Sunday, 31 May 2015

Building up yourselves

But ye, beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Ghost, Keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life. - Jude 20-21

Verses 20-21 tell us the best thing we can do to fight these false teachers. While we need to always be aware of them and be prepared our focus seems to be more on us than on them. I like to tell people when there is a conflict or difficulty or a disagreement with someone. You can’t fix anyone but yourself.

We need to be aware that there are bad guys. We need to know the warning signs. But most of all we need to know how to prepare ourselves.

And here they are.

Build yourselves on your holy faith
Praying in the Holy Ghost
Keep yourself in God’s love
Looking for His mercy

We must be constantly striving to keep building our faith. Peter tells us exactly how to do that – ‘And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness…’ If our faith is not being built on it is going to stagnate.

Prayer is obviously vital. We are told elsewhere to ‘pray without ceasing’ and Jesus says ‘men ought always to pray and not lode heart.’

Faith building and prayer must be joined with keeping ourselves in the love of God. ‘Jesus loves me this I know’ must be more than just a kid’s song. It is the knowledge that God loves us that keeps us going when things get tough.

And finally we overcome the wickedness of this world by looking for God’s mercy. We don’t have to look at fixing this broken world. Only Jesus can do that and we need to look to His mercy for us to survive and for us to share with others.

I think there is plenty there to keep us busy.

Saturday, 30 May 2015


But, beloved, remember ye the words which were spoken before of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ; How that they told you there should be mockers in the last time, who should walk after their own ungodly lusts. These be they who separate themselves, sensual, having not the Spirit. – Jude 1.17-19

Jude 1.5-16 is  full of information about false teachers. When you read these verses you see some really bad people have infected the church. It seems to me that the key element of all the error is an insistence that you can do whatever you want, even if you are believer. They teach that once we are saved we have a license to sin.  Reading those verses gives you real insight into what happens when the false teachers are let in.

Here Jude concludes with a reminder of something Jesus had said – ‘there will be mockers in the last days who are going to walk after their own ungodly lusts.

We ought not be surprised when people, including professing Christians, mock and us and poke fun at us when we strive to live holy lives. Folks who pursue their own lusts would rather drag us down to their level than sort things out and live holy lives themselves. That’s all we can expect.

We should already know that people are going to go after their own lusts and mock those who strive to live right. We shouldn’t be shocked and sit around and moan and whinge and cry about it. The mockers will be there – we might as well get used to it.

We will see tomorrow what we are supposed to do about it.

Friday, 29 May 2015


For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ. – Jude 1.4

Whenever I read this verse I think about a Bible teaching seminar where the teacher used Jude as an example of how to teach doctrine because it was such a short little book. I will never forget something he said off-handily. ‘Certain men have crept in unawares. We call them creeps.’

That was kind of funny and it sticks in my my mind after all these years.

And the truth is that sadly there are creeps in the church who want to shipwreck the cause of Christ. We must always be on guard because they are not going to walk in the front door boldly proclaiming their heresy. They sneak in while we are not looking.

There are three marks here that are more fully described over the next few verses.

They are ungodly
They turn God’s grace into lewdness
They are Christ deniers

There is a tempt to let down out guard in order to be inclusive and maybe even keep our numbers up. We have swallowed the line that size equals success. But in that rush to bring people in we need to be careful what we diligently watch for those who try to sneak error into our churches.

Thursday, 28 May 2015

A needful letter

Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints. – Jude 1.3

I like how this letter opens. After a brief introduction we see a clear example of how the Holy Spirit gave us His word. Jude, Jesus’ brother was all set to write a general letter about salvation. Is was giving is, as he put it, ‘all due diligence.’

But then he ‘found in needful’ to write and exhort his readers to ‘earnestly contend for the faith.’

Whenever I read Jude I am reminded of the importance of being willing to stand, and if we have to, fight for the faith. While the Bible is full of love and peace and getting along even with those who don’t agree with 100% we still are reminded here, and in other places, that we have a faith worth fighting for.

I think about the verse in Hebrews that says ‘follow peace with all men...’ That is a beautiful reminder about how God wants to us to be a people who seek peace and cooperation. But the verse doesn’t end there. It continues with ‘…and holiness, without which no one no one can see the Lord.’

Yes, we are to seek peace with each other. There is petty stuff that we can choose to lay aside and choose to get along.

But we can’t tolerate unbiblical error. We must be ready to contend for the truth. In fact we must be ready to earnestly contend. That means when it comes to deal with false doctrine and error we have to stand and fight against.

There is never an excuse for ugliness or meanness or vindictiveness. But there do come times when we must lovingly take a firm stand on the word of God. Sometimes that involves exposing error. Sometimes it involves separation.

