Ezra 10:1-17

Today’s Scripture Focus:  Ezra 10:1-17

                 We are now in the section of scripture known as history.  There are two types of history books in the Old Testament—covenant history, which tells the story of God’s people before the Babylonian Exile, and post exilic history.  The post exile writings are I and II Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, and Esther.  Although I and II Chronicles detail events from before the Exile, they are written from the perspective of those who had already experienced God’s judgement.  Ezra, Nehemiah, and Esther deal with three groups of God’s people—those who rebuilt the Temple, those who rebuilt Jerusalem, and those who remained in foreign countries.

Ezra and Nehemiah were originally one book, and many believe they were written by the same person or community.  The book of Ezra tells the story of the first two waves of Judean exiles that went back to Jerusalem.  In 538 BC, the Persian king Cyrus decreed that God’s Temple should be rebuilt in Jerusalem.  The first group of Jews made the long and dangerous journey back home, and began to settle on the land of their ancestors.  They faced opposition from those who had been resettled there during their absence.  They managed to rebuild the altar and celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles before the work was interrupted.

God continued to intervene on behalf of the people, and there were eventually able to continue work on the Temple.  Those who remembered Solomon’s Temple wept, for the new one couldn’t compare to its glory.  After about fifty years, the Persian king Xerxes decreed that Ezra—a priest and expert in the Law—should gather another wave of Exiles and set up a government in Jerusalem.  Before, the Jews had been ruled by a king.  Now they would be ruled by a book.  Ezra knew the Torah—the first five books of the Bible—and would make sure the people followed it’s teachings.  Ezra gathered other priests and leaders and traveled home.

What Ezra found in Jerusalem broke his heart, for many of the people, including the priests and leaders, had intermarried with the pagan peoples who lived around and among them.  Why was this a problem?  Remember it was King Solomon’s marriage covenant with foreign peoples that led Israel into the worship of idols.  This weakened and divided the people, and eventually led to Israel’s destruction by their enemies.   Had they learned nothing from their exile?  Ezra cried out to God on behalf of the people.  The consequence of their sin seemed harsh—they had to purify their households.  Though it is sometimes painful, obeying God’s word always strengthens God’s people.

  • Go around the table and share prayer requests. Have someone lead in prayer.
  • Let everyone who would like to share anything exciting from their week.
  • Ask these three questions. Let as many answer each one as they would like.

 

Why was Ezra so broken hearted in 10:1?  How did the people respond when they saw him weeping? 

 

How has obeying the Bible cost you personally?

 

God is calling the church today to be faithful to the Word.  Pray that God will give us strength in this day to say “no” to the world when it contradicts scripture. 

 

Numbers 27:12-23

Today’s Scripture Focus:  Numbers 27:12-23

                  In today’s scripture focus, Israel is camped at the edge of a mountain range in Moab.  Remember that the book of Numbers gets its name because of the two census that were taken of the people.  The second one has just been conducted in Numbers 26, this one numbering the generation born in the wilderness.  Those who came out of slavery in Egypt have died—God had commanded that they would not enter the Promised Land due to their constant complaining.  Aaron the high priest, Moses’ brother, has died.  Miriam, Moses’ sister, has died.  Moses alone was left to lead the people, and he was nearing the end of his life as well.

In Numbers 27, God called Moses up on a mountain (later identified as Mount Nebo) to allow him to see over in Canaan.  Moses was not going to live to lead the new generation of Israelites into this Promised Land.  Why?  In Numbers 20, the people had complained about a lack of water.  As God had done in Exodus 15, God was once again going to provide water for the people through Moses, this time by having Moses speak to a rock and having water flow from it.  However, instead of speaking to the rock, Moses spoke to the people and hit the rock with his staff.  Instead of bringing glory to God, Moses took credit for this miracle himself.

