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Peter & John — 2 John

2 John [NLT]
1 This letter is from John, the elder.
I am writing to the chosen lady and to her children, whom I love in the truth—as does everyone else who knows the truth— 2 because the truth lives in us and will be with us forever.
3 Grace, mercy, and peace, which come from God the Father and from Jesus Christ—the Son of the Father—will continue to be with us who live in truth and love.
4 How happy I was to meet some of your children and find them living according to the truth, just as the Father commanded.
5 I am writing to remind you, dear friends, that we should love one another. This is not a new commandment, but one we have had from the beginning. 6 Love means doing what God has commanded us, and he has commanded us to love one another, just as you heard from the beginning.
7 I say this because many deceivers have gone out into the world. They deny that Jesus Christ came in a real body. Such a person is a deceiver and an antichrist. 8 Watch out that you do not lose what we have worked so hard to achieve. Be diligent so that you receive your full reward. 9 Anyone who wanders away from this teaching has no relationship with God. But anyone who remains in the teaching of Christ has a relationship with both the Father and the Son.
10 If anyone comes to your meeting and does not teach the truth about Christ, don’t invite that person into your home or give any kind of encouragement. 11 Anyone who encourages such people becomes a partner in their evil work.
12 I have much more to say to you, but I don’t want to do it with paper and ink. For I hope to visit you soon and talk with you face to face. Then our joy will be complete.
13 Greetings from the children of your sister, chosen by God.

Dear God, as I look at all of these passages the either reference Peter and/or John or were written by them, I am trying to figure out what I can learn about them and myself through who they were and how they fit into your kingdom and plan. In this case, 2 John is pretty short and has two main messages: Love others and reject deceivers. What a very succinct message. It must have been very much on his heart and important to him because he took the time to sit down and write it and send it on ahead of his visit.

One of the hard things to know is if I have been deceived or am deceiving others. Is my theology errant in any way that is material to your kingdom and your plan? Do I espouse beliefs that cause harm to your children? Are my thoughts on homosexuality, denominations, politics, or salvation in any way against your will? Do I ever cause harm to others when I share them?

Father, teach me. Help me to learn about you. I believe in you. I believe in the risen Christ. I do my best to love others, offer grace, and represent you to those around me. Raise up people/books/articles/etc. in my life that you will use to teach me your truth. Give me ears to hear. Give me eyes to see. Give me the words you want me to speak.

In Jesus’ name I pray,

Amen

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Posted by on February 22, 2019 in 2 John, Peter and John

 

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Never Alone

“A Hand in the Flood” by Fred Smith

Dear God, I read this blog post this morning, and it made me think of the friends for whom I prayed yesterday. Then I thought about the hands that you have put there for me when I was in a desperate flood. Finally, I thought about the people who have contacted me in their own floods. None of us go through this life alone, and no self-made person did it without the generosity of someone else. No one.

Six years ago, I was completely in over my head as a father and husband. I was doing everything I could to make sense of it all. While not the saddest period of my life (that award would have to go to when my wife and I experienced a miscarriage early in our marriage), it was the time when I was the most desperate. I was flailing and looking for any branch or hand onto which I could grab. It broke me in an all new way.

One time when I was going through unemployment in 2005, a friend asked me what I thought you were teaching me through that time. I responded that I didn’t think I would know that until I was able to look back on it in retrospect. The same is trued for the last six years. Looking back, “the flood” seems smaller now than it did then. It’s a little like climbing a hill and looking back on a raging river. It doesn’t look nearly as problematic as it does when you are in the middle of it.

So what is my job today? The first thing I need to do is worship you. Regardless of my circumstances, you are worthy of my worship, and it is good for me to worship you. I did that a little in my prayer time with my wife this morning. Then I need to take each moment as it comes and remember to try to see the people and the situations with your eyes, and when I can’t do that, just try to rest in your assurance that You love us and you care. Finally, I need to either be willing to reach out to that hand that you have positioned to help me, or I need to be ready and willing to be that hand for someone else.

Father, show me what to do today. Keep me mindful of your presence, your power, and the calling you are putting on my life at any given moment. Love through me, and teach me how to receive the love of others.

In Jesus’ name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on February 21, 2019 in Miscellaneous

 

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Praying for Sick Friends

No verse.

Dear God, I am going to take a break from my normal patter this morning and just pray about something that is on my heart: grave illness.

