Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Are You Blameless? (Ps. 51:1-4)

Have mercy upon me, O God,
According to Your lovingkindness;
According to the multitude of Your tender mercies,
Blot out my transgressions.
Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
And cleanse me from my sin.
For I acknowledge my transgressions,
And my sin is always before me.
Against You, You only, have I sinned,
And done this evil in Your sight—
That You may be found just when You speak,
And blameless when You judge.

(Psalm 51:1-4, NKJV)

We’re going to spend the next few days in one of my favorite psalms. This nineteen verse psalm is full. Of conviction. Of affirmation. Of encouragement.

And it starts with conviction.

We are sinful, fleshly creatures. And when we sin, we do so against one Person only. Our Sovereign Lord and Creator. He would well be within His rights to annihilate each and every one of us. But He is merciful. He is loving. And He chooses to forgive us. He choose to “blot out” our sin and to “wash [us] thoroughly” and “cleanse” us from our sin.

It’s only because of His love for us and His mercy that we are “blameless” in His sight. One day He will judge every person who ever lived, and only those of us who are cleansed by His loving mercy and grace will spend eternity with Him.

Will you be “blameless” when you stand before Him? Will you be confident that your sins are indeed blotted out? Cleansed? Washed?

The only way to be sure is to believe in the one way, one truth, and one way to the Father, and that’s His Son, Jesus Christ (John 14:6). And if you don’t know this Jesus, read the book of John. You’ll meet Him and learn how to be in relationship with Him.

And then you too can be certain that God sees you as “blameless.”

Monday, August 30, 2010

Be Well-Armed (1 John 5:16-18)

We know that we are of God, and that 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. This is the true God and eternal life. Little children, guard yourselves from idols.
(1 John 5:16-18, NASB)

John concludes his first letter by reminding his readers of the daily battle we face: Children of God versus the enemy of this world.

And we can’t prepare for battle if we don’t have the proper garb and weaponry. For a long while, I’d pray the armor of God every morning. I’ve fallen out of that habit, and I feel convicted this morning. I need to start again, and I invite you to join me. In Ephesians 6:10-17, Paul described our protective gear: the helmet of salvation, the breastplate of righteousness, the belt of truth, the shoes shod with peace, and the shield of faith. He ended with our one offensive weapon: the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

Every morning, we should pray that the Lord will prepare us for the day. We should pray that He’ll help us guard our thoughts. Our emotions. Our words. And when the enemy attacks, we’ll be able to defend ourselves with the strength of our faith. And we’ll be able to cut down his lies with the very words of God.

How prepared are you for the battle? Are you ready to guard yourself from the wiles and lies of the enemy? Is your armor on today? And are you armed with God’s word?

You’ve been given what you need. Just take what God has given you, and arm yourself. And be prepared.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Pray for Others (1 John 5:16-18)

If anyone sees his brother committing a sin not leading to death, he shall ask and God will for him give life to those who commit sin not leading to death. There is a sin leading to death; I do not say that he should make request for this. All unrighteousness is sin, and there is a sin not leading to death. We know that no one who is born of God sins; but He who was born of God keeps him, and the evil one does not touch him.
(1 John 5:16-18, NASB)

Prayer is a privilege. The very idea of being able to talk with our Creator, to commune with Him, to request of Him … it’s an amazing thought.

We can praise Him, thank Him, intercede for others, ask for needs to be met … and He listens to us.

Another aspect of prayer is praying for our brothers and sisters who are caught in the trap of sin. It’s not our responsibility to save them, but we can pray for them. We can pray that their hearts will be convicted and that they’ll repent of their sin.

Now I want to address verse 18. This seems to contradict many other words of scripture. Paul wrote many times of fighting sin. And yet, John wrote that “no one who is born of God sins.” He went on to say that “the evil one does not touch him.”

Yet Jesus Himself told Peter that Satan had made a request to “sift him like wheat” (Luke 22:31). And of course, God allowed Satan to more than touch Job. So who’s right? Do children of God sin or not? Well, yes. And since we all sin, are we not children of God?

I’m said before. I’m no theologian. I’m just someone who loves God and loves His word. I pray that the Holy Spirit will illuminate God’s word and reveal truth to me. I sometimes “get it” and sometimes I’m still perplexed at the mystery.

