Since I’ve been obsessing with the thought of believers growing up, this seemed appropriate to discuss.
In the English translations of this passage, there are three stages of development, each is repeated twice:
2. Young Men
In the original Greek language, “young men” twice is a translation of neaniskos, which is literally, a young man, a man under 40 years of age. Both times, “fathers” is a translation of pater which is not a giant intellectual leap.
But John uses two different words for "children." The first time, he uses the Greek word teknion, which means “children”, but is only used figuratively in the New Testament: it’s a term of affection by a teacher to his disciples connoting tenderness. The second time, he uses the word paidon, an infant freshly born.
Distinguishing those two, we show four stages of development. But since
1. fresh newborns, characterized by knowing God as Father.
2. young children, disciples, characterized by the revelation of forgiveness, and that forgiveness is for “His name's sake.”
3. young men, both times described as “have overcome the wicked one,” and the second time adds “you are strong, and the word of God abides in you.” In other words, the young men (who may or may not actually be “men”) are the warriors (they overcome the wicked one) and they’re strong (“you are strong”) because the word of God of God abides (dwells, lives) in them.
4. fathers, both times described as “you have known Him who is from the beginning.” Fathers, of course, are people who are raising the next generation, in this time, the next generation of the church. But
When I teach this to young believers, I always follow it up with two questions, which I present for your consideration:
1) Looking at the descriptions, who are you? Which group do you fit in? What is your stage of spiritual development?
2) Looking at the descriptions of that group, what is the thing you should be working on now? How do you need to know God in this stage of spiritual growth? How well do you know him in that way? Then stop worrying about not living up to the other stages if they’re not where God has you right now!!
Do you remember 8 years ago. When
When the “liberal media” attacked him, demeaned him, smeared his reputation, we were saddened and angered. In the eight years he’s been in office, they have not relented, but only increased the pressure. Some would argue that this fact was foundational in the successful election of
During the recent election season, I heard similar dismay about
Those among us who had supported
The precedent is clear: the supporters of the defeated candidate increase the mudslinging, the civil disobedience, the vilification. That’s what this nation has done so well after so many elections before: if there was disrespect shown during the election, then there were many and awful things said against them during their office: the victorious candidate was vilified, pilloried and subverted at every opportunity.
I am proposing another response.
1) Pray for him: Pray for the man. Pray for his office. Pray for his family (I can’t imagine raising children in the White House).
2) Honor him: speak of him with respect. Yeah, I know: the disrespect, the vilification is part of the process of preparing for the next election: don’t do it.
3) Seek the welfare of his government: Pray towards, speak towards, even work towards the success of his policies, his administration. In Jeremiah 29, the prophet is writing to the exiles: “But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.” (
One last statement before I finish:
Like so many things in the Kingdom of God, we have a paradox here. Yes, our walk of faith is a process; there is tremendous value in the steps along the way: the relationships with each other and with the Lord, the lessons learned in trials and victories, they joy of worship and of being part of the move of God in a region or in an individual: these are priceless treasures, and clear indications of the value of the journey, apart from the goal at the end. In no way do I intend to devalue that truth in what I am about to say.
But ultimately, we really are working towards a goal. There will come an end to the process – regardless of how valuable that process has been – and our effectiveness at accomplishing the goal will be measured. The goal can be quoted a number of different ways:
Make disciples. (Matthew 28:19)
Produce fruit of the Kingdom (Matthew 13:23)
Preach the gospel (Mark 16:15)
Be witnesses to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8)
Bring forgiveness to the world (John 20:21-23)
Ultimately, they can all be summarized by a passage in the middle of the Lord’s Prayer. It is our job to make this happen:
Some whom I trust would argue that this is not our task to do, but this is our prayer to pray; to them I would answer: do you not expect your prayers to be answered? If you are praying for the expansion of the Kingdom of God on earth, then we should see that the Kingdom expanded on your watch, in your area of influence.
Others would argue that this responsibility is ours not just to pray about, but to work towards as well, but the same standards apply if they’re right: we should see that the Kingdom expanded on your watch, in your area of influence.
My point is this: There will come a day when we will stand before our Heavenly King, and He will judge us. This is not about heaven or hell: we who believe in
I have the privilege (and I consider it a privilege, an honor) of talking with thousands of people from thousands of churches. One of the things that I hear as I talk with them is the value for the weekly events of the church. I hear the value of “business as usual.”