Moses had gotten the people to the edge of Canaan successfully.  We was nearly 120 years old!  His job was nearing completion.  Although he would not enter the Promised Land, God did bring him up on the mountain to see it.  Moses had many times begged God to do something different or change God’s plan on behalf of Israel, but notice that Moses never once asked God to allow him to go into the Promised Land.  Instead, his concern is for the people—who would lead them now?  Moses knew that going into Canaan would mean facing war, and there was no way the people would be able to work together without someone leading them.

God chose Moses’ assistant Joshua to become his successor.  Joshua had actually been to the Promised Land once already.  He had been one of the twelve spies that had scoped out the territory years before.  Remember that ten of those spies spread fear among the people, but Joshua and Caleb trusted God.  God remembered.  God told Moses that Joshua had “the spirit”.  He had the right attitude for leadership.  However, he would still need God’s spirit.  God had Moses put his hand on Joshua and impart “some” of his spirit.  Joshua wouldn’t lead in the same way Moses led, but he was the right person for this time and task.  God has chosen us for a time and task today.  Do you have the “spirit” for it?

  • Go around the table and share prayer requests. Have someone lead in prayer.
  • Let everyone who would like to share anything exciting from their week.
  • Ask these three questions. Let as many answer each one as they would like.

 

Why wasn’t Moses allowed to go into the Promised Land?

 

What is the difference between our “spirit” (with a small “s”) and God’s Spirit (with a capital “S”).  Do we need both? 

 

God has called each of us to fulfill a role in the Kingdom.  Pray that you have the right “spirit” (attitude) to do what only you can do, as well as God’s Holy Spirit within you to do what you cannot do. 

Numbers 21:4-9

Today’s Scripture Focus:  Numbers 21:4-9

                 It seems there have been a high number of snakes being places we would rather they not be in our area this year—yards, work spaces, and even homes!  Although snakes serve an important function in our ecosystem (give me a rat snake over a rat any day), the feelings these creatures evoke in us jump from healthy respect to irrational phobia.  The expression “that snake is more scared of you than you are of it” seems highly unlikely when you find one in your garage!   From Genesis to Revelation, humans and snakes are mostly at odds with each other.  They can also be a powerful tool in God’s plan of salvation, as we read in today’s scripture.

Years have now passed since last week’s scripture focus.  During this time, Moses sent spies into Canaan.  God was ready to hand this promised land over to Israel, but the majority of the spies came back and spread fear among the people.  God decreed that any who came out of Egypt would never enter Canaan.  Now, nearly a generation later, the people are nearing the Transjordan valley, east of Canaan.  They sought permission to pass through Edom, but were denied passage.  Moses refused to engage in an unnecessary war with the Edomites, so he led the people the long way around.  He was leading them alone, for Aaron, his brother, had died.

The people, as usual, are not happy about this decision.  This time, they direct their wrath against God!  “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness?  For there is no food and no water, and we loath this worthless food.”  Contradicting themselves in their anger, the people called what God had provided worthless.  A plague of “fiery serpents” begins attacking the people.  The “fiery” could refer to their color, their temperament, or the burn of their bite.  Suddenly the people need God again!  Moses fashions a metal serpent.  When the people look up to it, they are not only healed, but reminded of their dependence on God.

This bronze serpent, meant to warn people of the results of rejecting God, later became on object of worship.  We read in 2 Kings 18 that Hezekiah had it destroyed because people were praying to it!  How sad that something meant to turn people to God ended up distracting them from God.  The story of the bronze serpent doesn’t end there, however.  We all know John 3:16, but many forget that in John 3:14-15, Jesus used the story of the bronze serpent to point to Himself and His salvation.  “Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.” A symbol of wrath became a sign of salvation!

  • Go around the table and share prayer requests. Have someone lead in prayer.
  • Let everyone who would like to share anything exciting from their week.
  • Ask these three questions. Let as many answer each one as they would like.

 

Why do you think the people directed their anger at both God and Moses this time? 

 

Have you ever made a foolish decision when you were angry?  What was the result?  How can we prevent saying or doing things when we are upset that we will later regret? 