Earnestly contending was so important that Jude stopped writing a letter on salvation to deal with it. Are we willing to contend for the great salvation and truths of God’s word that have been delivered to us?

Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Face to face

I had many things to write, but I do not wish to write to you with pen and ink; but I hope to see you shortly, and we shall speak face to face. Peace to you. Our friends greet you. Greet the friends by name. – 3 John 1.13-14

Life has certainly changed a lot in the last twenty years. When we first got to Ireland the only practical way to communicate with people was either a letter that took 8-10 days each way, or to pay IE£1.69 (about €2.25) a minute to make a phone call. In reality we hadn’t changed a whole lot since John wrote this letter to ‘the elder.’ The Roman postal service could deliver the post nearly as quickly as we could in 1995.

But it was still nice. We did it. We found a way to stay in touch and loved getting letters in the post.

Today though it is possible to open our computer or phone or tablet and touch the screen a couple of times and see the people we are talking to. Last Sunday we were able to talk to and see  our daughter and newest grandson within a couple of hours of his birth. With family back in the States now we are abel to interact and talk to and watch of grandchildren grow.

All of that is so much better than it used to be – but it is still not face-to-face. We see John’s heart here as we did not want to keep communicating with ‘pen and ink.’ He wanted to be able to sit down and talk to them face to face.

He went on to say ‘I hope to see you shortly.’

I certainly understand that feeling. Even with texting and email and Skype and FaceTime and all that there is nothing like sitting down face to face with people we love and having a cup of tea. There is nothing like being there and and spending real time really together.

I love that image. I love that John looked forward to fellowship. I hope we can have that same kind of love for each other and that we treasure the chances we have to see each other face to face.

Tuesday, 26 May 2015


Demetrius has a good testimony from all, and from the truth itself. And we also bear witness, and you know that our testimony is true. – 3 John 1.12

Diotrephes is on one end of the spectrum. John exposed him in all his error. He was a baddie.

But here we have a chap named Demetrius. John wrote that he ‘has a good testimony.’ His name was a good name. Proverbs tells us that a good name is better than all the riches of the world.

The importance of a good testimony and a good name is obvious. Demetrius had a good testimony in two ways

He had a good testimony before others
He had a good testimony based on the word of God

One of the examples of the early church is that they found favour amongst the people. In a world where people may not know many Christians it is important that the ones they do know have a proper testimony. I am afraid that too often our testimonies don’t math up with our words.

What do people say about me? Do I have a testimony that causes people to speak well of me both in and outside the body of Christ?

How does my testimony match up with the truth?

The world is looking to condemn us – lets be sure to keep our testimonies so pure that there is nothing they can say about us.

Lets be like Demetrius.

Monday, 25 May 2015

Good vs Evil

Beloved, do not imitate what is evil, but what is good. He who does good is of God, but he who does evil has not seen God. – 3 John 1.11

This verse really puts it nice and short and succinct. In fact there really isn’t a whole lot to say.

Do not follow evil
Follow good

The classic battle of good vs evil – there it is.

It is a battle which has gone on since Adam and Eve were in the garden. Eve’s choice was simple – follow what God said (good) or listen to the serpent (evil). We know what she did. And we know what happened over and over again throughout history.

Elijah told the people to choose God or Baal. Joshua told the people to choose God or their old gods.

Good or evil – what will it be?

You and I will have that same choice over and over today. In fact, we probably already have chosen to follow good or evil.

There is not a whole lot to say here. It is simply up to us to follow evil or follow evil. Which will it be?

Sunday, 24 May 2015

Me first

I wrote unto the church: but Diotrephes, who loveth to have the preeminence among them, receiveth us not. Wherefore, if I come, I will remember his deeds which he doeth, prating against us with malicious words: and not content therewith, neither doth he himself receive the brethren, and forbiddeth them that would, and casteth them out of the church. – 3 John 1.9-10

Sometimes we come across people in the word of God and people in our lives today where it is very hard to find anything good to say about them. Diotrephes is one of those people. Look at what John says about him.

He loves the preeminence
He does not receive John and other preachers
He attacks the preachers with malicious words
He does not receive the other brethren
He opposes those who do try to receive the brethren
He throws those who try to help out of the church

Sadly I think we can all think of people like this that we have met. There may even be times we can remember in our own lives when we had a diotrephian spirit. It all starts with a simple little statement at the beginning – he loved to have the preeminence.

And that is where we need to examine our hearts. Are we like Diotrephes in that we like to be number one? Does everything need to be about us? Do we live for others? Or do we live for us?

Loving the pre-eminence means it is about me. It is the opposite of humility. It is the source of all the other things that Diotrephes did wrong.

