1739. 1 John 4

December 31, 2015

Another John! John Milton (1608-1674) is generally regarded as one of the greatest thinkers and writers in the world. By his mid-twenties he had read everything published in English, Hebrew, Greek, Latin, French, Spanish, and Italian! His most famous work is “Paradise Lost,” an epic poem with this assigned purpose:  to “justify the ways of God to man.” It was composed when Milton was blind.

1 John 4 (New Living Translation)

Discerning False Prophets

1 Dear friends, do not believe everyone who claims to speak by the Spirit. You must test them to see if the spirit they have comes from God. For there are many false prophets in the world. 2 This is how we know if they have the Spirit of God: If a person claiming to be a prophet acknowledges that Jesus Christ came in a real body, that person has the Spirit of God. 3 But if someone claims to be a prophet and does not acknowledge the truth about Jesus, that person is not from God. Such a person has the spirit of the Antichrist, which you heard is coming into the world and indeed is already here.

True prophecy, and true teaching, will present a true Jesus. In John’s day, the issue was about if Jesus had truly come in a real body of flesh and blood. Many Gnostic-influenced teachers said that Jesus, being God, could not have actually become a flesh and blood human being, because God could have no partnership with “impure” material stuff.

Today, some groups deny that Jesus is really God (such as the Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons, and Muslims). But way back in John’s day, in this time closest to the actual life and ministry of Jesus on this earth, people didn’t have a hard time believing Jesus was God. They had a hard time believing that he was a real man. This false teaching said Jesus was truly God (which is correct), but really a “make-believe” man.

We are passionate about saying, “Jesus is God,” and we should be. But it is no less important to say, “Jesus is a man,” because both the deity and humanity of Jesus are essential to our salvation.

–David Guzik

4 But you belong to God, my dear children. You have already won a victory over those people, because the Spirit who lives in you is greater than the spirit who lives in the world.

Oh, read verse 4 again and take assurance! Take courage! Take peace!

5 Those people belong to this world, so they speak from the world’s viewpoint, and the world listens to them. 6 But we belong to God, and those who know God listen to us. If they do not belong to God, they do not listen to us. That is how we know if someone has the Spirit of truth or the spirit of deception.

He that has light within his own clear breast
May sit in the centre, and enjoy bright day:
But he that hides a dark soul and foul thoughts
Benighted walks under the mid-day sun;
Himself his own dungeon.

–John Milton

Loving One Another

7 Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God. 8 But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love.

“God is love.”  This little sentence brought St. John more sweetness, even in the time he was writing it, than the whole world can bring.  God is often styled holy, righteous, wise; but not holiness, righteousness, or wisdom in the abstract, as he is said to be love; intimating that this is his darling, his reigning attribute, the attribute that sheds an amiable glory on all his other perfections.

–John Wesley

9 God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. 10 This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.

11 Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other.


12
No one has ever seen God. But if we love each other, God lives in us, and his love is brought to full expression in us.

The love John speaks of comes from the ancient Greek word agape; it is the concept of a self-giving love that gives without demanding or expecting re-payment. It is the God-kind of love.

13 And God has given us his Spirit as proof that we live in him and he in us. 14 Furthermore, we have seen with our own eyes and now testify that the Father sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. 15 All who confess that Jesus is the Son of God have God living in them, and they live in God. 16 We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in his love.

John has just given us a beautiful picture of the Trinity at work.

God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them. 17 And as we live in God, our love grows more perfect. So we will not be afraid on the day of judgment, but we can face him with confidence because we live like Jesus here in this world.

18 Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love. 19 We love each other because he loved us first.

20 If someone says, “I love God,” but hates a Christian brother or sister, that person is a liar; for if we don’t love people we can see, how can we love God, whom we cannot see? 21 And he has given us this command: Those who love God must also love their Christian brothers and sisters.

Love regulated by the other person’s response is no love at all.

–Moishe Rosen, founder of Jews for Jesus

_________________________

Music:

HERE  is “The Love of God”  by Mercy Me.

_________________________

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright © 1996, 2004 by Tyndale Charitable Trust. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers.

Images courtesy of:
John Milton.    https://dwellingintheword.files.wordpress.com/2010/11/john-milton1.jpg
lemonade stand.    http://www.hrcoc.com/htm/desk/images/1john4_11.jpg
God is love.    http://churchfun.com/images/wp/God-is-love.jpg
God loves you this much.    http://www.gracebaptistsperry.org/images/God%27s%20Love.jpg

 


1738.) 1 John 3

December 30, 2015

Another John! Pope John XXIII (1881-1963) called the Second Vatican Council which brought sweeping reformation to the Catholic church — changes that, among other things, placed a stronger emphasis on ecumenism and fidelity to the Gospel.

1 John 3 (New Living Translation)

1 See how very much our Father loves us, for he calls us his children, and that is what we are!

John 1:12   (NKJV)

But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name.

Who calls us the children of God?

  • The Father does (“I will be a Father to you, and you shall be My sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty,” 2 Corinthians 6:18)
  • The Son does (He is not ashamed to call them brethren, Hebrews 2:11)
  • The Spirit does (The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, Romans 8:16)

–David Guzik

_________________________

Music:

HERE  is “(We Are) The Children of God”  by Steven Curtis Chapman.

