Friday, July 31, 2015

Complete Joy

2 John 1:12 Though I have much to write to you, I would rather not use paper and ink. Instead I hope to come to you and talk face to face, so that our joy may be complete. 
What is it that John is looking forward to? Fellowship.  Receiving Hospitality - not for the sake of getting, but for experiencing God's people together in Faith and Love.  To experience the joy of our salvation together in His presence.  He is not simply "the boss" passing down directives.  He is the loving patriarch of the church family wanting to see the family living in harmony and purpose, working together for the will of the Father.  You cannot do that by text or email, or even skype or video calling.  You can only do that fully face to face.  We need to be together, be real, and develop that relationship with God as His children.  Then we will have that joy.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

How NOT to show Hospitality...

3 John 1:9-10 I have written something to the church, but Diotrephes, who likes to put himself first, does not acknowledge our authority. So if I come, I will bring up what he is doing, talking wicked nonsense against us. And not content with that, he refuses to welcome the brothers, and also stops those who want to and puts them out of the church.
Having commended Gaius for showing hospitality to God's servants as they travelled, John points out a negative example - Diotrephes.  First and foremost, he always put himself first - this attitude is diametrically opposed to hospitality.  But other activities of Diotrephes  took that even further. Gossip behind one's back cannot make one a sincere giver of hospitality.  Ignoring others and their requests does not make one open to meet others' needs - a staple of good hospitality.  He even went to the extreme of using his power and influence to oppose hospitality.  Though Diotrephes is an extreme example of this, we must all examine ourselves for similar symptoms.   Do I like to be first? Do I engage in gossip (aka "prayer concerns....")?  Do I just ignore others who need hospitality?  Do I have a heart and mind attitude that says: "We don't need anyone else!" ? It really is a package deal.  If we are not "given to hospitality", what other spiritual issues are going on in our lives???

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

The Lost Love of Hospitality

3 John 1:5-8 Beloved, it is a faithful thing you do in all your efforts for these brothers, strangers as they are, who testified to your love before the church. You will do well to send them on their journey in a manner worthy of God. For they have gone out for the sake of the name, accepting nothing from the Gentiles. Therefore we ought to support people like these, that we may be fellow workers for the truth. 
John commends Gaius for something that may not seem like much of a big deal to many of us: the hospitality he had shown to traveling evangelists and teachers.  But very quickly he shifts gears, changing to the future tense, encouraging Gaius to keep up this biblical practice.  Why? Positively, it is important that these itinerant preachers had a safe place to stay in an age when few such places were available, and because of the possibility to get to know these men, and to be a part of their ministry.  But negatively, as we will see, it appears that the art, the love of hospitality was becoming lost.  Some not only failed to do it; they discouraged it.  Where is this love, this art, in our society?  We are missing out on so many blessings, getting to know and share with so many fellow believers and how they live out their faith.  We rob ourselves, and the church of blessings God wants to send our way.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

No Greater Joy!

3 John 1:3-4 For I rejoiced greatly when the brothers came and testified to your truth, as indeed you are walking in the truth. I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth. 
There is no greater joy in life than to have a personal relationship with the True and Living God.  This is a true statement for all.  But there is another joy that meets and adds to that - knowing you have helped someone else come to the truth, and then hearing that person has responded to and is living by faith.  John was excited to hear of Gaius' public testimony and obedience in practicing the truths John had taught him - generosity and hospitality toward the saints.  What a way to demonstrate gratitude for new life in Christ!  Gaius was living the joyful Christian life, which in turn added to the joy in John's life, as well as all those through whom his obedience was a blessing.  That is great joy!