But this is what I believe. I believe that we accept the gift of salvation, and when we do, we are cleansed of our sin and we look forward to eternity with God—Father, Son, and Spirit. But while we’re on earth, we still battle our flesh. And there are times the flesh—however briefly—wins. But as we grow in faith, as our relationship with God becomes stronger and more intimate, we recognize our sin more quickly and immediately confess it.

And pain and suffering? Crises and tragedies? Are they from God or from the enemy? I’m not sure in every case. But this I know. God knows everything. He sees things we don’t. He knows what we need in order to be stronger in faith. And if He sometimes allows the enemy to touch us, it’s because He knows it will eventually turn out for our good (Romans 8:28).

No, I don’t know all the answers, and I know I never will this side of heaven. But I trust God. I know what He’s done—and continues to do—in my life. So even when I don’t quite understand, I’ll believe Him. Because He’s God, and I’m not.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Ask Within His Will (1 John 5:14-15)

This is the confidence which we have before 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 which we have asked from Him.
(1 John 5:14-15, NASB)

So many people look to verses like Matthew 7:6-9 and say they’ll get anything they ask for. And then when the answer is “no,” they claim God isn’t who the Bible says He is.

And then there’s the “name it and claim it” gospel. You name what you what, claiming it’ll happen. Again, when the answer is “no,” many turn away from God because they don’t get the answer to prayer they want.

If only they’d read verses like today’s. John is very, very clear that we need to ask “according to His will.” We are not God (I know, that surprises some of you!). We don’t see the whole picture. Only He knows how everything works together.

So when we pray, we need to always—always—ask for His will. And the beauty of it is, we can ask for anything. Absolutely anything. He will hear us in “whatever we ask.” But when we ask in His will, “we know that we have the requests which we have asked from Him.”

When we’re walking intimately with our Father and Lord, we begin to seek His plan, His will. And as we do so, our prayers begin to echo His desires for us.

That’s why it’s impossible to be in true relationship with God and live in habitual sin. Because living in sin is not God’s will for us. Instead, we become more and more aware of our sinful behavior. And when we do fall into our sinful habits, we confess much more quickly.

Because we want to be in His will. And we want Him to only do those things in us and through us that are His will.

And when we do ask? We can be confident that whatever He answers is right and good.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Eternal Life (1 John 5:13)

These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life.
(1 John 5:13, NASB)

This verse contains one of the main reasons John wrote this book. He wanted to assure his readers who believed in Jesus as Christ that they had eternal life.

Eternal life.

It’s a hard-to-understand concept, but is integral to the Christian faith. Eternity. What does that look like?

Some people believe it’s sitting on clouds playing harps. Others worry about boredom. Still others wonder how eternity is even possible.

We don’t know exactly what heaven will be like. We can’t imagine with our finite, human minds what timelessness is. And the Bible only shares a bit of what it will be like.

We do know we’ll have some kind of home (John 14:2).

We do know there will be no more tears or pain (Rev. 21:4).

We do know we’ll be in the presence—the actual presence—of our God (Rev. 21:3).

We do know we’ll serve God (Rev. 22:3).

But we don’t know everything. I believe the Bible hints at a few other things we’ll experience in eternity. I can’t give you actual passages on these beliefs. They’re ideas I’ve picked up through Bible study and the writings of people of faith whom I greatly admire (i.e., Randy Alcorn, Joni Earekson Tada).

I believe we’ll know our friends and family.

I believe we’ll have jobs to do that fit our giftedness.

I believe we’ll enjoy food—I can’t imagine there won’t be dark chocolate!

And I believe we’ll be so overwhelmed by God’s presence that we’ll sing along with the elders, angels, and other heavenly creatures: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come” (Rev. 4:8).

I, for one, can’t wait!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Calling God a Liar (1 John 5:9-12)

If we receive the testimony of men, the testimony of God is greater; for the testimony of God is this, that He has testified concerning His Son. The one who believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself; the one who does not believe God has made Him a liar, because he has not believed in the testimony that God has given concerning His Son. And the testimony is this, that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has the life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life.
(1 John 5:9-12, NASB)

Earlier in this book, John wrote about those who say they’re God’s children yet don’t follow His commandments. He bluntly said they’re liars.

