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.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

John 4:46-53 "A Kingdom Compassion"

There was a certain royal official whose son was ill at Capernaum.  When this man heard that Jesus had come from Judea into Galilee, he went to Him and pleaded with Him to come down and heal his son, for he was about to die.
 Jesus told him, “Unless you people see signs and wonders, you will not believe.”
 “Sir,” the official said to Him, “come down before my boy dies!”
 “Go,” Jesus told him, “your son will live.” The man believed what Jesus said to him and departed.
 While he was still going down, his slaves met him saying that his boy was alive.  He asked them at what time he got better. 
“Yesterday at seven in the morning the fever left him,” they answered.  The father realized this was the very hour at which Jesus had told him, “Your son will live.” Then he himself believed, along with his whole household.

 Jesus was, of course, the promised Messiah.  His teaching while He walked the earth focused on the Kingdom of God.  Many of the miracles He performed were simply signs to verify who He was.  As Messiah, His desire was that people (His people -the Jews) would see the miracles and listen to His teaching and understand that His Kingdom was spiritual, and that by believing in who He was and accepting His teaching they could enter into a whole new experience and understanding with God because the Kingdom had arrived.  That was His desire.

His experience, however, was that people were not very much interested in a spiritual kingdom.  People enjoyed seeing miracles and wonders and they longed for freedom from bondage to Rome, but they didn't much care for the reality of the actual Kingdom or the actual Messiah.

Although Jesus' statement to the dying boy's father seems a little curt, it is true.  People did not easily believe the actual truth.  Nicodemus who had met with Jesus at night, believed that Jesus was from God, but at first could not accept the truth of the Kingdom.  The Samaritan woman's first response to a spiritual invitation was purely physical.  People wanted signs and wonders, not truth.

 Nevertheless, Jesus had a Kingdom sized compassion.  Even though people were not ready to accept the whole truth, He preached the Good News; He delivered the demonically oppressed; He brought dignity and justice to the downtrodden; He brought freedom to those living in spiritual bondage; He healed the sick.  And as a result, some believed.

We are not so different than Nicodemus or the Samaritan woman or this court official.  We sometimes need convincing.  We need to experience the reality of the Kingdom before we believe it.  Because Jesus still has a Kingdom compassion, He allows us to experience first and believe second.  Once we have experienced the reality of the Kingdom, however, we need to live it out.  We need to preach the Good News, and deliver the demonically oppressed, and give dignity and respect to the poor, and set free those who live in bondage, and heal the sick.  This is what Jesus did, and it is what we are now called and empowered to do.  The world doesn't know it and certainly doesn't understand it, but the world depends on it.  This isn't just about religion, it is about the actual Kingdom of God as Jesus taught it and demonstrated it.  We are His Body.  We are His presence in this world.  We need to live in His Kingdom.

Monday, October 8, 2012

John 4:35-38 "The Harvest"

You know the saying, ‘Four months between planting and harvest.’ But I say, wake up and look around. The fields are already ripe for harvest.  The harvesters are paid good wages, and the fruit they harvest is people brought to eternal life. What joy awaits both the planter and the harvester alike!  You know the saying, ‘One plants and another harvests.’ And it’s true.  I sent you to harvest where you didn’t plant; others had already done the work, and now you will get to gather the harvest.”

 Jesus illustrates here the difference between the natural and the supernatural.  In the natural the harvest cycle was four months between planting and harvesting.  Plowing and planting was hard work. When the work was done, there was a natural waiting period that could not be rushed.  It took four months for the seeds to sprout, grow and mature.  

Because of the delay, it makes sense that often the hired crew that worked the harvest were different than the hired crew that did the planting.  This is the natural.  In this story, however, Jesus just planted spiritual seed by speaking to an outcast Samaritan woman whose heart God had already prepared.  The right words spoken at the right time under the guidance of the Holy Spirit produced an immediate harvest -no long wait.  Jesus spoke, she responded and brought her entire village to hear Jesus, and many believed.  There was a supernatural harvest in the spiritual sense because Jesus was co-operating with the Spirit, planting where the Spirit had already been at work.

In the natural, we might assume that some educated person ought to come to this village where people are spiritually hungry and begin a teaching ministry with the hope that eventually there would be enough spiritual understanding to produce a spiritual harvest.  When we are co-operating with the Holy Spirit, however, speaking when He says speak -and speaking the words He says to speak, not relying only upon our learning and studying and demographic profiles and five year plans, we can expect a supernatural harvest.

There is nothing wrong with planning and studying.  In fact, we ought to do those things -we ought to prepare.  But at the same time, we should not only rely on natural methods if we want to participate in supernatural ministry; we ought to always be seeking the Spirit about when and where and what to speak.  There are always people in whom God is already working.  When we plant where the Holy Spirit has already cultivated the soil, the harvest is plentiful -it transcends the natural.  

How encouraging it is to work in conjunction with the Spirit -to work where God is working.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

John 4:23-24 "Spirit and Truth"

"Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks.  God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”

The Old Testament Law prescribed how to worship.  This is what the Samaritan woman was alluding to when she said, "Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.”

 According to both tradition and Law, if at all possible, people were supposed to go to the Temple in Jerusalem during the holy days and make sacrifice at the Temple.  There were all sorts of sacrifices and reasons to make them.  There were grain sacrifices and oil sacrifices and animal sacrifices ranging from small to large (doves, goats, lambs, cattle, etc.).  Smaller sacrifices could be made to give thanks and show gratitude.  Larger sacrifices were made for the atonement of sin.  Sacrifices could also be made to seal vows.  And once a year a priest would enter the Holy of Holies, the Most Holy Place, and make a special sacrifice for the sin of the entire nation of Israel.

Making sacrifices at the Temple was a ritualistic act of worship that the Law demanded.  It might engage the emotions and the spirit, or it might not; since it was the Law, it didn't really matter as long as the sacrifice was correctly made.

But everything changed when Messiah came.  Jesus claimed that the entire Law was fulfilled (accomplished brought to completion) in Him.  The Old Testament laws were never God's ultimate plan.  Because the Law was fulfilled in Christ, there is now a new freedom in worship that is not about a location or a ritual.  This new worship is what God has always desired.

This new, authentic worship that God is seeking involves our emotions (spirit) and our minds (truth).  It is not about where we are, it is about who we are.  It is about consciously and intentionally giving our whole selves to Him.  This can be done any time and any place.    It happens as we sing to Him.  It happens as we pray.  It happens as we lie in bed at night and think of Him.  It happens as we give water to a thirsty person or food to the hungry or a blanket to the poor and cold.  Authentic worship happens wherever in spirit and truth we are aware of God's presence with us and we realize His love.  It is real.  it is intimate. It is meaningful.