It isn’t about me. The sooner I can grasp that truth the better it will be for me and for everyone around me.

Saturday, 23 May 2015

Fellow helpers

Which have borne witness of thy charity before the church: whom if thou bring forward on their journey after a godly sort, thou shalt do well: Because that for his name's sake they went forth, taking nothing of the Gentiles. We therefore ought to receive such, that we might be fellowhelpers to the truth. – 3 John 1.6-8

We are not always going to be able to go out and do everything we see that needs to be done. Every time a missionary speaks in our church my heart is burdened and I feel the pull on my heartstrings to go and help.

It doesn’t look like Gaius was one of those called upon to go out and take the gospel elsewhere. It looks like he was called to stay where he was and to serve others.

I like this picture of team work and I like translation ‘fellow helpers.’

Sometimes we think that there is some kind of special status to missionaries or preachers or evangelists who leave home to take the gospel ‘into all the world.’ I have heard these folks referred to as ‘heroes’ or ‘God’s choicest servants’ or other similar terms.

The reality is that we all have our jobs to do. Not everyone is called to go out and those who do so could not do it without ‘fellow helpers’ to support them and send them on their way. Though I don’t agree with everything about the way we do missionary work today, there is a Bible principle that churches support those lay aside their employment and go out by faith to serve God. Without fellow helpers it could not be done.

So thank God for those who do go out by faith, and thank God for the fellow helpers like Gaius who make it possible.

Friday, 22 May 2015


Beloved, thou doest faithfully whatsoever thou doest to the brethren, and to strangers; - 3 John 1.5

Gaius was quite an example. Among the other character traits he is praised for here we find him praised for being faithful in everything he did. It is required of God’s servants that we are faithful. Faithfulness is more needed than success.

Here specifically we read about a certain kind of faithfulness.

Gaius is praised for being faithful. He is praised because he faithful in all he does for the brethren. Gaius was the kind of fellow Christian you could always count on. Gaius was the kind of guy who would take you to the airport on short notice. He is the guy who will hop in the car to come out and help you on a rainy night when you run out of petrol. `Gaius is that Christian who you just no will always be there.

But beyond that Gaius was faithful in all that he did for the strangers – those outside the church. It is relatively easy to be faithful to most other believers. We have a common ground. We have a common purpose. But these strangers – those outside the body – don’t have the same mind that we have. Being faithful to ‘strangers’ is to open yourself to the possibility of being hurt or rejected or taken advantage of.

Lord, help me to be more of a Gaius.

Thursday, 21 May 2015

Truth walking

For I rejoiced greatly when brethren came and testified of the truth that is in you, just as you walk in the truth. I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth. – 1 John 3.3-4

Gaius had a wonderful testimony. When brethren came to tell John how Gaius was doing they reported that Gaius was really in the truth, but not only that he was also walking in the truth and that caused John great joy.

I think there are three aspects to walking in the truth:

1) Walking in the truth means walking in Christ. It means that one has accepted to truth of the gospel and walks daily in its light. Since Jesus is ‘the truth’ walking in the truth means walking in Him. With Him as our guide and our pattern and our example. It means that we reflect Him in our lives.

2) Walking in the truth means walking a life that matches up  to the word of God. God’s word is truth and those who walk in truth must walk in His word. We can’t walk in truth when we are walking according to the pattern set by the world.

3) Walking in the truth means walking a walk that is real, without hypocrisy or deception. It is a walk that has no room for lies in one who walks in the truth. Those who walk in truth are what they appear to be. They are not one person on Sunday and another the rest of the week.

Are we truth walkers? Do our lives match up with the Christ who live in us. Do our lives match up to the word of God? Do our lives match up to our own words?

Can it be said of you and me that we walk in the truth like it was said of Gaius?

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

That you might prosper

The Elder, To the beloved Gaius, whom I love in truth: Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers. – 3 John 3.1-2

John wrote this third letter to a man called Gaius, someone who John said that ‘he loved in the truth.’ I love that fact that we are allowed to have a little peak into a personal letter between  tow close friends in the early church. We don’t know who this Gaius is. It would be nice to tie him into one of the other Gaius in the New Testament, and he may be one of them, but we just don’t know.

John is not afraid to express his love for his brother in Christ. In Greek the phrase is ‘Gaius the beloved.’

John is praying for Gaius to prosper and that he would enjoy good health. Gaius was already prospering in his spirit and John was praying the rest of his life would match up. ‘I pray that you will prosper and be healthy, just like your soul is prospering.’

I guess I am just touched by personal nature of John’s words. I am also impressed that Gaius was already prospering spiritually when John prayed for his prosperity in others areas.