_________________________

But the people who belong to this world don’t recognize that we are God’s children because they don’t know him. 2 Dear friends, we are already God’s children, but he has not yet shown us what we will be like when Christ appears. But we do know that we will be like him, for we will see him as he really is.

What will we see when we see Jesus? John describes a vision he had of Jesus in heaven:

Revelation 1:13-16   (The Living Bible)

And standing among them was one who looked like Jesus, who called himself the Son of Man, wearing a long robe circled with a golden band across his chest. His hair was white as wool or snow, and his eyes penetrated like flames of fire. His feet gleamed like burnished bronze, and his voice thundered like the waves against the shore. He held seven stars in his right hand and a sharp, double-bladed sword in his mouth, and his face shone like the power of the sun in unclouded brilliance.

3 And all who have this eager expectation will keep themselves pure, just as he is pure.

4 Everyone who sins is breaking God’s law, for all sin is contrary to the law of God. 5 And you know that Jesus came to take away our sins, and there is no sin in him. 6 Anyone who continues to live in him will not sin. But anyone who keeps on sinning does not know him or understand who he is.

John is not speaking here of living a perfect, sinless life. He has already reminded earlier (1:8) that “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” Here he means a continued lifestyle of habitual sin. In other words, we are not to make excuses for ourselves that we are weak in this one area or prone to that fault. Rather, we are to face our sins and call them sins, ask for forgiveness, and work to fight against it with the power Jesus will give.

7 Dear children, don’t let anyone deceive you about this: When people do what is right, it shows that they are righteous, even as Christ is righteous.

8 But when people keep on sinning, it shows that they belong to the devil, who has been sinning since the beginning. But the Son of God came to destroy the works of the devil. 9 Those who have been born into God’s family do not make a practice of sinning, because God’s life is in them. So they can’t keep on sinning, because they are children of God. 10 So now we can tell who are children of God and who are children of the devil. Anyone who does not live righteously and does not love other believers does not belong to God.

Believers can live lives characterized by righteousness, not sin, because we have been given the righteousness of Jesus.

Love One Another

11 This is the message you have heard from the beginning: We should love one another.

“Do all the good you can,
By all the means you can,
In all the ways you can,
In all the places you can,
At all the times you can,
To all the people you can,
As long as ever you can.”

–John Wesley

12 We must not be like Cain, who belonged to the evil one and killed his brother. And why did he kill him? Because Cain had been doing what was evil, and his brother had been doing what was righteous. 13 So don’t be surprised, dear brothers and sisters, if the world hates you.

14 If we love our Christian brothers and sisters, it proves that we have passed from death to life. But a person who has no love is still dead. 15 Anyone who hates another brother or sister is really a murderer at heart. And you know that murderers don’t have eternal life within them.

16 We know what real love is because Jesus gave up his life for us. So we also ought to give up our lives for our brothers and sisters. 17 If someone has enough money to live well and sees a brother or sister in need but shows no compassion—how can God’s love be in that person?

I have looked into your eyes with my eyes. I have put my heart near your heart.

–Pope John XXIII, calling his listeners to show Christ-like mercy

18 Dear children, let’s not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions.

from Echoings from the Bible in Literature,
by J. Ruth Stenerson

“I like not only to be loved, but also to be told that I am loved.  I am not sure that you are of the same kind.  But the realm of silence is large enough beyond the grave.  This is the world of light and speech, and I shall take leave to tell you that you are very dear.”

–George Eliot, “Letter to Mrs. Burnes-Jones,” May 11, 1875

Have you noticed how often truths are found in what seem to be almost opposite statements—in dichotomies? “That artificial rose is so beautiful it almost looks real,” we say, and then are surprised to hear someone else say, “The rose on that bush is so beautiful it almost looks artificial.” There is validity in both statements.

We sometimes pose the same kind of paradox in relation to aspects of our Christian faith. “Your actions speak so loudly I cannot hear what you way,” says one, only to hear another say in turn, “Let the redeemed of the Lord say so,” as someone else says, “If you confess with your mouth ‘Jesus is Lord,’ . . .  you will be saved” (Romans 10:9).

There is one side of another paradox that says “our love should be not be just words and talk; it must be true love, which shows itself in action.” But George Eliot provides the “on the other hand” as she writes, “I like . . . to be told that I am loved . . . and I shall take leave to tell you that you are very dear.” As in the instances above, both sides of the paradox have something to tell us.

Most of us find few things so repulsive as the sentimental gush of insincere avowals of affection. But many of us offend more seriously by our reluctance to speak our love to those who need to hear that they are loved. It would be interesting to know how many of our acquaintances we know have never heard anyone say to them “I love you.” I think we would be shocked to know how large the number would be. Many of those people would be shocked into shyness if before the day is done we broke out of our inhibitions and said, “You know, I really love you.” How difficult that kind of loving openness is to us!

Yet how empty those words would be if they were not accompanied by acts which reinforce them. We would not long believe those words. But why can we not give both the words and the actions? We don’t need to worry about running out of the supply of love.  You yourselves have been taught by God how you should love one another,” Paul wrote to the Thessalonian believers. “Do even more.”  ave we already been loving in word and deed? There is Paul’s daily assignment for us in the school of life:  DO EVEN MORE.

19 Our actions will show that we belong to the truth, so we will be confident when we stand before God. 20 Even if we feel guilty, God is greater than our feelings, and he knows everything.

21 Dear friends, if we don’t feel guilty, we can come to God with bold confidence. 22 And we will receive from him whatever we ask because we obey him and do the things that please him.

