Archive for November, 2006

21:8 David said to God, “I have sinned greatly by doing this! Now, please remove the guilt of your servant, for I have acted very foolishly.” 21:9 The Lord told Gad, David’s prophet, 21:10 “Go, tell David, ‘This is what the Lord says: “I am offering you three forms of judgment from which to choose. Pick one of them.”’” 21:11 Gad went to David and told him, “This is what the Lord says: ‘Pick one of these: 21:12 three years of famine, or three months being chased by your enemies and struck down by their swords, or three days being struck down by the Lord, during which a plague will invade the land and the Lord’s messenger will destroy throughout Israel’s territory.’ Now, decide what I should tell the one who sent me.” 21:13 David said to Gad, “I am very upset! I prefer to be attacked by the Lord, for his mercy is very great; I do not want to be attacked by men!” 21:14 So the Lord sent a plague through Israel, and 70,000 Israelite men died. – 1 Corinthians 21:8-14

As I have started this new mission at Teen Challenge, I have been reading a workbook on the core values of the organization. One of the main core values is integrity. Integrity is define in many different ways by different people, but the major precepts including acting the same in public and you do in private, acting honestly and taking responsibility for your actions. I am beginning to understand to a greater degree why God called David a man after his own heart. While David made major mistakes (lying, murder, adultery, etc.) he had the moral integrity in the end to come clean and take responsibility. One of the quotes I read on integrity said that the compromising of ones integrity was the beginning of failure. I believe we can learn a lot from David. He did make compromises that started him down a path of failure, but he always admitted his mistakes and came before God for healing and forgiveness. He always worked to regain his integrity.

Heavenly Father,

You are the lover of my soul. You are the one I can count on the call me to account. You are the one I know will call for holiness and provide mercy. Father, I need you more today than ever before. As I embark upon your ministry, I know that temptation will come my way. I ask you give me the wisdom and courage to remain true to you and mercy when necessary. I love you Lord. Amen.

2 John

The second letter of John is addressed to the “chosen lady and her children.” This may refer to a particular church and the subsequent members of that congregation, or to a specific person and family. In either case, John loved her and all those who are in the truth.

The greeting is as follows: “Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and from Jesus Christ, the Father’s Son, will be with us in truth and love.” I love that. I wish each of you who read this an ample portion of grace. And mercy. And peace! And the presence of the Father and the Son. I might start using a greeting like this when I send emails. I think it sounds a little pretentious, but maybe that’s because it’s new. I might try it as an introductory prayer for those I write… Ask me in a few weeks. 🙂

John is joyous to discover the obedience of some of the believers. He includes a reminder to love, which is demonstrated by obedience.

Then John gets to the point of this note. He warns them to be careful as they receive traveling teachers. Some have a different message. Since it was customary to take missionaries into homes and give them provisions for their journey, John urges discernment. Otherwise, they unintentionally contribute to the spread of heresy.

Can you think of contemporary examples of well-meaning folks contributing to heresy?

I John 5

Again, John reminds the readers that there are a few deal breakers for those who love God. We cannot love God without loving His children. We cannot love God without obeying His commands – and they’re not burdensome. This faith in action overcomes the world.

So what is our status with God when we go through periods of disobedience? Certainly our disobedience affects our ability to love God. Or, when we’re having a difficult time loving difficult people? I’ve experienced how this eats away at our love for God.

Jesus came by water (birth? or baptism?) and by blood (crucifixion?). The Spirit testifies to the truth. So, the testimonies of the water, the blood and the spirit all agree. And, they are superior to the testimonies of people. The message: “God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.” All testimonies should be consistent with this message.

John gives some closing thoughts:

* The purpose of the letter is: that you may know that you have eternal life. This knowledge will allow us to approach God with confidence, expecting that He hears, and will respond.

* If you observe others in sin, pray for them. This applies to non-fatal sin, either spiritually or physically. This ranking of the severity of sin does not fit with what I have been taught about sin. I know any sin can separate us from God, and requires atonement. But, perhaps some sins are more destructive to our relationship with God than others. What do you think?

* If we are born of God, we don’t have to live in sin. We are safe from the evil one, because we are children of God. So, we don’t continue to sin. This time he doesn’t say that we don’t sin; just that we don’t continue to sin.

