Category Archives: Sunday

The Structure of Life

1 John 5
5 Who is it that overcomes the world but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?
6 This is he who came by water and blood, Jesus Christ, not with the water only but with the water and the blood.
7 And the Spirit is the witness, because the Spirit is the truth.
8 There are three witnesses, the Spirit, the water, and the blood; and these three agree.
9 If we receive the testimony of men, the testimony of God is greater; for this is the testimony of God that he has borne witness to his Son.
10 He who believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself. He who does not believe God has made him a liar, because he has not believed in the testimony that God has borne to his Son.
11 And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.
12 He who has the Son has life; he who has not the Son of God has not life.  RSV


5 He who believes that Jesus is the Son of God
overcomes the world
6 Jesus Christ
who came by water and blood
not with the water only

7 Because the Spirit is the truth 
the Spirit is the witness
8 The Spirit, the water, and the blood 
are three witnesses
and these three agree
9 the testimony of God is greater;
for this is the testimony of God
he has borne witness to his Son

10 He who believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself.
He who does not believe God has made him a liar;
because he has not believed in the testimony that God has borne to his Son.
11 God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son
and this is the testimony,

12 He who has the Son has life

Beloved Little Children

1 John 4:1 Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are of God; for many false prophets have gone out into the world.
2 By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit which confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God,
3 and every spirit which does not confess Jesus is not of God. This is the spirit of antichrist, of which you heard that it was coming, and now it is in the world already.
4 Little children, you are of God, and have overcome them; for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.
5 They are of the world, therefore what they say is of the world, and the world listens to them.
6 We are of God. Whoever knows God listens to us, and he who is not of God does not listen to us. By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error. RSV


Do not believe every spirit
Test the spirits
Many false prophets have gone out into the world


Every spirit which confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God,
Every spirit which does not confess Jesus is not of God.
This is the spirit of antichrist,
you heard that it was coming
now it is in the world already.

You are of God, and have overcome them
They are of the world, therefore what they say is of the world
the world listens to them. 

for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.
Whoever knows God listens to us,
he who is not of God does not listen to us.

 

Loving

I John 3
16 By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.
17 But if any one has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?
18 Little children, let us not love in word or speech but in deed and in truth.
19 By this we shall know that we are of the truth, and reassure our hearts before him
20 whenever our hearts condemn us; for God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything.  RSV


He laid down his life for us.
By this we know love.
We ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.
Loving in deed and in truth
reassures our hearts before Him,
we are of the truth.
God is greater than our hearts
whenever our hearts condemn us!

Behold!

I John 3:1 Behold, what love the Father has given to us, that we should be called the sons of God! For this reason, this world does not know you: because it does not know Him.  2 Dearly beloved, we are now the sons of God. But what we shall be is yet to be revealed. And we know that when He shall be revealed, we shall be like Him. For we shall see Him as He is. RGT [Revised Geneva Translationa]

You may remember a simple chorus sung as a round based on these specific words of I John 3:1.  You may still mentally hear the music.  If it’s unfamiliar take a minute to listen here.  It’s a very basic two-sentence structure that repeats and overlaps as each side sings their part to complete the Word to the other.  

Behold what manner of love the Father has given unto us,
Behold what manner of love the Father has given unto us,
That we should be called the sons of God,
That we should be called the sons of God.

Reading those words triggered the memory of the music that goes with them. The testimony of truth is when music and the Word are combined, the two halves of the human brain are uniquely engaged in a lasting way.  Behold!  Reading Words on a page has the power to stimulate the music of our memory and remind our heart that the Father has given His love is to His children [of any age] for this purpose: our hope “that when He shall be revealed, we shall be like Him. For we shall see Him as He is.”

aThe Geneva Bible is specifically designed to be SPOKEN and HEARD, repeatedly, and is built on the premise that a crucial key to revival in the present can be found in one simple practice from the past—speaking God’s Word back to each other in community.

