eluding our idols: twenty questions on 1 John 5.6-21

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This coming Sunday (Feb. 1) at 9:00 a.m. some of our adult classes at MoSt Church will continue in a study entitled Eluding Our Idols. It’s a close look at what’s commonly known as John’s letters (1, 2 & 3 John). To help you get ready for this encounter with Scripture and our discussion of it, you’ll find the following here: (a) the text of 1 John 5.6-21 and (b) twenty questions and exercises to go along with this reading.

receiving the word

6 This is the one who came by water and blood: Jesus Christ. Not by water only but by water and blood. And the Spirit is the one who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth. 7 The three are testifying— 8 the Spirit, the water, and the blood—and the three are united in agreement. 9 If we receive human testimony, God’s testimony is greater, because this is what God testified: he has testified about his Son. 10 The one who believes in God’s Son has the testimony within; the one who doesn’t believe God has made God a liar, because that one has not believed the testimony that God gave about his Son. 11 And this is the testimony: God gave eternal life to us, and this life is in his Son. 12 The one who has the Son has life. The one who doesn’t have God’s Son does not have life.

13 I write these things to you who believe in the name of God’s Son so that you can know that you have eternal life. 14 This is the confidence that we have in our relationship with God: If we ask for anything in agreement with his will, he listens to us. 15 If we know that he listens to whatever we ask, we know that we have received what we asked from him. 16 If anyone sees a brother or sister committing a sin that does not result in death, they should pray, and God will give life to them—that is, to those who commit sins that don’t result in death. There is a sin that results in death—I’m not saying that you should pray about that. 17 Every unrighteous action is sin, but there is a sin that does not result in death.

18 We know that everyone born from God does not sin, but the ones born from God guard themselves, and the evil one cannot touch them. 19 We know we are from God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one. 20 We know that God’s Son has come and has given us understanding to know the one who is true. We are in the one who is true by being in his Son, Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life. 21 Little children, guard yourselves from idols! (1 John 5.6-21 CEB)

wrestling with this word

1. Circle every occurrence of “know” in this text, and so, make a list of what we Christians “know.”

2. Underscore the statements in this text that are most startling to you. What are they?

3. How is it Jesus Christ “came by [both] water and blood?” (vs. 6) Why is this important?

4. “ …the Spirit, the water, and the blood … are united in agreement.” (vs. 8) About what?

5. How do the words of vs. 6-12 chastise the group that left and encourage those who remained?

6. It’s all about having the Son in your life (vs. 12). So, who “has the Son?” Who doesn’t? (vs. 6-12)

7. John says disciples can know they have eternal life. (vs. 13) What is “eternal life?”

8. What does vs. 14 tell us about God’s character and ways?

9. Is John saying (vs. 15) believers always get what they ask for from God? What does he mean?

10. John describes prayer life (vs. 14-16a) with words like these: confidence, relationship, God will give, received. What four words or phrases would you choose to describe your prayer experience?

11. Is in some way the forgiveness of others by God dependent on our prayers for them (vs. 16)?

12. We pray for the spiritual health of others (vs. 16). You pray most for physical or spiritual health?

13. “… there is a sin that does not result in death.” (vs. 17b) Say what? Splain that.

14. All who are born of God are expected to actively distance themselves from sinning (vs. 18a). How?

15. Can Satan “touch” disciples who don’t keep their “guard” up? (vs. 18b) In context: how to guard?

16. Which statement can you most quickly and readily affirm: you’re “from God” or “the whole world lies in the power of the evil one?” (vs. 19) Why? Can you affirm both?

17. Gnaw on the affirmations of, and the encouragement within, vs. 20. What does this do for you?

18. “This is the true God and eternal life.” (vs. 20b) What is the “this?”

19. Brainstorm a list of some of the “idols” John dealt with in this letter, 1 John. (vs. 21)

20. Tell us about one thing this study of 1 John has underscored in your mind or done for your ways.

links: this went thru my mind

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Bible study, books, interpretation, preaching, reading & sermon preparation: A Cautionary Word to Pastors About Internet Resources [especially wise advice for all, and insightful for understanding the needs of ministers]

“… there is a reason a lot of the resources online that have to do with the Bible are free. There is some truth to the old dictum ‘you get what you pay for.’ Some of the resources are simply junk, some are so badly out of date and out of touch with the current ministry scene that they are hardly useful, and some of them are so arcane it requires scholarly help to make good use of them. And this brings me to the second point.

“There is a need for critical judgment to select useful online resources that may indeed help one’s ministry. Critical judgment about not only technical scholarly works, but about mid-level works can only be developed over time and with good guidance. … I would stress, for the good of your soul as well as the good of your ministry, that you need to read good books, and I mean read them at a depth level, not superficially cherry picking this quote or that quote …

“What feeds good teaching and good preaching is continuing to feed your head with good resources, and to study them in some depth. You need to set aside more than an hour or two a week for such study and preparation, and the main thing you should do during that time is just read—- not outline sermons or lessons, but read…… read….. read.”

