Seeing And Believing

Scripture Focus: Acts 28.25-28
25 They disagreed among themselves and began to leave after Paul had made this final statement: “The Holy Spirit spoke the truth to your ancestors when he said through Isaiah the prophet:
26 “ ‘Go to this people and say,
“You will be ever hearing but never understanding;
you will be ever seeing but never perceiving.”
27 For this people’s heart has become calloused;
they hardly hear with their ears,
and they have closed their eyes.
Otherwise they might see with their eyes,
hear with their ears,
understand with their hearts
and turn, and I would heal them.’
28 “Therefore I want you to know that God’s salvation has been sent to the Gentiles, and they will listen!”

Reflection: Seeing And Believing
By Rev. John Paul Davis

In a Special Edition of Scientific American Magazine, Sharon Guynup asks, “Is Seeing Believing?” Her article addresses how sensory illusions shape our reality. 

Acts 28 documents the latter stages of Paul’s ministry. After approximately 28 years of rejection from Jewish leaders and followers, 28 years of debates among false apostles, 28 years of preaching and teaching to Gentile believers, and 28 years of hardships, trials, persecutions, and slanderous accusations, Paul now finds himself under house arrest, in Rome. Yet, he remains committed to the gospel of Jesus Christ.

If seeing is believing, why was it so difficult for many Jews to accept Jesus as the manifestation of the Law and the Prophets after seeing and hearing of Jesus’s resurrection? If seeing is believing, why did many Gentile converts revert back to their previous ways of idolatry after seeing and hearing of Paul’s miraculous healing abilities (Acts 20.7-12)? If seeing is believing, why was it not evident to many that Paul experienced a life-transforming event so dramatic that he changed his name and ceased being a Christian-despising Pharisee to become a humble servant of the Lord Jesus Christ? 

Saul claimed to have had a unique and personal experience with Jesus, which transformed him and thus his life. One could venture to say the truth lies in the fact that it is our personal experiences (what we encounter) and not our senses (what we see or hear) that shape our realities! So then, the question for us to answer is what personal experience have we had with Jesus that points to a transformative experience in our lives today? If there is none, try praying for someone, meditating on a bible verse, or even taking a moment to reflect on the good in your life. It just may be that reading or hearing the Word of God may not be enough to believe in Jesus as the Son of God. We need to show people Jesus.

Father God, I pray that every reader of this devotional will have the opportunity to confess to others your life-changing abilities in having Jesus Christ as Lord over their lives so that others may continue to see and believe through their actions and behaviors that you are the God of all creation and there is no other like you! Amen!

Divine Hours Prayer: A Reading
Jesus taught us, saying: “Sell your possessions and give to those in need. Get yourselves purses that do not wear out, treasure that will not fail you, in heaven where no thief can reach it and no moth destroy it. For where your treasure is, there is where your heart will be too.” — Luke 12.33-34

Today’s Readings

Jeremiah 4 (Listen -5:23)
Acts 28 (Listen – 4:56)

Read more about The Shema and The Lord’s Prayer
Shema implies not just hearing words but carrying them out. In The Lord’s Prayer, action is also implied.

Jericho’s Wall :: Readers’ Choice

Selected by reader, Barbara, from Chattanooga
Following God is His call on us. We don’t “deserve” anything. Some hard, and exciting lessons in this story!

Scripture Focus: Joshua 5.13-14
Joshua went up to him and asked, “Are you for us or for our enemies?” 
“Neither,” he replied, “but as commander of the army of the Lord I have now come.”

Reflection: Jericho’s Wall :: Readers’ Choice
Originally published July 3rd, 2019
By John Tillman

If you ask Christians how the inhabitants of Jericho responded to Israel and their silent marching around the city, most will probably say they taunted them and that the point of the story is that the Israelites demonstrated faith by following God’s strange plan despite being made fun of. This is a complete fabrication. There is no textual evidence to suggest that the Israelites were teased or taunted at all by Jericho.  

Scripture doesn’t shy away from a great taunt. The scriptures are full of them. God himself delivers sharply barbed taunts. Even Jesus gently taunts Nicodemus. But no taunts are recorded here.

Jericho wasn’t in a taunting mood. They were terrified. No matter how funny the French Peas are in a Veggie Tales video, the reality is that scripture tells us multiple times how terrified everyone in Canaan was of Israel, but it never tells us once that they taunted Israel or made any comment about God’s plan of marching around the city.

It’s not difficult to see why Jericho was terrified. This gigantic group of former slaves destroyed the entire army of Egypt—the world-wide superpower of its day. Today, this would be comparable to the United States military being wiped out by an opponent. Then this same group traveled through the desert completely destroying any king or nation that stood up to them. Then, these desert-crossing, dangerous, religious fanatics show up at Jericho’s border, crossing the river without permission and in a miraculous fashion.

One possible reason for our extremely poor handling of scripture, in this case, is that, when teaching children, we are so uncomfortable with the idea of God ordering the Israelites to wipe out an entire city, we need a distraction. “Perseverance amidst taunting” is a kinder-gentler lesson to teach children. 

This erroneous reading of scripture turns the power dynamic upside down allowing us to feel “persecuted” like the Israelites and justified in destroying our enemies.

But God isn’t interested in destroying people we call our enemies. If the commander of the Lord’s army was not on Joshua’s side, we can rest assured that the commander of the Lord’s army is not on “our” side today. Especially if we define our side so narrowly as to exclude those outside of something so meaningless and trivial as a political party.

The lesson of Jericho’s wall is not that God’s plans are weird, and people will make fun of us, but we should follow God anyway. The lesson of Jericho’s wall is that it is God who initiates judgment, not us. The lesson is that we don’t deserve what God has given us and that if we are unfaithful, we too will face God’s wrath and no wall will stand in its way.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Cry of the Church
Even so, come Lord Jesus! — Revelation 22.20

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
Ruth 2 (Listen – 3:56) 
Acts 27 (Listen – 6:09)

This Weekend’s Readings
Ruth 3-4 (Listen – 6:24), Acts 28 (Listen – 4:56)
1 Samuel 1 (Listen – 4:13), Romans 1 (Listen – 5:02)

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Read more about Over Jordan
On the other side of the river is the land that is promised, the land of blessing, the land of freedom, the land of rest, the land of satisfaction and plenty.