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

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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

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

 

 

Living Stones

1 Peter 2

1 Peter 2 5 NASB

Often, we think of our life as our own; and it is to a point. We think we just go and do what we want, when we want and no one else has any right to say anything about it. The thing we need to remember as Christians is that we have given our lives to another. We have devoted ourselves to service. As such the master to which we are devoted is constantly guiding us … Are we following?

Peter tells us to put aside ALL malice, guile, hypocrisy, envy, and slander. He suggests this will come naturally as we long for the pure word of God. This will cause us to grow in salvation and kindness. One of the best ways we can show love to one another is to show kindness to others. He says that as we have seen the kindness of God we will show kindness to others.

As His servants we are constantly being built up into a priesthood for Him. That does not mean we are going around in black shirts with white collars but it does mean we are to be serving Him with our entire being. We are called to offer sacrifices to God. Verse five of this chapter reminds me of Romans 12:1

Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. Romans 12:1 (NASB)

The sacrifice we offer is one of ourselves, not merely something of value to us but our entirety. We are chosen to serve Him as capable in His power, we are His possessions to serve as His people, for His glory and purposes. Peter continues to tell us that as we do what is right we may turn others to serve God as they see our actions. Also in doing right we will silence false accusations as all have seen us doing right by Him.

We are also called to respond differently than those around us. Many people are vicious toward others, especially when wronged. God is calling us, through Peter, to a better way. He has called us to be true to Him and to turn the other cheek as Jesus gave example. He reminds us that sin is no longer our master but we are now servants of Christ and his Father, our Father.

-Bill Dunn

No Longer a Slave to Fear

Hebrews 10

Hebrews 10 22a NIV

How often have you wanted to run away or turn away from God?  Perhaps it was shame, guilt, or maybe despair that was making you unable to even look at your own self in the mirror, let alone approach God.  Those feelings of regret, shame, fear, and a guilty conscience often make us want to crawl in a hole and hide. Fear is a powerful emotion and pushes us away from God.  But the words of Paul tell us that we no longer have to feel that way.  We no longer have any reason to run away or turn away from God.  We no longer have to hide in shame and disgust.  We no longer have to be fearful of who we are, or what we think we are.  Instead of running away from God, we can run to Him, and fall into His loving arms.  When we run to God into His loving arms we are entering the most holy place.  Paul calls it such in Hebrews 10:19.  That should take your breath away.  Just think about it.  No matter who you think you are, or what you are, you can enter the holy place, into the very presence of God Himself.  But Paul says one more thing that is almost too good to be true.  He does not say that we have to crawl into that holy place, hide behind someone else, or that we have to enter wearing sack cloth and ashes.  We don’t even have to sneak in the back door so no one sees us.  No, he says we can come into that holy place in God’s presence with CONFIDENCE.  Wow!  How often do we enter a classroom about to take a test, and go in feeling confident? But Paul says we can enter the presence of God feeling confident!

How is that possible?  Is this all just a dream or make believe?

No, it is real.  Very real.

Let Paul explain.

“Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that He opened for us through the curtain, that is, through His flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith.” (Hebrews 10:19-22a)

We no longer have any excuse for running away from God, turning away from God, or hiding in shame or despair.  Instead we can approach God and enter His presence without fear but rather with confidence.   Paul even tells us to come up close, draw near, maybe so close that we feel as if we are sitting in His lap just as we would sit comfortably in our dad’s lap as a child. Paul tells us in Romans 8:15  “For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, ‘Abba! Father!”   We are no longer a slave to fear.  Instead, we have been adopted by God, and we are His children.  We call Him Father! We are surrounded by the arms of God our Father.    And all of this is possible because of the blood of Jesus.

Paul calls this a new and living way (Hebrews 10:20). Instead of fear and guilt we’ve been liberated from our bondage and shown a new way of living.  Our sin is washed away with pure water, and our guilty conscience is wiped clean (Hebrews 10:22).  That guilty conscience, which we often lug around in our heart, has been wiped clean.    The chains are broken, we’ve been redeemed.  I know, it is almost too hard to imagine or fathom.  We can hardly understand something so great and wonderful.  But it is real.   Now, without fear or guilt, we can fall into His loving arms because Jesus has opened the door for us.  His blood became the pathway into God’s presence!  No more sin and guilt!  We have been set free!

Luke Elwell

Hope and the Faith of Abraham 

Hebrews 6

Hebrews 6 15

In Genesis God appeared to Abraham and made him a promise: “Through your seed shall all peoples of the earth be blessed,” (Genesis 22:17-18).

The immediate seed was Isaac, born of Abraham’s old age; but the ultimate Seed is Jesus. It is through faith in Jesus Christ that this promise is fulfilled, and all the peoples of the earth are blessed through Abraham.

This promise was later confirmed by an oath, God swearing by himself (because there was nothing greater to swear by) that he would fulfill what he had said. The writer is simply pointing out that Abraham had faith and believed God’s promise.

Why did he believe it? It was not because he immediately saw it fulfilled! There were twenty-five long, weary years before Isaac was born, and in the meantime, Abraham and his wife, Sarah, were growing older and had passed the time of life when it was possible to have children. Through multiple opportunities to doubt, Abraham believed that God would do what he said he would do.

We have become too eager for immediate results. I’ve heard people say, “I’ve tried prayer/church but it doesn’t seem to work.” It seems to me that is putting it the wrong way. People who are looking for immediate results tend to drift when it doesn’t happen the way they want. But the one who sees no longer needs to believe. Faith is not found in sight. It is believing in what we cannot see.

