Saturday, July 31, 2010

Love One Another (1 John 3:10-12)

By this the children of God and the children of the devil are obvious: anyone who does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor the one who does not love his brother. For this is the message which you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another; not as Cain, who was of the evil one and slew his brother And for what reason did he slay him? Because his deeds were evil, and his brother's were righteous.
(1 John 3:10-12, NASB)

Yes, if we are not practicing righteousness, we are not of God. Furthermore, if we do not love our brothers and sisters, we are also not of God.

It all comes down to those greatest commandments of Jesus again:

I know I've written this before, but it's so true. If you love the Lord with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, you're not going to practice sin. You're going to want to know Him so intimately that you'll spend time in His word. You'll learn what pleases Him. And you'll begin to practice righteousness more and more often.

And if you love your neighbor as yourself, you'll treat them with respect and grace and mercy. Just as Jesus treats you. If you love them, you won't sin against them. You won't cheat or gossip or explode in anger. Instead, you'll be gentle and kind and patient.

Tall orders ... But I believe it's a matter of mindset. You won't always succeed in loving God completely or loving your neighbor deeply, but if your heart and mind are focused on both, you'll begin to live both.

[NOTE: I leave on vacation for two weeks today. I should have internet access, so I hope to continue these daily devotions. However, don't be alarmed if I miss a day or two! God's richest blessings!]

Friday, July 30, 2010

Born of God (1 John 3:9)

Whoever has been born of God does not sin, for His seed remains in him; and he cannot sin, because he has been born of God.
(1 John 3:9, NASB)

Sometimes, old adages really illustrate a point well. Albeit very dark, "Like beating a dead horse" is one of them. Sometimes, it seems like overkill when John or Peter or Paul continue to reiterate a theme or a topic over and over. However, it's just as if they knew human nature. We can be very dense or resistant or downright hostile to truth.

And sometimes, the writers of the Bible knew they'd have to make their argument over and over in order for their readers to really "get it."

We've already read several times how we cannot serve God and still habitually sin. We cannot be Christ-followers and practice sin. One or the other will have dominance in our lives.

If we choose to truly follow Christ and seek the Father's will, then the Holy Spirit will convict us when we sin. If, however, we choose to practice sin, then our focus will be taken off of God and onto our sin. It might be gradual neglect or outright defiance.

You're either "born of God," with the Holy Spirit's indwelling presence, or you're a slave to sin.

So as I've written before, you must choose. Please choose wisely. Please allow God complete control of your life. It'll be the best decision you ever made.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Don't Be Deceived (1 John 3:7-8)

Little children, make sure no one deceives you; the one who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous; the one who practices sin is of the devil; for the devil has sinned from the beginning. The Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil.
(1 John 3:7-8, NASB)

We live in a world of deceivers. Politicians. Corporations.

And now, it seems, our schools. They seem to be changing history. They teach evolution as fact, but creation can’t even be taught as a theory. They allow “free thinking,” but don’t be caught praying in class.

But even more tragic? Our churches. Tolerance has morphed into compromise which then becomes acceptance. I’m all for loving my neighbor, and I’m a huge proponent of loving the sinner, yet hating the sin. And if one is not a follower of Jesus, then I say, “Live and let live—as long as they’re not hurting someone or breaking the law.”


If one says he’s a follower of Jesus, yet practices sin … well then, I do have an issue with that. If one picks and chooses what she believes in the Bible in order to legitimize her sin … Now I know the Bible says, “Judge not, lest you be judged” (Matt. 7:1), but it also gives guidelines for how to redeem a sinning brother. (See Matt. 18:15-20.)

John makes it very clear in today’s verses. Those who practice, who live in habitual sin of any kind, are of the devil. You cannot serve two masters. (I know, I’m taking literary license with Matt. 6:24 and Luke 16:13 as Jesus was talking about God and money. However, I think He’d be the first to say that we cannot serve both God and anything. He has to be our one and only Master.)

If you’re practicing sin, then please confess it. And then “Go and sin no more” (John 8:11). Don’t be deceived by this world. Don’t be deceived by even those who call themselves Christians, yet compromise God’s word.

Instead, practice righteousness. Pray that God will help you to more and more like Christ. Pray that you’ll exude the fruit of the Spirit. (See Galatians 5:22.) Practice those things that will please God.

In the end? That’s all that matters.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

What Do You Practice? (1 John 3:4-6)

Everyone who practices sin also practices lawlessness; and sin is lawlessness. You know that He appeared in order to take away sins; and in Him there is no sin. No one who abides in Him sins; no one who sins has seen Him or knows Him.
(1 John 3:4-6, NASB)

John makes what appears to be an abrupt shift from yesterday’s verses to today’s. But not really. We ended yesterday’s study talking about hope. But that verse ended with John’s assertion that we who follow Christ will one day be pure as He is pure.