 

God’s provision comes in different ways—sometimes as a blessing, sometimes as a warning.  As you pray today, ask God to show you any areas of your life that need to be brought under saving grace. 

Numbers 11:4-29

Today’s Scripture Focus:  Numbers 11:4-9

                   “His nose is out of joint.”  “She needs to keep her nose out of everybody’s business.”  “They always have their nose in the air.”  We have many idioms in our language dealing with the nose—and notice almost none have to do with the nose’s primary purposes:  breathing and smelling!  Perhaps because it is often the most prominent feature on our face, we use the nose to symbolize the direction our heads and hearts are going.  Numbers 11 is somewhat centered around noses.  The literal translation of verse 1 is “when the Lord heard this, his nose became hot.”  In other words, God breathed fire and consumed some of the people!

What aroused such a passionate response from God?  The complaining of the people.  Remember we find two kinds of writings in Numbers—the priestly sections with their lists (Numbers 7 is basically like an excel spreadsheet) and the narrative sections with their stories.  For every story in Numbers, there is a corresponding story in Exodus.  They mirror one another.  The corresponding story to today’s scripture focus is Exodus 16.  The people complained because they had nothing to eat, so God sent them manna, a sort of flaky resin that could be ground up and baked into flatbread.  Each day people would open their tents and find a miracle on the ground.

This had gone on for over a year now.  A group of “rabble” got tired of the manna and began to complain.  These were Egyptians and other foreigners who were traveling with the Israelites.  They stirred the people up, who began to long for the fish, vegetables, and herbs available back in slave days.  The people wore Moses out with their complaints, and Moses took his complaint to God, saying he simply couldn’t carry the entire nation anymore the way a mother carries a baby.  This is when God’s nose “got hot” again.  God told Moses that so much meat would be provided for Israel that it would come out of their nostrils!

Moses was instructed by God to call 70 elders to the Tabernacle.  God would put some of Moses’ prophetic authority on the elders.  This is exactly what happened, however two of the elders didn’t make it to the tent, and starting speaking the words of God in the middle of the camp!  This disturbed Moses’ assistant, who thought only Moses should speak for God.  Moses had a great response—”I’d rather every person in Israel speak the words of God than speak words of complaint.”  We have an option today—speak words of complaint, or speak in the Spirit!  What direction is your nose turned today?  Are you focused on complaining about what you lack, or praying and praising in the Sprit?

  • Go around the table and share prayer requests. Have someone lead in prayer.
  • Let everyone who would like to share anything exciting from their week.
  • Ask these three questions. Let as many answer each one as they would like.

 

Have someone read Numbers 11:30-34.  What happened when the people got more meat than they could eat? 

 

Do you know people that are chronic complainers?  Are they ever satisfied when they get what they want?  Why do you think we like to complain? 

 

How can we as a church focus on speaking the words of the Spirit?  Why not spend time as a class in prayer thanking God for how our church has been blessed, rather than focusing on what we don’t have yet?

Numbers 6:22-27

Today’s Scripture Focus:  Numbers 6:22-27

                   “We count people because people count.”  As a young pastor, struggling with what seemed to me at the time an over-emphasis on keeping attendance statistics, hearing this statement from a church leader put some things in perspective.  While ministry has to be about more than the “three Bs” (bodies, budgets, and buildings), it is important to track the work of God’s Kingdom.  We shouldn’t take attendance or keep record of giving simply to boast about how great we are; nor should we obsess over numbers during down times.  However, it is important that we hold ourselves accountable to fulfilling our mission.

Numbers is the fourth book of the Bible, and is part of the Pentateuch, or the section of scripture we call “The Law”.  Numbers (arithmoi in Greek) derives its name from the counting of two generations of Israelites.  A census was conducted in Numbers 1 to count all the men eligible for military service who had come out of slavery in Egypt.  In Numbers 26, after all those men have died, their sons are counted before entering the Promised Land.  The Hebrew name of the book,  bemidbar, means “in the wilderness”.  A period of only 13 months is covered from Exodus 12 to Leviticus 27.  Compare that to Numbers, which covers a period of 38 years!