I realise of course that our primary motivation is to ‘seek ye first the kingdom of God’ but I think it is good to note that John saw nothing wrong with praying that God would take care of Gaius’ needs and for his health.

That being the case I think it is good to be reminded that it is okay to pray that a new business venture would succeed. It is okay to pray that God would provide a good job. In fact it is okay to pray that whatever a friend is doing, within God’s will, will prosper and it is good to pray for one another’s health.

So let's enjoy praying for each other's prosperity!

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

False teachers - beware

For many deceivers are entered into the world, who confess not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist. Look to yourselves, that we lose not those things which we have wrought, but that we receive a full reward. Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son. If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed: For he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds.– 2 John 1.7-11

We ought not be surprised that people are going to try to corrupt the word of God. We are warned over and over again to beware of false teachers. They are out their and always will be. John speaks of one particular error, but the principle is true for all sorts of false teachers.

The specific error here dealt with saying that Jesus never came in the flesh. It was an error common in those days. It was a major doctrinal error, not a trivial difference.

So John told them how to respond – ‘don’t let him in your house. Don’t even greet him or even greet him or wish him well. Indeed if we wish him well is partakes in his error.’

God always wants us to be kind and compassionate to others but that does not mean that we have to condone their error. We simply must stand fast in the face of the error of false teachers. When it comes to false teachers we are told exactly what to do. We turn them away without listening to their error.

We have all kinds of knowledge at our disposal now. It is all there at our fingertips. Lets not let our quest for knowledge lead us to accept error.

Sunday, 17 May 2015

Stay away from idols

Little children keep yourself from idols – I John 5.21

This little verse almost seems tacked on to the rest of the book. We are reading about love and truth and understanding and eternal life and then we come across these words – ‘little children keep yourself from idols.’

But I think it does make sense. All that we have here is temporary and passing away. We have the truth that endures forever. As believers our  eternal like is settled based on the truth that Jesus is the Son of God. Because of that our focus ought to be only on the truth.

So, John writes, keep yourself from idols.

The first folks to read or hear this would have understood fully. Idols, images of false would have been a big part of their lives. Idols would have been every where and the worship of false gods would have been part of their culture and how they were raised. They had to be told that they could not mix the true God with their images of false gods. They couldn’t have both.

I doubt that very many people here have a god shelf at home. We don’t bow down and worship stone or wood images.

But that doesn’t mean that we don’t have idols. We still do. We have our own false gods that we try to mix with our true God. We have all kinds of diversions that keep us from the truth – these  are our idols. All kinds of idols can divert us from the truth.

John’s counsel is the same for us – stay away from the idols of your hearts. Stay away from all those things that get in the way of our worship on the truth.

Saturday, 16 May 2015

An understanding

And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us an understanding, that we may know Him who is true; and we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life. Little children, keep yourselves from idols. Amen. – 1 John 5.20-21

The world has been looking to understand the meaning of life and the ‘why are we here’ literally since the beginning of time.

What’s it all about?

John tells us here that Jesus came to give us an understanding. He came to reveal the truth. Jesus said ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life.’ The understanding of the most important truth of all is that Jesus came to give us eternal life.

What is it all about? Why are we here? What is our purpose?

God created us for His glory and to give us life. He intended our lives to be perfect and pleasant and something like an eternal holiday.

But man broke it. Man sinned and we still sin today. Our sin separates us from God so God sent His Son Jesus Christ to restore our relationship with Him.

That is truth and that is eternal. Life would make no sense apart from a loving and compassionate  God and Jesus came to give us that understanding.

Friday, 15 May 2015

According to His will

Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him. - 1 John 5:14-15

I have said before that I really don’t understand how prayer works. I know it does ‘work’ and so I pray. I don’t pray nearly enough, but I do it because it gives me a chance to talk to my Father and communicate my thoughts and fears and frustrations and anxieties and joys and thanks.

There are a lot of prayers and commands to pray in scripture. Some folks get the idea that if we are really spiritually and really dredge up enough faith then we can get whatever we ask for. God is always bound to give me what I ask to when I pray.

The problem with that is that is makes God out to be a genie in a bottle and all I have to do is rub the bottle and my genie/god will pop out and do whatever I want.

Is that really the God I want? Do I want a God I can control?

Or do I want a God who always knows what I best and listens to my prayers and when we ask according to what He knows is best He acts?

Thank God for ‘according to His will.’ His will is always right and wise and perfect and it always works for the best. Thank God that He doesn’t submit to the caprices and the selfishness and fleshliness of my will.

I didn’t give my children everything they asked for. I don’t give my grandchildren everything they ask for. I have a much better understanding of what is good and what is not good for them. I love them too much to be their genie in a bottle.

