Monday, March 31, 2008

1 John 4:7

The source of all love is from God.

When I choose to love, I will be able to sustain this godly behavior only by relying upon the Lord as my source of all love.

Please remind me that you're my source of all true love, Lord!

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Spiritual Litmus Test

John gives us a clear and easy way to distinguish among healthy and unhealthy spirits in 1 John 4:1-3.

Only those spirits who acknowledge that Jesus came in the flesh and is God's son can be trusted.

I've argued in the past with people who communicated with spirits that did not acknowledge these truths. It made it easy for me to reject their claims.

Truth is no more stable than its foundation.

I pray that my foundation is always Jesus, not my own strength or worldly wisdom.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Outline of 1 John 4

I. Testing Spirits
II. God Is Love

Friday, March 28, 2008

True Love

According to verse 18, love is active, not passive.

Just words are not sufficient.

Thursday, March 27, 2008


The person who lives like Jesus is the one who is righteous.

John has a simple way to remind us of what's important.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Christ, Sin, and My Life

In verses 4-6, John reminds us that Jesus appeared (phantom) to remove our sins.

If we continue in our sins, then we clearly don't know Jesus the way that we should.

There is great tension here. On the one hand, all people sin and have fallen short of the glory of God, even after accepting Christ's forgiveness. On the other, if we continue in sinful patterns, then that is an indication that things are not right between God and me.

Lord, please help me avoid and break out of patterns of sin.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008


In 3:2, John writes that we're already Children of God, even though we haven't seen or experienced this completely.

In the original Greek--οὔπω ἐφανερώθη (not yet apparent)--the word for apparent has the same root as the word phantom.

For people who are not yet Christians, that's what heaven and hell are like. They seem no more real than a children's story about ghosts and goblins.

But that doesn't make them any less real.

Monday, March 24, 2008

1 John 3:1

In this verse, John simultaneously highlights God's incredible love for his people and the great disconnect between Christians and the "cosmos" or world surrounding us. There is an otherworldly feel in the original Greek that I've never experienced before.

The gap between Christians and non-Christians is as wide as the gap between galaxies. That's how differently we see and experience the world.

This makes me want to reach my friends and family even more than ever before.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

3:16 Easter

As I scanned 1 John 3 for the verse which seemed most closely-related to Easter, I found that verse 16 fit the bill:

This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. 1 John 3:16 (NIV)

That reminded me of Max Lucado's book, 3:16, so I decided to look up other 3:16 verses.

Matthew: As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on him. (NIV)
This describes the moment that God the Father placed his seal of approval on Jesus' public ministry. It is an extremely significant moment.

Mark: These are the twelve he appointed...
Jesus models wise leadership. He's God, yet he brings a core group of coleaders around him to maximize impact. It's a technique for generating exponential growth. In isolation, individuals can work more efficiently, but we can only generate additive growth, which is the least powerful. When we work in a group, we multiply efforts; this is better than additive growth, but still not as powerful. Jesus empowers the Twelve to take his place after He's gone. That's exponential! Interestingly, not all of the Twelve went on to be superstars. This seems to be an application of the Pareto Principle. Surround yourself with many people of potential, and about 20% of them will catch the vision and carry it on without you. The other 80% will wait for the vision to be better-quantified before acting boldly.

Luke: John said, "I am just baptizing with water. But someone more powerful is going to come, and I am not good enough even to untie his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire." (CEV)

John: οὕτως γὰρ ἠγάπησεν ὁ θεὸς τὸν κόσμον ὥστε τὸν υἱὸν τὸν μονογενῆ ἔδωκεν ἵνα πᾶς ὁ πιστεύων εἰς αὐτὸν μὴ ἀπόληται ἀλλ' ἔχῃ ζωὴν αἰώνιον (from The Resurgence Greek Project)

Acts: By faith in the name of Jesus, this man whom you see and know was made strong. It is Jesus' name and the faith that comes through him that has given this complete healing to him, as you can all see. (NIV)
What a great reminder of the power of Jesus, even today!

Have a wonderful Easter Sunday, dear Readers!

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Outline of 1 John 3

I. God's Love
II. Sin
III. Our Response

Friday, March 21, 2008

Good Friday: New Year's Resolutions

I was born on Good Friday 1974, and as I've gotten older this has become more and more meaningful to me.