Exodus is a narrative book.  In other words, it tells a story.  Leviticus is a priestly book.  It gives instruction about living as a holy people.  Numbers is a combination of the two.  It has priestly sections that build on the laws given in Leviticus, and narrative sections that complement or continue the story of Exodus.  Numbers can be easily divided into three sections:  preparation to depart from Sinai (1:1-10:10), wandering in the wilderness (10:11-21:35), and Israel in the plains of Moab, preparing to enter the Promise Land (22:1-36:13).  The book shows continually that when the people trust God they prosper, and when they rebel they suffer.

Today’s scripture focus, known as the Priestly Blessing, is a benediction.  A benediction is simply a blessing—words spoken to impart favor on their hearers.  The Priestly Blessing is three-fold, which gives it special emphasis.  The Lord is to bless and keep, make His face to shine and be gracious, and turn His face and give peace.  In summary, God was to give life, grace, and peace to Israel.  Israel had no king, and had to depend on God for everything.  In giving this blessing, Israel was shown that it was God’s desire to give them abundant life, compassion and mercy, and to be at peace with them.  Numbers teaches that Israel counted to God.  What a blessing to know that we count to God today!

  • Go around the table and share prayer requests. Have someone lead in prayer.
  • Let everyone who would like to share anything exciting from their week.
  • Ask these three questions. Let as many answer each one as they would like.

 

Read verses 24 through 26 again.  What are all the different ways that God wants to bless Israel? 

 

Can you tell how someone feels about you by the look on their face?  What do you think it means for the face of God to shine on us or turn towards us?

 

The Priestly Blessing was meant to be spoken from one human being to another.  In what ways do we “bless” others with our words?  In what ways do we “curse” them?   Decide to bless someone this week.  Pray for them, then speak kind words to them.  Who will you bless?

John 7:37-39

Today’s Scripture Focus:  John 7:37-39

                  “Whoever is praying for rain—please stop!”  We are going through a time in our area where it seems it will never stop raining.  This, of course, is following a period of great drought in North Texas, when it seemed the rains would never start.  One thing about this part of the country—whatever weather we get, we get several years’ worth at once.  In some parts of the world, “rain” is an actual season of the year.  This is true in Israel, when the rains come in the spring and in the fall.  If the rains don’t come in their due season, it can have severe consequences.  Feast of Tabernacles was held each year before the fall rains.  It was a time to pray for water.

Remember that John is the “feast” Gospel.  In John 7, we find Jesus in Jerusalem for Feast of Tabernacles.  This marked the new year, and it celebrated the olive harvest.  Water played a big part in the ceremonies, as it was poured out in front of the people.  Jesus made another appearance at the Temple half way through the festival.  The Temple area had so far been a place of controversy for Jesus.  It was here he had driven the sellers out of the courts (John 2), and had healed a man at the pool of Bethesda (John 5).  The crowds had been debating about Him before He arrived, and as He began to teach, the tension increased.

What the people couldn’t understand was how a Galilean peasant could have such learning and do such wonders.  Could He be the messiah?  Or was He possessed by demons?  Those were the only two explanations as to how someone like Jesus could say the things He said and do the things He did.  Meeting every challenge the crowd threw at Him, Jesus spoke to their need.  They came to the festival to pray for rain, but if they really needed water, they should come to Jesus and drink, then living water would flow from their hearts.  Knowing they could not trip Jesus up, they attempted to arrest Him, but they couldn’t touch Him…yet.

On Pentecost Sunday, we celebrate the fulfillment of Jesus’ John 7 sermon.  One or two years later at another Jewish feast—Pentecost—Jews from all over the known world were gathering back at the Temple when God’s Spirit filled Jesus’ followers.  The living water Jesus had promised was the Holy Spirit.  The disciples that day were able to witness to the new birth, and revival broke out as 3,000 came to faith in Jesus in one day.  That same Spirit is available to us today.  Does your spiritual thirst need quenching today?  If you ask in faith, you can be filled with the Holy Spirit’s “living water”, and leave quenched, refreshed, and revived.

