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Discussion Summary of I John 4

When asked how the group would “test the spirits,” we came up with a pretty good list such as “Know the Word,” observe the actions of others, search the heart of a person, examine what is said “critically,” pray for discernment, and ask questions. M gave a great example of how the thoughts in our head could be “tested” by simply saying the prayer, “Jesus is Lord, and I place these thoughts under that authority.” If the thoughts are from God, they remain, but if not, they tend to flee in the face of this confession of Christ’s lordship. M also shared a good acrostic for FEAR: False Evidence Appearing Real.

Again, John delves into the importance of Jesus is God in the flesh in verse two. This is so important because of the testimony of Christ, being “just like us” while on earth and what gave his sacrifice such power.

Who have the believers in Christ overcome? False prophets and unbelievers, yes, but even moreso, the “spirit of anti-Christ.” This can be found in a variety of forms and this is part of our battle: “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” [Ephesians 6:12] We must speak truth through love. Remember love the greatest power in the universe is married to truth.

The “Spirit of God is greater than the one who is in the world” through his roles as creator, victor, lover, and savior. He is the one who extends forgiveness and restoration, truth and faith and hope. He is eternal. I talked a bit extra about this idea that each one of these words typifies that “one who is within” and if He is greater than everything else and He is WITHIN, then we have that too. We have that creativity and victory. We have His love. We have the ability to forgive and restore and to speak truth and to hold onto faith and hope. And we are greater than what the “world” can throw at us.

When we talked about the “essence” of God’s nature being love and how that would affect us, A spoke poignantly about the truth she discovered: when one goes through a season in which there is an absence of God’s love, peace and wholeness, then a return into that place, is the most amazing feeling ever. She learned about the power of God’s love by experiencing the absence of it. God’s nature gives us the ability to deal with challenges, to cope with difficulties in a way we never could be fore, a desire to interact with others in a more positive way, to be less self-absorbed, to experience joy.

What prevents us then from loving one another? The list is well known, like pride, selfishness, fear, rejection, harm, vulnerability, time, distance, and simply choosing to “love conditionally” instead.

Will we ever be “made complete” in Christ Jesus in this life? We don’t think so. It is part of our journey to move closer and closer to Jesus, to be like Christ, to operate in the world differently, to love freely, to live in unity, to abide in His love.

I asked a bit of a trick question when I asked if Jesus’s role as Savior or Rescuer was working out, was he successful? The only answer can be “yes.” AN said there are three ways in which Jesus is rescuer, at our own personal deaths, at the end of time and in our daily lives as we encounter troubles. It is important to know that you actually need a rescuer. Those who are in fog that way will find it more difficult to find Christ.

Perfect love drives out fear because it takes up more room in the heart. As we experience more and more of the Christ within, fear has no place there. As trust grows, there is no need to fear because we trust the outcome of every situation. We are safe. This is the idea, but few of us could say we walk in such freedom.

Lastly, I passed out post-its and asked each person to write a name (or two) down of people who have, historically, been difficult to love (for whatever reason). I then collected the notes, shuffled them up and each person took one or two names. The purpose? The class would covenant to pray for the “unlovely” one on behalf of a sister or brother. We would spend a week, holding this difficult person up to the throne of Christ as a help to the one learning to love. The goal for this week is that we could discover, what would be the one step… the first action … in extending love. Just one action. Just one.

Discussion on I John 3:11-24

We talked about the many paradoxes of the Christian life. For me, these paradoxes continue to challenge. One of the most prevalent is the concept put forth in verse 14, that we are moving from “death to life” versus moving from “life to death.” Death is the dark time of our souls. But there are also “small deaths” along the way. The small deaths are still part of the sanctification of our souls, our journey to light (and life). The Christian Way is all about change (within and without).

We then moved into an animated conversation about “righteous anger” (story of Cain & Abel). Is there such a thing? We know that unchecked anger can become bitterness and from bitterness and unforgiveness comes hatred. That emotional path is never good. And yet, we know many stories of God’s righteous anger and even Jesus, who toppled the “money-changers” in the temple, had righteous anger. Can’t believers have the same?

In the end, we agreed that we would not be very good at purely righteous anger. Being human, our tendency would be to nurture that anger and allow it greater power within. However, if we could take that anger, birthed in some kind of evil or inequity, and channeled it into righteous action, then anger would transform. We would be protected from anger’s negative effects and move into becoming change agents for God.