23 And this is his commandment: We must believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and love one another, just as he commanded us. 24 Those who obey God’s commandments remain in fellowship with him, and he with them. And we know he lives in us because the Spirit he gave us lives in us.

John makes it simple:  fellowship with God is based on believing in Jesus and loving our neighbor. And the Holy Spirit will help us with those things.

_________________________

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright © 1996, 2004 by Tyndale Charitable Trust. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers.

Images courtesy of:
Pope John.    https://dwellingintheword.files.wordpress.com/2010/11/johnxxiii.jpg
Do the right thing.     https://dwellingintheword.files.wordpress.com/2010/11/dotherightthing.gif
Good Samaritan.    https://janaburson.files.wordpress.com/2013/04/aaaagoodsam.jpg
I love you with leaf.    http://pixdaus.com/pics/12110675011ng696V.jpg

1737.) 1 John 2

December 29, 2015

Another John! John Newton (1725-1807) was an English slave-ship captain who was converted to faith during a severe storm at sea. He spent the remainder of his life as a clergyman, abolitionist, and hymn-writer. Due in part to writing the song “Amazing Grace,” Newton has been inducted into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame (headquartered in Detroit, MI).

1 John 2 (New Living Translation)

1 My dear children, I am writing this to you so that you will not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate who pleads our case before the Father. He is Jesus Christ, the one who is truly righteous. 2 He himself is the sacrifice that atones for our sins—and not only our sins but the sins of all the world.

Scales balance icon

“We have for our advocate, not a mean person; but him of whom it was said, “This is my beloved son.” Not a guilty person, who stands in need of pardon for himself; but Jesus Christ the righteous. Not a mere petitioner, who relies purely upon liberality; but one that has merited, fully merited, whatever he asks.”

–John Wesley

A human defense lawyer argues for the innocence of his client. But our Advocate, Jesus Christ, admits our guilt — and then enters His plea on our behalf, as the one who has made an atoning sacrifice for our sinful guilt.

–David Guzik

for the sins of all the world — “It is a patent fact that thou too are part of the whole world: so that thine heart cannot deceive itself and think, The Lord died for Peter and Paul, but not for me.”

–Martin Luther

3 And we can be sure that we know him if we obey his commandments. 4 If someone claims, “I know God,” but doesn’t obey God’s commandments, that person is a liar and is not living in the truth. 5 But those who obey God’s word truly show how completely they love him. That is how we know we are living in him. 6 Those who say they live in God should live their lives as Jesus did.

A simple, loving obedience is a natural result of fellowship with God.

A New Commandment

7 Dear friends, I am not writing a new commandment for you; rather it is an old one you have had from the very beginning. This old commandment—to love one another—is the same message you heard before. 8 Yet it is also new. Jesus lived the truth of this commandment, and you also are living it.

It is new because Jesus displayed a new kind of love. The cross points in four directions to show that the love of Jesus is:

  • Wide enough to include every human being.
  • Long enough to last through all eternity.
  • Deep enough to reach the most guilty sinner.
  • High enough to take us to heaven.

This is a new love, a love the world had never really seen before the work of Jesus on the cross.

–David Guzik

For the darkness is disappearing, and the true light is already shining.

Isaiah 2:5 (NIV)

Come, descendants of Jacob,
let us walk in the light of the LORD.

9 If anyone claims, “I am living in the light,” but hates a Christian brother or sister, that person is still living in darkness. 10 Anyone who loves another brother or sister is living in the light and does not cause others to stumble.

from Whispers of His Power,
by Amy Carmichael

He that loveth his brother abideth in the light, and there is none occasion of stumbling in him.
–1 John 2:10

“What an emphasis gets on kindness as life goes on,” said Bishop Paget (the “architect of the Church in Central Africa” who lived from 1886 to 1971). Writing to someone in a Nursing Home, he said how he hoped the patient was “not too ill or weary to enjoy the happiness of feeling kindness all around you, and Goodness all above you.”

As we watch the lives of those who have hearts “at leisure from themselves” and live for others, we cannot help seeing that there is “none occasion of stumbling” in them. They don’t stumble people, they help them. They clear hindrances out of the path and make it much easier for those who do not know Him to find their Savior.

Let us more and more earnestly ask for this kindness of heart that shows itself in loving thoughts and deeds. Let us begin with ourselves. The Lord make us sensitive to the merest whisper of unlove in our hearts. “He that loveth . . . abideth.”

11 But anyone who hates another brother or sister is still living and walking in darkness. Such a person does not know the way to go, having been blinded by the darkness.

12 I am writing to you who are God’s children
because your sins have been forgiven through Jesus.
13 I am writing to you who are mature in the faith
because you know Christ, who existed from the beginning.
I am writing to you who are young in the faith
because you have won your battle with the evil one.
14 I have written to you who are God’s children
because you know the Father.
I have written to you who are mature in the faith
because you know Christ, who existed from the beginning.
I have written to you who are young in the faith
because you are strong.
God’s word lives in your hearts,
and you have won your battle with the evil one.

_________________________

Music:

“You are God’s children . . . your sins are forgiven . . . you know the Father . . . you know Christ . . . ” — such grace to us from the Lord!

Il Divo is a group of four male singers:  Spanish baritone Carlos Marin, Swiss tenor Urs Buhler, American tenor David Miller, and French pop singer Sebastien Izambard.  HERE  they sing (oh, so beautifully!) John Newton’s hymn “Amazing Grace.”