  • Go around the table and share prayer requests. Have someone lead in prayer.
  • Let everyone who would like to share anything exciting from their week.
  • Ask these three questions. Let as many answer each one as they would like.

 

Have someone read John 7: 1-13.  Why do you think Jesus told his brothers He wasn’t going to the festival, then went in secret? 

 

We often hear the Holy Spirit compared to fire and wind, but here Jesus speaks of the Spirit as water.  How is the Holy Spirt like fire?  Wind?  Water? 

 

When you pray this week, ask God to send refreshing, reviving quenching Living Water to your heart, to our church, and to our community.  Yes—pray for spiritual rain! 

I John 5:9-15

Today’s Scripture Focus:  I John 5:9-15

                 “I believe you.”  When we are sharing with someone, nothing can be more comforting than knowing we are being heard, understood, and believed.  When someone says they believe us, what they really mean is “I believe in you.”   Conversely, few things sting our ears and hearts like hearing “I don’t believe you”, especially from someone we love.  When we tell someone we don’t believe them, the message we are giving is “you are a liar”, even if it’s not the message we intend.  Few things make a person feel more alone, misunderstood, and worthless than to be pouring their heart out and to not be believed.

The theme of both John’s Gospel and his epistles is belief.  John 20:31 says “these things are written that you may believe…”  I John 5:13 echoes that— “I write these things to you who believe…”  Believe what?  Believe who?  These questions are answered four times in I John 5.  The what is answered in verses 1 and 5—we are to believe that Jesus is the Christ, and that Jesus is the Son of God.  The who in answered in verses 10 and 13.  We are to believe in the Son of God, and we are to believe in the name of the Son of God.  So, we are to not only believe God’s testimony about Jesus, but we are to believe in Jesus—to hear, understand, and trust.

When we believe, we have eternal life.  Remember that in John’s writings, eternal doesn’t just refer to quantity but to quality.  Eternal life is not just something that starts after our earthly bodies die.  Eternal life starts right now for those who believe, because we are able to have intimacy with God through belief in Jesus’ name.  To pray “in the name of Jesus” is not a magic formula that obligates God to do our bidding.  When we pray in the name of Jesus, we are saying “I believe that Jesus’ name is trustworthy—He is not a liar and when He says He will do what is best for me, I believe it.  So, I want what God wants for me and that’s all.”

It has fallen out of favor in recent days to refer to Christians as “believers”.  It is much more popular to say we are “disciples”.  Belief seems passive, while discipleship implies action.  Yet, we cannot follow what we do not believe!  John writes that we can have confidence that our prayers are heard and our life is eternal if we simply believe.  This allows us to not only have a close relationship with God, but with other believers as we pray for them.  Wouldn’t it be great if God’s children today earned the right to be called “believers” again—to have hurting people say “those people not only believe in God; they believe in me!”

  • Go around the table and share prayer requests. Have someone lead in prayer.
  • Let everyone who would like to share anything exciting from their week.
  • Ask these three questions. Let as many answer each one as they would like.

 

How many times do you find the word “believe” or some form of it in I John 5? 

 

Most Americans (90% according to some recent polls) would say they believe in God.  Are most of them living like they believe? 

 

When you pray this week, how would it change your attitude in prayer to know that God believes you (you are heard and understood) and believes in you (God loves you and will do what is best for you)?  This is what it means to pray in the name of Jesus. 

I John 5:1-9

Today’s Scripture Focus:  I John 5:1-9

                 What do we mean when we use the name “Jesus Christ”?  “Christ” is not Jesus’ last name.  Christos is the Greek word for the Hebrew term mashiach (English “messiah”), which means “anointed”.  The Old Testament prophets foretold a future king, descended from the house of David, that would one day deliver God’s people and lead them with justice and righteousness.  By New Testament times, there were several main thoughts of who this messiah would be—a human conqueror like David, a divine spirit being like Michael, a priest like Aaron, or two different messiahs—priest and king—who worked together.

