Archive for August, 2009

1 John 1:5 – 2:6


For years I struggled with cravings that were contrary to the new nature I was supposed to have.  Like Paul, I had the desire to do what was good, but I could not carry it out – at least on a consistent basis.  As a result, when I would read the passage shown above, I focused on 1:9, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins. . .”


But something has happened in me over that last few years.  It is as if my new nature has finally kicked in.  It is not a new ability to manage the old cravings as much as it is a new set of cravings.  And now, when I read this passage, I read it from a different perspective.


The perspective from which John writes and from which I now read, puts 1:9 as more the exception than the rule.  He follows it with this, “I write this to you so that we will not sin.  But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense”.


I hate to think of how many times the Lord has had to speak to the Father ‘in my defense’.  But His patience paid off.  2:6 says that we ‘must walk as he did’.  The problem is that we focus on the things He did in public.  But the secret is to focus on the things He did in private.  When we begin to do more of the things Jesus did in private, then we will begin to do more of the things He did in public.  We will receive a new set of cravings.


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1 John 1:3


In the movie, Secondhand Lions, a teenage boy named Walter is dropped off against his will on the farm of two old has-been uncles, while his single mom ventures off to who knows where.  Supposedly the uncles have a fortune and Walters’s mom hopes they will grow to like him and leave their fortune to him/her. 


As you might expect, the relationship gets off to a pretty slow start, but over time the uncles begin to warm up to Walter.  They tell him about the glory years of their past; one of which was about a princess named Jasmine, who, though set to marry a prince, supposedly married one of the uncles instead. 


In light of the present age and condition of Walter’s uncles and the conflicting stories he is hearing from some of his uncles’ acquaintances, Walter is having a hard time knowing what to believe.


One night, he becomes determined to find out the truth.  He approached the uncle who had supposedly married Jasmine and asked simply, ‘What happened?  I have to know.  These stories, are they true?  Around mom, all I hear is lies; I don’t know what to believe.’ 


I wonder how many Christians are like Walter.  They have heard the real stories, but because of the present condition of the church and the conflicting stories from so many of the church’s acquaintances, they too are finding it hard to know what to believe.   


We all come to points in our lives where we ‘want’ to know if the stories are true, but to know for sure, we must, like Walter, come to the point where we are ‘determined’ to know if they are true.  We must come to the point where we have to know; to the point where we are tired of the lies that have kept us from knowing.


John said, “We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard so that you also may have fellowship with us”.  Walter’s uncles proclaimed what they had seen and heard. When Walter finally believed them, he entered into a fellowship with them. 


Years later, when his uncles finally died, Walter did inherit their fortune.  He also met another member of the fellowship—an Arabian prince.  This prince was the son of the prince that Jasmine was supposed to marry.  This prince, having heard all his life of the uncles’ unequaled courage, came to pay his respects.  It was one sweet meeting.


Though Walter believed his uncles stories, and enjoyed fellowship with them, meeting the prince sealed the deal.  It was proof of what Walter had chosen to believe years ago.  The day will come for us when our deal will be sealed.  Though we now enjoy fellowship, one day we will physically meet our Prince.  On that day we will see proof of what we have chosen to believe.  It will be one sweet meeting.

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John 21


What do you do when you have encountered Christ and He has yet to make it clear what His plans for you are?  Peter and the other disciples had seen Jesus since the resurrection.  It was exciting and all, but what did it mean to them personally.  So far, they didn’t know. 


When that is the case, what do you do?  You do what you’ve always done.  In Peter’s case, he said, “I’m going out to fish,” and a few of the other disciples went with him.  I’ve wondered at times if the Lord has something for me other than what I have always done.  But until He makes it clear, I do what I’ve always done.


Jesus could have called them in as soon as He showed up.  It says they had fished all night and caught nothing.  At this low point in their business venture, He could have called them.  Instead, to the men He would use to change the world, He first allows them to experience the benefit of following Him.


Who wouldn’t be ready for something else at a low point, but Jesus waits till they’ve had their highest.  At Peter’s highest, Jesus tells him what He wants him to do.  As many would be willing to follow at low point, Peter demonstrates that even when a business is at its highest point, it does not outweigh an invitation to do the Kingdom’s business.

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Where No Man Has Gone

John 20


John 20:1-8

“Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance.  She came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple,” whom I will call John.  John “outran Peter and reached the tomb first.  He bent over and looked in at the strips of linen lying there but did not go in.  Then Simon Peter, who was behind him, arrived and went into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen lying there, as well as the burial cloth that had been around Jesus’ head. The cloth was folded up by itself, separate from the linen. 8 Finally the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and believed.


It took Peter, who had more guts than brains to go where no man had gone in order to discover the details of the truth, which in turn made it easy for John to discover and believe the same.  On account of Peter, John saw and believed.  On account of John, and his written description of what he saw, we too are able to see and believe.


John 20:31

“But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.”

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The Cost of Living

John 19


“Then Pilate took Jesus and had him flogged.”  The guards made fun of Him saying, “Hail, king of the Jews!”  “And they struck him in the face.”  He was made to carry His cross to Golgotha.  “Here they crucified him.”


Just days or perhaps only hours earlier, Jesus made the excruciating decision to follow through with what was required of Him.  The record of that decision is found in John 12, in which He says, “Now my heart is troubled, and what shall I say?  ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason that I came to this hour.”


Later He would say, “I know that his command leads to eternal life”.  The decision would cost Him more than any decision He had ever made, but He had learned through life that the way to life is to follow His Father’s commands. 


