each room with his side of the story: “Thank You, Lord.” “I can’t believe this just happened.” “Did you hear what Jesus did?”
They believed and put their faith in God.
Some would assume the miraculous sign and wonder Jesus told them they were about to witness was the long-distance healing. But Scripture never says those who witnessed the man’s pleading ever received an update on the child’s condition.
What they did witness was the royal official’s wondrous act of faith rewarded by unexplainable peace.
The man believed.
The testimony welcomed more people to believe.
The royal official didn’t rely on his status. He didn’t question the Lord or hesitate before leaving. He didn’t start on the road and flip a U-Turn so he could run back and clarify if Jesus meant what He said.
He didn’t walk slowly, thinking about all the other promises that had been broken in his life.
This man didn’t even stop to pick up a few self-help books, just in case the faith thing didn’t work out.
He didn’t race home with anxious thoughts, looking back and wondering if he’d heard Jesus correctly.
The man simply believed.
Jesus, in a beautiful act of glorious grace, kept His word.
Lord, thank You for affirming us that You are the Word, speaking truth in Your Word, and faithfully keeping Your Word. You are our unchanging, trustworthy, powerful, and merciful living God. Please help us live like we believe every word You ever say to us. In Jesus’ name, Amen
In what situation is God asking you to take Him at His Word? What makes it hard to trust Him with this situation? What makes believing Him easier?
If you don’t know Jesus, yet, or if you want to know Him and trust Him more, I invite you to meet Jesus Face-to-Face in the Gospel of John. Join me next week for: “Do You Want to Get Well?”
(Suggested Reading: John 4:4-26)
A woman rejected, her reputation scorned, changed forever by a scandalous meeting and an unexpected showering of redemptive grace.
Not only does this describe my life before Christ, these are the puzzle pieces that make up one of the most extraordinary God encounters in the New Testament.
On His way back to Galilee, Jesus led the disciples through Samaria.
Samaria, the place condemned by prophets in the book of Hosea (7:1; 8:5-7).
Samaritans, a mixed race seeped in idolatry and despised by orthodox Jews.
So, naturally, Jesus decided to swing through Samaria and chose Jacob’s well as a perfect rest-stop.
Scripture says the disciples went for food. I imagine them grumbling about having to associate with the people they grew up learning to hate.
Meanwhile, the Lord sat by the well, waiting to rock the politically correct boat.
When a Samaritan woman came to draw water from the well, Jesus did something shocking and extraordinary. He asked her for a drink (v. 7).
If they’d been in a palace with empty halls and marble floors, they would have been able to hear an ant’s footsteps.
In the first century, women were considered less-than. Samaritans were quite a few notches below less-than, according to first-century Jews.
The woman Jesus chose for this encounter also wore a badge of disdain stitched by a string of bad choices. Her surprise at Jesus’ request resounded with each syllable. “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (v. 9)
My translation: She raised an eyebrow, adjusted the bucket on her hip, and rolled her neck as she spurted sarcasm. “Are you talking to me?”
This woman’s armor held strong, dents and all, as she accepted past judgements and labels as her personal present-truth.
Did her shield of confidence hide a fear of being condemned for the past she couldn’t change?
But how could this stranger possibly know what her community wouldn’t let her forget?
I picture a gentle and sad smile on the Lord’s face as He shakes His head slowly. “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.” (v. 10)
Although Scripture doesn’t record her actions, I can imagine this sister narrowing her eyes as she focused on what she could see. He had nothing to draw water from the well.
How could Jesus offer her anything she couldn’t get for herself?
Talk about a great example of the insanity that we call self-help.
We think we can do what only God can do. We believe in our own abilities and wonder why we always come up wanting more, different, or the endless something else, as we search for satisfaction.
After Jesus whet her appetite with the promise of eternal life (v. 13), He established His power was like none she’d ever imagined (vv. 15-18).
She slipped back into the comfort of the known, the now, her limited knowledge (v. 19).
