February 10 – Letters of John : 1 John 1:1-2:14

Read 1 John 1:1-2:14

There have been many times that I have said one thing and done another both purposely and not. This becomes a very dangerous practice as it relates to our spiritual lives. In this passage of Scripture, John is calling believers out for their “on the fence”, “not in or out” faith. As you work your way through the questions and reading, think of some ways that you may be compromising your own faith. How can you fix that?

  • In following God, there is only right and wrong, not shades of grey. Throughout chapter 1, what are some “grey areas” that John is writing about?

In this first chapter, John is talking to people who are struggling with the “grey areas” of the Christian faith. John is clearly telling them that you are either in or out…enough of this “being on the fence” mess. In the next several verses, John talks about 4 different hypothetical “grey area” individuals.

Person 1 (v.6-7)

  • How is this individual living a compromising life?
  • What is the danger of living in such a way?

John’s distinction principle – there must be a noticeable distinction between the world’s values and a believer’s values or that person is lying about being a believer.

Person 2 (1:8-10)

  • What are some examples of when you were ashamed of the sin in your life?
  • What hope does verse 9 bring you?

John’s pride principle – when we try to hide that we have sinned, we block God’s future use of our lives and we kill grace’s growth in us. Don’t hide who you are, bring who you are to an all-knowing Savior.

Propitiation (2:2) – satisfaction for our sins. Legal term meaning debt is paid and now satisfied.

Person 3 (2:4-6)

If you say you belong to Him, you should abide in what He does!

John’s practice principle – what we truly believe comes out in our lives.

Like a tube of toothpaste; when we are squeezed and under pressure, what comes out is the real us.

  • What does verse 5 say about the maturation process of a believer?
  • What discrepancies are there between your walk and your talk that needs to change?

Person 4 (2:9-11)

  • What is one of the symptoms of darkness in the life of a believer?
  • What role does hate and jealousy have in your life?
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February 9 – Letters of John

Read James 1:22-25

This week, we are going to take a little different approach to the devotional time. If you’re anything like me, it is all too easy to read a chapter of the Bible, pray over it and maybe think about it a little bit, but then be done with it. I’m ashamed to say that it can almost become checking a box on a Christian to-do list.

Can you relate?

In an effort to truly engage with the text rather than just skimming it, the format of these devos are structured a little differently. Instead of just commentary, there are questions sprinkled throughout to ask yourself. As you work your way through each passage of Scripture, ask the questions to yourself and challenge yourself to truly engage with the text of the day.

For this, we are going to journey to the back of our Bibles to three different letters that the Apostle John wrote. In the New Testament, when John or Paul writes a letter, it was to a specific group of people for a specific reason. As you read through these letters this week, try to identify the “why” behind the writing. John is very clear and direct in his writing and would often let some unfiltered thoughts come out of his mouth and through his pen…almost like Paul. Even if John was writing to people a couple thousand years ago, the principles still relate to us today.

The time required to read these devos each day may take a little longer. However, you will get out of this what you put into it. We pray that you will set aside the time to engage with John’s letters and apply the principles to your own life.

Thank you for taking this journey along with us! Tomorrow morning, we will dive into 1 John and begin learning about how we can become the best followers of Christ that we can!

Jake Lawson

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February 8 – Compassion – Eyes of a shepherd

Read Matthew 9:1-38

  • A paralytic was made to walk.
  • A sinner was forgiven.
  • A man of reputation was invited to follow.
  • A dead girl was raised.
  • A suffering woman was finally made whole.
  • Two blind men were given sight.
  • A mute man was given speech.

The truth is, there was no disease or sickness that could withstand the healing power of Jesus. As He travelled, He restored them and taught about a kingdom, in which He was King.

Did it ever get old? Did the needs ever seem overwhelming? Like the exhausted parent who has given and given and given, did He ever lose His sensitivity? It would seem not. Verse 36 indicates that the thing driving Him was the compassion of a shepherd’s heart. Compassion was this gnawing emotion that He felt deep inside . . . an emotion that kept Him teaching, proclaiming, and healing. The action, you see, flowed out of an emotion.