But we must also beware of judging others and saying we can have righteous anger toward others because they break the law. Don’t we also break the law? It is not for us to say one sin is greater than another. Law breaking is law breaking until it moves into lawlessness (willful, consistent law breaking).

We then discussed “sacrificial love.” And I couldn’t help asking, what is the difference between regular love and sacrificial love? Should there be a difference? Finally, it seemed that there is a distinctness. Sacrificial love carries a greater cost to self. We leave our comfort zone when we move into the realm of sacrificial love. This is not an easy arena because, so often, in this type of love, there is great potential for abuse. That is, the one loving sacrificially, may actually become an emotional door mat. But we don’t believe this is God’s intent. Sacrificial love does not mean “losing self.” Jesus knew exactly what he was doing. His suffering was expected. He laid down his life intentionally.

We really stretched ourselves here as we considered all of those difficult verses like “turning the other cheek” and “giving our tunic in addition to our cloaks” [Luke 6:29] and laying down our lives for another. There are people examples who have embraced true sacrificial loving and living. They have given up everything, vowing lives of poverty and casting aside selfish ambitions. But we confessed, we struggle with these. We know in our heads and hearts what might be the better way but our contemporary lifestyle and culture has a powerful hold, to one degree or another.

There is only one thing to face it authentically: confess the truth, and go from there. In the meantime, we can work the basics: care for widows, orphans, and those in prison. That’s a mandate we cannot ignore. The rest will come incrementally.

Our class time was running short after this intense conversation about the sacrificial life. Briefly, we discussed the final questions about verse 20 (” . . . God is greater than our hearts”) asking if this is a phrase of comfort or challenge. We decided it’s both. Mostly comfort, but then, in the face of sin, our knowing God would speak into our hearts (conscience) to draw us away (knowing us better than we know ourselves).

And lastly, it is upon us to obey God in two important areas: love the Lord our God with heart, soul & mind; and our neighbor as ourselves. If we work these two arenas, then there will be confession and forgiveness automatically. The prayers will come from the heart. But, what about the prayers that appear unanswered: prayers for healing and life when illness and death threaten ourselves and our loved ones? Again, there are no easy answers.

My personal belief is that we continue to pray and place before God the desires of our heart until those desires change. And along the way, we must remember, that all prayer is answered but not always to our personal satisfaction. God is efficient. There is no action, no change, no death, no life, no illness, when it is covered in prayer that it isn’t also used of God. That is our hope which cannot be seen. That is where faith grows through loss, pain, and sorrow. That is where a new seed is planted.

Remember the paradox: death into life.

Discussion of I John 3:3 – 3:15

We began our discussion with a great discussion about HOPE. What does hope look like and how is it different from faith? We talked about the future-ness of hope and, unlike faith which feels like it is more in the now, hope depends on something that trust will happen. Hope is change. Sometimes, we undermine our hope because of our fear of change. Hope has expectations, but it should not include our own definition/description of the outcome. Our hope must be in Christ alone, not in “healing” per se or whatever it is that we dream for our future. Hope lives in the light and flourishes.

Other aspects that build hope or readiness (as in the parable of the wise & foolish virgins in Matthew 25:1-13), risk (as in the parable of the talents in Matthew 25:14-30), and action (as in the parable of the sheep & goats in Matthew 25:31-46).

We then discussed the differences between lawlessness and “breaking the law.” It’s a small difference but the point for me is that lawlessness is ongoing willful breaking of the law to the point when the law is no longer relevant versus the “breaking of a law” on occasion or with knowledge of sin and eventual confession & repentance. We must recognize sin before we can confess it.

But, if we do know about sin and Jesus came/died to “take away our sin,” why are we still sinning? Many reasons: denial, willfulness, lack of motivation, childishness, fear, to name a few. This is all part of the process and ultimately sanctification.

There was some serious heart searching as we wrestled with 3:6, 8-10. It is so easy to allow the voice of condemnation to wash over us and to allow Satan to beat us up with these words. “You’re not a child of God, you still sin, you aren’t worthy, etc.” But I don’t believe Jesus uses this voice. All I can say is that “while we sin” we are opening the door to relationship with evil. And in those moments, we are stepping away from the safety of the Father. However, because God is loving and kind and forgiving, the light can shine in that place as we confess. Again and again and again. And our hope (remember hope?) is that the times between darkness and light become shorter as we are strengthened within by the presence of the Holy Spirit.

