17 observations from 1 John on the difference knowing Jesus makes

The writer of 1 John observes differences that knowing Jesus makes in the lives of people.

1.  Loving relationships with God and with other people.   1:1-4
2.  Honesty about sin(s), purfication and forgiveness from sin.  1:5-2:2
3.  Obedience to the commands of Jesus as a lifestyle that reflects that character of Jesus.  2:3-8
4.  Loving “your brother” rather than living in the darkness of “hating your brother.”  2:9-11
5.  Progressive growth;  new beginnings–the delight of being forgiven by your heavenly Father; youthful zeal–the delight of overcoming the evil one through the strength of God and His Word; parental joy–knowing God and passing on the life of faith to others.  2:12-14
6.  A willingness to do the will of God that triumphs over the desire to possess the stuff and powers of this world.  2:15-16
7.  An annointing from God that leads into the truth and ultimately into confidence before Christ.
8.  An Intense desire to live purely and abandon sin, in response to the love of God through Christ that creates a child of God.  2:29-3:10
9.  Love for others even when it brings the Christian into conflict with the world.  Love for others even when it costs.  3:11-20
10.  Effectual prayer life.  3:21-23
11.  Personal awareness of the presence of God via the Holy Spirit.  3:24
12.  Discernment regarding the “source” of messages and their messengers.  4:1-6
13.  Growing maturity in loving and receiving love in and out of the church. 4:7-21
14.  Overcoming the world through faith in Jesus, the Son of God.  5:1-5
15.  Deep conviction of the divinity of the incarnated Jesus Christ and the necessity of knowing Him for eternal life.  5:6-12
15.  Confidence in prayer.  5:13-15
16.  Concern when a brother is caught in sin.  5:16-18
17.  Persistent devotion to Jesus in a world devoted to the evil one.  5:19-21

11 statements from James on the power of speech

  1. Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life God desires.  James 1:19-20
  2. If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless.  James 1:26
  3. Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful.  Mercy triumphs over judgment.  James 2:12-13
  4. The tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts.  Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark.  The tongue is also a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body.  It corrups the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.  James 3:5-6
  5. …no man can tame the tongue.  It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.  James 3:8
  6. With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness.  Out of the both come praise and cursing.  My brothers, this should not be.  James 3:7-8
  7. What causes fights and quarrels among you?  Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you?  You want something but don’t get it.  You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want.  You quarrel and fight.  You do not have, because you do not ask God.  When you ask, you do not receive because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.  James 4:1-3
  8. Brothers, do not slander one another.  Anyone who speaks against his brother or judges him speaks against the law and judges it.  James 4:11
  9. Now listen you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.”  Why you don not even know what will happen tomorrow.  What is your life?  …as it is you boast and brag.  All such boasting is evil.  James 4:13-14, 16
  10. Above all, my brothers, do not swear–not by heaven or by earth or by anything else.  Let you “Yes” be yes, and your “No,” no, or you will be condemned.
  11. Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.  The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.  James 5:17

sit, walk, stand–with Jesus

I like to walk fast.  Sure I enjoy the journey, but I like to get there too.  Its part of my problem in leading and life.  Let’s get into the battle and get something done.  But I’ve been reminded over and over that I am at risk both in the walk and the fight if I have not also sat with Jesus.

A few years ago my youngest would interrupt a walk with the plea…”Sit down Daddy.  Let’s see what we can see.  Sit down with me Daddy.”  And I had to make a choice.  I could keep walking without him, or I could sit down with him.  For you see, he had already found a log, or a bench at the beach, and he had sat down.

One of my favourite commentaries on the book of Ephesians is Watchman Nee’s little book, Sit, Walk, Stand.  In the book, part commentary and part testimony of God’s activity in China, he outlines Ephesians according to these three verbs:  sit, walk, stand.  These three verbs have been regular reminders from Ephesians of how I am to live with Jesus Christ.

“–it is by grace you have been saved.  And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him int he heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.”  Ephesians 2:5-7  NIV

Unless I make it my habit to be still and to sit with Jesus in communion and prayer I will live poorly.  Unless I sit with Him at His throne of grace or at His banquet table and receive His lavish gifts of forgiveness, grace, truth, healing, right perspective, I will live like a wealthy pauper, ignorant of the riches and status I have inherited as His child.

