Thank you for sharing this early moment of your day with me, with God, and with the thoughts and words of this reading that I hope you will carry with you throughout the coming day and night.
1 John 3:1-2
3 1 See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and that is what we are. The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. 2 Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we will be has not yet been revealed. What we do know is this: when he is revealed, we will be like him, for we will see him as he is.
Tim’s Devotional Reflection for Today
Our scripture reading today comes from 1 John, a letter written about the year 100 A. D. by a pastor named John—possibly a student of the Apostle or one who identified himself with the Apostle. John was concerned because the second and third generation Christians he addressed were losing some of their enthusiasm and confidence. They had begun to doubt if they were capable of being Christian disciples while living in a pagan world. John had two messages for them, and I believe they are as true for us—80 generations or so later—as they were in John’s day. They are messages about our kinship, our inheritance, and our indebtedness.
The first verse of our reading says, “See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and that is what we are.”
Think for a minute about how many ancestors you have. Sure, you know that you have two parents and four grandparents, but as you go back in time the numbers grow quickly, exponentially: 8 great-grandparents, 16 great-great-grandparents, 32 great-great-great-grandparents, 64, 128, 256, 512, 1024, etc. Go back 40 generations, or about a thousand years, and each of us would have, theoretically, more than a trillion direct ancestors. Since mathematicians have estimated that from 96 billion to 110 billion people have existed throughout human history and since our family trees are not independent, but are inevitably going to overlap and intersect within that period of time, at some point, we’re all family, sharing the same genetic material.
Yale statistician Joseph Chang’s research reveals that the most recent common ancestor of all six billion people on earth today probably lived just a couple of thousand years ago. This means that through this single person we can all trace our family ties back to Confucius, Nefertiti and just about any other ancient historical figure who ever lived. At some point, all six billion of us are family. We all share some of the same genetic material. (Steve Olson, “The Royal We,” The Atlantic Monthly, May 2002, 62-64) How powerful that is!
When we look at all the passages of scripture that speak of a faith family, it becomes clear that it is not so much about genetics, but adoption. It is a family of those “who have been born of God” (1 John 3:9). It is our kinship with God and with one another as people of faith. Some people drop the “g” from kingdom and talk about the “kindom” of God. Listen to some other scriptural verses declaring this truth:
“But to all who received [Christ], who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God.” (John 1:12)
“For all who are led by the spirit of God are sons and daughters of God.” (Romans 8:14)
“For in Christ Jesus you are all sons and daughters of God through faith.” (Galatians 3:26)
“God sent forth His Son to redeem those under the law so that we might receive adoption as sons and daughters.” (Galatians 4:5)
In the 8th chapter of Romans, Paul says that in Christ we are children of God and, “if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ.”
Paul says that as sons and daughters of God, we have an inheritance that we share with Christ. In his letter to the Romans Paul says that we are “heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ.”
I Peter 1:3-4 says, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy he has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you.”
We have an inheritance and that inheritance consists of:
“The riches of God’s kindness and forebearance” [Romans 2:4]
“The riches of God’s glory for the objects of God’s mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory” [Romans 9:23]
“The depths of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God.” [11:33]
“The riches of God’s grace” [Ephesians 1:7]
“The riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints” [Ephesians 1:18]
“The immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness towards us in Christ Jesus” [Ephesians 2:7]
“The boundless riches of Christ” [Ephesians 3:8]
“The riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory” [Colossians 1:27]
“The riches of assured understanding” [Colossians 2:2]
Paul said in Ephesians, “In Christ we have all obtained an inheritance.” Part of our inheritance is a great legacy of faith, and we are indebted to those who have gone before us. I give thanks for their dreams, their goals, their hopes, their giving, their hard work, and their sacrifices that benefit us today. God has given us great gifts through those who have gone before us. We have been entrusted with a great treasure from those before us and along with it, a great responsibility to those who follow after us!
Years ago, a friend of ours gave us a poem she wrote. The line in that poem that stood out for me is “We pay our debts to the past by putting the future in debt to us.”
Peter Mayer, who is a wonderful singer/songwriter, has a song called “Elijah Jones.” It goes like this:
I saw a gravestone of a man long dead
His name was Elijah Jones and his gravestone read
“I walked this good earth, I had my time
And now it’s your turn, your chance at life”
Now most epitaphs speak of the deceased
But this dead man’s words seemed to refer to me
And so that evening at that gravesite
I pondered the meaning of a chance at life
We’re like sparks rising from some great fire
We flicker brightly, then we expire
And for that fleeting glow, we pay a price
Of pain and sorrow for a chance at life
But that fire burns on, it does not cease
It made Elijah and it made me
And I like to think that, on the day he died
Its burning flames gave him comfort and light
And if I were an angel above the clouds
Singing God’s praises in a shining gown
I’d dream of rain storms on summer nights
And trade my wings for a chance at life
I’d dream of rainstorms on summer nights
And trade my wings for a chance at life
There is a lot of theology woven into hymns. To enhance today’s reading, I recommend listening to “Love Divine, all Loves Excelling”. I hope you will take a few moments to let the words of this message and the emotion that always connects us to music connect with your soul.
1 Love divine, all loves excelling,
joy of heav’n, to earth come down,
fix in us thy humble dwelling,
all thy faithful mercies crown.
Jesus, thou art all compassion,
pure, unbounded love thou art.
Visit us with thy salvation;
enter ev’ry trembling heart.
2 Breathe, O breathe thy loving Spirit
into ev’ry troubled breast.
Let us all in thee inherit,
let us find the promised rest.
Take away the love of sinning;
Alpha and Omega be.
End of faith, as its beginning,
set our hearts at liberty.
3 Come, Almighty, to deliver,
let us all thy life receive.
Suddenly return, and never,
nevermore they temples leave.
Thee we would be always blessing,
serve thee as thy hosts above,
pray, and praise thee without ceasing,
glory in thy perfect love.
4 Finish, then, thy new creation;
true and spotless let us be.
Let us see thy great salvation
perfectly restored in thee.
Changed from glory into glory,
till in heav’n we take our place,
till we cast our crowns before thee,
lost in wonder, love and praise.
I am so grateful for you, for our church, and for the Love that will see us all through this very difficult time. Please stay safe and well and we’ll be together again in spirit tomorrow morning!
Grace and Peace,
Dr. Tim Bruster
Here’s more about this passage of scripture via Upper Room devotionals:
A HOPEFUL FUTURE
Through good and bad, God holds on to me.