November 17 – A “Sin Unto Death”

Today is going to be a “teaching day”. The verses today are difficult to understand, and many theologians have come up with various interpretations. As you know, my passion is that you read Scriptures completely – not just look at verses here and there. We need to know what God is telling us. I must admit, I’d like to skip over some verses because they are difficult, but here we go:

John 5: 16 – 17 NLT

“If you see a fellow believer sinning in a way that does not lead to death, you should pray, and God will give that person life. But there is a sin that leads to death, and I am not saying you should pray for those who commit it. 17 All wicked actions are sin, but not every sin leads to death.”

Those verses that are quite puzzling, actually rather scary. We are going to look at what Charles Swindoll has to say in his commentary Living Insights 1 John.

“But what, exactly, does John mean by “a sin leading to death” and “a sin not leading to death”? To what sin, specifically, is he referring? Is it a single sin? Or a category of sins? And what kind of “death” is this? Physical death? Spiritual death? …

First, we need to determine whether John was referring to a specific sin – or to a type of sin – or to a certain duration of sin. If this is a specific sin, it could be a reference to what Jesus calls the “blasphemy against the Holy Spirit” (Mark 3: 29). On the seriousness of the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, William Hendriksen writes, “when a man has become hardened, so that he has made up his mind not to pay any attention to the promptings of the Spirit, not even to listen to his pleading and warning voice, he has placed himself on the road that leads to perdition. He has sinned the sin “unto death”. If this is the kind of sin “unto death” John meant in verses 16 to 17, then the kind of “death” John meant was eternal damnation – the death of the unsaved.

However, it is equally plausible that John was referring not to a specific kind or quality of sin, but to a situation in which a person’s persistent sin ultimately results in their being punished by physical death as judgement from the Lord. We see examples of this in the New Testament, as in the cases of Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5: 1 – 11).” (page 132, Living Insights 1 John)

Just so you don’t have to look it up, this account in Acts occurred in the early church when they were collecting money to help those in need. Everyone had decided that their belongings were not their own, but God’s gift to them, and so should be shared.

“All the believers were united in heart and mind. And they felt that what they owned was not their own, so they shared everything they had. 33 The apostles testified powerfully to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and God’s great blessing was upon them all. 34 There were no needy people among them, because those who owned land or houses would sell them 35 and bring the money to the apostles to give to those in need.” (Acts 4: 32 – 25)

Ananias and his wife decided to bring some of their money and claim it was everything they had. Peter, under the Holy Spirit, questioned what they were doing. “Then Peter said, “Ananias, why have you let Satan fill your heart? You lied to the Holy Spirit, and you kept some of the money for yourself. The property was yours to sell or not sell, as you wished. And after selling it, the money was also yours to give away. How could you do a thing like this? You weren’t lying to us but to God!”” (Acts 5: 3 – 4)

This resulted in the deaths of Ananias and Sapphira. God stepped into this situation in the early church to emphasize his presence. You didn’t try to deceive God, and that early church needed to know that.

Personally, I have always thought verses 16 to 17 in 1 John talked about someone who refused to acknowledge that Jesus was God’s son, someone who turned their back on any belief in God and the Bible. That would result in eternal separation from God. Charles Swindoll’s first explanation is the one that resonates with me.

That God would punish a believer by removing them from physical life, is a possibility, but I don’t think we have to be anxious thinking God is watching and ready to pounce on us for sins we commit. There are so many verses in the Bible that tell us that God forgives – even in 1 John. “But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.” (1:9) I remember as a young teenager, reading those verses about a “sin unto death” and being quite scared. If I lied, would God strike me dead? As years have passed, I have come to know that God is loving and forgiving. When we are in a relationship with him, we continue to grow closer to him. Let’s look at some verses that talk about God’s forgiveness.

“But you offer forgiveness, that we might learn to fear you.” Psalm 130: 4

“Oh, what joy for those whose disobedience is forgiven, whose sins are put out of sight.” Romans 4: 7

“I am writing to you who are God’s children because your sins have been forgiven through Jesus.” 1 John 2: 12

Our song for today reflects the fear about these verses – You Never Are by Francesca Battistelli.

November 16 – More Things We Need to Know

1 John 5: 13 – 15 NLT

“I have written this to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know you have eternal life. 14 And we are confident that he hears us whenever we ask for anything that pleases him. 15 And since we know he hears us when we make our requests, we also know that he will give us what we ask for.

This 5th chapter of 1 John is a summary of what John has written throughout the book. These are the things he wants to make sure we know. That word “know” is used several times throughout this chapter. Here it is again: “I have written this to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know you have eternal life.” (v. 13) This is actually a repetition of the verse that concluded the verses we read on Friday. “And this is what God has testified: He has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have God’s Son does not have life.” (v. 11 – 12)

Along with John, I can’t stress that enough. It’s so easy to get side-tracked into thinking we have to do something to earn God’s favour. There is nothing we can do ourselves to merit eternal life. It is totally provided by God and his Son, Jesus. In talking with people over the years, I know that someone will say that they believe that faith in Jesus gives them eternal life, but then, down deep, they are afraid that they have “lost” their salvation – or are not sure they have done enough to earn God’s love and eternal life – by not living as well as they should/could. Our salvation is a complete gift from God when we believe that Jesus is who He said he was.

“God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it.” (Ephesians 2: 8 – 9)

Now John turns to another thing we need to know. “And we are confident that he hears us whenever we ask for anything that pleases him. And since we know he hears us when we make our requests, we also know that he will give us what we ask for.” (14 – 15)

Verses 14 and 15 have sometimes been interpreted to mean we can get anything we pray for. We can pray for a promotion at work, we can pray for better health, we can pray for more wealth, etc. No! Let’s reread that phrase in verse 14 – “he hears us whenever we ask for anything that pleases him.” Even Jesus knew that our prayers needed to be in alignment with God’s will, as he prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane. “Not my will but yours be done”. (Luke 22: 42)

Prayer is a crucial part of our faith, yet we often struggle with it – finding time, concentrating while we pray, wondering what to pray for – even forgetting to pray when something unexpected crops up. Yet talking with God is the way we keep our connection with him strong. Can you imagine what a relationship between a married couple would be like if they didn’t talk to each other on a regular basis? Can you imagine a mother and a young child not talking to each other? Best friends rarely talking – or texting?

Maybe we have a concept of God being almighty and powerful (which He is), and so we don’t approach him because we think of ourselves as unimportant to him. It doesn’t seem like a relationship between two friends, or a married couple. It seems more remote. What are we supposed to be talking to God about?

Well, there is something we can be sure of. God loves us. “For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3: 16)  “God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.” (1 John 4: 9 – 10) Knowing that this incredible, amazing God loves us changes everything. I am not some insignificant person who God ignores. He cares about all the miniscule things in my life, just as a best friend does.

And there is something else I can know. God understands my weakness as a human being. He knows I struggle with prayer. God is committed to helping me in my prayer life. Isn’t that wonderful!

“And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words. 27 And the Father who knows all hearts knows what the Spirit is saying, for the Spirit pleads for us believers[l] in harmony with God’s own will. 28 And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.” (Romans 8: 26 – 28)

So, take a deep breath. Talk to God regularly. Know that he will answer your prayers according to His divine will and for your good. Be confident that God wants to hear from you. Isn’t it amazing that God initiates everything? He sent Jesus to take the punishment for all our messes, and he also gives us the Holy Spirit to keep our relationship with our Heavenly Father vibrant and close. Amen!

Our song for today is Your Love Never Fails by Newsboys

November 13 – What You Need to Know

1 John 5: 1 – 12 NLT

“Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has become a child of God. And everyone who loves the Father loves his children, too. We know we love God’s children if we love God and obey his commandments. Loving God means keeping his commandments, and his commandments are not burdensome. For every child of God defeats this evil world, and we achieve this victory through our faith. And who can win this battle against the world? Only those who believe that Jesus is the Son of God.

And Jesus Christ was revealed as God’s Son by his baptism in water and by shedding his blood on the cross – not by water only, but by water and blood. And the Spirit, who is truth, confirms it with his testimony. So we have these three witnesses – the Spirit, the water, and the blood—and all three agree. Since we believe human testimony, surely we can believe the greater testimony that comes from God. And God has testified about his Son. 10 All who believe in the Son of God know in their hearts that this testimony is true. Those who don’t believe this are actually calling God a liar because they don’t believe what God has testified about his Son.

11 And this is what God has testified: He has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. 12 Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have God’s Son does not have life.”

In this last chapter of 1 John, he is summing up the major points we need to know about our faith. His first point is “Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has become a child of God.” The key to our relationship with God is to believe that Jesus is the Christ – the son of God, a member of the trinity, the Messiah, God in human flesh. With that belief, we become God’s child. The word “become” indicates it is something that happened after our physical birth. There is a rebirth when we become God’s child. John mentions this fact as he talks with Nicodemus in John 3: 3 – “Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, unless you are born again, you cannot see the Kingdom of God.” Becoming a child of God occurs when we believe who Jesus is.

There is some practical proof that this rebirth has happened. “And everyone who loves the Father loves his children, too.” The love and caring we show to all the other people in our church – to anyone who loves God – is evidence of belonging to God’s family.  Does that make you stop and think for a minute? Are Christians in our world today known for their sacrificial love for one another? Or even just that they get along well with each other?