That is God’s see within us that is growing a tree of righteousness — sometimes slower, sometimes faster. Our hidden sins are being brought to the light. Our flaws being repaired. Our roots grow deeper, our branches grow stronger. How can we know how we are doing? An inner compass… pointing to True North.

As we live and grow and become more like Christ, the pressures from without (the world) actually may become more stronger. Right living points up the other other. But, if our actions are indiscernible from others who do not know the Christ, there is no “tension.”

We know that love is described in I Cor 13:4-8 … but it’s such a long “punch list.” It feels overwhelming. How do I keep in mind to be “patient” today (in love) and then kind while I am not envying, boasting, or acting prideful. Oh, and don’t forget, no rudeness today and stop being so self-engaged and downright angry or keeping a long list of grievances.

And yet, we know that we know that we know… love is probably THE most powerful force in the universe. Can we try it? Can we love someone this week and make a difference?

Discussion of I John 2:24 – 3:2

What a powerful time in the Lord. We shared in so many different ways and I am grateful for everyone’s willingness to be transparent and really talk about some of the hard things. May we all remember how important it is to pray for one another.

Because our discussions are quite vibrant, we do not always make it through the questions. That’s OK with me! This evening we started back at vs 2:24 and discussed the true meaning of “abiding in Christ.” What does that look like? What does it mean to us individually? We understand it means, literally, to remain or to dwell or to rest in. But do we? It is so important to understand the importance of our grafted-in position “in Christ.” But this too, is a mystery. Since we can’t be “in” the physical body of Christ, this is a spiritual condition, a unity of soul.

We also discussed how sin and self-interest could bring us to times of separation or detachment from the vine (John 15:5). But, thanks be to God, despite our ability to detach, God is able to re-attach us when we confess along the way. His grace is sufficient.

Some of these times of “detachment” from the vine or the “body of Christ” are times when we can be taken advantage of. These are times when we can be “duped” and led astray even further by false teachers. As they say, the best way to protect against getting a “cold” is to stay healthy. So it is with recognizing false teaching. The best way to know truth is to continue to abide.

It is in the place of abiding that we are able to hear God’s voice, where we are instructed, where the source of all “actions” are “works” must be centered, and where confession and forgiveness live together.

I confessed to the group, when I am challenged by others about anomalies in scripture or asked “why” one person dies while another lives or challenged with “the people who never hear about Christ… ” etc. My answer is simple: it’s a mystery. There is great mystery and paradox in the faith walk. All we can do is abide.

We then talked about the returning Jesus and the one who returns will not be the “gentle Shepherd,” but the King of Kings. Some people may be ashamed by their sin, their willfulness, and their denial. But as we have talked about all along, Jesus is all light. God is all light. And the when the Light comes, the darkness flees. Are we still anticipating his coming? Really? What are we doing in the light of his promise? The best answer: abide!

And lastly, we talked a great deal about being “children of God.” What makes us children? What is God telling us about our relationship to God? Shouldn’t we experience the sense of comfort and safety that a child feels with his/her parents? Plus we are promised to be “like him.” When we are adopted into the vine, we become like Jesus. We are born again!

I was so glad to be able to absolutely clarify that anyone (and everyone) who accepts the Messiah as the direct sacrifice for sins (those things that separate us from God), we are grafted in and as soon as we are grafted in, we are becoming new. We are re-born.

Being “born again” is not about singing praise songs or being “on fire” for God or anything like that. Being born again is the shortcut terminology for adoption. And when we see Jesus again, because of our new relationship with Christ, we will “see him as he is” and we will be like him.

Jesus is different now than he was while he was on earth. He is the same: he is different. (After the resurrection, he may have looked human, but he could also walk through walls, and move through time and space). Hallelujah!

Our discussion of I John 1:7 – I John 2:23

Picking up where we left off the week before, we talked about the difference between the “old” commandment in vs 2:7 and the new commandment. In reality, they are the same, they focus on love: loving God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” and your neighbor as yourself. Jesus compressed the entire law into these two, saying they were the foundation. John emphasizes the same.

