Journey through John: The light

When I read through the book of John as a whole, the word “light” jumped off the page time and again. Over and over throughout the book, light is referenced.

John 1:4-5 says, “In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” This immediately brought to mind Isaiah 9:2: “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shined.”

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Image by Andreas Lischka from Pixabay

Just as there are several references to light in John, there are also several references to light in Isaiah. The prophet repeatedly spoke of the Light that was to come–the light of the sun that will equal the light of seven days when the Lord binds up the brokenness of his people and heals their wounds (30:26), a light for the nations (42:6), the Lord promises to turn darkness into light (42:16), his justice will be a light for the peoples (51:4), and the glory of the Lord will arise on the darkness and draw all nations (60:1-3). These are only some of Isaiah’s light references. John surely had these in mind when he also kept using language of light.

Jesus is the Light of the World. He is a piercing, agonizing, unbearable light to those who love the darkness. But He is the light of life and freedom and glory to those who are called by His name.

Think about the light as we experience it:

Light is safety and security to those who are afraid of the dark. You have to brave a dark, creepy, or unknown room? What do you do first? Turn on a light.

Light brings healing and wholeness to that which festers in darkness. Have a private hurt from long ago that just won’t leave you alone, or a secret sin that continues to plague you no matter how hard you try to stop? Tell someone. Get it into the light. Healing and wholeness and freedom will follow.

Light brings clarity to that which has been shadowed. Have you ever been outside wearing sunglasses on a bright sunny day? You get accustomed to seeing everything through your darkened lenses and it can start to seem real. At the pool the other day, that was the case for me. Suddenly, one of my kids said, “Wow! It’s going to storm!” I peeked over my sunglasses and realized that what had looked like normal cloud cover through my lens was actually a very dark, menacing storm. I gathered my kiddos and we made it to the van and out of the parking lot just before the wind picked up and the rain began to fall. My view was distorted and I needed light to clarify. This is true when we are influenced by false teaching or wrong thinking, or just confused on a particular issue. We need the light of truth to bring correct understanding.

On the flip side, in some situations, light is not a positive thing.

Light brings terror to that which feels secure in darkness. Think of an exterminator shining his flashlight in a dark corner: the bugs scurry and flee to get away from that light. That’s why the term exposé has a negative connotation to it. This term is usually used to refer to some sort of wrongdoing that has been covered up and is now exposed, or brought to light, and the culprits are almost always scurrying around frantically to flee or cover their tracks. That which loves darkness is terrified of the light.

Light also brings agony to that which is cursed. The most practical picture I can think of here is a migraine. I had always heard of migraines, seen my dad suffer with them and my husband on a few occasions, but until the past year or so had never experienced one myself. Then one day I had a headache that built and built until the light of even a dim room was too painful for my eyes brought tears. I craved the darkness because the light was excruciating. Well, what are migraines besides evidence of the curse of sin? Anything embodiment of the curse, whether that’s a migraine or some form of evil sin, will experience agony in the light.

And finally, light is dazzling and overwhelming for those who are accustomed to darkness or shadow. When we have been in a dark building, or even a lighted building, and walk outside into the true light of a sunny day, we instinctively squint or put our hand up or put our sunglasses on. We aren’t used to such brightness. The good news here is that we can slowly adjust. The light does draw us. The world is exponentially more beautiful in true light than it is behind shades. We know that. So we endure the discomfort until our eyes adjust and can handle the light.

Christ is the true Light. In the here and now, His light is still shadowed. We see as through a glass darkly. Our eyes, even when as wide open as we can get them, still have shutters on them. Even so, even through our shuttered eyes and with His light shadowed, we still can’t bear to look on Him here without His mercy and grace to give us eyes to see. And we certainly will never be able to stand in the presence of His unfiltered, dazzling, Glory and Light without the protection He offers us through His blood.