Vs. 19 – This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls. It leads us through the curtain into God’s inner sanctuary.

We are offered something to put our faith in, too. We have hope in the same blessings that were promised to Abraham. Jesus has gone before us and promised those who put their faith in him will be rewarded with salvation.

Let that hope anchor you through whatever life throws your way. Keep the faith even when things are difficult.

John Wincapaw

[Insert Your Name] Here

Psalm 37 31.png

We continue this intentionally slow journey through Psalm 37.  I use the word “intentionally” intentionally (see what I did there?)  Why intentionally slow?

            Maybe it is just my own personal preference.  Most of the time I’m more of a plodder.  I tell people “if you ever see me running, you should run too ‘cause something really bad must be about to happen and I’m trying to get away.”  When I walk with my wife I’m forever telling her to “slow down!” She has one speed and it’s always full throttle.  Someone sent me an article one time that said science has proven that people who walk faster usually live longer than people who walk slower.  If that’s the case my wife will be around for a long time.

            Walking fast may be better for your physical health, but when it comes to your spiritual health and reading the Bible, I find it pays to slow down.  Lectio Divina* forces you to slow down.  Think of it as a fancy, 5 course meal.  Don’t rush through it.  Take your time to slowly savor and enjoy each bite.

  1.  Read Psalm 37:30-34  slowly at least 3 times…

30 The mouths of the righteous utter wisdom,
and their tongues speak what is just.
31 The law of their God is in their hearts;
their feet do not slip.

32 The wicked lie in wait for the righteous,
intent on putting them to death;
33 but the Lord will not leave them in the power of the wicked
or let them be condemned when brought to trial.

34 Hope in the Lord
and keep his way.
He will exalt you to inherit the land;
when the wicked are destroyed, you will see it.

  1.  Meditate- choose a word or phrase that really speaks to you and spend some time ruminating on what it says and what it means.

As an example: As I was meditating on this portion of the Psalm, I saw it on one level as a prophetic picture of Jesus.  Instead of “the righteous” I insert “Jesus”.

      The mouth of Jesus utters wisdom.

      Jesus speaks with his tongue what is just.

      The law of God is in Jesus’ heart.

      Jesus’ feet do not slip.

      The wicked lie in wait for Jesus (think of the scribes and Pharisees, and Judas).

      The wicked are intent on putting Jesus to death.

But the LORD (YWHW) will not leave Jesus in the power of the wicked (Jesus was only temporarily in the grave under the control of the wicked.  God rolled away the stone and set him free to everlasting life.)

Or let Jesus be condemned when brought to trial (Remember, Pontius Pilate said “I find no guilt in this man.” Jesus had done nothing worthy of condemnation. His death was due to the sinful hearts of others, not his own guilt.)

Jesus hoped in the LORD and kept God’s way (without sin).

He will exalt Jesus (At the name of Jesus every knee shall bow and every tongue confess Jesus as Lord)

To inherit the land (Jesus will rule as King over all the earth).

When the wicked are destroyed Jesus will see it (In the end, Jesus rules as King, the wicked come to their final judgment).

            As I continue to meditate on how Jesus fulfills every bit of this Psalm, I’m led to think about what Jesus calls me to be and to do.  Jesus says “follow me.”  Jesus says “deny yourself, take up your cross and follow me.”  Jesus said to Peter “get behind me.”  I want to follow the path that Jesus laid out.  To be a follower or disciple (student) of Jesus means to hear his word and do what he says.  If I do that, then that which was prophetically spoken of Jesus here in Psalm 37 will also be true of me:

            “The mouth of Jeff utters wisdom”

            “Jeff speaks with his tongue what is just”

            “The Law of God is in Jeff’s heart.”

            “Jeff’s feet do not slip.”

            “The wicked lie in wait for Jeff and are intent on putting Jeff to death”

“The LORD will not leave Jeff in the power of the wicked or let Jeff be condemned when brought to trial”

“Jeff hopes in the Lord and keeps his way”

“God will exalt Jeff to inherit the land.”

“When the wicked are destroyed Jeff will see it.”

Now, it’s your turn.  Insert your name or personalize it…

The mouth of ________________ utters wisdom (or my mouth utters wisdom)

“_____________speaks with his tongue what is just”

 “The Law of God is in _______________’s heart.”

 “__________________’s  feet do not slip.”

“The wicked lie in wait for _________________ and are intent on putting _________ to death”

“The LORD will not leave _________________ in the power of the wicked or let __________ be condemned when brought to trial”

“__________ hopes in the Lord and keeps his way”

“God will exalt ____________ to inherit the land.”

“When the wicked are destroyed _________ will see it.”

See how reading slowly and savoring it opens up all kinds of new flavors?

What emerges for you as you meditate on this part of Psalm 37?

  1.  Pray- As you go through this reading, what does it stir up within you?  Thoughts? Questions?  Concerns?  Does it make you want to raise your hands and worship God?  Does it make you want to fall on your knees and confess your sin?  Does it drive you to go to Jesus and seek his mercy?  Does it make you want to follow Jesus more closely in your daily walk?  Bring those things to God in prayer.

  1.  Rest in God.  After you have brought these things to God in pray, simply enter into his rest.  Be present to God as God is present to you.

Now go follow in Jesus’ footsteps today.

-Pastor Jeff Fletcher

*If you are unfamiliar with the Lectio Divina method of prayer/scripture study please refer to the Sunday, August 11th devotion.