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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.

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We started off talking about our favorite types of stories. Our group had a big variety, from true crime to romance & mysteries to Christian fiction to true life “overcoming” type stories. Many of us read these stories to be encouraged or to escape from our day to day world or to “see how the other half lives.” The Lazarus story has a little of all of these types of stories.

Joanna Weaver suggests that the story has 5 lessons of note:

  • God’s will does not always proceed in a straight line.
  • God’s love sometimes tarries for our good and his glory.
  • God’s ways are not our ways, but his character is still dependable.
  • God’s plan is released when we believe and obey.
  • The “end” is nevr the end; it is only the beginning.

Each person selected one of these concepts and shared a personal story about it. Special thanks to each one who shared a bit of her heart this night.

We then reviewed the scripture, John 11:1-6, that Weaver recommended and identified the key points or words that jumped out to us. It is so important to remember that our world is much broader and wider than just the 3D world we access through our senses. (Colossians 1:16 says, “For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him.” We discussed three scriptures in this light: John 16:33, Hebrews 11:13-16 and James 1:2-4.

In the end, so much of our understanding and acceptance of our lives is dependent on our ability to trust God. Margaret Tennison says, “We only trust people we know. If you’re struggling to trust God, it may be because you don’t really know God.” There are many, many verses throughout the scriptures that talk about trusting God, but clearly, our favorite in the class is Proverbs 3:4-5, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him and he will make your paths straight.”

I wanted the group to have a trust experience and so we tried a couple of well known trust exercises. One is called the minefield. In this one, one person is blindfolded and is verbally directed through a number of “barriers” (in this case, the other class members standing about). The key to remember is that we are just like the “blind” person who is only given one step of instruction at a time and must wait for the next instruction. We must trust that our guide will not allow us to stumble. The second exercise we did was a traditional “trust” fall in which the person falls back into the arms of another. This feeling of falling is important to experience … it’s just a hint of what God wants from us. We must be willing to trust his everlasting, unfailing arms.

I Walk a Crooked Path by John M. Flores. Special thanks for the use of this photograph.