January 2024

Knowledge and love devotional

Knowledge & Love

Knowledge & Love Taken from my article submitted to the Red Rock News Rev. Dona Johnson | Jan 27, 2024 Knowledge is both an astonishing and powerful thing. It empowers, enriches and deepens our understanding of the character and attributes of God. Faith comes from hearing the word of God, says Paul (Ro. 10:17). Our knowledge of God aids our understanding of our own existence, purpose, and salvation. Of course knowing about God as information and knowing Jesus on a more personal level are two different things. The Greeks understood this knowing (ginōskō) a genuinely knowing person, their character, how they think and how they plan. In other words, experience a person on a more intimate level. And through intimately knowing God, we also come face to face with his love, forgiveness and judgment. Knowledge of God through his Word fans the flames of authentic Christian transformation.         But knowledge alone, without love leads to pride and spiritual superiority. Where knowledge with love leads to humility and a genuine sense of caring for others. Paul was sensitive to the various cultural differences and patient with people who were at different stages of faith in order that he might win them to the gospel.          The city of Corinth in 50 A.D. was a city of commerce, trade and hosted a diverse arra y of pagan temples which housed the Greek gods such as Apollos, Asclepius and Demeter. While Apostle Paul was in Corinth, he was confronted with a situation in the church. Often pagan temples offered animals to the gods, they also functioned as butcher shops and banquet halls. It was common place for this temple meat to be sold to the public. Paul instructs the Corinthian Christians not to eat in pagan temples because it may influence and lead to the destruction of weaker Christians. The more mature Christians understood that the idols and thus the meat sacrificed to idols were nonsense and of no avail. Since God is the creator of the animals and the pagan gods had no power to save there was no problem in consuming the meat itself.         New Christians probably found it a constant struggle to move away from the false gods they had worshiped for years to now place their trust solely in Christ. They would run the risk of being shunned by their friends and peers. Paul took a deeply pastoral approach. He provided the time and space for them to process and work through the One God they were trying to embrace and the plurality of other gods they had known for years. Paul had compassion on those weaker in the faith. Paul did not want those who had more knowledge of Christian spiritual practices to be a stumbling block to those who were new to the faith. For in the end it was not the food we eat that makes us right before God but our faith in Jesus Christ.          Is everything to be judged solely from the perspective of how much we know? Or ought everything be judged from the perspective of love? We definitely need both. However, many people have left the faith, the church because they felt scolded and judged for their lack knowledge, for their struggles and questions. Paul insists that our knowledge of the gospel can overpower and alienate if not used with care and compassion. Knowledge can inflate and puff up a person’s sense of importance. Love (agape), by contrast, elevates, builds up (oikodomei) and encourages people at all stages of faith, and affirms their status as those whom God both creates in his image, passionately loves and died to forgive and redeem from the sin and brokenness that plagues us all.          GracePointe of Sedona, a true house church community invites you to join this Sunday at 10:00 a.m. for worship and conversatio—“a way of life.” We will explore the meaning of moral knowledge.          Join us, Wednesdays at 1:30 p.m. at The Gathering Place for conversations on the book of Revelation—the second coming of Jesus Christ.