“I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called with all lowliness, and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”  Ephesians 4:1-3 NKJV

Unless I have sat with Jesus I will definitely have trouble in the command to “walk this way.”  Walking requires that I enter from solitude into the fellowship of the saints.  It requires that I keep in step with the Spirit by engaging people in a manner consistent with the truth and love I have received from Jesus.  Walking means I don’t walk alone but that I walk with the company of the committed; it means that I share life with a collection of people who share the same calling from Jesus to be His–that would be the church.  Surprise.  If you have spent much time with the church you quickly realize that those modifiers in verses 2-3 are extremely important–humilty, gentleness, patience, bearing with one another–if love and truth are going to inhabit the community and our relationships in church, marriage, home, or work.  Our life with the church becomes the training ground for a new way of living in relationship with all of society. 

“Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.  For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the power of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.  Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.”  Ephesians 6:11-13

Welcome to the resistance movement that Jesus started.  We are to stand together in the ground that he takes back from the darkness and the devil.  We are to infiltrate every domain of our cities with the truth, righteousness, peace, faith, and salvation that accompanies the Kingdom of Jesus Christ.  Unless you and I sit with Jesus, and walk with Jesus together, it is unlikely that we will stand our ground when the day of evil comes.  There will be little readiness unless we have become familiar with each part of this armor that God has given us.  There will be little familiarity with the “sword of the Spirit which is the word of God.”  And there will be little alertness for engaging in the battle through intercession.  Standing requires the fortification that comes through sitting and walking with Jesus.  Without these disciplines of sitting and walking I believe we will be easily persuaded to not stand with Jesus.  Instead we will give up the pursuit of justice for those who are being devoured by injustice; we will give up trying to communicate the Gospel to those who have no stomach yet for Jesus; we will be pushed back into our circles of comfort and familiarity, whispering empty platitudes to each other, and hoping that someone will rescue us from our momentary discomforts.

Ugh!  Oh please Lord, not me, not us.  Let me sit, walk, and stand with you.  And grant to each of us a community that also sits, walks, and stands with you.

pastoring in ephesus

Jesus addresses the church of Ephesus first from the seven churches in the region.  This is one of the churches from which we can glean lots of history right out of the Biblical texts.  In Acts 19 Luke records the origins of the Ephesus church.  Some “disciples” where discovered in Ephesus who knew nothing of the Holy Spirit.  After some teaching these 12 or so men received baptism in Jesus name and they received the Holy Spirit.  After three months teaching in the synagogue, Paul spent two years discussing the kingdom of God daily in the lecture hall of Tyrannus.  The ministry in Ephesus was accompanied by miracles, spiritual confrontations, and with public acts of mass repentance regarding the systems of sorcery and of idolatry.  The Ephesus ministry had its share of conflict; in fact in 1 Corinthians 15:32 Paul says that he had fought wild beasts there.  Though we do not know the occasion of the event we can surmise that the emergence of the Gospel and the church in Ephesus, casts a wide net of influence.  Luke shows us that the economics of Ephesus were beginning to change because of the number of people who had come to Christ and had abandoned idol worship.  The tradesmen of Artemis raised a ruckus to protest against Paul and the Way until the city cleark read them the riot act and dispersed the crowd.  Paul soon left for Macedonia.

At the next appearance of the church of Ephesus Paul stops in at Miletus, south of Ephesus and sent for the elders of the church to meet him.  The account in Acts 20 is extraordinary to me because of the urgent and emotionally raw appeal Paul makes to these elders for their continued devotion to Jesus and to their oversight of the church.  He warns them that “savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock.  Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them.  So be on your guard!  Remember that for three years I never stopped warning each of you night and day with tears.” 

The next appearance of Ephesus is the letter known by the name Ephesians.  There are extensive studies done regarding the authorship and the destination of the letter.  If it truly is to the saints in Ephesus, the faithful in Christ Jesus we are confronted with a church for whom things are still going well.  Paul, writing from prison, is intent on setting out a condensed view of their life sitting with Christ and forming their identity in Him, walking with Christ and forming a life of relationships shaped by Him, and standing with Christ and forming a stance toward the world that engages in the spiritual battle.

But when we get to 1& 2 Timothy, we are confronted with a church that is in trouble.  Timothy it appears may want to quit the job pastoring a troubled and divided church.  There has been a leadership catastrophe.  Paul writes,

“As I urged you when I went into Macedonia, stay there in Ephesus so that you may command certain men not to teach false doctrines any longer nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies.  These promote controversies rather than God’s work–which is by faith.  The goal of this command is love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.  Some have wandered away from these and turned to meaningless talk.  They want to be teachers of the law, but they do not know what they are talking about or what they so confidently affirm.”  Paul goes on to encourage Timothy to hold to a Gospel of grace in Christ as illustrated by his own life and then goes on to even identify some who have abandoned this Gospel and good fight.  “Timothy, my son, I give you this instruction in keeping with the prophecies once made about you, so that by following them you may fight the good fight, holding on to the faith and a good conscience.  Some have rejected these and so have shipwrecked their faith.  Among them are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan to be taught not to blaspheme.”