My wife and I were talking over breakfast about a seminar she recently attended. As part of her presentation, the speaker talked about her son being diagnosed with stage 4 lymphoma when he was a young teenager. He is now 22 and, I believe, in remission, but the process of going through that pain of treatment and fear of death was obviously life-altering.

I told her about a Facebook post I read yesterday from a high school friend whose daughter is in high school and fighting cancer. I cannot imagine that kind of suffering in watching my child go through something like that. It’s one thing to experience some of the typical and even atypical things we’ve experienced as parents, but to watch your child suffer a tragic health thing and then through difficult treatments must be brutal.

One of the things I said this morning is that it is one thing to say, “Well, if I got so sick that only radical treatments would save me, then I would just not get the treatment and accept my impending death.” It’s another thing to 1.) actually be faced with that decision, but 2.) even more so to have to make that decision with your minor child. At some point, I would think that CPS and the courts might even take that decision out of your hands. I don’t know. I can’t even wrap my head around it.

Father, the amazing thing about you is that you CAN wrap your head around it. You know all of this and what is going to happen. Thankfully, this high school friend is a believer and follower of you. She can see your mercies and grace in the midst of pain. I want to pray for her this morning. I want to pray for her entire family. And I want to pray for her daughter. Please be in the midst of this situation. Please make their path straight. Please heal. According to your will, Father, please flood this family with your presence, your peace, your mercy, and your healing. I also want to pray for another friend who is older than me and announced a couple of nights ago that he has elected to stop treatments for his disease and go on hospice. Flood him and his wife too. Help them to bathe in the presence of the Holy Spirit. Help them to float in your grace and joy. As your eyes move to and fro throughout the earth, strongly support them because I know their hearts are completely yours.

In Jesus’ name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on February 20, 2019 in Miscellaneous

 

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Peter & John — 1 John 5:13-21

1 John 5:13-21 NIV
[13] I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life. [14] This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. [15] And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him. [16] If you see any brother or sister commit a sin that does not lead to death, you should pray and God will give them life. I refer to those whose sin does not lead to death. There is a sin that leads to death. I am not saying that you should pray about that. [17] All wrongdoing is sin, and there is sin that does not lead to death. [18] We know that anyone born of God does not continue to sin; the One who was born of God keeps them safe, and the evil one cannot harm them. [19] We know that we are children of God, and that the whole world is under the control of the evil one. [20] We know also that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true. And we are in him who is true by being in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life. [21] Dear children, keep yourselves from idols.

Dear God, These are all interesting last words. If I were to bullet point this last section of 1 John, I guess I’d do it like this:

* Through Jesus you get to be saved.
* Pray according to God’s will and it’ll all be good.
* Pray for others about their sin (I want to come back to this one in a minute).
* Beware of Satan.
* Keep yourselves from idols (fascinating last words that seem to kind of come from nowhere).

Praying according to your will is an interesting thing. In a recent speech, a politician referenced the gospel verse that talks about praying for something and you granting it. But he left out the part about praying for it “in your name” or “according to your will” so the passage was used completely out of context. It can be very hard to pray according to your will because your will might call for suffering. It might call for us to go down a road down which we do not want to go, or see our friends or family go. But that’s the encouragement—that we pray according to your will.

The other thing I really want to touch on from this passage is praying for others. Every week in the Catholic Church, the penitent prayer includes asking “you my brothers and sisters to pray for me to the Lord our God.” I always try to take that moment to pray for the people around me, whether I know them or not. It’s an interesting request to put into a prayer that is said every week. I’m sure that the person who originally decided it should be inserted was thinking about this passage.

Father, one of the things I want to do today is spend a little time in worship. I was thinking about it while I was driving last night. I have been spending time in scripture. I have been spending time praying for others. I have NOT, however, spent time just worshipping you and proclaiming how great is my God. So I endeavor to do that today. You are so great and powerful. Who can possibly stand in your presence. I love you, Father.

I pray all of this in Jesus’ name and ask that you make all of the answers to my prayers according to your will,

Amen

 
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Posted by on February 19, 2019 in 1 John, Peter and John

 

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Peter & John — 1 John 5:6-12

1 John 5:6-12 NIV
[6] This is the one who came by water and blood—Jesus Christ. He did not come by water only, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth. [7] For there are three that testify: [8] the Spirit, the water and the blood; and the three are in agreement. [9] We accept human testimony, but God’s testimony is greater because it is the testimony of God, which he has given about his Son. [10] Whoever believes in the Son of God accepts this testimony. Whoever does not believe God has made him out to be a liar, because they have not believed the testimony God has given about his Son. [11] And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. [12] Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.