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Life is Short Devotional

Life is Short

Life is Short Rev. Dona Johnson | Jan 21, 2024 Why does time fly faster as we age? How a clock measures time and how you perceive it are quite different. As we grow older, it can often feel like time goes by faster and faster. This phenomenon is well documented by psychologists. Harvard Professor Adrian Bejan hypothesizes that, over time, the rate at which we process visual information slows down, and this is what makes time ‘speed up’ as we grow older. But however each of us perceive time, with each birthday, our lives are shortened. Everything that breathes has a life span and so it is with us—time is marching on.         The Bible also mentions how human life is short. Psalm 39:4,“ LORD, remind me how brief my time on earth will be. Remind me that my days are numbered— how fleeting my life is.” Psalm 90:12, “So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.” And, Job 14:5 “Our time on earth is brief; the number of our days is already decided by you.”         Paul also understood time is short (1 Cor. 7:29-35). He reminds the people in Corinth that time is running out. What was he referencing? For Paul, he treated the second coming of Christ as if it could occur at any moment. He believed that everything must be laid aside in a tremendous effort to prepare and concentrate on Christ’s coming. Jesus said numerous times that we and not even Jesus knows the day or the hour of his return, so stay awake spiritually (1 Thess. 5:2). So, why did Paul write this message? The Corinthians were facing severe persecution. Following Christ was tearing apart marriages and family relationships. And it required a special focus on the promises of Christ like never before.        The Corinthians needed to remember that life is brief (James 4:14) and this meant their trials were short-lived when compared to eternity. Paul goes on to say, those who are married, who are mourning, who are rejoicing, who are busy buying possessions and securing attachments in the world must live with a renewed focus on the kingdom. In other words, Christians must consider reprioritizing their lives.  For all their attention, energy and efforts focused on family, mourning losses, rejoicing in wins, and accumulating power and wealth— all of these initiatives grow pale in light of eternity and what awaits them. Wait a minute, was Paul saying marriage is not important? No. Was he saying not to mourn and rejoice? No. Paul was saying to the Christians in Corinth, as the time draws near and your days are numbered, you will need to preserve your spiritual, emotional and physical energy for staying faithful in difficult times. You may be presented with a situation where you have to choose between a family member and your devotion to Jesus, you may have to choose between your feelings of sadness and happiness, wealth and power and Jesus. And let’s add politics to this list. Of course, this was not a new message. Jesus spoke many times about losing our souls for worldly gain. “For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul”(Matt. 16:25-26)?          Time is short. Yes, it is later than we think. But there is good news, we still have time to truthfully revisit what we hold dear. All the things we invest in will one day decay and pass away. But God’s eternal promises will remain. Temporal activities that bring security and enjoyment to our lives now are sacred gifts from God, no doubt about it. However, when we over-focus, misuse and are consumed with them, they may replace or overpower our fidelity and affection for Jesus Christ—in whom all these other things are so generously added!

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Faith Inspires Faith

Faith Inspires Faith

Faith Inspires Faith Taken from my article submitted to the Red Rock News Rev. Dona Johnson | Jan 14, 2024 C.S. Lewis left his childhood Christian faith and years later became an avowed atheist. He entered Oxford University as a professor of literature and in the years that followed, he had many conversations with J.R. Tolkien about God, faith and myths. Lewis was not easily won to Christianity overnight. But a few friends faithfully and patiently walked with him as they helped him to resolve his misgivings about Christianity. He eventually reclaimed his Christianity and made a convincing case for Christ. He wrote, “I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.” Lewis was arguably one of the most intellectual and influential Christian writers of the twentieth century.                    Friendship is invaluable in communicating and helping others process the gospel and experience God for themselves. This is evident when Jesus found Philip in Galilee and asked him to follow him (John1:41-53). Something amazing must have happened to Philip when Jesus approached him. Once you see God you cannot un-see him. All we know is Philip was so changed by the encounter, that he immediately ran to tell his friend Nathaniel. Philip told Nathaniel that they had found the “one who Moses wrote about in the Law”—Jesus from Nazareth. Nathanial was not at all receptive, in fact he was somewhat dismissive.  He replied, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” But Philip did not give up. He said, “Come and see for yourself!” So Nathaniel accepting Philip’s invitation went to meet Jesus face to face. As Jesus engaged Nathaniel, he didn’t get put off with Nathaniel’s skepticism or suspicions. Instead, Jesus read his most inmost thoughts. He understood his most intimate and secret longings, longings he could never put into words. This encounter left such a deep impression on the soul of Nathaniel that it forever changed him.            There are not many people who have been argued into Christianity. Maybe loved and listened to but not ridiculed or embarrassed by what they can’t yet see. You can be told what is true by others and then you can be led to discover truth for yourself. Although we need both, when you discover a truth for yourself something clicks inside you or the light bulb goes off and suddenly you understand in a deeper way what you may have not understood before. This type of self-discovery leads to changes in one’s heart—deep change. And when a truth changes your heart, it becomes a part of you. You may even recite this truth to others. Or it may become one of the guiding principles of your life. And that is exactly what happened to Philip and then Nathaniel that day in Galilee. Philip saw for himself the truth of Jesus and it was life-changing. So he did the next best thing, he told his friend and invited him to come and see. To “come and see” is to approach all of life with a grace-filled curiosity, to believe that we are holy mysteries to each other, worthy of further exploration. To come and see is to enter into the joy of being deeply seen and deeply known, and to have the very best that lies hidden within us, the Light called out and called forth. In the words of the Swiss theologian, Frederick Godet, “One torch serves to light another.” Faith multiplies faith. Following Christ means carrying the torch of faith to light the path for others and future generations. As we search for God, God finds us. We are image bearers and torch bearers of the one true light—Jesus Christ. 

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