Monday, July 27, 2015

The Whole Person

3 John 1:1-2 The elder to the beloved Gaius, whom I love in truth. Beloved, I pray that all may go well with you and that you may be in good health, as it goes well with your soul. 
When God created Man, He prepared for him a place in the Garden.  This was not only a place where they could meet and interact, but also where God provided the resources needed for his survival and comfort.  God cared about every part of Man's existence.  As John writes to his dear fellow believer, he expresses the same kind of care.  First and foremost, he cares about his friend's spiritual condition and relationship with God, but it does not stop there.  Gaius is much more that a notch on his ministry belt. John cares about his emotional, occupational, and physical well-being also.  May we truly love and care for our fellow believers in every aspect of their lives.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Caring Enough to Connect

2 John 1:12-13 Though I have much to write to you, I would rather not use paper and ink. Instead I hope to come to you and talk face to face, so that our joy may be complete. The children of your elect sister greet you. 
When we are truly concerned by some things, only face to face contact will really do.  There are all levels of appropriate dissemination of information and discussion of information that can take place by various means of communication - email, text, letter, phone call - even face time or skype, but there are some things that only transmit well face to face.  These may be things which cause disagreement, or when we need to express love, sympathy or intensity in such a way that we are clearly heard.   When we fail to do so, all sorts of fall-out can happen.  One thing John could do in an appropriate way was express the love of one church to another, by having a common love for each.  It would be impossible to take one whole church across the miles to another, but in Christ, as fellow followers, they would comprehend who they were in Him, together.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Don't let them in!

2 John 1:10-11 If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house or give him any greeting, for whoever greets him takes part in his wicked works. 
As a general rule, believers are to be "given to hospitality" (Romans 13).  We are to have open hearts and open homes, especially to fellow believers.  One exception to the rule is false teachers - not false believers, but false teachers.  In particular, those who stop short in their convictions on who Christ is -  Creator, Fully God and Man, Savior, and coming Judge.  Such teachers are to be persona non grata - not welcome.  In our day, very few people have others into their homes, physically.  But we do by way of TV, internet, radio and print media.  Beware letting these false teachers into your home, mind or heart.  And do not support them financially, or by having any of your resources go to their support.  You don't want a share in what they are doing.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Running Ahead or Abiding...

2 John 1:9 Everyone who goes on ahead and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God. Whoever abides in the teaching has both the Father and the Son. 
We all know the picture - you take your kids to the zoo or amusement park, or some other place to which they had never been before.  The parents are in relax mode - take it all in; enjoy the day; be with one another on the journey.  But the kids are ready to run -they want to experience it all, NOW, and they don't want to wait.  Every new sight must be explored, and that event on down the road looks and sounds so exciting.  They run on ahead.  But they do not know the path, and they are set on doing it themselves, without the family.  If they are let go, they will get off course, divide the family, and possibly enter a place of fear or danger.  That is John's spiritual concern here.  Running ahead is running away.  Going after "every new thing" spiritual is dangerous.  Christ intends us to walk together as a family, His church, talking and enjoying the experience of following Him, not running ahead on our own.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Don't be deceived!

2 John 1:7-8 For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not confess the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh. Such a one is the deceiver and the antichrist. Watch yourselves, so that you may not lose what we have worked for, but may win a full reward. 
John puts his warning against false teachers primarily where it belongs first - us as believers.  We are the ones that need to be on watch.  Communication involves both the sender and receiver, and we can be sure the senders will not shut up.  They will also be many.  Therefore, we should set a guard, a filter on our end to not receive the message.  Think of it as spiritual call blocking.  Whenever we entertain the notion that Christ is less than fully God, come in the flesh, sinless Creator and Judge, we are setting ourselves up to lose blessings, privileges and rewards God has planned for us.  And the ones we have most to blame are ourselves.  So today, let's watch ourselves!

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Walking on both legs...

2 John 1:4-6 I rejoiced greatly to find some of your children walking in the truth, just as we were commanded by the Father. And now I ask you, dear lady—not as though I were writing you a new commandment, but the one we have had from the beginning—that we love one another. And this is love, that we walk according to his commandments; this is the commandment, just as you have heard from the beginning, so that you should walk in it. 
Obedience and Love are the two legs of the Christian walk; they must move together, in sequence.  If one is absent or not functioning properly, we will hobble along, making little headway.  This is true in our lives as believers and our life as the church.  As Paul says elsewhere, let us walk in step - in step with God's love and His commands.  And let us walk together, hand in hand, steadying one another, looking out for stumbling blocks in everyone's path, following after Christ.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Truth: How we know we are loved...