_________________________

Do Not Love This World

15 Do not love this world nor the things it offers you, for when you love the world, you do not have the love of the Father in you. 16 For the world offers only a craving for physical pleasure, a craving for everything we see, and pride in our achievements and possessions. These are not from the Father, but are from this world. 17 And this world is fading away, along with everything that people crave. But anyone who does what pleases God will live forever.

“One sees clearly only with the heart.  Anything essential is invisible to the eyes.”

–Antoine deSaint-Exupery, in The Little Prince

Warning about Antichrists

18 Dear children, the last hour is here. You have heard that the Antichrist is coming, and already many such antichrists have appeared.

The name Antichrist is important to understand. The prefix anti can mean “the opposite of” or “instead of.” The Antichrist is the “opposite Jesus”; he is the “instead of” Jesus. Most people have focused on the idea of the “opposite Jesus.” This has made them think that the Antichrist will appear as a supremely evil person. They think that as much as Jesus went around doing good, the Antichrist will go around doing bad. As much as Jesus’ character and personality was beautiful and attractive, the Antichrist’s character and personality will be ugly and repulsive. As much as Jesus spoke only truth, the Antichrist will speak only lies. This emphasizes the idea of the “opposite Jesus” too much. The Antichrist will instead be more of an “instead of Jesus.” He will look wonderful, be charming and successful. He will be the ultimate winner, and appear as an angel of light.

–David Guzik

From this we know that the last hour has come. 19 These people left our churches, but they never really belonged with us; otherwise they would have stayed with us. When they left, it proved that they did not belong with us.

20 But you are not like that, for the Holy One has given you his Spirit, and all of you know the truth. 21 So I am writing to you not because you don’t know the truth but because you know the difference between truth and lies. 22 And who is a liar? Anyone who says that Jesus is not the Christ.  Anyone who denies the Father and the Son is an antichrist. 23 Anyone who denies the Son doesn’t have the Father, either. But anyone who acknowledges the Son has the Father also.

Often times it is said, “We all worship the same God. You have one name for Him and I have another. But that doesn’t matter. We are just talking about different roads to the same God because we all have the same God.” Here is the question to ask in response: “Was your God perfectly revealed in Jesus Christ?” If your God was, then you have the same God. If your God wasn’t perfectly revealed in Jesus, then you do not have the same God as in the Bible.

–David Guzik

24 So you must remain faithful to what you have been taught from the beginning. If you do, you will remain in fellowship with the Son and with the Father. 25 And in this fellowship we enjoy the eternal life he promised us.

“This is faith: a renouncing of everything we are apt to call our own and relying wholly upon the blood, righteousness and intercession of Jesus.”

–John Newton

26 I am writing these things to warn you about those who want to lead you astray. 27 But you have received the Holy Spirit, and he lives within you, so you don’t need anyone to teach you what is true. For the Spirit teaches you everything you need to know, and what he teaches is true—it is not a lie. So just as he has taught you, remain in fellowship with Christ.

Living as Children of God

28 And now, dear children, remain in fellowship with Christ so that when he returns, you will be full of courage and not shrink back from him in shame.

29 Since we know that Christ is righteous, we also know that all who do what is right are God’s children.

I find in this chapter three petitions for daily prayer: Help me, Lord, that I know Him (1 John 2:4), I abide in Him (1 John 2:6), and I am in the light (1 John 2:9). Let my relationships with others show that you, Jesus, are living your life in me.

_________________________

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright © 1996, 2004 by Tyndale Charitable Trust. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers.

Images courtesy of:
John Newton.    http://media.photobucket.com/image/John%20Newton/cens_1/Quotes/JohnNewton1copy.jpg
scales of justice.    http://cache1.asset-cache.net/xc/466165299.jpg?v=2&c=IWSAsset&k=2&d=XYqnSFYmIRQinYDvov_SmgfLE9CucpfiIPK2RbZQ_BU1
heart-shaped candle.    http://www.zastavki.com/pictures/1280×800/2008/Love_Heart_-_candle_011183_.jpg
kitten and Aesop quote.    http://img.pandawhale.com/post-3281-No-act-of-kindness-no-matter-h-7GMT.jpeg
The Little Prince.     http://images.easyart.com/i/prints/rw/lg/3/8/Antoine-de-Saint-Exupery-The-Little-Prince-Dreaming–Le-Reve–380603.jpg
face of Jesus.   http://cleanclipart.com/clipart-2606/

1736.) 1 John 1

December 28, 2015

Another John! Portrait by Thomas Sadler, 1684. John Bunyan (1628-1688) was an English preacher and writer, most famous for writing “The Pilgrim’s Progress,” a book which has been translated into over 200 languages. In the story, the protagonist, Christian, journeys from the City of Destruction to the Celestial City, while facing many trials and difficulties.

1 John 1 (New Living Translation)

Introduction

Most people understand that the important things in life are not things at all; they are the relationships we have. God has put a desire for relationship in every one of us, a desire He intended to be met with relationships with other people, but most of all, to be met by a relationship with Him. In this remarkable letter, John tells us the truth about relationships, and shows us how to have relationships that are real, for both now and eternity.

