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1 John 5:14-15

1 John 5:14-15 (NLT)
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.

 

Dear God, what does it look like to ask for things that please you? The NIV states verse 14 as asking for things according to your will. So what does that look like?

I think the first thing I have to come to terms with is that you are more interested in my soul than my comfort. You are more interested in who I am becoming as a person that what I have. You are more about how my life can be used in your world than you are about what this world can do for me. So when I make my requests, I need to be mindful of this before I start.

So as I pray for my own life, or for my children, or my parents/siblings/friends/etc., what do I pray for? What will please you? I think there are a few things you want me to pray for:

  • My ability to commune with you and see the world with your eyes (Love the Lord your God…)
  • My willingness to love and serve others (Love your neighbor…)

From there, it is about what I hope for for others:

  • That they would commune with you and see the world with your eyes (Love the Lord your God…)
  • That they would willingly love and serve others (Love your nieghbor…)

Finally, there are situations in each life that I hope you can cover. Health issues. Financial provision. Meeting human needs. Relationships being restored.

So when I pray, especially on this National Day of Prayer, I suppose I should pray like this:

My Father, who is in Heaven. Hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven. Give me this day my daily bread, and forgive me of my sins as I forgive those who sin against me. And lead me not into temptation, but deliver me from evil. For yours in the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever.

In Jesus’ name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on May 2, 2019 in 1 John

 

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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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Peter & John — 1 John 4:14-21

1 John 4:14-21 [NASB]
15 Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. 16 We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. 17 By this, love is perfected with us, so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment; because as He is, so also are we in this world. 18 There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love. 19 We love, because He first loved us.20 If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen. 21 And this commandment we have from Him, that the one who loves God should love his brother also.

Dear God, love, love, love. What does perfect love casting out fear look like? “Fear involves punishment.” “The one who fears is not perfected in love.”

Of course, the closest thing I can think of to “perfect love” from the human perspective is that of a parent and a child. I might get angry with a child. I might hate what they do. But I will ALWAYS love that child. There is something in my soul for them that keeps me coming back for more. I remember marveling at my daughter when she was on stage in different theater productions, and I also noticed how it didn’t matter what else was happening on that stage—my eyes followed her every move. I couldn’t take my eyes off of her and what she was doing. It didn’t matter if she had the smallest bit part off to the side, that is where my eyes went. Of all of the people, kids and adults on that stage, she was mine and I was completely interested in everything she did.

But I have not loved her perfectly. I have made many mistakes. There have been times when I punished too harshly and times when I didn’t discipline enough. There have been times when I gave her too much as a parent and then there were other times when I withheld too much. I took out anger on her that was meant for someone else, and I didn’t show her anger that I should have. I made many, many mistakes, and the fact that I completely love her as much as I can wasn’t perfect enough. That is frustrating to me. Why couldn’t I have been better? Why do I still do the wrong thing sometimes?

Then there are the other people around me you have called me to love perfectly. Not just my wife, but my family of origin and my in-laws. My coworkers. The clients of the place where I work. Friends and fellow church members. My community. My country. What does perfect love look like for all of them?

Father, I think a lot of it starts, even with my daughter and son and graduating up to everyone else I’ve mentioned here, with loving you, accepting your love and forgiveness, and then trying to see each person around me with your eyes. Help me to see beyond the veneer and to look deeper. Help me to be patient. I know it’s grammatically incorrect, but help me to love more perfectly.

In Jesus’ name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on February 15, 2019 in 1 John, Peter and John

 

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Peter & John — 1 John 4:7-12

1 John 4:7-12 NIV
[7] Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. [8] Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. [9] This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. [10] This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. [11] Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. [12] No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.

Dear God, the first thing that comes to mind with these passages is the song that I learned around third grade in Sunday school, “Beloved, Let Us Love One Another.” I don’t know tons of scripture by heart, but I know this one thanks to a catchy little tune that goes with he words and the fact that the lyrics include the scripture reference. Good on those Sunday school teachers back in 1978 and 1979 that touched my life in this way and taught me this song.

