Aug 25: Experience Truth

Read 3 John 1:1-15

One day we will all die. I’m sure reading that statement might wake you up! But it’s true, isn’t it? One day each and every one of us will take our final breath and enter into an eternity somewhere. For those of us who are followers of Jesus Christ, we can be confident that we will be spending an eternity with Him in heaven (John 3:16). But have you thought about what that moment might be like when you cross from this side of life to the next?

While none of us know what the moments will look like following our final breath on earth, John makes a statement today in his third letter to the church that stuck out to me.

“It gave me great joy when some believers came and testified about your faithfulness to the truth, telling how you continue to walk in it. I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.” 3 John 1:3-4

I love the picture in these words. While in context this is John speaking to his friend Gaius, there is also an underlying message in these verses that he is trying to communicate. God has no greater joy than to see His children walking in the truth. Following Him. Living out His love. Imagine for a moment that glorious day when you will cross into eternity and hear the Father say, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.” I can’t help but think the words we read in the text today might be some additional words the Lord will offer us.

Allow the Lord to change your heart today. Invite Him to be a part of your daily walk. We cannot live in the truth on our own. If John teaches us one thing throughout his letters, it’s that we cannot earn our way to heaven, and, by the same token, we cannot walk in the truth without experiencing the Truth. Surrender yourself today to the calling Jesus has placed on your life. Don’t be discouraged when you fall because we all do. Rather, recognize that the only power to resurrect you from your sin is the power found in the life, death, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. Our hope in eternity is in Him alone.

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Aug 24: Let Love Overflow

Read 2 John 1:1-13

Love and truth are discussed frequently in our world today; yet they are seldom practiced. From politicians to business leaders, even to some pastors, it seems like our world is being continually corrupted by deception and hate.

This is the generation of “fake news.” We live in a society where the integrity of the news is in question, and where there can be “alternative” versions of fact. Perjury runs rampant, with honesty and credibility seemingly being placed on the endangered species list. In most conversations that draw on any form of controversy, people have to defend their integrity by “swearing” to the truth, often swearing upon the name of the Lord or the Bible, to add extra credence to their claim. Is this any surprise though for a world filled with lies?

What about love? I cannot stand watching the news anymore. About the only time I watch the news is when I workout in the evenings and a news station is on the TV, which is a good thing, I guess, because I think the frustration I feel at the sights I’m seeing on the screen make me run faster and lift more weight! The media is filled with hate. You see a story about murders in Chicago, then a story about a politician saying something hateful, then a clip about violent protests in retaliation, and so on, and so on. It is a vicious cycle of hatred.

Think back to middle school science class for a moment. Do you remember Newton’s first law of physics? An object in motion will stay in motion, unless acted upon by an outside force. The same is true with our culture. We can sit and complain about how hate-filled, and deceitful our society might be, but until a movement of believers rises up to challenge the status quo, it will remain the same. John calls us in the text today to let our love overflow from our spirit. If we heed the words of John today, we can change our culture. We can make an impact on this crazy world, but it all starts with you and I. How do we treat our neighbors? How do we respond in the face of adversity?  How are we handling confrontation and opposition.? If we respond in the way of the world, the world will never change; but, if we follow the example of Christ and act out of love, that changes everything. Jesus changes everything.

 

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Aug 23: Confidence in Christ

Read 1 John 5:13-21

John concludes his first letter to the church the way he started it- Christianity is counter cultural. Have you noticed this truth as you’ve been reading this week? The teachings of the Bible are unlike any other religion. Our hope is not in the laws of a religion, rather we have a faith in the Son of God who promises us eternal security because of His atoning death in our place.

Recently I experienced first-hand just how radical this thought is in our world today. In early August I was blessed with the opportunity to travel to Columbus with Encompass World Partners to learn more about the Islamic faith and how to engage Muslims with the gospel. A major piece to this experience was visiting mosques and listening to Islamic religious leaders explain their faith. My heart ached as I sat and listened to the leaders describe how Muslims have to earn their way into heaven, with no guarantee that their good works will pay off. One even described their religion as a scoreboard, hoping at their last breath the good deeds they did on earth would outweigh the bad.

Can you imagine the anxiety one must go through trying to balance on earth where they will spend eternity? John reminds us today that there is nothing humanity can do to earn the favor of God, because mankind can’t save itself; only God can, and He did.