–David Guzik

This week we are doing the five chapters of 1 John. Because they are so short, I encourage you to do something more:  read all five chapters of 1 John every day this week. Let the words of this epistle sink down deep into your heart and mind. Let these ideas change the way you think and act. Let Christ make you more and more like himself. And may the Lord bless you as you seek to follow the True Word of Life!

1 We proclaim to you the one who existed from the beginning, whom we have heard and seen. We saw him with our own eyes and touched him with our own hands. He is the Word of life.

John was one of the original twelve disciples; at the time of this letter, he is an older man and perhaps the last remaining apostle. He writes with authority to his “dear children” to assure them of the truth of their faith in Jesus Christ. Can you hear the resonance between this opening and the Gospel of John chapter 1?  “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was with God in the beginning.” And beyond that, to Genesis 1? “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”

2 This one who is life itself was revealed to us, and we have seen him. And now we testify and proclaim to you that he is the one who is eternal life. He was with the Father, and then he was revealed to us. 3 We proclaim to you what we ourselves have actually seen and heard so that you may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ.

from This Day with the Master,
by Dennis F. Kinlaw

How is it possible for one to identify with God in such a way that one can share in the fellowship of the Trinity without actually becoming God? How is this closeness compatible with the incredible otherness between human beings and God? On Islam there is no possibility of such friendship; God is completely other and cannot have close interaction with human beings. On the other hand, in Eastern religions such as Hinduism and in New Age philosophies, human beings can so completely identify with God that they become part of the “divine soul.” The distinction between humans and God blurs until humanity is lost in divinity. Neither of these approaches is consistent with biblical thought about humanity’s relationship to God, which allows for both fellowship and distinction.

In Christianity a person can be in God but can never be God. Otherness of being is never lost. God can become human, and at one moment of history he did become human, but the process can never take place in the other direction. The basis of this is the Trinity, in which three persons maintain their total distinctiveness and yet have complete unity. It is a unity with otherness. It is a mingling without the formation of a compound.  The fellowship and unity between members of the Godhead is ontological—it is part of their essence. The fellowship between human persons is psychological and ethical.  The fellowship between human persons and the Trinity is conditional. We can have fellowship with God while he retains his otherness and we retain our personal identity. Our fellowship with God makes us more truly human than we have ever been before. It heals our humanity and completes our personhood.

4 We are writing these things so that you may fully share our joy.

The result of fellowship is fullness of joy. This joy is an abiding sense of optimism and cheerfulness based on God, as opposed to happiness, which is a sense of optimism and cheerfulness based on circumstances.

John clearly echoed an idea Jesus brought before His disciples the night before His crucifixion. He wanted fullness of joy for them – even knowing that the cross was directly in front of them.

  • These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full (John 15:11).
  • Until now you have asked nothing in My name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full (John 16:24).
  • But now I come to You, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have My joy fulfilled in themselves (John 17:13).

–David Guzik

Living in the Light

5 This is the message we heard from Jesus and now declare to you: God is light, and there is no darkness in him at all.

_________________________

Music:

Written in 1987 by Graham Kendrick:  “Shine, Jesus, Shine.”  HERE.

_________________________

6 So we are lying if we say we have fellowship with God but go on living in spiritual darkness; we are not practicing the truth. 7 But if we are living in the light, as God is in the light, then we have fellowship with each other, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, cleanses us from all sin.

“Let us gaze at the blood of Christ and recognize how precious it is to His Father, because, poured out for our salvation, it brought the grace of repentance to all the world.”

–Clement, early Church Father

8 If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth. 9 But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness. 10 If we claim we have not sinned, we are calling God a liar and showing that his word has no place in our hearts.

“If you have sinned, do not lie down without repentance; for the want of repentance after one has sinned makes the heart yet harder and harder.”

–John Bunyan

_________________________

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright © 1996, 2004 by Tyndale Charitable Trust. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers.

Images courtesy of:
John Bunyan.    http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/f/f9/John_Bunyan_by_Thomas_Sadler_1684.jpg
symbol of the Trinity.    http://threes.com/cms/images/stories/food/pretzel/trinitysymbol.jpg
the blood of Jesus.   http://images2.fanpop.com/images/photos/6900000/Blood-of-Christ-the-bible-6970135-500-375.jpg

1735.) Christmas Day 2015

December 25, 2015

“The Nativity” fresco by Giotto, 1310 (the Church of St. Francis, Assisi, Italy)

Christmas Day 2015

To all of my readers —

I wish you a most blessed Christmas Day, with the hope that our DWELLING together in the truth of the Word of God is transforming us all, day by day, more and more, into the likeness of this Child, the Christ.

With love in Jesus’ Name,

Rebecca Mitchell

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Luke 2:7 (King James Version)

And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.

*     *     *     *     *

from Wishful Thinking:  A Seeker’s ABC,
by Frederick Buechner

HISTORY

Unlike Buddhism or Hinduism, biblical faith takes history very seriously because God takes it very seriously. He took it seriously enough to begin it and to enter it and to promise that one day he will bring it to a serious close. The biblical view is that history is not an absurdity to be endured or an illusion to be dispelled or an endlessly repeating cycle to be escaped. Instead it is for each of us a series of crucial, precious, and unrepeatable moments that are seeking to lead us somewhere.

