Saturday, January 17, 2015

Walking in the Light {1 John 1-2}

 As a Christian, I'm all too familiar with Paul's lament in Romans 7:15 & 18 "For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate... for I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out."

 I know and live the struggle, and I know that you do to. We know the right thing to do, and we know the wrong thing that we shouldn't do, so why do we so often fall into sin, even when we genuinely desire to do right?
 Although sermons, discipline, and will-power are all very helpful and necessary, I would point to the scriptures to a better way. I call it "Sin Prevention," because that is exactly what it is.

 1 John, chapter 2 starts out with John saying that he is "writing these things so that you may not sin." Since a solution has been offered, I'd like to know what it is! So I looked back at 1 John chapter 1 to see what he expects "little children" able to understand, so that they may not sin.

 In my ESV, 1 John 1 is divided into verses 1-4 , and 5-10. Verses 1-4 are titled "The Word of Life," validating Jesus' Godhood, and God's fellowship with us in the Light (righteousness, i.e. not sinning), which flows right into verses 5-10, entitled "Walking in the Light."

 Truth: Knowing who God is and our position in Him is a prerequisite for walking in the light.  Fellowship leads to Lifestyle.

 Our fellowship, or walk, with God trumps every good intention and forced attempt.
 It is true that families who spend quality time together on a regular basis are much less likely to drift apart, and couples who pool their hearts and desires and energies are safe-guarding against an affair. And sitting at the feet of the Teacher will keep us out of the devil's playground.

 This, my fellow-believers, is Sin Prevention.

 Verses 12-13 in chapter 2 sheds more light on the process when you look at the order of the three statements in them. He writes to them 1. because their "sins are forgiven," 2. because they "know (abide in) God," and 3. they have "overcome the evil one."
 These are the steps one must take to overcome sin.

 What about when we do sin?

 For a passage on Light, John sure has a lot to say about Sin. That's because, in order to experienced freedom from sin in Jesus Christ, it is absolutely necessary to admit in full to the sin, and then we leave the rest to a faithful and just God, who forgives (1 John 1:9).

"But I say, walk by the Spirit and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh" - Galatians 5:16 (see also, John 15:5)

 Feeling stressed or tempted? Abide in Him and walk in the Light. Feeling blessed and happy? Abide in Him and walk in the Light.

{I went over these 2 chapters very quickly, just touching on one of the themes. I recommend reading the whole book of 1 John for yourself. It's only a couple chapters, and daily Bible study is part of your abiding process.}

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Two Thousand Fourteen

Reflecting on 2014

 Heading into year 2015, the web is a bustle with resolutions, motivation, newness and already a few regrets. I usually don't make a big deal out of January 1st. I'm not a party-er, I still worked, and it kind of messed up my week's rhythm (not to be a downer). Plus, all the hype only gives way to disappointment at the first signs of defeated goals. Maybe it's just my easy-goes-it, analytic personality that likes to take it slow and make sure I have the right goals in place and have what I
October 2014
need to make it happen before I embark. But I know that I'm not the only one to become discouraged when progress seems more like a slippery slope than an up-hill climb; one step forward, two steps back. So, sometimes, looking back is helpful, if only to serve as a platform to spring ahead.
 With that bit of perspective, why don't you write down some milestones, accomplishments, or life events that happened in 2014. Then, instead of making resolutions, make a list of things - not even goals, necessarily - that you would like to write on next year's list of simple reflections. Then, if it so behooves you, make your goals and resolutions. This activity has proved stress-free for me, since I refuse to see these lists as defining. They're simply something to bring perspective; something to ponder.
 And with that being said, here is my list of happenings (and not all of them positive) from year twenty fourteen, in no particular order:

  1. Gained 3 more foster-siblings
  2. Started making my own skin-care products
  3. Quit online college
  4. Cut 12 inches off my hair
  5. Colored hair for the first time (highlights)
  6. Re-organized my room and gave away/threw away over half my "stuff"
  7. Started doing henna tattoos
  8. Buried my dog, "Little Guy"
  9. Bought my first car ('99 Toyota Corolla)
  10. Got a pay raise
  11. Discovered the importance of getting enough rest
  12. Lost 2 grandparents
  13. Moved into my own apartment
  14. Started a second job
  15. Made lots of new friends and connections
  16. Turned 20
  17. Started canning veggies and preserves
  18. Started HIIT workout program
  19. Spent time with my older brother
  20. Started sponsoring Manisha from India through Compassion International
  21. Decorated my own home for Christmas
  22. Finally dealt with some hurtful memories in a healthy way
  23. Learned (and learning) that trusting in God brings true joy
  24. Started up writing again
  25. Got glasses
  26. Learned new job skills
  27. Making all food from scratch
  28. Dealt with a bout of unexpected depression
  29. Celebrated Christmas with family
  30. Developed a deeper relationship with my parents
  31. Re-discovered meaningful Bible reading
  32. Enjoying work more
  33. Attended a coaching workshop
  34. Living frugally
November 2014, 20th birthday
 There you go, there's 1 year in hindsight. Of course there's much more that I could have added, had I thought about it longer (that list took me 5-10 minutes), and just a few things that I didn't want to add publicly. And then there's the whole issue of not ending my list on an odd number (darn that OCD). 

 I encourage you to write down at least 20 things that happened in 2014. Comment a few of them.

 And now for my 2015-16 list. These are the things I would very much like to be able to write as life-events in my reflections next year, in 2016, about 2015. (Remember, this list is simply a "whouldnt-that-be-nice." My hard-set goals will be boiled down even farther. That way I won't become discouraged, and I'll actually be able to accomplish the really important ones.)
  1. Planted and kept a garden
  2. Advanced in my careers
  3. Canned all my own canned goods
  4. Became more connected with Christian adults in the community
  5. Started classes on coaching
  6. Read over 100 books
  7. Wrote a devotional booklet
  8. Started singing in choir
  9. Wrote to my sister in the military
  10. Opened up my home for ministry/mentorship
  11. Completely organized my home
  12. Developed better relationship with family
  13. Was able to sell my artwork and song lyrics
  14. Memorized over 100 Bible verses
  15. DIY decorated my apartment
  16. Grew my hair out again
 But as great as some of these would be as resolutions, I think that it is far better to simply focus on becoming a better person, growing closer to God, living in step with the Holy Spirit, and becoming a servant to the people around me. So if it comes down to canning that last jar of tomato sauce or studying my Bible, I had better choose the latter!
 The reason New Year Resolutions so often fail is because we resolve to change our actions or bodies without changing our hearts and minds. And even many Christians, sadly enough, aren't that familiar with Romans 12:1, "I beseech you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices to God, holy and pleasing in His sight. This is your spiritual act of worship. Do not be conformed to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is. His good, pleasing, and perfect will." And even this renewal cannot be obtained by simply trying hard and kicking old habits. This is an act of God. Only He can change hearts and minds and conform them to His own.
 But now that you've reflected, learned, and are on the path to transformation through Jesus Christ, behold, God is doing new things!

 "Forget the former things, do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing!" Isaiah 43:18

HAPPY 2015!