With those words echoing, John continues by contrasting the “unpure” with the pure. Because God is pure, only those who are pure can abide with Him.

And of course, it’s impossible to be pure, to be righteous, apart from Jesus Christ. He came to earth to become our once-for-all sacrifice. He took our penalty for sin so we can be pure in the Father’s eyes.

And once we are saved by the blood of Christ, our desire should be to be like Him. We should no longer be slaves to sin. We should no longer practice sin. Yes. We will sin sometimes. It’s that flesh again. But the key word is practice.

Anyone who practices sin cannot abide in God. You will either practice sin or you will practice a Christ-like life. One or the other.

So ... what do you practice? Is your time spent living a habitual sin? Or do you keep your focus on God? If it's the latter, then your practices should be prayer, Bible study, service, worship, fellowship ...

What do you practice?

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Placing Your Hope (1 John 3:2-3)

Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is. And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.
(1 John 3:2-3, NASB)

Where do you place your hope? In your job? In relationships? In your stuff? And what happens when you lose your job? Or your best friend moves away? Or your house burns down? I know, those are pretty depressing thoughts, but things happen.

The only unchanging place to put your hope is in God. One day, Jesus will return. We know this. We put our hope in it.

One day, we will be like Jesus. We will be pure. We will be perfect in the eyes of our Father.

And we’ll spend eternity with Him.

No more pain. No more sorrow. Just worshipping and serving our Creator God.

I don’t know about you, but that’s where I place my hope.

Monday, July 26, 2010

God's Children (1 John 3:1)

See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we would be called children of God; and such we are. For this reason the world does not know us, because it did not know Him.
(1 John 3:1, NASB)

You are a child of God! You are a son or daughter of the King! That’s how much God loves you!

He could have called us servants or slaves … or nothing at all. But He chose to call us His children. His dearly-loved children. When we accept the gift of salvation through belief in Christ’s death and resurrection, we are adopted into God’s family.

I have many friends who have adopted children. Some have “natural” children as well, but they make no distinction between those children who came from their body and those adopted into their hearts.

And once we’re adopted into God’s family, He makes no distinction either.

But the world certainly does. Non-believers don’t understand how believers are part of a family. We’re all brothers and sisters—God’s family. They don’t recognize our kinship because they don’t recognize our Father.

No matter what the world may think of us, be grateful. You are God’s son. His daughter. You have brothers and sisters across the globe. You are never alone, for your Father is always with you.

Your Father. Your Abba. Your Daddy.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

How Will He Find You? (1 John 2:28-29)

Now, little children, abide in Him, so that when He appears, we may have confidence and not shrink away from Him in shame at His coming. If you know that He is righteous, you know that everyone also who practices righteousness is born of Him.
(1 John 2:28-29, NASB)

John now comes to the most important reason we should abide in Christ. He will return one day. It could be today. Or tomorrow. Or years from now. But He will return.

How do you want Jesus to find you when He returns? Watching television? Playing video games? Gossiping with your friends? Committing adultery? Cheating? Lying?

Or will He find you serving at a soup kitchen? Praying? Playing with your children? Reading God’s word? Embracing your spouse? Worshipping at church?

Will you be following what Jesus called the greatest commandment—loving God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength? Or the second—loving your neighbor as yourself? (See Mark 12:29-30.)

God is righteous. And we who call ourselves His children need to be as righteous as we possibly can be. We won’t be perfect this side of heaven, but we can choose to love God and love others. We can choose to live in such a way that we won’t be in any way ashamed when Jesus returns to take us to heaven.

How will Jesus find you when He returns? Think about it.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Abide in Him (1 John 2:27)

As for you, the anointing which you received from Him abides in you, and you have no need for anyone to teach you; but as His anointing teaches you about all things, and is true and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you abide in Him.
(1 John 2:27, NASB)

When we accept the gift of salvation through the death and resurrection of God the Son, God the Holy Spirit indwells us. And He gives us wisdom to understand God’s word. He helps us to discern truth from lies. He convicts us when we sin.

But we can fight Him. Ignore Him. Still make our own decisions. Justify our sin.

I’ve certainly been guilty of all of the above. But the older I get, the closer I get to heaven, the more I want to allow the Spirit to work in me. The more I want to allow Jesus to shine through me. The more I want to allow the Father to work His will in and through me.

I want to abide in Him.

Can you honestly say you completely abide in God? That you believe in Him fully? That you want to live to honor and glorify Him and only Him?

Give it up. Give it all up to Him. Let God work through you. Let Him bless you as He sees fit.