2 John 1:1-3 The elder to the elect lady and her children, whom I love in truth, and not only I, but also all who know the truth, because of the truth that abides in us and will be with us forever: Grace, mercy, and peace will be with us, from God the Father and from Jesus Christ the Father's Son, in truth and love. 
As John writes to this church he pictures himself  as a husband and father writing to his beloved family.  It is a perspective paramount to God's love shown in Christ: He came speaking truth, and showing His love.   In true loving family relationships, truth is paramount.  We all feel betrayed when we have been lied to: it destroy's our trust and makes love hard to believe.  John, the beloved Apostle thinks love is a big deal: his first letter proves that.  But love without truth is impossible.  All the blessings we have in Christ - grace, mercy, and peace - come as revealed promises wrapped in God's love.  As we look for love, may it not be in all the wrong places; may it be in the truth - about who we are and what we have done, but even more about Who Christ is and What He has done and revealed.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Not wasting life together...

Ephesians 5:15-21 Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ. 
Though these points from Paul do have personal application, the bigger picture here is life as The Church.  If we as individuals need to be characterized by wise living, the Church collective needs to be all the more so.  We need to be "in tune" with the will of God for us.  We need to not waste our life together on things that are merely physical, but highly spiritual.  We need to demonstrate by our words, attitudes and actions that we truly are looking out for one another.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Living in the Light..

Ephesians 5:7-14 Therefore do not become partners with them; for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true, and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret. But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says,“Awake, O sleeper,and arise from the dead,and Christ will shine on you.” 
Life in Christ is full of light.  As we live in fellowship with God and His people, and are exposed to His Word, we become more aware of the sin and darkness in our lives, the stumbling blocks in our lives, so they can be removed.  Light also makes our path more clear - maybe not the whole way of our journey, but far enough ahead to keep us going the right direction.  Finally, Paul makes a point we often overlook here: light makes fruit possible. Without light there is no development of fruit in our lives; there cannot be.  Light gives life.  May our lives abound in New Life in Christ today under His shining light.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Can we be spotted as Children of God?

Ephesians 5:1-6 Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous that is, an idolater, has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. 
Having told us that as followers of Christ we need to treat everyone right in our relationships, Paul gets more detailed on what that looks like in daily life.  We sacrifice for others' needs instead of focusing life on self-satisfaction, be it sexually or materially.  We use our tongues for thanksgiving instead of trash talk, tearing others down, or destroying their trust in us.  Simply put, we live by the rules of the Kingdom of God very aware of the righteous judgment of God.  If we do not, then we really do not believe, we really are not His children.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Treating Everyone right...

Ephesians 4:25-32 Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil. Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need. Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. 
Paul covers all the bases here: how to treat fellow believers, the Holy Spirit, and the Enemy.  First, fellow believers are not the Enemy!  They are our hands, feet, eyes, hearts and intestines: we need them all.  We need to love them enough to tell them the truth, not steal from them, or use them as a lashing pole for our tongues.  The Holy Spirit is our Advocate - always taking our side - why would we want Him to feel like an outsider?   The Enemy is the one who should feel like an outsider - He does not belong in our lives or in the Body; he is an unwelcome, uninvited guest.  Let us treat each one as they should be treated!

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

He gave so we can grow up...

Ephesians 4:11-16 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love. 
The Father gave His Son so we could come to know Him.  The Son gave His life so we could have life with Him.  They gave the Holy Spirit so we would have the resources we need as individual believers to live this abundant life, but also so that together we would help each other grow up as His children.  Growing up has growing pains, and sometimes we mistake one another for those pains.  In the storms of life we get "carried away" by the Deceiver.  What we need to do, no matter how we feel, is watch our words and guard our hearts.  We need to speak truth - not opinion or feelings as facts, and we need to do so in a loving way.  Each of us need to be doing our parts.  Sometimes the joints can hurt trying to keep the body together, but when each part is dong what God intends. it's an awesome thing to see the body of Christ in motion.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