* Dear children, keep yourselves from idols.

I John 4

Friends, don’t believe everything you hear! (That’s timely advice.)

If you hear about Jesus being from God, that’s a message you can trust. If, however, you hear a message that is contrary to that, don’t believe it.

People who do not have the power of God in them will see the world from a limited, worldly perspective. These folks will connect with others who share this perspective.

God is love. If He lives in you, you will love. He demonstrated His love by sending His son as an atoning sacrifice for us. Our love is completed when we love each other.

We don’t have room for fear – just love.

If we can’t love people, we can’t love God either.

Maybe we need to give some thought to our love lives. If we’re not freely loving, we need to connect with LOVE and get that fixed.

“Whoever loves God must also love his brother.”

1 John 3

Previously in this letter John has used the phrase “dear children” to refer to the believers. But there is a more important concept that is introduced in 1 John 3. We are not just John’s children in faith, we are the children of God Himself.

After introducing this important concept, John returns to sin (lawlessness). I’m reading the NIV translation, which repeats the concept of “continuing to sin.” John is not saying that people who sin are not living in God; he says (if the NIV translation is correct) that people who CONTINUE to sin are not living in God.

John then transitions in loving one another, then talking of hatred from the world (in this context, “world” is used in a negative sense, as those things that are apart from God). He then notes (as James and Paul do) that good works proceed from faith; mere words alone let us “know that we belong to the truth.”

I’m sure that the prosperity gospel folks love verse 22, about receiving anything for which we ask. However, note that John also mentions that “we obey his commands and do what pleases him.” In most cases, God does not command us to ask for a luxury yacht.

I John 2

John writes this letter for the purpose of helping the recipients avoid sin. Certainly, we hope to avoid sin, and help others do likewise. But if anyone does sin, (and it’s pretty likely that we will at some point) we have someone who speaks on our behalf, atoning for us! How wonderful it that?

We try to keep clean, because it will give us a better life, but when we fall short, someone who is blameless takes our blame and we take his innocence. I don’t think I’ll ever comprehend how amazing that is.

If our lives are characterized by doing our own thing, not His, then we are not HIS. If however, we obey, God’s love in us blooms – it becomes complete in us. Then we more closely resemble Him as we carry His light. If we don’t care about what he cares about, or if we can’t love those he loves, then we loose the light that guides us. When we carry His light, we can see where we’re going, and we won’t stumble.

Verses 12-14 address children… fathers… young men…. I’m not sure I understand John’s point in separating these groups. Anyone?

The motivations of this world include: what I see, what I want, and my reputation. These motivations are not eternal. Possessions don’t satisfy like we thought they would before we attained them. Quenched desires are replaced by new ones. A long-earned good reputation can be gone with one bad choice exposed. Worldly motivations will never last. Obedience to God is eternal.

John warns against people who are not real followers of Christ mixing among believers and trying to influence them. They are anti-Christ, denying the truth of Christ, and denying the Father. True followers will stay the course. They embody the spirit, they know the Truth, and will inherit eternal life. To remain in Him, we need to allow the spirit (the anointing) to teach us, even though it’s easier to let somebody else spoon-feed us. We need to do the work of getting our own answers. When we know the truth, we’ll recognize the counterfeit.

I John 1

Ironically, we’re studying I John in our church Bible study, and I’ll be leading the study this Sunday. However, I can’t use this for this Sunday’s study – we already did chapter 1 – but at least it will get me in the mood for the Bible study that I still have to write.

So if I confess my lack of preparation for this Sunday’s Bible study, I am acknowledging the truth. Our church repeats I John 1:8-9 every Sunday as part of our confession. But how do we reconcile this with verse 6? Is there some material difference between sinning (verse eight) and “walking in the darkness” (verse 6)?

Or perhaps I’m looking at it the wrong way, and in reality verses 6 and 8 are in agreement. Verse 6 says (emphasis mine) “If we CLAIM to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness….” In other words, we need to acknowledge our sinfulness.

Julie will have fun with the second chapter, but at a minimum we’re all acknowledging our need for a Savior.