Abide in Him.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Don't Be Deceived (1 John 2:26)

These things I have written to you concerning those who are trying to deceive you.
(1 John 2:26, NASB)

One of the main purposes of John’s writing this letter is contained in these words. He wanted to prepare his readers for “those who are trying to deceive you.”

And we today need this same preparation. We certainly face deceivers, both religious and secular. Evolutionists “prove” their beliefs. Atheists deny God exists. New age thinkers say you can be your own “god.”

Even more tragically, religious leaders, even those who profess to be Christians, are deceiving us. Maybe Christ wasn’t sinless. Maybe there is another way to find salvation. Maybe everyone really will go to heaven if he’s good enough.

Then there are those who tell us if we give more, we’ll get more. That God wants everyone to be wealthy and prosperous.

Tragic … and immensely dangerous. Sin isn’t really sin. Jesus wasn’t really perfect. There are many roads to heaven. The Bible isn’t the infallible, inspired word of God.

So dangerous because God will not be mocked (Gal. 6:7). He will not be second-best (Ex. 20:3). He expects—and deserves—all our love … heart, soul, mind, and strength (Mark 12:30).

Beware of those who would try to deceive you. Make God’s word your touchstone. If anything distracts you or tells you something contrary to what God’s word says, run from it. And, as I’ve written many, many times, the only way to know what God’s word does say is studying it and meditating on it every day. I can’t encourage you more strongly.

Because if you don’t know, really know, what you believe, you’ll be easily deceived.

And that really is tragic.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Jesus' Promise (1 John 2:25)

This is the promise which He Himself made to us: eternal life.
(1 John 2:25, NASB)

I love this verse! I’m helping out with my church’s VBS this week, and one of the memory verses my kids learned was John 3:16. As I said yesterday, sometimes we who’ve known Jesus for a while can take our relationships with Him for granted. The same can be said of Bible verses we may have memorized years (or for some of us, decades) ago.

John 3:16, written by the same John whose book we’re focusing on now, reminds us of the core of the gospel. God loves us so much, He had a plan for our once-for-all salvation. God the Son, Jesus, came to earth to die for us, to pay the penalty for our sin. And that’s awesome … truly.

But that’s not the end of the story for us.

We’re promised another awesome thing: eternal life with our Lord and Savior. Eternity praising Him. Eternity worshipping Him.

That’s a promise Jesus Himself made. And that’s a promise you can trust.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Abide in God's Word (1 John 2:24)

As for you, let that abide in you which you heard from the beginning. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, you also will abide in the Son and in the Father.
(1 John 2:24, NASB)

Do you remember when you first met Jesus? When you asked Him to forgive you of your sins and be Lord of your life? Do you remember eagerly reading God’s word and being amazed how it spoke to you?

Do you remember your “first love”?

Some of us who’ve been following Christ for a while can take the amazing gift of a relationship with God—Father, Son, and Spirit—for granted. We forget what we “heard from the beginning.”

After I rededicated my heart and gave my life completely to the Lord almost 17 years ago, I felt that “first love” again. But I neglected time with God and time in His word. For about five years, my faith ebbed and flowed. I found myself falling back in to old patterns, and I realized that I needed to “abide” in God’s word. I needed to spend time reading and studying and meditating. I needed to spend time in prayer. And it had to be every day.

I get so easily distracted, and I know if I don’t spend part of each day with Jesus, I tend to neglect my relationship with Him. I need to abide in Him. And when I abide in Him, I learn more about God’s will for my life.

Are you abiding with Jesus? Spending time in the Bible? Every day? May I encourage you to do so? It’ll become the best part of your day. I promise.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Denying Christ ... (1 John 2:22-23)

Who is the liar but the one who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, the one who denies the Father and the Son. Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father; the one who confesses the Son has the Father also.
(1 John 2:22-23, NASB)

A couple of days ago, we read about the many “antichrists” in the world today. Today’s verses make it even more pointed. Anyone who denies that Jesus is the Christ—the Messiah—is an antichrist. Anti-Christ. Against Christ.

Just as we must decide whom we serve—God or money (Matt. 6:24; Luke 16:13), we must decide what we believe about Jesus. It’s not enough to say He was a wise man or a good teacher. He said He was equal with God the Father (“I and My Father are one.” John 10:30). He claimed that “no one comes to the Father but through [Him]” (John 14:6).

So to say He was just a good man or anything less than the Messiah is just plain wrong. And if you deny what He Himself said He was, then you’re against Him. You’re an antichrist.

I don’t know about you, but that chills me to the bone.

History—even secular history—has proven Jesus existed here on earth. And a two-millennia faith has flourished since the first disciples began sharing the good news of Christ’s death and resurrection. The gospels and Paul’s letters date to within just decades of the actual events. So closely, in fact, those who disputed Christ’s followers could have easily brought eye-witnesses to deny their claims.

