Category: 1 John (Page 1 of 7)

The Other Question

Charles Sheldon wrote a book in 1896 entitled, “In His Steps: What Would Jesus Do?” The book proved to be very popular and was widely read. It questioned the thought processes and actions of Christians as they lived their lives at the turn of that century. Now, 128 years later, we express that same wonder in T-shirts and bracelets and bumper stickers:

What Would Jesus Do?

It’s a good question. But if another question isn’t given equal billing alongside it, we wind up with answers that are only half true. As we walk, we must also ask:

What Is God Doing?

Jesus tells us and shows us what to do and how to do it–and how not to do it. At the same time, he tells us and shows us what God is doing.

Jesus is God in action. Jesus is God incarnate. Jesus is God speaking. Jesus is God hugging lepers. Jesus is God forgiving sinners. Jesus is God protecting an adulterous woman who’s about to be killed. Jesus is God blessing little children. Jesus is God giving sight to Bartimaeus and giving life to Lazarus. Jesus is God calling down judgment on religious posturing. Jesus is God weeping over Jerusalem. Jesus is God living among us and showing us how to join him in living that life.

The other question reminds us that God’s Kingdom is present tense, God’s eternal will is unfolding around us in the present, God’s love and mercy, his forgiveness and grace are being poured out presently. In and through his Son Jesus. And in and through his children and followers of Christ.

What would Jesus do? What is God doing? What would we do? What am I doing?

“Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did.” ~ 1 John 2:6

Peace,

Allan

Love at Advent

This Sunday is the fourth and final Sunday of the Advent season. This is the liturgy we are using at GCR to acknowledge the event and light the fourth candle, the candle representing love. Please use these readings and passages during this week to bolster your time with the Lord in Word and Prayer. Feel free to use this at your own church or small group this Sunday.

When the angel Gabriel visited Mary, announcing God’s plan for her to conceive and give birth to the Messiah, Mary said to the angel, “How can this be?” And yet, only a few months later, Mary sings praise to the Lord as she holds his salvation in her arms.

“My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant.
From now on all generations will call me blessed,
for the Mighty One has done great things for me–holy is his name!
His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation.
~ Luke 1:46-50

We, like Mary, hear God’s call to participate in making God’s plan for our salvation a reality. We are gracious recipients of God’s gifts and his great love that transforms us into bearers of the Good News. As the apostle reminds us in 1 John 4:

“This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: Not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.”
~ 1 John 4:9-11

Congregation: We wait as people who have encountered our God’s divine love that disrupts the status quo and ushers us into abundant life, together, marked by mutual love and peace.

We light this candle as a reminder of the love of Christ that transforms us. May his love grow within us, changing us into bold proclaimers of God’s salvation with our voices and our lives. Amen.

Leading Lavishly

“How great is the love the Father has lavished on us that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” ~1 John 3:1

Our God does not measure his love out to us. He doesn’t weigh it on scales or scoop it out with a spoon. He doesn’t give just enough of his love to get us by or just as much of his love as we might deserve. He floods us with his love. We have more of his love than we could ever ask for or imagine. That’s the one thing you can ask God to do that’s impossible: God, will you love me more? Nope. Can’t. Impossible. He lavishes us with his love. We are his children. That is what we are.

“In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding.” ~Ephesians 1:7-8

Our Father lavishes us with his grace. We sing about it. God’s amazing grace. Matchless grace. God’s grace that reaches even me! God’s forgiveness is over the top. It’s not that you’re forgiven of some of your sins or most of your sins or all the little sins or every sin except that one sin. It’s not that you’re forgiven is you do this one thing or keep this set of rules or follow this particular creed. In Jesus Christ, every single one of your sins — all of ’em; name em! — are all gone forever! God’s forgiveness is total and complete! Your sins are removed from you as far as the east is from the west! They are all hurled to the bottom of the sea, never to be dredged up again! God doesn’t put your sins up on the top shelf in the corner of a dark closet just so he can pull them out again and hold them against you at the worst possible time. God’s grace is lavish and complete.

“I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” ~John 10:10

This is not an incidental or isolated remark from our Lord. This comes right between “I am the gate” and “I am the good shepherd.” Jesus is our doorway to salvation and the shepherd who lays down his life for his sheep. And in the middle is the key contrast between his purpose and mission and that of the thieves and robbers: They come to take, Jesus comes to give. They seek destruction, Jesus seeks abundance.

From the fullness of his grace we have all  received one blessing after another. God gives the Spirit without limit. The water he gives will become a spring of water welling up to eternal life. Rivers of living water for all to drink. You will bear much fruit and your joy will be made complete. You will  do greater works than me. The Gospels are full of Jesus’ lavish life-giving abundance. If we wrote them all down, all the books in the world wouldn’t hold them!

The apostle Peter says we shepherd like our Chief Shepherd. We treat those in our flocks the same way Jesus does. With lavish love. With limitless grace. With inexhaustible forgiveness. With unmerited favor. We give everybody in our church life to the full.

Peace,

Allan

Extravagant Worship

“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy, and dearly loved…” ~Colossians 3:12

We’re not chosen because we’re good. We’re not holy because we act like it. We’re not dearly loved because we deserve it. It’s all because of God. Who we are as chosen, holy, and dearly loved is strictly and totally about God. Not us. God’s love for you is eternal, his commitment to you has no limits, and his grace toward you is undefeated. Blessing after blessing after unmerited blessing! And our response to all that divine love and blessing is worship. We pour our hearts and our lives out to our Father in worship because he loves us more infinitely and blesses us more abundantly than we could ever dream.