Dear God, in doing this series on Peter and John it is sometimes hard to find the line between praying through what the truth is in the scripture I am reading and what it is about who John was that caused him to write what he wrote. In this case, I am trying to get at the heart of who John was at any given time and how he changed over time.

In the case of this scripture, he was taking the time to write down his truth for people. A lot of this letter is simply, “Believe. It’s real.” He was there. He was as close to Jesus during Jesus’ earthly life as anyone. He learned. He grew. He repented and changed. He sacrificed. And now he had some wisdom to share.

My wife and I were just talking over breakfast about how, as adults who have had children, we have a perspective on life that people who don’t have children don’t have. For example, if two people get married and they have different faiths like Protestant and Catholic (although I contend these aren’t as different as many think) then they can give each other space for that, but what they won’t realize until they have children is how important that faith actually is to them. She told the story of a Protestant woman who married a Catholic man and they had four children. The first three were fine to go to church with her, but the fourth really wanted to go to the Catholic Church with his dad, and that was very hard for the mom. Harder than she ever considered it would be.

In the case of this passage and this book, John is giving his truth from his experience. He was judgmental and self-righteous, and Jesus taught him to be loving and forgiving. That’s his message here. People challenge the veracity of what Jesus did and why He did it. Well, John was there, and he is ready to tell anyone who will listen that it is real and that reconciliation to you and relationship with you, even unto Heaven, is possible.

Father, help me to love others through my own weaknesses and reality. Help me to teach from a place of humility and to learn from others who have much to teach me. Make my heart open to your instruction and your voice, whether it comes to me through prayer times like this or it comes through the voice of a friend or even a stranger.

In Jesus’ name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on February 18, 2019 in 1 John, Peter and John

 

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Peter & John — 1 John 5:1-5

1 John 5:1-5 (NLT)
1 Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has become a child of God. And everyone who loves the Father loves his children, too. 2 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. 4 For every child of God defeats this evil world, and we achieve this victory through our faith. 5 And who can win this battle against the world? Only those who believe that Jesus is the Son of God.

 

Dear God, reading this letter, I can see where I have lived most of my life thinking of John as the promoter of love. I guess that’s why it caught me so off guard when I isolated the stories about him in the gospels and found that he was actually not very loving at all. There was something that Jesus saw in him that made him one of the “Big Three” in terms of the 12 disciples, but it’s never apparent what that was. Perhaps Jesus could see beyond what John was and look forward into what a redeemed John would look like.

It’s a little like Paul. As Saul, no one would have foreseen who he became as Paul, but your redemption turned his zealousness for you as a Jew to the truth of your oneness with Jesus and the Holy Spirit. I wonder how much of our greatest strengths as Christians are the things that defined the evil part of our nature pre-Christ. That’s an interesting thesis to consider.

As for me, how do I consider who I was before your redemption and who I am now? I guess, a lot like John and less like Paul, the thing you seem to be hammering out of me is judgmentalism. Not that I don’t still judge people. But I used to really judge people for not being who I thought they should be and not acting the way I thought they should act. Now, the more I learn from you about myself the more I am willing to extend mercy and love to others instead of judging them. I am better at looking for what they see as their righteous motivations in the moment instead of judging them as having sinister motives that are meant for my detriment.

That leads to how I evaluate others. Do I see someone’s sin, or do I see a character trait that can be redeemed and used for your glory? Do I take the time to see them with your eyes, or do I just judge them and cast them off?

Father, to quote a song, give me your eyes for just one second. Give me your eyes so I can see everything that I’ve been missing. Give me your love for humanity.

In Jesus’ name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on February 17, 2019 in 1 John, Peter and John

 

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Revealed: A Storybook Bible for Grown-Ups — Proverbs 5:15-23

IMG_1662
Image: “The White Shirt (Man and Wife)” by Edward Knippers from Revealed: A Biblestory Book for Grown-Ups by Ned Bustard

Proverbs 5:15-23 [NLT]
15 Drink water from your own well—
share your love only with your wife.
16 Why spill the water of your springs in the streets,
having sex with just anyone?
17 You should reserve it for yourselves.
Never share it with strangers.
18 Let your wife be a fountain of blessing for you.
Rejoice in the wife of your youth.
19 She is a loving deer, a graceful doe.
Let her breasts satisfy you always.
May you always be captivated by her love.
20 Why be captivated, my son, by an immoral woman,
or fondle the breasts of a promiscuous woman?
21 For the Lord sees clearly what a man does,
examining every path he takes.
22 An evil man is held captive by his own sins;
they are ropes that catch and hold him.
23 He will die for lack of self-control;
he will be lost because of his great foolishness.