Joy

I John 2:18 Children, it is the last hour, and as you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come. Therefore we know that it is the last hour. 19 They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us. 20 But you have been anointed by the Holy One, and you all have knowledge.[Some manuscripts you know everything] 21 I write to you, not because you do not know the truth, but because you know it, and because no lie is of the truth. 22 Who is the liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, he who denies the Father and the Son. 23 No one who denies the Son has the Father. Whoever confesses the Son has the Father also. 24 Let what you heard from the beginning abide in you. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, then you too will abide in the Son and in the Father. 25 And this is the promise that he made to us[Some manuscripts you]—eternal life. ESV

Right from the beginning of this passage there are two hard truths  to think about and accept.  They are  the Apostle’s warning: “it is the last hour” and “many antichrists have come. Therefore we know that it is the last hour.”  There is a toxic residue in real life because of the truth of those two statements even though they were written so long ago.  It would all be so depressing if it weren’t for Verse 20 “But you have been anointed by the Holy One, and you all have knowledge.[Some manuscripts you know everything]. That has become the catalyst for my thoughts this morning. 

We are exhorted to “Let what you heard from the beginning abide in you. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, then you too will abide in the Son and in the Father.”   We all know one “canned” answer of faith is “it’s not WHAT you know but WHO you know.”  This warning is for me [and you].  It’s dangerous to count on what I think I  know for my salvation even when I’m willing to acknowledge the many things I don’t know.

In the midst of the circumstances of life filled with that toxic residue of those first two hard statements WHAT I know about WHO I know is very important but even that will not save me.  I am surely saved by faith, but not my own. There is a reality that overcomes toxic circumstances to make joy possible in this physical life. It’s also the unbreakable thread of truth that ties me to eternity.

I am simply saved because of Christ’s faith…in me.

Assurance of Love

I John 2:1 My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. 2 He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. 3 And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. 4 Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, 5 but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: 6 whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.

– Jesus Christ, the righteous, is God’s satisfaction [propitiation] of His wrath against our sin
– By this one truth we are assured we have come to know the Father.
– By this simple assurance we may also know that we are “in Jesus.”
– When we are “in Him” the love of God is perfected “in us.”

A Sweet Lesson

1 John 1:1 That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. 2 The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us. 3 We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. 4 We write this to make our[your] joy complete. NIV

Forest Gump said “life is like a box of chocolates.”  I say life is like an Oreo cookie.  Life’s days and experiences are like the two pieces of cookie that surround the best part – that sweet center.  Have you noticed how carefully Oreos are packaged to protect them between production and consumption?  Have you noticed that even when the cookie has crumbled, the cream in the center can still hold the cookie together? 

Have you thought about how carefully protected your life has been because of God’s faith in all your days and experiences that you would finally taste His goodness?  Have you noticed in your life of faith that your brokenness doesn’t have to separate you from the sweetness of His faithfulness to you?  An Oreo cookie has become a sweet lesson about the center God has provided to protect us through all our days and experiences from His production to our consumption.  Jesus is that “which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life .” 

Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one
who takes refuge in him. Psalm 34:8 NIV

Something More!

Romans 8:37 In everything we have won more than a victory because of Christ who loves us. 38 I am sure that nothing can separate us from God’s love—not life or death, not angels or spirits, not the present or the future, 39 and not powers above or powers below. Nothing in all creation can separate us from God’s love for us in Christ Jesus our Lord!  CEV

Have you noticed there are times in life when a phrase or a topic of faith just “pops” up from enough different sources that you know you’re being taught something new?  For some time now I’ve been pondering something I wouldn’t necessarily want more of; weakness.  But not weakness as inadequacy, mind you, but the conversion of weakness to need and dependence.  God has been introducing me to the “odd couple” I wrote about in last Sunday’s blog; weakness and prayer.  I can be satisfied with my weakness because “not life or death, not angels or spirits, not the present or the future, and not powers above or powers below. Nothing in all creation can separate [me] from God’s love for [me] in Christ Jesus our Lord!”  

I began this exploration of weakness some time ago by asking God to protect my mind and my heart.  Now that’s become the basis of most of my prayers for anyone else. Please remember even the “other” faithful disciples of Jesus had to experience the conversion of their own weakness into faith too.  They were so confident of their faith in the best of times but in the crisis moments their reactions were painfully different.  James, Thomas and Peter are a few of those “others” who come to mind.  God has answered my prayers by revealing His purpose for my faith is to build His strength into my weakness through His Word for me and my words to Him.

“Something more?”  There have been several of them lately.  I knew when I read this quote before I landed at this part of Romans 8, it was one of them: “When the longing of one’s heart is inked into words and offered as a prayer, that’s when it springs to life in God’s mind.a  That seems very different from the more familiar “thy will be done.”  This IS God’s will; that our hearts are converted by our words to, and our need for, Him.  It really has felt like “something more than a victory.”  It has felt like a gift.  After all, my salvation is God’s victory, not mine.  I just cling to the hope that by recognizing the conversion of my own weakness into need and dependence on Christ, I might be able to make Him look good.