But they didn’t. They couldn’t. Because everything happened exactly as the Bible said it did. Jesus did come to earth. He did die for the sins of mankind. He did rise again. He is Messiah, Savior.

Don’t deny truth. Don’t deny Christ as Messiah. Don’t be anti-Christ.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Know the Truth (1 John 2:20-21)

But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and you all know. I have not written to you because you do not know the truth, but because you do know it, and because no lie is of the truth.
(1 John 2:20-21, NASB)

When we committed our lives to God the Son, we received not only an anointing from the God the Father, but also God the Holy Spirit indwelt us. He is in us. And He helps reveal the truth of God’s word. As we study and meditate on God’s word, we know the truth.

Time in God’s word is the only way to really know God and His will. And it takes time. Every day. I know I write about this a lot, but it’s true. Until I spent time with God—every day—my walk with Him was, well, up and down, back and forth. It was too easy to neglect God. To neglect my faith. And fall into old fleshly ways.

When I made it a point (literally an appointment) to spend time with God each day, my life changed. For the better. As I learned more about Him and His love, grace, and mercy, my faith grew stronger. I had more peace. More joy. And as I trusted my life to Him, I became more content with whatever He sent my way.

Now, my day isn’t complete without spending time with God. Sometimes it’s only a few minutes. Other times, it’s much longer. The important thing? Keeping Him first and foremost in my heart and mind. Learning more about Him and His will.

Every day. What will you do this day to know your God more deeply?

Sunday, July 18, 2010

For or Anti Christ (1 John 2:18-19)

Children, it is the last hour; and just as you heard that antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have appeared; from this we know that it is the last hour. They went out from us, but they were not really of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us; but they went out, so that it would be shown that they all are not of us.
(1 John 2:18-19, NASB)

In the end times, there will be an Antichrist, who will deceive the world and usher in the tribulation (which, I believe, will happen after the rapture of the church). But even in these days, there are many, many antichrists. Anyone who is against Jesus Christ is an antichrist.

Atheists. Agnostics. Followers of other “faiths” that deny Jesus as God. And sadly, so-called Christians who say Jesus may not have been sinless or that He isn’t necessarily the only way to salvation and eternal life with God.

What do you believe? Is Jesus who the Bible says He is? Perfect God the Son who came to earth to pay our penalty for sin and to reconcile us with God the Father? Or was He just another wise teacher? Or maybe a myth?

You can either be a Christ-follower—heart, soul, mind, and strength—or an antichrist. One or the other.

Which are you? Your decision has eternal ramifications. And as I wrote yesterday, you must make a choice. So again, choose wisely.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

God or the World - Your Choice (1 John 2:15-17)

Do not love the world nor 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 lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever.
(1 John 2:15-17, NASB)

Our world offers many enticements. Things that appeal to our flesh, that catch our eyes. Wear this and you’ll look like her. Use this make-up and you’ll defy age. Drive this car and you’ll be popular. Ads and commercials depict beautiful, carefree people living just for today.

And sometimes even we Christ-followers get caught up in the hype. But the Bible makes it very, very clear. We cannot love both God and the world. Whichever is our primary focus becomes either our God (capital “g”) or our god (lower case “g”).

The Bible makes something else very, very clear: This world and everything in it is temporary. It will “pass away.” In fact, it’s in the very act as I write this. Even many secular scientists say the world is winding down, and we who follow Christ know that, one day, He will return. This world and its lusts will be destroyed, and we’ll live eternally in the new heaven and earth God has planned for us.

So … where is your focus? Are you running after the temporary things of this world? Or are you looking toward eternity? Are you living to serve God? Or the gods of this world?

You have to make a choice. Choose wisely.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Four Attributes of Believers (1 John 2:13-14)

I am writing to you, fathers, because you know Him who has been from the beginning. I am writing to you, young men, because you have overcome the evil one. I have written to you, children, because you know the Father. I have written to you, fathers, because you know Him who has been from the beginning. I have written to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one.
(1 John 2:13-14, NASB)

These verses describe four attributes of believers. Let’s look at them one by one:

We know God. We serve a personal God, One who wants to be known by His children. Many belief systems (in fact, most other than Christianity) believe their god to be far off somewhere, not interested in the day-to-day of us humans. Our God, on the other hand, is with us at all times. He never leaves us. We can come to Him at any time—and He’s here. Right now.

We have overcome the evil one. When we become followers of Jesus Christ, we join the winning side! Satan may try his best to tempt us or try to pull us away from the truth, but he knows he’s going to lost the war.

We are strong. With Jesus at our side, we can accomplish anything, according to the Father’s will. Yes, we may have pain or tragedy or crisis, but we are assured that we “can do all things” through the power of our Lord Jesus Christ. (See Philippians 4:13.)