In these verses, he addresses nonbelievers and again is quite blunt. Those who don’t believe God make Him a liar. Pretty intense, isn’t it?

So many people today say they believe in “god.” But when they’re asked who that god is, they respond with words like, “I believe in a higher power, but I don’t put a name to it.” In other words, they’re smart enough to know there’s something, but they’re not willing to believe in anything particular. Because, in doing so, they might have to follow that god’s tenets and commandments.

Or some, instead of claiming something, they claim everything. They take a bit from Hinduism, a little from Buddhism. They throw in some Islam and Judaism. Oh, and they like the “Jesus is love” idea, so they add a touch of Christianity.

Cafeteria religion.

But the God of the Bible claims to be the one and only true God. And He makes it very, very clear: There is no other god but Him (Ex. 20:3). So if anyone says He’s not, then they’re accusing Him of lying.

You can’t have it both ways. Either believe in the God of truth, or don’t. But know this: If you choose to not believe in Him, you will not have eternal life with the Creator, the Savior, the Lord God Almighty.

You'll spend eternity separated from the one Who loves you enough to die for you. For you.

What's your choice?

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Testify (1 John 5:7-8)

For there are three that testify: the Spirit and the water and the blood; and the three are in agreement.
(1 John 5:7-8, NASB)

I’ve been asked why I believe that Jesus is the only way to salvation. Why I believe that the God of the Bible is the one and only true God. If you’re a follower of Christ, you may have been asked the same.

What’s your answer?

Part of why I believe what I believe is I trust the Bible as God’s word. I believe God the Spirit wrote through the pens of men.

But that’s not the only reason. In fact, in some ways, it’s not even the main reason.

I believe what I believe because of how God has changed my life. I could share countless testimonies of dramatic life-changes of others, but when it comes down to it, the only story I can really tell is my own.

And God changed my life.

I see Him work in my life each and every day. He gives me peace in this very peace-less world. He gives me strength when I simple can’t function on my own. He opens unexpected, but perfect doors. He provides—miraculously sometimes—for my needs.

I know this sounds melodramatic, but I honestly believe I wouldn’t be alive today if it weren’t for God’s work in my life. His very, very real presence.

And as John said, I know the Holy Spirit is in me. I’ve been baptized by water and cleansed by blood. Those three testify to my being God’s daughter.

That’s my testimony.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Overcoming the World (1 John 5:4-6)

For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. Who is the one who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? This is the One who came by water and blood, Jesus Christ; not with the water only, but with the water and with the blood. It is the Spirit who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth. (1 John 5:4-6, NASB)

“It’s a hard-knocked life” … If you ever saw the musical Annie, you’ll recall a bunch of little orphan girls being treated like slaves by the horrible Miss Hannigan. The girls scrub and mop and sweep. No fun. No play. No joy.

Sometimes I feel like I’m living a “hard-knocked” life. The aches and pains and fatigue of each day often make every task, every movement, an effort.

And then I look at this world and all its suffering and tragedies, and “hard-knocked” seems a great understatement. I’ve written this before, but it definitely feels—as the perversion and corruption increase—this world is winding down. And it often feels like the enemy is winning.

But no. Not at all.

We know Jesus will one day return and overcome the world. But John tells us something in this verse that should give us hope for today. We who are born of God already overcome the world with our faith.

Think about it. If we don’t allow the worries of this world to take us down, if we’re able to stand firm in the midst of pain, if we smile through the tears, we’re overcoming the world. And when others watch us overcoming, they may very well ask how we can have joy.

And our answer is so easy. It’s because the “Spirit of truth” is in us. We know this life is temporary and one day—I think it’s sooner than ever—we’ll be in heaven with our Lord and Savior. No pain. No sorrow. No tears.

No “hard-knocked” life.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Freedom. Not Burdens. (1 John 5:2-3)

By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and observe His commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome.
(1 John 5:2-3, NASB)

Throughout this small book, John has been reiterating two key thoughts: loving God means loving others and loving God means keeping His commandments. If we claim to be His children, we will do both.

