Tuesday, October 27, 2009

God is Light - I John 1

This paragraph contains a well-known and often quoted verse – “If we confess our sins he is faithful and just to forgive our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” We know it – we just forget to actually do it!

The older I get, the more important this seems to me. Nothing is more essential to life with God, with one another and for our growth and well-being as a person.

God is light (life, purity, revealing) There is no partnership between light and darkness – if light is there, the darkness is driven out. How then can people who are sinful – who have dark places in their hearts and lives – that is, people like us, be in partnership with the God who is light?

People who are in partnership with God do not walk in darkness, habitually avoiding seeing what is in them that is at odds with God, with life. They walk in the light – as a pattern of life, they allow the light of God’s presence and his word to reveal what is there. They acknowledge what is there – recognizing and admitting what is sin and death to them. And – this is important - they acknowledge that Jesus has taken all of that on himself on the cross.

I am learning to ask, in every situation: Lord show me more about this – what is it that I am feeling? What is behind that response? What do I love more than I love you? Where am I looking for life?

Our response to a glimpse of our own part of the brokenness of the world (sin) can be:
“I am not listening … where’s that remote?
“It isn’t really wrong … its not my fault … if he/she/it/they would just…
"I am such an idiot … why don’t I ever change?"
"I will be better than that from now on..."

NO! – here is what John reminds us to do – confess it, acknowledge it! “Lord here I am, this is what I really feel/think/do/am.” Then carry it to the cross – “He himself has borne our sins on the cross, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness." Give thanks for his grace and mercy. It is enough.

This is the pattern we follow all our lives. You won’t ever get past it, or won’t need to do it anymore. The result of walking this way over time is, I think, greater humility, a greater appreciation for the mercies of God, and a greater compassion for the others around you.

There is a warning here as well – John makes it clear that those who walk in darkness – in a way of life that is out of character with God – are proving that they have no partnership, no fellowship, with him.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

No Secret - I John 1

“Just suppose I could show you a way to accomplish anything and everything you choose to accomplish in your life... You would be interested in hearing about that, wouldn't you?” James Arthur Ray, promoting his “Harmonic Wealth Weekends”

There have always been plenty of people claiming to have some secret knowledge - something which, for the initiated, brings them into the real "secret" of life, into wealth, success and happiness. This recent one required being in a sweat lodge with 60 other people ... and $10,000.

John has something entirely different - public knowledge. He is telling us what he (and others) saw, touched and heard. His message is not based on someone's ideas. It comes from something that happened. This message, the gospel is not good advice. It is good news.

This public fact - the life, death and resurrection of Jesus - is what convinced me to be a Christian. And it is what I go back to when I have doubts, when I begin to wonder if this is all something we have made up, group think, no different than the poor deluded people in the sweat lodge. Something happened - and I can find no other explanation, no other conclusion for it than the one John and his friends came to.

John writes "so that you may have fellowship with us... and our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ." I have been pondering that this morning ... what does it mean to have fellowship - partnership, union, participation, intimate connection - with the Father and the Son? (One place I am looking at is John 17.)What do you think?

“No particular religion matters, neither ours nor yours. But I want to tell you that something has happened that matters, something that judges you and me, your religion and my religion. A New Creation has occurred, a New Being has appeared; and we are all asked to participate in it … Don’t compare your religion and our religion, your rites and our rites, your prophets and our prophets … All this is of no avail. We only want to show you something we have seen and to tell you something we have heard… that here and there in the world, and now and then in ourselves is a New Creation, usually hidden, but sometimes manifest, and certainly manifest in Jesus who is called the Christ.”
Paul Tillich, The New Being
Quoted in Frederick Buechner, Now and Then: A Memoir of Vocation

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Book Club Blog -

Pastor John (the letter doesn't say who wrote it - but it has traditionally been accepted that it was the Apostle John. Notice the same themes and language in this letter as you find in John's gospel) is writing to a community of believers. There are problems in the community (if you are, or ever have been part of any community whatsoever, perhaps this does not surprise you...)

Here are some of the things I noticed that John seems to be concerned about.
1. Some wrong teaching about Jesus - people were promoting a "spiritualized Jesus" denying that he really came "in the flesh", that he was really human. There were "anti-christs", or as my friend Matt calls them "imaginary Jesuses." (1:1-2, 4:1-2, 5:1-2)
2. This was sowing confusion and doubt in the community ... are we "spiritual" enough? (3:19, 4:3ff)
3. There was conflict in the community: arguments, one-upmanship, not taking care of one another. (3:16, 4:20)
4. People were concerned with being "spiritual" , but not with being righteous - that is, in right relationship with one another and with God. (2:4, 3:7)

What did you notice? What were the "big ideas" in this letter? What is the tone?

Here is a quote from Eugene Peterson to think on: "If Jesus is divested of all human features and characteristics, loving Jesus is stripped of all the details that have to do with the life we are actually living with our family and neighbors. And here's the thing: a dehumanized Jesus is a lot easier and more pleasant to love than a difficult spouse, or an angry teenager, or a rude neighbor, or an insufferably boring brother-in-law - all of them so very very human."

For this week, read chapter 1. There are just 2 paragraphs - what is John emphasizing here? Why is this important?

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Book Club: 1 John

We are starting up the Book Club again, reading and considering I John together. I need the company of reading with others! Read along with us, and post your comments.
This week we are reading the whole letter - after that we will read one chapter each week. I hope that you will be reading it throughout the week, letting it percolate through your mind and life.
If you've been reading, you will have noticed that I John isn't very linear in its presentation. The writer meanders through several themes, revisiting them, weaving them together. As you read, you can tell what is on his mind. What kinds of things does he address? What does it tell you about what is going on with the community he is writing to?
Hmm...if John were to write us a letter, I wonder what he would say?

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Clear Thinking

I am not always a very clear thinker ... and that is one reason I need people like Professor John Stackhouse. He is clear, concise, cogent and comprehensive. He is writing on his blog a series about Why Christianity is Believable. You should read it! (See the link to the left.)

Saturday, October 3, 2009

My Dead Friend Evelyn

My dead friend Evelyn (Evelyn Underhill, 1875-1941) continues to be my mentor. Here is something from The Fruits of the Spirit, that I needed to hear this morning:

"If, in spite of all conflicts, weakness, suffering, sins, we open our door, the Spirit is poured out within us, and the first mark of its presence is not an increase of energy, but joy and peace. We should not have guessed that. Yet real love always heals fear and neutralizes egotism, and so, as love grows up in us, we shall worry about ourselves less and less, and admire and delight in God and His other children more and more, and this is the secret of joy."