And then John makes another clarification. “We know we love God’s children if we love God and obey his commandments. 3 Loving God means keeping his commandments, and his commandments are not burdensome.” What are God’s commandments? He tells us clearly in Matthew 22: 37 – 40. “Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind. 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.  40 The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.”  There you go – loving God and loving people are the two most important things in any believer’s life. They go hand-in-hand. Charles Swindoll in his commentary Living Insights 1 John says it’s like a piece of paper. Love God is on one side of the sheet of paper, and love others is on the back side of the same paper. You can’t separate them.

It’s interesting that John says these commandments are not “burdensome”. I can imagine if you’re anything like me, you know that loving God and other people is often not the primary focus of your life. Just looking after the ‘nitty-gritty’ of day to day living consumes most of my time; going to work takes up at least 8 hours every day. Knowing that I fall short of what God wants is burdensome. Thankfully, John gives us an answer to that problem. “For every child of God defeats this evil world, and we achieve this victory through our faith.” We don’t have to put God on a list of to-do things – things we must do to keep God happy with us. It’s our faith in God’s ability to change us that makes all the difference. I have the benefit of being God’s child for many years. I know that God has changed me over my life, and is still changing me. For example, while writing these devotions in 1 John, the Holy Spirit has convicted me of my non-loving attitude towards some people in my life. I don’t like admitting I’ve messed up, but I am so thankful that God keeps working with me. Keeping his commandments are not burdensome because God knows exactly when he needs to convict me, and at what point I’m ready to listen. “And who can win this battle against the world? Only those who believe that Jesus is the Son of God.”

John goes on to tell us why we can believe who Jesus is. What proof is there? What is our faith based on? “And Jesus Christ was revealed as God’s Son by his baptism in water and by shedding his blood on the cross – not by water only, but by water and blood. And the Spirit, who is truth, confirms it with his testimony. So we have these three witnesses – the Spirit, the water, and the blood—and all three agree.” What is John referring to when he talks about the Spirit, water and the blood?

Let’s start with the “water”. He is likely referring to Jesus’ baptism. You can remember as John the Baptist baptized Jesus at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, “And a voice from heaven said, “This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy.” (Mathew 3: 17) As John writes his first gospel, he talks about the day Jesus was baptized. I wonder if he was one of the 2 disciples mentioned in v. 35. In these verses from John’s gospel, we see the Holy Spirit mentioned as well as the water: “I (John the Baptist) didn’t know he was the one, but when God sent me to baptize with water, he told me, ‘The one on whom you see the Spirit descend and rest is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’ 34 I saw this happen to Jesus, so I testify that he is the Chosen One of God.” 35 The following day John was again standing with two of his disciples. 36 As Jesus walked by, John looked at him and declared, “Look! There is the Lamb of God!” 37 When John’s two disciples heard this, they followed Jesus.”

The Holy Spirit was mentioned in those verses, but he is mentioned in other situations as well. On the Mount of Transfiguration we see the Spirit present as well. God makes sure we know that Jesus is his son. “Six days later Jesus took Peter and the two brothers, James and John, and led them up a high mountain to be alone. As the men watched, Jesus’ appearance was transformed so that his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as light. Suddenly, Moses and Elijah appeared and began talking with Jesus.

Peter exclaimed, “Lord, it’s wonderful for us to be here! If you want, I’ll make three shelters as memorials[a]—one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”

But even as he spoke, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy. Listen to him.” The disciples were terrified and fell face down on the ground.

Then Jesus came over and touched them. “Get up,” he said. “Don’t be afraid.” And when they looked up, Moses and Elijah were gone, and they saw only Jesus.” (Matthew 17: 1 – 8)

The blood refers to Jesus’ death on the cross. There are so many prophecies in the Old Testament about Jesus’ coming to earth and his sacrifice for our sin. Isaiah 53 is such an amazing account of Jesus’ life and death. I’ll just include a few verses of that amazing chapter. (Isaiah 53: 5 – 6)

“But he was pierced for our rebellion,
    crushed for our sins.
He was beaten so we could be whole.
    He was whipped so we could be healed.
All of us, like sheep, have strayed away.
    We have left God’s paths to follow our own.
Yet the Lord laid on him
    the sins of us all.”

John concludes these verses by saying that our belief in Jesus, God’s son is the one thing that makes us a child of God. If you don’t believe that Jesus is God’s son, God in the flesh, then you are not part of God’s family. That is the crucial belief. “And this is what God has testified: He has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. 12 Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have God’s Son does not have life.”

If for some reason you think you have to do something to be God’s child – to be a good person, to give to charity, to attend church faithfully, to … whatever you think God might want. Know this. It’s your belief that Jesus was God’s son, a member of the trinity, who came to earth and died for you – that is what makes the difference. Not what you can do, but what God has done.

Our song for today is Jesus by Chris Tomlin.

November 12 – Rise above it

Above the floodwaters is GOD’s throne from which his power flows, from which he rules the world.
Psalm 29:10 MSG

Hear our voices rise
Hear our battle cry
We’ve been under the curse
With our arms raised high
Hear us sing tonight
Like the last night on earth
We will rise like the tide
Like dead men
Coming back to life
We are rising
Rising

Rise Above It, Switchfoot

As the flames rise above the tree line in our late autumn bonfire I look above and my eyes are met with clear stars. We have been fortunate enough to experience warmer than normal temperatures this week and a summer-like bonfire was a nice cap to the season. As the smoke rises, I reminisce on how ‘rising above’ is a phrase I’ve heard used in lyrics and guidance given when in the middle of an argument.

Each of us on a journey, there is something always deeper or bigger than what we see at face value. In each person carries a depth of stresses and stories that shape the emotions each are portraying, the reactions they are alluding. Taking things “as is” or at face value isn’t always the full story. We must either rise above these emotions, look further to find a deeper and fuller understanding of our relationships.

Think about the things of Christ and don’t get distracted by the trivial.

Even within ourselves is such depth. We ourselves are fluid beings, and taking the time to explore our emotions, and core beings brings out our truer selves. So, rising above an argument, or the news, or our reality, isn’t a call to dismiss what is. But to look a little deeper. Or perhaps, look above. Where is God in this situation? Let’s remind ourselves to rise above it. To take a step back and acknowledge that God is above all.

Let the peace of Christ keep you in tune with each other, in step with each other. None of this going off and doing your own thing. And cultivate thankfulness. Let the Word of Christ—the Message—have the run of the house. Give it plenty of room in your lives. Instruct and direct one another using good common sense. And sing, sing your hearts out to God! Let every detail in your lives—words, actions, whatever—be done in the name of the Master, Jesus, thanking God the Father every step of the way.”
Colossians 3:15-17 MSG

When the night is closing in,
Don’t give up and don’t give in.
This won’t last, it’s not the end, it’s not the end
You’re going to be okay
Bethel Music

November 11 – A Practical Application of God’s Love

1 John 4: 7

“Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God.”

Today, I’m quoting a section of Charles Swindoll’s commentary, Insights for Living: 1 John. He gives us a way to apply what we learned yesterday about God’s love for us that really made me think, and so I decided to pass it along to you. Are you up for the challenge?

“We’re to love one another – those brothers and sisters in Christ beside whom we worship during our Sunday services, among who we sit in Sunday school, with whom we minister in the nursery, and whom we pass by silently in the hallways. And that’s just the brothers and sisters in our own churches! We’re to love them unconditionally, selflessly, and sacrificially.

But how? What’s that supposed to look like? Isn’t it enough that we drop a few bucks in the offering plate on Sunday morning so the church has enough money to turn on the air conditioning and my brother in Christ doesn’t overheat? Or does the Lord expect something more tangible … and more real?

To help get a clearer picture of what’s involved in genuinely loving our brothers and sisters in Christ, take some time to reflect on some verses that flesh out the concept of loving one another. For each of the passages below, jot down a few words that summarize what specific actions would be expected in light of this kind of love. Then note a specific person (or persons) in your life for whom you can exercise this love. When you’ve completed the chart, prayerfully consider how you can start living in light of Christ’s command to love, by the power of the abiding Spirit.” (pages 117 – 118)

If you want to take this challenge seriously, go get a piece of paper and a pen. Put a line down the centre of the page. For each of the following verses, in the first column write down what God is asking you to do. Then think about a particular situation in your life that this passage speaks to. What do you need to change? What person comes to your mind – do you need to change your attitude/behaviour to this person? Is there something you need to start doing? Write what comes to mind in the second column.

Our 5 challenging verses for today:

“Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. 10 Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honouring each other. 11 Never be lazy, but work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically. 12 Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying. 13 When God’s people are in need, be ready to help them. Always be eager to practice hospitality.” Romans 12: 9 – 13

“Owe nothing to anyone—except for your obligation to love one another. If you love your neighbour, you will fulfill the requirements of God’s law. 9 For the commandments say, “You must not commit adultery. You must not murder. You must not steal. You must not covet. These—and other such commandments—are summed up in this one commandment: “Love your neighbour as yourself.” 10 Love does no wrong to others, so love fulfills the requirements of God’s law.” Romans 13: 8 – 10

“For you have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters. But don’t use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature. Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love. 14 For the whole law can be summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbour as yourself.”] 15 But if you are always biting and devouring one another, watch out! Beware of destroying one another.” Galatians 5: 13 – 15

“Therefore I, a prisoner for serving the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of your calling, for you have been called by God. Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love. Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace.” Ephesians 4: 1 – 3

“Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. 25 And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.” Hebrews 10: 24 – 25

Are you feeling a little overwhelmed after reading what God wants you to do? Here is our song for today – God Help Me by Plumb.