And the emotion stemmed from an observation. When He observed the people, He did not make the first glance observations that assessed appearance and assets. He did not see well dressed, young, upward mobile, professionals who had life by the tail. He did not see people who seemed to know where they were going and how to get there. No, the Good Shepherd saw sheep. Sheep that were troubled. Sheep that were harassed by life and by their own ways of thinking. Sheep that were dispirited, having lost a sense of direction and purpose in life. He saw sheep without a shepherd. He saw people who needed Him as the Good Shepherd.

You see, it was that observation of needy sheep that led to the emotion of deep compassion and ultimately gave rise to the action of teaching and healing.

There is no doubt that the ministry needs around you are overwhelming. Jesus said it Himself, and He invites us to pray that God would raise up workers (vv. 37, 38). But for those already serving, make sure that the steam, the motivation for your ministry is not depleted. Ask God to enable you to once again see people the way He does. It is out of that observation that compassion and action will flow.

Perhaps this YouTube video will help you express that desire: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P5AkNqLuVgY

Steve Kern

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February 7 – Compassion – Recognizing needs and throwing money

Read Luke 9:10-17 and John 6:1-13

You may be surprised to hear that this is the only miracle that is recorded in all four of the gospels. But that fact makes the feeding of the 5000 no more historically true than a miracle that is recorded in only a single gospel (like the turning of water into wine in John 2). It does, however, present us with the opportunity to discover details in one account that may have not been included in another.

Feeding people was not their responsibility! Jesus had previously sent the disciples out with the job of healing and preaching. Feeding hadn’t been in their job description. I suppose it shouldn’t surprise us that Luke’s gospel tells us the disciples recommended that Jesus “send the crowd away so they can go to the surrounding villages and countryside and find food and lodging…” (Lk. 9:12) Sure, nourishment was a real need, but they didn’t do food. I wonder, do we miss out on real opportunities to serve others because we don’t see it as something we should do?

Feeding people was a financial impossibility! Some commentators estimate that the 5,000 men could have represented 20,000 total people (counting women and children). John’s gospel points out Philip’s response, “Eight months wages would not buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!” (Jn. 6:7) Indeed, he was right. Money is a limited commodity. While it is vitally important to many aspects of meaningful ministry, it is not the sum total, and it can only make a small dent in a world filled with needs. I wonder, is our tendency to throw money at a need when God would have us be more personally involved in the lives of people?

Once Jesus made clear that this was a need they were to meet…once He communicated that the solution was not financial resources…once the five fish and two loaves were placed in His hands, the disciples became an integral part of blessing thousands of people. They were the ones distributing the food (Lk. 9:16). They were the ones collecting the leftovers (Jn. 6:12, 13). They participated in meeting a need, for which they wanted to take no responsibility. They participated in meeting a need that money could not address. And on that day, not only were fish and loaves multiplied, but so was their understanding of ministry and compassion.

Steve Kern

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February 6 – Compassion – From a friend in need to a Father who cares

Read Luke 11:1-13

The disciples had observed something in Jesus that they wanted to experience.  They were aware of something John had done with his disciples that they wanted Jesus to do with them.  They wanted to learn to pray, and they wanted Jesus to teach them.

Who could be a better teacher?  Jesus had prayed early in the morning and in the late hours of the night.  They had heard Him pray publicly and knew full well that He prayed privately.  With prayers comprised of simple phrases, they had seen the Father respond by calming storms and healing diseases.  His prayer life was one to be envied.

So the master gave His followers a model prayer.  It is a sample that points us to express the Father’s greatness and our commitment to His plan and priorities.  It is a prayer example that communicates our dependence upon Him for sustenance.   It expresses our need for His forgiveness from sin and His strength to stand against the temptation that leads to it.  Don’t miss the heart of those words.  Don’t mindlessly cite them as if their mere utterance unleashes some kind of mystical force.

And, having been invited to teach about prayer, Jesus took advantage of the opportunity by using parables.  If we compare our vertical requests of the Father with horizontal requests of others we know, we can learn much.  To a friend’s middle of the night request, we would likely respond . . . if for no other reason than their “shameless audacity” (v. 8).  Won’t the God of heaven, who neither slumbers nor sleeps and who cares infinitely for us, respond to our needs.

