Thursday, January 28, 2010
"Dear friend, do not imitate what is evil but what is good. Anyone who does what is good is from God. Anyone who does what is evil has not seen God."
A lifestyle of love is the litmus test for knowing God.
No love, no God.
Know love, Know God.
God is love.
Consequently, we must choose whom to follow not by theology alone but also and equally by love. Many theologies can be flowered up and sound convincing but truth without love is no truth at all.
So... do I back my beliefs by love?
Do people see my theology as well as hear it?
Do people feel my love, not just hear about it?
Lord, make me more loving and teach me to live out my beliefs before I shout them out. Amen
Wednesday, January 27, 2010
"This is love for God: to obey his commands. And his commands are not burdensome,"
God's love language is obedience. To love Him is to obey His commands. Th nature of God's commands are simple; avoid sin. Do not lie, steal, kill, covet, worship idols, etc. God has not called us to some impossible task but instead to simply avoid what will naturally destroy us. It would seem that this self preservative nature of His commands would make it easy to obey. However, because of our sinful nature, these simple commands are not easy. Jesus demonstrates this in Matthew 5:21-48 when he reinterprets the commands and raises the bar. To say that His commands are not burdensome is not to suggest that they are easy.
To love God is also to want to obey His commands. Those who are born of God do not view His commands as burdensome. Instead, we are excited to serve those in need, give and tithe, care for the church and share the Gospel. To those who are born of God, obedience is an exciting opportunity to participate in the divine nature of Christ in us and to overcome our sinful nature (1 Jn. 5:4)
Does obedience excite me? Am I overjoyed to win a victory over my worldly nature and identify with the sacrificial nature and love of Jesus Christ?
Lord - make me want and love obedience. Make me excited to overcome my worldly nature. Amen.
Tuesday, January 26, 2010
"Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another."
There are many expressions of love to be observed in our world. There are many ways the world measures love. There are many false expressions called love. There are 5 love languages; gifts, quality time, acts of service, physical touch and words of encouragement. There is sacrifice in all types of love; a give and take, a denial and indulgence. But the love that is of God distinguishes itself from all of these in the extent of sacrifice. This is how God so loved loved, that He gave His one and only Son without regard for Himself or how the gift might be received. God's love and sacrifice was complete and selfless. Jesus held nothing back but poured Himself out completely for the benefit of His beloved. Before His accusers He was silent (Mt. 26:50 & 27:12-14). Before his torturers He submitted (Mt. 26:50 & 67). Before His murderers He prayed forgiveness (Luke 23:34). "This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins," (1 John 4:10).
If this is how God so loved us, we out to love one another so. If I want to love with the Love of God I must practice complete and selfless sacrifice. I must rid myself of self preservation and regard for my own agenda and desires. I must deny myself and follow Christ's example, (Mt. 16:24).
Do I so love my bride in this way? Do I so love my kids in this way? Do I so love my mother and siblings in this way? Do I so love my brothers and sisters in Christ in this way? Do I so love my neighbor in this way?
Father - humble me. Teach me to deny myself and love others as You so love me. Remove my regard for myself and let me learn complete and selfless sacrifice. Amen.
Monday, January 25, 2010
"Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure."
We are now children of God, learning to walk as Jesus walked and look and act more like our heavenly Father. As children, we make mistakes and stumble into sin. But, as we grow and mature we put childish ways behind us and we learn to be disciplined (1 Cor. 13:11).
One day we will be like Him, when we see Him face to face and reflect His glory in our glorified heavenly state (1 Cor. 15:42-44).
In between these days, it is up to us to determine and display what we will be like. If we have this hope of future glorification in us we will strive for conformation now. We will discipline ourselves to act, speak, think and feel like Jesus. We will stop making excuses like, "I'm only human" or "nobody's perfect." These excuses only hinder our progress. We cannot afford to lower the bar that Jesus set, "Be perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect," (Mt. 5:48). This is our goal, this is our aim, to live in perfect obedience and love (1 Jn. 3:10) just as Jesus did.
While perfection is our goal, it is not our measuring tool. We measure our relationship with Christ by progress not perfection. We must ask ourselves daily, "do I look more like Jesus today than I did yesterday, last week, last month, last year? I must keep my eyes on the goal, being fully conformed to the image of Jesus as I strive to look more like him each day.
Father - give me sober eyes and mind to see and know my progress. Keep me from pride and discouragement. Let me see me as You see me. Let my heart be true and let my faith be strong to continue walking with You. Amen.
