Sunday, May 31, 2015

Reminding, Reassuring, Remaining...

1 John 2:26-27 I write these things to you about those who are trying to deceive you. But the anointing that you received from him abides in you, and you have no need that anyone should teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about everything, and is true, and is no lie—just as it has taught you, abide in him. 
Sometimes we doubt. We just do.  But we are not to let those doubts take over.  We have the Holy Spirit within doing what He does: reminding us of what we have learned in Christ, Reassuring us that what God says is true, even when others around us jump ship, and remaining with us so we can remain, live, abide in the Truth.  Thank you, Holy Spirit, for what you do in us and for us every day.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Insist on the Incarnation

1 John 2:21-25 I write to you, not because you do not know the truth, but because you know it, and because no lie is of the truth. Who is the liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, he who denies the Father and the Son. No one who denies the Son has the Father. Whoever confesses the Son has the Father also. Let what you heard from the beginning abide in you. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, then you too will abide in the Son and in the Father. And this is the promise that he made to us—eternal life. 
As John seeks to encourage these believers over the exodus of some people from the church, he reminds them that they have believed the truth about Christ - He is the incarnate Son of God. The incarnation is absolutely essential to salvation.  If we don't have that, we don't have eternal life. Without the Eternal Son entering human history redemption does not happen.  We need to stand firmly upon that conviction, then we can walk confidently in this life and into the life to come.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Word order matters...

1 John 2:20 But you have been anointed by the Holy One, and you all have knowledge.
John is writing to a church - a faith family fellowship of believers who trust in and follow Christ.  As such, he says, we have the Holy Spirit - individually and collectively.  He does not says we have all knowledge, but that we all have knowledge.  God has given us truth and wisdom to share with one another so that together we can stand against the Lie of the evil one, so that we can live out Christ in our lives, and in our life as the church.  We have Him; we need Him; let us listen to Him.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015


1 John 2:18-19 Children, it is the last hour, and as you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come. Therefore we know that it is the last hour. They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us.
John has just finished warning us to not "love the world" - to not go after the world system that cons us into living selfishly, sinfully, and snobbishly.  He now addresses the issue of some who have left - the leavers - who had been a part of the church congregation, maybe even leaders in it, who had left for "bigger and better things".  They went out to be a part of the world.  Their actions proved not that they had arrived at some higher level, but that they had followed the spirit of antichrist: anti-service, anti-holiness, anti-humility. They now embraced everything opposite the character of Christ.  Those who remained were sad they had departed, but they were not to wonder if they were right in staying. We can expect these things, as sad as they are, as representative of the last hour and days of this world.  As we will see, we are to remain, to abide with Christ and His people. He is the Solid Rock, the one we are to trust and follow, not the world, the crowd, or the self-advertising.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

What's Wrong with the World???

1 John 2:15-17 Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever. 
John poses to us here that there are two diametrically opposed ways of living: the will of God, or the worldly way.  But what is it that is so bad with this world God has made?  Are trees evil?  Should we hate other people, when God Himself loved the world - the people and every creation He had made? What is there to not love?  The system run by sin - where selfish human desire, covetousness, and arrogant human pride determine what is done.  not only are these things NOT by God's creative design, the are things that will not last forever. It is an extremely short-sighted way to live, ignoring the God Who made us.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Something for everyone!

1 John 2:12-14 I am writing to you, little children,because your sins are forgiven for his name's sake. I am writing to you, fathers,because you know him who is from the beginning.I am writing to you, young men,because you have overcome the evil one.I write to you, children,because you know the Father. I write to you, fathers,because you know him who is from the beginning.I write to you, young men,because you are strong,and the word of God abides in you,and you have overcome the evil one. 
John reminds us that as the church, we have all received blessings in Christ to share with one another and strengthen us to live life the victorious life.  We have forgiveness, fellowship with God and His family, the Word of God, and the Spirit of God.  The emphasis here is not on what different age groups have, nor is he just talking to males: the emphasis is on what we have together in Christ. We have the arsenal necessary to win the spiritual battles we will face.  John repeats himself here to reinforce the certainty that God has given us these things.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

A Spiritual Memorial Day

Hebrews 11:32-38 And what more shall I say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets— who through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. Women received back their dead by resurrection. Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated— of whom the world was not worthy—wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth. 
Tomorrow we will solemnly remember those who sacrificed their lives for our freedoms today, and rightfully so.  Today is a another Memorial Day, as we read of those who stood boldly for the faith - some seemingly victorious, going on to live lives as heroes, others dying as heroes of the faith. They are an inspiration. So are the many who have been giving their lives in recent days for their faith in Christ.  They are receiving many of the same kinds of treatment as those in the biblical accounts did - being tortured, made to flee, and martyred.  We remember them and pray for our brothers and sisters who are still experiencing such things this very hour.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Double Header in the Hall of Faith