Jesus the Christ was all of these.   He was human, divine, priest, and king.  In today’s scripture focus, John returns to the theme of assurance.  How do you know that you are truly born of God?  If you believe that Jesus is Christ.  In other words, the “true believers” confessed that Jesus was both human and divine, and that He really was God’s Son.  You cannot love God without loving God’s Son, Jesus.  You cannot know God without knowing God’s Son, Jesus.  And, you cannot serve God without serving God’s Son, Jesus.  How do you love, know, and serve Jesus?  By loving everyone who also loves, knows, and serves Jesus.

Serving God, writes John, is actually quite simple—love God, and love others.  This kind of love is powered by faith.  The term “faith” appears repeatedly in this chapter.  Faith means believing that Jesus is the Christ, then putting that faith into action by loving God and others.  In other words, faith means faithfulness.  The group that had split off from the church in Ephesus had proven to be faithless.  They did not believe that Jesus was the Christ, and had proven their disbelief by failing to love God and God’s people.  But those who remained faithful would be victorious and overcome the world.

Yet the question remains—how do we know that the Jesus we are loving and serving is really Jesus Christ?  In the world of the Bible, two witnesses were required to convict a person in court, and three witnesses practically indisputable.  John offers three witnesses to the nature of Jesus—water, blood, and Spirit.  Water refers to Jesus’ baptism, and blood speaks to Jesus’ death.  The Spirit refers to the testimony of God.  If human testimony is valid, how much more valid is the testimony of God.  In summary, we can know in our hearts we are Christians if we believe that Jesus is God’s Son and our Savior, and we obey God’s command to love through faith and the Spirit.

  • Go around the table and share prayer requests. Have someone lead in prayer.
  • Let everyone who would like to share anything exciting from their week.
  • Ask these three questions. Let as many answer each one as they would like.

 

According to today’s scripture focus, who is born of God?  What does it mean to be born of God?

 

What is “faith”?  What does it mean for faith to overcome the world? 

 

Do you sometimes struggle to believe that there really was a person who lived named Jesus, and that He was really God?  It is normal at times to experience doubt.  Pray that God will help those struggling to remain faithful in doubt until heart assurance returns. 

I John 4:7-21

Today’s Scripture Focus:  I John 4:7-21

                   People have many ideas in their heads when they picture God—some think of an old man in a robe and beard, others picture a vast nothingness.  Some, depending on their age, think of George Burns or Morgan Freeman!  A popular song in the 90s asked “what if God were one of us?”.  The truth is, most people would not want to follow a god that was just like them.  New Age philosophy is built around the concept that God is nature and worshiping the creation rather than the Creator.  When we try to discover what God is really like, we err when we make God too personal (“God’s just like us!”) or  not personal at all (“The universe is god.” )

I John 4 reminds us that it is not important to know what God looks like (v 12).  What matters is God’s nature and actions.  God is love.  The word “love” appears 43 times in I John.  The questions facing the I John community were 1)  how can we know God and 2) how can we know we have the truth?  Those who had splintered from the church in Ephesus claimed to have special secret knowledge about God.  They claimed that God could be physically seen, but you had to join their special group in order to see God.  John reminds his beloved children that no one can see God, but the way we know God is to act like God—by loving one another.

How do we know God is love?  Because before we loved God, God sent Jesus to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins (v. 10).  Some versions use the word propitiation here.  A propitiation is that which satisfies guilt.  Humanity had been guilty of breaking relationship with God since the beginning, and could do nothing to make it right.  God, in love, allowed Jesus to satisfy the wrath that guilt justly brings.  God is holy and won’t allow sin; God is just and won’t let sin go unpunished.  But, above all God is love.  God, through Jesus, took our punishment for us!  Therefore, we need not fear God’s wrath, for God’s perfect love casts it out.