Friday, January 22, 2010
"I write to you, little children,
Because your sins are forgiven you for His name’s sake.
I write to you, fathers,
Because you have known Him who is from the beginning.
I write to you, young men,
Because you have overcome the wicked one.
I write to you, little children,
Because you have known the Father.
I have written to you, fathers,
Because you have known Him who is from the beginning.
I have written to you, young men,
Because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you,
And you have overcome the wicked one."
All along our walk with Christ (2:6) there are marks of maturity and marks of maturing that validate and affirm our position in Him. If we've ever wondered or questioned whether we truly believe or have truly been redeemed, here John gives us some solid markers to look for.
Those young in the faith are characterized by a clear understanding that as sinners, Jesus Christ is the only solution to our sin and means to forgiveness. This is demonstrated by a spiritual dependence on Him that produces in us an identify - we are children of God.
Those who are more mature in the faith are not only characterized by this forgiveness of sins but also a victory over sin. Young men have been strengthened by God's Word and have learned to overcome temptation and sin. Young men are those whom God has called to be on the front lines, advancing God's kingdom, His Word and His church.
Older believers are marked by multiplication, intimacy and endurance. John calls fully mature believers "fathers" because they have raised up spiritual children and taught them to be strong in the faith. As fathers, they are marked by a sweet tenderness and compassion that only comes from a life of intimacy with Christ, experiencing His mercies day after day after day. As God is unchanging, the same "from the beginning," so is the faith of a mature believer - unwavering and unchanging from who He saw and heard and learned Christ to be (1 Jn. 1:1-3).
So what characterizes my faith in with Christ? Where do I need to focus and strive in my walk with Him? What is my next step?
Father - guide me as I guide others in You. Strengthen me for battle and make me dependent on your Word. Let me know and intimacy with You that can be seen by and passed onto my kids and those you have entrusted to my care. Make me and enduring father who faithfully walks with You for a lifetime. Amen.
Wednesday, January 20, 2010
This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all. 6 If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. 7 But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.
8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.
How do I view sin?
Here, John clearly explains the nature of sin and our need for a savior.
First, John declares that God is light. This refers to His moral perfection. If God is Light and morally perfect, those who walk in darkness have no part with God. People love darkness and have a tendency not only toward dark behavior but to let darkness hide their dark behavior (John 3:19-21). In this, John points out our personal or private sin. This type of behavior, though it seems to be private, still destroys fellowship with both God and others.
To this, some might suggest that while they do make mistakes at times, they are still good people. This is deception. To deny our sin nature or our primitive sin is to be ignorant of the devastation sin has rendered in the human nature and our desperate need for a Savior. Consequentially, confession is not only admitting our sinful behavior, but also our sinful nature and propensity or bent toward sin at the heart level. Finally, John deals with our practical sin. If we deny a regular and daily struggle with sin, a sin pattern, we are in denial of the depravity sin has rendered in our lives. The reality is, the further we walk into God's light, the more recognizable are our sins and the more we realize the extent of sins influence. However, recognizing our common struggle and embracing the truth of His Word will give us the vision and strength to win this battle against sin.
As people we are drawn to darkness, deception and denial but the blood of Christ cleanses us from all this and gives us the power to overcome. The question is, "how will I view my sin?"
Father, help me to recognize my darkness, to see the devastation of sin and my own depravity. Teach me to confess my sin and seek out Your forgiveness and cleansing each day. Teach me to walk in the light and to remain connected to You and Your Word. Let my light shine bright and point others to You. Amen.
Tuesday, January 19, 2010
"Jesus said to them, "Come and have breakfast." None of the disciples dared ask him, "Who are you?" - knowing it was the Lord."
I find it interesting that John used the word "knowing" here. He didn't write the words "seeing" or "believing,"(v. 20:29) but "knowing." They didn't recognize Him by His physical appearance (v. 4) and they didn't just have a hunch that this guy on shore might be Jesus. They knew for certain. Peter knew so certainly that he threw himself into the sea and swam about 100 yards to meet Him (v. 7). (I find it interesting also that Peter put on his outer garment to jump into the water... while the was most likely out of respect it would have been much harder to swim. Did Peter plan on swimming or walking instead?)
So has my faith moved beyond seeing and believing to knowing?
Do I have the confidence, certainty and boldness to declare what I know and not just what I believe? It's bold to say along with the hymn writer Samuel Medley "I know that my redeemer lives." What a beautiful hymn.
