A tired mom looks to Him to power through

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John calls us back to his prevailing theme: we must love one another. Okay, cool, John. I got it. But then, in a surprising move, he points us back to Genesis into a heated sibling rivalry: “do not be like Cain, who belonged to the evil one and murdered his brother” (1 John 3:12). Um, is that a bit of a stretch? If we don’t love one another, then we may be lumped in the same category as the whackadoo that knocked off his brother? This took me a bit to mull over. I needed to revisit Genesis.

Abel had the animals, Cain had the garden. Both chose to provide an offering to God. Good job, both of them! Yet, it was the heart behind the offering that gets God’s attention. God does not look at Cain’s offering favorably. Cain kind of got it wrong. Even though I just referred to Cain as a whackadoo, can I also share that I have been like him, too? I want to do what is right, but I don’t. It looks like I am doing right, but God sees my heart. I give God my something, but it is not my best. Worse, I grow content with it, instead of searching and seeking why. I don’t consider how it affects the fellowship, His Body. (And sometimes, it is just my perspective that needs adjusting. Sometimes what I think is my best and what God says is my best are two different things. In those cases I have to take a deep breath, pray, and go ask someone wiser what they think is up.) Mostly, it is not the physical, tangible offering but the heart behind providing it. Thankfully, God can work with a thing, and God can work with a heart. And He spurs us on. At the heart of studying Cain and Abel (which is fascinating, because I would not have thought to do it until I was reading 1 John), I see good versus evil at the heart level.

Cain messed up. And gets ticked off. Nobody likes to make mistakes. Nobody likes to see how they’ve got it wrong and the person next to them got it right – nobody intent on seeking God’s character. And here is Cain’s very important cross roads – does he seek God’s character? Cain is angry. And God works with him- even in acknowledging that anger. I picture God as a loving father here – “Why are you so angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it” (Genesis 4:6-7).

Sin seeks to hunker down with us – sometimes in ways more obvious than others – though, often, it is just out of our main line of vision, hiding, thinking we don’t notice.

Sin crouches with us. God rules over it for us. It is our choice each day, every day, as to which option we choose.

Cain chooses to side with sin. I always feel so badly for Abel and heart ache for Eve. How tough to see two sons make two completely different choices. How heart wrenching to see innocent blood shed because another chooses sin. It is saddening and sobering to man, and to God as well. How important love amongst a fellowship is to God! A fellowship without love is like murder to God. Really? I wrestled with this concept for weeks. Is it really that important to Him? His Body is designed to represent Him. John says when that representation is not there, it is the choice to go with sin, to satisfy its desire to have us, and to reject the divine opportunity to rule over it. 1 John 3:15: “Anyone who hates a brother or sister is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life residing in him.”

Conversely, new life begets new love. And in God, we are promised new life! V. 14 says “We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love each other. Anyone who does not love remains in death.” All fellowships are groups of imperfect people. It’s what we do with that imperfection every day that makes a difference, that changes fellowships. We can get mad and ticked off and make decisions out of anger like Cain. Or we can recognize sin for what it is, take ownership of our decisions, teach our kids to do the same, and choose life. This process intertwines God’s love and character throughout every decision so our every contribution, no matter how small it seems to us, goes to the greater good of representing Him in our fellowships.

John is pretty much blowing my mind here. I don’t think I can ever think of the concepts of love and fellowship the same.

{Meditations on 1 John 3:11-15}

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Biblical: of, relating, contained in the Bible.
Indigestion: bad or difficult digestion

In 16 years of reading the Bible, I’m turning a new leaf. Or, what may be more accurate, is I’m returning to a leaf, to a book that I had earnestly started studying…and then stopped.
The pause was not entirely intentional. There were other writing projects, other studies, a couple of household head colds, a family trip. And a case of indigestion that even Pepto couldn’t touch.

I had biblical indigestion. I was rocking along studying out and sharing the book of 1 John and bit off something that was hard to chew. Hard going down. Suddenly, even though I had more to go in 1 John, I felt full. In the past this has happened and I have either not really noticed, not reacted, or not cared. All too often I have read something in the Bible and not fully understood it and been content to carry on, not really phased. I surely don’t begin to believe I fully understand it all now, but something about this book harkened back to me. John has so much to say! So much wisdom to impart to the seeking, to the struggling, to those reeling from divisiveness in and amongst their fellowship. And even for the average, common ‘ole Christian, not struggling with those things at all, such good nuggets jam packed with knowledge of God and why and how God is love. I can’t let this book go. I can’t carry on with biblical indigestion. In His ever present sense of humor, God has directed me back to this project by putting two scriptures from two other books on my path:

I recently finished a group study of 1st and 2nd Peter. In addition to the call to have an eternal perspective, the study encouraged me from beginning to end, and Peter’s conclusion in 2 Peter sticks with me: “But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18). Growing in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior – that sounds like a good antidote to biblical indigestion, an invitation to grow in His forgiveness and favor, and to dig to learn more about this person/deity/creator who promises to be both Lord and Savior.

Romans 10:17: “Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ.”

I certainly don’t think it coincidence that these scriptures helped me by spurring me on to return to my study of 1 John. Sometimes when we are stuck spiritually, the enemy wants us to believe that putting God’s word down all together is best, when really, we need to look elsewhere between Genesis and Revelation to take heart. We may not know where to go, but His word, living and active, shows up, and crosses our path and encourages our heart.

And so, I return :). I return to my study of 1 John, verse by verse, with a summary every few days. To someone who likes to multi-task, think fast, and keep life going at a pretty steady pace, this verse by verse study has been both rewarding and challenging. And very, very rich.

I may get indigestion again. But this time, I have a new approach to continuing and healing.