Still, Jesus opened the horizon before her and allowed her to taste the sweetness of possibility (vv. 21-24).
In an almost timid tone, our Samaritan sister clutched the familiar, her baggage, the opinions of others that she’d grown accustomed to claiming as her true identity.
What she knew, or thought she knew, would feel safer than being stretched beyond the realm of her understanding.
She said, “I know that Messiah (called Christ) is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.” (v. 25)
Was she reminding herself of a truth she desperately needed to believe, a truth she hoped would wash away the stains of her past or the pain of her present predicament?
From other encounters recorded in the Bible, it’s not hard for me to imagine Jesus leaning toward the woman, lowering His voice, and placing His hand over the quivering knuckles that gripped her empty bucket.
Each syllable flowed from His mouth refreshing her parched heart.
“I who speak to you am he.” (v. 26)
Breath quickening and vision clearing, the woman realized Jesus was the hope she’d been waiting for, the truth she’d been seeking all along.
Jesus made time for her. He listened to her, cared about her, spoke life into her. He extended grace and accepted her, even though He knew everything about her.
The Lord loved her and revealed Himself to her.
He wants to do the same for us.
No matter what our past holds. No matter what our present situation. Jesus invites us to drink deep of His compassion, His unconditional love, grace, peace, and forgiveness. He welcomes us to hydrate with His truth and be rejuvenated by His Spirit.
Jesus accepts us, as we are.
His love sculpts us into the masterpieces He intended us to become since the moment He decided to create each and every one us, beloved and beautiful daughters of the King.
When He speaks to us through His Word and illuminates His truth through His Spirit, we can believe that He is definitely talking to us.
Lord, thank You for leaning in and listening to us. Affirm us with the greatness of Your unchanging truth and perfect love. Help us believe what You say over what we thought was true, or what others think about us. Help us hear You clearly, believe You completely, and heed You courageously all the days of our lives. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
If you don’t know Jesus, yet, or if you want to know Him and trust Him more, I invite you to meet Jesus Face-to-Face in the Gospel of John. Join me next week for: “Live Like You Believe”
(Suggested Reading: John 3:1-21)
The memorized words toppled over my tongue as my mind wandered. Like a jingle I couldn’t escape, the cadence of each phrase remained steady and sure.
I didn’t miss a beat.
Still, familiarity punched the meaning out of each syllable that used to resound with hope.
Merely reciting the right words reduced the promise from a life-giving stream to a tired trickle void of power.
I inhaled each breath of God’s living Word and placed the emphasis on words that refreshed my perspective.
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16, NIV, emphasis mine)
This famous verse often lands with a thud, trapped in the empty well of a heart that has been broken, a heart that has long forgotten the sacrificial pain endured by the One who sealed eternity in loving grace.
But, these banner words were only part of an answer to a seeking soul desperate for enlightenment.
As a Pharisee, Nicodemus would have prided himself in memorizing the Scriptures. But his late night venture demonstrated a longing for more.
Perhaps, somewhere along the journey, the words he’d committed to memory lost meaning.
Perhaps, somewhere along the road, life’s hurts blurred out the hope he once thought secured his joy.
Perhaps, when Nicodemus heard about Jesus, curiosity sparked and a flicker of faith returned.
Something was different about this teacher. Something was different about the things He said and how He interacted with people.
Nicodemus came to Jesus cloaked by darkness and carrying a bag full of assumptions.
“Rabbi, we know you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the miraculous signs you are doing if God were not with him.” (John 3:2, emphasis mine)
First of all, was there a mouse in Nicodemus’ pocket? The rest of the we in his secret group were apparently more comfortable talking about Jesus than talking to Him.
Second of all, Jesus wasn’t just another teacher sent from God. Minimizing Jesus’ identity blocked Nicodemus from seeing that only God in the flesh could perform those miraculous signs that perked his interest.
The fulfillment of all those Old Testament prophecies pointed straight to Jesus as Messiah.