God’s word abides in us. As a believer, a follower of Christ, it is critical—and I don’t use that word lightly—to spend time in God’s word. The Bible is full of truth, wisdom, encouragement, conviction, and inspiration. We know God more and more through His word. And we know more and more what He wants from us through His word.

Do you know God? Really know Him? Do you feel confident you’ve—with Jesus in you—overcome the evil one? Do you spend time in His word so it can abide in you?

Serving our personal God with whom we can truly be in relationship is a blessing beyond measure. Don’t take it for granted.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

For His Name's Sake (1 John 2:12)

I am writing to you, little children, because your sins have been forgiven you for His name's sake.
(1 John 2:12, NASB)

Such a short verse, but so rich. When we confess our sins, God the Father will forgive. (Don’t forget 1 John 1:9!) And He forgives because of the name of Jesus, God the Son.

There’s a wonderful old song written by Bill and Gloria Gaither called, “There’s Something About That Name.” The words are so true:
Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, there's just something about that name.
Master, Savior, Jesus, like the fragrance after the rain.
Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, let all heaven and earth proclaim!
Kings and kingdoms will all pass away,
But there's something about that name.

If you listen to a recording of this wonderful song, in between the two choruses, Gloria herself speaks of the amazing things that happen just at the mention of Jesus’ name:
Jesus, the mere mention of His name can calm the storm, heal the broken, raise the dead. At the name of Jesus, I've seen sin-hardened men melted, derelicts transformed, the lights of hope put back into the eyes of a hopeless child. At the name of Jesus, hatred and bitterness turn to love and forgiveness; arguments cease...

Emperors have tried to destroy it; philosophies have tried to stamp it out. Tyrants have tried to wash it from the face of the earth with the very blood of those who claimed it. Yet still it stands!

And at the name of Jesus, we are forgiven. There really is something about that name. Indeed.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Love Others (1 John 2:9-11)

The one who says he is in the Light and yet hates his brother is in the darkness until now. The one who loves his brother abides in the Light and there is no cause for stumbling in him. But the one who 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.
(1 John 2:9-11, NASB)

For the first part of his letter, John focused on loving and serving God. Being Christ’s light. Now he ups the ante.

Living in Christ’s light means more than loving God. It means loving others as well. And John makes it very clear: If we hate someone, we’re walking in darkness.

Hate breeds in darkness. I know. For many years, the hate I harbored for my abusers filled my heart so completely, there was no room for peace or joy … or love. Even more, that hate kept me from my relationship with God as well.

It wasn’t until I could forgive and love—yes, love—those who had hurt me that I was able to truly love God. Remember, forgiveness doesn’t mean agreement or approval. It means taking the burden off of your own shoulders. It means opening your heart to God’s love.

Is there someone you’ve yet to forgive? Someone who’s hurt you? Forgive. And even if you can’t let them in your life (and that’s okay), ask Jesus to help you love them. With His love.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Be the Light of Jesus (1 John 2:7-8)

Beloved, I am not writing a new commandment to you, but an old commandment which you have had from the beginning; the old commandment is the word which you have heard. On the other hand, I am writing a new commandment to you, which is true in Him and in you, because the darkness is passing away and the true Light is already shining.
(1 John 2:7-8, NASB)

John’s readers would have been very familiar with God’s commandments: to love Him (commandments 1-4) and to love others (commandments 5-10). (See Deut. 5:7-21.) So he first reminded them of that very fact. The “word which you have heard” would have been embedded in their hearts.

Yet John was also “writing a new commandment.” Before Christ’s first visit to earth, the people of Israel were to follow a laundry list of cleansing and purification rituals. Law upon law. And for them, atonement came through an annual sacrifice of a spotless lamb.

Now, however, atonement comes through the spilled blood of Jesus Christ. This “new commandment” said to abide in the light—the true light—of the Savior. Accept His gift of forgiveness and salvation. Joyfully live in relationship with him.

And one last promise in today’s verses: “the darkness is passing away and the true Light is already shining.” Yes, this world seems to be very dark—and getting darker. However, Jesus’ light is already shining through those who really, truly follow Him.

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you may remember the time we spent in Philippians. Remember how Paul describes true followers? To paraphrase: We are light in a dark, perverted, corrupt world.

Shine the light of Jesus today. Be Him to someone.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Truth or a Lie? (1 John 2:3-6)

By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments. The one who says, "I have come to know Him," and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him; but whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected By this we know that we are in Him: the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked.
(1 John 2:3-6, NASB)

As I’ve written before, there are many people who call themselves “Christians.” There are churches that say they’re “Christian” churches. But in reality? They’re liars.

If someone says she knows God, yet she picks and chooses what she believes, she’s a liar. If someone says he knows God, yet he disregards part of God’s word and commandments, he’s a liar. Hey, it’s not me who says this; it’s God.