But the big statement of this passage for me is in verse 10 when it talks about your love for us being the real definition of love. You seemingly have nothing to gain from what you/Jesus did to reconcile us to yourself except that you got to have relationship with us. THAT is love. You loved us so much that, even though we really had nothing of value to give you other than relationship, you did what you did. That’s how much you wanted relationship with us. That’s how much you love us.

So now I get to love you, I get to love my wife. I get to love my children even though the only thing they have to really offer in our relationship is the relationships themselves. That’s how much I love them—my motivation for sacrifice is simply relationship.

Father, help me to love everyone around me today in that way, and help me to accept that love from others in the best way. On this St. Valentine’s Day, help me to be about your love.

In Jesus’ name I pray,

Amen

 
 

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Peter & John — 1 John 4:1-6

1 John 4:1-6 NIV
[1] Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. [2] This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, [3] but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world. [4] You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. [5] They are from the world and therefore speak from the viewpoint of the world, and the world listens to them. [6] We are from God, and whoever knows God listens to us; but whoever is not from God does not listen to us. This is how we recognize the Spirit of truth and the spirit of falsehood.

Dear God, I guess where my heart is this morning is that I have not spent much time the last couple of days meditating on things that are of you. I have spent a lot of time watching secular YouTube videos or TV shows. I’ve listened to secular podcasts. I just haven’t spent much time pursuing you throughout my day, and as I sit here this morning I can feel that.

To paraphrase verse four, greater are you who is in my that he that is in this world. I need to tap into that in this moment. I need to tap into that today–all day. I need to seek you first in my marriage, parenting, and family relationships. I need to seek you first in my work and what needs to be done there. I need your favor and blessing on the work I am doing, and I need to do it all in your wisdom and your love. If I don’t, my temptation is to try to do it out of my own wisdom and for my own glory. My pride and vanity start to get in the way. I start doing things for the wrong reason and in the wrong spirit. And then that spirit starts to rub off on the others around me.

Father, I come to you right now, first saying that I am sorry for not being more intentional about pursuing you the last few days, and second surrounding myself with your holiness, words and Spirit. Please forgive me. And now I want to spend the rest of this day being mindful of you and meditating on your word. Help me to do that.

In Jesus’ name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on February 13, 2019 in 1 John, Peter and John

 

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Peter & John — 1 John 3:19-24

1 John 3:19-24 NIV
[19] This is how we know that we belong to the truth and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence: [20] If our hearts condemn us, we know that God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything. [21] Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God [22] and receive from him anything we ask, because we keep his commands and do what pleases him. [23] And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us. [24] The one who keeps God’s commands lives in him, and he in them. And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us.

Dear God, verse 23 reminds me of Jesus’ answer when we was asked what the greatest commandment is. He said that we should love the Lord our God with all of our hearts, soul, and strength and then we should love our neighbor as ourself. That sounds an awful lot like John saying here that we should believe in Jesus and love others.

It’s interesting to see what Peter and John took from their time with Jesus and brought into their ministries. For John, as I mentioned yesterday, it seems that he took his anger and self-righteous judgments of others and turned them into love and grace. There is still an obvious call to holiness, but it seems like, for him, holiness is first achieved by denying yourself and obeying your commands. And the first command is to love.

I’m sitting here and trying to go back and think about who I was 30-ish years ago and what some of the bigger areas were that you had to chisel off of me. I think the biggest was my insecurity and my neediness. Neediness is something against which I still fight. My need to be admired by others is still there, but it is still slowly diminishing. My neediness with my wife is much better than it was 20 years ago. I could go on and on with other things, but you get the idea. You have been working on my heart and soul for a long time now.

Father, help me to take my personal knowledge of you and use it to help others know you better. Love others through me. Help me to do what you command. Help me to do the work you have for me to do (both professionally and personally) and bless the fruit of that work as only you can. And do it for your glory and your glory alone.

