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“Just believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me.  Or at least believe because of the work you have seen Me do. John 14:11

“Then Jesus told him, ‘Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.'” John 20:29

Seeing is BELIEVING! I believe this to be true.  Yet too often we emphasize the seeing, believing that it is in the seeing that the true believing happens.  Sadly that is not always or even most often the case.

Yet before we get there; let’s quickly discuss the emphasis on seeing in our culture and how the visual permeates our society.  While it is true that a few people can always seem to make their written opinions command attention; especially through applications like Twitter.  The vast majority of written posts are barely read by those have clicked a follow button, let alone been seen by the masses.  Now, you take an ice bucket and dump it on your head, jump out of a moving car and start dancing along side it, be a societal figure known for rigidity but lip sync to some hot new song, wear a wookie mask and start laughing hysterically or find a cute kitten or puppy  scene and you capture it on VIDEO, you may very well find yourself being an instant media sensation.  Why?  Because we get to see it and seeing it means everything. Hey, and I admit, I love a cute, kitten, puppy, baby goat jumping around video as much as anyone.

Yet as fun as some of those things can be; it is the believing concerning what we are seeing or how what we are seeing is shaped by and in turn shapes our subsequent beliefs that is fundamentally important.  Yet today, in our Computer Generated Imagery, anyone with software can manipulate almost any image, Tom Hanks in the movie Forrest Gump receives a Congressional Medal of Honor from President Johnson and it looks real and we have deceased stars still acting in our movies after their death, kind of world; we often have to question just what it is we’re seeing.  For example, I was watching a commercial (for what I don’t remember…age thing) where two dogs flanked a little girl and they were doing something extraordinary but not physically impossible (not speaking words in English).  Now I could have been in awe of the trainer who was able to get the dogs to sit like that and cross their legs, oooorrrrrrrrr, I could just pass it off as really effective CGI.

However, once we can come to the readily accepted conclusion that what we’re seeing is a real happening; then seeing is believing?  I will grant that, yet the truth is that doesn’t mean that we will all believe the same thing from the same image.  Most watch the moon landings with awe and appreciation, where a few watch the exact same images and see fraud and forgery.  Very recently I’ve witnessed the reaction of people to body camera video from police officer involved shootings.  Remember these cameras were put in place to try to quell disputes over the actions of officers.  Yet I’ve watched people watch the exact same video and come to the passionately fervent conclusion that the officer was at fault and others that the person being detained was at fault.  They watched the SAME EXACT VIDEO.

What to take from this.  First, understand that the saying is not seeing is proving or seeing provides indisputable conclusions.  No seeing is believing and what we believe we see is what is going to lead to our conclusions……….and our actions.

Jesus Christ knew this well.  Jesus was not about being a showman, making a spectacle out of Himself or His actions.  Many of His miracles; the raising of the religious leader’s daughter, walking on water, healing the man at the tombs were witnessed by a very few.  Yet He did feed over 5,000 at one sitting and healed a man with a withered hand in the middle of the temple. Yet in the end, with so many having heard and many actually witnessing the miracles that Jesus performed, they still demanded a sign.  And in the end, they still shouted for Jesus to be crucified.

One has to wonder about the Pharisees and other religious leaders who were standing around mocking Jesus as He hung, dying in agony, on the cross.  They proclaimed that if Jesus would only save Himself and come down from the cross, then they would believe He was the Messiah.  I wonder, if Jesus had come down from the cross and confronted them; would the religious leaders bowed and cowered in penitent, sorrowful, repentance for their sins against Jesus?  Or would they have marched over to the Romans and derided and chastised them for screwing up the Crucifixion and allowing Jesus to escape?

Jesus knew and knows that belief doesn’t come from seeing.  Too often we only see what we want to see; what fits neatly into our preconceived idea of the truth and all else is discarded.

There is something else of great importance that we should ponder from this.  What are we looking for?  What are we demanding to see?  Are we longing for some visual sign to strengthen our faith or solidify our belief?  We must see the error and danger in those type of demands.  First we must understand; we are in no position, have no right, as the created to demand any sort of proof or vision from our Creator.  We are not equals to God and our belief or lack thereof, has no bearing or impact on the success of God’s Perfect Plan.  It is by His Grace and Mercy that He goes to the lengths that He has, including the sacrifice of His only Begotten Son, to prove His love for us. Additionally what filters are we using to analyze the things we do see around us?  12 young soccer players and their coach survive for weeks in a flooded cave and are all rescued; a toddler dangles helplessly off a balcony and a man climbs four stories without any help to save the child, an airliner crashes and all 103 people on board survive.  Miracles? Hand of God? Luck? Fate?

The love in the eyes of your child, your spouse, mother, father, brother, friend; just a chemical reaction in the brain? Or is it the blessing of our Almighty Father?  Or what about that spectacular sunrise/sunset; simply meteorology or cosmic blessing?

