Eyewitness: This Way to Fellowship

“We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ.” (1 John 1:3)

John didn’t tell the story of what he’d seen – the story of Jesus – just to impress people because he was there. He wasn’t trying to increase his own status. He did it to invite people to join him and to be joined with God.

eye_350Here’s a lame metaphor: If God had a Facebook account, the only way to be his friend would be to become friends with Jesus. And John’s message as a close friend of Jesus was that everyone could become the Savior’s friend and be included in the family of God through faith in Jesus’ claim to be God’s Son and our only hope for salvation.

And once included in the friendship (or fellowship or “familyship”) of God we suddenly discover that we have fellowship with everyone else who has trusted in Christ’s death in their place for salvation. We have Christian friends – family – in every corner of the earth.

Think: What do you personally gain by being in fellowship with the Father, His Son, and all those who are truly Christians? How aware are you of being plugged into that network?

Pray: Thank God that you have fellowship with God and his people through faith in Jesus Christ.

Do: Next time you look at your Facebook account – if you have one – think about being included in the fellowship network of all of God’s “friends.” And then stop thinking about that, because it really is a lame metaphor. (Or is it an analogy? I can never keep those straight.)

Eyewitness: The Life Appeared

“The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us.” (1 John 1:2)

Today’s verse reminds me of Christmas, of Immanuel, of “God with us.”

eye_350Did God need to show up in person to make eternal life possible for us? Did he need to come in human flesh and walk on the ground and get sweaty and breathe hard with flesh-and-blood lungs? I suppose God could have accomplished his purposes anyway he wanted to, but his plan was to make it personal. He sent the the lone gateway to eternal life to make eye contact with us, to shake our hands, to wash our feet.

John saw “it” – the path to salvation – with his own eyeballs, just as God intended. John was one of our representatives for contact with eternity and his mission was to tell as many people what he saw as possible, including you and me.

Think: What does it mean to you personally that God was here in person as a human being, that Jesus lived here and died here and lived again? Why do you think that’s so much more valuable than if God had made a way for us to be saved “remotely”?

Pray: Thank God for sending Jesus to be with us in flesh and blood. Thank him that because of Jesus you can one day be with God in person, too.

Do: Because of the Internet and our mobile devices, we can participate in so many things now without actually being there. Make a quick list of five big events that still require us to show up in person to participate in.

Eyewitness: “I Was There”

“That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life.” (1 John 1:1)

For the next few days, we’re going to listen to the eyewitness testimony of the apostle John. He will make, as he does in other parts of the Bible, an outrageous claim about the man called Jesus – that he is the Son of God, the path to a relationship with the Father, the one hope for forgiveness and eternity in heaven.

eye_350He opens with his strongest piece of evidence: “I was there. I saw it with my own eyes. I heard him with my own ears. I touched him with my own hands.” Jesus’ biography in the gospels tell us that John saw Jesus dying on the cross and that he saw him alive again after death. In fact, John described himself as the disciple Jesus loved, maybe Christ’s closest human friend.

John isn’t just a lawyer making the case for Christianity; he’s the witness in the stand. He tells us what he saw and what it means – why his glimpse of that key moment in the history of the world makes him qualified to proclaim the message of eternal life.

Stay tuned.

Think: How much more credibility do you give to an eyewitness than to somebody who is telling about something they heard from someone else? Why?

Pray: Thank God for John’s first-hand account of Jesus, the Savior.

Do: Read through 1 John 1 once or twice to get ready to think about the chapter this week.

Faith to Feeling: Get Busy

“Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.” (Philippians 4:9)

Today’s verse may be the most overlooked one of this whole passage on “faith to feelings.” But Paul’s instructions on how to take control of our emotions – especially our worry – isn’t complete without it.

ftf_350So far: Don’t stay worried. Instead, be intentional about giving your requests and thanksgiving to God. Then God’s peace will come to free your hearts and minds. Use that freedom to think about good things.