We discussed the idea of these two laws being used as a “creed” much like the Apostles’ creed and I referenced a book called the Jesus Creed by Scot McKnight. Our discussion also took us on a trip back to the ten commandments and Shabbat prayers.

One of the most important things to remember is that God is unchanging. Now that we are on the “other side” of the Christ time, the new commandment is only different because we are changed. We are able to love now in a way that we could not before the Holy Spirit indwelled us.

But then we are still challenged as Jesus’s followers were challenged: who is my neighbor. We tend to forget the power of the “Samaritan” story if we don’t consider replacing the Samaritan persona with someone of equal disdain in our own culture: a terrorist, a gang member, a prostitute.

We hate so easily, as the group mentioned. Hate blinds us and we are unable to others clearly. Hate prevents us from forgiving others as well as receiving forgiveness. The tragedy of hate is that both the receiver of hate suffers as well as the one who hates . . . we actually become “hate” itself when we hate.

Martin Luther wrote, “See to it that he who hurts you does not cause you to become evil like him . . . for he is the victor who changes another man to become like himself while he himself remains unchanged.”

In verses 2:12-14, John identifies three groups of people and specific encouragement for each one. We agreed that these appear to be figurative groups or levels of spiritual maturity. So “little children” would be new believers who would need, above all, confidence in the forgiveness of their sins and trust in their new relation with God, as benevolent Father. For “young men,” they might be the enthusiastic, exuberant believers who are on fire for God but also can get off track or become easily discouraged. John offers them encouragement as they remember how they have already overcome evil and that God’s word is a living thing inside them which will keep them strong to continue to overcome. And lastly, the “fathers” are the mature believers who carry with them great knowledge of God and the walk of faith, the implication being that they should use what they have learned to help others.

We discussed the difference between “not loving the world” and “For God so loved the world…” In essence the point is that we must view the world from God’s perspective and love as He loves. We are not to love the “things of this world,” that is the man-made things. All that God has made is good and should be cherished and cared for.

We had a lively discussion about the anti-Christ and the spirit of anti-Christ. “Anti-Christ” in Greek, can be translated as “adversary of the Messiah.” And so, in the verses of I John 2:18-23, we believe he is talking about that spiritual adversary moreso than an individual that is referenced in Daniel (9:27), I Thess 2:3-4, and the book of Revelation (13:1, 4, 7, 8). Ultimately, anyone who denies that Jesus is the Christ (the anointed one) is speaking out of the anti-Christ spirit.

And lastly, we discussed the idea of anointing. Whether it is the anointing of oil that was used historically to set apart a person for a particular task (I Samuel 16:12-13; Luke 3:22; Luke 4:18; Acts 10:38; John 15:26; Exodus 29:21; Exodus 40:9; and Exodus 40:15) to name a few, there is also the anointing of the Holy Spirit which imparts more power to act on behalf of God. The word Messiah means “covered in oil.” Although plain oil can be used for anointing, often there is a fragrance (similar to the one used in Exodus 31:11). Each fragrance had meaning.

In conclusion, I anointed and prayed for each person in class, that they would have the power to do what must be done next, to make a key decision, to pursue their heart’s desire.

Next week we will finish questions 3 & 4 about abiding and being duped in addition to the new questions above.

Summary of our Discussion I John 2:1-6

John refers to the listeners of his words as “dear children” or “beloved.” Why? Because he loves them and his relationship with them is close and loving. Everything John has to say to the hearers of his writings is written out of love and concern for their (and our) well being. Can we remember of think of a time when we have had such a loving, mentoring relationship?

John writes as the artist and not like the teacher Paul. John’s way of teaching is circular or spiral and he repeats his theme often, adding small tidbits along the way. John’s message is patient.

Of course, John’s desire is that none of his own would sin and yet he knows that they will. We will too. And because of this, it is so important that we look to our Advocate (parakletos – the one who walks beside) Jesus who will speak on our behalf. We must be honest with Jesus in order to appropriate the power of his sacrifice for us. Christ’s love does not waver, whether we sin or not.

