A Personal Devotional Journal

I invite you to journey with me. Sometimes we will look at short passages of Scripture and I will give my first thoughts and impressions. Other times, I will just share my thinking about spiritual issues. Always, you are welcome to comment and add your thoughts. Together, we could learn something.

Monday, May 28, 2012

John 1:9-13 "Children of God"

The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world.  He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him.  He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him.  But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God,  who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.

 These few sentences contain the Gospel in a nutshell.  There are a few words here that help us understand the bigger picture -to see how much Truth is contained in so few words.

First, "He came to his own" -in the original language that this was written in, the wording here would have implied that "He came to his own things."  This would mean, then, that when it says his "own people did not receive him," it is not specifically referring to the Jewish people, but to all people -the people He created.  The Creator came to His creation and was not recognized and not received.  He was rejected.

But some did not reject Him.  Some did receive Him.  This is still true.  Many reject Him -in fact, most reject Him.  But some do not.  Some believe.  And those who believe, He gives the right to become His children.

Some translations word this, "he gave the power to become children of God."  The Greek word translated here as right or power (exousia),  means endued with ability, authority and privilege to make a choice.

Not everyone believes who Jesus is -the reality of Creator having come to His own creation to be an atoning sacrifice for the sins of humanity.  Many people outright refuse to believe in any god.  Some believe in other gods, but not in the reality of Jesus Christ.  But some believe.  And to all who believe, He gives the ability, authority and privilege to make the choice to be His children.

The word children (teknon), is not the generic idea that since all humanity was created by God, all are His children.  Instead, this word means literally His offspring, with the intimacy and rights and privileges and inheritance that go along with a parent-child relationship.

An important implication of this passage is that belief in who Jesus is does not directly bring about the intimate relationship with God.  Instead, it opens the door to intimacy with God.  It is possible to believe, and never enter into the relationship.  In the book of James we read, "You say you have faith, for you believe that there is one God. Good for you! Even the demons believe this, and they tremble in terror." (James 2:19)  But, when we believe, God grants us the ability and authority to choose to enter into a deep, meaningful, intimate relationship.  We can move beyond the intellectual into the spiritual reality of intimacy with Father through Jesus, the Son.

Lord. help me today to choose to move beyond intellectual agreement with the facts of who You are.  I want to be your child.  I desire the intimacy of having a Father who loves me.  Help me make the wise choice of relationship.  Amen.


Friday, May 11, 2012

John 1:1-5 :In The Beginning"

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was in the beginning with God.   All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.   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.

The ancient Greeks had a philosophical concept of all of the collective wisdom of the gods being manifest in human form.  It was called the Logos (capital g).  The Logos is translated into English as "the Word."  It wasn't something they necessarily believed -it was more a teaching device to put all of their spiritual and philosophical wisdom in one place.

The writer of the third gospel (the Gospel of John), however, makes use of this teaching device to clarify something about Jesus to the early church spread throughout the Greko-Roman empire.  There really is such a person.  He did not contain the collective wisdom of "the gods"; rather, He was Himself God.  He was the author and creator of everything that exists, and He became human and lived among us to teach us things we did not understand about God.

He (the Logos/Word) was the creator and in Him was life.  Apart from Him, there is no life -either spiritually or physically.  He is the source of life (physical) and light (spiritual).  The point is that whether people believe this is true or not, does not change the reality of the situation.  Our belief is not what makes it so. 

He was not just the originator of life, He is the continuing source of life; everything and everyone that exists, exists at His command.  He is the continuing source of light; He is the source of love, joy, peace, goodness, mercy, justice, faithfulness, justice, grace, gentleness, etc.  He continues to shine in the darkness (evil, hatred, bigotry, perversion, etc.), and the darkness does not overcome it. 

Jesus, in a world of darkness, today let me reflect Your light genuinely and accurately.  Amen.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Matthew 28:16-20 "And In Closing..."

Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go.  When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted.  Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,  and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

 In these parting thoughts, Jesus made several profound and important statements -statements that mean more than we might imagine at first glance.

First, when Jesus said "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me," it implies that before His death and resurrection, Satan acted with a measure of authority.  If that was once true, Jesus makes it clear that it is no longer true.  If Jesus has all authority, the enemy has none.  Period.

It is important as Christ followers that we understand that our enemy no longer has authority.  Our enemy is powerful, but unable to wield that power indiscriminately.  Authority trumps power.  Think of any professional sport and we can begin to grasp the difference between power and authority.  In American football, for instance, we have some of the biggest, strongest men in the world wearing high-tech armor and equipment, using all of their power and strength to move the ball down the field.  The referees, on the other hand, are not necessarily big or strong and have no protective equipment at all.  But when the referee blows his whistle, all of the big strong men stop and obey.  The players have power, but the referee has authority.  We do not have to fear the enemy.  Our enemy has power, but in Jesus, we have authority.  

The second thing we should notice is that Jesus gives us a mandate.  I think that most Christians understand that we are to go, but we get confused about what we are to be doing as we go.  Jesus says that we are to go and make disciples; instead, we usually settle for making converts.

In our ministry, we define a disciple as a person who has become an apprentice of Jesus; someone who is willing to rearrange all of his/her life around the teachings and purposes of Jesus in order to become like Jesus.  That is different than a convert.  A convert is someone who has decided that Christianity will be his/her religion.  A disciple is different even than a follower of Jesus.  A follower is someone who admires and believes and is in agreement with Jesus.  But a disciple is learning to be like Jesus.  Our mandate is to make disciples.

And the final thing that I see in this passage is the promise of Emmanuel (God with us).  Wherever we go, whatever we do, Jesus is present with His disciples.  God is with us.

Lord Jesus, teach me to walk in Kingdom authority as I rearrange my life around your purposes and practices in order to be a disciple so that I can make more disciples.  Amen.