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

Love & Compassion

Mark 5

Mark 5 2

Coming off the week of Fuel is always hard; we go from an amazing week of worship and fellowship back to our regular lives. However, it is important not to return to that pattern. We should be able to have people around us see the difference that has been made. We want people to know we are Christians by our love. This chapter, Mark 5, is an excellent example of that. In the latter half we see Christ commend a woman’s faith that helped make her well. He also brings a child, of whom he doesn’t know, back from the dead. He showed that love and compassion to random strangers, but more interestingly to me, he showed love and compassion to a demon in the beginning.

At the beginning of this chapter we see he goes to the other side of the sea to the region of the Gerasenes. There he finds a man who is possessed by the demon legion, who has broken all restraints that have been used against him and has been cutting the man’s body as well. As soon as Christ arrives there the demon possessed man came running to him and was begging him to leave the area, and to not torment him. There are other stories where the demon has been cast out and they move on, but Jesus takes the time to ask his name, he even gives legion permission to take over the pigs nearby rather than just cast him out. He leads by example here, for he said to love your enemy. He could’ve not listened to the demon and driven him out to be done, but he didn’t. He took the time to talk to legion and showed mercy in letting him possess the pigs.

Sometimes we struggle enough showing compassion to people we work with and see on a daily basis, maybe we find them a little too talkative or annoying but that is no reason to not show love. I know plenty of teachers I work with who just get on my nerves sometimes because they have problems everyday with the little things, like their password or volume on their computer. It’s important though that I don’t get mad or angry with them because we are called to love and being upset when someone is having trouble or struggling will only make it worse. If Christ can show compassion to a demon possessing and harming a man, we should be able to find compassion in ourselves for those around us, even when it is hard.

So, start today.  Sit down with that one person we might try to avoid, talk to the one who seems out of place, have patience with them and put yourself out there to be known as the one who shows kindness and compassion to all. Try to lead by example and show compassion to others in our lives, even if they seem to torment us like a demon. It’ll be hard but just maybe from this we can learn to be a light and hopefully inspire them to follow suit.

 

Have a great week and hold strong,

 

-Kyle Cheatwood

Saved to do Good Works

Titus 3_14

Titus 3

Today we are going to dive deeper into the discussion of good works and how we should apply it to our own lives.

Among some of Paul’s reminders to Titus, in chapter 3, verse 1, he mentions being ¨ready to do whatever is good¨. (Titus 3:1) Continue to ask God to show you what good works you can do. Ask Him to open your eyes to see what service needs to be done. Since God showed His love to us it is now our job to show that love to others. 

¨This is a trustworthy saying. And I want you to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good.¨ (Titus 3:8)

As we wait for the coming Kingdom we have a job to do. An opportunity to make a difference. Not only that, but it leads to a joyful and fulfilling life focused on God.

¨Our people must learn to devote themselves to doing what is good, in order to provide for urgent needs and not live unproductive lives.¨ (Titus 3:14)

Throughout Titus I see a recurring theme of the importance of good works. This makes me believe that this was something Paul didn’t want Titus and the church in Crete to forget. So maybe we should devote ourselves to doing good as well. Find a way to serve and then do it. 

¨Be somebody who makes everybody feel like a somebody¨       -Brad Montague

Grace (& good works) be with you all,

– Makayla Railton

Power. Love. Self-Discipline.

2 Timothy 1

2 timothy 1 7

 

Here we are – seven days away from the start of FUEL, the week-long youth event where this daily devotions blog began 3 years ago when the week’s theme was GROW.  On their website, Turning Point Youth Ministries says of FUEL, “We make every effort to create an environment that challenges, encourages and equips students to pursue intimacy with God, connect with others, and ask hard spiritual questions.  We have a lot of fun and work hard to help students see what loving God and others is all about.”