How much more should we thank God that He answers according to His will?

Thursday, 14 May 2015

A very special verse

These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God. - 1 John 5:13

It was Tuesday 12 February 1974. I found myself in a basement classroom of the Widener College library in a Bible study. I didn’t know it yet, but everything was about to change.

I had more or less grown up in church. The first church I remember well was a Methodist church near the intersection of Jordan Lane and Bob Wallace in Huntsville, Alabama. I remember going to a summer Bible club in the mid-60s. I never really lost interest but by the time I was 18 I had more or less kept God on the fringes. When I broke my neck in the summer of 1973 I did have many weeks to lay in bed and think about things.

But when I went off to university in the autumn I sort of forgot about it. They was away from home and free to live as I felt I wanted. It didn’t take long for me to see the emptiness of that kind of life.

So on that February morning a few months later I saw a paper on the ground and picked it up to bin it. It announced a Bible study held in the library on Tuesday nights and having nothing to do I went.

The faculty member leading the study was talking about love and we were studying 1 John. I was intrigued, but soon my eyes fell across 1 John 5.13 and the words ‘that you might know.’ I had thought about eternal life, and even prayed a prayer, but I didn’t know about my eternal fate. That not knowing troubled me so I asked Christ to forgive my sins and give me eternal life. And, to make a long story short – now I know. I know based on what God says that my eternity is secure because of what Christ has done for me.

So thank God for this very special verse that gives me the ability to know that no matter what else happens my eternity is safe and sorted.

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

God's witness

If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater; for this is the witness of God which He has testified of His Son. He who believes in the Son of God has the witness in himself; he who does not believe God has made Him a liar, because he has not believed the testimony that God has given of His Son. And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. - 1 John 5:9-12

What John calls ‘the witness of men’ can be a terrible thing. It can be mean and harsh and upsetting. What men say about us can wreck our lives and hurt our testimony. Man may judge us and condemn us and turn against us and lie about us. And it probably has already happened.

The witness of men may also be hearing man’s opinions and ideas and suggestions about all kinds of topics.

Either way man’s witness, even the witness of the best we know, is going to be flawed. Man’s witness is going to be flawed because we don’t know everything. But there is one whose testimony can always be trusted.

God’s witness is always true and there is one witness that is the one we need.

‘This is the testimony – God has given us eternal life in His Son.’

God gave me eternal life. He did not give me life as long as I did the right things. He gave me eternal life. He gave me eternal life in His Son, not in me. His testimony is true and anyone who goes against God’s testimony is wrong.

It is easy to focus on what others say because they are so much a part of our day to day lives. But God’s witness can be that way if we are only willing to spend time in His word and trusting His testimony more than what others say or what we feel.

I can have confidence because God says He gave me eternal life through Christ. I need not fear the judgement of others or even the judgement of myself. God’s testimony is true.  

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Love, faith, and victory

If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen? And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also. Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves Him who begot also loves him who is begotten of Him. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep His commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome. For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. Who is he who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? – I John 4.20-5.5

I wrote yesterday about the incredible battle of fear and love and about how easy it is to struggle with that battle. I was challenged by what God says. It is impossible to trust in the love of God and still be afraid.

Today’s passage makes another application regarding the power of love. It goes like this:

Anyone who loves God loves his brother in Christ
Whoever has put their faith in Christ is a child of God
Anyone who loves God loves other children of God
We prove our love for each other when we love God and keep His commandments
God’s commands are not to be burdensome
The children of God overcome the world
We overcome the world through faith

It starts with love and ends with faith. That combination of love for God and others, obedience to His commands, and faith that He will do what He says will see us overcome the world.  We already know that greater is He who is in us than He that is in the world.

As much as I battle it we don’t need to be afraid of the world and its ways. God’s love produces faith and faith gives the victory.

I could go on, but the words of this great old hymn do a better job than I could.

Encamped along the hills of light,
Ye Christian soldiers, rise,
And press the battle ere the night
Shall veil the glowing skies.
Against the foe in vales below,
Let all our strength be hurled;
Faith is the victory, we know,
That overcomes the world.

Faith is is the victory!
Faith is is the victory!
Oh, glorious victory,
That overcomes the world.

His banner over us is love,
Our sword the Word of God;
We tread the road the saints above
With shouts of triumph trod.
By faith they, like a whirlwind's breath,
Swept on o'er ev'ry field;
The faith by which they conquered death
Is still our shining shield.

On ev'ry hand the foe we find
Drawn up in dread array;
Let tents of ease be left behind,
And onward to the fray;
Salvation's helmet on each head,
With truth all girt about,
The earth shall tremble 'neath our tread,
And echo with our shout.