 

Dear God, can it be ironic to me that Solomon wrote this (I assume Solomon wrote it)? With his hundreds of wives and concubines, did he know what he was missing and wished it wasn’t too late for him? Did he wish for something simpler and more pure?

It feels like I could go in a lot of different directions with this passage and image this morning. There’s promiscuity before marriage. Of course, the obvious is adultery. But then there is prostitution and sex trafficking (including minors) and also pornography (the gateway drug for it all–not that all of this didn’t happen before pornography existed).

Verses 22 and 23 are a great crux of this whole passage for me: “An evil man is held captive by his own sins; they are ropes that catch and hold him. He will die for lack of self-control; he will be lost because of his great foolishness.”

Before I get too judgmental towards others, let me first, once again, apologize to you for the ways in which I have failed you sexually. You know that, since I was a teen, there have been times when I’ve failed in this area when it comes to pornography. Nearly 30 years ago, in one of my first deep conversations with my wife (then girlfriend), I told her that I had struggled with that. Satan’s power is in the secret and I didn’t want it to be a secret. I didn’t want to pretend to be some puritan that I’m not. Even now, the image that accompanies this passage that I put above could be considered pornographic in a way. But when reading the context it becomes not dirty and what sex is supposed to be.

I heard one time that almost no one hears about sex for the first time in a healthy way. Maybe not everyone, but almost everyone’s first exposure to sex is unbiblical. It might be bad information from another kid on the playground or from an older sibling. It might be porn. It might be a TV show that depicts a negative sex act or reference to sex.

When our children were small, I would screen movies for them not based on language or even violence, but I found myself being very sensitive to how it depicted sex. As a friend of mine once said, “We only get our innocence once.” I wanted them to keep their innocence as long as possible. My wife and I even went to the Christian bookstore when our oldest was about five years old and looked for a book that would be age-appropriate for us to talk about with our son. I don’t know if we did the right thing or not, but we were doing our best to make his FIRST exposure to sex to be what you intend sex to be.

So now, on to what I think the artist is trying to communicate to me in this picture.

  • First, he has “man and wife” in the title, so we are given a frame of reference. This is what you intended.
  • It looks like there is an air conditioning unit at the top of the wall. If that’s what it is, then it’s a fairly modern portrayal.
  • There are two people, with the woman on the bed and the man standing. What I notice about the woman is that she appears to be on her elbows. She isn’t just lying there waiting for it to happen. She seems to be anticipating it.
  • The husband is standing and taking off his shirt (apparently last). They aren’t in the throws of passion, lying in bed and ripping each other’s clothes off. This is a marriage. This is something they’ve done before. This is an experience for both of them.

In the little blurb on the bottom left side of the picture, Bustard quotes from Tim Keller’s piece, The Gospel and Sex.

The Bible is full of covenant renewal ceremonies….The ultimate covenant renewal ceremony is the Lord’s Supper. The sacrament of the Lord’s Supper renews the covenant made at baptism; through the breaking of bread and the pouring out of wine it reenacts the selfless sacrifice of Jesus to us….In the same way, marriage is a covenant, one that creates a place of security for vulnerability. But though covenant is necessary for sex, sex is also necessary for covenant. The covenant will grow stale unless we continually revisit and reenact it. Sex is a covenant renewal ceremony for marriage, the physical reenactment of the inseparable oneness in all other areas–economic, legal, personal, psychological–created by the marriage covenant. Sex renews and revitalizes the marriage covenant.

Father, help me to be pure today. Help me to be pure in my thoughts and in my words. Help me to be pure in what I do, and help me to fail to do nothing that you have called me to. Help me to hear your voice and clearly see your path ahead for me. Help me to love my wife the way to which you called me, and help us to live our lives as a couple in the way you need us to. Do it all for your glory and so that your kingdom will come and your will will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven.

In Jesus’ name I pray,

Amen

 

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