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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 Questions for I John 3:11-24

1. We are to love one another: NOT like Cain toward Abel. Why is this story used to describe the negative side of loving one another? What emotions and feelings are represented and why?
2. What is love? (Note the paradox of moving from death to life and the other way around.) Also see John 5:24.
3. If, without love, there is death and hate=death, what kind of death is John really talking about? How do we resurrect this situation?
4. How does anger morph into hatred? Is there such a thing as “righteous anger?”
5. What is sacrificial love? What are some examples of this kind of love? Will we be taken advantage of when we love like this? Why or why not?
6. In I John 3:20b, he says, “. . . God is greater than our hearts.” What does this mean? Is it comfort or challenge?
7. What is the relationship between obedience and answered prayer? Is this about “earning” God’s favor or something else?
8. Does the Holy Spirit live within you? How do you know?

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.

We had a small class this past week and I was a bit surprised as I felt this chapter was one of the strongest ones. Ah well, I trust the Lord is revealing Himself to each and every person, whether they are attending class or not. God has a plan!

Each of us talked about the “hula hoops” we are trying to keep up… the roles we walk and the hats we wear. The list was quite long, over 50 different roles. I showed them a photocopy of woodcut of the hula hoop girl and we talked about the hoops that often drop. Sadly, although it’s often the role of housekeeper, sometimes it’s also our prayer warrior role as well.

As we discussed the Wilbur Rees quote about the “amount” of God we prefer to have… the comfortable amount that doesn’t require too much of us or make us afraid… we also realized in our discussion that we must take courage to go after “all of God.” If God were to ask us, “What do you want?” in the same way that Jesus asked the blind man on the road (Luke 18:41), would we say that we want all of Jesus?

We live with so much less of God than He intends for us to have. A powerful prayer is in Ephesians 3:16-19 that is particularly good when “personalized” … changing the pronouns to me, my and I. Try it.

First Things FirstWhen we talked about the “first things first” principle from Stephen Covey’s book and the image of the rocks in the container first, then the pebbles, then the sand and then the water, we each felt that nip of conviction that we are still trying to change the order of what comes first. We all “know” what is best but we don’t pursue it. That’s where the battle of our will vs. our emotions comes in.

For me, the essence of all of this is grasping the true importance of spending time with God. If we really “understood” (and I’m also referring back to this week’s sermon message on knowledge, understanding & wisdom)… we would take it all much more seriously. If we thought of prayer more like oxygen or a blood bag in a hospital – absolutely essential or we would die – wouldn’t we change our attitude toward it. Wouldn’t our will to do it grow stronger immediately? We reviewed 3 passages, 2 Samuel 12:13-23, Daniel 6:3-10, and Matthew 26:36-39, all life & death situations.

At the end of class, I gifted each person a small moleskin journal (if you don’t know what that is… ask me later or look it up on the web) … and we each journaled briefly a selected scripture. It was a very meaningful time for all of us.

See you Thursday.
Special thanks to Kreg Yingst for the Hula Hoop girl. To see more of his work, see his website.

With lesson #5, we began our discussion with the “God-shaped hole” in our hearts and how we “fill it.” Some of the answers were no surprise: food, mindless activity, “personal downtime,” noise, animals, busyness, reading, talking, etc. In all of these cases, we were managing to crowd out any opportunity for a meaningful interaction with the Lord.

We all understand the basics: intimacy with God follows the formula that Weaver describes as “prayer+the Word+time=intimacy.” For some, one aspect of these was easier to practice than the other, but putting them into a viable combination is still the way. Each of us selected one of the primary areas that is a barrier for walking out this formula and then claimed one of the scriptures to counteract that barrier. For instance, for busyness, the favorite scripture was Psalm 90:12. But we also discovered that different translations are more powerful than others. For this one, a more contemporary version works very well like this: “Teach us how short our lives really are so that we may be wise” from the New Century Version.

Oftentimes, before we are Christians, Satan convinces us that we “don’t need a savior.” And then, after we are Christians, Satan convinces us of a more sinister lie, that we “don’t deserve a savior.” The group talked at length about these lies or scripts from our past and how damaging they can be to our walk. We then reviewed the very powerful metaphorical scriptures that give us strong word pictures to remember our true relationship to the Lord.