The Church Under Pressure

Ephesians 4:1-3 I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 
As I was talking with a church leader yesterday, he mentioned that he had never seen so many churches in turmoil within.  Division, arguing, finger-pointing.  More churches than ever seem to be imploding or exploding.  There is plenty of pressure from without the Church, which may be part of the reason we see these things going on.  We are not ready to deal with the pressure.  Make no doubt about it: the pressure from outside will only intensify.  What needs to change is the atmosphere within, so we are able to withstand that pressure.  We need to view the unity of the Body as a big part of our calling in Chirst.  We need to make our personal character development a priority in growing.  We need an eagerness to allow the Holy Spirit to prevail and the Enemy to fail.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Based on what we know...

We know that everyone who has been born of God does not keep on sinning, but he who was born of God protects him, and the evil one does not touch him.
We know that we are from God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one.
And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true; and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life. Little children, keep yourselves from idols.
(1 John 5:18-21 ESV)
John has reviewed the basics of what we know about the church.  When we are born again, things change: We no longer want to do what the world wants, but what God wants. We have come to know the True and Living God through Christ, and that real life is lived in His strength.  So how are we to respond?  To run from the false, to expose the lies, to stand on and for the truth.  To point to Christ and say: "That is what God is like; That is what God wants; He alone is worthy of our lives.  May knowing the Truth keep us from false gods today.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Confidence and Community

If anyone sees his brother committing a sin not leading to death, he shall ask, and God will give him life—to those who commit sins that do not lead to death. There is sin that leads to death; I do not say that one should pray for that. All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin that does not lead to death.
(1 John 5:16-17 ESV)
John has spent most of his letter emphasizing how we can know that we have eternal life - that we really know we have a relationship with the true and living God.  Much of the evidence has had to do with community - our fellowship with the Father and the Son, and with fellow believers. When we have the assurance of salvation, the confidence of  eternal life and answered prayer, that will show itself in how we deal with one another - we will pray for one another; we will be along side of one another, encouraging each other in our struggles with sin; we will not used that confidence to bash one another, but to build each other up.  May we have both the confidence and compassion of Christ.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Confidence toward Christ

1 John 5:13-15 I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life. And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him. 
This truly is the climax toward which John has been writing this letter.  He wants us to experience the confident living that Christ intended for His Church.  Confidence that we are in a relationship with the true and living God.  Confidence that since we know Him, we can come to Him at any time with any thing and He hears us and will answer us.  Such a confidence shows itself in bold witness, bold praying, and bold living.  May we live life today boldly in Christ - not arrogantly or self-righteously, but confidently speaking, deciding, trusting.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Our Hearts on Trial...

1 John 5:9-12 If we receive the testimony of men, the testimony of God is greater, for this is the testimony of God that he has borne concerning his Son. Whoever believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself. Whoever does not believe God has made him a liar, because he has not believed in the testimony that God has borne concerning his Son. And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life. 
The big question in the background of John's letter is "can we be sure?"  Can we be sure that what we believe is right? Can we be sure that our relationship with God, the Christian life, and everything we have come to rest our lives in, is real?  John's answer is: "We can." We can if there is enough evidence.  Three marks that it is real are what we believe about Christ, whether we obey what HE has commanded, and if we love as He loves us.   Beyond that evidence is the testimony introduced in the court of our hearts.  What does the Holy Spirit say?  What does God say?  If the Son is in our lives, He will have His say.  There is a whole lot of testimony going on here to confirm our suspicions - we have received eternal life.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

For Three to Agree...