It would do us well to have a fresh understanding that though the cross entitles us to life, it is Jesus’ demonstration of obedience before the cross that leads to life.  At any point in our walk with God, this is true.  Whether it is something God says we shouldn’t do, or something He says we should do; whether it is easy or hard; whether it seems fair or unfair; whether it seems to make sense or not – we have to “know that his command leads to eternal life”.  It is the price we must pay for the life that is rightfully ours.  It is the cost of living.

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To Whom It May Concern

John 18


When Pilate asked Jesus if He was a king, Jesus said, “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 of the truth”.


At a certain point in history, when the whole world was missing the truth, Jesus steps in to declare it—to right the world again.  Very few got it, and those that did were a little slow in doing so.  Anyone besides me, a little slow in getting it?


It is not really until you see and understand the truth that you become so aware of the lies from every source imaginable that keep us from it.  Until you see and understand the truth, you are persuaded to believe that lies are the truth.  


Exactly ‘how’ I am not yet sure, but the ‘what’ I believe I am becoming more sure of.  Somehow, by any means afforded, I will testify of the truth.  I will expose the lies that keep us from the life that Jesus came to proclaim we could have.  For this reason, I believe that we have been permitted to remain in the world.    


A personal note:

To the few who regularly read what I write, I will take this opportunity to say what an encouragement you are to me by the things you write.  We may not be reaching the multitude here, but we are hopefully an encouragement to each other.  As we see the day approaching, I believe we are doing what the writer of Hebrews encouraged us to do. 


Heb 10:24-25

24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. 25 Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another-and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

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Lesson from the Walleye

John 17


I recently heard Dobson speak on an experiment with a walleye.  The walleye was placed in a glass tank.  Minnows were released into the tank, and soon, the minnows were gone. 


Then a sheet of glass was slipped into the tank—dividing it in two sections.  Minnows were released into the section opposite the walleye.  In spite of repeated efforts, the walleye, of course, could not get to the minnows and eventually quit trying. 


Then the sheet of glass was removed.  Even as the minnows swam all around the walleye, he would not go for the minnows.  Dobson’s following comment struck me.  Discouraged by repeated unsuccessful efforts, the walleye would end up starving in a tank filled with what it needed to survive.


Though his application involved kids and school, I couldn’t help but to think of how many adults are discouraged by repeated unsuccessful efforts of trying to experience God.  What is needed to survive is all around, but the will to pursue it is gone—discouraged by repeated unsuccessful efforts.


What is it that is all around?  Jesus said in John 17:17, “Sanctify them by the truth; your word is the truth”.  In His word is everything we need for survival.  But we are discouraged by repeated unsuccessful efforts to understand it—to live it, and so, we have laid it down.


In John 17, while Jesus was praying for His disciples, twice He prayed for their protection.  17:11 ‘Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name.’  17:15 ‘Protect them from the evil one’.


If we have laid our Bibles down, ‘the evil one’ has gotten the upper hand.  Maybe in the past, he was able to slip a glass between us and the truth and we have given up trying.  Now we starve while truth is all around us.


The father of lies twists it, snatches it . . . anything to keep us from it.  But, it is there nonetheless.  There is no beating around the bush here, we must go after it.  If we do not, ‘the evil one’ wins. 


There is a line in a song that says, “Love is not a fight, but it’s worth fighting for”.  Jesus is fighting for us and waits on us to join in.

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J. I. Packer,  A Passion for Faithfulness


Are we clear what zeal is?  It is not fanaticism; it is not wildness; it is not irresponsible enthusiasm; it is not any form of pushy egoism.  It is, rather, a humble, reverent, businesslike, single-minded commitment to the hallowing of God’s name and the doing of His will.


          A zealous man in religion is pre-eminently a man of one thing.  It is not enough to say that  he is earnest, hearty, uncompromising, thorough-going, wholehearted, fervent in spirit.  He only sees one thing, he cares for one thing, he lives for one thing; and that one thing is to please God.  Whether He lives, or whether he dies – whether he has health, or whether he has sickness – whether he is rich, or whether he is poor – whether he pleases men, or whether he gives offense – whether he is thought wise, or whether he is thought foolish – whether he gets honor, or whether he gets shame – for all this the zealous man cares nothing at all.  He burns for one thing; and that one thing is, to please God, and to advance God’s glory.


          J. C. Ryle, Practical Religion

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Dos and don’ts, whether implied or specifically stated, are as much a part of most churches as the pews people set on in them.  As the world, more and more, is throwing off all restraints of right and wrong, a milder version of this ‘throwing off’ is filtering into the church as well.  People no longer want to be told what is right and wrong and some churches are in full agreement with the new mindset.


As we may rightfully be weary of some of the dos and don’ts churches and people have come up with, we need to be careful that we don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. There are commands that lead to life.  We are finally convinced that man’s dead end paths of dos and don’ts do not lead to God and that is good.  But if in our oversensitivity to not wanting anyone to tell us what right and wrong is, if we’re not careful, we can again miss the commands that lead to life.   


Jesus, who condemned the Pharisees for weighing people down with more rules than they could possibly live up to, did not consider it the same to inform the woman caught in adultery that she should go and sin no more.  He knew it was a command that led to life and that conversely, one that, if not heeded, would lead to death.


Whether new Christian, old, pastor or Jesus Himself, the abundant life that is available to us is directly related to our willingness to follow what God requires of us.  There are no shortcuts.  You can’t add to or take away.  It is what it is no matter who you are.

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