We All Believe in Something | 1 John 5:21

Little children, keep yourselves from idols.

As you finish reading John’s first letter, his conclusion sentence may surprise you. “Little children, keep yourselves from idols,” he says. This is strange because not once during the entire book does John mention idols or pagan gods, except for the very last sentence. Did he forget what he was writing about? Did his pen run out of ink and this line somehow got added later from another piece of parchment? Not at all. This simple sentence adds so much context to the rest of the book, because you’ll notice John doesn’t say, “Little children, keep yourselves from un-belief.” That’s because John knows we all believe something and we’re always acting on what we believe.

He concludes then with this point. If we want to Dwell in the light, in the life, and in the love John so beautifully described in his letter, we must believe. Sometimes we downplay belief, but by placing our faith in something, we give the object of our faith power. And as its power grows, the more it begins to stir passion within us. This past Sunday, Pastor Ryan mentioned several radical things belief can cause a person to do: talk to a perfect stranger, marry four wives, run a plane into building, or even murder based on differences. Sure, what we believe can prompt extreme behavior, but it usually prompts small everyday habits first. That’s where idols come in.

Idols don’t start with drastic choices. They start with those small seemingly inconsequential choices you make every day. The number of times you glace in a mirror. The things you put in your body. The shows you stream on TV. The patterns of thought you develop about yourself, others, and the world. Everything you do is a part of who you are and what you believe. If you want to Dwell with Jesus the way John describes – dwelling with the light of the world illuminating your world, dwelling with resurrection life giving your everyday breath, dwelling grounded in the love of God, you’ve got to proactively place your faith in Jesus today. Confess any idols you’ve given too much power and turn toward Jesus. He will forever be your light, your life, and your love as you Dwell in HIM.

By Yvonne Biel  

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We All Believe in Something | 1 John 5:212019-02-09T12:06:34-07:00

Confident to Ask | 1 John 5:13-17

13 I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life. 14 And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. 15 And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him. 16 If anyone sees his brother committing a sin not leading to death, he shall ask, and God will give him life—to those who commit sins that do not lead to death. There is sin that leads to death; I do not say that one should pray for that. 17 All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin that does not lead to death.

Have you ever wished upon a shooting star or made a wish as you blow out your birthday candle? Some might call this wishful thinking, but how we go about wishing or asking for our desires reveals something about what we believe. As children, some of us believed in Santa and made very specific requests for Christmas. Some of us begged our parents for the latest toy because we believed they had the ability to buy it for us. Some of us even asked God for big miracles because we believed he would come through.

You see, what we believe shapes how we think, how we feel, and how we act. But, what’s interesting is that this works the other way around too. What we think, feel, and do equally shapes what we believe. As we act, so we believe. As we believe, so we act. John says in his first letter, “And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him (1 John 5:14-15).

What we believe about God informs what we ask of him and what we ask of God informs what we believe about him. Our prayer requests become a culmination of what we believe. Whether we are unconsciously asking or proactively shaping, our requests are a unique revelation of what we believe. When we look at who we are asking, what we are asking for, and how we state our requests, we can identify what we are believing. The person to whom we ask reveals who we trust. The request we make reveals what we want. And, the matter by which we ask reveals our confidence in asking.

Today, decide to turn to the God and ask him something boldly. Allow your request to shape what you believe God is capable of doing.

By Yvonne Biel  

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Confident to Ask | 1 John 5:13-172019-02-09T12:06:34-07:00

Testimony In Us | 1 John 5:10, 18-20

1 John 5:10: Whoever believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself. Whoever does not believe God has made him a liar, because he has not believed in the testimony that God has borne concerning his Son.

1 John 5:18-20: We know that everyone who has been born of God does not keep on sinning, but he who was born of God protects him, and the evil one does not touch him.

We know that we are from God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one.

 And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true; and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life.

I knew what I needed to do. At least I thought I knew. It was the summer of 2011 and I was helping my father-in-law tie a boat on top of his car to take to the lake. He had shown me very carefully how to tie the knots in order to secure the boat. In my head, I had it down to the point where I could explain it to someone else. I knew about how to pull the loop, position the boat, and tie it tight. Well, I thought I knew. That day, I got humbled as the boat slid off the car due to my poor knot-tying. Turns out, there was a big difference between knowing about and actually knowing how to tie the knot. I knew in my head, but that didn’t translate to reality.

I think for a lot of us, this connects to our faith experience. We may “know” certain things about God and what it means to be a Christian. We can maybe even describe it to someone else with our words. And yet, we were designed for something more. We are invited into an intimate relationship with God. We find John stressing this truth throughout his letter. This relationship is not purely cognitive, it is transformative. It changes the way we think, speak, act, and love others. We have the testimony in us.

