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Let’s keep Growing!

Bible Study

With a New Year begins a NEW Bible Reading Plan!

This blog began in 2016 after a week of FUEL youth camp with a theme of GROW!  We wanted to help those who are interested in feeding their spiritual growth with a daily diet of God’s Word – for that is where true growth starts!  Meeting God in His Word, to get to know who He truly is, as well as what He desires from His children.  I can not be a Christian (a Christ follower) if I am not doing what Christ did – and He loved God’s Word and put it to great use in his own life and for others.

And so, here we are in 2019 – let’s jump into a new Bible reading plan which will help us all see God, His plan, His Son Jesus, Jesus’ life and teachings, our directions, our future hope, and so much more.  We will just be reading one chapter each day – but through the course of the year we will cover the whole New Testament as well as the book of Proverbs and other important themes.  And each day – we will post a devotion here that goes along with the reading.

Hope you will come read and grow with us!

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The Son of God

1 John 5

1 John 5 5

This chapter was especially significant for our family about a year and a half ago when I (Bill) was coming to understand that God is One and that Jesus is His human Messiah. My wife points out the irony in the fact that while Trinitarians often go to the Gospel of John and the Epistle of 1 John for presumed evidences of the deity of Jesus, it was these two books that showed us that God is One person, and Jesus is God’s designated human Messiah.

1 John 5:1 “Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ (Messiah) has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whomever has been born of him.”

How tragic that people who believe that Jesus is God condemn those who believe that Jesus is the Messiah. They say that unless you believe that Jesus is God, you are “denying Christ”. What a strange twist of Scripture. The Scripture says that “anyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ (Messiah) is born of God…”

This Scripture does NOT say you are born of God if you believe that Jesus is:

  • A God-Man
  • co-eternal (“pre-existing”) and co-equal to the God the Father
  • of the same substance as the Father.
  • One person of a trinity in a godhead

These are all human inventions.  We should not turn to human inventions (5:21) while abandoning God our Father’s revelation of Himself and His testimony that Jesus is the Christ (Messiah). We don’t want to call God a liar (5:10) by twisting or distorting what God said, or by claiming God said something He didn’t.

“Jesus” is the name of the human person, born in Bethlehem. It is not the name of a pre-existent person of an eternal godhead. This human Jesus is the Christ (Messiah). This same human Jesus is the “Son of God” (5:2) a title which is parallel to and in many ways synonymous with “Messiah/Christ” (2 Sam. 7:14, Psa. 2:1-7). “Son of God” does not mean “God the Son”. There is no “God the Son” in the Bible.

The person who believes that Jesus is the Messiah is a child of God. If you love God, you will love that person, God’s child. If do not love that person, or reject that person, or call that person a heretic, the implication is that you do not love God the Father. Because whoever loves God the Father loves God’s child (5:1).

To love God’s child (the person who believes that Jesus is the Messiah) is a commandment from God (5:2-3; 3:23).

1 John 5:20 is a verse that Trinitarians claim shows “the deity of Christ”. Such a claim shows the weakness of evidence for the “deity of Christ” in the Scriptures. Their claims depend on dubious interpretations of a handful of Scriptures. For instance, from the whole Book of Romans, Paul’s treatise on matters of great theological importance, Paul supposedly told us that Jesus is God in one verse (Romans 9:5)!

I don’t think so.

There is a better way to understand Romans 9:5, just like there is a better way to understand 1 John 5:20. Below is a translation (RSV) that gets it right. I have capitalized “Him” for clarity whenever the pronoun refers to Almighty God:

“And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, to 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.”

In short, “This is the true God” does not refer to Jesus Christ, but to the One who is called two times “Him who is true” (cf. John 17:3), who is the Father of Jesus. Jesus the Messiah is His son.

Bill & Stephanie Schlegel

The Love Chapter

1 John 4

i John 4 11

This chapter starts out with an admonition to “test the spirits to see whether they are of God.” Not every teaching or spirit is true. There is a very important test which can be used to know if a spirit is from God, or not. “By this you know the spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God” (4:2).  The test does NOT say:

  • that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh and yet is fully God
  • that God has come in the flesh as Jesus Christ, taking on a human nature
  • that Jesus Christ came from some pre-existent state into the flesh.

We must be very careful to read the text for what it says and not read into it what it doesn’t say! The phrase “come in the flesh” means that Jesus the Christ (Messiah) is a real human being, not just dressed up like one.

