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Walking in the light

1 John 1:5-10  This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

One of the things that can most negatively affect our relationship with God and with other people is unconfessed sin.  If we hold onto the idea that we’ve done nothing wrong when in reality we’ve offended God with our thoughts and actions, we’re putting a barrier between Him and ourselves.  The same is true when we act as though we’ve not wronged others.  We can’t have true fellowship when we’re walking in a lie.

But if we confess our sins to the Lord, He’s not standing by waiting to strike us down with lightning; He’s ready to forgive us and to cleanse us.  When we’ve been cleansed by God, we’re then enabled to walk in the light.  If we have fellowship with God, we can’t be in the darkness, so it’s also fair to say that if we’re walking in darkness we’re not in fellowship with God.

Where are you right now? Are you walking in the light?  Are your relationships reflective of God’s work in you?  Or are you in broken relationships with other people and a broken fellowship with God?  The good news is that at any time we can turn to Him and admit our sins.  He’ll wash us clean with the blood of Christ, just like He took a big eraser and wiped out all of our wrongdoing to give us a fresh start.  He wants to do that for us.  The Good News is for believers too.

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The Word of Life

1 John 1:1-4  That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us— that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.

The natural response to the joy we receive in Christ is to share it.  How could we, knowing that we have experienced new life in the Son of God, keep that to ourselves?  We should be overflowing with joy, ready to burst if we don’t share it.

John was among the apostles who walked with Jesus while He was here on this earth.  He writes in his first letter to the churches in Asia Minor that he wants them to share in the fellowship he and others have with God through Christ.  He proclaims all he witnessed with his own eyes, all he heard with his own ears, so that the joy of others might be made full.  He’s not willing to keep it all to himself.  What he was sharing was life.

Jesus is the Word of life and He made Himself known to mankind.  John was there when Jesus was present in the flesh, God incarnate sharing life with other people.  John knew that real life is in Jesus and in this he found his joy.  He also knew that his joy would be made all the more complete if he told others about the Word.  Notice his motive explained in verse 4, that “our” joy may be made complete.

Jesus is life.  If you’ve experience new life in Him, share it with everyone around you, so that they will have joy AND so that your joy would be made more complete.  If you haven’t experienced the life-giver, why not seek Him out?  Find out what this life is that others are talking about.  Ask God to reveal Jesus to you and make Him real to you.  He will.

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Do Not Love the World

1 John 2:15-17   Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.

What’s more important; the things in your life or your relationship with God?  Before you answer that, pause.  It’s easy to jump at answering what we know we’re supposed to say, but take a moment.  Think about what really matters in your life.  How do you spend your money?  Your time?  What do you pursue?  Now is your answer still the same?

It’s tempting to be overtaken by our flesh, to give into every craving we have for pleasure or entertainment, or material things.  But those things won’t last and they don’t matter.  They’ll be here one day and gone the next.  These things rot and rust, they deteriorate and fail to satisfy.  But God is eternal and He’s never going to leave us.  Shouldn’t we put more into walking with Him than we do in walking in worldly desires?

John goes so far in God’s Word to say that if we love this world we don’t love God.  Let that sink in.  If you spend more time trying to gain pleasure out of this life than you do trying to walk in God’s will, then you really don’t love God.  It sounds harsh, but put it in human terms.  If I marry a woman and then spend most of my time trying to make myself happy through every means besides her, then do I really love her?  If God is really our love, then we should be pleased by Him and not need all of the other things of this world.  They won’t matter to us because all we’ll want is more of Him.

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Awe: God in the flesh

Colossians 1:15-20  He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.

Can I be honest with you all? Sometimes I forget what it’s all about. I have this habit of making my life about me and when I do that I get things all twisted. It’s no wonder I sometimes lose my awe for God. I’m focused on myself.