Still, Nicodemus clung to false-understanding.
It’s easier to believe what we think we know, what feels safer to say out loud, what doesn’t set us up for risking rejection, heartbreak, or the need to change.
Jesus loved Nicodemus so much that He invited deeper thinking about the Kingdom of God and the work of the Holy Spirit. He led this seeker to the familiar Scriptures that circled right back to the One who stood before Him.
He said, “Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up . . .” (v. 14)
I imagine Nicodemus’ eyes growing wider, and maybe brimming with tears of disbelief, when revelation hit. This was a story he knew well. He could probably recite the verses backward with a smug smirk on his face.
The light bulb moment couldn’t be taken lightly, and definitely couldn’t be ignored. Could it be?
“. . . that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.” (v. 15)
Eternal life is knowing God intimately, being infused with His power personally (John 17:3).
An intimate connection with the Lord changes the stakes of the game. Life isn’t limited to the now, the what-we-can-see-or-feel. Purpose reaches farther than what we can wrap our minds around today.
Jesus confirmed that what happened with Moses and the Israelites in the desert was a part of God’s plan since the beginning of time.
Because God so loved the world, when we deserved death and earned wrath He offered the gift of life, of freedom in eternity through His grace.
Sure, free will allows some to choose the shackles of sin and unbelief.
“But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God.” (v. 21)
The Father never altered His original plan as He paved the way for the Spirit to connect the dots that led to Jesus as Savior.
Death never stopped being a requirement for life to be received through the Risen King, the Living God.
Even today, in a world where evil corrals people shrouded by sin, death remains a required part of the deal. Death of self-sufficiency. Death of our sinful nature. And in the midst of the grieving, God still faithfully reaches for those who seek Him.
When we focus on one or two verses that are easy to memorize, we risk missing out on the big picture God paints through His story.
Skimming through the Bible or neglecting the daily reading of Scripture only sets us up for the spiritual battle against complacency.
If we approach God’s Word as living and active, we’ll always learn something new about Him and about ourselves.
We don’t have to remain cloaked in darkness or fear what the light reveals. Because no matter what lies in the shadows, God’s love and grace will always be enough.
Lord, thank You for knowing us and inviting us to know You more. Please give us an insatiable hunger to nourish our soul with Your Word. Help us never approach Bible reading with anything less than total dependence on the Holy Spirit, absolute wonder, grateful praise, and complete willingness to surrender in courageous obedience. In Jesus’ name, amen
How does your approach to Bible reading change by knowing God’s living and active Word is His intimate life-letter intended for you to receive and apply to your life personally?
If you don’t know Jesus, yet, or if you want to know Him and trust Him more, I invite you to meet Jesus Face-to-Face in the Gospel of John. Join me next week for: “Are You Talking to Me?”
I took this photo of my husband at Zephyr Point in Lake Tahoe. The name of each author of the Gospels is carved into a wooden plank and nailed to each post. It’s a beautiful place for quiet reflection and prayer.
(Suggested Reading: John 2:1-11)
Jesus turned water into wine at the wedding in Cana. The familiarity of His first miracle can tempt us to skim through the story without seeing the five important truths revealed in the details.
- Surrendered faith paves the way for God to move in miraculous ways. (v. 1)
Jesus heard the echo of faith in his mother’s response to what sounded like His ‘no.’ She could have demanded her way or fussed about His answer. Instead, she accepted His words.
Trust and confidence blanketed her tone as she encouraged the servants to simply obey Jesus.
- God uses the ordinary to perform extraordinary and intimate miracles. (v. 6)
Jesus chose to use the six stone water jars that were already being used at the banquet. He transformed plain water into high quality, fragrant wine.
He didn’t need to feel acknowledged or gain recognition from the masses. Instead, He invited the servants to witness His power in the middle of their work day.
The Lord often works miracles in the midst of the mundane, He uses and blesses the unexpected, the unspectacular, the uninhibited servants who are willing to trust and believe.