Many people make New Year's resolutions. I see Good Friday as my personal New Year. It gives me an opportunity to reflect upon where I've been and where I'm headed, particularly in relation to my spiritual walk.

My main focus for growth this upcoming year is in faith. Paul writes in Romans 12:6-8 that we can use our gifts in proportion to our faith.

I'd like to use my top three spiritual gifts--teaching, encouragement, leadership--more and more to help people learn more about Jesus. The foundation of accomplishing this annual goal, with an implicit love for people and hope in things unseen, is growing in faith.

My faith, hope, and love are summed up in 1 John 2:28-29. These verses speak for themselves.

Happy New Year!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Eternal Life in the OT

The only explicit reference to eternal life in the Old Testament is in the last chapter of Daniel.

Michael the archangel clearly outlines two destinations, one good and one bad.

It is not a heavily-emphasized concept in Old Testament times.

Eternal Life

John reminds his readers in 2:25 that the reward for acknowledging the Son and the Father is eternal life. This phrase appears exactly 42 times in the NIV, and all 42 occurrences are in the New Testament.

I wonder how this concept developed in the intertestamental period. What did God's chosen people believe about life after death in Old Testament times?

What is clear is that Jesus taught that faith would lead to eternal life and in fact always had (cf. Matthew 22:23-32 and Exodus 3:1-6)

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Anointing, Follow-Up

Easton's Bible Dicitonary entry for anoint is useful.

I still am not confident that I understand the volume of oil being used.

Christ means "anointed one," and so there is a close tie between Jesus and the Spirit. His public ministry began with a public display of the Spirit's power, coming down in the form of a dove right after Jesus's baptism (cf. Matthew 3).

Anointing with oil. Sounds sticky!

I have a hard time imagining the significance of anointing with oil. The United States has never had a king or any sort of royalty. I've never seen an anointing ceremony in the public realm.

However, I do remember seeing new elders at a former church being anointed, and I myself was anointed a few times during regularly-scheduled healing services.

When I imagine a biblical anointing, I picture a large amount of oil running down a person's hair, dripping off his ears and face. I don't know if this is how it happened, though.

John uses a common association in 2:20, describing receiving the Holy Spirit as an anointing.

I will do some study this week on anointing with oil and consider what this teaches me about the Holy Spirit.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008


The term "antichrist" seems to have taken on a fantastic meaning.

But it's really very simple: "anti" means against and "Christ" means annointed one.

In 2:18, John explains clearly and simply that anyone who speaks against Jesus and his relationship to the Father is an antichrist.

Lord, please protect me from attacks by antichrists. They're everywhere, questioning my faith and my intellect.

Dear Reader, how can an intelligent person like you believe in all of this resurrection stuff? How can you take the story of Easter seriously?

I know I do, but I'm challenged to support my position.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Outline of 1 John 2

I. Who Jesus is
II. How to respond
III. Where we've been
IV. Warning
V. Encouragement

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Little Children, Fathers, Young Men

Why did John separate his comments into these three categories, verses 12-14 of chapter 2?

One insight that is drawn in the Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible,, is that the little children and fathers have a more knowledge-based relationship with the Lord. It is the young men who are most active in their interactions with the Lord.

That accurately describes my journey of faith.

I wonder how old I will be when I transition from being a young man to a father?

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Hating What God Hates

It's interesting to be posting in the middle of a hotel lobby this morning. How amazing that there are many places in the world where I'd be jailed if I attempted to read scripture and write about it publicly.

How can something completely false generate such rabid persecution? You simply don't see people being killed for believing in astrology and reading tea leaves. Those things are too silly.

On the other hand, witchcraft is specifically listed in the Bible, and that has generated significant persecution in the past.

Satan is shrewd and makes use of the popular ideas of the day. These days, humanism and materialism are more popular than external forms of Christianity.

Do Christians today hate the same things that God would hate?

For instance, I think that God hates the number of people in the US who live in poverty. But most conservative Christians take the view that it's "their fault" and costs to serve the poor shouldn't fall to the public. That's exactly the opposite of God's plan in the Old Testament and New Testament. See, in particular, Deuteronomy 15, in which God tells the Israelites that there should be no poor among them because of the rich blessing they'll receive.