To him that overcomes the foe,
White raiment shall be giv'n;
Before the angels he shall know
His name confessed in heav'n.
Then onward from the hills of light,
Our hearts with love aflame,
We'll vanquish all the hosts of night,
In Jesus' conqu'ring name.

Monday, 11 May 2015

Fear vs Love

Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness in the day of judgement; because as He is, so are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love. We love Him because He first loved us. – 1 John 4.17-19

Fear is a terrible thing. It is crippling. I have some fears that make me physically ill. This verse says that fear involves torment. I have a tormenting fear of heights. I can get sick even seeing photographs of people at great heights. It is that gut wrenching feeling that comes when we are afraid.

It is not just heights and a few other things like that cause me this tormenting fear. Sometimes I can be tormented by a fear of the future. What is going to happen? I am at an age now when most of my life has been lived. Looking down the road ten or twenty years is scary.

I can fear for our ministry. Some days it looks like everything we have done is for nothing. We see people come and go and ministries see human success and seeming failure. The fear of what is going to happen can be tormenting.

But God is not in that fear. Fear is not of God because His perfect love casts out fear. If I really trust that God loves me I realise that I need not be afraid. God loves me and that love is my protection for all that I face. I may very well face hard times – in fact I certainly will – but I have the love of God to carry me through those times.

I am sitting here as I type these words battling fear. The bad thing is that it is a kind of unreasonable fear. It makes no sense.  When I allow myself to get in situations like this it is because I choose fear over love. It really is my choice.

Will I – will we – choose love or fear? May God five each of this who battle this fear the wisdom and the strength and the ability to choose His love over our fear. Love casts out fear. They are not compatible. God had given us His love, why then do we let fear torment our souls? 

Sunday, 10 May 2015

Seeing God through love

No one has seen God at any time. If we love one another, God abides in us, and His love has been perfected in us. By this we know that we abide in Him, and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son as Saviour of the world. Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. And we have known and believed the love that God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him. – 1 John 4.12-16

There are all kinds of ways to show God to those around us. We can live holy lives. We can go to church and do all kinds of right and proper things. But there is something special and vital that we must do. 

No one has ever seen God. Man is a sinner and God is perfect so no one can ever look on Him in His holiness. So if we can’t introduce anyone to God face to face, how do we show God to people around us?

I have known so folks, and have been there myself, who seem to thing we show God to people by taking a ‘holier than thou’ attitude toward others. We hold people, even those who don’t know God to our standard and we stand in our bully pulpits with attacks and condemnations and venom filled speech.

And when that happens this is how the world sees God through us.

No one has seen God at any time. But God does manifest Himself to the world by loving a world that rejected Him. God is love and when He truly lives in us we are going to love and we are going to show His love to the world around us.

The world is not going to see God – but they can see the love of God in us. When we speak and act and behave like we hate the world we are not giving them the true image of God.

When the world looks at you and me, when they see the reflection of God in our lives, what do they see? Do they really see God’s love abiding in us? Or do they see some false image of God based on our fleshly view of the world? 

Saturday, 9 May 2015

Our pattern for love

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love. In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. – 1 John 4.7-11

We have read a lot about love in 1 John. It is a recurrent theme and we might be tempted to skip some of the verses because it seems like the same thing over and over. But God put it the way He did for a reason.

Love is not based in the fact that we love God because we could not have loved Him before He loved us. We love Him because, and only because, He loved us first. As a result of His love for us we are to love Him and love each other.

But there is a little phrase in here  we don’t want to miss.

God sent His son to be the propitiation for our sins. God’s love led Him to send his Son to satisfy our sin debt. I think the picture we have here is that true love is going to be costly. Love is not cheap. Love loves even when the cost of loving is great.

Our example of love is a Saviour who gave everything for us. God showed His love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us.

What does our love look like?

Friday, 8 May 2015

Children of the world and children of God

They are of the world. Therefore they speak as of the world, and the world hears them. We are of God. He who knows God hears us; he who is not of God does not hear us. By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error. - 1 John 4:5-6

There are a couple of simple truths that we need to grasp.

The world is not going to act like the church
The church is not going to act like the world -- or should noot

There are too many differences. We can’t see eye to eye. We are never really going to understand each other.

The world speaks and acts like the world and the rest of the world gets it. Those who know God act like those who know God and those who know God get it.

The world is not going to get those who know God and those who know God are not going to get the world. We may very well agree on some issues and ideas, but we are never going to really understand each other because we live in two different realms. The world’s focus is on the world and our focus is (should be) on the kingdom of God.