The thing about this world and this life is it’s all about Jesus. If you want to have joy, look to Jesus. If you want peace, look to Jesus. If you’re looking for healing, look to Jesus. If you want to know God – look to Jesus. He’s the image of the invisible God. Everything God the Father wanted us to know of himself, He revealed in the Son (Hebrews 1:2-3).

With everything going on in this busy world, it’s far too easy to get lost in the wrong stuff and forget what really matters. All things were created through Christ, for Christ. It doesn’t matter what people think of you, it doesn’t matter what you have or where you live. What matters is Him.

Take some time and reflect on who Jesus is – God in the flesh. Just think about the fact that the Creator of the universe came down into humankind and revealed himself. You will be in awe.

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Waging war

Ephesians 4:14-16 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.  Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ,  from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.

In WWII, the U.S. Army developed a new tactic: airborne operations. Under this new tactic, specially trained units would parachute in behind enemy lines before a major offensive. Their objective was to take strategic pieces of land, such as bridges and roads, and to eliminate particular sections of the enemy defenses. In essence, their job description was to be surrounded by large numbers of enemy troops and accomplish highly dangerous missions. Sounds fun, right?

Well, time to rise and shine, soldier – you are in the Airborne as you read this devotional. Anyone who follows Christ is most definitely behind enemy lines in this world. We are surrounded by a mass of enemy fortifications. Our circumstance in this respect is certain, and there is no way around it. Now we must choose whether to pick up our rifle and march forward, or crouch down in the ditch and pretend there’s not a war going on.

This reality is what Paul speaks to in 4:14. Spiritual warfare is all around us, and is infinitely more real than the game on TV last night. We ought not be shocked when the bullets start flying, not if we accept and understand our position. We’re supposed to be maturing and growing in our stature in Christ. We are supposed to be warriors who see the danger and are engaged in the fight.

The particular battle described here is one of the Church drawing people to Christ through our actions, our true selves, not just the bulletins that we pass out at bake sales. Fighting this battle involves growing into the fullness of Christ (verse 15), so that each member of the body functions properly. Thus, the whole unit becomes effective.

The Christian life is far from passive. Read over this passage several times and grasp the all -encompassing nature of our calling. Make no mistake, the enemy is playing for keeps, and he means to wreck, steal, and devour. Never stop seeking after Christ and allow Him to use you. Become a weapon in His hand.

———-  How are you letting yourself be used by God to wage war against the enemy?

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Nothing can separate us

Romans 8:35-36  Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?  As it is written,“For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”

The life of a Christian isn’t without problems, though some expect it to be.  The truth is we often find ourselves facing more problems because we’re Christians.  We might be persecuted, made-fun-of, mistreated, untrusted, or any number of things because we’ve chosen to follow Christ.  Unlike the rest of the world, though, we’ve got a God on our side who gets us through it all.  Nothing can separate us from His love.

Honestly, when we get down to the bottom of why we’re attacked at times, it’s precisely to try and separate us from God.  The insults, the dangers, the threats, they’re intended to get us to turn away from Him.  Fortunately for us, God is holding onto us tightly through the storms, showing us that He’s on our side.  What the enemy meant to take us from God will in most cases only serve to draw us closer to Him as we seek shelter in Him.  In the trials, His love shows through even more.

———-  When have you found yourself seeking shelter in God’s love because of troubles in your life?

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Awe: The heavens declare

Psalm 19:1 The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.

God is worthy of our worship. We know it because of who He is and what He’s done, but beyond that, there’s something within us that just knows. We are born with an inward hint pointing us to the greatness of God.

Look around you. Everywhere you look, the fingerprint of God is present. He’s evident in all of creation. The cells that form your body, the stars in the sky, the giant mountains spanning miles and miles of the earth. Even if you’d never heard of God, you’d know there’s Someone and you’d know that He’s deserving of your awe.

The Creator wants you to know Him. He’s got such a desire for you to turn to Him that He built you with a knowledge that He’s there. He wants you to take that knowledge, and the awe that comes with it, and seek Him out.