I Know that my redeemer lives
Words by Samuel Medley (1775)
I know that my Redeemer lives;
What comfort this sweet sentence gives!
He lives, He lives, who once was dead;
He lives, my ever living Head.
He lives to bless me with His love,
He lives to plead for me above.
He lives my hungry soul to feed,
He lives to help in time of need.
He lives triumphant from the grave,
He lives eternally to save,
He lives all glorious in the sky,
He lives exalted there on high.
He lives to grant me rich supply,
He lives to guide me with His eye,
He lives to comfort me when faint,
He lives to hear my soul’s complaint.
He lives to silence all my fears,
He lives to wipe away my tears
He lives to calm my troubled heart,
He lives all blessings to impart.
He lives, my kind, wise, heavenly Friend,
He lives and loves me to the end;
He lives, and while He lives, I’ll sing;
He lives, my Prophet, Priest, and King.
He lives and grants me daily breath;
He lives, and I shall conquer death:
He lives my mansion to prepare;
He lives to bring me safely there.
He lives, all glory to His Name!
He lives, my Jesus, still the same.
Oh, the sweet joy this sentence gives,
I know that my Redeemer lives!
Jesus - strengthen my faith beyond question. Give me certainty and boldness to declare that I KNOW that my redeemer lives and that He is alive and active in my life and world. Amen.
Wednesday, January 13, 2010
So Peter and the other disciple started for the tomb. 4Both were running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. 5He bent over and looked in at the strips of linen lying there but did not go in. 6Then Simon Peter, who was behind him, arrived and went into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen lying there, 7as well as the burial cloth that had been around Jesus' head. The cloth was folded up by itself, separate from the linen. 8Finally the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and believed.
The handkerchief is an interesting detail to the resurrection story. The fact that it was folded and laid by itself suggests a couple of things. First, it suggests that Jesus body was not stolen away in a rush. Thieves don't bother to fold what they leave behind. Second, it reflects a common tradition of the day. Someone who got up from a meal with the intention of returning to finish would neatly fold his napkin and leave it by itself so that other would know he was returning. Jesus was reassuring His disciples that He was still in control, nobody took his body and He was coming back.
So often God gives us these little signs of reassurance. Unless we stop rushing around, hiding in upper-rooms and avoiding life's tombs of fear... we may never catch them. God is always communicating to and reassuring His children. The question is whether or not I'm willing to go there, slow down enough to see it and bold enough to see past my fears.
God slow me down enough to hear from You today. Amen.
Monday, January 11, 2010
After this, Joseph of Arimathea, being a disciple of Jesus, but secretly, for fear of the Jews, asked Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus; and Pilate gave him permission. So he came and took the body of Jesus. And Nicodemus, who at first came to Jesus by night, also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about a hundred pounds.
It's interesting how Joseph and Nicodemus come into the light as followers of Jesus at this time. Why not sooner? Why not at the trial or in the garden or even at the plotting? Why now that there was little to gain and less to lose? Was their faith in Jesus genuine or were these acts simply out of compassion, pity or regret? Was this the least they could do at a time when the cost was reasonable enough to pay? (Ironically they were both willing to pay a higher monetary cost in the tomb and the spices than they were willing to pay in their reputations or positions.)
Isn't faith by definition something that must be spoken, acted upon and demonstrated?
The same questions could be asked of me. Is my faith genuine if I keep it to myself? Do I guard a secret faith or do I boldly proclaim it to my neighbors and friends? Am I more like Nicodemus and Joseph than I would like to admit?
Jesus -make me more bold and courageous to proclaim Your truth and demonstrate my faith. May I live fully in the light so that others see and hear You through me. Amen.
Friday, January 8, 2010
Jesus said, "My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews. But now my kingdom is from another place."
"You are a king, then!" said Pilate.
Jesus answered, "You are right in saying I am a king. In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me."
Jesus' kingdom is one of truth; not the type that we report on our taxes or relay to a police officer (although this type does also bear witness to Jesus' truth) but an eternal and moral truth that the world is unable to receive without Him (Jn. 8:23,44). Jesus' truth is founded on Him (Jn. 14:6) and centers around the horror of man's sin, the depth of God's love, the power of Christ's sacrifice and the vitality of life through Him.
If I claim to be of Jesus' kingdom, I must be all about this truth. I must be one who boldly proclaims Jesus' truth even in the face of trial. I cannot shrink back or mix my words. I must be bold so that there is no confusion; Jesus is king and I belong to Him.