November 10 – LOVE

1 John 4: 7 – 21 (NLT)

“Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God. But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love.

God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. 10 This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.

11 Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other. 12 No one has ever seen God. But if we love each other, God lives in us, and his love is brought to full expression in us.

13 And God has given us his Spirit as proof that we live in him and he in us. 14 Furthermore, we have seen with our own eyes and now testify that the Father sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. 15 All who declare that Jesus is the Son of God have God living in them, and they live in God. 16 We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in his love.

God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them. 17 And as we live in God, our love grows more perfect. So we will not be afraid on the day of judgment, but we can face him with confidence because we live like Jesus here in this world.

18 Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love19 We love each other because he loved us first.

20 If someone says, “I love God,” but hates a fellow believer, that person is a liar; for if we don’t love people we can see, how can we love God, whom we cannot see? 21 And he has given us this command: Those who love God must also love their fellow believers.”

In 14 verses, the word love is used 27 times! I guess we should pay attention, wouldn’t you say?

John starts by emphasizing that God is the source of love; a major characteristic of God is love. The proof of that is that Jesus came into the world as a sacrifice for sin. He didn’t have to do that. We don’t merit it; we didn’t earn it in some way; he didn’t owe it to us as a reward for something. God did that because he loved us even though we were a mess.

No one has seen God. He is a spiritual being. However, in human history, some people saw Jesus, God in human form. John was one of those people. He knew beyond a doubt from his life with Jesus, that God is love. In John’s gospel, John mentions that he was the disciple that Jesus loved (John 13: 23). I don’t think he was saying that he was a special, favourite disciple. He was overwhelmed that God loved him – loved him personally in spite of who he was. But, John now says that people today see God’s love through us. We are the visible evidence that God is love. Wow! That is a challenge! The way I love is the way people around me get to know God!

Am I up to that challenge? Likely not. But – “God has given us his Spirit as proof that we live in him and he in us … God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them. And as we live in God, our love grows more perfect” (v. 13; 16 – 17). God is the one who empowers me, grows me to be a more loving person.

When I look at myself, I see a person who is definitely imperfect in loving others. If I’m honest with myself, I have to admit I often live more for my own comfort and pleasure than for loving/helping others. How am I going to face God someday knowing I should have been more loving? John assures us that we don’t have to fear facing God. God is love and he is living in us and growing us to love more. His love for us has no limit – “perfect love expels all fear” (v. 18).

If I understand God’s love for me, that makes such a difference! Do you worry about not living up to God’s standards? Somewhere down deep, do you think you need to do things to please God and be accepted by him? Do you look around you and think to yourself that you are not as good as the other people you meet at church? GOD LOVES YOU! God is love. God lives in you when you accept Jesus as the one who took the punishment for your sin. God’s love flows through you more each day as you depend more and more on the Holy Spirit living in you.

So – what is the practical side of all this? We as Christ followers should be known for our love for others. John frequently mentions that we should love one another – that is love the other people in our church, and other Christians no matter where they live. “If someone has enough money to live well and sees a brother or sister in need but shows no compassion—how can God’s love be in that person? Dear children, let’s not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions” (1 John 3: 17 – 18). How we treat other Christians is a demonstration to the world around us of God’s love. Do others see my church as a safe place where people are accepted, loved and cared for? John says that “we live like Jesus here in this world” (v. 17). Do I love others no matter what they are like just as Jesus did? When I meet someone I’d rather avoid, do I accept them knowing God loves them just as much as he loves me?

I think that when I start to comprehend how much God loves me, I am more willing to love others. Take a moment and think about yourself – the things you know that you mess up. God loves you no matter what. Really praise him and thank him for that love. You are his child. You belong to him. From that acceptance, you can love others.

“We love each other because he loved us first” (v. 19).

Our song for today is The Love of God by Mercy Me

November 9 – Check It Out

1 John 4: 1 – 6 (NLT)

“Dear friends, do not believe everyone who claims to speak by the Spirit. You must test them to see if the spirit they have comes from God. For there are many false prophets in the world. This is how we know if they have the Spirit of God: If a person claiming to be a prophet acknowledges that Jesus Christ came in a real body, that person has the Spirit of God. But if someone claims to be a prophet and does not acknowledge the truth about Jesus, that person is not from God. Such a person has the spirit of the Antichrist, which you heard is coming into the world and indeed is already here.

But you belong to God, my dear children. You have already won a victory over those people, because the Spirit who lives in you is greater than the spirit who lives in the world. Those people belong to this world, so they speak from the world’s viewpoint, and the world listens to them. But we belong to God, and those who know God listen to us. If they do not belong to God, they do not listen to us. That is how we know if someone has the Spirit of truth or the spirit of deception.”

Once again, John talks about the false prophets, or in some translations they are called antichrists. The Bible is consistent in saying that there will be many people who claim they know about all things spiritual and have some special tie to God, but who not acknowledge Jesus is God in human form. Just before Christ’s second coming, there will be someone called the Antichrist, a specific one person who will have world-wide influence and be against the Christian faith.

John is writing these letters (epistles) to small churches that meet in homes all around the mid-east. It is very early in church history, and although those early believers agreed that Jesus was God’s son, there were teachers who were travelling around to the various churches with incorrect teaching. They didn’t have the Bible as we know it today, so it was likely more possible for them to be influenced by false teaching. This is why John continues to stress that they must be able to figure out what is true and what is not.

The key basic truth that they must look for when listening to these various teachers is what is said about Jesus. Charles Swindoll gives a good statement of what we must believe about Jesus in his commentary, Living Insights: 1 John: “Genuine teachers must hold to the right Jesus, not a different Jesus. They must accept Him as the incarnate God-man, sent by God the Father in the power of God the Holy Spirit. They must believe in His virgin birth, His sinless life, His atoning death, and His glorious resurrection from the dead. This means accepting Him as the only Savior and Lord, and it means hoping for His future coming as King.” (page 103)

There are religions today that agree the Bible is good, but see Jesus as an important prophet or moral person, not as God in human form. New Age thinking agrees there is a spirit world, but doesn’t acknowledge God as supreme or Jesus as God in the flesh. We also need to be careful about groups that operate under the Christian banner, but actually stress the spirit world. They have combined New Age with Christianity. John also stresses that behaviour is linked to belief. If a “church leader” claims to be a Christian but their lifestyle isn’t following Jesus’ example, then we should be careful. We’ve seen church leaders who have lived very lavish lifestyles and promoted a prosperity gospel. As we see popular church movements rise, we need to check to see if Jesus’ death for our sin and his resurrection are pivotal to their message. Is accepting Jesus, God incarnate, as my personal Saviour the most important part of their teaching?

John goes on to say that we have an amazing support as we check out these attractive movements in our world. “The Spirit who lives in you is greater than the spirit who lives in the world.” (v. 4) We have the Holy Spirit to guide us in our thoughts. Jesus, himself, told us this as well:

“And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you. 17 He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth. The world cannot receive him, because it isn’t looking for him and doesn’t recognize him. But you know him, because he lives with you now and later will be in you. 18 No, I will not abandon you as orphans—I will come to you. …

26 But when the Father sends the Advocate as my representative—that is, the Holy Spirit—he will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I have told you.

27 “I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart.” (John 14: 16 – 18; 26 – 27)

When you see a new popular movement begin that claims to be Christian, check it out before you get involved. Know what the Bible says about following Jesus, and listen to the Holy Spirit’s promptings. “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you. He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth.” (v. 16 – 17) “But when the Father sends the Advocate as my representative—that is, the Holy Spirit—he will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I have told you.” (v. 26)

Our song for today is In Christ Alone from #strongtower27

November 6 – Love

1 John 3: 11 – 24 NLT

“This is the message you have heard from the beginning: We should love one another.” (v 11)

Verse 11 is the crucial statement of this chapter. John heard that statement at the Last Supper, and he took it to heart.  

John 13:34-35  (NLT)

“So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.”

This is a pivotal characteristic of a Christ follower. If a person truly believes that Jesus loved them so much that he died for them, they will in turn love others, especially other Christ followers. Those loving/caring relationships will stand out to the world in which we live – that egocentric world.

12 We must not be like Cain, who belonged to the evil one and killed his brother. And why did he kill him? Because Cain had been doing what was evil, and his brother had been doing what was righteous. 13 So don’t be surprised, dear brothers and sisters, if the world hates you.

14 If we love our brothers and sisters who are believers, it proves that we have passed from death to life. But a person who has no love is still dead. 15 Anyone who hates another brother or sister is really a murderer at heart. And you know that murderers don’t have eternal life within them.

16 We know what real love is because Jesus gave up his life for us. So we also ought to give up our lives for our brothers and sisters. 17 If someone has enough money to live well and sees a brother or sister in need but shows no compassion—how can God’s love be in that person?