It seems that there are an awful lot of local congregations that have the “church as a process” value down well: they gather Sunday mornings, talk over coffee afterwards. Midweek, they have the same event that they did last year. Their Easter and Christmas are a little different this year than last, but functionally, they do the same thing week after week, month after month, year after year, decade after decade.
Please don’t get me wrong. This is not the waste of time and energy that some of the more radical voices among us might imply. These congregations are doing a good job of “shepherding the flock of God” which is not, as the evangelists among us might imply, ignoring the command of God. They are very effective at the “process” part of the paradox.
But many churches, perhaps tens of thousands of them, are succeeding at the process but are not succeeding at the goal. They’re enjoying the fellowship at this week’s coffee hour and this month’s potluck supper, but the kingdom of God is not expanding in their area of responsibility.
Sure, a few more people are attending the church this year, but their community is not more representative of the Kingdom of God this year than it was last year; there are not increasing numbers of people pressing back darkness or similar numbers pressing darkness back more effectively; the dead are not raised, the sick are not healed, and nobody is grieving about it because the fellowship is good, the mortgage on the building is paid, and we’re enjoying the journey.
I’m thankful that we the church have finally begun to learn about the process of the Christian life. Now I’m praying that we’d reach the prize effectively as well.
Let’s go change the world; let's really change it!
Have you ever sincerely asked someone, “How are you doing?” and had them answer “fine” when you knew they weren’t fine? Have you ever had someone ask you how you were, but you knew they weren’t sincere? Irritating isn’t it?
I suppose we should pause for a moment and define those as lies: Answering “Fine” when I am not fine is clearly an untruth. Acting, by my inquiry, as though I care how you are when in fact, I do not, is equally a lie.
I understand that some of this truthless communication is part of a larger body of socially acceptable lies, part of a formal communications ritual that our culture has evolved – rather like the mating rituals of wild geese – though perhaps for less noble purposes than the continuation of the species. There are some times when they – the salesman, the political lobbyist, the person you’re talking with that you don’t have any real relationship with – there are times when they are asking “howyadoin” and they don’t want an answer: they are making a formal noise, a greeting to which the formal answer is “fineanyou” or the like. A genuine answer in that environment would throw them off, derail the traditions.
I’m not talking about these communications: they’re meaningless apart from that formal, meaningless function, and they need to be treated that way.
I’m talking about the times where the same words are used in genuine communication, a genuine inquiry after one’s wellbeing, and they are misinterpreted as the content-free ritual described above. They do use the same vocabulary, or nearly the same, and it’s easy to misunderstand. I am of the opinion, however, that much of the misunderstanding is more strategic than genuine: we make the assumption that the question is formal, empty, because that is the more convenient interpretation.
The most disturbing aspect is that the church, the people with “The Truth,” seems to be an equal participant in this untruth-telling. “Brethren, this ought not be this way.”
I’ve seen grown men, men who grew up with the English language, miss this one in the church fellowship hall: a friend who knows something of the challenges he’s been facing asks how he’s doing in the face of those trials, and the answer is embarrassingly often, “I’m fine, thanks. How are you?” Or worse: “Bless God, Brother! Isn’t God good?” Well, yes, He is good, but that’s not actually the question. The question is “How are you doing with those trials?” not “Is God still good?”
I’m more concerned about the reasons behind such truthlessness. Somehow, we’ve convinced ourselves that there are real reasons not to be genuine with each other. I can think of a few reasons:
1) Lousy theology: We’re convinced that if we appear more “together”, that this will somehow make God look better. Or the reverse: if a Christian is known to have problems, then somehow it will make God look less God-like. This often incorporates the brilliant assumption that when we trust in
2) PUFF: Pure Unadulterated Fear Factor: We don’t know how people will react to us, or we think we do know based on how someone has reacted to us in the past. Perhaps we remember someone who hurt us, and whether truthfully or not, we associate that hurt with our own vulnerability, and we swear that we’ll never put ourselves through that particular ordeal again. There are a thousand variations on this one.
3) Ignorance: We don’t open ourselves to others simply because we’ve been taught known that we should or even that we could. Our leaders don’t model vulnerability in any way that we can see (that’s a subject for another session!), and nobody has taught us how to be vulnerable in an appropriate way, with the right people, in the right settings. We’ve never seen someone else do it well, so we have no role model.
4) Lack of opportunity: There are in my observation, millions of believers that are actually willing to develop genuine, caring relationships, but they don’t have people around them that are similarly open to genuine relationships. There may be others in the next pew, but there is no mechanism in their culture to broach the subject of “Can I tell you my secrets? Will I be safe when I do?” We need an environment where honest relationships are appropriate.
