The Beauty of Reading the Text Together

At the beginning of the summer we began “Eat This Book.” It was a project to read through the New Testament together. We put up a “tree” at the beginning and asked everyone to put a “leaf” on the tree for every book of the New Testament they read. It has been a great picture of what happens when we read the Word together. Here are three pictures taken through the summer.

 

The One Who Walks Among Us

This is “Revelation Week” at our church. We are finishing up our summer reading, “Eat This Book,” and we finish with THE END… or is it THE BEGINNING?

It is the revelation of Jesus Christ, not a revelation of “the end of the world as we know it.”

This is a letter of love from the Savior to his Church. The first representation is in chapter 1, where John sees one like the son of man walking among the seven golden lampstands. The seven churches addressed in the next two churches are those lampstands. The lesson? Jesus is the One who walks among his Church. He is with you in your trouble. He knows where you area and he walks with you.

The Church in John’s day was feeling incredible pressure. They wanted to know where Jesus was in their trouble. The answer was he was right there with them. That’s still where he is… walking with us. And in this… we overcome.

My “Guilty Pleasure” is the Book of Revelation

Today our church goes through 1-3 John, but I’ve already begun my re-reading of Revelation. This book is my “guilty pleasure” in Scripture reading. I find so many people avoid it because it’s so difficult to understand. Those who seem to “enjoy” it do so as they “teach” in a way that is linear and very American. While I was in Bible college I read a little book that set me free from both of those extremes and I’ve actually enjoyed reading Revelation ever since. I don’t sweat the details. I don’t guess about the “ten heads” or “ten crowns” or the number of man…

I just read. And every time I find something that is so wonderful I find myself worshiping the Lamb once again.

I read it because I don’t have all the answers. I read it because I don’t have to have all the answers. I read it because it IS the revelation of Jesus Christ. It’s not the “revelation of the end times.”

This just may be a great week!

Loving the World

Was it an old Keith Green song that said, “You love the world, but you’re avoiding Me”?

1 John is clear about NOT loving the world. He gives us examples: craving what the body feels, craving for what the eyes see, and the arrogant pride of one’s possessions. (CEB).

Sounds like it pretty much includes… everything.

What IS loving the world? What DOES the love of the Father look like, and how is that manifested through us to this world?

Spiritual DNA

This is a repost from last year. As I am reading 1 John for “Eat This Book” at our church, I was reminded of the Common English Bible’s rendering of this passage.

9 Those born from God don’t practice sin because God’s DNA remains in them. They can’t sin because they are born from God. 10 This is how God’s children and the devil’s children are apparent: everyone who doesn’t practice righteousness is not from God, including the person who doesn’t love a brother or sister. 11 This is the message that you heard from the beginning: love each other. (I Jn. 3:9-11, CEB)

The life of God is found in abiding in him. Our abiding in him bears fruit. Our NOT abiding in him bears fruit. You can compare the fruit.

Are we living in righteousness? Are we living to please him?

1 John 3:22 is such a great verse… if we ignore v. 23 and 24!

We receive whatever we ask from him because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him. (I Jn. 3:22, CEB) What a powerful verse. Take it and run with it!

But don’t forget the verses following…

23 This is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and love each other as he commanded us. 24 The person who keeps his commandments remains in God and God remains in him; and this is how we know that he remains in us, because of the Spirit that he has given to us.

Too often we want the rewards of God without the requirements of God.

His commands are simple: Love Jesus. Love your neighbor. When those things are coming out in action then you know you are abiding. Then you can go ahead and ASK.

Am I abiding in my Savior? Am I loving my neighbor? Are my actions portraying the DNA of God… or the DNA of mere humanity?

 

Is Love “Fluffy”?

1 John is so full of the word “love” it has to give the Rambo types in the theological world ulcers. It’s probably why Mark Driscoll may stay away from it.

But the concept of “love” is what needs work. We have this mushy definition of, “I am what I am and you need to accept and affirm all of it or you don’t love me.”

We need a reworking of the definition, because loving the neighbor as Christ commands is far beyond this current use of “love.”

Loving your neighbor is learning to “bless those who curse you.” This is far beyond the definition of “love” we have today.

To truly love someone is to have the ability to bring truth into their lives without being harmful. It is placing what is Kingdom rightness in front of people and allowing them to deal with it. They may accept it. They may not. It’s not up to us. But our love for others should compel us to want Kingdom rightness for their lives. 