Hebrews 11:30-31 By faith the walls of Jericho fell down after they had been encircled for seven days. By faith Rahab the prostitute did not perish with those who were disobedient, because she had given a friendly welcome to the spies. 
The Hall of Faith gives mention to many great leaders and events we would expect: Abraham, Moses, the Exodus, etc.  But the one event at Jericho gets double mention.  At that event not only did the people of Israel see another big prayer answered - a Gentile woman of questionable standing did as well. It was the beginning of the entrance into the promised land for Israel.  And though the pagans who filled the land were to be dead or driven out, there was still a place in the heart of God for those who would fear and trust Him.  It was not total exclusion based on race; it was a promise of hope that others can be a part of the Plan of God by faith.  By faith may we welcome God and His plan into our day, into our lives.

Friday, May 22, 2015

After the walls come tumbling down...

Joshua 6:21-25 Then they devoted all in the city to destruction, both men and women, young and old, oxen, sheep, and donkeys, with the edge of the sword. But to the two men who had spied out the land, Joshua said, “Go into the prostitute's house and bring out from there the woman and all who belong to her, as you swore to her.” So the young men who had been spies went in and brought out Rahab and her father and mother and brothers and all who belonged to her. And they brought all her relatives and put them outside the camp of Israel. And they burned the city with fire, and everything in it. Only the silver and gold, and the vessels of bronze and of iron, they put into the treasury of the house of the Lord. But Rahab the prostitute and her father's household and all who belonged to her, Joshua saved alive. And she has lived in Israel to this day, because she hid the messengers whom Joshua sent to spy out Jericho. 
The people of Israel had seen God fulfill His great promises.  But other promises had been made that had to be fulfilled as well - to Rahab and her household.  We need to take our promises as seriously as  God does.  Rahab and her family were blessed as God blessed His people.  That happens often when we pray - God blesses beyond what we see - beyond the walls.  Not only were the prayers of Israel answered, with the walls falling down so they could get in; the prayers of Rahab were answered so she could get out.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Great Shout!

Joshua 6:20 So the people shouted, and the trumpets were blown. As soon as the people heard the sound of the trumpet, the people shouted a great shout, and the wall fell down flat, so that the people went up into the city, every man straight before him, and they captured the city. 
The people of Israel had come to the moment they were waiting for. God had told them Jericho must be taken as they entered the promised land: there was no bypassing it.  He promised He would give it to them, not have them build up any bragging rights.  He had given them the unique, specific instructions to follow.  They now came to the day: would they do what they were told to do? Would God do what He said He would do?  They walked the persistent walk. They sounded the trumpet. They shouted a great shout.  What was that shout? Was it a loud cry of a prayer in a Ronald Reagan voice: "Yahweh, tear down this wall!"?  Was it a yell of thanksgiving: "Hallelujah! This wall's gonna fall!"?  Was it simply a cry of faith and obedience: "Fall Wall!"  Or maybe a blend of all three?  That's a question we'll have to ask.  All three seem appropriate.  Whatever obstacle there is in the way of what God calls us to do, we need to pray and obey, calling out to God in faith, even a great shout.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

A time for intense prayer

Joshua 6:15-16 On the seventh day they rose early, at the dawn of day, and marched around the city in the same manner seven times. It was only on that day that they marched around the city seven times. And at the seventh time, when the priests had blown the trumpets, Joshua said to the people, “Shout, for the Lord has given you the city. 
Joshua and the people of Israel had been walking in obedience, getting up early every day, going around Jericho, and going back to the camp.  The day arrived, and they knew it. Now was the time to intensify their obedience and shout in thanksgiving for what God was going to do.  In the same way, when we pray and pray, obeying and trusting God as we go, we will know when the times come to "ramp up" our prayers even more intensely and specifically, and wait to see His answer finally arrive.   When we are in constant contact with Him, we are ready for the critical hour, and for the intensity that may be involved before we see the breakthrough.  But if we do not daily trust, obey and pray, we will not be ready for that hour.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

More than Mere Repetition...