In Jesus’ name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on February 12, 2019 in 1 John, Peter and John

 

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Peter & John — 1 John 3:11-18

1 John 3:11-18 NIV
[11] For this is the message you heard from the beginning: We should love one another. [12] Do not be like Cain, who belonged to the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own actions were evil and his brother’s were righteous. [13] Do not be surprised, my brothers and sisters, if the world hates you. [14] We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love each other. Anyone who does not love remains in death. [15] Anyone who hates a brother or sister is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life residing in him. [16] This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. [17] If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? [18] Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.

Dear God, I am glad that I went through the Gospel passages that referred to John so that I could learn a little more about him before getting to this letter. It’s important to remember what kind of person he was when he first met Jesus. Basically, he was self-righteous and vindictive. He was the one wanting to call down fire on the Samaritans for not wanting Jesus to pass through their territory. I can’t remember them off of the top of my head, but I know there were other examples too. Jesus had to directly teach him grace, mercy, and empathy and help him purge the self-righteous anger he felt for others.

So that’s the guy now who is trying to teach the lesson he learned. I suppose when I’m all done with this series on Peter and John, one of the things I should do is take what Jesus had to teach them individually as disciples and examine how those lessons informed the message(s) that each of them felt they needed to communicate to others. It goes back to the saying, “Our suspicions of others are aroused by the knowledge of ourselves.” What you have taught us is what we have to teach.

So what have you taught me over the last 30+ years of being a discipling Christian? I’ll tell you, I’m a humbler parent than I used to be and I’m much less judgmental towards other parents. You’ve taught me the importance of faithful time in scripture. You’ve taught me that the people I’m most tempted to judge are probably the ones who are most in need of my love and forgiveness (and your love and forgiveness). You’ve taught me that life is about one moment at a time spent in pursuit of you, and to not look to the future with any sense that I know what I’m talking about.

Father, those are just a few of the things you’ve taught me for which I’m grateful. And not that I’ve completely learned these lessons. I don’t mean to say that. Certainly I still judge others, fail to pursue you moment to moment, and I don’t always spend faithful time in scripture. But you have given me that message, and my prayer now is that you will help me to know how to live that message today.

In Jesus’ name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on February 11, 2019 in 1 John, Peter and John

 

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Peter & John — 1 John 3:7-10

1 John 3:7-10 NIV
[7] Dear children, do not let anyone lead you astray. The one who does what is right is righteous, just as he is righteous. [8] The one who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work. [9] No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in them; they cannot go on sinning, because they have been born of God. [10] This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not God’s child, nor is anyone who does not love their brother and sister.

Dear God, I must be misinterpreting what John meant in verses 9 and 10 because I see plenty of Christians continuing to sin, including me. Part of my story is that I kept getting frustrated by my sin as a child. I went to a Baptist Church at the time and from the ages of 9 to 17, I probably walked the aisle and got “saved” close to 30 times when you add up Fellowship of Christian Athletes conferences, church revivals, and just church services. I would hear the speaker talk about a transformed life, I would figure I must not have done it right the previous times and I would “give my life to Jesus” again.

Then I went to a conference that taught me how to be a disciple. Somehow, I figured out that this life on earth wasn’t about being sin-free. It was about the journey with you. It was about my mistakes and failures coupled with your love and redemption. It was about my growth and learning more and more about how you see the world as opposed to how I had seen the world up until then (and that process is ongoing). It was more about how you saw me and my life than how I saw me. My life became smaller and smaller in my own eyes, and I mean that in a good way. There is a great freedom in just being a piece of your plan and not needing to achieve through performance or sinlessness.

Father, I don’t mean to contradict John here because I do think being sinless is a goal. But it needs to be considered along with the realization that we are all on a continuum of growth and there is mercy from you for our failings. Maybe the difference between my first eight years of faith and the next 31 years is that after I was 17 I started to see how you see me in a new way and I came to have the same peace with myself over my sinful nature that you have with me through Jesus’ blood and redemption. Help me to live in that victory and peace even more today.

In Jesus’ name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on February 8, 2019 in 1 John, Peter and John

 

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