Father, make me more bold to speak Your truth and to proclaim Your kingdom even in the face of adversity. Amen.
Thursday, January 7, 2010
"I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do."
How can Jesus say that He finished the work God gave Him to do if He had not yet been to the cross or conquered the grave? What work was Jesus referring to?
In verse 6 Jesus declares that He has manifested the Father to the ones He had been given. Jesus first work was to clearly reveal the Father and His will to those whom God had chosen.
In verses 8 & 14, Jesus declares that He has given them God's word and that by that word they were equipped to continue the work of revelation that Jesus began.
In verse 18, Jesus declares that He has sent His disciples into the world that the world may know the Father and receive the Son through their work and love (vs. 20-26).
Jesus was convinced that He had accomplished His earthly work of beginning a movement of multiplication. He laid the foundation of His church and turned the project over to His disciples. Now, with his earthly mission accomplished, Jesus turns His attention to his eternal, heavenly mission of redemption.
Jesus - keep me always mindful of my earthly mission. Remind me daily that I too am part of Your work in building the church and Your kingdom. Amen.
Wednesday, January 6, 2010
"These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”
Peace and joy (good cheer) are the result of being found "in Christ." Even though in Christ while in the world means that I will face tribulation and persecution, I can still have joy and peace. So what does it mean to be "in Christ" and how can I experience these attributes now while in the world?
Being "in Christ" begins with believing in and affirming His death, resurrection and victory over sin. This is how Jesus overcame the world. He has proven greater, stronger and more sovereign than the world's greatest trouble. This belief gives way to three truths. First, I am no longer under the authority of sin to obey it's desires. I am under Christ's authority and have the power to resist sin and choose righteousness. Second, I have access and authority so that I may come before the Father to ask and receive whatever I require (Jn. 16:26). Finally, I have living within me the Holy Spirit who will convince me, guide me and remind me to the words and work of Jesus that I may follow Him (Jn. 16:13-14). Finally, it means that there is HOPE. Since Christ was raised and returned to the Father, so too will His followers. My trials are temporary and my sorrow will turn to joy (Jn. 16:20) while the world's joy will turn to sorrow. I will one day be vindicated for my belief and choices; I too will overcome the world.
Father - bring me Your Joy and Peace and Hope. Teach me to overcome the world day by day, trial by trial. Amen
Tuesday, January 5, 2010
"You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit—fruit that will last."
Jesus did not call us to be saved, He called us to be servants. Following Jesus is not about status but about service. We have been chosen, grafted into His vine (Rom. 11:17) and even pruned (Jn. 15:1) so that we may bear much fruit, lasting fruit. God is not content to let us be connected to Him without fruit.
Those who fail to produce fruit cannot blame God. As the vine dresser He has done everything necessary to help us. If we fail to produce fruit there is only one resort - to be cut off and removed from the vine, to make room for branches that will bear fruit.
Those branches who only produce some fruit, the vine dresser prunes. Pruning comes in the form of trials, testing and loss so that we may be strengthened and prepared to bear the weight of greater fruit in the future.
Those who produce much fruit are filled with joy (Jn. 15:11) and Jesus calls friend (Jn. 15:14). There is meaning, purpose and identity in Christ when we settle not for status but fully embrace our calling to service and bear fruit.
Father - strengthen me and prune me that I may produce much fruit. Fill me with joy and let that joy flow to others that I may produce lasting fruit that honors You. Amen.
Monday, January 4, 2010
John 14:21 "Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him."
John 14:23 "Jesus replied, "If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him."
John 14:31 "but the world must learn that I love the Father and that I do exactly what my Father has commanded me."
God's love language is obedience. If we truly love God and have come to understand and receive His love, we will obey Him. If we do not obey, how can we claim to love Him?
According to Jesus, loving God has three compound and even cyclical consequences. Loving God leads to obedience, which leads to revelation (v. 21) which leads to presence (v 23) which leads back to even greater love and ability to obey.
So how do I fall in love with God?... Worship. Adoration. Meditation.
Loving God begins with seeing Him for who He is; His character, His nature, His love for us.
When we fix our eyes and attention on Christ and His sacrifice for us on the cross, we begin to understand this great love. When we understand Jesus' love for the Father which lead to obedience and the cross, we too will follow. We will gladly sacrifice our desires and priorities for His and find that our gift of obedience is really no sacrifice at all.
Father - help me keep my eyes fixed on Christ and the cross. Remind me moment by moment to meditate on You. May my life be a sacrifice of love and obedience to You each day. Amen.