We need to realise that we can’t make the world act the world we want to act by throughs laws and legislation. We world is is going to act like the world. And we should be acting like Christ. We know from His time on earth how the world got along with Him.

So instead of trying to reform the world through legislation we need to be striving to change the world through the love of Christ. Only Christ can change the hearts of the world, and we can only show them Christ through sharing His love with them.

Thursday, 7 May 2015

Greater is he who is in us

You are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. – 1 John 4.4

There are some truths and promise of scripture that I run to all the time. This is one of them for certain.

This is really a wicked world and sometimes the wickedness seems all powerful. I am not that old and yet the world around me is more openly wicked than it has been in my life. It seems like God’s power is shrinking while the world’s power is growing. I know that there are many days when I feel mighty weak. The world, the flesh, and the devil can seem unbeatable.

Here though we have a precious promise from God’s word. We have already overcome the world, the flesh, and the devil because we have already overcome them. How? Because greater is he who is in us than he that is in the world. We don’t need to be afraid of the opposition. No matter how it seems now God has already given us the victory through Christ. Christ in me is my hope for eternity, not the things of this world.

I remember a great old gospel chorus from early in my Christian life. It still sticks with me today.

Satan’s like a roaring fire
Roaming to and fro
Seeking whom he may devour
The Bible tells me so. 

Greater is he that is in me
Greater is he that is in me
Greater is he that is in me
Than he that is in the world. 

Many souls have been his prey
To fall in some weak hour
But God has promised us today
His overcoming power

Greater is he that is in me
Greater is he that is in me
Greater is he that is in me
Than he that is in the world.

God has promised us His overcoming power. There is no need to act like we are beaten.

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Check it out

Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in  the flesh is of God, and every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God. And this is the spirit of the Antichrist, which you have heard was coming, and is now already in the world. – 1 John 4.1-3

Did you know that the word ‘gullible’ is not in the dictionary?

Sorry, but I do have  a point here. I think all of us can be gullible at times. We can all believe things without checking things out first. You kind find all kinds of claims on places like Facebook. We read about the deaths of celebrities who haven’t died and all kinds of political claims about all kinds of politicians.

There is all kinds of wackiness out there and a lot of folks fall for it and they like and share without a second thought. When Christians post the false stuff without checking it out it gives the world cause to mock us for falling for anything. It is always to check things out before we pass them on or get convinced of them ourselves.

That is bad enough but there is an even more dangerous kind of gullibility. Because we want to think well of others who call themselves Christian we can easily hear a preacher or teacher say something and just accept it as fact.

The problem is that there are plenty of false teachers who go out into the world and preach and teach a false gospel that is not based on Jesus Christ alone. No matter how good a message sounds if it is not based on the deity and humanity of Christ it is a false gospel. It is our task to check out what we hear.

And it goes beyond just that. We know about the Bereans who ‘search the scriptures daily’ to check out if what they heard was true.

When we check things out online we use sites or or something like that. Though pretty good even they make mistakes. When we check out teachers and preachers we have the word of God and it will never get it wrong.

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

By this we know

And this is His commandment: that we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ and love one another, as He gave us commandment. Now he who keeps His commandments abides in Him, and He in him. And by this we know that He abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us. – 1 John 3.23-24

Knowing whether or not we are truly saved can be a problem. If we don’t know about our salvation how can we keep on going and serving?  

The basis is pretty simple – we believe in Christ and we love each other. True belief is going to be manifested by true love for each other. That is the first test of obedience. Those who obey Christ, starting with the commandment that we love each other, abide in Christ and Christ abides in us.

We don’t have to face that alone. God is greater than our heart that condemns us. We may not feel it, but we know our salvation is secure because of God’s spirit which remains in us. We are reminded of the same great truth when we read in Romans 8.16 that the Spirit of God bears witness with our spirit that we are the sons of God.

Thank God for His spirit in me that produces love I can’t produce and gives me the confidence that I can’t find in myself. 

Monday, 4 May 2015

Feelings or faith?

For if our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and knows all things. Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence toward God. – 1 John 3.20-21

Some days I feel like I must be the most rotten Christians on earth. Maybe I get angry or discontent or fearful or doubting. Maybe I say the wrong thing or have the wrong thoughts or respond the wrong way. Maybe I feed my lusts and desires. Maybe I am mean or hateful or ugly to others. 

When that happens I feel pretty miserable. I condemn my own self. I don’t even feel saved. Satan can get into my head and my heart can condemn me to the point where I become weak and powerless.

But when my heart condemns me God is greater than my heart because there is no condemnation to those who have put their faith in Christ. Following our feelings instead of our faith will destroy us.  God wants us to have our confidence in Him, not our feelings. The evidence that we have to confidence is if we don’t let our heart condemn us. 