Christ’s sacrifice, the ultimate sacrifice, of his own life for our lives was done for us as individuals, but also for everyone in the world. What is it we have to do? We must acknowledge this transaction; we must understand the power of this sacrifice so we can truly embed it into our beings. The forgiveness, the atoning blood of Jesus, is always available. (It’s like winning the lottery. We can have the winning ticket but it is worthless unless we turn it in for the cash. The ticket must be used, otherwise, it’s just a piece of paper, an idea with no power.)

In Old Testament times, sacrifice was a symbolic act (an ancient drama) by using the blood of animals to demonstrate a deeper truth. Christ’s sacrifice was the “ultimate battle when Christ disarms the power of sin and death.” [Mastering the New Testament: 1,2,3 John & Revelation by Earl F. Palmer] Jesus is not a victim like the animals. he chose to give up His life. His blood, like those of the animals, is on the mercy seat. We must grab hold.

Once we accept the atonement for our sins (our mistakes, our secrets, our choices), nothing can be the same for us. We are in relationship with Christ … but the quality of that relationship is up to us to nourish. He is walking with us (advocating for us) but we must also walk with Him.

There are two tests of an authentic Christian journey (I John 1:9 & 2:3): Confession and Obedience. These two form a circle: confess, obey, confess, obey, confess, obey. We talked at length about this chicken/egg concept. Ultimately, what are we obeying? How do we obey commandments if we don’t know what they are. And although I understand the logic of this, I also believe there is the mystery of experiencing the “next step” at the point of confession (and forgiveness). The commandments come out of relationship. As we enter into koinonia with Jesus (and others), we learn and grow. I am looking for obedience by choice (not fear). I am interested in obeying the “yes’s” and not the “no’s” or the “do-nots.”

His sacrifice and atonement gives us freedom.

Summary of our discussion on I John 1.

I’m not sure I can capture everything we covered in our first class discussion. For me, it was tremendously invigorating and filled with lots of good ideas and viewpoints from everyone. Hopefully, class participants will add what I have forgotten!

We spent a lot of time talking about beginnings. John begins this book, “That which was from the beginning, . . . ” which is very similar to how he begins his gospel. There is the true beginning, when it was only God (in all of his myriad forms); there is the beginning that happened when Jesus was born and God came to be among us humans; and, then, we discover later, there is the beginning of new life (a new age) on earth when Jesus sacrifices himself on the cross. We are still in this time. And finally, there is our own beginning in the class itself. We are looking for change, for insight, for understanding.

John wrote with authority because he was an eyewitness. A type of authority is given to us to tell our own stories of being touched by the Christ. We forget that this is the key to our witness: what we ourselves have experienced cannot be taken away. Someone can say that they don’t believe in Jesus, but they cannot break apart one’s own eyewitness of Jesus’s work in our lives. Also, remember, our roles as a witness also gives us the authority to proclaim the meaning and significance of those events in our lives. We have the authority to interpret our own experiences.

Jesus is the Word of Life… the logos, the mouthpiece for God. The word went from being abstract in the Old Testament to concrete in Jesus.

Fellowship is at the heart of John’s message because love is there. Koinōnia (close association involving mutual interests and sharing, association, communion, fellowship, and close relationships) is demonstrated through the relationship that Jesus (on Earth) had with the Father. We are invited to have koinōnia with the Christ. Walking in the light is being in koinōnia. If we are in koinōnia with Jesus, we should also be in fellowship with one another. If there is a breakdown in either area, we are actually moving toward darkness.

There are opponents to koinōnia like pride, jealousy, lying, gossip, etc. (in other words, sin).

In most of our churches, we are not in koinōnia. Most of our church relationships are surface relationships. We do not expose our true selves. We may fear rejection. It’s a risk to be transparent.

Is Christianity black and white? If it is true that all that is “white” or “light” is Christ Jesus, then it makes sense that all that “black” or “dark” or evil is embodied in Satan. Everything in between is us. We are all in the gray areas … some lighter shades as we move toward the light and some darker as we are either sucked back into the darkness of sin or willfully turning away from the light.

All sin is black whether it’s murder or gossip or betrayal or gluttony. Like the spots on a dalmatian dog, it attaches to us. We must take care that we don’t look at the sins of others as though they are worse then our own. We are all capable of great harm and evil.

If we are in the darkness, we must want to move into the light. We have to come to grips with the reality of where we are. We must be transparent with ourselves. Denial or self-deceit will keep us in the dark. We must acknowledge our own sins (our secrets). We may have to come to the “end of ourselves” before we realize what we need. We may need someone to walk along to help us turn around.

