Love trojanhorse[1]Letters: Studies in 1,2 & 3 John: Lesson 7of 8/ 2 John

 The Lady & Her Children 2 John 1-8, John 8:31b-32, Matthew 22:39.

John, now an serving as an Elder in the church he founded, addresses The “chosen lady and her children.” This was a code to address the church in a time of extreme persecution. John was protecting his “flock” which is the entire purpose of his letter. He reiterates  what he  wrote in 1 John (walk in obedience to the truth which demonstrates our love to God and  others).  He reminds them that the anti-Christ is more than just a man coming in the “last days”.  It is a teaching (of the Gnostics) seeking to destroy the faith.  His warning is to “Watch Out!” Christians today need to also pay close attention to this warning.  

A “Trojan Horse” Galatians 5:6b-9 (“who cut in on you?”)

In ancient times cities were built with walls around them to keep out enemies that might try and destroy the city from within. Later, as populations grew, city walls were done away with; however, the residences of  kings and nobles were heavily guarded and even motes were put around castles to keep out would be intruders.  Today,  most homes have locks and the more elite have high tech security alarms.  We still protect our high level government officials with guards but we can clearly see, in this age of the terrorist, that  security is always questionable.  This is especially true in our own homes.  The bottom line is that we and our children are wide open to the attacks of the devil right where we live. Like the story of the Trojan Horse that defeated the walled city of Troy, we open our doors to the enemy everyday. Consider these “Trojan Horses” that you may be celebrating in your homes (or in your living), but may in fact cause destruction:

Television: What do you and your children watch on T.V.? Do the programs that you view in your home reflect your faith in God?  Do they erode your sense of right and wrong?  What cable channels do you receive?  What do the kids watch when you’re not home?

Video Games: Many of the video games out there are extremely violent, sexually explicit and even glorify criminal activity.

Music & Movies: We reap what we sow. Galatians 5:7 Music and visual images do affect our thinking which will eventually affect our actions.  What are your kids listening to with their earphones?  Do you ever check it out?  What do you listen to and watch?

The Internet: “You will know them by their facebook”. (Look at it the cops do!)  What’s your kid looking at on the internet?  What are you looking at? The world can come in right through your screen.  In fact that is just what ISIS is doing to recruit idle minds.

The company you keep: Who do you let into your house? What do they bring with them?  Many times we allow family to behave in ways we would never accept from others.  Drinking, drugs, foul language, shacking up, all of these behaviors will affect our households and the children being influenced in them. You should also check up on what your kids are learning at school everyday too. If you don’t counter the liberal teaching they are getting with good solid discussions then you are not being wise in the way you are supposed to be “training up your child” (Proverbs 22:6).

Spiritual Solicitors at your door: Another “Trojan Horse” is found in those who knock on our doors to convert us to other religions (namely Mormons and Jehovah Witnesses). We are told by John not to welcome people into our house that share false doctrines (2 John 10).

Tough Love 1 Timothy 6:20-21, 2 John 9-13, Romans 12:9 , Proverbs 4:23

It may seem “unloving” to “guard what has been entrusted to our care” as the Apostle Paul instructed; however, what is unguarded is likely to be stolen away. Even Jesus taught us to exercise our love towards others with a watchful eye when He said: “Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.” (Matthew 10:16) Once again, Paul says: “Love must be sincere. hate what is evil; cling to what is good.” (Romans 12:9)  Guard your heart!

If we hate evil we will not tolerate it even in our loved ones. We can love the sinner and not tolerate his sin.  In John’s second letter he tells us not to welcome one into our home who teaches false doctrines.  If we do we share in his “wicked work.” If we are not acting against unrighteousness then we are promoting it by our apathy.  We must not allow the “Trojan Horses” of the world to invade our lives or the lives of our children… ”Watch out” Christian!

Love LOVEfaithLetters: Studies in 1,2 & 3 John, Lesson 6 of 8/ 1 John 5:1-21

Love is a Verb 1 John 5:1-3

Love is a verb! A verb is an action word.  As we learned earlier from John’s writings:

“Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and truth.” 1 John 3:18

 Love is not a word only, a card, a bouquet of flowers, a box of chocolates, a dinner date, a walk on the beach, a hug, a kiss or sexual intercourse for that matter! These expressions that we equate with love are not love enough in the biblical sense of the word (1 Corinthians  13:1-8).  Love is sacrifice, hard work, and uncompromising fidelity. Love is self-willed service and devotion to another. Anything else that we might call love is a pathetic, watered down, pagan definition of the word…by the way, Happy Valentines Day!  When John says: “God is love” (1 John 4:8b) he is absolutely correct.  God has loved us lavishly and unconditionally even while we lived in sin against His law (Romans 5:8).