The one who really knows God will keep His commandments. She’ll keep His word. He’ll love God and others. Those who really know God will abide in Him.

They’ll walk as Jesus walked.

So, are you a true follower of Christ? Do you believe God’s word as His inerrant, inspired revelation? Do you strive to follow His commandments—knowing, of course, that you may fail sometimes? Do you do your best to walk as Jesus walked?

If you truly want to follow Jesus, don’t compromise. Don’t “edit” God’s word. Walk the walk and talk the talk.

And why is this so important? Because the Bible says some will experience a very tragic meeting with God one day: They’ll stand before God, and say, “I went to church. I called myself a Christian.” And He’ll say, “Who are you? I don’t know you.” (See Matthew 7:21-23.)

Don’t let that be you. Believe with your whole heart. Meditate on His entire word, even those passages you don’t necessarily understand—or even like. Follow His commandments. Love Him and others. Serve Him.

And then one day, you’ll hear those amazing words, “Well done, My good and faithful servant.” (See Matthew 25:22-23; Luke 19:17.)

I don’t know about you, but that’s my desire: to live like Christ on earth, and then to stand before my Lord, knowing I loved, honored, and served Him well.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Jesus, Our Advocate (1 John 2:1-2)

My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.
(1 John 2:1-2, NASB)

More verses of amazing encouragement! John’s first hope for his readers was that they not sin at all. And as followers of Christ, that should be our daily goal: to be as Christ-like as possible and fight against sin.

But John knew how fleshly and flawed we humans are, so he reminded his readers that, when we do sin, Jesus is our Advocate, our interceder. Jesus, the righteous. Jesus, our sacrifice. Jesus, our Savior.

He is the “propitiation for our sins.” He is, according to Webster’s Dictionary, our “atoning sacrifice.” Jesus willingly gave His life to save you and me from our sins. He willingly gave His life to save everyone from their sins. Everyone.

And all we need to do is acknowledge that sacrifice. Confess our sins and then accept the gift of salvation. And then, as Jesus said to the woman caught in adultery, “Sin no more” (John 8:11). So simple. Yet for many, so difficult. Because it means they have to, well, confess their sin. And even more, they’re to sin no more. They either don’t think they’re capable of not sinning (and without the Holy Spirit, they are) or they don’t want to not sin.

If it’s the latter? They need a major change of heart. If, however, you’re reading this, and it’s the former, take heart. God knows you may sin again, even after accepting Jesus as your Savior. But, with the Holy Spirit in you (which happens immediately when you ask for Jesus’ forgiveness and ask God to be Lord of your life), you’ll be more and more aware of the sin in your life. You’ll confess it, and then, it will have less and less a stronghold on your life.

And if you do sin every once in a while? Your Advocate is ready and willing and able to intercede for you with the Father. And forgive you of that sin.

So be encouraged. I know I am.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Confessing and Forgiveness (1 John 1:8-10)

If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us.
(1 John 1:8-10, NASB)

Ah. One of the most encouraging verses in the Bible. 1 John 1:9: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

God is willing and waiting to forgive our sins. All we have to do is confess them. But so many people today are really deceiving themselves by saying, “I’m not that bad. I think the good things I do far outweigh the bad things.”

The truth isn’t in them. And even worse, they make God a liar. How tragic!

The Bible tells us that “all have sinned” (Rom. 3:23). All have sinned. No one lives a “good enough” life. We all sin, and the only antidote to sin is salvation through the blood of Jesus.

It comes down to a matter of will. Are we willing to admit we sin? Are we willing to confess that sin to God? Are we willing to accept Jesus’ gift of salvation? A willing heart that confesses sin will be saved. God will forgive. He will cleanse from all unrighteousness.

Do you have a willing heart? Or do you think you’re good enough? If you have never accepted the gift of salvation, confess your sin to God right now. Ask Him to forgive you and cleanse you. Ask Him to take loving control of your life.

You won’t regret it.

Friday, July 09, 2010

Walk in Light (1 John 1:6-7)

If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.
(1 John 1:6-7, NASB)

John doesn’t pull any punches with these verses. And his words are highly prophetic, for we live in a society of “Christians.” Polls still show a high percentage of people in the US call themselves Christians. But they certainly don’t “walk in the Light.”

But even for those of us who are true Christ-followers, how often do we “walk in the darkness”? How many of us have a hidden sin—or maybe not so hidden? How many of us show one face to our Christian friends, yet yell at our spouses or belittle our children? How many of us serve our community, yet neglect our families?

Habitual sin is “walking in darkness.” And if we practice sin, we’re liars.

I don’t know about you, but I want to “walk in the Light.” I want to have “fellowship with one another.” I want Jesus to shine through me.