The true history of humankind and the true history of each individual has less to do than we tend to think with the kind of information that gets into most histories, biographies, and autobiographies. True history has to do with the saving and losing of souls, and both of these are apt to take place when most people—including the one whose soul is at stake—are looking the other way. The real turning point in our lives is less likely to be the day we win the election or get married, than the morning we decide not to mail the letter or the afternoon we watch the woods fill up with snow. The real turning point in human history is less apt to be the day the wheel is invented or Rome falls, than the night a boy is born to a couple of Jews.

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Music:

HERE  are the Celtic Woman with Chloe Agnew performing ”O Holy Night,” from the Celtic Woman concert at Slane Castle, in Ireland.

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We do not believe that the virgin mother gave birth to a son and that he is the Lord and Savior unless, added to this, I believe the second thing, namely, that he is my Savior and Lord.

Martin Luther, “Sermon on the Afternoon of Christmas Day 1530”

*     *     *     *     *

Ps98 nativity set

17th century English poet Richard Crashaw:

“In the Holy Nativity of our Lord”

Welcome, all wonders in one sight!
Eternity shut in a span;
Summer in winter; day in night;
Heaven in earth, and God in man.
Great little one!  Whose all-embracing birth
Lifts earth to heaven, stoops heav’n to earth.

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Music:

How glad we are to celebrate the birth of Christ — with angels and archangels and saints and martyrs and the whole company of heaven — Jesus is come!

HERE  is “Welcome to Our World” sung by Michael W. Smith.

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Images courtesy of:
Giotto.   http://www.artbible.net/3JC/-Luk-02,01_Birth_Manger_Naissance_Creche/14%20GIOTTO%20NATIVITY.jpg
Irish nativity set.    http://www.fitzulas.com/Merchant4c/graphics/00000001/2011/pipka-30029-l.jpg

1734.) Ruth 4

December 24, 2015

Wedding Day!  I couldn’t find a photo of Ruth and Boaz as bride and groom!  So here is one of David and me, December 27, 2003. In just a few days, it will be 12 years!  He is my “family redeemer,” and I thank God for him.

Ruth 4 (New Living Translation)

Boaz Marries Ruth

1 Boaz went to the town gate and took a seat there.

Jaffa Gate, part of the wall around the Old City of Jerusalem, was built around 1540 by Suleiman the Magnificent.

City gates served two functions in ancient times. First, they were protection. Gates controlled access to a walled city. They could shut out marauders and enemies and wild animals. Gates were often fortified with towers and secured with bars of iron. Second, city gates were the site of many societal, administrative, and business transactions. Much like the Greek agora or the Roman forum, the city gate was where important issues were discussed and negotiated. Deals were made and announcements proclaimed.

Remember, too, that this is a pre-literate society. Even during the Roman Empire, scholars believe, no more than 10 percent of the people could read and/or write. So instead of written records, they had certain visual rituals, performed in front of a group of witnesses, to ratify agreements and put them into the communal memory.

Just then the family redeemer he had mentioned came by, so Boaz called out to him, “Come over here and sit down, friend. I want to talk to you.” So they sat down together. 2 Then Boaz called ten leaders from the town and asked them to sit as witnesses. 3 And Boaz said to the family redeemer, “You know Naomi, who came back from Moab. She is selling the land that belonged to our relative Elimelech. 4 I thought I should speak to you about it so that you can redeem it if you wish. If you want the land, then buy it here in the presence of these witnesses. But if you don’t want it, let me know right away, because I am next in line to redeem it after you.”

The man replied, “All right, I’ll redeem it.”

5 Then Boaz told him, “Of course, your purchase of the land from Naomi also requires that you marry Ruth, the Moabite widow. That way she can have children who will carry on her husband’s name and keep the land in the family.”

6 “Then I can’t redeem it,” the family redeemer replied, “because this might endanger my own estate. You redeem the land; I cannot do it.”

7 Now in those days it was the custom in Israel for anyone transferring a right of purchase to remove his sandal and hand it to the other party. This publicly validated the transaction. 8 So the other family redeemer drew off his sandal as he said to Boaz, “You buy the land.”

A done deal.

9 Then Boaz said to the elders and to the crowd standing around, “You are witnesses that today I have bought from Naomi all the property of Elimelech, Kilion, and Mahlon. 10 And with the land I have acquired Ruth, the Moabite widow of Mahlon, to be my wife. This way she can have a son to carry on the family name of her dead husband and to inherit the family property here in his hometown. You are all witnesses today.”

11 Then the elders and all the people standing in the gate replied, “We are witnesses! May the Lord make this woman who is coming into your home like Rachel and Leah, from whom all the nation of Israel descended! May you prosper in Ephrathah and be famous in Bethlehem. 12 And may the Lord give you descendants by this young woman who will be like those of our ancestor Perez, the son of Tamar and Judah.”

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Music:

Years ago, after a drawn-out and draining divorce from a habitually unfaithful husband, I was, to use C. S. Lewis’ term, “surprised by joy” when a wonderful man named David found me. I had his 10th grade son in my English class; his wife died of cancer the third week of school. As the months passed by and love grew, we realized that we wanted to serve God together and grow old together. Once when I was telling this story to a friend of a friend, she played me this song and I have loved it ever since! Thank you, Rachel!  I love you, David!

HERE  Selah sings “God Bless the Broken Road (That Led Me Straight to You).” I post this song for Ruth and Boaz and all the ones who have found love in circuitous and sometimes difficult ways! Hear it as a musical version of Romans 8:28 — that God works ALL THINGS together for good for those who love him, and Lord, you know we love you!