18 Dear children, let’s not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions. 19 Our actions will show that we belong to the truth, so we will be confident when we stand before God. 20 Even if we feel guilty, God is greater than our feelings, and he knows everything.

21 Dear friends, if we don’t feel guilty, we can come to God with bold confidence. 22 And we will receive from him whatever we ask because we obey him and do the things that please him.

23 And this is his commandment: We must believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and love one another, just as he commanded us. 24 Those who obey God’s commandments remain in fellowship with him, and he with them. And we know he lives in us because the Spirit he gave us lives in us.”

John gives us a contrasting picture of people who love God and those who don’t. I’m going to give you a summary of what Charles Swindoll said in his commentary, Living Insights: 1 John about Cain. The account of Cain murdering his brother, Abel, is told in Genesis 4. In the Garden of Eden when Adam and Eve sinned, God made them clothes of animal skins. Perhaps, that was the beginning of animal sacrifices for sin. When Cain offered fruits or veggies, God said he wanted a blood sacrifice – which is what Abel gave. Cain was angry and apparently didn’t want to go along with God’s request, and as a result, killed his brother out in the fields. People who are not believers don’t follow God’s instructions, and may even be hostile to Christians.

In contrast, Jesus demonstrated “what real love is because Jesus gave up his life for us” (v. 16). Christ followers are encouraged to follow Jesus’ example – not that we have to give up our lives (although that might be a possibility), but John says we should be willing to give up our money if we see fellow believers struggling. Now in our culture today, that likely hits a sore spot. We’re so focused on doing well and getting all the latest stuff. But John is telling us if we are aware of a need, we should do something. We’re not just words, but action as well. That’s a challenge!

At the end of this chapter, John again stresses our need to love one another. “We must believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and love one another, just as he commanded us.” (v.23) He has actually told us 5 times in these 13 verses that we should love one another. The wording changed a little, but the message didn’t. Although John talks about our need to love other Christians, I don’t think that means we can treat non-Christians poorly. Sometimes I get the feeling that non-Christians see us as legalistic, judgmental people. What we really should be known for is our love for others – period. God didn’t decide to die only for wonderful people. Jesus died for every single one of us. Our thankfulness to him for that should be obvious to the world around us – we are loving, gracious people.

John definitely challenges me today – hopefully you too.

Our song for today stresses how much God loves me/you. Sometimes I think we need to concentrate on what God has done for us rather than on what we need to do. When we realize how much we are loved, our love for others becomes a natural outcome.

How Deep the Father’s Love for Us by Fernando Ortega

November 5 – Heart to heart

Listening to a sermon earlier in the week, I’m reminded that God can handle the full weight of what we’re dealing with. At times, it’s difficult to envision a God so present, and so in-tune when we can’t physically see him. As God knows our every lives’ detail, I’ve learned that he longs to hear the authenticity of our hearts, as raw and real as they may be. But at times our rants and longings get poured in other directions of our lives. A better idea is to bring these frustrations to God, as we know they are all going to come out one way or another! And God can handle our realities.

“Give it to me straight”, is the saying. In a sense, a prompt to be real, authentic, to tell someone how it really is. Maybe as Canadians we tend to sugar coat our responses, or politely communicate our feelings. And in personal experience, I found my prayer life to mirror that. Whether in writing or in prayer time, there would be a tendency to make my requests sound nice. But in my own personal mindset, that’s really not how I felt. There were times that left me frustrated, defeated, and lost for words.

As there are times to sink into God’s joy, and faithfulness, there are times to dig deep and explore our hurts and in turn express them. But if we’re being real with ourselves, that’s not where our hearts lie. If we dug down deep, we’d find some pain and perhaps even anger.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”
Philippians 4:6 NIV

When we let our requests be made known to God like this—in the devotion of prayer, in many specific requests for help, with a heart that is thankful for everything God designs for us, the pleasures and the pain—then his peace will guard our minds and free us from anxiety in a way that defies mere rational explanation; it surpasses all understanding.
Desiring God, John Piper

Bring all to God in prayer.
We find fulfillment and freedom when we’re able to simply talk with God candidly about our struggles. As God longs to hear about the depths of our soul, he longs to bless us with the peace that comes in quieting in prayer with him. I’m learning as I go, but hoping you’ll also be encouraged by the reminder to release your worries and detailed wonderings to God. He knows, cares, and as always, longs to free us in anyway.

Prayer is for turning the tide, for changing the seeming course of history.”
David Mathis

November 4 – Be Thou My Vision

1 John 3: 4 – 10 NLT

“Everyone who sins is breaking God’s law, for all sin is contrary to the law of God. And you know that Jesus came to take away our sins, and there is no sin in him. Anyone who continues to live in him will not sin. But anyone who keeps on sinning does not know him or understand who he is.

Dear children, don’t let anyone deceive you about this: When people do what is right, it shows that they are righteous, even as Christ is righteous. But when people keep on sinning, it shows that they belong to the devil, who has been sinning since the beginning. But the Son of God came to destroy the works of the devil. Those who have been born into God’s family do not make a practice of sinning, because God’s life is in them. So they can’t keep on sinning, because they are children of God. 10 So now we can tell who are children of God and who are children of the devil. Anyone who does not live righteously and does not love other believers does not belong to God.”

These are strong words! I don’t think it means that we must be perfect, sinless. In our human state, we have a tendency to sin. Earlier in 1 John, he talks about admitting our sin and asking for forgiveness. “But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness. (1: 9) That verse was forever etched on my mind when I was 18 years old. I spent a summer working with Child Evangelism Fellowship, an organization that works with children to introduce them to faith in God. The summer program meant we travelled to various places in Ontario and held club meetings in people’s backyards for one week. We told Bible stories and played games to keep the children wanting to return each of the five days. We were trained on how to lead someone to faith in Jesus. We had several verses about what sin is, why Jesus died and rose from the dead – but then we had to talk about living through life with a close relationship with God. That verse was 1 John 1: 9 – the assurance we can mess up and God will forgive. (By the way, one week I stayed with Chuck Congram’s parents – who knew I would meet Chuck later in life at LSA?)

What John is talking about in these verses is someone who claims to be a Christ follower, but deliberately continues to sin. They know what they are doing is wrong, but they don’t care. Think about a love relationship between a husband and wife. That most often means both people care for the other person and want to please them. If we know something really bugs the other person, we stop doing it. Suppose you were in a marriage when one of the partners said, I won’t be home for supper at least 5 nights of the week because I have some friends I’d rather be with. Would you call that a good marriage? The person prefers to be with other people? That is what John is talking about. How can we say we are Christ followers if we ignore what God wants, if we ignore God most of every day?

When we love God, we want to live in a way pleasing to him. We want to follow Jesus’ example. We want to do what is right. We are sorry when we realize we’ve done something wrong. Sometimes it takes the Holy Spirit a while to convince us to give something up. We hear that small voice in our spirit making us uncomfortable with our attitude or behaviour. We can be assured we can turn to him for forgiveness.

To close today, I want you to read what Paul says about the Holy Spirit guiding us to live the way God wants.

Galatians 5: 16 – 25 NLT

“So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves. 17 The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other, so you are not free to carry out your good intentions. 18 But when you are directed by the Spirit, you are not under obligation to the law of Moses.

19 When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, 20 idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, 21 envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God.

22 But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!

24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there. 25 Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives. “

Our song for today is Be Thou My Vision. This hymn was thought to be originally written in the 6th century by an Irish Christian poet, Dallan Forgaill. Eleanor Hull translated it from that old Anglo-Saxon version in 1912, and an Irish folk song became its music.

November 3 – Heaven!

1 John 2: 28 – 3: 3 NLT

“And now, dear children, remain in fellowship with Christ so that when he returns, you will be full of courage and not shrink back from him in shame.

29 Since we know that Christ is righteous, we also know that all who do what is right are God’s children.

See how very much our Father loves us, for he calls us his children, and that is what we are! But the people who belong to this world don’t recognize that we are God’s children because they don’t know him. Dear friends, we are already God’s children, but he has not yet shown us what we will be like when Christ appears. But we do know that we will be like him, for we will see him as he really is. And all who have this eager expectation will keep themselves pure, just as he is pure.”

John talks about Christ’s second coming. This is an event that God’s children can look forward to. Stop for a moment and think about this phrase – “he calls us his children, and that is what we are!” Think about family relationships. I know that over years family relationships can become strained, but let’s think back to those earlier years – preschool and elementary school years. Remember looking at your children after they fell asleep at night, and feeling that overwhelming sense of love and thankfulness for that little one? Remember those times when they fell and scraped their knees or arms, or even broke a bone – remember how protective you were. How you empathized so strongly to the point of feeling their pain too? Remember Christmas mornings or birthdays when they opened their gifts, and you were so happy to see their excited faces? That is the relationship God has with us. He marvels at his creation, he feels our pain, he rejoices with our successes. Someday we’ll be together in heaven and that will be the most exciting time of our lives as we are with our Heavenly Father.

John mentions that we should live today in the expectation of that day. That means “all who have this eager expectation will keep themselves pure, just as he is pure.” Again, remember your younger years. Remember how important and confident your felt when your parents praised you for something you had done? Remember times when you went out of your way to do something that you knew would make your parents happy? That is the relationship we have with God. It’s a love relationship and we know to keep it flourishing we need to treat it with respect. John will continue this idea in tomorrow’s devotions.