1 John 5:18-20 highlights this reality. John uses a series of three statements beginning with “We know…” The Greek word utilized here refers to cognitive, head knowledge. Then he comes to the climax. We know all of these wonderful truths, “so that we may know him who is true; and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life” (I John 5:20, emphasis mine). The word “know” here refers to a deep, personal, intimate, experiential type of knowing. God lives in us, we have been born of God, He has given us understanding, we have eternal life, and we are made new. The testimony we now have in us should be shared and described to others. We are people of hope and the world needs the Good News of Jesus that we have. Today, identify the three most transformative moments in your relationship with Jesus. Who could benefit from hearing your testimony? Let’s be bold to share the testimony in us with those around us. 

By Billy Berglund  

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Testimony In Us | 1 John 5:10, 18-202019-02-09T12:06:34-07:00

Overcome the World | 1 John 5:3-5, 19

1 John 5:3-5: For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome. For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?

1 John 5:19: We know that we are from God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one.

This time of year is such a temptation to us. Every store, magazine, catalog and website makes you compare what you have with what they say will make your life better and your holiday the best. So, how do we overcome the world? John says everyone born of God has victory through faith (1 John 5:4). When we choose Jesus as Lord, we have taken sides. We have joined the armies of heaven to battle evil. John says we overcome by believing that Jesus is the son of God (1 John 5:5). There is power in believing Jesus in us is greater than he who is in the world.

What does it mean to overcome the world? Jesus said he has overcome the world. As a man, he was tempted in the desert for 40 days. He was tempted with what represents the world: the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh, and the pride of life. Larry Stockstill says Jesus overcame by controlling his appetites, attitudes and ambitions. The eyes activate appetites, so we are to guard what our eyes see. Attitudes come from thinking more of yourself than is appropriate, especially in independence, self-sufficiency, and the pride of life. Humility will help us overcome conceit. Ambitions are the fleshly lusts for power and control, using people as a means to an end. Contentment will keep you from making compromises here. Jesus quoted Scripture as he spoke words of God’s truth over the temptation. His overcoming empowers us to be overcomers!

As John says, the world lies in the power of the evil one (1 John 5:19). But when we are born of God we belong to him; his love is ours and his love wins. We are freed from the grasp of the evil one. When we are born of God, the evil one cannot touch us (1 John 5:18). Believing this will give us power to have self-control, be content, and walk in humility. Our love for God motivates us to please him and choose him in all things. We will be empowered to obey and delight in his design for our lives. Today, seek to memorize and internalize 1 John 4:4, “Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.” Keep these words deep in your heart, in the front of your mind, and on the tip of your tongue, ready to confront every tempting test. May Jesus’ victory bring you peace this time of year.

John 8:31-32: “So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

By Donna Burns  

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Overcome the World | 1 John 5:3-5, 192019-02-09T12:06:35-07:00

The Power of Faith | 1 John 5:13

I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life.

I was 12 when my family moved to Colorado. It was at that time when we started attending an Evangelical Free Church. It was a good church, but every service ended in the exact same way. The pastor would close his message with an invitation to “say a prayer to accept Jesus as Savior.” In all the services I can remember, he never missed a Sunday giving “an invitation.” It seemed strange to me, primarily because it wasn’t the type of church I had grown up in. But, there was something about the invitation that seemed to fall short of what Jesus actually called his followers to live out. There was something that seemed to miss the point of the eternal life Jesus invited people to enjoy.

John spent a lot of time in his letter of 1 John writing about faith that leads to eternal life. In fact, in 1 John 5:13 he claimed that faith and eternal life were the very reason he wrote the whole letter. He wrote, “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life.” What’s fascinating is that in his writing about eternal life, John never mentions praying a “sinner’s prayer.” He also never mentions going to heaven! You’d think in a letter about eternal life, you’d mention heaven at least one time, but John doesn’t. See, for John, eternal life has a lot more to do with life on earth than it did with life in heaven. For John, eternal life is the kind of life that lasts forever, but it was also the kind of life you’d want to last forever. Eternal life was life that caused the kingdom of God to invade and displace the empires of the earth (1 John 5:20).

John writes a lot about the benefits and impact of faith. As people living 2,000 years after the life and death of Jesus, it can be difficult to know what this faith-life looks like. Much of the time we assume that the life of faith is a life without doubt – but faith and doubt are not opposites, they’re dance partners. Faith is not certainty that God will, it’s conviction that God can. Faith is holding onto God even when life doesn’t make sense and when it’s filled with doubt. Faith is the conviction that God is good and that one day, he will set the world to rights. When followers of Jesus live in the way of love, in relationship with Jesus by faith, they pull eternal life into the here and now. It’s more than saying a prayer, and it’s better than just going to heaven when we die – it’s living in the kingdom of God now.