“I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.” 1 John 5:13

This is a confidence that no other religion offers in our world. Followers of Christ can be confident in where they will spend eternity, not by their own doing, but by the doing of God Himself. Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism teach about how one must work their way to achieve the grace of god(s), but the God of creation is telling us today that grace cannot be earned; it is given. Jesus, God made man, was the manifestation of grace on our behalf, dying a sinner’s death that He did not deserve, so that those who believe in Him can experience the gracious love of the Father in heaven.

Be encouraged today that our faith in Jesus is not about what we do but what He has done. Pray today for the Lord to continue to reveal Himself to you, transforming your heart to look more like His.

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Aug 22: Facing Trial

Read 1 John 4:1-6

Life is filled with trials. One pastor once told me you are either in trial, coming out of trial, or waiting for your next trial to happen. No, this might not be the most optimistic view of life, but it is an unfortunate reality. Pain, trial, and affliction come knocking on all of our doorsteps.

John faced trial throughout his life. He very likely felt affliction from the false teachers of the day. After all, he had already drafted his gospel, proclaiming the truth of Jesus. Why should he have to write again? Today John gives us some insight into how we should handle trial, and his bottom line holds true to everything else he has taught us this week- Jesus.

When we face trial, John reminds us to remember whose we are. The underlying principle in verse two is this idea of recognition…recognizing that Jesus is the Christ, and I can’t do this on my own. There is a sense of authenticity here that I don’t want to miss. In the moment of pain it might seem really easy to throw up our hands and say, “Rescue me, Jesus!” but much harder to pray a prayer of submission. Surrendering the situation to the Lord, pleading with Him that His will is done – that can be hard! Yet we can be confident in the help provided by the Lord, by understanding the second principle John teaches us here- remember who God is.

“You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.” 1 John 4:6

No matter how much the odds are stacked against you, even in the grimmest of situations, despite everyone else counting your situation a loss, you serve a God who is greater than this world! Do you believe in a God of miracles? Do you believe in a God that can truly overcome the obstacles in your life? Take heart in knowing that the Lord Jesus Christ, God made man, has overcome the grave. He beat earth’s greatest challenge; one we will all one day face, the grave. If God can defeat death, don’t you think He can beat your circumstances?

Whether you are in trial, coming out of difficulty, or waiting for your next challenge, take some time to pray for God to continue to draw you closer to Him in faith, believing that He can overcome even the most difficult of circumstances.

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August 21: God is Love

Read 1 John 3:1-24

I remember my first love. She was beautiful. Everything a man could ever ask for. I even told my mother I was going to marry her one-day. But there was only one problem… she was a stuffed animal named Mrs. Monkey. While four-year-old Taylor might have fallen in “love” with his stuffed animal friend, love is a word that has a lot more meaning than what you feel for an inanimate object.

John’s words for us today are crystal clear. God is love. Have you ever thought about what love is? Likely whatever definition you are thinking of is based on the idea of conditional love. All of us have experienced conditional love at least in one form or another. This being the notion that in order to gain, or retain, someone’s love you must perform or act a certain way. Whereas, the love of God is the exact opposite, it is unconditional. God’s love is like no love a human could ever give you. There is nothing you can do to make God stop loving you. Think about that for a moment. There is NOTHING that can separate you from the love of God. Even in your worst moment, on your darkest day, God’s love for you was and is the same.

While nothing can separate you from the love of God, sin can separate us from an eternity with Him. Notice John’s words in verse 16- “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us.” We know what true love is, because of who God is! Any context, definition, or concept we have ever had, or will ever have of what love actually is, is the result of knowing God.

In today’s text, John provides some pretty challenging words for us. When we experience Christ’s love, we have an expectation to love others. If Christ has changed your heart, you are not going to be able to hold back wanting to spread this love to the world. John calls us to live a life of sacrifice, of selflessness, of outright generosity to others. He calls us to be the earthly manifestation of Christ’s love today as best as we know how.

Spend some time today praying about how you can express the love of Christ to someone today. Not tomorrow. Today. Is it an act of sacrifice you can show someone? Maybe you need to deny yourself, and make a selfless decision so somebody else might benefit? Or who can you bless with a generous gift today?