Today, let’s look at some verses that talk about Jesus’ second coming – the event we look forward to. As we get older, I suspect we anticipate it more, but even as a young person who still looks forward to life here on planet earth, knowing there is a wonderful future ahead is a foundation to build this life on.

In Matthew 24, Jesus describes the end time before he returns and what it will be like on that wonderful day. Here are two of the verses from that chapter.

Matthew 24:30-31  (NLT)

“And then at last, the sign that the Son of Man is coming will appear in the heavens, and there will be deep mourning among all the peoples of the earth. And they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.And he will send out his angels with the mighty blast of a trumpet, and they will gather his chosen ones from all over the world – from the farthest ends of the earth and heaven.”

Paul describes the Jesus’ second coming in two places:

1 Corinthians 15:51-52  (NLT)

“But let me reveal to you a wonderful secret. We will not all die, but we will all be transformed! It will happen in a moment, in the blink of an eye, when the last trumpet is blown. For when the trumpet sounds, those who have died will be raised to live forever. And we who are living will also be transformed.”

1 Thessalonians 4:13-18  (NLT)

“And now, dear brothers and sisters, we want you to know what will happen to the believers who have died so you will not grieve like people who have no hope. 14 For since we believe that Jesus died and was raised to life again, we also believe that when Jesus returns, God will bring back with him the believers who have died.

15 We tell you this directly from the Lord: We who are still living when the Lord returns will not meet him ahead of those who have died. 16 For the Lord himself will come down from heaven with a commanding shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet call of God. First, the believers who have died will rise from their graves. 17 Then, together with them, we who are still alive and remain on the earth will be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. Then we will be with the Lord forever. 18 So encourage each other with these words.”

If you want more detail about the second coming, read what John wrote in Revelation, chapters 19 to 22. To close I thought I’d include some verses about heaven – that destination we look forward to:

Revelation 21:22 to 22: 5 (NLT)

“I saw no temple in the city, for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. 23 And the city has no need of sun or moon, for the glory of God illuminates the city, and the Lamb is its light. 24 The nations will walk in its light, and the kings of the world will enter the city in all their glory. 25 Its gates will never be closed at the end of day because there is no night there. 26 And all the nations will bring their glory and honor into the city. 27 Nothing evil will be allowed to enter, nor anyone who practices shameful idolatry and dishonesty—but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life.

Then the angel showed me a river with the water of life, clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb. It flowed down the center of the main street. On each side of the river grew a tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, with a fresh crop each month. The leaves were used for medicine to heal the nations.

No longer will there be a curse upon anything. For the throne of God and of the Lamb will be there, and his servants will worship him. And they will see his face, and his name will be written on their foreheads. And there will be no night there—no need for lamps or sun—for the Lord God will shine on them. And they will reign forever and ever.”

Our song for today is I Can Only Imagine by Mercy Me:

November 2 – Truth or Fiction?

Before we start reading today, I want to mention a couple of things that will make the reading easier. In verse 18, John writes, “You have heard that the Antichrist is coming, and already many such antichrists have appeared.” What is he talking about when he says antichrist, and why is one capitalized and the other not? Various scriptures talk about an individual who lives shortly before Christ’s return – someone who wields a lot of power and does not believe in God or Jesus nor the Holy Spirit. That person is called the Antichrist. However, throughout the time between Jesus’ ascension into heaven and his second coming, there will be people who don’t believe in the truth of scripture who will deny that Jesus is God. These people are called antichrists, because of what they say.

1 John 2: 18 – 27 NLT

Warning about Antichrists

“Dear children, the last hour is here. You have heard that the Antichrist is coming, and already many such antichrists have appeared. From this we know that the last hour has come. 19 These people left our churches, but they never really belonged with us; otherwise they would have stayed with us. When they left, it proved that they did not belong with us.

20 But you are not like that, for the Holy One has given you his Spirit, and all of you know the truth. 21 So I am writing to you not because you don’t know the truth but because you know the difference between truth and lies. 22 And who is a liar? Anyone who says that Jesus is not the Christ. Anyone who denies the Father and the Son is an antichrist. 23 Anyone who denies the Son doesn’t have the Father, either. But anyone who acknowledges the Son has the Father also.

24 So you must remain faithful to what you have been taught from the beginning. If you do, you will remain in fellowship with the Son and with the Father. 25 And in this fellowship we enjoy the eternal life he promised us.

26 I am writing these things to warn you about those who want to lead you astray. 27 But you have received the Holy Spirit, and he lives within you, so you don’t need anyone to teach you what is true. For the Spirit teaches you everything you need to know, and what he teaches is true—it is not a lie. So just as he has taught you, remain in fellowship with Christ.”

John is warning us about people who will deny that Jesus is God. There are various religions that may agree that Jesus was a special prophet, but don’t agree that he is God in the flesh. For example, Islam agrees that Jesus was a prophet, but that Mohammed was the most recent prophet from God and therefore should be listened to most. Mormons also believe that Jesus was just a prophet with many good things to say. Many New Agers don’t believe the Bible is truth, but it may have some good advice. Our emphasis on science today often steers us away from anything spiritual. I know many scientists who are Christ followers, my husband included. They see science as more proof of a super intelligent being who created our world and space. But many other scientists need to have repeated physical proof that something is true. As well, much of science fiction paints a universe of eerie beings with power; they would likely say that God is only one of those extra-terrestrial beings.

So, John warns the church not to be influenced by those who deny Christ’s deity. It was the early church, and they did not have the complete Bible text we have today. I’m sure he was worried about people being influenced by false teachers. But John also writes a positive note and one that we can be assured about today.

“But you have received the Holy Spirit, and he lives within you, so you don’t need anyone to teach you what is true. For the Spirit teaches you everything you need to know, and what he teaches is true—it is not a lie. So just as he has taught you, remain in fellowship with Christ.”

As a Christ follower – one who agrees that Jesus was God in human form, who died to take our punishment for sin, and rose again to declare God’s victory over sin and death, and who ascended to heaven and will return again someday – we have the Holy Spirit within us to help us discern truth from falsehood. Jesus, himself, talked about that in John’s Gospel.

“And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you. He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth. The world cannot receive him, because it isn’t looking for him and doesn’t recognize him. But you know him, because he lives with you now and later will be in you.No, I will not abandon you as orphans—I will come to you.” (14: 16 – 18)

“But I will send you the Advocate—the Spirit of truth. He will come to you from the Father and will testify all about me. And you must also testify about me because you have been with me from the beginning of my ministry.” (14: 26 – 27)

Paul also talks about the Holy Spirit helping us in Romans.

“The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you. And just as God raised Christ Jesus from the dead, he will give life to your mortal bodies by this same Spirit living within you. “(8: 11)

“For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children. Now we call him, “Abba, Father.” For his Spirit joins with our spirit to affirm that we are God’s children. (8: 14 – 16)

“And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words. And the Father who knows all hearts knows what the Spirit is saying, for the Spirit pleads for us believers in harmony with God’s own will.” (8: 26 – 27)

In practical ways, how do we keep ourselves from getting influenced by people who are feeding us lies? We need to read our Bibles, something we are doing in these devotions – and that includes me. We can pray. The Holy Spirit guides us in our prayers, and he also reveals truth to us. We can stand strong with God’s help.

Our song for today is Holy Spirit by Francesca Battistelli

October 30 – All of Us – Be Careful

1 John 2: 12 – 14 NLT

“I am writing to you who are God’s children
    because your sins have been forgiven through Jesus.
13 I am writing to you who are mature in the faith
    because you know Christ, who existed from the beginning.
I am writing to you who are young in the faith
    because you have won your battle with the evil one.
14 I have written to you who are God’s children
    because you know the Father.
I have written to you who are mature in the faith
    because you know Christ, who existed from the beginning.
I have written to you who are young in the faith
    because you are strong.
God’s word lives in your hearts,
    and you have won your battle with the evil one.”

The first time I read these verses, I wondered if I had somehow made a mistake and gone back and reread them. But no. The ideas in verses 12 and 13 are repeated in verses 14 and 15. John is about to give some warnings in his letter. He refers to three groups of people in the church. The “fathers” are the older mature Christians; the “children” would be the very new believers. Those who have been Christians for a few years would be “young in the faith”. In these verses he wants to remind them of what they have accomplished so far; he is reinforcing their commitment to Jesus.

Everyone can know their sins have been forgiven by Christ who was God from the very beginning. Knowing who Jesus really is gives us so much more strength because we can believe what he says. In being forgiven by the eternal God, we can know that Satan no longer has any power over us. We are free from the control Satan has over this world. John repeats those ideas again. We know God. There is a personal relationship with him. We know Jesus, God’s son, and who also was with God right from the beginning. We can be strong since the battle with Satan has been won by Jesus.

Why would John repeat these ideas? He wants us to know who God is, that we have a relationship with him, and that we can be strong against Satan’s efforts to get us off track. We are going to be tempted by Satan to get back under his influence, so we need to know we can stand strong. And now John is going to tell us what we have to be careful about.

1 John 2: 15 – 17 NLT

“Do not love this world nor the things it offers you, for when you love the world, you do not have the love of the Father in you. 16 For the world offers only a craving for physical pleasure, a craving for everything we see, and pride in our achievements and possessions. These are not from the Father, but are from this world. 17 And this world is fading away, along with everything that people crave. But anyone who does what pleases God will live forever.”