If you’ve lost your awe for the Creator, spend some time considering the creation. Look at the world around you and realize His greatness.

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Awe: What God has done

Psalm 103:1-5  Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name! Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy, who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

Even if God had never done a single thing for you, He’d be worthy of your praise. Just His characteristics alone are something that brings us to a place of awe. But He has done so much for you and for me that we can’t neglect to think about those things and stand in wonder.

Maybe you’re racking your brain, thinking, “What has God done for me?” If you have to ask, it’s a good indication that you’ve lost your awe for Him. Think back into the past, look at where you are in the present. Is your heart beating? Are your lungs breathing in air? That, in and of itself, is an amazing thing. There’s so much more though.

His love for you knows no bounds. The Creator of all things provided a plan for your redemption, rescue from your ultimate demise, and a way to adoption into His very own family. He sacrificed the greatest treasure in all of heaven, His own Son, for your sake, that you might be in a right relationship with Him. Think on that. Mediate on that. How do you feel about it?

When we lose our awe for the Lord’s greatness, it’s worth looking back and taking stock of all the things He’s done, not the least of which is the provision of salvation for our souls. He refreshes, comforts, guides, loves, and shows limitless grace. How can we not be amazed when our eyes are open to such things?

If you’ve lost your awe, pray. Admit to Him that you need to regain that sense of awe and ask Him to reveal himself. That’s a prayer that never goes unanswered. Search the Scriptures. Look at all He’s done for all of humanity. He is truly awesome.

What are some things you can share from your own life experience that have you in awe of God?

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Awe: Who God is

Psalm 145:1-3 I will extol you, my God and King, and bless your name forever and ever. Every day I will bless you and praise your name forever and ever. Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised, and his greatness is unsearchable.

Are you in awe of God? For most Christians there comes a time that the original emotions and feelings involved at the time of our salvation begin to level off or decrease. That’s normal, but what we should never allow to happen is a decrease in our awe for God.

Feelings change as do circumstances, but God remains the same always and forever. There’s never any reason to forget just how great and mighty He is. If we were constantly aware of the Lord’s presence, we’d have less of a chance that our reverence for Him would lessen.

It happens to the best among us, though. There come times in everyone’s life when it suddenly hits us that our awe has faded. The question is how to get it back. God didn’t change, so something else did. What needs to happen to regain that original child-like awe?

There are many things that ought to bring us back to where we need to be, and one of them is to remember who God is. Just looking once again at the nature and character of God, mediating on that, and embracing it, can really lead us back on the right path. There’s truly no one like Him. No one even comes close. Look to the Psalms, search the Scriptures, find who God have revealed himself to be. Stand in awe.

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Christ our Advocate

1 John 2:1-6   My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.

If we claim to be Christians, there ought to be something to show for it.  If we aren’t walking a true Christian walk, obeying God, growing to be more like Christ, loving others; then we aren’t fooling anyone.  If we love God, we’ll follow Him in everything we do.

All that said, we can try to obey in all things, but we will fail at times.  We can’t be perfect, even though we should try to walk as closely to God as possible, with the help of the Holy Spirit.  We’ll fail, but the true test is whether or not we admit to wrongdoing and ask forgiveness.  If we say we don’t sin, again no one is fooled.  We have to have a heart that’s humble enough to confess that we’ve sinned.  This is what we’re called to as followers of Christ.

The best part is that we, as Christians, don’t receive God’s wrath for our sins, but we get forgiveness.  Jesus already died in our place, He already took on our sins so that we don’t have to suffer the consequences.  He made a way so that we have no reason to hold onto our sins as a secret and not admit to them.  If we’ll just confess them, He’s faithful and just to forgive us (1 John 1:9).  Jesus stands in the gap, advocating on our behalf, making our case.  This isn’t just a message for seekers of truth; the gospel is for Christians too.

Equipping believers to follow Christ and make Him known