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The Descendants of Boaz

13 So Boaz took Ruth into his home, and she became his wife.

“Calypsos 1” — a poem
by William Carlos Williams, 1962

Well God is
love
so love me

God
is love so
love me God

is
love so love
me well

When he slept with her, the Lord enabled her to become pregnant, and she gave birth to a son. 14 Then the women of the town said to Naomi, “Praise the Lord, who has now provided a redeemer for your family! May this child be famous in Israel. 15 May he restore your youth and care for you in your old age. For he is the son of your daughter-in-law who loves you and has been better to you than seven sons!”

16 Naomi took the baby and cuddled him to her breast. And she cared for him as if he were her own.

17 The neighbor women said, “Now at last Naomi has a son again!” And they named him Obed (which means “worship”). He became the father of Jesse and the grandfather of David.

18 This is the genealogical record of their ancestor Perez:

Perez was the father of Hezron.
19 Hezron was the father of Ram.
Ram was the father of Amminadab.
20 Amminadab was the father of Nahshon.
Nahshon was the father of Salmon.
21 Salmon was the father of Boaz.
Boaz was the father of Obed.
22 Obed was the father of Jesse.
Jesse was the father of David.

Ruth4 star above B

And if we continue the same family tree down further generations, as the Gospel of Matthew does in chapter 1, we will find that Boaz and Ruth and David are all in the family tree of another little boy born in Bethlehem — Jesus Christ.

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Music:

For Obed and David and especially for Jesus — “O Little Town of Bethlehem,”  HERE  by Sarah McLachlan.

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Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright © 1996, 2004 by Tyndale Charitable Trust. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers.

Images courtesy of:
Jaffa Gate.    http://farm2.static.flickr.com/1069/856994589_33fb914816.jpg?v=0
sandal.    https://dwellingintheword.files.wordpress.com/2010/08/4-sandal.jpg
hearts.   http://images.free-extras.com/pics/h/hearts-1482.jpg
Naomi and baby Obed.    https://dwellingintheword.files.wordpress.com/2010/08/4-naomi-and-baby.jpg
star over Bethlehem.    https://bloorlansdownechristianfellowship.files.wordpress.com/2014/12/isaiah-9_2-61.jpg

1733.) Ruth 3

December 23, 2015

“Boaz Wakes Up and Sees Ruth at his Feet” — 1960 lithograph by Marc Chagall

Ruth 3 (New Living Translation)

Ruth at the Threshing Floor

1 One day Naomi said to Ruth, “My daughter, it’s time that I found a permanent home for you, so that you will be provided for. 2 Boaz is a close relative of ours, and he’s been very kind by letting you gather grain with his young women. Tonight he will be winnowing barley at the threshing floor. 3 Now do as I tell you—take a bath and put on perfume and dress in your nicest clothes.

Then go to the threshing floor, but don’t let Boaz see you until he has finished eating and drinking. 4 Be sure to notice where he lies down; then go and uncover his feet and lie down there. He will tell you what to do.”

5 “I will do everything you say,” Ruth replied. 6 So she went down to the threshing floor that night and followed the instructions of her mother-in-law.

Several ancient threshing floors have been excavated in Israel. They are circular, level floors of laid stone, often on a hilltop. Men would take the bundles, or sheaves, of grain to this floor. There they would beat the heads of the grain to loosen the covering husk. Then they would separate the chaff from the grain by forking the grain up into the breeze and letting the wind blow the chaff away. The heavier grains would fall in a pile at their feet. This work was usually done in the evening, when the breeze picked up. The men would stay the night, sleeping besides their heap of grain to guard it. They would move it to their storage barn the next day.

7 After Boaz had finished eating and drinking and was in good spirits, he lay down at the far end of the pile of grain and went to sleep. Then Ruth came quietly, uncovered his feet, and lay down. 8 Around midnight Boaz suddenly woke up and turned over. He was surprised to find a woman lying at his feet! 9 “Who are you?” he asked.

“I am your servant Ruth,” she replied. “Spread the corner of your covering over me, for you are my family redeemer.”

A more literal translation of what Ruth said could be, “spread your skirt over me.” The word for skirt is the same Hebrew word as for wing — so, “spread your wings over your servant,” as the English Standard Version of the Bible puts it. This word is used another place in Ruth— in 2:12, where Boaz says to Ruth, “The Lord recompense you for what you have done, and a full reward be given you by the Lord, the God of Israel, under those wings you have come to take refuge.”

When Boaz heard Ruth’s request for covering, I think his heart said,  “Because you take refuge under the wings of God, you are the kind of woman I want to cover with my wings.”

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Music:

An old Ira Sankey song — “Under His Wings,”  sung  HERE  by another old gospel artist, Slim Whitman.

Under His wings I am safely abiding,
Though the night deepens and tempests are wild,
Still I can trust Him; I know He will keep me,
He has redeemed me, and I am His child.

Refrain:

Under His wings, under His wings,
Who from His love can sever?
Under His wings my soul shall abide,
Safely abide forever.

Under His wings, what a refuge in sorrow!
How the heart yearningly turns to His rest!
Often when earth has no balm for my healing,
There I find comfort, and there I am blessed.

Under His wings, oh, what precious enjoyment!
There will I hide till life’s trials are o’er;
Sheltered, protected, no evil can harm me,
Resting in Jesus, I’m safe evermore.