 

I think Paul had a similar mission as he was writing this letter (which would become 2 Timothy) to his dear friend and son in Christ.  Paul was now in prison (not just house arrest) for preaching the name of Jesus.  Emperor Nero was persecuting Christians and it was a very difficult time to be a Christian.  Consequently, some were falling away from the faith, some were fleeing persecution and many were deserting Paul (1:15).  From his prison cell he was writing to challenge, encourage and equip his younger spiritual son in the faith who would be carrying on the work.

 

Paul could be bitter or scared or quietly submissive – but instead we see thankfulness and prayers night and day for Timothy (1:3).  We hear him urge Timothy to keep testifying about Jesus and keep telling Paul’s story without being ashamed of the gospel or the chains (1:8, 16).  The prisoner appeals to Timothy to “join with me in suffering for the gospel” – not necessarily as a prisoner – but as one who makes daily sacrifices for spreading the word of life – even when it involves suffering (1:8).  The teacher instructs the student to keep teaching what is right and true (1:13).

 

This chapter is beautifully summed up in the words of verse 7 – “For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.”   It is a great reminder whether we are preparing to serve – or be served – at FUEL.  It is a great reminder whether we will be praying at home – night and day.  It is a great reminder for God’s people.

Love.  Power.  Self-Discipline.  From God – to You.  How will you use them today?

Marcia Railton

30-Second Challenge

Ephesians 4

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As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. (Ephesians 4:1-2)

To live a life worthy of the calling you have received is to reflect God’s character in all you do. Simply put, God is love, so go be love. Paul’s challenge to live out love seems impossible, but what if you did it just 30 seconds at a time?

Before a football game, a coach doesn’t know every play he’s going to call. Instead, he takes it one play at a time. In the same way, love the person in front of you just 30 seconds at a time. Once your 30 seconds is up, challenge yourself to another 30 seconds… and another… and another.

A life isn’t lived in a day, a year, or even five years; instead, it’s lived in the small everyday moments that add up to a big, beautiful life. Stop planning to do one over-the-top, love-filled thing and actually go be love just 30 seconds at a time. A plan isn’t love; it’s just a plan.

If we all accept the challenge to live a life worthy of our calling, Paul paints a beautiful picture of what the church would be like:

Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work. (Ephesians 4:15-16)

30 seconds. That’s all it takes.

 

-Mackenzie McClain

In Step with the Spirit

Galatians 5

Gal 5 7

Chapter 5 picks up right where 4 left off (if you haven’t already, you might just want to read the whole book straight through to get the most out of it – it’s only 6 chapters).

1 It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. […] You were running a good race. Who cut in on you to keep you from obeying the truth?

From chapter 4, we know that the Galatians were struggling, falling back to their old ways. Paul is still trying to get to the heart of the why and how.  He wants them to quit trying to be justified by the law – because by doing do, they miss out on Christ’s promise and are once again bound into slavery.

Do you ever get bogged down by doing things exactly by the letter and then realize that you have been missing the point?  Paul is specifically talking to the Galatians about circumcision, but I think the same idea could apply to many things.  This reminds me of Jesus’ teachings about the Sabbath.  The Pharisees were so focused on making sure no work was done, that they wanted to condemn Jesus for healing someone.  Jesus pointed out that if a sheep fell into a hole on the Sabbath, they would pull it out – and how much more valuable is a person!  So Paul’s point is to quit being so focused on the letter of the law – he says in verse 5 “The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.”

So rather than focusing on the law, focus on this:

13 You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh[a]; rather, serve one another humbly in love. 14 For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

It could be easy to say that if we are not bound by the law that we are free to do whatever we want, but I believe we are called to a standard higher than the law by this freedom.  If we look to Romans 6, Paul clarifies here that we are to offer ourselves to God as an instrument of righteousness and to not let sin reign.

This chapter finishes with the fruit of the Spirit.  You are probably familiar with these, but I usually think about these alone, not in the context of this book.  If we are children of God through Christ, then we have the Spirit to guide us rather than the law.  This list isn’t easy.  They are high standards of living.  I am going to leave you today with these verses as a reminder – let’s try to live in step with the Spirit.

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.

 

~Stephanie Fletcher