Jesus Christ asks us to believe.  Believe in God the Father.  Believe also in Jesus Christ, His only Son.  Believe that the Father is in the Son, and the Son in the Father.  Believe Jesus Christ came to earth, died, was resurrected and lives today; all for love.  Jesus Christ asks us to use the phrase; Believing is Seeing.  Faithfully believing opens our eyes to see the blessings, mercy, peace and most importantly love; that our Heavenly Father wishes to show us, to have us see, each and every day.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father, we proclaim and praise You that You have seen fit to show Yourself to us.  That through Your Son Jesus Christ, You want us to witness and then be testifiers to the unending mercy and love You have for us.  Pour out Your Holy Spirit that we would truly see Dear Father.  We also confess that we often do not look to You through eyes of faithful belief but through eyes of worldly skepticism and doubt.  Forgive us Dear Father when we are blind to you and do not allow us to be led astray.  Pour out Your Light that we may truly see You and follow You in the path that leads to praise and glory to Your Name.  We pray in the Name of Jesus Christ.  Amen

“For you remember, brethren, our labor and toil for laboring night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you, we preached to you the gospel of God.”  1 Thessalonians 2:9

“But God said to him; Fool! This night your soul is required of you and the things you have prepared; whose will they be?”  Luke 12:20

“Do not lay for yourselves treasures on earth where moth and rust destroy”  Matthew 6:19

By the time Paul visits the city of Thessalonica, he has already finished one missionary journey and started several churches.  Jesus Christ, Himself had told his disciples, when He sent them out two-by-two, that it was perfectly fine for them to accept gifts of meals and lodging as a recompense for the work they were doing spreading Christ’s message.  Yet the people he came to at Thessalonica, who listened to Paul and received the message of Christ, were not the richest of the city but among poorer and did not have much of anything to spare.  Paul could have taken up a collection to pay for his expenses in staying at Thessalonica and preaching the gospel.  Yet Paul did not want anything to get in the way or burden the Thessalonians or cause obstacles to the establishing of the new church.  So Paul, a tent maker by trade, labored day and night to provide for his own needs.  What Paul was not doing was trying to enrich himself or spread his business to some new locations.  No, although Paul’s tents were not just for the church or follower’s of Christ, His desire was to honor Christ through the use of his secular work.  And Paul’s work lasted as far as the Gospel was concerned.  The church in Thessalonica did last and grew as well and continues to this very day.

Conversely, you have the parable of the foolish rich farmer.  Jesus tells us that the ground of this rich farmer yielded a plentiful harvest.  Understand, at the start of the story, the man was already wealthy.  Even so, when he received an extremely bountiful crop, the rich man did not have enough space to store it.  Now the man, already being rich, could have decided to be generous and give the extra harvest that couldn’t be stored away.  That he did not do; instead, he tore down his barn and built a larger one.  Thus now the man becomes even richer.  Yet good fortune is not done with this man, for he receives an even bigger harvest that will not entirely fit in his new, larger barn.  Now surely he is rich enough to distribute the extra that he has this time.  But, if you’re not aware of the parable, you might still have guessed by the “foolish” in the title of the parable, the man does not.  He again tears down his new larger, barn and builds an even bigger one in which he stores all his bountiful harvest and decides that he now no longer needs to work or worry about anything for he is rich enough to last the rest of his life.  In that sense he is absolutely correct, for God comes to him that very night and informs him that his life is over and all he had struggled for, will go to another.

So as we look at this, both men; Paul and the farmer labored.  The first one, Paul, labored not only in terms of preaching the gospel but also in terms of in a secular way, building tents.  Obviously, in the preaching, Paul was working for and with Christ in mind.  Yet even in the tent making, Paul’s desire was to honor Christ by using the pay he received, for himself.  Yet that alleviated the burden of poor Thessalonians having to contribute to Paul’s welfare and perhaps distracting them from Christ’s message.

In the second instance, the rich man was laboring only for himself.  Even after the man had become wealthy, his wealth was no longer sufficient.  The man felt that with each increasing gain, he must find ways of keeping that gain all to himself.  The motivation for his labor was completely self centered.  One gets the sense that as the rich man was tearing down and rebuilding his barns, he still wasn’t taking time to enjoy the fruits of his labor even as rich as he was.  Finally, after much labor and much gain, he finally believes it is time to enjoy what should be a very lavish, leisurely life style.  It would appear he might have been able to do that for all of one day.

What are we to make of this for us and our time?  Most of us have a vocation.  Most of us work.  I dare say most of us work, yours truly included, in something other than the explicit being a professional preacher of  Christ’s word.  But even if we’re not a preacher, can we see a connection to Christ in our work?  Is it possible through our work, we can either financially or in some other respect relieve a burden from those around us.  In what we do, how we do it, the gain that comes from it, can we maintain a focus on Christ in each of those processes?  Or……is work simply for us?  Is work something we do with which Christ has no meaning or impact.  Is what we do, how we do it and what comes from our work, only for our own consumption and gratification?

It is most probably, the work we do, if only for ourselves will see the material gain not enriching us or our lives for any significant length of time.  We are most likely to find much futility and frustration in self absorbed, self focused effort.

It is equally as likely that should Christ be the focus of our work, what we do, how we do it, what we do with the gain.  We will find significant immediate blessings and success in those endeavors and effects of that work will last a lifetime and longer; probably an eternity.  That would be only fitting as Christ, lived, worked, loved and died for us that we should strive to reflect that effort.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father, we confess that we often see work as a singularly or mostly secular task that fulfills many worldly needs that is often separated from a focus on You.  Yet Lord, You have made it clear that any part of our life that we attempt to keep from You and Your influence will turn disastrous.  So, Most Merciful Father, we pray that You would pour our Your Spirit upon us that will allow us to seek Your influence in all we do including our work.  That You, Dear Father,  would provide us with the insight to see the work You provide us with as an opportunity to serve You. That in dedicating our work life to You, we would live lives of praise to Your Most Holy Name.  We pray in the Name of Jesus Christ. Amen

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