Birth of Christ, genealogy of Jesus & the birth narratives: An Amazing Genealogy of Jesus Infographic (and What It Means for XMas)

“The infographic represents both Matthew and Luke’s genealogies, showing the legal emphasis (in Matthew) meant to prove Jesus’s royal Israelite bloodline, and the biological emphasis (in Luke) traditionally linked to the family genealogy in Mary’s home. The ‘big names’ are given larger placement, with often humorous bits of info. Just a quick scan reveals how diverse, even scandalous, this genealogy really is – including kings and killers, prophets and prostitutes.”

Collection, contribution, donations, electronic giving, mobile giving, money & offering: A Case for Church Mobile Donation

“We are coming close to the time whereby a church not being able to accept online donations would be as bad as a church not being able to accept a check.”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, nonviolence & pacifism: No, Dietrich Bonhoeffer Didn’t Try To Kill Adolph Hitler

“… there is no evidence that [Bonhoeffer] was actively involved in planning or attempting to assassinate Hitler– a basic fact accepted by the academy but seemingly missing from common internet discussions on Bonhoeffer.”

Prayer: When We Talk With God

“Surely one of the grandest transfers God has made in my life would be that of prayer.”

a prayer for my own city today, with another – Ferguson, MO – in mind

Baytown-water-tower-2014As I pray today for all who live in Ferguson, MO, I’m moved to also pray for all who live in my own community. Won’t you join me?

You, Father God, are the Giver of all that is good. You are the perfect Understander of all things, even every human heart. You are the only wise, holy, and just Judge of all people and situations everywhere. Blessed be your name!

And so, I confess to you that I all too often take for granted the measure of your peace that you have granted to the community in which I live. I would do well to put my hand over my mouth more often than I do, rather than speak as if I have perfect understanding of people and events in my town. I sometimes make judgment calls on others that are hasty and unhelpful. Please, forgive me.

I thank you for every mind in my locale that is open, willing and active to learn how to best love others; this is from you. I’m grateful for all the hearts here in which the walls that separate them from others are crumbling; this is your work. And I’m appreciative for every pair of eyes that see past the outward appearance of people and see, in their neighbor’s eyes, the eyes of Christ; this is your grace.

And so, in the name of your Son Jesus, I ask you, Father God, that you shield and deliver my city from all the hatred, violence, and every other evil, that is welling up elsewhere. I request that you give me great wisdom as to how I should conduct myself when things do not appear to go the way I think they should and deep humility when they go the way I think they should. I pray your forgiveness and mercy on me for all the times I have judged others and have spoken ill of them for I know that such only tears community apart.

Deliver us from evil, Father, and lead in the ways that are good. Bring in your kingdom and use me in that good process, I pray.

Amen.

links: this went thru my mind

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Baptism, Carrie Underwood, joy & music: The Truth Behind This Song Had Me Yellin’ ‘Amen!’ You’ll Love This Super Star’s Song About Baptism [4 min. video; essential listening]

“I don’t know that there is anything better than hearing a song about baptism coming through my speakers! Preach it, Carrie!”

Choice, focus, mindset, mission, perspective, productivity & vision: 3 Mindsets You Must Conquer to Live Your Mission Each Day

“Jesus’s lived his mission each day by conquering three mindsets.”

Christian faith, evil, Hitler, martyrdom, Nazism, nonviolence, pacifism & WWII: The White Rose Martyrs

“I don’t know about you, but I always get a bit depressed when I think about the lack of Christian resistance to the rise of Hitler and Nazism in Germany. Dietrich Bonhoeffer is the main figure who comes to mind here. But were there any others? Any other heroes of the faith? Christians who pushed even harder than Bonhoeffer?

“Yes there were. The White Rose.”

Conflict, history & war: The Greatest Buildings You’ll Never See: 19 Priceless Monuments Lost in Conflict

“It is a cruel irony that a region so blessed with the treasures of early human civilizations is also among those most troubled by conflict. As the violence threatens to annihilate some of history’s greatest monuments, we count the cost of our irreplaceable losses.”

Prayer: Encountering God in Prayer

“If we are going to be imbalanced, better that we be doctrinally weak and have a vital prayer life and a real sense of God on the heart than that we get all our doctrine straight and be cold and spiritually hard.”

for these I’ll vote today

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I plan to vote today.

I will vote:

  • for all the people who are either too feeble of body or too troubled in mind to let their voice be heard today;
  • for the spirit and demeanor of all who cast ballots;
  • for every person who supervises today’s elections;
  • for all who are elected … and those who are not;
  • for all people alive today who will soon find their lives significantly affected by the views of those elected;
  • for those who live to rightfully regret the choices they made today, as well as for those who will rejoice;
  • for all in future generations who will have to live with the consequences of the choices we make for them today;
  • and in it all for God, that in all my doings today I might be used by him to usher in his kingdom a wee bit more.

For all of these, I will cast my lot today.

By means of prayer.

Do vote with me, won’t you?