The best way to begin the journey is confession (I John 1:9). The Greek for confess is homologeō which means “to say the same thing.” God knows our sin and is waiting for us to acknowledge and profess what is already known. This is part of the cleansing.

And as a result, God extends forgiveness: freely.

Philippians 1:1-11
We walked slowly through these 11 verses discussing the impact of the words and their meaning in our hearts and our daily lives.

From verse 1, the idea that our relationship to God should really be more closely described as a “bondservant” or slave who has willingly agreed to submit to a benevolent master was striking. This is one who is solely committed, for life, to this master, willing to go where he commands, do what he demands (or needs us to do), and all the while benefiting from his protection that comes from taking his Name as our own. In verse 2, we discovered how another word complements the slave relationship and that is “the saint” … and by Paul’s use of the word, we are all saints, those of us who have accepted Christ as our savior, we are all positionally covered by the blood of his sacrifice and therefore we are “set apart,” holy, and sacred property. For me, as we talked, I became excited about the change in relationships if we treated our fellow believers as truly sacred… special, something to be protected and lovingly handled. See pre-post for more about the sacred.

koinonia-titleIn the following verses, we investigated further the essence of joy, in particular when dealing with those with whom we are in partnership, or koinonia. Paul prayed with joy for his friends, for those whom he held in his heart and gave thanks for them daily. They were sacred to him. As someone else said, when you might lose something, you realize how precious it really is to you. And so, this koinonia was a good example of a mutually beneficial partnership (which true koinonia must have). Paul received their commitment, their funds, their messengers while he provided them with his knowledge, his love, and his prayers.

Paul was confident that the work he began in Phlippi would be completed because of his confidence in God is always faithful. God began that work and so He would finish it. But of course, we reminded one another, this completing process is in God’s time, not ours. Our role is to continue to seek and trust Him despite the circumstances.

Lastly, we spent some time talking about the beautiful prayer in verses 9-11, the key elements being that their love might abound (for God & others) and so grow in knowledge and insight that they would discern between good and best [choices], they would remain pure and blameless [cleansed] and filled with the fruit [results] of righteousness [right living and doing]. All of this transforming process is for the glory of God.

And so we face a variety of circumstances in our lives to test this prayer. Are we holding our brothers and sisters in our hearts? Are we treating them as sacred? What about our family members? We have the possibility of being in true koinonia but we must take and carry our part of the journey.

How often do we do something for someone else and have our actions misinterpreted? Certainly, when Mary poured out the nard on Jesus’ feet and dried them with her hair, her actions were probably both misterpreted and scandalous. Of all people who was most “appalled,” it was Judas.

Interestingly, Joanna Weaver, does a broad comparison of these two, Judas and Mary. Where Mary had a “heart of gratitude,” Judas had a heart of greed. Where Mary came to Jesus with abandonment, Judas came with a personal agenda. Where Mary heard and understood Jesus, Judas only heard what he wanted to hear. Where Mary held nothing back, Judas gave nothing up. We discussed where we have been on this continuum.

mary_washingAnother point of interest to me was that Jesus was the one to defend Mary’s actions. She said nothing. It was Jesus who commended her and Jesus who declared she would be remembered through the ages and her story would be told. I find this important because we must remember that it is the Lord who stands between us and those who misunderstand us. If we “witness” to another and we are rejected, we must allow the cross to stand between us and them. When we do some action like cleaning up our husband’s tools or our children’s rooms and they rant at us for doing it incorrectly, let Jesus stand between their harsh words, their disapproval, their vindictiveness and our hearts.

I also reminded everyone that the action that Mary did, the breaking of the vessel of nard was a one-time act. Nard was very valuable and often kept for a person’s burial rites. This particular type of vessel of nard could only be used by breaking it… one couldn’t just use a little and save the rest for later. It’s an “all or nothing” proposition. Mary’s gesture was an outward expression of her total surrender to her Lord.

What would sacrificial actions look like in our world? Mary did “what she could do.” What about us? This question nagged us I think and was not one easily answered. I am trusting that the Lord will keep this question in the back of our minds over the weeks and months to come.