What I love about verse three, though, is John has added a bit of reassurance: God’s “commandments aren’t burdensome.”

So many people seem to think that following Christ means giving up all the “fun” of life. Don’t do this. Don’t do that. Walk the narrow path.

On paper, it does sound restrictive, and may I even say, boring. But that’s not what being a child of God is all about. It’s seeing God work. It’s experiencing true joy and peace in the midst of pain and tragedy. It’s being God’s hands and feet to those in need. It’s feeling a genuine love for others.

When you truly follow Christ, when you give your life completely to the Father, then following God’s commandments really isn’t “burdensome.” It is, rather, freeing. When I’m able to say with a sincere heart, “Whatever You choose to do, Lord God,” I know my loving God will do His work through me.

I can love and serve Him. I can love and serve others. I can follow His commandments.

And none of it is burdensome.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Random Thoughts ...

Yesterday, I posted my 300th posting. And it made me stop and think of the last few years. I started posting whenever the Spirit moved me. Prayers. Thoughts. Devotionals.

Since February, though, I've been writing a daily devotional based on a particular book of the Bible. I hadn't really thought about it until a week or so ago, but these daily devotionals have become a great part of my own personal Bible study and meditation. When I respond to verses, I do so prayerfully. And the words the Spirit gives me to give you encourage, convict, and affirm me, just as I pray they do you.

Anyway, I wanted to take this 301st posting to thank you for joining me in my journey. And my prayer for you is that you too will grow in your walk with Christ, just as I am.


God bless you.

Friday, August 20, 2010

If ... Then ... (1 John 5:1)

Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and whoever loves the Father loves the child born of Him.
(1 John 5:1, NASB)

Science was never my favorite subject. English? Absolutely loved. History? Usually pretty interesting. Math? Okay—sometimes. But science? Not so much. But I did find the “if, then” logic of scientific hypothesis intriguing. If one thing is true, then this other thing is equally true.

The Bible contains many hypotheses as well, and John has two great ones in this single verse.

If I believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah, then I am born of God. If another person also believes the same, then she is born of God as well. Further, if I love the Father, then I will love those born of Him (i.e., other Christ-followers).

The contrary cannot be true, according to John’s hypothesis. I cannot love God, yet hate those born of Him.

Maybe this is a good litmus test on how closely we follow our Lord. If we can genuinely love our brothers and sisters in Christ (and as we’ve talked about before, this doesn’t mean we necessarily love their actions and certainly not their sin), then we are truly God’s children.

Do you pass the test? Or do you have some work to do?

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Love God? Then Love Others (1 John 4:20-21)

If someone says, "I love God," and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one 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, that the one who loves God should love his brother also.
(1 John 4:20-21, NASB)

It’s nearly impossible to truly love and follow God if you have hate in your heart for someone. For a very long time, I couldn’t find my way to really, sincerely loving God because I held a lot of hate, anger, and unforgiveness for those who had hurt me deeply when I was a child and young teenager. That hate and anger, that inability to forgive, kept me far away from God for a very long time.

When I finally recommitted my life and gave it completely to God, one of the first things I did—after confessing my sin—was to ask for Jesus’ help to forgive those who had hurt me. Once I did, I can honestly say I was able to love them. Really love them. But not on my own. No, it was with a supernatural love from God.

I realized then what I know now: Loving my sisters and brothers—even those who hurt me—isn’t an option. I may not love their actions. I certainly don’t condone their sin. But I can still love them with a Christ-like love. My Savior forgave His executors as He hung, broken and beaten, from the very instrument of His death.

If He could do that, how can I do anything less than love others?

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Perfect Love (1 John 4:18-19)

There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love. We love, because He first loved us.
(1 John 4:18-19, NASB)

Two wonderful truths are found in today’s verses.

First, we really, truly don’t need to fear anything. Anything. Our Father loves us so much, and Jesus promised to be with us “always, even unto the end of the age” (Matt. 28:20). We are never alone. Though we travel through the “valley of the shadow of death,” we needn’t fear because our Shepherd is with us (Ps. 23:4).

Perfect love casts out fear … and our Father perfectly loves us!