 With these facts about “love” in mind let us consider those who would say “I love God.” First of all, if one truly loves God he will also love Christ for Jesus is born of God (e.g. the “exact representation” of God born into this world: Hebrews 1:3). Anyone who claims to love God and yet hates Jesus is an antichrist (1 John 4:3) and does not love God.  Secondly, “everyone who loves God (“the Father”) loves His child as well”. That is to say that anyone who says that they love God will also love His people. John clearly defines these people too.  A “child” of God is “one that carries out God’s   commands.” (those laws that Jesus fulfilled and passed down to us by His living   example : Matthew 5:17).  Remember…Love is a verb. Accept no imitations or politically correct salutations!

 Overcoming The World 1 John 5:4-5, 2 Timothy 1:13-14, Galatians 6:7-9

You may have heard the saying “One bad apple spoils the whole bunch.” The phrase is used to say bad company corrupts good morals. (1 Corinthians 15:33-34) The phrase is true in both the physical and the spiritual sense.  One rotten apple will quickly spread that rot to the whole bunch, just as one persons bad morals will quickly effect the morality of a whole group if they are left uncorrected or unpunished.  This is why we have laws in the civilized world. This is also why God introduced law with the Ten Commandments. (Exodus 20:1-21). Carrying out God’s commands not only shows our love for Him (1 John 5:3) but it also keeps us from being “spoiled” or corrupted like the rest of the world who is without Christ.  We may be among many “bad apples”   but our faith in adhering to God’s commands (the standards for living that we find in His Word) will keep us from rotting along with the rest of the world.

We must guard our faith wisely. (1 Corinthians 16:13, Philippians 4:7,   2 Timothy 1:13-14)

Spiritual rot creeps up so cunningly. See how it has crept into our nation once founded upon God?  See how it has crept into the church in the guise of being politically correct?

The Gnostics of John’s day, like many of the “religious” people of today, talked very spiritually, but lived worldly lives.  The true teaching of Christ and His church has always been:  “a man reaps what he sows” (Galatians 6:7-9) The Gnostics taught “anything goes”.  John made it clear that only “he who  believes” will overcome the world.  The Greek word here for “believe” is pisteuo which means to be faithful to and believing in.  Our love and faith in Christ is always characterized by our living according to His Word (the Bible).

By Water And Blood 1 John 5:6-12

The Old Testament law required “the testimony of two or three witnesses” to establish the truth of a particular matter (Deut. 17:6, 19:15). In this passage John lays out the fact that the testimony of salvation through Christ alone is true (according to that law) and witnessed by both heaven and earth through Jesus’ 1.) physicality of birth, 2.) life and 3.)death on the earth witnessed by humanity, and by the Holy Trinity in 1.) Jesus who came  through water (both in earthly birth and through baptism) and by blood (both through physical life and by death on a cross), 2.) The Holy Spirit who was present at His baptism and 3.) God the Father who was also present and spoke to those gathered that day (Matthew 3:16-17).  John doesn’t even bother to mention the witness of the angels who also attended Jesus’ birth and resurrection (Luke 2:10-13, Matthew 24:1-8) or the scriptures which both prophesied and later historically recorded the events of His life that fulfilled them.

John points out the irony of the fact that man readily accepts human testimony but God’s   testimony is greater!  The bottom line in these passages is that rather one accepts the earthly testimony of man in history or the heavenly testimony of God the truth of Jesus Christ has been established as factual truth. “Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.” (1 John 5:12)

Note: You may notice a difference in the passage reading of 1 John 5:6-8 if you compare the KJV to later translations like the NAS or the NIV. The KJV actually says:  7. “the Father, the Word and the Holy Ghost, and these three are one.  8. And there are three that bear witness in earth, the Spirit, and the water, and the blood and these three agree in one.”  It appears that the early church fathers took liberty to explain the passage in its translation; however, the earliest Greek manuscripts (before the fourteenth century) do not support the wording found in the KJV although theologically both translations come to the same conclusions.

Praying and Living in Love 1 John 5:13-21, Romans 6:23

John reminds believers that their prayers will be answered when they ask and live according to God’s will. In our praying John also reminds us not to pray for the dead as the Gnostics did, but to pray that those living will stop sinning and be saved to live the abundant life in Christ.