The definition of “Kingdom rightness” gets messy, to be sure. That is why the first part of the great commandment is so crucial: Love God. When we love God and free ourselves from manipulation, we see his radical love for us. His radical love also brings Kingdom rightness into our lives… and that gets uncomfortable. He doesn’t do it to be maniacal. He does it because he knows what is best.

John’s love is far beyond our current “fluffy” junk. It is radical. It does not fear.

 

The Anointing and Sin

1 John almost seems to be a mystical letter. There are bold, brash statements about “knowing the anointing” and “not needing any teacher,” plus the whole thing of not sinning anymore.

1-3 John are such short books and make such outlandish statements, it’s almost too easy to skim right over them.

Not sin? REALLY?

Part of what we miss is John’s knowledge of what is possible. Sometimes, when we get a glimpse of the power of the Kingdom, and we get a taste of the power of the Spirit, there is a glimpse into what is God’s best. When we glimpse God’s best we may not know how to fully describe it. Descriptions can come out awkward, such as bold statements like John makes in his short letter.

The point is this: We need to realize the lavishness of the Kingdom. There is a power that has been delivered to us and we just don’t recognize it most of the time.

“The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work.” (I Jn. 3:8, NIV)

The enemy has been bound up. The Kingdom is unleashed. There is power available. We can understand God’s best and live it. Too much of the time, however, that doesn’t seem to interest us very much. The loss is ours. It is also the world’s loss.

We can do better.

Is There Joy in the Journey?

We are down to our last two weeks of “Eat This Book,” our journey as a church through the New Testament. We have made an intentional effort to read the New Testament with fresh eyes, tackling whole books at a time rather than a few verses at a time.

This has been a joy for me personally. It is so refreshing to engage the text each Sunday with people who are reading the text with me. The questions are great. The observations are great. The Spirit is speaking.

As we wind down in this journey, what have been your joys? What have been your discoveries?

Why Election Seasons Should Be Tough

This summer has been one of the most enriching as a pastor that I can remember. Our church has been on a journey to read through the entire New Testament this summer. The main goal was to read each book of the New Testament as a book. Get the overall view without trying to dissect things verse by verse first.

For those who have taken the journey, I’ve watched a whole new world unfold in front of our eyes. Last night we had a small group session and discussed what we’ve been learning overall. We’ve been challenged.

One of those great areas where we’ve been challenged has been our own culture and the political climate. One thing that came out of our conversation last night was this: when you truly read and understand the New Testament and begin to understand the implications of the Kingdom of God, it makes voting tough. Now, there could be many who think that is a ludicrous statement. I have liberal Christian friends and conservative Christian friends who read my writing and right now each one of you are thinking, “It’s not THAT tough.”

Yet, both sides are thinking that exact same thought… and you will each vote for a different candidate based on what you think is a clear biblical view.

What we are finding is that it isn’t so clear cut. Back in the 80s it was the great hope of the Republican Party. A new generation has grown up and seems to be thinking it’s the Democratic Party. And I’ve come to the realization that this new batch of thinkers will be as greatly disappointed as the old group.

It’s because our true allegiance isn’t found in this culture. It’s not found in any earthly culture. There is a higher allegiance calling out to us. And we should be announcing that.

NT Wright in Surprised by Hope walks us through the Book of Acts and explains that is exactly what Paul is doing. Paul is confronting Caesar’s empire with news of a new Lord.

Wright writes:

There could not be a much clearer statement of intent: the kingdoms of this world are now claimed as the kingdom of Israel’s God, and of his Messiah.

It still doesn’t make election day any easier. Paul didn’t do elections. He didn’t get that freedom. But what he does offer is far greater than a theology of the ballot box. It is the theology of the Kingdom of God. In the end, it’s not the Democrats or the Republicans who have the answers for what ails us. It’s King Jesus. This world, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, has turned a great corner, and we, as the people of God, need to announce it.

One Powerful Prayer of Jesus

John 17 is Jesus praying for his disciples. It is beautiful.

In v. 17 I find one of the most powerful sentences in that prayer, with three incredibly powerful words.

 Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.

Sanctify: to make holy. To set apart. To consecrate.

Truth: not just making correcting statements. It is living in Christ. It living in truth.

Word: logos. It is the essence of Christ. In the beginning was the Word…

We have a tremendous calling. It is a high and holy calling. It is not a calling that says, “You are saved, so get out of this world.”

It is a precious calling that says, “You are commissioned by the One who is truth to live out that truth in this world today. Get to it.”