If some of you have read these verses in older translations, you might have heard these phrases. “For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world.” (v. 16  New American Standard Bible) I like the way the New Living Bible (NLT) translates them. I can relate to those words better. What do we have to watch out for?

Our culture in Canada and North America puts those three things at the top of priorities. We want to feel good; we want more of everything – fun times, more experiences in different places, better living conditions – just everything; we are encouraged to do better and own more, be more important. Many of those things are not necessarily bad. It’s when we put them as priorities that we lose sight of God. For example, I want to feel good. Massages feel so good; even exercise classes give me energy and uplifted spirits. I love my soft, big recliner that makes it so easy to relax and read or watch TV. Clothes made with lovely fabrics feel so good against my skin. I want beautiful landscaping so my eyes have a pleasant view when I look out my window. None of those things are bad/wrong. But if a lot of my time (and money) is spent on making myself feel good, then I need to stop and reconsider.

John warns us about craving everything we see. When we decided to downsize a little over 7 years ago, it was interesting to think about my reactions to some of the houses we looked at. I was definitely drawn to the more expensive places with high-end features. Do I shop at the pricey boutiques? Do I buy the latest gadgets? Again, it’s not wrong/bad to have nice things, but is that a priority in my life?

Then there is the whole area of “pride in our achievements and possessions”. We definitely look up to people who are successful in our culture. We admire the sports stars, the business people who grow large companies, movie stars and singers. In our own jobs, we want to be important. It’s nice to drive a flashy car; live in a suburb with huge houses, join the clubs with prestigious people.

John is telling us to be careful and not get taken up with all those things. They can lead to behaviour that is not loving and caring for others. They can fan jealousy, greed, pride, self-absorption, even hate for people or things that get in our way. God can get put on the back-burner instead of being front in our lives.

Philippians 4:8

“And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honourable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.”

Our song for today is First by Lauren Daigle.

October 29 – Out of our hands

This skin and bones is a rental”
Where I belong, Switchfoot

There have been many conversations I’ve had with a dear friend who would remind me that what we hold so closely is out of our hands. She would sometimes do this by physically opening her hands towards the sky, mid-conversation, symbolizing that some of life’s biggest issues and worries can’t be solved by human might. Perhaps you’ve also walked away from a situation in defeated surrender, hands held high, wondering how the problem will figure itself out. The gesture my friend displays is the physical act of saying to God, “you know better than me.” Acknowledging that He knows beginning and end, past, present, and future. That when all is said and done there are events, people or things that need to be left with God. It is a freeing feeling knowing our loads are being taken, our trials being dealt with. Yet, a challenge as we feel the deep ownership over our schedules, friends, children, spouses, outcomes etc. All must be brought back to God, who has created these things, who has gifted us these things, even our time on earth and bodies.

Exchange your overthinking for overwhelming peace that says, ‘I can be okay without knowing everything.’”
Morgan Harper Nichols

Our prayers are a form of surrender. Open palms symbolize grace and thanks, yet they also show our humanness, and faith in God. When we don’t understand or comprehend life, we find hope in God with us.

All right then, the Lord himself will give you the sign. Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel (which means ‘God is with us’).
Isaiah 7:14 NLT

God is with us, He is our Prince of Peace, and Everlasting Father. As we continue through the unmet expectations of this year, let us sink into the hope of holding our hands high in surrender, in thanks and in expectation of what God will do as we let go.

We cannot micromanage God, but we can trust Him. We can count on His sovereignty, especially when we don’t completely understand. We can abandon our thrones and trust the King of all kings to be a worthy one. And, we can yield to His guidance, knowing He only leads us in the right direction.”
Jenn Jewell

Further Reading:

Trust GOD from the bottom of your heart; don’t try to figure out everything on your own. Listen for GOD’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go; he’s the one who will keep you on track. Don’t assume that you know it all. Run to GOD! Run from evil! Your body will glow with health, your very bones will vibrate with life! Honor GOD with everything you own; give him the first and the best. Your barns will burst, your wine vats will brim over. But don’t, dear friend, resent GOD’s discipline; don’t sulk under his loving correction. It’s the child he loves that GOD corrects; a father’s delight is behind all this.”
Proverbs 3:5-12 MSG

October 28 – Commandments or Love?

1 John 2: 1 – 11 NLT

“My dear children, I am writing this to you so that you will not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate who pleads our case before the Father. He is Jesus Christ, the one who is truly righteous. He himself is the sacrifice that atones for our sins—and not only our sins but the sins of all the world.

And we can be sure that we know him if we obey his commandments. If someone claims, “I know God,” but doesn’t obey God’s commandments, that person is a liar and is not living in the truth. But those who obey God’s word truly show how completely they love him. That is how we know we are living in him. Those who say they live in God should live their lives as Jesus did.

Dear friends, I am not writing a new commandment for you; rather it is an old one you have had from the very beginning. This old commandment—to love one another—is the same message you heard before. Yet it is also new. Jesus lived the truth of this commandment, and you also are living it. For the darkness is disappearing, and the true light is already shining.

If anyone claims, “I am living in the light,” but hates a fellow believer, that person is still living in darkness. 10 Anyone who loves a fellow believer is living in the light and does not cause others to stumble. 11 But anyone who hates a fellow believer is still living and walking in darkness. Such a person does not know the way to go, having been blinded by the darkness.”

John begins this chapter with the phrase, “my dear children”. Scholars say that John was likely between 88 and 93 years of age when he wrote this book., likely near the end of his life. When I think of his age and that he calls his readers, “dear children”, it makes me think of a grandfather. John is not writing this to be a critical, grumpy old man. This is more like a loving grandpa who wants to give some good advice to his children/grandchildren.

When I read verses like these that talk about not sinning, but rather obeying God’s commandments, I tend to shrink back inside. Over the years, I’ve met legalistic people who have lists of what Christians should not do – dancing is wrong, going to movies is wrong, drinking alcohol is wrong, too much make-up is wrong, certain types of dress are wrong, playing cards is wrong, and on and on it goes. Most Christians don’t go along with those legalistic ideas. But many non-Christians look at church people and think that our lifestyle is cramped and unattractive, that we have lots of rules and regulations. So just what is meant when John talks about “not living in the truth” when they don’t follow God’s commandments? Are we supposed to be rule followers?

First of all, John says he is “writing this to you so that you will not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate who pleads our case before the Father. He is Jesus Christ, the one who is truly righteous. He himself is the sacrifice that atones for our sins—and not only our sins but the sins of all the world.” (v. 1 – 2) John mentioned this in chapter 1 as well. “If we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.” (1: 9) Our sin doesn’t have to separate us from God. Jesus paid the price for my sin and your sin. He is willing to forgive.

If we are honest with ourselves, we know we do sin. We put our own interests first in many situations. We know we don’t always tell the truth; we try to cover it up by saying it is a ‘little white lie’. We get angry and say things we later regret. We spend so much time focused on getting ahead, promoted, acquiring stuff, etc. but for all that and so much more, Jesus died and took the punishment for our sin. There is forgiveness, total forgiveness.

“And we can be sure that we know him if we obey his commandments.” (v.3) So we have to obey laws after all? Just stop for a moment and think about someone who has treated you extremely well. It may be a parent who has put up with tons of your goofy and obnoxious behaviour. It may be a boss who has mentored you and helped you do well in your job. It may be a husband or wife who has loved and supported you in so many ways. Do you treat those people badly? Do you ignore what you know would please them? No. When we are in a loving relationship, we do our best to maintain that relationship in healthy ways. And that is what John is saying. “Those who obey God’s word truly show how completely they love him.”

Again, does that mean obeying rules and laws? John tells us one important thing and it’s not a rule. “Love one another.” Love is shown is so many ways. It’s not a rule or law. Jesus gave us an example to follow. As we read the gospels, we see Jesus act in so many loving ways. He was quite willing to spend time with the people that the rulers and synagogue leaders thought were way beneath them. He was willing to stop the stoning of a woman caught in adultery. He was willing to keep on teaching and travelling with his disciples who often didn’t really get what Jesus was all about. They even betrayed him and ran away when he was about to be crucified.

I wonder if John was thinking about some of his times with Jesus. Was he thinking about the Last Supper when Jesus washed their feet? “After washing their feet, he put on his robe again and sat down and asked, “Do you understand what I was doing? You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and you are right, because that’s what I am. And since I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash each other’s feet. I have given you an example to follow. Do as I have done to you. I tell you the truth, slaves are not greater than their master. Nor is the messenger more important than the one who sends the message. Now that you know these things, God will bless you for doing them.” (John 13: 12 – 17) Jesus showed them what a loving person will do.

Or was John thinking about what Jesus said that night after the last supper when Jesus was sharing his last words before the crucifixion with them. “Jesus replied, “All who love me will do what I say. My Father will love them, and we will come and make our home with each of them. Anyone who doesn’t love me will not obey me. And remember, my words are not my own. What I am telling you is from the Father who sent me. I am telling you these things now while I am still with you. But when the Father sends the Advocate as my representative—that is, the Holy Spirit—he will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I have told you.