John 15:5 I am the vine, and you are the branches. If any remain in me and I remain in them, they produce much fruit. But without me they can do nothing.

Romans 8:15-16 For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God.

2 Corinthians 11:2 For I am jealous for you with the jealousy of God himself. I promised you as a pure bride to one husband—Christ.

This week, I challenged the group to really appropriate these images … to really appropriate time to be with the Lord. This book and this study will only be just another “nice study” if we don’t seriously make some changes in our behaviors. We say we want intimacy, but what are we doing to make that happen? This study is just another way he can hold up a mirror to show us the truth of ourselves… in a loving way. Remember the story of “My Heart Christ’s Home.” The Lord is waiting there for us. Let us meet Him there.

Well, I have been remiss in writing here, but I am so happy to report that God has helped me to be faithful in my 30 day commitment (post-Bible Study). If you did an encouragement… here’s what I have to say, straight up! It’s never too late. You can start 30 days today. 🙂

Here’s what I’m doing…. as an experiment and as a promise to my time with you and this study over the past 3 months…

1. I pray the Lord’s prayer in first person. That’s been very powerful.
2. I proclaim the wonders of God through various Psalms passages I selected. There are so many ways to speak of His glory in the Psalms: Oh Lord, our Lord, how majestic is Your Name!
3. I pray Ps. 26:2, asking the Lord to reveal my sins/transgressions from the previous day and ask for forgiveness. That has been very healing.
4. I then pray Ps 25:4-5 before I begin to read and reflect on the Word.
5. I decided to start in the New Testament again and I am working my way through Matthew. I am taking my time, reading short passages as the Lord leads, summarizing them and then writing an affirmation and application of the verses. I am also writing “notes” as the Lord reveals truths I had not thought about before. Then I pray Ps 16:11a (“You have made known to me the path of life.”)
6. And finally, I pray for myself (if I feel there is a need still), for my family, friends, church, community & nation … as the Lord leads.

In 23 days, I have reached Matthew 10:4.
Here are just a few thoughts I’ve written in my new prayer journal:

  • From the story of the Magi, Matt 2:1-12, I heard the Lord ask me, “What do you seek?” and I answered, “I seek You, Lord… give me a star to follow!” (And really, give me the courage to follow You.)
  • When Joseph and the Magi were warned in a “dream” to flee, they understood God meant NOW. For me, I understood Him to say, “do it now.”
  • From Matthew 3:1-12 – If water baptism is a symbol for the forgiveness and washing away of confessed sin … brought to the surface, won’t the “fire baptism” that Jesus brought remove the deeper sins embedded in the fabric of our beings?
  • After anointing, comes challenge. (Jesus, the dove & the desert)
  • Temptations are customized to our weaknesses. (see Matt 4:3-11)
  • Healing the body is “symbolic” of Jesus’ ultimate goal of healing the soul. Always pray for the healing of the sick. (Matt 4:12-25)
  • To incorporate the beatitudes … woo! too much… so much truth, so much to consider. So the Lord gave me a break: Pick One! so I picked Mercy!!!!! It is my only hope.
  • The natural state, as a Christian, is to “shine” … if I am not shining, then I am preventing it. I am blocking the light with my own choices. Lord forgive me. (Matt 5:13-20)
  • Are we really to “be” perfect… or is it a call to stay on the road to perfect… the narrow way. (Matt 5:43-6:6)
  • The essence of the Lord’s Prayer: glorifying God (who He is), accepting God’s plan for our lives, asking that our basic needs be met, asking forgiveness for our sins and mistakes, and finally asking for protection and deliverance.
  • Worry is an unacceptable way of responding to God’s love and care. We are, instead, to see His “place” (environment) and His essence that rules over that space.
  • We must always remember “what” we are seeking. In the end, whatever we seek, is still Christ, in the end. (Matt 7:7-14)
  • I must tend to the tree. (Matt 7:15-23)
  • The sermon on the mount is essence of being a Christian.
  • Enough for now… I’ll share more later.