We should have this same generous spirit in our own day.

Of course Paul writes in 2 Thessalonians 3 that a man must work or he shouldn't eat. But Jesus acknowledges in Mark 14 that we'll always have the poor with us and that we can help them anytime. He is quoting Deuteronomy here, and this is not a coincidence.

We should continue the spirit of giving outlined in Deuteronomy 15, even after Jesus' resurrection. This expectation hasn't changed.

In 1 John 2, John reminds us not to love the world. This is a polite way of saying "hate the world." This means to hate the illusions of money, sex, and power for their own sake.

Do I hate these things? Not always. How about you, dear Reader?

Friday, March 14, 2008

The Struggle for Truth

This is the first time in my studies that I've felt one week isn't enough time to do dig deeply into a chapter.

Rather than rush, I'm going to extend my reading of 1 John 2 for another week.

I skipped ahead to verse 27 this morning. The Holy Spirit anoints us and teaches us the Truth.

One thing my wife and I discussed and struggled with yesterday is how to handle it when we disagree with the way our church has interpreted a paticular doctrine.

On the one hand, there is great value in following the wisdom of centuries of study and prayerful guidance from other Christians. On the other hand, we both have the Holy Spirit and the Spirit teaches us.

The way we've resolved this conflict, for now, is to continue to serve in our local church faithfully and live out the Truth as the Spirit has placed it in our hearts. But if either of us is required to teach or do something which forces us to choose between the church and the Scriptures, we will choose God's revealed truth through his Word and Spirit rather than church tradition.

This is a very delicate balance.

How do you, dear Reader, strike this balance? How do you honor your church without ignoring the Spirit?

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Don't Love the World

After emphasizing the importance of loving other people, John goes on to remind us that our love needs to be limited to the right things.

It appears in verses 15 and 16 of chapter two that the term "world" here means all those things that generate lust, whether power & success or bragging or adultery.

I am guilty of desiring success and recognition. How do I balance not loving the world with my drive to excel? This is an area in which I need to struggle in prayer. I will spend at least five minutes today meditating and praying through this issue.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Light and Hate

John makes it crystal clear: if we hate anyone, then we're not in the light.

This is a challenging word for me.

John goes on to state the inverse, which is not always logically equivalent: if we love others, then we are in the light.

This creates the followinf biconditionals: hate = dark and love = light.

Since God = love, when I express love, I am closely connected with God.

Where I have trouble applying this in knowing when loving means expressing positive feeling tone and when love means setting limits. This is a challenge both as a dad and as a teacher.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Old Command, New Command, Live Forever

John's writing style is a bit random, and so my response to what I've read is a bit random, too.

In verses 7-8 of chapter 2, John reminds his readers that the message he is writing is an old one. I'm not sure if this is specifically a reference to the Old Testament, but it is definitely a warning against creating any wild new interpretations about the meaning of God and Jesus.

He then goes on to tell his readers that this is in fact a new message. This appears to be a reference to Jesus' death and resurrection.

In verse 17 John writes that the person who obeys God will live forever. This stikes me as a clear explanation of God's requirements, but I suppose it's not true that everyone has a clear view of what it means to obey God!

In the NASB, it links verse 17 to three other New Testament passages. Here is a link to Romans 13:12, Ephesians 5:8, and 1 Thessalonians 5:4.

Meditate upon these three passages, dear Reader. What do they say to you?

Monday, March 10, 2008

1 John 2:1-6 Paraphrased

Reading the beginning of this chapter in a thought-by-thought paraphrase, rather than a literal word-by-word translation, gives me a different perspective on the passage.

The Message emphasizes the disconnect between a Christian's relationship to Jesus and his or her sins.

The two do not mix and should not coexist.

Fortunately, the solution is simple. Allow Jesus to be your paracletos and advocate for your soul against the devil's claims. Unless you hire Jesus to represent you, you're a slave to your sins and owned by Satan. This is a terrifying thought, and one I don't entertain very often.

Sunday, March 9, 2008


In the first verse of chapter 2, John reminds Christians that if we do stumble and sin, we have an advocate.

Jesus Christ himself will intercede for us when we face judgment. He is a foil to Satan. This is no contest, and all believers can feel confident that we will be defended successfully.