And I want to please Him by living as He would. I want to cast off anything that would keep me from being God’s servant. Because how can I do anything less? Jesus died for me, and His blood “cleanses us from all sin.”

So how can I continue to practice sin?

Thursday, July 08, 2010

God Is Light! (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.
(1 John 1:5, NASB)

A long while ago, when Russ and I were on vacation, we visited some caverns. I can’t remember exactly where, but I do remember being down in a huge cave, and at one point, the tour guide turned out the lights. I’ve never been in any place so completely dark. No light anywhere. Not one smidgen (not sure I’ve ever used that word in a blog!).

Complete darkness.

Have you ever experienced complete darkness? Either literally or figuratively?

Other than that one time in the cave, I’ve never experienced complete darkness—literally, that is. But I’ve certainly experienced figurative darkness. Sometimes it was of my own making. Sometimes it was because of what others did.

If you’ve followed my blog for a while, you may remember my writing about experiences with sexual abuse. Although the Lord has given me “closure” about those times, I still recall a couple of incidences that were very dark.

You may also know I deal with four chronic health issues, and when all four hit at once, it can be very dark.

But guess what? I serve a God who is light. Pure light. When I’m suffering, when I’m uncertain, when the path before me seems dark, I can call to Him, and He’ll light my way. Now, I may only see a step or two in front of me, but that’s okay. Because I know He’s beside me, and I can trust Him to provide whatever light I need. For the moment.

If you’re in a dark place right now, call out to the One who is light. He’ll light your path and fill the darkness with His glory.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

An Eyewitness Account (1 John 1:1-4)

What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the Word of Life—and the life was manifested, and we have seen and testify and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was manifested to us—what we have seen and heard we proclaim to you also, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ. These things we write, so that our joy may be made complete.
(1 John 1:1-4, NASB)

For the next few weeks, we’re going to spend time with another of Jesus’ inner circle. John, the “beloved” disciple chosen by Jesus to care for His mother, walked by Jesus’ side for three years. He ate with Him. Learned from Him. Saw miracle upon miracle. John was Jesus’ intimate friend as well as a devoted follower.

He was an eyewitness. And what he wrote in this first of three short books is truth. The words come from a grateful heart, a joyful heart. And it was his deepest desire that others might know the truth of God—Father, Son, and Spirit.

Jesus. The Word of Life. Through Him we have eternal life. Through Him we have fellowship with the Father.

And John was blessed to have known Him well. And as we spend time reading and meditating on John’s words, we’ll know Him better as well.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Praise His Excellent Name (Ps. 8:6-9)

You have made him to have dominion over the works of Your hands;
You have put all things under his feet,
All sheep and oxen—
Even the beasts of the field,
The birds of the air,
And the fish of the sea
That pass through the paths of the seas.
O LORD, our Lord,
How excellent is Your name in all the earth!

(Psalm 8:6-9, NKJV)

The psalmist continues his praise of God’s amazing love for His children. Everything in this world, everything we see, touch, hear, was created to please Him and delight us.

He gave humankind “dominion over” everything. We are more important to God than any animal, bird, or fish. We are the only of His creation made in His very image. He is our Father. Our Abba. Our Daddy. And like any loving Father, He made a wonderful environment for us to live in.

All for us.

So we can join in a heartfelt chorus: “O LORD, our Lord, How excellent is Your name in all the earth!” Because, as amazing and wonderful this earth is, nothing is more amazing or wonderful than our Creator God. And we can speak His name with awe and joy and praise.

For His name is excellent, wonderful, worthy of praise. And worship. And honor. And glory.

Join in the chorus!

Monday, July 05, 2010

God Loves You! (Ps. 8:3-5)

When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers,
The moon and the stars, which You have ordained,
What is man that You are mindful of him,
And the son of man that You visit him?
For You have made him a little lower than the angels,
And You have crowned him with glory and honor.

(Psalm 8:3-5, NKJV)

When was the last time you sat and stared at a starlit sky? Marveled at its beauty? Considered the vastness of God’s creation?

It’s pretty humbling, isn’t it?

It’s time like this when the question of the psalmist becomes my question: “What is man that You are mindful of him, and the son of man that You visit him?” In other words, “Why do you care about us? What’s so great about sinful, flawed us?”

The main reason? Because He loves us.

God, the Creator of all things, who set each star in its place, who created mountains and seas and deserts … He is mindful of me. He thinks of me. He loves me. Tiny-speck-of-a-person me. And He loves tiny-speck-of-a-person you, too. He has made us just lower than the flawless beings the Bible calls angels. And He honors us as His specially-created children.

Think about how much God loves you the next time you look at a starlit sky. Or an ocean. Or a mountain. Or a flower. Or even the reflection in your own mirror.