Then Joshua rose early in the morning, and the priests took up the ark of the LORD. And the seven priests bearing the seven trumpets of rams' horns before the ark of the LORD walked on, and they blew the trumpets continually. And the armed men were walking before them, and the rear guard was walking after the ark of the LORD, while the trumpets blew continually. And the second day they marched around the city once, and returned into the camp. So they did for six days.
(Joshua 6:12-14 ESV)
 Every Morning Joshua, the priests, and the troops got up early and marched around the city of Jericho.  It must have seemed rather odd to be sure.  Why are we getting up early to walk just once? Why do the same thing every day?  Because it is through this daily, seemingly strange obedience and trust that puts us where God wants us, when God wants us, for the big blessings He's waiting to give us. This is the way He wants us to walk - sometimes it seems like walking in circles, getting nowhere, over and over again.  But the day is coming when He will bless our socks off, because we walk with Him every morning, over and over again.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Time to Start Marching

Joshua 6:2-7 And the Lord said to Joshua, “See, I have given Jericho into your hand, with its king and mighty men of valor. You shall march around the city, all the men of war going around the city once. Thus shall you do for six days. Seven priests shall bear seven trumpets of rams' horns before the ark. On the seventh day you shall march around the city seven times, and the priests shall blow the trumpets. And when they make a long blast with the ram's horn, when you hear the sound of the trumpet, then all the people shall shout with a great shout, and the wall of the city will fall down flat, and the people shall go up, everyone straight before him.” So Joshua the son of Nun called the priests and said to them, “Take up the ark of the covenant and let seven priests bear seven trumpets of rams' horns before the ark of the Lord.” And he said to the people, “Go forward. March around the city and let the armed men pass on before the ark of the Lord.” 
Do we really need to take that city???  Israel had Jericho right where they wanted them.  Verse 1 says that they were all pent up in the city, hiding.  They were scared to death.  Why even bother?  becuase The Lord Had commanded it, and because He had promised it.  If they would have passed on by to more important cities they never would have seen how powerful His hand was in battle.  They would have missed out on the important lessons He had for them.  They had to go through the process, and so do we.  It's time to start marching, and start praying around and over the challenges He has set before us this week, and see what He has to teach us and accomplish in one week.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Simply put...

John 17:3 And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. 
Time was getting short. There was time for one more lesson on prayer for the disciples to observe, one more reminder on what it's all about - eternal life.  Not just the "I can live forever" life, but the quality of life that we all really are searching for: knowing our Sovereign Creator, the one true God. That is why He came - so we can know Him.  Innumerable blessings and responsibilities flow from that relationship, but they do just that - they are not an end in themselves.  May we know Him better today.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Blind disobedience...

1 John 2:10-11 Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him there is no cause for stumbling. But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes. 
To know and love God is to obey Him and to love our brothers and sisters in Christ.  The last part of that statement is the litmus test.  If we do not actively love others, it shows that we are in darkness, and that our disobedience will show up in other ways too.  We will trip over the other stumbling blocks in our lives - temptations, doubts and fears.  Often we are clueless as to how we are NOT showing love to our brothers and sisters. If we are "blind" to those sins, we are going to be blind to other acts of disobedience as well.  That is why we need one another, to point out the obvious sins against others that we ourselves cannot see. And we need to be willing to listen to one another, or we are going to have a lot of sore spiritual toes, and worse...

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Irritating... or Ignoring???

1 John 2:9 Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness. 
John makes some sharp statements which should not be ignored.  His language is simple, but his insights profound.  He is talking about those in the body of Christ hating their brother or sister in The Lord.  Impossible?  Don't be so quick to answer.  Hopefully this is an irritating question - not that John would imply some believers hate, but because we ourselves stop long enough to do some self-examination.  How much comparing, hoping they will do something to be exposed for they hypocrite they really are, and other thoughts and intentions cross our hearts and minds when we think about fellow believers?  Where is the love in that?  Let's shine some of HIS light on that.  These things ARE inconsistent with Christlikeness.  Let us not ignore the irritations, but let Him use them to change us, and make His Church what He wants it to be.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

That New Old Thing...

1 John 2:8 At the same time, it is a new commandment that I am writing to you, which is true in him and in you, because the darkness is passing away and the true light is already shining. 
To love the LORD God with all our heart and strength is nothing new - it goes back to the oldest of recorded statements in Scripture.  But Christ's coming has shed new light on what it means.  He was the one who tied the Great Commandment to reality for us - that it includes and is demonstrated by love shown towards our neighbor.  He not only spoke that; he showed that. He is the Light that has come to dispel the darkness, and He is the One who wants to shine that light and love through His followers.  It is so old of a command that it is rock solid foundational, but so new and fresh that it is the command the wakes us up this morning: "How can I live the love of Christ today?"

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Gonna walk, walk, walk...