John closes his letter by reminding us that the world is under the devil’s control. God’s children are like sweet apples living in a barrel of rot, but we know the truth and He is our protection. God’s Love prompts our hearts to cling to Him in faith. The practice of our Faith will keep us from all artificial love and the Idols ( anything we put before God) that rot the soul. John’s salutation reminds us of who we are (“little Children”) and what we must always do to live in God’s love… May we all take heed and “keep ourselves from idols!

Fearless Love

FlorenceKelleyLove Letters: Studies in 1,2 & 3 John, Lesson 5 of 8/ 1 John 4:7-21

An Unpaid Debt of Gratitude

The free world owes a debt of gratitude to Christ and the Christian men and women who have fearlessly translated their faith into good works. The very history of social work in England and the United States began and was sustained by Christians.   The deplorable poverty, social problems and working conditions of the mid eighteen hundreds and the early nineteen hundreds was overcome by a Christian movement.  Early social work began with men and women who primarily relied on prayers and a Christian view of the world to help the poor.

1844: YMCA (Young Men’s Christian Association)   Founded by George Williams in London, England in 1844 as a response to the need of unhealthy social conditions arising in the big cities at the end of the Industrial Revolution (roughly 1750 to 1850).

1852: Charles Loring Brace and the Children’s Aid Society of New York 1852 He was educated for the clergy and ordained as a Methodist minister. But at the age of twenty-six he was asked to head up the newly forming Children’s Aid Society of New York, which became his life ministry. Charles Loring Brace was a prolific writer–of letters, pamphlets, articles, and books–and a tireless speaker on behalf of neglected children. His persuasive arguments won support from “the better classes” for his humanitarian efforts.

1855: YWCA (Young Women’s Christian Association)   Founded by Emma Roberts and Mrs. Arthur Kinnaird in 1855. First chapters began in USA in 1858.

1865: The Salvation Army began in 1865 when William Booth, a London minister, gave up the comfort of his pulpit and decided to take his message into the streets where it would reach the poor, the homeless, the hungry and the destitute. By the 1900s, the Salvation Army had spread around the world.

1880’s: Volunteer “Friendly Visitors”  Christian women who shared both their faith and charity became the first “American social workers.” Ten years later secular training and paid jobs as professional Social Workers began.

1912: The Children’s Bureau In 1909, one of President Roosevelt’s personal friends, James Wes who was once a child orphan, with the support of prominent Christian social workers such as Florence Kelley and Jane Addams,  brought together more than two hundred leaders from communities throughout America. The resulting publicity put child welfare on the national agenda and generated enough political pressure to force the creation of the Children’s Bureau in 1912.

1933: The New Deal Due largely to the “Christian example”, Roosevelt’s administration incorporated the Federal Government to help get the country out of the depression. New Deal programs set a precedent for the federal government to play a key role in the economic and social affairs of the nation.

Oddly enough, The Social Work profession, which began as a Christian movement in response to the Gospel, has largely become a profession which shuns Christianity. The fact is, without Christ and the fearless Christians who lived out their faith, the “free world” wouldn’t be very free at all!

The Christian Hallmark 1 John 4:7-17, 1 Corinthians 13:1-8a

The hallmark, or distinction, of a Christian is love.  Not love in word only but in “deed and truth.”   (1 John 3:18) Expressed love is why the first church grew so rapidly (Acts 2:42-47) and the lack of it is also why the church at Ephesus declined (Revelation 2:4) and eventually died. The Apostle John implores God’s people to “love one another”.  To imitate Christ and thereby showing people what God looks like through our actions.

Our human standard of love is not sufficient to demonstrate to the world who God is. He defines His love just as He defines His standard of righteousness in the Bible.  Love is more than the Eros celebrated at Valentine’s Day or even the gift giving on birthdays and at Christmastime.  The Apostle declares God’s standard in 1 Corinthians 13 and no one can fulfill His requirements except for Christ.  Once again we need Him in our life and in our loving. (John 15:5)

No Fear 1 John 4:18-21

Fearless, that is how I see those social reformers of the eighteen and nineteen hundreds. I’m glad they were unafraid of popular opinion, politics and political correctness.  I wish that all Christians would be so radical in their love for humanity today.  “There is no fear in love”, largely because one is so driven by the principals it incorporates that there is little thought of the adverse consequences that may accompany it.  Fear keeps us from acting on God’s love.  Fear of not being accepted, fear of persecution, fear of standing out for standing up. If only we would fear the hardening of our hearts as much. Matthew 24:10-13

How passionate are you about God? Does the realization of His Love and grace towards you want to make you love your “brother” in a similar way?  If we are unmoved by the needs which we see around us then how can we claim to love the One who loves each of them? “Whoever loves God must also love his brother” is not a command to fear…it is an adventure in faith to embrace. Let’s practice it!