1 John 5:6-8 This is he who came by water and blood—Jesus Christ; not by the water only but by the water and the blood. And the Spirit is the one who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth. For there are three that testify: the Spirit and the water and the blood; and these three agree. 
When all five of our children were at home, life was much simpler.  If we wanted to go out to eat, watch a movie, or do something else to spend time together, individual preference often slid into the background.  Now that we have only one child at home, it is much harder to get the three of us to agree: Anne of Green Gables vs. Ironman;  McDonalds vs. Chick-Fil-A; Disney vs. Universal - the opportunities for disagreement are endless.  But there is absolutely no disagreement among the truth-telling witnesses of Christ's incarnation: they all agree: Jesus Christ is God the Son, come in the flesh, to deliver us from sin and death.  This is amazing.  Jewish law demanded two or three witnesses.  When Christ was standing trial they could not even get two, let a long three, to agree one what He had said and done.  But these three agree, confirming the truth of Who Christ is.  At His baptism by water, God said: "He's My Son."  One the cross, Jesus called Him Father and the soldier testified that He truly was the Son of God.  And the Holy Spirit since the day of Pentecost has been calling to people's hearts: "Yes, He's the One."  The three agree; let us listen and believe.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Victory over the World...

1 John 5:4-5 For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? 
Everybody wants to be a winner.  But how can we be?  More importantly, what does it mean to win?  In the Christian life, winning, having victory, is not giving in to the world and it's lies.  John earlier talked about the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life.  These are all the false ideas  that are promoted as worth pursuing, which in fact are enslaving and make us losers.  So how do we have victory?  Is it on our own strength?  Do we just need "more faith"? Paul reminds us in Ephesians 2 that even our faith is a gift.  It is a gift we receive when we are born again, when we realize and trust in Jesus as God the Son, come to earth to be our sinless sacrifice.  Our only hope for "winning" is Christ.  We cannot sing "Faith is the Victory" without singing "Victory in Jesus."  May we see signs of victory today as we hope and trust in HIM.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Believe, Love, Obey...

1 John 5:1-3 Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome. 
When one is born again, everything changes.  We are able to see Christ for Who He really is.  We love others because we comprehend God's love for us and want to be like Him as His children. And we want to obey His commands; we do not see them as a burden, but a blessing.  We are not "missing out" on anything; we are living in freedom from slavery to sin.  When we understand what Christ has done for us, it all comes together.

Friday, July 3, 2015

If your eyes are open, love...

1 John 4:20-21 If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother. 
After seven simple words that should summarize it all, John speaks to our "seeing is believing" mentality.  If we truly love God, Who we cannot see, and He commands us to love one another, who we can see, as the way we can love Him back, then that is what we should. do.  And it isn't that hard to see who and how we should love.  All we need to do is open our eyes.  The thrust of the verb is "keep on seeing".  God places in our lives and our paths daily those for whom we should show His love: our family, fellow believers, and a world of people suffering under the curse of sin. It's not that hard - we just need to open our eyes.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Seven short words...

1 John 4:19 We love because he first loved us. 
I was going to go ahead with the next two verses that elaborate on this, but they can wait until tomorrow.  Let's just focus on these words; let them blaze into our eyes, hearts and minds like a motto or slogan we cannot forget.  It is more than an explanation; it is a startling statement.  First of all, it calls into question our actions: Do we love? Secondly, it calls into question our motives: If we do loving sacrificial acts of service, do we do so for Him? For Self-recognition? For brownie points?  Thirdly, this statement calls into question the quality of our love.  Do our words and actions reflect the depth and character of Christ's love? Go ahead; let's make this verse our motto for the day, for our lives.  Seven short words.  One big lifestyle.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015


1 John 4:17-18 By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. 
The Day of Judgment... What kind of response does that bring to your heart or mind?   A joke? Something you would rather not think about?  The witty remarks you will make to God? How about calm confidence - not a cocky boldness that doesn't take things seriously, but a deep peace, with no fear, hidden or apparent.  How can we possibly do that as "sinners in the hands of an angry God"?  By   knowing the love and forgiveness of Christ, assured that He has taken our punishment on Himself.  This is no mere taking sin lightly; it is taking it most seriously - someone else paid the price for my sin.  The terror of judgment is taken away - not because I am "so good", but because He loves me that much, and I have accepted His love, not rejected it.  The fear of God is very much there, but it is transformed through faith, seen with the eyes of God's love.  What does judgment mean to you?