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10 “The Lord bless you, my daughter!” Boaz exclaimed. “You are showing even more family loyalty now than you did before, for you have not gone after a younger man, whether rich or poor. 11 Now don’t worry about a thing, my daughter. I will do what is necessary, for everyone in town knows you are a virtuous woman.

Or to translate the Hebrew literally, “a woman of strength.” Ruth is a good match for Boaz, who is himself “a mighty man of strength” (as he was introduced to us in Ruth 2:1).

–Patricia K. Hull

For centuries, rubies came from Myanmar (Burma). But due to governmental unrest there, now 70% of the world’s rubies come from Thailand.

Proverbs 31:10 (ew KJV)

Who can find a virtuous wife?
For her worth is far above rubies.

12 But while it’s true that I am one of your family redeemers, there is another man who is more closely related to you than I am. 13 Stay here tonight, and in the morning I will talk to him. If he is willing to redeem you, very well. Let him marry you. But if he is not willing, then as surely as the Lord lives, I will redeem you myself! Now lie down here until morning.”

14 So Ruth lay at Boaz’s feet until the morning, but she got up before it was light enough for people to recognize each other. For Boaz had said, “No one must know that a woman was here at the threshing floor.” 15 Then Boaz said to her, “Bring your cloak and spread it out.” He measured six scoops of barley into the cloak and placed it on her back. Then he returned to the town.

“Boaz pours six measures of barley into Ruth’s veil” by   Rembrandt, 1648 (Rijksprentenkabinet, Amsterdam)

Proverbs 22:9 (NIV)

A generous man will himself be blessed,
for he shares his food with the poor.

16 When Ruth went back to her mother-in-law, Naomi asked, “What happened, my daughter?”

Ruth told Naomi everything Boaz had done for her, 17 and she added, “He gave me these six scoops of barley and said, ‘Don’t go back to your mother-in-law empty-handed.’”

18 Then Naomi said to her, “Just be patient, my daughter, until we hear what happens. The man won’t rest until he has settled things today.”

detail of “Ruth,” a seriograph by John August Swanson

SPIRITUAL STRENGTH AND TRUST
by David Wilkerson

The Holy Spirit gives us strength when we release all our needs into God’s hands and trust in his might.

Ruth is an example of this kind of trust. After her husband died, Ruth lived with her mother-in-law, Naomi. Naomi was concerned about Ruth’s welfare and future. So she advised Ruth to lie down at the feet of the wealthy Boaz and ask him to fulfill his obligation to her as her kinsman.

That evening, after the day’s winnowing was finished, Boaz lay down “at the end of the heap of corn” (Ruth 3:7) and pulled a blanket over him. The next morning, he woke up startled, finding a woman lying at his feet. (There was nothing immoral about Ruth’s presence there; this was a common custom of the day.)

Ruth said to him, “Spread therefore thy skirt over thine handmaid; for thou art a near kinsman” (Ruth 3:9). She was saying, in essence, “Will you take on the obligation of a relative for me? Will you provide for me?” She actually was asking, “Will you marry me?”

This was no manipulative scheme. Ruth and Naomi had done everything in divine order. We can be sure of this, because Christ’s lineage came through Ruth. When Ruth returned home Naomi asked her, “Who art thou, my daughter?” (3:16). She was asking, in other words, “Shall I call you ‘engaged’ Ruth? Or are you still ‘widowed’ Ruth?”

Ruth told Naomi all that had happened. Listen to Naomi’s godly advice: “Sit still, my daughter, until thou know how the matter will fall: for the man will not be in rest, until he have finished the thing this day” (Ruth 3:18). Naomi had prayed about the matter, seeking God’s direction, and God had given her counsel. He had reminded her of the law of the kinsman-redeemer (which was a type and foreshadowing of Christ). So Naomi was confident that she and Ruth had done their part. Now it was time to sit still and trust God to perform what he had promised. She was saying, “It’s all in the Lord’s hands now, Ruth. Just relax and be calm.”

A calm and peace settled over Naomi’s house. Nobody was in a frenzy, biting fingernails and wondering, “Will God do it? When will it happen?” These two faithful women could relax, sing and praise the Lord for His goodness.

Have you prayed? Have you trusted? Are you ready to sit still and “see the salvation of the Lord”? He has everything under control.

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Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright © 1996, 2004 by Tyndale Charitable Trust. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers.

Images courtesy of:
Chagall.     http://static.goldmarkart.com/media/catalog/product/cache/1/small_image/200×200/9df78eab33525d08d6e5fb8d27136e95/m/a/marc-chagall-boaz-wakes-up-and-sees-ruth-at-his-feet-bible.jpg
bath.    https://dwellingintheword.files.wordpress.com/2010/08/thirtysomethingbath.jpg
threshing floor.     https://dwellingintheword.files.wordpress.com/2010/08/3-threshing-floor.jpg
swan and her babies under her wing.    http://strengthenedbygrace.files.wordpress.com/2009/08/swancygnets.jpg
rubies.    http://www.ramaura.com/wp-content/uploads/EasyRotatorStorage/user-content/erc_9_1352143064/content/assets/Ramaura%20Rubies-0.jpg
Rembrandt.    https://dwellingintheword.files.wordpress.com/2010/08/3-rembrandt-rb.jpg?w=450
Swanson.    http://www.deebrestin.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/12/ruth-surprises-boaz-300×296.jpg