1 John 2:6 whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked. 
John has been reminding us of the character of God - the Father and the Son, and has been trying to help us step back and see the big picture: What does it mean for Christ incarnate to come to earth? What is our proper response to that?  Since He came to show God's light, we should walk in it. Since He came to break the power of sin, we need to step away from it.  Since He came and lived sinlessly, we need to take that seriously.  How do we see that lighted path?  It is so different from the darkness. He did indeed set a far different example.  To be sure, He is so much more than just an example, yet He is that too.  He is more than just a stopping point along life's journey; He is the one we should walk with, and a step after, throughout this walk from now into eternity.

Monday, May 11, 2015

The Gentle Dagger...

1 John 2:3-5 And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. 
John, the beloved and loving Apostle, uses a very gentle, yet straightforward approach in his challenge.  His soothing voice speaks sharp words of conviction.  When what we SAY does not line up with what we DO, we lie - not on the couch, but to ourselves and those around us.  Obedience is the love language of God.  Christ demonstrated that: loving obedience to the Father. It was His walk, His way of living life.  As His followers, should we seek any less???

Thursday, May 7, 2015

The Fellowship of Confession...

James 5:13-16 Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise. Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. 
It is in the context of our fellowship with God and His people that John makes one of the best-known statements: "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." (I John 1:9)  True fellowship involves honest confession - not only to God, but with and before fellows believers.  We need one another in the confession/forgiveness process. That is because our sins usually are not just against God, but against those we interact with in daily life.  Confession to one another moves us from being enemies in competition with one another for holiness, to begin co-travelers in the journey, fellow-followers who help each other and truly walk together in Christian love.  It is the prayers of these followers that have such power.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Confused or Confessing...

1 John 1:8-9 If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 
John says that one of two things is true about us: either we admit that we sin, and confess and forsake it because we know it affects our fellowship with God, or we deceive ourselves, refuse to admit we still commit acts of sin, and that it matters, and live in a state of spiritual confusion and self-righteousness.  When we do so, we do things like start to wonder and complain why others get away with their sin; we begin to question the "fairness' of God; we view ourselves too highly, and Christ and His forgiveness too insignificant.  We need to confess and come clean.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Admissible Evidence...

1 John 1:6-7 If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. 
Could we be found guilty of being a Christ-follower, a member of God's family, saved and born again? Is there evidence?  Our own personal testimony or proclamation is not enough. Our deeds can indeed incriminate us and make us guilty of perjury.  If we truly are followers of Christ, there will be both evidence and testimony to convince and convict of that fact that we are part of the fellowship of the forgiven.

Monday, May 4, 2015

It always starts with the character of God

1 John 1:5 This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all. 
Most of us know the key verse we are approaching here: verse 9 - the promise of forgiveness we all cling to.  But before we get there, we need to back up to the foundation.  The language of John here is simple, but the principles are profound.  God could make like because He is Light.  There is nothing hidden - no dark corners; He is totally pure light in His character.  He is so light, we in our sinfulness have difficulty looking and seeing Him clearly, but that's us, not Him.  Where the Light is, everything is seen as it truly is, including us.  We are not all light; we have dark spots of sin.  God's light reveals that.  The question comes in then as how we will respond to the Light: run and hide, or be exposed and be cleansed?  The Light is never the problem.  He is perfect and pure.  He will not lie to us.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Getting ready for "church"

Matthew 16:13-20 Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, He was asking His disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” And they said, “Some say John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; but still others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.” He *said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven.” Then He warned the disciples that they should tell no one that He was the Christ. 
When did Christ first mention the church?  It was here, when Peter first blurted out his believe that Jesus was the Christ.  Understanding what the church is all about begins when we understand Who Christ really is.  This information, this conviction, comes from the Father.  In fact, Jesus says elsewhere that it is all about knowing Him and the Father.   Let's go back, all the way back, to this core conviction: Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, through Whom we are brought into fellowship with the Father.  When and where that happens, there is church.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Our joy... or Our joy???

1 John 1:1-4 That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us. We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. We write this to make our joy complete. 
As John writes to this church, or cluster of churches, he is writing with and authoritative "we", as one of the apostles who witnessed the Word made flesh, and was commissioned by Him to set the Church in motion.  But he is not interested in maintaining some sort of exclusive club: he wants us to join with him in this Fellowship of the Father and the Son - to experience this oneness and relationship with them and one another. So, whereas when he says: "we proclaim to you" he is speaking by his apostolic authority, when he comes to verse 4 his "our" includes his readers and us: that OUR joy may be complete.  Let us join in and rejoice in the fellowship opened to us in Christ and His Church.