 

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August 20: God is Light

Read 1 John 1:5-2:10

I was very blessed. When I was a freshmen in college my roommate and I actually got along! Despite the horror stories I had heard from so many who had gone before me about bad roommate experiences, my roommate and I actually became, and still are, very good friends. Yet, there was one tiny little thing we disagreed on- lights at night. I like complete darkness; he liked to have some light on. Our discussion on the matter seemed as serious as negotiating a wartime peace treaty!

Have you ever thought about light? Even though I don’t like to have lights on when I sleep, I still love light! There is nothing quite like sitting outside on a warm sunny summers day just bathing in the light (with a refreshing cup of lemonade in hand)! This might be our worldly context to what light is, but John tells us today in our text that God is the true light. Thus, He is the opposite of darkness. Darkness and light cannot co-exist, much like God and sin cannot co-exist.

False teachers of the time had not only questioned the reality of who Jesus is, they also questioned the reality of sin. Essentially they were teaching the “get out of jail free card” theory. If I believe in Jesus, and accept Him into my life, I can sin as much as I please because He will save me. John is quick to rebuke this notion. Sin and God simply cannot go hand and hand. A heart that lives in sin is not a heart that has been changed by God.

Be careful here though. John is not teaching legalism. He doesn’t preach of a religion of works, rather about a faith in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. In other words, John isn’t saying that a Christian will never sin. Because we are human, we absolutely will sin. The message he is communicating is that if you’ve truly experienced the love of Jesus Christ, your heart is going to be pursuing Him with reckless abandon. Pursuing Christ with reckless abandon means becoming more and more like Him each and every day. Laying down your idols, confessing your struggles, and above all recognizing that this battle is not one that can be fought alone because you are in need of a Savior! He alone can shed light on the darkness in your life. Allow Him to illuminate areas of your heart where you need rescue today in prayer.

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August 19: I Am Witness

Read 1 John 1:1-4

The book of 1 John was written with a clear message: hear it loud and clear, Jesus is the Christ, and a relationship with Him changes everything. This message is counter cultural. It defied the norms of culture when John first wrote these words to the early church, and it still turns heads to this day.

John wrote this letter with the intent of encouraging early Christians in this truth, but also to rebuke false teachers of the time. Have you ever played the game telephone? Imagine the same situation but during biblical times. Many had heard of Jesus and his teachings, but, over time, the message became convoluted…much like a game of telephone. Teachers were teaching that Jesus couldn’t have possibly been both God and man, rather He was actually some sort of phantom or divine spirit that only inhabited a human body for a period of time. Therefore, His death on the cross could not atone for our sins.

Certainly, this must have frustrating for John. He had experienced Jesus first hand. He had heard His teachings. He had seen the miracles He was able to perform. John says repeatedly in the first four verses we read today that he was an eyewitness to the life of Jesus. John was convicted about the truth of who Jesus is, because he had experienced His love!

Today’s text ends with an invitation from John. He says in verse three “We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ.” John invites us to experience the same love he was able to experience first hand. A love that can break chains, transform hearts, and literally change lives one piece at a time.

Maybe you need to experience this love John reminds us of. We all can experience more of Jesus. Take some time today and just pray to the Lord. Sit quietly, listening for what He might want to share with you. Pray for His love to transform your heart, and shape your life today. Are you able to sit for five minutes in silence basking in the majesty of our King?

We serve a mighty, and loving God. How thankful I am that we are able to have fellowship with Him because of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. My joy is complete knowing that truth alone.

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August 11: Jesus Changes Everything

Read 1 John 1: 5-9

Over the past seven days we have taken a look at the Exodus 20 command of “You shall not give false testimony.” As we have learned, lying can come in many different forms, yet the underlying principle is the same- deception for personal gain. The idea that I am going to tell someone something, hide something from someone, or exaggerate an idea to make myself look better. I can’t think of any other reason why we would lie, can you?

This series, especially this specific command, can sound too legalistic if we aren’t careful. Every week we have essentially been looking at the do’s and don’ts of the Christian faith. Yet, there is an underlying idea to the whole series that John teaches us in todays passage. God gives us directions like the Ten Commandments to help give us context to how He has designed our lives to be lived. However, as the result of our sin nature, He knew we would never be able to meet His expectations, so He sent His son, Jesus Christ, to rescue us.