Second, love comes from God. Period. Without His loving example, we wouldn’t know what love really is. Think about it. Laying down our lives for our friends. Turning the other cheek. Loving our enemies. Selflessness.

Those are lessons we learn from Jesus’ life on earth.

Forgiveness. Grace. Mercy. Redemption.

We receive these gifts because of the Father’s love for us. Without God’s love in us, we would manifest wrath, jealousy, selfishness … all those “works of the flesh.” (See Gal. 5:19-21.)

If you’re fearful, lay everything—all your worries, all your cares—at Jesus’ feet. Allow Him to cover your fear with His love.

And when you feel less than loving, remember how much you’re loved. And love accordingly.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

As He Is, So Also Are We (1 John 4:17)

By this, love is perfected with us, so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment; because as He is, so also are we in this world.
(1 John 4:17, NASB)

One day, every person who ever lived will stand before God’s throne.

Some will be rewarded for their earthly service with a “well done, good and faithful servant.” They will be ushered into the home that Jesus has prepared for them. They will spend eternity serving and praising their Creator God.

Others will be condemned because they chose not to follow the one true God. They may say, “But I knew You,” thinking that just believing God exists is enough, and He’ll respond, “But I don’t know you.” They will spend eternity separated from their Creator God.

If we love as Jesus loved, if we have truly accepted Him as Lord and Savior, if we strive to become more and more like Him in this world, then we’ll be in that first group.

It’s more than just believing He exists. Much more. I know I talk about this a lot, but I can’t stress it enough.

If you want to stand one day in front of your Lord and Savior and hear, “Well done,” you must abide in Christ. You must live every day seeking the will of the Father. You must spend time with Him, in prayer and in His word.

Abide. Remain. Saturate.

Every day.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Eyewitness Testimony (1 John 4:11-13)

We have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son to be the Savior of the world. Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.
(1 John 4:11-13, NASB)

John actually saw Jesus. He was an eyewitness to Christ’s earthly ministry. He was part of the Master’s inner circle. He saw healings and resurrections and exorcisms. He experienced Jesus’ joy as He held little children and His laughter as He ate with friends.

Then John saw Him arrested and beaten and crucified. He grieved at his Master’s death. Oh, but then he rejoiced when he met the risen Savior!

John’s letters aren’t wishful thinking; they’re truth. Because he knew Jesus. He knew the Savior.

When he writes about confessing that Jesus is the Son of God and that God Himself will abide in us, it’s truth. When he writes about God’s love for us, we can trust his words.

We needn’t wonder or question whether God loves us or if He’s with us. John’s words are inspired by the Spirit, yes, but they’re written by someone who knew Jesus. Really knew Him.

And we can know Him just as intimately. If you’ve confessed that Jesus is God’s Son and have accepted His gift of salvation, you can know Him. Spend time in His word. Spend time in prayer. He’s abiding in you. So abide with Him.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

God's Love in Us (1 John 4:11-13)

Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has seen God at any time; if we love one another, God abides in us, and His love is perfected in us. By this we know that we abide in Him and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit.
(1 John 4:11-13, NASB)

I don’t see God with my eyes; I see Him with my heart. I feel His presence in my very being. I know He’s in me. He’s with me. He abides in me.

What an amazing thought!

And how do I show that He’s in me? I love others. I learn more about the God I serve and share Him with those around me. I serve selflessly.

I won’t kid you. It’s not always easy to love others. Some people I run into just aren’t loveable. But I can still love them as Jesus would. By looking beyond their weaknesses (since I have many of my own) and seeing one of God’s beloved creations.

As we continue to strive to love as Jesus would, God “perfects” His love in us. We find it easier and easier to love others. Even those who hurt us. Or malign us. Or treat us unfairly.

I guess it comes down to this: Our lives on earth are so very short. We have eternity with Jesus to look forward to. So why not just love others during our temporary tenure? Why not just be Jesus to them?

Saturday, August 14, 2010

God's Love in Us (1 John 4:9-10)

By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.
(1 John 4:9-10, NASB)

Love is from God. Without a loving, merciful, gracious Creator, we wouldn’t know what true, selfless love is.

Think about it. God the Father loved us so much, He sent His Son—part of Himself—to wear human flesh. Jesus was a typical boy, I’m sure. He skinned His knee. He bumped His head. He may have been teased.

