Daily Devotions

Snake Bit

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"And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up" (John 3:14)


So much of the New Testament is rooted in the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament). But honestly, I never thought I would be comparing Jesus to a poisonous desert snake. Both are lifted up on a wooden stick in order to save the chosen people. Let me explain.


In Numbers 21:6-9, the people of Israel are wandering in the wilderness. Amidst their many other trials and tribulations, they were overwhelmed by large numbers of poisonous snakes. Many were bit and dying, or already dead. The people cried out to Moses to intercede with God for help. God instructed Moses to craft a snake and place it on the end of a pole. When the people were bit, if they gazed upon the snake on the pole, they would live.


The Son of Humanity, Jesus, was placed on a pole (cross) and all of us who gaze upon it will be saved. Instead of snakes, we contemporary people have other things that poison our faith. We are bit with corporate corruption, treating women like objects, economic disparity, etc., etc., etc. But when we gaze upon the cross in faithful trust, God will save us.


It is so easy to get disappointed, then bitter, then soulless. We can feel "snake bit" so often, we can suffer the effects of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. We live in an unfair and unjust world. The only way to live amidst the snakes around every corner is to continually turn toward the Cross.


Today, thank God again for giving us the opportunity to gaze upon Christ's divine sacrifice on the cross. In a world full of snakes, God still wants we humans to live, now and for eternity. How can one not love God, when we consider the lengths God will go to save us? Ask God to give you the strength and faith to face down the snakes, and meet each new day with hope and trust.

Above, Not Again

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 "Jesus answered him, 'Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.'” (John 3:3)


Such a beautiful passage, and such a misinterpreted passage. The misinterpretations of this verse have done more to damage human souls than just about any other in the Bible. First, the New Testament was written in Greek, with some words of Jesus introduced in Aramaic. Using any English translation in a literal way is suspect. Second, this passage's key interpretive moment is the source of misunderstanding.


In many English translations, the Greek word anothen, is translated as "born again." The more accurate translation of this word is actually "born from above." While, at first glance, this may not seem a huge issue, this seemingly subtle difference has driven a divide between Christians and has been a key rationale for excluding people from the Kingdom of God. This is no small issue.


Who is the one who initiates faith, and hence, salvation to one's life? The claims of the "born again" are that you must offer a salvation prayer or in faith ask God into your life, in order to be "born again." The individual is the one who initiates and controls their own salvation.


When you are "born from above," our re-birth comes not from our initiative, but from the one who is "above": God! Theology is always suspect when change is dependent on human initiative. God is always the initial and primary actor in our salvation. On our own, we never have the faith necessary to "chose" God. God is always the one who "chooses" us.


Don't let anyone bully you or make you feel guilty for not having a "born again" experience. I am so grateful that I do not have a "born again" experience, because it would rely on my puny faith. I am grateful that you and I are "born from above" in spite of our faith, not because of our faith. Only when we are "born from above" can we truly bask in the grace and mercy of Almighty God.


Today, thank God for looking upon you with love and grace. Close your eyes and picture God saying to you, "I love you_______ (fill in your name), and with grace and mercy, I bless you and call you 'Born from (me) Above.'" You are worthy by God's love and grace, not because of some "born again" incantation or some other human-initiated process. Thank God! 


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