No, we are not going to be perfect. Yes, we need to deal with our sin by confession and forsaking it. But there is no room for condemnation. My merit today is in the shed blood of Jesus Christ and that ought to produce confidence. 

Sunday, 3 May 2015

True love

By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. But whoever has this world's goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him? My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth. – 1 John 3.16-18

We are not to be surprised at opposition, but we are to respond with love. Nobody can answer love. Ancient Rome was won over by the church, not by riots and hatred and speaking evil of the emperor, but with love.

How then do we know how to love?

Here is how we know love – Jesus laid down His life for us.

That is quite an example for us to try and follow. Jesus laid down His life for us and we are called to lay down our lives for the brethren. If Jesus is the pattern, and He is, we must be willing to literally die for our brethren. We may or may not be called to do that, but even is we aren’t we are to be willing to lay down the lives we are living with regard to others. Our lives are not really ours to live – the belong to Christ and they belong to others.

True love means we lay down our lives
True love means we don’t let needs of others go unmet
True love means we act our our love, we don’t just say it

It is easy to say ‘I love you.’ What makes it real is when we act out ‘I love you.’

Let our love not only be in our words, but let it me seen in our deeds and in truth. If Jesus is our example it is impossible to love too much. Let’s lay our lives on the altar and love others.

Saturday, 2 May 2015

Don't be surprised

Do not marvel, my brethren, if the world hates you. – 1 John 3.13

In this ‘marvellous’ information age where we hear about everything that is going on we see all kinds of reports and stories and rumours and urban myths and legends and lies. With social media and Christian friends we see all kinds of stories about how bad things are for Christians with stories like bakers being fined for not making cakes and students being punished for speaking about Christ and Christian millionaires being affected by ‘anti-Christian’ media hype.

And people are shocked! How can this happen?

Never mind that all over the world our brothers and sisters in Christ are being imprisoned, beaten, deprived,  and even killed for their faith. The persecuted church knows that is the cause of following Christ. They know the cost and they still follow Him. They rejoice in being counted worthy to suffer for the Saviour.

But we in the west are surprised at our relatively minor opposition.

For hundreds of years in parts of the west the church has grown accustomed to not only being free from persecution, but having society and governments on our side. Our ‘rights and freedoms’ to worship have been protected by law. In many countries Christians have enjoyed a kind of ''most favoured faith'  status as the Bible has been a part of many legal systems.

That is changing – and we are surprised.

And yet here we are told ‘don’t be surprised brethren if the world hates you.’

The world hated Christ enough to kill Him. Why do we expect any better? Why are we shocked? And, most importantly, how do we respond?

The apostles rejoiced when they were counted worthy to suffer for Christ. Peter tells us ‘Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ's sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy.’

Instead of crying and complaining all over social media about our supposed sufferings, especially in the light of our brethren who really suffer, let’s rejoice that we are counted worthy. Let us respond, as the context tells us, in love.

Friday, 1 May 2015

Hatred is murder

In this the children of God and the children of the devil are manifest: Whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is he who does not love his brother. For this is the message that you heard from the beginning, that we should love one another, not as Cain who was of the wicked one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his works were evil and his brother's righteous...We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love his brother abides in death. Whoever hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.  1 John 3.10-12; 14-15

He who does not love his brother abides in death. Whoever hates his brothers is a murderer.

Wow. That makes it all pretty clear. Love makes all the difference. Love is the greatest test of all. Jesus said as much when He said ‘love God and love others’ to summarise the Law. It might even be said that Jesus’ law is the law of love.

We know all of this – why then is there such a hateful mean spirit in so much of the church? I understand why there is hatred in the world. The world does not know the love of God. But there are times when a world who does not know the love of God is more loving and caring and compassionate than parts of the church.

The scriptures makes no allowance for hatred among the brethren. In fact, it says that it just can’’t be. If we hate a brother in Christ we are murderers and no murderer has eternal life in him. Surely we are going to get angry. We are going to blow it sometimes. We are going to do and say things that don’t reflect love. If we do that and then realise our error, repent and apologise, then sort things out we are on the right track. We prove that our love is real enough to humble ourselves and make things right.

How though do those who claim to be believers hold on to what looks like long term hatred for other Christians? I hope I don’t do that. I hope that even when I am offended or hurt or angered that I can continue to love my brethren.

I am challenged by this at the moment because yesterday I had something happen where a brother hurt me by treating me poorly. I was angry and even though we talked yesterday I still am upset by what he did. When things like that happen we need to be careful that our upset doesn’t develop in to bitterness and verge on hatred.

We are going to see a lot more about love in the next few days so I think I’ll stop there.