More Than Lip Service

Messaging-Matters2[1]Love Letters: Lessons in 1,2 & 3 John. Lesson 4 of 8/ 1 John 3:1-24, 4:1-6

Flapping Lips

There is a lot flapping lips in this years race for the presidency. By flapping lips I mean lots of political promises.  The best way to discover the truth about a candidate (or anyone else for that matter) Is to look at their record of actions.  The old adage: Actions speak louder than words Is true after all.  You can check out any presidential candidate by going to the web sites listed above.  On Vote-Smart you can not only see their votes (or in some cases their lack of any vote at all) but you can also double click on that vote and find out the explanation on exactly what they voted for or against in simplified detail. I highly encourage every one of you to do this before casting your vote in the primary and  on election day in November.

Hopefully, we as Christians will vote Biblically based on What Would Jesus Do (WWJD) . Jesus was never one to flap His lips.  He never said anything without demonstrating it with His own actions. This fact brings us to our study today in the First letter of John where John reminds us of just how great the love is that God has lavished on us and our responsibility to reciprocate that love with our actions…and yes, that action should even spill into how and who we vote for.

 Lavishly Loved! 1 John 3:1-3, Ephesians 2:8-10, John 8:42-44

God did not simply extend mankind His love through a nice gesture or an act of kindness. John said: He “lavished” on us His great love!

Lav-ish : 1. abundant; profuse 2. generous 3. a deluge of generosity (a wash)

In other words, where God could have graciously given us a second, third, fourth or even a fifth chance to live rightly according to His law, He instead chose to erase our debt entirely and adopt us as His own children through the adoptive, redemptive work of Christ in His own blood!

We are saved by His amazing grace, which He “lavished” upon us! The Apostle Paul made it clear that we had nothing to do with God’s Generosity.  We could do nothing to earn it

(Ephesians 2:8-10). He has called us His child, rescued us from our Father, the devil, (See John 8:34-36, 42-44) and created us to do good works to those around us.

 What should be our response to such a love? How can we reciprocate such lavish love?

Like a child who looks up to his father with admiring eyes, we can not know all that God knows or what is in store for us in this life. But like that child, we know that we will be like Him, for we are His child.  Unlike our earthly fathers, He is a perfect example.  As we hope (trust, follow and example Him to others) in Him we become pure (righteous) in our living.

This is how we He wants us to respond. His love for us becomes our love for others.  We love because He first loved us (we reciprocate His love) Do you love God?

The Children of God Vs. The Children of the devil  1 John 3:4-17, 1 John 3:18

John reminds “God’s children” that those who “willfully sin” break God’s law and therefore break His heart.  Those who continue to sin without remorse prove that they do not belong to Him, because once we are “born of God” (receive our adoption as His child) we want to love Him and our new siblings (brothers/ fellow Christians). John  reminds us of Cain (Gen. 4:8) who murdered his brother because he was jealous of his love for God.  When we refuse to love God as we should it is we who need correct our behavior and not to hate those who are doing it right. This is where Cain failed.

John reminds us that our love and care for other Christians and the example of Christ we bring to the world is the most important part in our living. A child of God should not be about his “material possessions” but about God’s lavish love expressed through our  selfless living.  This should extend into every part of our living including how we spend our money, what we do with our free time, and yes, even how we vote.

 Like a politician…words are empty without action. What does your record say?

 “Bad Politics” 1 John 1:8-9

If you have been watching any of the presidential debates (or the president for that matter) you will hear inconsistencies, popularity posturing, and even some down right lies. “That’s why I don’t vote”, you may say, but are you a hypocrite? Are any of us always consistent, unswayed by public opinion and truthful without fault? All of us are guilty of incorporating “bad politics” into our living. Jesus is our only true standard of righteousness.

Are we engaged in a serious search to find leaders who at least seek after Jesus?

Your Record: Truth or Lie? 1 John 3:19-24 , 1 John 4:1-6

Responsible voting is checking out the candidate’s records and making an informed choice. Responsible  Christian living is  determined by how much you love your lavish Father.  How is your record?  Are you at “rest” in His presence or does your heart condemn you? John     reminds us not to believe every spirit (worldly teaching) that helps us justify our sins.  Why would God’s child listen to a message that is anti-Christ?  The one who is in us is greater and He expects His children to obey Him.

The viewpoint of the world is self-centered. The voting of the world is also self-centered…is it any wonder that the top two candidates on either side are also highly self-centered?  We, however, are from God—if we are indeed His children.  Will we live in His truth our live out a lie?  Let your record show the world that you are His Child.