1 John 4 is actually the “love chapter” in the Bible as love is mentioned 26 times, almost three times as many times as in 1 Corinthians 13 (9 times). A friend once read this chapter as a devotional thought on Valentine’s Day, and it stuck with me as the “love chapter.” So much so that when I read it last February 14th, I thought that maybe the children’s song could also go “Yes, God loves me, yes, God loves me… the Bible tells me so.”  Ultimately, it’s God’s love that ignites our love for others through His Son, Jesus the Messiah. A key verse that summarizes this chapter of love showing how love is of God is verse 9.  “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.”

God took the initiative, motivated by love, to remedy our sin problem.

Knowing that “God is love” (4:8,16) should motivate us to love others. But the author is not calling for a hippie kind of “All you need is love, love”. He is admonishing us to a love of other “brothers” who believe that Jesus, the human Jesus, is the Messiah/Christ (5:1). This admonition to love is a call for unity among like-minded believers, because they are family as the children of God. The way we love other like-minded believers whom we can see demonstrates how much we love God, whom we can’t see. And this commandment we have from Him, that the one who loves God should love his brother also (4:21).

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. (4:7)

 

Bill & Stephanie Schlegel

His Commandment

1 John 3

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The World’s Relation to God’s Children

This chapter mentions two ways in which the non-believing world reacts to the children of God:
1. The world does not know us (that we are God’s children) just as it did not know Jesus, that Jesus is God’s Son (3:1).
2. The world hates us (3:13). The world is like Cain, who hated and even murdered his brother.
Especially in 3:11-18, the author instructs us not to be like the world and hate our brothers, our fellow believers in Messiah Jesus.
Knowing what Love is, I John 3:16, the parallel to John 3:16

“By this we know love, because he laid down his life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.”
This verse encouraged me (Stephanie), so much during the hardest time of my life, which was just after my husband came to the understanding of the one true God and His Messiah Jesus – and the mistreatment that followed in result of his faith. The verse really helped me to focus on what real love is – to think how Jesus humbled himself to death on a cross. He was mistreated and ill spoken of; they even took his clothes away from him. That is how I know what love is, and I could take courage because of what Jesus went through and lay down my life for the brethren, disregarding the shame.

Jesus didn’t come to give a license to sin, but to remove sin, 2:4-10
At first glance the author may seem to contradict himself. In 1:8-9 he says we sin, but in 3:6 he says “no one who abides in him (Jesus) sins”. I think what the author is saying is that believing in Jesus does not give people a license to sin. Believers may sin (and there is a way to forgiveness, 1:8-9) but a life characterized by continual sin is not one in step with abiding in Jesus. Jesus didn’t come to give a license to sin. On the contrary, the writer gives two reasons why Jesus “appeared”:
1. To take away sin.
2. To destroy the works of the devil
Jesus and a believers life in Jesus does not give license to sin, but rather removes and destroys sin.
Theme Verse
1 John 3:23 could perhaps be considered a good theme for the entire epistle:
“And this is his commandment, that we should believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us.”

Bill and Stephanie Schlegel

Some observations from 1 John, chapter 2

1 John 2 1

“From the beginning…”

 

The phrase “from the beginning” which was used in the first verse of the book (1 John 1:1), is used 5 more times in chapter 2. In John 1:1 “that which was from the beginning” was that which they had heard, seen and touched, “the word of life”. This “beginning” refers to Jesus the Messiah and his ministry on earth communicating God’s word, not to the beginning at creation. The occurrences of “from the beginning” in chapter 2 are verses 7, 13, 14, and 24 (two times). It is important to keep in mind that “from/in the beginning” in the Scriptures does not always refer to the Genesis creation.

 

Context must help determine which “beginning” is meant. For instance, in the Gospel of John, the phrase “from the beginning” does not usually refer to the creation, but to Jesus ministry on earth. Note these references:

  • “For Jesus knew from the beginning who those were who did not believe, and who it was who would betray him” (John 6:65)
  • “So they said to him, ‘Who are you?’ Jesus said to them, ‘Just what I have been telling you from the beginning’” (John 8:25).
  • “I did not say these things to you from the beginning, because I was with you” (John 16:24).
  • “And you also will bear witness, because you have been with me from the beginning” (15:27).

In each case mentioned above, from the beginning means the beginning of Jesus’ ministry.

With only two exceptions (John 8:44 and 1 John 3:8 which refer to the devil) “from the beginning” in the Gospel of John and in the Epistles of John (1 John 1:1; 2:7, 13, 14, 24; 3:11 and 2 John 1:5-6) refers to the beginning of Jesus’s ministry. This may help us understand “In the beginning…” of John 1:1. Some One God believers see John 1:1 as a reference to the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. Similarly, Luke mentioned “those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word” (Luke 1:2). Mark 1:1 mentions “the beginning of the Gospel of Jesus the Messiah.”