Finally: Get out there and do good things. Paul uses his teachings and example to sum up what it means to live as a Christian. Put it into practice, he writes. The final step to controlling your emotions involves taking action. Maintain your peace by getting out of your head and into doing good.

Think: Have you ever noticed that acting on what God’s Word teaches helps you to feel better emotionally? Have you been putting off obeying God or doing something he’s called you to do? What would it take to get out there and do that thing this week?

Pray: Ask God to help you to put into practice what you’ve learned from his Word.

Do: Make a quick list of three things you’ve learned from God’s Word that you could do today or this week.

Faith to Feeling: Mind Control

“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” (Philippians 4:8)

For some reason, this verse is often used to talk about impure sexual thoughts and/or R-rated movies and/or violent video games. And that’s fine; it’s just not the point Paul was making, I don’t think.

ftf_350He’s talking about anxiety. Worry. Being stressed out. He’s just told us never to be anxious, but instead to give our requests and thanksgiving to God. The result? A mind-blowing peace that doesn’t even make sense but protects our thoughts and emotions from being controlled by worthless worry.

Now what? Now – with the protection of God’s peace – you can control your thoughts. Be careful not to jump back into the worry zone by jumping right back into worthless thinking. Instead, think about what is true (not what might happen), what is noble (not how bad people can be), what is right (not a sinful approach to fixing your problems) . . .

You get the idea. Once you have God’s peace, think God’s thoughts to avoid falling back into trusting yourself more than you trust him.

Think: Do you feel like you can control your thoughts? Do you have the self-control to tell your brain what to stop or start thinking about? If so, how do you use that power?

Pray: Ask God to help you to think about whatever is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, or praiseworthy.

Do: Write these eight descriptors (true, noble, right, etc.) down on a piece of paper and carry it around with you this week as a way of reminding yourself to check your thoughts.

Faith to Feeling: Beyond Understanding

“And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. ” (Philippians 4:7)

Of all of the promises in the Bible, this one might be the most immediately appealing to me. I want God’s irrational peace standing guard – it’s a military word – over my heart and mind.

ftf_350This is different from God’s promise that we have peace with him through faith in Christ (see Romans 5:1). That means that we are on good terms with him; he’s for us. All Christians are receiving that promise.

This one, though, is conditional. I only get it today if I practice what’s in the verse before it – giving my requests and thanks to God and letting go of my worry. Then comes this peace that doesn’t make any sense because my actual circumstances haven’t really changed.

But it’s a big, bulky well-armed peace – this peace of God – that stands guard over my thoughts and emotions. When I trust him with what matters most to me today, he floods me with the sense that it’s going to be okay. Who wouldn’t want that?

Think: You can’t pay for it, but what do you think the peace of God would be worth if you could? Why do you think sometimes we’d rather worry than have the peace of God?

Pray: Thank God that he gives us his peace when we gratefully trust him with what matters most to us.

Do: Pay attention to your heart and mind today and notice if they are protected by peace or dwelling on worry.

Faith to Feeling: With Thanksgiving

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” (Philippians 4:6)

“With thanksgiving.” In high school, those two words were voted “most likely to be ignored in Philippians 4:6.” (Yes, it was an odd category.)

ftf_350We’re so eager to get rid of our anxiety, to give it to God, to make our request of the ultimate authority, that we often rush right past “with thanksgiving,” one of the essential ingredients in shaking loose of crippling worry.

When we take the time, focus, and mental energy to start really thinking about the good things God has already given us – all the ways he has helped us during high-stress moments in the past – we start to realize again just how good and loving and powerful our Father really is.

I can trust him with the thing I’m worried about because he’s already proved his goodness to me in all the things I have to be grateful for.

Think: Have you ever noticed that making an effort to tell God thanks leads to a sense of peacefulness? How often do you practice thanksgiving when you’re feeling really worried and stressed out?

Pray: Ask God to help you to give your requests to him with thanksgiving as often as it takes to get rid of your worry.

Do: Make a quick list of ten things you can tell God thanks for today. Then tell him.