Then He grew to be a man. He worked as a carpenter. His muscles ached. He was drenched with sweat.

He began His earthly ministry. He walked miles and miles. He sat in the sun and taught. He healed—sometimes receiving gratitude, sometimes not.

Finally, He faced betrayal, arrest, denial, beatings, ridicule. And death in a most excruciatingly painful way.

All for us. All because of the Father’s abundant love for us. And He did this even for those who reject Him.

That’s love. And we who are God’s children can love selflessly as well. We can serve others. We can be gracious even when we’re being persecuted. We can let Christ shine through us. But we can’t love that way on our own. It’s only when we allow God’s love to permeate our very beings that we can love others.

And that’s exactly what God calls us to do.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Love Is of God (1 John 4:7-8)

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love.
(1 John 4:7-8, NASB)

An old saying says, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”

Jesus said that loving our neighbor as ourselves is the second greatest commandment. But do we really obey this commandment? Do we really, truly love others? I know for myself, no matter how I try, there are times when it’s really, really hard to love others. When someone cuts me off. When someone says something rude. When someone disparages those I love. When someone hurts another maliciously.

It is not easy. But we have the Giver of love as our Father. We should love as He loves. As much as we possibly can.

We will fail. It’s that flesh again. We’ll get angry or be rude ourselves. We’ll gossip. We’ll ignore.

But as with any godly attribute, we can strive to love in spite of the weaknesses or attitudes of those around us. We can turn the figurative cheek. We can be gentle and kind.

And who’s to say that our loving behavior might be the catalyst for change in someone else’s life?

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Greater Is He! (1 John 4:4-6)

You are from God, little children, and have overcome them; because greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world. They are from the world; therefore they speak as from the world, and the world listens to them. We are from God; he who knows God listens to us; he who is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error.
(1 John 4:4-6, NASB)

One of my favorite encouragements: “… greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world.”

No matter what this world throws at me, no matter how the enemy tries to tempt me, I can be confident I’ll overcome anything because the Victor is in me!

I am from God. I am His child. I listen to His voice, read His word, know His truth.

And because of the confidence I have in Him, I don’t need to worry or stress about what’s happening in this world that’s rapidly winding down. One day, this world will pass away. It will be no more. And all the ugliness and perversion and corruption will become nothing.

We who are His children will live eternally praising and serving our God. In a perfect new heaven and new earth.

I can’t wait!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

For Christ? Or Anti-Christ? (1 John 4:2-3)

By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God; and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God; this is the spirit of the antichrist, of which you have heard that it is coming, and now it is already in the world.
(1 John 4:2-3, NASB)

When God inspired me to begin a speaking ministry five years ago, I wrote my “statement of faith.” It’s crucial that anyone who asks me to speak understands my theological foundation:

~ I believe in God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.
~ I believe that God the Father created heavens and earth and all that’s in them; that God the Son—Jesus—died on the cross to pay the penalty for my sin and rose three days later; and that God the Holy Spirit dwells within each one who accepts the free gift of salvation and eternal life.
~ I believe that salvation comes only through the belief in and receipt of Jesus’ death and resurrection.
~ I believe that those who choose to follow Jesus will spend eternity with Him in heaven, and those who do not will spend eternal life separated from Him.
~ I believe that God has uniquely gifted each of His children, and that we are to use those gifts to serve and glorify Him, serve each other, and ultimately grow His kingdom.

Having a ministry that shares God’s truth has made it easier to “confess that Jesus Christ has come.” People ask me what I do, and I tell them.

That’s what we’re called to do: confess Jesus as Lord. We can’t say we’re children of the one true God and not do so. To say we follow the God of the Bible, and in the next breath say Jesus isn’t the only way of salvation is, in truth, anti-Christ. We’ve talked about this before: If we’re not 100 percent for Jesus, we’re anti-Him. It just can’t be both ways.

Be for Jesus Christ. Confess Him as Lord. Tell others of the truth of His life, death, and resurrection. Share the good news of salvation boldly and joyfully.

Don’t be anti-Christ.