Obviously this does not mean I shoud go out and sin on purpose, but it takes off pressure to be perfect knowing that Jesus will be my defense attorney as I enter heaven.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

1 John 2 in NASB

Before I learned that the purpose of the New American Standard Bible is to translate literally from the original languages word by word into English, I found it tough to work through. Now I find it a useful starting point for serious study of any chapter in the Bible. Additionally, it provides extensive cross references for further reading.

No matter the translation, John makes it clear that he's writing this passage so that his readers will choose not to sin.

Lord, please allow your Word to work through me and prevent me from sinning, despite my natural tendency to do the wrong thing.

Bible Translations

If you've never listened to the Discover the Word podcast, I highly recommend the program. On March 4, 2008, they discussed the value and purposes of different translations of the entire Bible.

The three main categories of translation are literal (NASB, KJV, RSV); dynamic equivalence (NIV, NEB, Jerusalem); and free translation or paraphrase (NLB, CEV, Phillips, Peterson's Message, original Living Bible).

For a more in-depth treatment of this subject, including an explanation of the abbreviations I've used here, check out Wayne Leman's page Recent English Bible versions compared.

Friday, March 7, 2008


This chapter highlights human depravity in general and my sinfulness in particular.

The next time I feel a bit arrogant and above reproach, I'll reread this chapter. It's a good dose of humble pie.

Yet somehow, despite its honest description of the human heart and condition, it is still an encouraging passage. God loves me so much that Jesus came in the flesh to die for my sins.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Sin and Me

In 1 John 1:8, John states clearly that if we claim to be without sin, we've fooled ourselves. He goes on to say that the truth is not in us. That's a terrible place to be!

The contrapositive (and logical equivalent) of this verse is, "If we are truthful with ourselves and have the truth in us, then we will admit we have sin."

I hate admitting that I am sinful and, even worse, that I have sin inside me. But when I am honest and have a clear view of myself, this is true.

It is only because of Jesus' amazing sacrifice that I can even stand in my own presence. Otherwise, I'd be overwhelmed with my sinfulness and separation from the truth.

It would be interesting to survey people at random and ask the question, "On a scale from 0-10, how much truth is in you?"

Is it possible for a non-Christian to answer this question honestly and give a value above zero? In a salvation sense, I don't think so. But in a moral sense, I think it's possible.

So what? I'll need to reflect upon this idea further.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

John Darby's Synopsis of the New Testament

It is interesting to note that ever since Jesus left the earth, people have tried to find new and different pathways to enlightenment.

In Darby's commentary, he highlights that John teaches us about the sufficiency of God's light, expressed through Christ.

From a post-modern perspective, I have found that my relationship with Christ brings more light into my life than any other relationship. Because of this experience, I can share this truth with others.

As I share my faith with others, it is reasonable to encourage nonbelievers to experiment with the Bible and Christ. If their names are written in the book of life, then they will experience an intimacy with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. If not, then that will quickly become clear.

My role is not to convince, but to nudge others toward giving the life I enjoy a try.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008


I really enjoy It's a very cool site.

John reminds us of Jesus' teaching in verse 5, that God is light.

Check out this link:

Reflect upon these images.

What do they teach you about light? What do they teach you about God?

Added link 03 05 08:

Monday, March 3, 2008

Purpose of 1 John 1

In verses 3-4, John writes, "We are telling you what we have seen and heard, so that you may share in this life with us. And we share in it with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. We are writing to tell you these things, because this makes us truly happy."

John's purpose is always to share his knowledge of God's salvation with others, so that they may share in the truth.

This should be my purpose, too. But sometimes I get sidetracked, more focused on sounding reasonable than on being open and honest about my faith.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

1 John's Post-Modern Introduction

John starts this letter, 1 John 1, with a clear claim that he directly experienced Jesus' ministry on earth.

This honors today's post-modern approach that personal experience is a valid avenue to truth.

Then John writes that God is light and expands upon this word picture.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Unlikely Allies

In this week's Guardian science podcast, physicist Alan Sokal rails against the difficulties of reasoning in a post-modern world. The interview excerpt begins 1:50 into the program.

I find it fascinating that serious scientists find post-modernism just as exasperating as devout Christians.