“I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.” (John 14: 23 – 27)

Love is a characteristic of a Christ follower. If people take a look at our behaviour and see a criticizing demanding person, they won’t see Jesus. If they see a gossiping person who likes to stir up trouble, they won’t see Jesus. If they see a person who ignores those who need help, but only looks out for themselves, they won’t see Jesus. It’s not about following rules, it’s about love.

“If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing. If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing.

Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.

Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love.”

1 Corinthians 13: 1 – 7; 13

Our song for today is Love God Love People by Danny Gokey

October 27 – God is Light

1 John 1: 5 – 10 NLT

“This is the message we heard from Jesus and now declare to you: God is light, and there is no darkness in him at all. So we are lying if we say we have fellowship with God but go on living in spiritual darkness; we are not practicing the truth. But if we are living in the light, as God is in the light, then we have fellowship with each other, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, cleanses us from all sin.

If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth. But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness. 10 If we claim we have not sinned, we are calling God a liar and showing that his word has no place in our hearts.”

“God is light, and there is no darkness in him at all.” What does that mean? Charles R. Swindoll gives an excellent definition in his Living Insights commentary:

“Light is a single term that captures the essence of God’s nature. It represents the holiness and purity of God. In John’s metaphor, God isn’t simply a source of light, a being brilliantly illumined by light, or a reflector of light. God is Light. As such, there’s no possibility of even a trace of darkness with Him. God is ALL LIGHT, ZERO DARKNESS.

What does this mean? It means that God is all good, with nothing bad. He is all pure, with nothing impure. He is all clean, with nothing dirty. He is all right, with nothing wrong. He is all truth, with nothing false.” (pages 30 – 31)

In our churches we hear that God is perfect, and we believe that as Christ followers. But do we really understand that perfection? I think our sin nature tends to obstruct our view of God. We make excuses for the way we behave. In these verses in 1 John 1, we are made aware that there is a distinct separation between light and darkness.

The Bible tells us that we are born in spiritual darkness; we have a sin nature. God’s perfection is something we will never attain ourselves in this life. Today, that’s an idea that really doesn’t go over all that well. We tend to say that most people are basically good; they might influenced by other ‘evil people’ such as Hitler. Or they can make slips, but it’s minor. Or they have been influenced by a dysfunctional childhood. We tend to blame others, not ourselves when things go wrong. But the Bible tells us that we have this basic sin nature.

“As the Scriptures say, “No one is righteous— not even one. No one is truly wise; no one is seeking God. All have turned away; all have become useless. No one does good, not a single one.” (Romans 3:10-12  NLT)

“Once you were dead because of your disobedience and your many sins. You used to live in sin, just like the rest of the world, obeying the devil—the commander of the powers in the unseen world. He is the spirit at work in the hearts of those who refuse to obey God. All of us used to live that way, following the passionate desires and inclinations of our sinful nature. By our very nature we were subject to God’s anger, just like everyone else.” (Ephesians 2:1-3  NLT)

John says we try to avoid admitting we are sinful, that we are not perfect, in three ways:

“We say we have fellowship with God but go on living in spiritual darkness; we are not practising the truth.” That is like ‘sticking our heads in the sand’. We would tell people that we love God and are Christ followers, but our actual behaviour doesn’t live up to what we say. Outside the church on Sunday, God doesn’t really factor into the way we live.

“If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth.” If we take a look at ourselves and think we are living very well, we don’t sin at all or very little, we are not facing up to the truth. Frankly, I suspect a lot of us do that. We aren’t cheating on our taxes, we aren’t lying to our bosses or family, we put in a good day’s work, etc.. We’re good people! But John tells us we are kidding ourselves. We haven’t really grasped that God is light – God is perfect.

“If we claim we have not sinned, we are calling God a liar and showing that his word has no place in our hearts.” If we actually say that people don’t sin, then we don’t believe what the Bible says at all. The Bible is completely irrelevant to us.

This doctrine of God’s perfection and our sinfulness is not popular in today’s culture. We like to see things in shades of gray, not in black and white. Yet if we acknowledge that what the Bible says is true, there is wonderful news of hope. “If we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness”. (v. 9) I don’t think that means we can sin repeatedly and purposely; we can’t be flippant about God’s love and forgiveness. But if we are “living in the light” (v. 7), then forgiveness is ours for the asking when we mess up.

Psalm 32: 1 (NLT)

“Oh, what joy for those whose disobedience is forgiven, whose sin is put out of sight.”

Paul repeats this in Romans 4: 7 (NLT)

“Oh, what joy for those whose disobedience is forgiven, whose sins are put out of sight.”

God is light, but he has made a way for us to have a relationship with him. “If we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness”.

Our song for today is Greatness of Our God by Newsboys.

October 26 – The Word of Life

Today, we begin going through 1 John. There are 3 different scriptures that you will read today that tell us who Jesus is. Read those verses slowly. Absorb what they say; they make such a huge difference in our lives.

1 John 1: 1 – 4 NLT

We proclaim to you the one who existed from the beginning, whom we have heard and seen. We saw him with our own eyes and touched him with our own hands. He is the Word of life. This one who is life itself was revealed to us, and we have seen him. And now we testify and proclaim to you that he is the one who is eternal life. He was with the Father, and then he was revealed to us. We proclaim to you what we ourselves have actually seen and heard so that you may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. We are writing these things so that you may fully share our joy. (Or so that our joy may be complete NASB)

Before I begin these devotions in 1 John, I have to give credit for many of my ideas to Charles R. Swindoll in his New Testament commentary, Living Insights, as well as from reading the Intervarsity Press online commentary before I begin writing. So, what I write is a combination of what I think about after reading the verses, and then what I read in those commentaries.

John begins by saying Jesus was “the one who existed from the beginning” and was “the Word of life”. This truth that Jesus is God, that he created life on this planet, that he is the source of all life both here and in eternity is so crucial to our faith. Sometimes I think after reading about Jesus’ life on earth in the gospels, we focus on his humanity and forget who he really is. Remember these verses from Colossians?

“Christ is the visible image of the invisible God.
    He existed before anything was created and is supreme over all creation,
16 for through him God created everything
    in the heavenly realms and on earth.
He made the things we can see
    and the things we can’t see—
such as thrones, kingdoms, rulers, and authorities in the unseen world.
    Everything was created through him and for him.
17 He existed before anything else,
    and he holds all creation together.
18 Christ is also the head of the church,
    which is his body.
He is the beginning,
    supreme over all who rise from the dead.
    So he is first in everything.
19 For God in all his fullness
    was pleased to live in Christ,
20 and through him God reconciled
    everything to himself.
He made peace with everything in heaven and on earth
    by means of Christ’s blood on the cross.” (Colossians 1: 15 – 20)

John stresses this idea as he begins 1 John. He stressed it as well when he began the Gospel of John.

“In the beginning the Word already existed.
    The Word was with God,
    and the Word was God.
He existed in the beginning with God.
God created everything through him,
    and nothing was created except through him.
The Word gave life to everything that was created,
    and his life brought light to everyone.
The light shines in the darkness,
    and the darkness can never extinguish it.” (John 1: 1 – 4)

In his epistle, John goes on to tell us that he, along with the disciples, “saw him with our own eyes and touched him with our own hands”. And he repeats that idea two more times: “This one who is life itself was revealed to us, and we have seen him”, and “We proclaim to you what we ourselves have actually seen and heard.” John wants us to know that he is telling the truth. He is not making up some crazy mythical story. Jesus is real. I find it exciting that John indicates that we can share in knowing this God. “We proclaim to you what we ourselves have actually seen and heard so that you may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ.” John doesn’t have an exclusive relationship with Jesus because he actually saw him. We have that relationship with Jesus too.

Do you ever stop and think about your relationship with God? Jesus is God. Jesus is the Word of life. He only has to speak and life begins. And yet we can have a personal relationship with this God. No wonder John states, “These things we write, so that our joy may be made complete”. The word, joy, used here isn’t about being happy about getting an income tax refund, or seeing a great movie, or having a good time with friends. It’s about a deep sense of knowing life is worthwhile, that God is in control and that we are his children.

In our chaotic world today, these facts stated in 1 John 1 are calming words. We need to stop and reflect on who God is. We don’t have to panic about what is happening in our world. We belong to a God who has infinite power and who loves us more than we can comprehend. Amid all the craziness of Covid 19, we can know we are secure in God’s hands.

Psalm 4:8 NLT

“In peace I will both lie down and sleep, For You alone, O Lord, make me to dwell in safety.”

Our song for today is How Great is Our God by Chris Tomlin

October 23 – Be Still

Psalm 46 (NLT)

God is our refuge and strength,
    always ready to help in times of trouble.
2 So we will not fear when earthquakes come
    and the mountains crumble into the sea.
3 Let the oceans roar and foam.
    Let the mountains tremble as the waters surge! 
4 A river brings joy to the city of our God,
    the sacred home of the Most High.
5 God dwells in that city; it cannot be destroyed.
    From the very break of day, God will protect it.
6 The nations are in chaos,
    and their kingdoms crumble!God’s voice thunders,
    and the earth melts!
7 The Lord of Heaven’s Armies is here among us;
    the God of Israel is our fortress. 
Come, see the glorious works of the Lord:
    See how he brings destruction upon the world.
9 He causes wars to end throughout the earth.
    He breaks the bow and snaps the spear;
    he burns the shields with fire.
10 “Be still, and know that I am God!
    I will be honoured by every nation.
    I will be honoured throughout the world.”
11 The Lord of Heaven’s Armies is here among us;
    the God of Israel is our fortress. 