Today, read the Apostle’s Creed. It’s a succinct summary of what followers of Jesus have believed for the past 2,000 years. Identify the time in your faith journey when these beliefs came most alive and reaffirm your faith in Jesus.

By Ryan Paulson  

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The Power of Faith | 1 John 5:132019-02-09T12:06:35-07:00

Calming Our Fears | 1 John 4:17-21

17 By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. 18 There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. 19 We love because he first loved us. 20 If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. 21 And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.

AW Tozer once said, “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.” Our view of God impacts how we think of ourselves, how we live our lives, and how we view others. I think we all have to honestly wrestle with our functional view of God. We may say one thing, but have a very different image that keeps popping up in our head.

In my own life, I have often thought of God as being discouraged with me. At times, I’ve thought of him as an old, grumpy man looking down with frustration at my inability to “measure up.” Over the last few years, I’ve been on a journey to understand God’s deep love. As we studied in the series on the Prodigal Son, God longs to be in relationship with us. When we turn to him, he runs to meet us with open arms, even in our mess. We were designed to be in relationship with him. This truth has really impacted me lately, as I’ve more fully accepted God’s incredible love for me.

This passage in 1 John provides us with great encouragement. In Christ, we no longer have to fear. As John reminds us, we have “confidence in the day of judgment” and “there is no fear in love.” Fear can’t exist in the presence of God. We now operate from a place humble confidence, realizing we are fully known and truly loved. We live in the way of God, not for approval, but from approval. As we come to understand God’s love for us, we will in turn genuinely love others. He accepts us in our brokenness and we’ll be much more quick to love others the same way. Today, consider the following questions: What attitude does God have toward you? If you picture him walking toward you, what is the look on his face? Write a letter from God to you, reminding you of your true identity and his gracious love. 

By Billy Berglund  

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Calming Our Fears | 1 John 4:17-212019-02-09T12:06:35-07:00

Calling to Love | 1 John 4:11-16

‘Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us. By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.’

Every soul is searching, wandering the earth seeking love and acceptance. Deep down in our bones is the need to be seen for who we really are, and then embraced with love’s accepting arms. We hope to find love’s refreshing drink flowing from lovers, friends, family, and children. There are moments when their love feels close to what we long for, but the moments are fleeting and the drink but a sip. Meanwhile, every person we interact with holds their own thirsty cup up to us, begging for a drink of true love.

The best news for this thirsty world of souls is that God is love, an everlasting, unquenchable fountain of love. Once a human soul turns away from the trickles of love found from others and instead turns to God, they are fully satisfied. That soul’s new challenge is to not forget the source that they have found. To that person, John gives a challenge in this text. The challenge is to love like God loves. Once the cistern of our soul has been filled to the point of overflowing, we no longer need to roam the earth seeking love. Instead we can turn to the thirsty souls around us and begin to fill their cups in the name of Jesus.

We have the unique calling to embody Jesus for the world around us. Theologians call this incarnation. When God becomes a human in Jesus, he was Incarnate. As loved children of God, we can reincarnate God for the world. Our hands, feet and voices, saturated in love, can love without a selfish appetite to receive it back from others. The text says, “no one has ever seen God.” Yet, if we are connected to his love, we begin to manifest God in the world. That is how people see God and discover for themselves the fountain of his love. It is through us that love’s source is found. How have you loved this week? Is it a challenge to love others around you? Maybe you have not gone to the stream of love recently. Today as you celebrate Thanksgiving, meditate on the love of God for you. Once you are filled up, go through your day showing love to every thirsty soul you see. 

By Aaron Bjorklund  

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Calling to Love | 1 John 4:11-162019-02-09T12:06:35-07:00

Character of Love | 1 John 4:7-10

7 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9 In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. 10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.

If you have ever served in the church nursery a requirement is to love the children, and the first lesson to be shared is “God is love.” A child learns about God’s love through other believers’ caring actions and kind words. It is so simple yet so complex. It is the beginning of knowing God. The Apostle John often calls those he is writing to “my little children” (thirteen times in 1 John).   Perhaps this is to recognize that we are all God’s children and we are all growing up in faith and maturity.   John teaches how his beloved can recognize God’s love among all the other loves around them. He tells them how they know who has God’s love and who doesn’t.

John says, “let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.” True love has its origin and essence in God. It is what God is. We have to look at God’s character to know love, just like we have to know what a real dollar bill looks like to know a counterfeit one. He is love because the members of the Triune Godhead (Father, Son, Holy Spirit) first loved one another. Love requires a relationship, and an object of its affection. We were created to be loved and to make the choice to love. Love is given not because of the worth or desirability of the object. God’s love is not taken advantage of, nor does it give permission to sin. Love for us caused the Godhead to send to earth Jesus, who is True Love, to show us true love in actions, give us true love in words, and transform us by true love in our hearts. God is eternal, so is his love, and through Jesus we have life eternal.