Monday, August 09, 2010

False Prophets (1 John 4:1)

Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.
(1 John 4:1, NASB)

We’ve talked about false prophets before, but it bears repeating, which is probably why John wrote about it several times.

Not only is our world full of false faiths—too many to list here—but it’s also full of false prophets. “Feel good” gospel. Make up your own version of what you believe. Pull the Bible apart and keep what allows you to live however you choose.

How God’s heart must break when He sees people who say they’re followers of His Son, who call themselves “Christians,” yet live so contrary to His word. They live in habitual sin. They more than love their neighbor, they accept and even celebrate outright sin.

I honestly don’t know how anyone can read and study the Bible, and then live with her boyfriend or maliciously gossip or abuse his wife. I know ours isn’t the first generation to do so. “Sunday Christians” have existed as long as Sunday has.

But it’s just so tragic. So heartbreaking. I know Christians aren’t perfect—I certainly am not. But we should live each moment of each day seeking the help of the Holy Spirit. We should “go and sin no more” when we revert to our fleshly ways. We should trust God’s word as the one and only truth.

Don’t get caught up with the hype. Don’t believe those who tell you Jesus isn’t the only way. Don’t trust anyone who teaches anything contrary to God’s truth.

No, Christians aren’t perfect, but we are being perfected. (See Phil. 1:6.) And to be that “work in progress,” we need to live by the one Guidebook we have.

Have you studied your Bible—just as God inspired—today?

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Our Amazing God (1 John 3:23-24)

This is His commandment, that we believe in the name of His Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, just as He commanded us. The one who keeps His commandments abides in Him, and He in him. We know by this that He abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us.
(1 John 3:23-24, NASB)

John wraps up chapter 3:

~ Believe in the name of Jesus Christ.
~ Love one another.
~ Keep His commandments.
~ Abide in Christ.

We are loved. So very loved. We are forgiven. We are blessed. We are given grace. We are given mercy.

God is our refuge. Our stronghold. Our healer. Our rock. Our provider.

Jesus Christ abides in us. Walks alongside us. Carries us when we’re weary.

The Holy Spirit convicts us. Affirms us. Encourages us.

What a beautiful affirmation. What an amazing God we serve.

Friday, August 06, 2010

Live to Love (1 John 3:17-22)

Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth. We will know by this that we are of the truth, and will assure our heart before Him in whatever our heart condemns us; for God is greater than our heart and knows all things. Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God; and whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do the things that are pleasing in His sight.
(1 John 3:17-22, NASB)

When I read these verses, I see three very important things:

First, we demonstrate our love for God and others by action. We can say “I love you” as many times as we want, but if we’re neglectful or hurtful or abusive, we do not love. How many victims of domestic abuse are beaten and then are told “I’m sorry. I love you.” The words themselves mean nothing unless they are followed by care and compassion, grace and mercy.

Second, God knows our hearts. He knows everything we think and feel. We can say one thing—and those around us may think they’re hearing truth—but think something completely different. God knows. We can’t hide anything from Him.

Finally, God answers prayers. He will give us what we ask. However, there’s a big IF. We receive from Him IF “we keep His commandments and do the things that are pleasing in His sight.” If we’re living to please Him, if we’re striving to obey His word and His commandments, if we truly seek His will, He will answer our prayers. According to that will.

How are you showing love to others? What are you keeping in the depths of your heart that is contrary to your words? Are you living and striving to follow God’s commands?

Convicting questions. Your answers will show how you really love God and others.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Helping Others (1 John 3:16)

But whoever has the world's goods, and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him?
(1 John 3:17, NASB)

We live in a society of excess, of “more.” I have a perfectly nice house, but now I need a bigger one. I have a serviceable car, but I want a flashier, status-symbol one. I have a closet full of clothes, but I’m not satisfied until I get that trendy name on my jeans.

There’s nothing wrong with having nice things. If God has blessed you with a healthy income, and you can afford to buy without debt, then enjoy His blessings.

The problem is that we often get so caught up with our “stuff,” we forget that one of the reasons God has blessed us financially is so we can have the joy of helping others.