Unlike Weaver, I do not find Judas’ actions to be motivated primarily by greed. In my opinion, he was an outsider from the beginning. Judas was educated and probably from a family of some wealth. I don’t believe he was comfortable with the poor. Also, he had a personal agenda: he actually believed Jesus was the Messiah… but for him, that meant Jesus would be the anointed King who would overthrow the oppressive Romans and establish a new “kingdom” in Israel. I believe Judas was motivated by a desire for fame and power. This desire overwhelmed his ability to hear Jesus’s true message. I believe Judas betrayed Jesus in an effort to “move things along.” I’m not sure he envisioned a crucifixion … instead, I believe he thought Jesus would “react” and overthrow them all with one great wave of power.

Lastly, we discussed Barclay’s quote, “Temptation comes through that for which wa are naturally fitted.” Just as Judas’ was naturally fitted to be tempted by power, we are also tempted in our own areas of weakness or secret desires. This is also a topic for personal reflection and prayer.

We ended the class with my own “outward expression” of Christ’s love by the washing of everyone’s feet. It was my honor to do it and I pray each woman there experienced the depth of the Lord’s love for each one of them.

Next week’s lesson will be in my home and we will be combining the last two chapters together.

This week’s lesson is definitely a call to all Martha/Marys! Take heed and listen to your heart!

We started with a fascinating trek through memory lane as we discussed who we were as teens and pre-teens in school. Were we high achievers, party girls, or “absent-though-present? The fascinating part was the discovery of how many of those teen characteristics have followed us into adulthood.

Then we discussed our “teachable” role models. Some of the key concepts out of that discussion were enthusiasm, open-mindedness, humility, receptiveness, curiousity, listener, and risk-taker as descriptors of someone with a teachable heart. When we took our own “teachable” questionnaire, we all came out with good scores, mid-range to high which is an encouragement … we are all on the path to being and growing a teachable heart and spirit.

Joanna Weaver speaks of three elements to a truly teachable heart:

  • Being willing to listen
  • Acting on what we hear
  • Responding to discipline

So, I had to ask, “How DOES God speak to you?” Most of the group’s focus was on that “Wow” factor that seems to pierce within; another example was the repetition of a particular idea, phrase, or picture in various ways or places; or, just a sense of His presence as we’re quietly praying or journaling. It was then that I added a kind of speaking that none of the group had heard of called “dark speech” which is a way for God to speak to us symbolically. I told the story of being at the Elijah House Ministries some years ago for counseling training and how a Coke can burst open when it dropped out of a soda machine and how the instructor showed me the possible “message” from such an unexpected or out of the ordinary event. The group was a little uncomfortable with the term “dark speech” but I reminded them of that well known scripture from I Cor 13 about “seeing through a glass darkly” … it’s the same idea.

We then discussed the second and third elements of a teachable heart, that is obedience and subsequently discipline if obedience is not forthcoming. We talked about Oswald Chambers’ insightful passage (October 10th) that identifies how powerful obedience is. If we truly hear God’s voice, in whatever way we do, then it is critical to respond. And, once we do respond, the next step will be revealed immediately. In other words, we see and hear more of God as a result of one obedience! Chambers added, “God will never reveal more truth about himself until you have obeyed what you know already.” I believe we sometimes spend too much looking for something new, moving from church to church, conference to conference, when, in reality we haven’t responded to the truths He has already given.

Horse and rider in harmonyJill gave us a beautiful word picture of obedience. She is a horsewoman and tells of the incredible power there is in working with a horse, particularly once the horse has grasped the relationship with the rider/master. Instead of having to use a crop or any other kind of harsh discipline, once the horse and rider are in sympathetic communication, the horse can respond to the smallest of leading maneuvers (even just a change in pressure from the rider’s hips) to know what to do. Jill called these moments a true dance! All I could imagine was how beautiful it would be to “dance” with Jesus through this kind of communication and obedience. How wonderful it would be to respond to His slightest suggestion in my heart or spirit. This would be the ultimiate “living room” intimacy for me.

Additional scriptures we read and discussed were Hebrews 12:5-11, Joshua 1:8, John 8:31-32, James 1:25, and Psalm 51:10-12. In particular the Psalm passage is one of pure hope for if God could forgive David in his sins with Bathsheba, then surely, God can still use us and transform us!