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Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Oh, Jesus, be my Light. Illuminate the dark corners of my heart, and help me to bear up under your Light as it exposes what needs removed. Draw my eyes toward your Light and help me keep them focused there, and continue to help me see You with brighter and brighter clarity. Thank You, thank You, for shining Your light into my darkness.

What thoughts and insights do you have as you think about Jesus being the Light of the World, being the Light that shined on a world of darkness? I’d love to see your comments!

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Journey through John: Believing is seeing

One of the main themes of the book of John is that it was made obvious over and over again that Jesus was the promised Messiah, yet many still did not believe. It’s so easy for us to read these accounts of all that Jesus did, and be incredulous that anyone could have been right there among all His signs and miracles, and yet still refuse to acknowledge who He was. If we had seen all of that, we think, we definitely would not have been so obtuse.

However, although we are conditioned to think that seeing is believing, that is not always the case, especially when we’re talking about spiritual sight.

Have you seen the movie “The Santa Clause” with Tim Allen? It was a favorite of mine as a child, and my kids now love it, too. In that movie, a detached, workaholic father ends up at the North Pole being told that he is now the new Santa Claus. Although his son is ecstatic, he just cannot wrap his brain around all that is surrounding him. At one point, he says to the sweet elf who is trying to help him, “I see it, but I don’t believe it.”

He is exactly like those who walked the streets with Christ, seeing all His mighty works, hearing His wisdom and teaching, hearing Him claim deity with authority time and time again, and yet refusing to believe He was who He said He was. They saw it, but they didn’t believe it. Some did, of course, but many didn’t. So what made the difference? How could two people see the exact same thing, and one believe what they were seeing while the other doesn’t?

I think the answer Judy the elf gave Tim Allen’s character is the key: “Seeing isn’t believing. Believing is seeing.” When we are talking about spiritual realities, oftentimes we have to believe it in order to see it. The Jews and Pharisees of Jesus’ day adamantly refused to believe that He was the Messiah. They hardened their hearts just like Pharaoh did with Moses. They didn’t want to believe, and so they couldn’t see.

Where does this belief come from? It comes from God. No one is able to muster up belief on their own. Some believed and some didn’t because God. God must open the eyes of our hearts (please forgive me for getting that overdone song in your head) to believe, or we will never see.

There is honestly not much more that can be said. As I read this, studied it, thought about it, heard it preached a few weeks ago, and have been mulling on it since, I am just so thankful for the work of God to enable me to believe. And this drives–or should drive–me to pray more faithfully and fervently for those around me who do not believe and do not see. Sometimes we want to keep showing them evidence or Scripture over and over, getting frustrated that they still can’t seem to see it, when until they believe, they won’t be able to. Not even if we put it up in neon lights. May this drive us to our knees to intercede on their behalf that they may believe, and then finally see.

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Photo by Jason Betz on Unsplash

 

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Journey through John: Intro

I recently embarked on a journey through the book of John. I had finished up a Bible study and really wanted to learn more about diving deeper into a book of the Bible on my own, so I asked my husband for tips. Since he was just preparing to start preaching through the book of John, he invited me to join him in study. Invitation accepted.

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The first thing he told me to do was to read the whole book and try to outline it. I immediately started feeling twitchy. I like definite right or wrong answers. Outlines are relatively subjective. But, I HAD asked for his input, so I got brave and went for it.

It’s amazing how much it made me think differently to do an outline like this. I had to step back and look at the book as a whole, seeing how different sections worked together instead of just reading it one event at a time like we typically read the Gospels. Now I’m really looking forward to progressing through the book studying each passage on its own, in light of the bird’s-eye view the outline gave me. So I’ll share my outline here, but remember, 10 people could outline the book of John and have 10 different outlines. Case in point: I didn’t look at the outline in my study Bible until after I finished mine, and the two are very different. There’s not a teacher’s manual for the Bible that has the ultimately correct outline for the book of John. This is the way things clicked in my head as I studied the pieces, and I had it husband-reviewed before sharing it here, and he said it’s biblically sound. 🙂

I’m excited to share more insights from John as I dig deeper into this beautiful eyewitness look at the life of Christ on Earth. And please share your thoughts on each passage with me, as well. Let’s journey through John together!