Sunday, July 04, 2010

Infants' Gurgles and Toddlers' Songs (Ps. 8:2)

Out of the mouth of babes and nursing infants
You have ordained strength,
Because of Your enemies,
That You may silence the enemy and the avenger.

(Psalm 8:2, NKJV)

I often like to read different translations or paraphrases of a certain verse, and today’s verse speaks to me much more in The Message paraphrase:
Nursing infants gurgle choruses about you;
toddlers shout the songs
That drown out enemy talk,
and silence atheist babble.

Don’t you love it? I truly believe there is nothing more beautiful than the giggle of a precious infant. Or the off-key “Jesus wuvs me” sung by an adorable two year old.

And those sounds, those heart-lifting sounds, “drown out enemy talk, and silence atheist babble.” Why? Because every time a baby is born, the intricacy and complexity of God’s creation is demonstrated once again. Tiny fingers. Tiny toes. Heart. Lungs. Eyes. A God-designed complete human being.

A miracle.

Non-believers can say what they will, but seriously, every infant, every toddler proclaims the existence of God. A loving, amazing, infinitely creative God.

Saturday, July 03, 2010

Call Upon His Name (Ps. 8:1)

O LORD, our Lord,
How excellent is Your name in all the earth,
Who have set Your glory above the heavens!

(Psalm 8:1, NKJV)

One of the things I love most about the Bible is that God is called by many names. What I love about that is that I can find God by name in each and every situation. If I’m in pain, I can find Him by name. If I have a need, I can find Him by name. If I’m experiencing tremendous joy, I can find Him by name. If I’m lonely, I can find Him by name. This is such a blessing to my heart, and I hope it blesses your heart as well.

Let’s take a moment to look at how we can find God by name.

• When you feel lonely, remember that God sees you and is there for you. You can find Him by calling El Roi: the God who sees. (Genesis 16:13)
• When you have a need, remember that God will provide for you. You can find Him by calling Jehovah Jireh: the Lord will provide. (Genesis 22:14)
• When you’re in pain, remember that you can find Jehovah Rophe: the God who heals. (Exodus 15:26)
• When you’re frightened and unsure, remember that you can find the God who is your Refuge and your Strength. (Psalm 46:1)
• When you’re feeling stressed or out of control, remember that God will calm your spirit. You can find Him by calling Jehovah Shalom: the Lord is peace. (Judges 6:24)
• When you’re feeling unlovable and unloved, remember that you can find the God who is Love. (1 John 4:16)
• When you’re surrounded by darkness, remember that you can find the God who is light, and “in Him is no darkness at all.” (1 John 1:5)

[Excerpted from The Best Laid Plans © 2005 by Sauni Rinehart]

Friday, July 02, 2010

Grow in Grace and Knowledge (2 Peter 3:17-18)

You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, be on your guard so that you are not carried away by the error of unprincipled men and fall from your own steadfastness, but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory, both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.
(2 Peter 3:17-18, NASB)

Peter ends his second letter with a final exhortation. Since we know some will distort the truth, we need to be on guard. We need to be so saturated with God’s word and its truth that no one or nothing can cause us to fall away.

Instead, we need to continually “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”

Every day should find us eager to discover what God wants us to know of Him. We should read and study and dig deeper into His word. We should pray and ask for wisdom and discernment. We should be on alert against those who would try to pull our eyes and heart from our Lord.

And in all things and all ways we should glorify our God—Father, Son, and Spirit. Now on earth, and then eagerly awaiting the day when we will have the privilege of glorifying Him for eternity.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Be Diligent (2 Peter 3:13-16)

But according to His promise we are looking for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells. Therefore, beloved, since you look for these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, spotless and blameless, and regard the patience of our Lord as salvation; just as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given him, wrote to you, as also in all his letters, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which the untaught and unstable distort, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures, to their own destruction.
(2 Peter 3:13-16, NASB)

We are looking forward to that new heavens and a new earth. Well, I guess I should speak only for myself, but I’m really looking forward to being with my Lord for eternity. And as we learned yesterday, we need to be diligent about our behavior. How will Jesus find you when He returns? Will you be “spotless and blameless”—or as close to these as possible? Will He find you sharing His truth or reading His word or loving others?

What can we do to be fully prepared for Christ’s return?

We need to wisely study God’s word. Pray for the Spirit’s discernment as we read. We can’t rely on the teachings of those who are “untaught and unstable,” for they will distort His truth. That distortion will destroy them … don’t let it destroy you as well.

The bottom line: Know God. Know His word. Live as Christ-like as possible. Not easy. Not simple. But well worth it. For as I wrote yesterday, don’t you want to hear the Father say to you, with love and pride in His voice, “Well done, My good and faithful servant”?

I know I do.