The letters of 1st Timothy and 2nd Timothy are filled with prescriptions of how to Timothy is to maintain his own vibrant faith in Jesus Christ and to lead the church out the mess they are in theologically and relationally.  The prescriptions involved extensive instruction on the reformation of leadership in the Ephesian church and encouragement to Timothy to not be drawn into bickering, false teaching, greed, power struggles, or any compromised position on the Gospel.  Paul writes, “Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to your care.  Turn away from godless chatter and the opposing ideas of what is falsely called knowledge, which some have professed and in so doing have wandered from the faith.  Grace be with you.”  1 Timothy 6:20-21

When we get to Revelation Jesus indicates that the church has persevered and endured hardships for his name.  He references the leadership crisis that they had weathered:  “I know that you cannot tolerate wicked men, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false.”  However, this journey through catastrophe has taken a toll on the very spirit and vibrancy of their faith and relationships.  Jesus says, “Yet I hold this against you:  You have forsaken your first love.  Remember the height from which you have fallen!  Repent and do the things you did at first.”

It is not enough when pastoring or leading a church to lead through crisis and problems, or to teach for sincere and true understandings of the faith.  Church leadership is ultimately about calling people into vibrant, loving, caring, trusting relationship with Jesus Christ and each other.  This “first love” that Jesus reminds them of captures the idea of tender yet zealous appreciation and devotion.  It is action accompanied with deep feeling.  Notice, Jesus says, “Remember…repent, and do the things you did at first.”

What was there “at first,” for the Ephesian believers?  What had love for Jesus and each other generated?  Let’s look again at Acts 19 and 20.  Here is a list of what I observe in their lives:  Yieldedness to the Holy Spirit, daily dialogue about the Kingdom of God, a desire to engage those who don’t believe in the Gospel, kindness toward the sick, sacrificial repentance and abandonment of the deeds and trappings of darkness, a shift in their economic habits, distictiveness in Christ shared across diversity of cultures and backgrounds, high value for the people of God, attentiveness to the needs of the church, emotionally openness and love.

These activities and attitudes are commended by Jesus indirectly.  However, it is the direct commendation of Jesus to which we must pay the most attention–first love–trusting that repentence from a reduced love for Him and His Church will generate the action that overcomes deathliness and enters into the promised life of God.  I believe that by calling and shepherding the followers of Jesus into deep and vibrant love for Him, we can create systems of relationships in the church that cooperate with the wind of the Spirit to draw more and more people to the grace-filled and prevailing life of Jesus and His Kingdom.

the sound of many waters

cheakamus lake, 28 July 2008

cheakamus lake, 28 July 2008

After all the Sunday service and gatherings my family with our friends Ryan and Andrea headed north into Beautiful BC.  In spite of our anxiety about traffic and the Pemberton Music Festival it was smooth sailing all the way to the parking lot for the trail into Cheakamus Lake in the Garibaldi Park.  We went in about 4 km before setting up our tents right on the lake in front of spectacular mountain views.  I was in awe!  Now I must confess that our plastic children’s wagon being pulled, dragged and cajoled over this trail was quite the sight!  We have been car-campers up until now, so all of our stuff is BIG, and weighs a lot!  Our guides were very kind!

In the morning as I awakened I was delighted to hear the roar of many waters–a small stream, a waterfall on the other side of the lake, and the Cheakamus River.  I was reminded of the Elder John’s description of Jesus’ voice, “His voice was like the roar of many waters.”  (Revelation 1:15)  When you are right in the midst of such a sound it is all you can hear.  It drowns out any other sound.  However it is not an overwhelming sound; rather it is comforting, soothing, peaceful–but ever-present and even commanding.  This is the voice of the Resurrected Jesus, familiar yet bigger.  John says, “I turned to see the voice that was speaking to me.”  (Revelation 1:12)  John’s experience is not something just happening in his head; rather this is an experience of Jesus’ revelation that occurs outside of him; it is real.

Day in and day out the spiritual discipline of making space to meet with Jesus means that I must clear out, turn down, and even turn off the many other voices that compete for my heart.  The moments of great clarity are not as frequent as I would like.  However, I am confident that Jesus still speaks and that He is guiding His church into fellowship with Him.