Some people talk about church like it’s a gym. We go to church to get stronger, to build up our spiritual muscles. But I don’t think it’s like the runners I see around my neighborhood at 6:30 in the morning. Those folks are out there early every morning with their grim, sweaty faces, just trudging up and down the streets, laboring, grunting, stumbling, struggling – I guess so they can live longer. That’s not worship! Worship is the young lady running to meet her fiance! It’s the kids dancing wildly and shrieking loudly when they find out we’re going to Disney World! That’s Sunday! We’re expressing our gratitude and love!

And, yes, it’s extravagant. It’s over the top. We dress up nice for church, we get to the building early so we can have the best seats. We put our best singers on microphone and they practice – it doesn’t matter how many times you’ve sung “O Worship the King,” the worship minister makes you practice! Some of the songs make you cry, some of them make you clap your hands and dance. Some of the readings make you shout “Amen!” Some of the prayers change the course of your week. We spend hours every week changing light bulbs and polishing the pews and setting up banners and planning the order. We’ve spent thousands and thousands of dollars in the sanctuary over the years and we’re going to spend more. Yes, there’s a lot of material, emotional, and spiritual extravagance in the worship center.

But, that’s love. Extravagant. People who are in love act extravagantly. They’re over the top. They sing songs and write poems and make mix tapes and videos. They buy new clothes and get new hairstyles. They cry and shout and dance. That’s the way love is – it’s excessive. Think about the twitterpated teenager. The dozen red roses – crazy expensive and what good does it do? Kissing in public – yuk! Get a room! What is all that? It’s loving excess.

If you ask people in love why they act that way, what good does it do, what does it accomplish, they’ll laugh at you. Those are the wrong questions. You’re on the wrong track. They’ll think you don’t know what it’s like to be in love. They’ll think you’ve never been in love. Or you’ve forgotten how.

The Bible says we love because we have been loved. And that is the source and the reason for the Church’s extravagant, excessive, over-the-top worship.

Peace,

Allan

Lavish

“How great is the love the Father has lavished on us that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” ~1 John 3:1

Our God does not measure his love to us. He doesn’t weigh it on the scales or scoop it out with a spoon. He doesn’t give us just enough of his love to get us by or just as much of his love as we might deserve. He floods us with his love! We have more of his love than we could ever ask for or imagine! That’s the one thing you can ask God to do that’s just impossible – God, will you love me more? Nope. Can’t. Impossible. He lavishes us with his love.

“In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us.” ~Ephesians 1:7-8

Our Father lavishes us with his grace. We sing about it. God’s amazing grace. God’s matchless grace. God’s grace that reaches even me!

God’s forgiveness is over the top. It’s not that you’re forgiven of some of your sins or you’re forgiven of most of your sins or all the little sins or every sin except that one sin. It’s not that you’re forgiven if you do this one thing or keep these sets of rules or say this particular creed. In Jesus Christ, God’s forgiveness is total and complete and forever! In Jesus, every single one of your sins – all of ’em, name ’em! – are all gone forever. They are removed from you as far as the east is from the west. They are hurled to the bottom of the sea, never to be dredged up again. God doesn’t put your sins up on the top shelf in the corner of a dark closet just so he can pull them out and hold them against you at the worst possible time. God’s forgiveness is lavish and complete.

Lavish love. Limitless grace. Inexhaustible forgiveness. Unmerited favor. Eternal glory. Our God is passionate about you and me. And he holds nothing back.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I’m not writing anything here today about the Mavericks. I don’t want to jinx it.

Peace,

Allan

Your Life is Changed

“Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.” ~Colossians 3:1-4

Paul is still talking about baptism here and being identified with Christ. You died, he says, and your life is now in Christ. Christ is your life, he writes. He says a similar thing to the Christians in Galatia: I have been crucified with Christ and I don’t live anymore; Christ lives in me. He tells the Philippians, “To live is Christ!”

When you are raised in Christ, your old life dies and your new life in Christ — Christ in you, the hope of glory — comes alive. You begin to realize all the gracious blessings you’ve received in Jesus, all the merciful gifts outlined in the first two chapters of Colossians, and you begin to think more like Jesus. You begin to see people and things like Jesus does. You realize more of what God has done and is doing through Jesus, you understand the bigger picture of the inevitable realities, and it shows in your changed life.

When someone hits you, you don’t fight back, you turn the other cheek. When someone sins against you, you don’t seek revenge, you forgive unconditionally. When an evil person does you harm, you don’t retaliate, you love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. Not so these bad people can turn nice and leave you alone. That rarely ever works! No, Jesus says you turn the other cheek, you forgive without limits, you walk the extra mile, give up your coat, and love your enemies because that’s the way God is.

When you are raised with Christ and filled with the fullness of God, your life is changed. It’s not new rules to follow or new commands to obey, it’s a changed life. The Bible always emphasizes what a Christian is, not what a Christian is supposed to do. But that changed life will show up in the ways you think and behave. What comes up in the bucket is usually what’s down in the well.

“This is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He who has the Son has life.” ~1 John 5:11-12

Maybe you don’t feel this new life. You might not be so sure about the reality of God’s transforming power in your life. I get it. What you believe in your head and what you feel in your heart are sometimes two very different things. It’s like a football player who suffered a terrible ankle injury but has undergone successful surgery. He’s still favoring the repaired ankle and it’s hindering his performance on the field. He still limps because he remembers the terrible pain. He’s not 100% sure his ankle is totally recovered.

Maybe you’re walking through life with that same kind of limp. You might not believe God can really change your life. There’s too much history. Too many bad things. Too much pain.

You died. And your life is now secured, it’s safe, with God. Christ is your life. Give yourself totally to him, completely to him, and allow the transforming power of Jesus to reveal the reality that your life is changed.

Peace,

Allan

« Older posts