Or take a human father whose loving care for his children knows virtually no other parallel.  Certainly, this father has the welfare of his children in mind.  Even though he is a sinful man, he looks for every opportunity to say “yes” to the requests of his children.  (And even his “no” stems from that same loving care.)  How much more does our heavenly Father joyously give us good gifts.  And arguably the greatest gift of them all is the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit in the lives of His children.

Your Father gives good gifts to those who ask!

Steve Kern

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February 5 – Compassion – A woman in need of grace and truth

Read John 8:1-11

“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”  (v. 11)

While there is some question as to whether this section of John was part of the originally inspired writing of John, one must admit the content is consistent with the ministry of Jesus.  In fact, the final words of this section cited above depict the words of John 1 —  Jesus is “full of grace and truth.”  But let’s go back in the story as we allow our appreciation for grace and truth to grow.

It was early morning in Jerusalem.  Not too early, however, that people were not up and about.  In fact, a crowd had already gathered in the temple.  They were assembled to listen to Jesus as He taught.

Earlier still, scribes and Pharisees had been busily scheming.  Imagine the embarrassment as they brought in a woman caught in the very act of adultery!  Their scheme was to bring the woman to Jesus . . . not so much out of their own uncertainty of what they should do, but in order to test Jesus.  How would He weigh in on the teaching of the Old Testament law?

The law clearly gave them the freedom to initiate a stoning.  The woman could be put to death for her activity.  Most likely, the scribes and Pharisees thought they had Jesus trapped.  If He said to stone her, the crowds that had become accustomed to His grace-filled teaching would flee.  If He said to let her go, they would accuse Him of being no friend of the law.

As you know, He gave permission to stone her with the qualifier that the first to throw was to be without sin.  No one qualified.  All of the accusers left.  The only ones left center stage were Jesus and the woman.  She stood, perhaps, head down in her shame.  He stood as the only sinless person . . . as the One who, according to His own qualifier, had the right to initiate the stoning.  Instead, He extended grace – “Neither do I condemn you” – and truth – “Go now and leave your life of sin.”

That tender balance and those twin realities are to be part of the message and the experience of Christ’s unstoppable church.

Steve Kern

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February 4 – Compassion – Jesus’ far-reaching hand of compassion

Read Acts 8:4-40

He had used Stephen’s martyrdom, and the church’s persecution, to spread His Word.

Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went. (v4)

The Holy Spirit was at it again. His mission: grow the Church. Further the Kingdom of God. Spread the Good News that Messiah had come with salvation for all who would believe and receive. Love the unlovely.

The apostles witnessed His truth all over Jerusalem. In all Judea. Now it was time for Samaria and on to the ends of the earth. (See Acts 1:8.)

So even the Samaritans believed and were baptized. Even the Samaritans, those dirty dogs ever-so-hated and looked-down-upon by the “righteous” nation of Israel, accepted the gift God had offered in His Son.

I imagine a bit of fond remembrance when the apostles heard the news that included even the region despised by so many for their mixed and sordid heritage. I’ll bet their minds raced back to that day by the Samaritan well, the first time they saw Jesus love those unlovely people.

I bet they pictured the woman Jesus sat next to that day. Their conversation. The way He knew all her filth and loved her anyway.

They couldn’t have been at all surprised that the gift of the Holy Spirit was for even those Samaritans.

I wonder what Peter and John talked about as they traveled there. Did they argue over who would pray? Who would lay hands on their deep-seeded rivals? Or were they anxious to extend the love and life of Jesus Christ to that region? The one Jesus had so intentionally not forgotten?

Had the rivalry ended for them that day there with Jesus? The day He made it clear He’d come for the despised, neglected, even dirty Samaritans.

Did they remember the fields Jesus spoke of, the ones ripe for harvest? Did they remember details of that day? The way the woman looked? The others who’d believed?

When John and Peter laid their hands on those they’d always deemed so unlovely, believing Jesus’ grace for any who’d receive, Jesus showed Himself true for all that He’d taught.

And the Samaritans got the gift of Jesus. In Spirit. In truth.

Are there people you think aren’t worthy of the Holy Spirit? People about whom Jesus has changed your mind? Have you let Him convince you that He loves even them? That He wants to live in even them?

Bria Wasson

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