“Because of Christ who loves us” there’s a second “something “more than a victory!”  This week I read that in the final year of Henri Nouwen’s 40+ years of determined faithfulness, he was still dealing with the realities of his own flaws. It wasn’t victory he wrote about in those last months, but of “the constant need of conversion that we have in life. Conversion from a heart of stone to a heart of flesh.” and “What an enormous, important spiritual journey it is when we discover that where our healing begins is where joy is rooted.“ ‘The conversion [Nouwen] maps is from self-rejection to self-acceptance, from competition to compassion, from productivity to fruitfulness. b’ “

There is yet another “something more” that came my way. This article from Desiring God by Jon Bloom about weakness and this quote. “Someday, when our Master returns, he will ask us to give an account of the talents he’s entrusted to us. Some of those talents will be our weaknesses. We don’t want to tell him we buried any of them.”

Our weakness is not converted to strength  because of our determination.  Our weakness is converted to strength knowing it is Jesus who could calm the stormy sea with a word.  Our weakness is converted to strength by Jesus who  revealed his wounds to heal us and it’s Jesus ‘s strength that converts our weaknesses into “something more!”

a From the novel, Book of Longings by Sue Monk Kidd
b Excerpted from the book Community compiled posthumously from Henri Nouwen’s writings.

Odd Couple

Romans 8:26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. 27 And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. ESV

Sometimes the impact of a few words in the Word can become a lightbulb moment.  That happened with those few highlighted words from Romans 8:26.  The Lord has been using the Word and my own words each time I write a blog post to refine me during this time while the entirety of my life has been re-defined.  I am no longer part of a couple, I am a widow. “The Spirit helps us in our weakness” has become my new awareness that in the faith the Lord has given me there is a powerful relationship between weakness and prayer. 

My concept of praying as a strength has been revealed for the flawed idea it is.  For we do not know what to pray for as we ought.”  I know my prayers have changed because what my heart needs to pray in this time has coincided with the awareness of my own weakness.  For the first time I emotionally understand Paul’s comment about his weakness being his strength.  I’ve experienced “groanings too deep for words.  My own words of prayer have mostly seemed weak to my ears.  But somehow the “mind of the Spirit” heard those words that were spilled out in tear-filled broken phrases and translated that weakness “according to the will of God” into a different reality for me.

I’ve become aware that the power of prayer doesn’t depend on the strength of my words to provide the answers I need to endure anything more than confessing my own weakness.  Just a couple nights ago I found myself needing to confess I had once again flunked trusting the faith I write and speak of.   That’s when I realized weakness and prayer ARE the “odd couple” the Spirit of God uses to remind me the reality of Jesus’s strength IS my faith.  What I am able to ask of Him in weakness, the Spirit of God can use to reveal deep truth to me: a broken and fearful heart still has life.  Life is good because Jesus said so.   His promises still hold true as long as His life is in my body. “He who searches hearts knows” my weakness and my fumbling prayers are the gift of my heart and He responds “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in [your] weakness.a  That’s a passing grade I can live with.

a 2 Corinthians 12:9

Still

Romans 8:18 Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory he will reveal to us later. 19 For all creation is waiting eagerly for that future day when God will reveal who his children really are. 20 Against its will, all creation was subjected to God’s curse. But with eager hope, 21 the creation looks forward to the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay.

Suffering in a fallen world is what came to my mind as I read these verses. I thought I understood that relationship pretty clearly until my husband was killed.  The world was a wreck and suffering was the result!  Grief has become my faithful teacher and my repeated prayer is now “Lord, help me to honor you, and my husband in my grief.”  Grief has shown me a new bottom line; suffering in a fallen world reveals new strengths and glaring weaknesses. They are both gifts from God.  The benefits of the strengths are obvious, but it’s in the awareness of my weakness that I recognize God’s reminder to me, in a brand new way, how great my need for Him still is, and that His desire is still to be my strength.

“If there were no afflictions and difficulties and troubles and pain, our fallen hearts would fall ever more deeply in love with the comforts and securities and pleasures of this world instead of falling more deeply in love with our inheritance beyond this world, namely, God himself.” John Piper