Sometimes things just seem overwhelming. The Covid – 19 crisis has certainly got us all on edge. Sometimes we face things that are really serious such as the unexpected death of a family member or friend, or we receive news from some medical tests that are scaring us horribly. Most of the time, the overwhelming things are not so serious, but they never seem to stop coming – one crisis after another.

During upsetting times, Psalm 46 is a good one to read. We need to know that our God is in control and that we can get help from Him. I love the first verse in this psalm: “God is our refuge and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble.” That is a fact, and that is true. But, how do we experience that strength? Personally, I think verse 10 contains the answer. “Be still, and know that I am God!” There are times when we need to literally stop right where we are standing, and say out loud, “God, I know You are there, and You are willing to help me, so I’m taking a deep breath and waiting on You”.

I have that verse on a wall hanging in my bedroom. It used to hang in the entranceway of the home where I raised my kids. Both those locations are ones where I needed to have that verse located. I needed to know as I came in my front door with arms loaded with stuff and kids whirling about my feet that I was coming home to a place where God lived as well. Now as I wake and start each day, I need to be aware that God is with me in whatever comes my way that day. I need to know that God is there and that He is all the wonderful things recounted in this psalm.

The words “be still” are translated a variety of ways depending on the version you read. The King James Version says, “be still” and that seems to be the most popular one. The NASB says “cease striving”. It can also be translated ‘let go’ or ‘relax’. One thing that stands out to me in all of those translations is the idea that I need to stop and get in touch with reality. There is action on my part – my willingness to let go. I don’t know about you, but I suspect that you may identify with me. I do strive. I do try my best to do all the things on my schedule. I do overbook my time. I do care that I’m doing a good job. See all that striving? See all that busyness? See all that tension? I need to stop that and consult God much more. When things happen that mess up my plans (my strivings), I need to stop and know who is really in control.

So that takes me back to verse 1. “God is our refuge and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble”. And to verse 10. “Be still, and know that I am God!”

And that’s something to think about today.

Our song for today is Still by Hillsong United. It’s a longer video with lots of scripture included.

October 22 – Goodness & Mercy

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”

Sinking into these words can change our outlook, perspective and hope. There are times God’s goodness doesn’t feel present, and all our minds can see is hopelessness. Yet Psalms reiterates that, it is there. Perhaps our eyes haven’t opened? Or they are looking at the wrong things. Goodness is there, it’s always been there, love is there, mercy is there. A smile, a laugh, a kind word, a sunny day, the changing colours of the sky. Goodness is here now; it has never left.‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬

Even if we don’t want it, or think we need it, God’s love follows. When we think we’re empty of any help, or alone in our struggle, we are followed by a trail of beauty and love.

“Your beauty and love chase after me
every day of my life.
I’m back home in the house of God
for the rest of my life.”
Psalm‬

Faith challenges us to see and believe these promises, let’s keep looking.
”Faith is an expectation. Faith enables me to wake up in the morning knowing that, “Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life.” And since this is one of the days of my life, Goodness and Mercy are my bodyguards. One on my right, and one on my left. You can’t see them, they’re invisible, but if you look real close I’ve got security. Goodness and mercy.”
Steven Furtick

Further Reading:

Don’t let this throw you. You trust God, don’t you? Trust me. There is plenty of room for you in my Father’s home. If that weren’t so, would I have told you that I’m on my way to get a room ready for you? And if I’m on my way to get your room ready, I’ll come back and get you so you can live where I live. And you already know the road I’m taking.
John 14:1-4 MSG

I saw God before me for all time.
Nothing can shake me; he’s right by my side.
I’m glad from the inside out, ecstatic;
I’ve pitched my tent in the land of hope.
I know you’ll never dump me in Hades;
I’ll never even smell the stench of death.
You’ve got my feet on the life-path,
with your face shining sun-joy all around.”
Acts 2:29 MSG

October 21

Psalm 27

The Lord is my light and my salvation—
    so why should I be afraid?
The Lord is my fortress, protecting me from danger,
    so why should I tremble?
When evil people come to devour me,
    when my enemies and foes attack me,
    they will stumble and fall.
Though a mighty army surrounds me,
    my heart will not be afraid.
Even if I am attacked,
    I will remain confident.

The one thing I ask of the Lord—
    the thing I seek most—
is to live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life,
    delighting in the Lord’s perfections
    and meditating in his Temple.
For he will conceal me there when troubles come;
    he will hide me in his sanctuary.
    He will place me out of reach on a high rock.
Then I will hold my head high
    above my enemies who surround me.
At his sanctuary I will offer sacrifices with shouts of joy,
    singing and praising the Lord with music.

Hear me as I pray, O Lord.
    Be merciful and answer me!
My heart has heard you say, “Come and talk with me.”
    And my heart responds, “Lord, I am coming.”
Do not turn your back on me.
    Do not reject your servant in anger.
    You have always been my helper.
Don’t leave me now; don’t abandon me,
    O God of my salvation!
10 Even if my father and mother abandon me,
    the Lord will hold me close.

11 Teach me how to live, O Lord.
    Lead me along the right path,
    for my enemies are waiting for me.
12 Do not let me fall into their hands.
    For they accuse me of things I’ve never done;
    with every breath they threaten me with violence.
13 Yet I am confident I will see the Lord’s goodness
    while I am here in the land of the living.

14 Wait patiently for the Lord.
    Be brave and courageous.
    Yes, wait patiently for the Lord.

In this Covid time, do you feel depressed? The topic of depression has come up several times in the past couple of weeks on the news. Today, a doctor on CBC said that 25% of adults are experiencing depression as a result of the pandemic. I know there are days when I wake up and just feel kind of lost. What do I need to do today? Where can I go? Who can I see? The answer to those questions is – zero. Many of my friends are not “in my bubble” right now. I’m not supposed to go places if it’s not necessary. Many of my family live far from Windsor. What do I need to do around my house? Not much. No one is coming over. For some of you, you have another question. Where am I going to find work, now that I’ve lost my job? 2020 has a lot of bleak moments.

David had a hard life too. As king, he certainly had the money and prestige. But, he had to lead in many battles; he had family problems; at times he got totally off track doing things he knew were wrong; as all leaders do, he faced political opposition. I want you to go back and reread this psalm. Look specifically for the problems that David mentions. I want you to understand that David faced difficult times and was scared.

Despite being scared, what does David say?

One thing we do know for sure is that God is our refuge, our strength to face this challenging world. Now, let’s look at some of the phrases from this psalm that tell us that:

“The Lord is my light and my salvation—
    so why should I be afraid?
The Lord is my fortress, protecting me from danger,
    so why should I tremble?” (v. 1)

God does have a purpose for our lives. Jeremiah 29: 11 says, “For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord. They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” Romans 8: 28 says, “And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.” We can trust him. We don’t have to be afraid. Bad things can happen, things we wish we didn’t have to face, but God is “my light and my salvation”. He knows what is happening and we can trust him.

“The one thing I ask of the Lord—
    the thing I seek most—
is to live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life,
    delighting in the Lord’s perfections
    and meditating in his Temple” (v. 4)

David delighted to be in the Temple. That was the place where he felt God’s presence. But Jesus changed all that for us. Today, we are constantly in God’s presence as the Holy Spirit lives within us. Romans 8: 11 says, “The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you.” Paul goes on to say in the same chapter, “For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children. Now we call him, “Abba, Father.”For his Spirit joins with our spirit to affirm that we are God’s children.” (v. 14 – 16) Knowing that God is with us at all times is so comforting. 

“Hear me as I pray, O Lord.
    Be merciful and answer me!
My heart has heard you say, “Come and talk with me.”
    And my heart responds, “Lord, I am coming.” (v. 7 – 8)

Here is another place where we can find strength to face the day – prayer. Find that time where you can talk with God, where you can tell him about your struggles and fears, where you can ask for his advice, where you can just be quiet and sense his presence. 1 Thessalonians 5: 17 says, “Never stop praying”. We need to find those “alone moments” with God, but we can also talk to God throughout our day. Prayer is something I have struggled with all my life – and still do. I usually try to figure everything out on my own before I realize I need to pray. I’m learning and getting better, but still have a long way to go. But that ability to be in God’s presence and talk with him does make life so much more peaceful and strong.

“Teach me how to live, O Lord.
    Lead me along the right path,

Yet I am confident I will see the Lord’s goodness
    while I am here in the land of the living.

Wait patiently for the Lord.
    Be brave and courageous.
    Yes, wait patiently for the Lord.” (v. 12 – 14)

Be patient. If you are struggling with depression, keep what David has told you in your conscious thoughts. Paste verses around your home to remind you of God’s love and strength. Know that God has a plan and purpose for your life. Set aside time to read the Bible and pray. Pray all the time. Praise God for all the times he has helped you in the past.

“Wait patiently for the Lord.
    Be brave and courageous.
    Yes, wait patiently for the Lord”

Our song for today is Praise You in This Storm by Casting Crowns.