 

“My little children”

 

Several times the writer refers to those whom he writes as “my little children” or “children” (2:1, 12, 18, 28). This should not be understood as if the writer is derogatorily chastising his listeners for being immature. Rather, these references should be understood as a terms of endearment and care, just as when he calls his listeners “beloved” (1 John 2:7, 3:2, 21, 4:1, 7, 11). As children of God (3:1-2), those that believe that Jesus is the Christ are a family, brothers and sisters, who must love one another (5:1).

 

An Advocate with the Father

 

The writer explains that we do sin, but there is a path to forgiveness (1 John 1:8-10). He writes to us “so that we may not sin, but if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.” Jesus is our advocate, like a lawyer on our side. This should give us great encouragement. Jesus is the honest, righteous lawyer on our side. He is for us. As an expert lawyer, Jesus knows the rules. He knows how to take our case before the Father. He has access to the Father and successfully intercedes for us (cf. 1 Tim. 2:5 and Hebrews 8:1).

 

We lived in Israel and all our children were born there. Most countries do not grant citizenship to foreign children by virtue of being born in the country. Two of our young adult children applied to become citizens in Israel. They were denied several times over three years. However, not long ago a lawyer, an advocate, took up their case and presto, my children received their citizenship. The lawyer knew the rules, had the connections, authority and knowledge on how to present my children’s case, and succeeded. Jesus is our expert, righteous, successful advocate before the Father.

 

“Do not love the world…”

 

The author’s admonition to “not love the world or things of the world” are perhaps the best known verses of chapter 2 (vs. 15-17). He defines what “loving the world” is: the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, the pride of life. It is a love of the way of the world, or of this world’s system. This doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t have an appreciation for the beauty and grandeur of God’s creation, the work of God’s hands, which is “very good” (Gen. 1:31). After all we wait for the regeneration of this world, and indeed the regeneration of this world’s system (Matt. 19:28, Heb. 2:5).

 

“The last hour”  and “anti-christs”

The author says it is the last hour. What a long hour it has been! He knows that it is the last hour since many anti-christs had already come. Specifically, here he says that the anti-Christ (anti-Messiah) is anyone who denies that Jesus is the Christ (the Messiah). The text does not say, as many traditional trinitarian Christians say, that the anti-Messiah is anyone who denies that God is the Messiah, or that the Messiah pre-existed as God. Rather, the text says that the anti-Messiah is anyone who denies that Jesus, the man Jesus, is the Messiah. “Christ” (Messiah) is never a title for God himself.

 

Of these anti-christs, the author says: “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us…” (1 John 2:19). It is easy to see how a text like this could be mis-interpreted and mis-applied. Especially as centuries passed, anyone could use the text to condemn any kind of a reformer. For instance, Catholics could apply it against Protestants.  Today it is leveled against anyone who denies that Jesus is God. But in its original context it was directed against anyone who denied that the man Jesus is the Christ (Messiah).

 

The promise of God – eternal life

1 John 2:25 says that God has promised us eternal life (immortal life in the age to come). We can take comfort and joy that God is pretty good at keeping His promises.

 

Having confidence, and not shrinking back in shame

 

1 John 2:28 says that if we abide in Jesus, that is, live according to knowledge of who he is, we can have confidence so that when he appears, at his coming, we won’t shrink back in shame. Since we know who Jesus is — the Messiah of God the Father, risen from the dead, exalted to God’s right hand, appointed to rule the world, we can look forward to his return. There is a similar admonition in Hebrews 10:39: “But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and keep their souls.”

-Bill Schlegel

Filled With So Much Joy We Want to Share

1 John 1

1 John 1 2

There is an old gospel song called Wonderful Words of Life.  I have loved this song because of its lyrics:  Sing them over again to me –Wonderful words of life, let me more of their beauty see – Wonderful words of life.  Words of life and beauty, teach me faith and duty.  Beautiful words, wonderful words, wonderful words of life – Wonderful words of life!  In 1 John 1 the life – the eternal life – is a reference to Jesus.  The disciples knew Jesus personally and knew without a doubt that he was sent from God to be the savior and teacher of mankind.  The disciples knew  God through his word and knew personally Jesus Christ His son.  The only one – as one disciple described him in the gospels  as the one who had the words of life.  He actually said (when Jesus asked if he was going to turn away also as some nominal disciples had): to whom else shall we go? for you have the words of eternal life.(see John 6:68)

Having this relationship with Jesus gave them so much joy they wanted to share it with everyone.  Shouldn’t having a relationship with the one who has the words of eternal life fill us with so much joy that we want to share it too?