God is love. Sounds easy, but it’s profound. How would you define love? Even though I grew up in a church nursery, Sunday School, and gave my life to Jesus at summer camp, I had to wrestle with understanding and knowing personally the definition of love as a college freshman. It has shaped my life, guides my actions and words, and helps me know his way. My definition of God’s love often comes back to me as I seek to reflect God’s character and be an ambassador of his love. There are many wonderful Christ followers in my life journey that have shown me and told me about God’s love, and those who keep showing me and telling me. God’s love never ends, so we’ll never stop learning about it. Today, read 1 Corinthians 13:4-7.  Write your own definition of love and check to see if your life reflects the Father’s character of love.

1 Corinthians 13:4-7: “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”

By Donna Burns  

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Character of Love | 1 John 4:7-102019-02-09T12:06:35-07:00

Powerful Voices | 1 John 4:4-6

“Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. They are from the world; therefore they speak from the world, and the world listens to them. We are from God. Whoever knows God listens to us; whoever is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error.”‭‭

If someone tells you they hear voices, you’d probably assume they have issues. Issues that require a doctor and medication. Issues that have a title like schizophrenia attached to them. Certainly, there are cases where that is the case; but to some degree we all hear voices. We have a narrative that plays in the background of our lives. We have a story that we tell ourselves attempting to make sense of our existence.

As human beings, we typically have one of two voices ringing in our heads. The first voice says, “work, prove, achieve, and validate.” Accompanied with this voice is either the pride of success or the shame of failure. The second voice says, “You are my beloved son/daughter with whom I am well-pleased.” This voice is freedom. This voice is love. This is the voice of God.

When John writes to his churches, he implores then to discern the spirits (1 John 3:1-2). He calls on them to evaluate their voices they’re listening to and the messages they’re build their lives upon. Everyone has a voice they listen to – it either says “prove” or it say “beloved.”

In his wonderful book Spiritual Direction, Henri Nouwen wrote, “Self-rejection is the greatest enemy of the spiritual life because it contradicts the sacred voice that declares we are loved. Being the Beloved expresses the core truth of our existence. We are loved as creatures with both limitations and glory.” It’s the voice of Antichrist that directs toward self-rejection – but it’s the voice of God’s Spirit that points us to know and believe that we are loved. It makes sense that the God who is love uses his Spirit (his voice) to point us to his love! (Romans 5:5) It’s this eternal, unconditional love that is the ground of our very being. When we listen to the Spirit of Love, we are freed to live and we overcome the world and it’s voices. (1 John 4:4-6)

Today, pause and pray. Use this ancient prayer (by Arthur LeClair) exercise – praying each of these phrases for a few minutes, allowing them to soak deeply into your soul.

Jesus, you are the Beloved. 

Jesus, I am the Beloved. 

Jesus, we are (all) the Beloved.

By Ryan Paulson  

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Powerful Voices | 1 John 4:4-62019-02-09T12:06:35-07:00

Crack the Code | 1 John 4:1-3

1 Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. 2 By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, 3 and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already.

In World War II, in the Pacific theatre, it was a common practice to not only encrypt messages to be sent abroad to the Naval combat units spread across the ocean, but to also pad the key elements of the message with random phrases. By doing this, it would be more difficult for the Japanese code breakers, assuming they were successful in breaking the code, to find the important parts of the message. As with any good plan, things don’t always work correctly. There was at least one instance where this padding actually confused the message.

During the Battle of Leyte Gulf, Admiral Halsey was in pursuit of some of the last aircraft carriers left to the Japanese forces. As he was catching up to the ships, a main Japanese battle fleet had turned around from fleeing and was blasting away at the light and escort carriers providing air support for General MacArthur’s forces ashore. Admiral Nimitz, in attempting to locate Halsey’s Task Force 34, sent a message as to its whereabouts, and the message was padded with “the world wonders”. What Halsey was presented with, however, was “Where is task force 34? The world wonders.” Needless to say, Halsey wasn’t pleased with the content of this message, and ended up missing an opportunity to battle the remaining carriers with this poorly decoded message.

We experience something close to this today involving God’s speaking to us. Not that God has to encrypt and pad his conversations with us using confusing tidbits, but sometimes when he’s speaking to us, it’s hard for us to hear him. We have messages flying at us from all directions, and the voice of God seems to get drowned out. The best way for us to hear God when he’s speaking to us is to be tuned in to his voice. We need to listen intently for it. We all have ways to process what we hear, and perhaps it might do you well to contemplate how you personally clarify the message God is trying to deliver.

By Rich Obrecht

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Crack the Code | 1 John 4:1-32019-02-09T12:06:35-07:00
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