All too often I think we look at our faith like we do the menu at McDonalds. “I need to order a grilled chicken wrap, a small fry, and a small Diet Coke, but not a regular Coke because of the calories, and I can order ice cream only if it’s a Sunday because I can have sugar then.” Sounds very similar to “well I prayed today, I spent some time in the word, and I didn’t lie- so it was a good day!” But that’s not the type of faith God calls us to. Yes, reading your Bible, spending time in prayer, and not lying certainly make Him pleased, but it is a changed heart He seeks. A heart that is so in love with Jesus that you are running in relentless pursuit after Him, allowing His grace to slowly transform you to look more like Him.

You can’t fight this fight on your own. You will never win. If you’re going through this Ten Commandment series by trying to lie less, have fewer idols, and just check off boxes, you are going to end up sorely disappointed. The fact of the matter is that we need to heed John’s words today. Confess your sins to the Lord, and allow Him to cleanse you and change your heart, one piece at a time.

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August 8: Jacob and Esau

Read Genesis 27:1-46

The story of Jacob and Esau brings to light the pain that deception can create in a family. Being lied to by a stranger, acquaintance, or even friend, has a totally different impact than being lied to by your own flesh and blood. While the emotions of betrayal, hurt, and frustration might be similar, there is a certain rawness to having been deceived by those you love.

Esau certainly experienced this raw pain. The text says more than once that he burst out with a loud cry, and wept. He was hurt. His own brother, out of selfish ambition, had intentionally tricked his father into giving him a blessing that he did not deserve. Yet, the story gets even more frustrating for Esau when his father tells him that he will now be a servant to his brother. I can’t imagine the feelings Esau must have felt in this moment. The inheritance his father had promised him, was essentially stolen from him by the hands of his own brother, Jacob, whom now he was ordered to be a serve.

This story might seem like it’s outlandish in our modern context, but is it really? I hear all too often about folks who file lawsuits against their own family members in battles to claim an inheritance that is “rightfully” theirs. The reality is the deception described in the account in Genesis 27 is still very representative of the pain we inflict upon our family members today. Families can be turned upside down by even just one relative playing up some big lie. Whether it is boasting about a life they really aren’t living, stealing something that isn’t theirs, or being deceitful about a situation, the bottom line is lies kill. They can kill connection, kill relationships, and kill families.

We have hope however; that even the deepest of wounds can be healed through the power of Jesus Christ.

“Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” Ephesians 4:32

We all mess up sometimes. It’s a part of who we are. However, how you respond to your “mess up” will define how your relationship with your family moves forward. Whether you have been on the giving or receiving end of deceit in your family, prioritize reconciliation. Seek forgiveness to those you have wronged, and forgive those who have hurt you. By God’s grace wounds can be healed.

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August 6: Your Words Define You

Read Matthew 15:16-20

Have you ever taken part in a fad diet? Whether it is the South Beach, the Jenny Craig special, or most recently the keto diet, our culture seems to be overrun with new ideas on how to keep our bodies healthy. While physical health is certainly both important and biblical (1 Corinthians 6:19-20), the Scripture we read today calls us to condition our bodies and our hearts.

Your words define you. As Jesus says in these verses in the book of Matthew the words you speak are indicative of where your heart is. When we become believers, our hearts are changed by the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. Sometimes this process can be painstaking, it can be slow, it might even hurt a little. Yet, our hearts look different than they did prior to our salvation. When we experience the glorious love of God, our hearts cannot help but to be changed. As John writes about in his first letter to the church- the love of Jesus challenges us to love others (1 John 3).

“The words you speak come from the heart- that’s what defiles you.” Matthew 15:18

Words have always represented a point of struggle for humanity. Still, it is arguably easier for us today than ever before to cast aspersions upon people, defame them, and tear them down, as we sit on our couch and hide behind the keyboard posting to social media. Nothing seems quite as frustrating as seeing those who are followers of Jesus Christ tear down others on online platforms, engaging in heated debates about issues that have no eternal importance.

Christ’s words here are clear- your words, whether typed, written, or spoken, are indicative of the position of your heart. I’m certainly not perfect here either. I have a long way to go in this area. (Perhaps you remember my reference to my morning commute on RT. 8 a few weeks ago!) But I wonder where you might be with this today. Do the words you say point people to the cross? Are they focused on matters of eternal significance? Or are they harsh, rash, and impatient?

Take some time today reflecting on some of your recent conversations. Think about recent interactions when you’ve been frustrated, or sad, or maybe even tempted to bear false witness about something. Ask God to continue to change your heart, so the words you say take the gospel forward. Pray for the Lord to breath life into your words even during hard times.

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