The joy comes from knowing the one who is eternal life and recognizing that all of God’s ways lead to light, and life, and truth.  Those people who walk in God’s ways must emanate this same light and life, and truth.  The darkness has no part in the light.  We must walk in ways of light and not in darkness.  We must want to share that light with others.

Let’s face it there is plenty of darkness out there.  Sin is everywhere, and everyone has sinned at some point in their life.  But the life giving, light bearing news is this:  God is willing to forgive all who confess their sin to Him and cleanse them from their sins.  Through the power of what Christ did on the cross we can all be put back into right relationship with our heavenly Father God.  These are definitely wonderful words of life!  And words worth sharing, and shining in our dark world.  So maybe you will find yourself singing the familiar words :  Words of life and beauty, teach me faith and duty, beautiful words, wonderful words, wonderful words of life!

Merry Peterson

 

 

Things That Are to Come

2 Peter 3

2 Peter 3 13

Have you ever wondered: when will Christ return?  That is a thought that I think every Christian who has read the Bible has thought at some point.  We look with hope towards the second coming of Christ. There are others though who have given up believing or never have believed in God’s promises or the return of Christ.  These are the mockers that Peter refers to in verses 3 & 4.  We hear it today – everywhere people mocking the promises or even existence of God.  But God is patiently waiting for people to recognize and honor Him.  He is waiting for just the right time to fulfill all that he has promised regarding Christ’s return and the establishment of a new system under Christ’s rule and reign.

In the last half of chapter 3 the apostle Peter talks about the need for Christians to live righteously and soberly in view of the destruction of the wicked so as not to be destroyed along with them.  He explains that our present heavens and earth will be destroyed in judgment – by fervent heat so hot it will destroy the elements.  Everything will be destroyed – fire will consume water, soil, air, and even will consume itself by burning out.  Environmentalists worst nightmares will come true at that point – the destruction of the earth by fervent heat.  HOWEVER – this is to make way the apostle Peter tells us for the new heavens and new earth that will be made.  This is a new heavens and earth where righteousness reigns.  This means the new heavens and earth will be a place of peace, and happiness, where those who have hungered and thirsted after righteousness dwell.  All those who have believed in the promises of God will be able to partake in this new heaven and earth.

I like to hike and have taken many hikes across the US and Canada.  Each time I enjoy the beauty that God has created around me in this natural environment and his amazing creatures I see along the way.  Although I enjoy the natural beauty of our current heavens and earth I am filled with anticipation of the new heavens and new earth that God has promised.  What new natural beauty will be there.   In our world today where unrighteousness and ungodliness seems to reign and wreak havoc in our lives won’t it be wonderful to inhabit a world where righteousness and godliness are the order of the day?  I am looking forward to the new heavens and the new earth – while I still try to take good care of the one we currently live in and do my part to shine the light of Christ in the dark world – I can’t help but think to myself; how wonderful that God has made this awesome promise of a new heavens and earth to us!

Merry Peterson

 

Don’t Be One of Those People

2 Peter 2

2 Peter 2 1

For every ounce of truth a lie is out there.  In 2 Peter 2 the apostle warns of those people who would distort the truth or add to it.  He warns in verse 1 from the beginning that false teachers and false prophets are out there twisting, distorting, and adding to the truth.  By truth here he is referring to the message of Jesus Christ.

Today it is not uncommon to hear people say things like – all roads lead to God, and regarding religion: I’m looking for what works best for me.  These are twisted and in some cases flat out lies about the truth.  The truth of the matter is that Jesus is the son of God and that he is the ONLY way to the Father, and the ONLY source of salvation and forgiveness, and the ONLY hope for eternal life. This is the message that Jesus taught and that God confirmed when he spoke from the heavens saying that Jesus was his beloved son in whom he was well-pleased as referred to in 2 Peter 1:17.  Jesus is the ONLY way!   Anyone who would persuade you otherwise may fall into the category of the false teachers and prophets of whom Peter warns.

This is why it is important for Christians to know what the word of God says – so they will not be deceived by these false teachers and prophets.  If something someone says is contrary to scripture or seeks to add to it in ways that do not agree with scripture then watch out!  And for goodness sakes – don’t be so foolish as to be one of those people who leads others astray!  We must know God’s word and be filled with His spirit to be able to discern what is true and what is false.

In concluding the chapter Peter reminds us that God has not turned a blind eye to those who lead others astray because of their acts of deception but rather that their destruction is sure.  So to sum up Peter’s words to us:  Don’t be one of those  people  who is either led astray or leads others astray from the truth!

Merry Peterson