- Obedience to God keeps us aligned with God and ready to recognize His touch. (v. 7-8)
When the servants followed Jesus’ instructions, they claimed front row seats to witness God’s power in action.
Their quick obedience displayed a willingness to trust Jesus. All they did was obey Him and wait to see Him move. They were ready. And they weren’t disappointed.
- Miracles are a result of Jesus’ personal touch, which always makes life better. (v. 9-10)
We often fail to recognize the everyday miracles that happen behind the scenes, in our prayer closets, and in the day-to-day moments that make up a transformed life.
Those intimate exchanges when God personally touches our lives don’t often make the front page news, but each one is a miracle of His power and mercy and grace.
- Miracles are evidence of our living God’s intervening power, which deepens our faith in Him. (v. 11)
We limit God’s ability to work in and through our lives when we embrace the symptoms of our unbelief, aka self-reliance, fear, disobedience, and excessive worry.
We demean God when we refuse to acknowledge His presence and His hand in our daily lives.
We miss out on seeing God’s miracles because we place expectations on Him.
The Messiah’s first miracle wasn’t a life-shattering or life-altering event.
When Jesus changed water into wine, He demonstrated His divine power and allowed others to see that power impacting their world.
He only let a few people in on the secret. The master of the banquet and the bridegroom had no idea that God Himself had just performed a miracle in their midst.
But, why were the servants and the disciples able to witness the miracle?
The servants and disciples were willing to obey, willing to wait, willing to see, and willing to believe.
Mary was confident in Jesus’ ability. She trusted His answer, encouraged others to trust Him, and waited to see what Jesus would do.
The servants responded to Jesus’ words with obedience void of hesitation or expectation. They did what they were told to do and waited to see what Jesus would do.
The disciples remained by Jesus’ side, knowing who He was and receiving His words and actions as foundational rocks of their faith.
A miracle is simply defined as an effect or event “considered as a work of God.”
Every single day, God remains living and active, intervening in our lives even when we refuse to acknowledge Him. He provides. He protects. He inspires. He interjects.
He transforms the ordinary as a testament to His power.
With His eternal glory in mind, He intentionally orchestrates events according to His perfect plan. He knows how we’ll respond in our circumstances and is ready to use that response to work in us and through us.
God is with us, working in and through our lives, still in the business of miracles.
One of those miracles is the person reading this sentence now.
Lord, thank You for loving us, for creating us, and for being with us all the days of our lives. Please forgive us for minimizing You and the extent of Your power. Help us celebrate You as our living, loving, and personal Lord and Savior. Please keep us focused on You, continually knowing You more and more intimately, so that we can’t help but recognize Your fingerprints and Your voice. Please help us to be confident of Your abilities, trusting of Your motives, and obedient to Your Word, as we wait expectantly to see Your miraculous works in and through the ordinary days of our lives. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
What are the last three miracles of God’s tangible working in and through your life that you experienced?
Thanks for joining me for this week’s installment of “Meeting Jesus Face-to-Face in the Gospel of John.” If you don’t know Jesus, yet, or if you want to know Him and trust Him more, I encourage you to join me next week for “There’s More around John 3:16,” and ask God to meet us where we are and transform us from head to heart.
(Suggested Reading: John 1:35-51)
“‘Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?’ Nathanael asked. ‘Come and see,’ said Philip.” (John 1:46, NIV)
Come. A command, a calling out, a beckoning requiring risk and commitment. An invitation to join, to commune with, to walk alongside the Lord.
See. A challenge to witness firsthand, to experience through intimate relationship.
Whatever the disciples saw when they first came and encountered Jesus must have impacted them deeply. They left everything behind to follow Him.
Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, heard John the Baptist’s testimony and immediately went after the Lamb of God.
What happened when he stepped into Jesus’ personal space? What did he hear? What did he see that made him so adamant about finding his brother and bringing him to Jesus, too? (John 1:40-42)
Andrew said, “We have found the Messiah (that is, the Christ)” (v. 41).