Just recently, I reconnected with a friend who had been hit hard by the economic downturn. The story is hers, but I can say she ended up homeless for a while. It was so eye-opening to me: She is an intelligent, mentally-healthy woman who had just hit bottom. She’s getting back on her feet, and Russ and I had an opportunity to help her with a few things for her new apartment.

We also were able to help my nephew and his wife with their missions trip to the Czech Republic this summer.

It wasn’t necessarily easy. Since I was laid off from my job in February, Russ and I have tightened our financial belt. We don’t go out to eat as much. We don’t buy “toys.” But we know God has still blessed us, and we can still open our hearts to those less fortunate than we.

And it is heart-warming. Literally. There’s nothing quite like the feeling of knowing you’re using God’s money and God’s things to help others.

Because, after all, it is all His anyway.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

How Well Do You Love (1 John 3:16)

We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.
(1 John 3:16, NASB)

Whew … John’s next admonition is tough! Yes, Christ loved us so much “He laid down His life for us.” He withstood pain and torture beyond what very few of us will ever experience. He hung on that cross for hours. Hearing the mockers. Straining for shallow breaths. Feeling the heat of the sun on His flayed body. In fact, think of the same chapter and verse in John's gospel. One we memorize as children. "For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only son ..."

All for us. All because He loves us that much. And we who follow Him are grateful—exceedingly grateful.

But what about the next part of this verse? We’ve been talking a lot about loving our brothers and sisters, and many of us really do strive to do so. But laying down our own lives for them? I don’t know.

I hope I’d be willing to sacrifice my own life for my husband or my mom or my siblings. Even my nieces and nephews. But as much as I love my dear friends, would I really be willing to throw myself in front of the proverbial bullet? I don’t know. And what about a total stranger. I really don’t know.

Yet that’s what John says real love is.

All I can do is pray, “Lord God, please make me selfless. Please create in me a love so deep for my brothers and sisters that I’d give my very life to spare theirs. Fill me with an overwhelming love for everyone. Amen.”

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Change the World (1 John 3:14-15)

We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love abides in death. Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer; and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.
(1 John 3:14-15, NASB)

John is quite insistent about loving our brothers and sisters. And it’s true. Loving our brothers and sisters is an outward illustration of our love for God. It’s really the only way for nonbelievers to see God’s love for them.

Imagine what the world would do if each and every true follower of Christ truly loved their neighbors as they do themselves. Imagine if we showed kindness and compassion to those in need. Imagine if we selflessly gave our time, our talents, our treasures to serve others.

The world would have a much different view of Christianity. Instead of calling us hypocrites, they’d call us examples of mercy. Instead of thinking we’re hateful, they’d feel our genuine love. Instead of laughing at us in derision, they’d see our true joy.

It’s not easy, that’s for sure. But if we could live with the attitude that—no matter what—we were going to live the fruit of the Spirit, what a difference it would make. Nonbelievers would be attracted to us rather than repelled. They’d be eager to know more about our God. They’d see Jesus shine through us.

Think of it. Think of what the world would be. If we just loved our brothers and sisters.

Sunday, August 01, 2010

Hate from the World (1 John 3:13)

Do not be surprised, brethren, if the world hates you.
(1 John 3:13, NASB)

Does the world hate you? Does it see something in you that is abhorrent? Or something that convicts? Or do they see you as just another person?

Sometimes I think we’ve become so like the world in our actions and words that they don’t see anything to hate. Or if they do hate us, it’s because we’ve been like the Pharisees of old as we speak one thing and do something else. For example, do they hear us saying how we love our neighbor, and then watch us wrathfully condemn those we don’t like—or understand—to hell?

Are we, as they say, talking the talk but not walking the walk?

The world shouldn’t hate us because of our soapbox tirades. The world should hate us because we are so kind and loving and gracious and merciful that their hearts are pierced by reluctant admiration for how we love and serve. The world should hate us because we love our enemy just as we love our neighbor.

The world should hate us because we live like Christ, because we turn the other cheek. We forgive. We heap coals of fire rather than words of derision (Rom. 12:20). We acknowledge our weaknesses and know, if not for God’s grace, we too would be lost.

Does the world hate you? And if so, for the right reasons? If it does, then rejoice! For you’re becoming more and more like Christ! And your reward is in heaven. Not in this temporary life.