We don’t have to live in fear and doubt.  We can know we have the truth if we love the way God loves.  John doesn’t mince words:  if we say we love God but don’t love each other we are liars!  Those who don’t love should live in fear of Judgment, that time when all will stand before God and account for their action.  However, if we live according to the law of love, we need not fear Judgment; we can know in our hearts that we have the truth if we love, and we have the power to love because God first loved us.  John Wesley called I John 4:19  “the sum of all religion” – We love because He fist loved us.

  • Go around the table and share prayer requests. Have someone lead in prayer.
  • Let everyone who would like to share anything exciting from their week.
  • Ask these three questions. Let as many answer each one as they would like.

 

Can you think of other places in the Bible that talk about love?  Have someone read a couple of them.

 

How is God’s love different than love in our world today?  If we love one another the way God loves, how will it look different than if we love one another the way the world loves? 

 

Do you struggle with believing that God loves you?  Is it hard for you to love someone right now?  Go back and reread today’s scripture focus, but this time replace the word “love” with the word “fear” every time it occurs.  Do you think this is how some people view God?  Is it possible that our inability

I John 3:14-24

Today’s Scripture Focus:  I John 3:14-24

                  I am not a handy man.  Some people have an instinctive ability when something breaks to get their hands dirty, repair it, or build something better.  I was absent the day the Lord handed out that gift—my home repairs generally lead to tests of my sanctification, and costlier repair bills than if I hadn’t tried to “fix it” in the first place!  However, I have learned one guideline when it comes to home projects that has led to a little less frustration:  first things first.  Jobs go easier when you start at the beginning, making sure you have read the instructions and have the proper tools on hand.  Then, when you get in over your head, don’t be afraid to call an expert!

The 1 John community had experienced a church split, and had a lot of doubt in their hearts because of it.  They needed to know how to move forward to “fix” their faith.  John, again writing like a grandfather to his beloved grandkids, reminds them in today’s scripture focus to put first things first.  The first step in a victorious spiritual life is to believe in Jesus; the second is to love one another (v. 23).  In previous verses, John gives the example of Cain and Abel.  Cain did evil and Abel did right, therefore, Cain’s jealousy led to hatred, and finally to murder.  When we hate our brothers and sisters, we are murderers!

How do we know we love others?  Again, first things first.  Jesus first demonstrated love by sacrificing His life for us.  Both hate and love lead to death, but sacrificial love causes one to pass from that death to new life!  So, if we have faith in Jesus, we also pass from death to life.  In experiencing new spiritual birth, we then have the ability to love our brothers and sisters the way God loves us.  This love cannot be shown with mere lip service—”I love you, but…”.  God’s love is shown by action.  In the same way that Jesus fed the hungry, healed the sick, and bound up the broken hearted, we demonstrate love by taking care of one another’s needs.

So if our hearts are troubled and need fixing, we first make sure we have placed our faith in Jesus.  Second, we search our hearts and ask our selves if we are loving our brothers and sisters or hating them, and have we displayed this by our actions.  Next, if our hearts still “condemn” us, we place those feelings in God’s hands, knowing that God loves us and if God says everything is ok, then we can believe it!  We call this having confidence before God, and it is when we have this confidence that we can “receive from him anything we ask, because we obey his commands and do what pleases him.” (v 22).

  • Go around the table and share prayer requests. Have someone lead in prayer.
  • Let everyone who would like to share anything exciting from their week.
  • Ask these three questions. Let as many answer each one as they would like.

 

According to today’s scripture focus, how do we know what love is, and what should we do in response to it?

 

What does it mean for our hearts to be “at rest”?  What does it mean for our hearts to “condemn us”? 

 

Here are the steps listed in this week’s connection guide for “heart repair” – 1.)  place faith in Jesus, 2.) love our brothers and sisters, 3.)  have confidence that regardless of how we feel, God’s love is greater than our feelings.  Can you think of a situation in your life that is giving you “heart trouble” right now?  How can you apply these steps this week to this situation?