Without a doubt, he declared Jesus was the one they’d been waiting for.
But, like him, his brother would need to experience Jesus firsthand.
To believe with unshakable faith, one must bask in the Lord’s presence, hear the Messiah’s voice, and feel the power of His personal touch.
Still, something about Andrew’s confidence caused Peter to want to come and see Jesus, too.
Another disciple, Philip, also saw something when he came to Jesus, something that made him drop everything, commit to following the Lord, find Nathanael, and announce that Jesus was “the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote” (v. 45).
What did they see that made them believe with such conviction?
The prophet Isaiah wrote: “He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.” (Isaiah 53:2b)
Jesus had nothing that should have made the first disciples want to follow him. But, oh, they did follow him. And their confidence and excitement caused others to come and see the God-Man.
These disciples connected the dots between the Scriptures of old to the One toward whom the Scriptures pointed, though not all of these men believed immediately. When Nathanael approached Jesus, wariness picked at the corners of his response.
“‘How do you know me?’ Nathanael asked. Jesus answered, ‘I saw you while you were still under the fig tree before Philip called you.’” (v. 48)
In that moment, the sovereign goodness and merciful imminence of the Lord collided.
I can just imagine Nathanael’s expression of disbelief, amazement, maybe even fear.
But, the Lord’s calm words in verse 51 make me smile. It’s as if He’s saying, “You ain’t seen nothing yet!”
Jesus painted promise and hope as He claimed the coming fulfillment of the Scriptures.
This was news worth talking about! But who would believe them?
Mere words aren’t enough when we testify about God.
Yes, our stories are a powerful witness. But nothing can replace a life transformed inviting others to come and see Jesus for themselves.
I made this error with my children.
I told them about Jesus. I shared evidence about how He changed my life. I read the Bible out loud with them. But I failed to invite them to come and see Jesus for themselves, to experience their own relationship with Christ, to make their faith personal.
I failed at this simple task many times with people I love. But in His mercy, God’s taken my numerous failures and demonstrated His limitless power.
God knows it’s His job to save people. He hasn’t forgotten one name on our prayer lists.
He didn’t give up on us. And He won’t give up on those we’re praying for.
But, will we give up?
Will we stop praying for the salvation of our family members, friends, coworkers, neighbors? Will we stop praying for the salvation of the clerks at the grocery store, the servers at our favorite restaurants, the community servants who risk their lives for us?
Or will we pray with fervor as we confidently invite people to come and see Jesus, to experience the security of His love, the freedom of His forgiveness, the joy of the abundant life He promises, and the peace of His constant presence?
The Lord has given us the privilege to pray through the power of the Holy Spirit, proclaim truth with gentleness and confidence, and share His love through authentic relationships with others.
God wants to draw near to those who don’t yet know Him and those who want to know Him more.
He positions us to be His representatives in our little neck of the woods.
He wants to use our testimonies to glorify His name. But testifying can’t be the end of our commitment to Christ.
We all need a personal encounter with Jesus because, no matter how amazing someone else’s testimony is, God wants to work intimately in and through each and every one of our lives.
And we ain’t seen nothing yet!
Lord, thank you for inviting us to come into Your personal space, for opening our eyes to see You, and softening our hearts so that we can receive You. Thanks for strengthening our faith so we can believe You and infusing us with wisdom and courage so we can share You with others. In Jesus name, Amen
Please share the first name or initials of the people you’re praying will receive Christ as their personal Lord and Savior, or someone you’re praying will deepen their personal relationship with Jesus.
Let’s unite with intercessory prayer and ask God to give us opportunity and courage to we invite them to come and join us as we see Jesus face to face in the gospel of John.
Thanks for joining me for this week’s installment of “Meeting Jesus Face-to-Face in the Gospel of John.” If you don’t know Jesus, yet, or if you want to know Him and trust Him more, I encourage you to join me next week for “Watching for Miracles,” and ask God to meet us where we are and transform us from head to heart.