Outline of John:

I. Preparation for Active Ministry (1:1-51)
A. Jesus’ Intro to the World (1:1-18)
B. Transition from John to Jesus (1:19-34)
C. Calls disciples (1:35-51)

II. Firsts (2:1-4:54)
A. First miracle (2:1-12)
B. First open challenge (2:13-25)
C. First open statement of purpose (3:1-36)
D. First offer of Gospel to non-Jew (4:1-45)
E. First healing (4:46-54)

III. Challenges (5:1-8:59)
A. Challenges old Law by healing on Sabbath (5:1-18)
B. Challenges Jews and claims deity (5:19-47)
C. Challenges crowds (6:1-59)
D. Challenges disciples (6:60-71)
E. Challenges family (7:1-9)
F. Challenges Pharisees (7:10-8:59)

IV. The Last Straw (9:1-11:57)
A. Healing blind man, angers leaders (9:1-10:21)
B. Claims equality with the Father, escaped stoning and arrest (10:23-42)
C. Raises Lazarus, organized plot to finally kill Him (11:1-57)

V. Lasts (12:1-17:26)
A. Last days before Jerusalem (12:1-11)
B. Last entry into Jerusalem (12:12-19)
C. Last plea to crowds (12:20-50)
D. Last supper/last time with disciples/last teaching (13:1-16:33)
E. Last recorded extended prayer (17:1-26)

VI. Promises Fulfilled (18:1-21:25)
A. Betrayal, arrest, trial, crucifixion, burial (18:1-19:42)
B. Resurrection (20:1-18)
C. Post-resurrection appearances (20:19-21:25)

 

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Throwback Thursday: I’d follow you anywhere 

In honor of our 2-month-late anniversary celebration today, I’m posting an anniversary throwback. Loving those Wrigley Field pics, and wishing a new one would be added today, but we’ll have to settle for cheering on the Cubs from Saint Louis this time.

So grateful for this man, our marriage, all these memories, and the opportunity to make some new ones today. Go Cubbies!

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See more of our journey at I’d follow you anywhere 

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Not exactly “Twitter”pated

Have you seen Bambi? Remember that part when spring comes and they’re all falling in love? The owl (I think? It’s been awhile) scoffs at all the young couples with one word: twitterpated. It means enamored, starry-eyed, absorbed. In love.

Well, maybe that’s a goofy analogy to use for this post, but it has the word “Twitter” in it, and it’s the best I could come up with for my musings on a venture back into the Twitterverse.

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I had been active on Twitter several years ago, but slowly lost my taste for it and eventually deleted it from my phone and stopped going there altogether. However, last month at the SBC, so much was going on and being said and I knew that I was completely out of the loop and the loop could be found on Twitter. So I cautiously installed the app back on my phone, followed a few new accounts, and prepared myself to be enlightened and enriched, or at least informed. After about six weeks or so now, I can definitely say that I am NOT twitterpated with Twitter, or sadly, with many of the Christian leaders that I follow there.

Here is what I have learned:

  • Twitter is not Facebook. I’m not sure if it’s the character-count limit, or just that Twitter itself breeds a whole different flavor of conversation. On Facebook, if you are making a point, you have no word limit and so you can explain yourself rationally. (Well, some people can. Others give a valiant effort.) On Twitter, while you can use the loophole of threads to get around the character limit by posting a succession of tweets to finish out your lengthy point, even then there is the pressure to be more concise because not everyone will scroll down to find the end of a 14-tweet thread. Therefore, points are made with no background, no explanation, and oftentimes no grace. Not enough characters for grace, apparently. I get that Facebook has its share of heated debates and ruthless posts and comments, but even with all my Facebook experience, I was unprepared for the level of sharpness I’m finding on Twitter.
  • Snark is apparently now considered a spiritual gift. If you want to be one of the cool kids on Twitter, you need to stock your phone with a ready supply of memes and gifs featuring snarky comebacks and arrogant responses, because that’s how the game is played. If you can combine one of these with a quote tweet of the person you are disparaging, bonus points for you. Someone tweets something you disagree with? Or actually, someone you disagree with tweets anything at all? Slam them for all to see, and the snarkier the better. After all, by relying on your snark and arrogance toward others, you save yourself from actually having to come up with any thoughts of your own to type out.
  • Being slow to speak is being on the wrong side of history. You know those Scriptures that seem to evolve in meaning, so that what appears to be a clear teaching is now no longer so? The command to be slow to speak, to consider a matter before you address it, to believe the best in love about a brother or sister–these things are no longer necessary. Keep up. If you see a tweet or hear a matter, jump in and blast it. No further details needed. Sometimes when I tap that blue bird icon on my phone, I have a feeling of internally hunkering down as if a storm is about to blow over my house, because it’s maybe been a full day since I tapped in and there are bound to be storms of tweets and responses over some huge drama that didn’t even exist yesterday. People have this new amazing ability to hear some new news, consider it, formulate a well-reasoned, fair, and charitable response, and communicate it in 140 characters or less within 15 minutes of the first report of said news. Well, maybe not so well-reasoned. Or fair. Or charitable. But the time frame is definitely not exaggerated.
  • Twitter can show you more than you wanted to know. When I first logged on, both my original log-in and this recent adventure, my first inclination was to follow as many leaders, authors, speakers, artists, etc, as I could think of that I like or follow in real life. This is not always a wise approach. Some people who write about love and compassion in book or song do not follow their own advice when on Twitter. Some people whose writings had great influence on my spiritual growth show a sliding off the rails on Twitter. Sometimes, you just find out more than you feel comfortable knowing about who people actually are or what they believe now. It makes it difficult to continue appreciating someone’s work when you see a different side of them on Twitter. Sometimes, ignorance is bliss.
  • If Instagram highlights the best in people–posting only those pics that shine a favorable light on our lives–Twitter seems to highlight the worst. This is not true across the board–I follow a few people that have managed to avoid being sucked into the sinkhole of negativity that is the majority of Twitter. However, they are the minority as far as I can tell. Negativity breeds on Twitter. The positive, encouraging posts may get a few hearts and responses, but the critical snarky posts, particularly if they tag a victim, get loaded with responses, many of which will be a gif of someone applauding or amen-ing or eating popcorn, enjoying the show. Bonus points to them. Twitter is where the drama-addicts live. They thrive there, and it isn’t pretty.
  • Twitter, to some, is like DisneyWorld. At DisneyWorld, you–an ordinary peasant–have the chance to meet in real life all the princesses and villians and mice that you have previously only been able to admire from afar. Twitter is like that. It’s a weird kind of level playing field where anyone has access to this celebrity or that leader. All you have to do is tweet their name and it will at least have a chance of being seen by them. It’s sometimes awkwardly painful to see ordinary people responding to, mentioning, or joking to their celebrity “crushes” in the apparent hopes of getting a nod back. It just feels like being in a crowd of teeny-boppers screaming to get the New Kids on the Block to touch their fingertips at times.

Maybe this is a harsh assessment. Maybe I just follow the wrong people. I most definitely re-entered at the wrong time following the wrong people if my goal was to be encouraged instead of watching a cage fight (ahem, SBC and Founders). Maybe I’m too sensitive. And I know Facebook has its glaring problems as well. But when it’s all said and done, Facebook is way more my speed, even with all its quirks. So as soon as I can figure out another way to stay informed on the hot topics in the SBC and evangelical world so that I can know what they’re talking about at the next convention meetings, I will probably be bowing out again. Until then, I’ll put up my storm shutters and try to survive the waves without completely going under. If you have suggestions on who I should follow to help my feed skew more happy and less arrogant, I’m all ears.

 

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