The Bible models intimate in-home gatherings of the Church (Acts 2:42), and it was such a gathering (a large one) in a house that first received the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:2). One of those groups was characterized by prayer and the other by supper, eating with gladness: these don’t sound like formal, content-based gatherings. They sure sound to me like they’re based on genuine relationships instead.
The Bible doesn’t just model ministry built on relationships, it also teaches it. “So, affectionately longing for you, we were well pleased to impart to you not only the gospel of God, but also our own lives, because you had become dear to us.” (1 Thessalonians 2:8, NKJV) The teaching is clear: when I am “ministering”, I’m doing two things: I’m imparting the gospel, and I’m also giving you my own life. There is a correlation: my imparting of the good news will be more complete if I am also imparting my life. Content is incomplete without relationship.
We could also point out that
If we are wanting to see a change in the way we do church, we’re going to need to do church differently. I propose that we change ourselves first: let’s find settings where we can be genuine; let’s create them ourselves if we need to. If we can find or build these relational gatherings within the structure of our churches, let’s do that, but if we need to, let’s be willing to put people ahead of religion: let’s gather informally “from house to house” as they did in the early church.
And, when it’s appropriate, let’s learn how to answer the “how are you doing?” question honestly.
As the book of Exodus begins, Israel is in captivity. They were the chosen people of God, descendants of
It was interesting that Reuel’s daughter’s described
Some have suggested Mo was in line for the throne; that may be just an interesting theory, but it illustrates the reality:
No wonder the ladies thought he was an Egyptian.
The church in America is in captivity. Genetically, at our very core, our essence comes from the realm of heaven, but we’ve lived on earth for so long, that we’ve become earthly, natural, in every other way. We think in natural terms. We live among the natural world. Our culture and mannerisms are of this world. We believe in the world we live among.
If the church were actually free, we’d reflect the culture and values of our birth-culture, Heaven. We’d see the events and people of the natural world through the values and resources of heaven. Like it happened around
God is raising up deliverers in our day. God has spoken it prophetically, but it doesn’t really require prophecy to see it: there have been only three times that a generation has been wiped out: the massacre that preceded
Here’s my point: I believe that many of the deliverers that God is raising up in our day will look like “Egyptians.” Egypt has often been used as an illustration of the ways of the world, and many deliverers will look very worldly. They’ll speak in worldly vocabulary and use colorful worldly metaphors. They’ll use worldly mannerisms – not church-cultured mannerisms. They’ll have worldly friends: business leaders, gang leaders, political leaders, artists, educators, barkeepers.
But they’ll be God’s people inside, under all that “worldlikeness.”
The first thing we might see in some of these leaders is that they’re standing up for believers in the secular arena. We’ve already seen some of that: when radical Hindu’s blamed Christians for a popular teacher’s death and started massacring Christians wholesale, there was an outcry, and some of it was from the secular world. The mainstream media didn’t touch the story as far as I can see, but the blogging community did, and many “secular” bloggers spoke out about the injustice.
Does the appearance of a secular person standing up for Christians mean that they’re a deliverer, that they’re even a believer? Certainly not in every case. I don’t believe we’re seeing God’s “Egyptian” delivers quite yet, but I expect that we will in the next several years.
Many men and women who find themselves in the position of defending God’s people against Egyptian slave-masters will shortly find God moving in their lives. They may have a dormant faith, from their childhood or youth, that God suddenly fans into flame. They may be “about to be” Christians, ready for harvest. Or they may be genuine followers of
We are coming into a day where God is bringing deliverers out of hiding, men and women who will not look like church-goers, and who in fact, won’t be church-goers, but they will be deliverers sent by God. If we’re not careful, we’ll reject these young leaders because we don’t recognize the clothing, the mannerisms, the style of speech. If we do, we’ll be rejecting something powerful that God is doing among us.
We will have some meetings that are about nothing more than maintaining and enjoying the friendship we share.
I was asked recently why I celebrate holidays - like Christmas and Easter - that are neither illustrated nor commanded in Scripture; does that betray an underlying issue of a disregard for the Word? It made me think.
I do observe celebrations not found in Scripture, and that’s an interesting question. I have an odd worldview, and perhaps an odd view of how Scripture relates to my life, or maybe how I relate to it.
I came to the realization some years ago that if I limited my life to only those things found in Scripture, it would be nearly impossible to live today. I couldn’t use a computer, as computers are not found in Scripture, or a car, or even a refrigerator. I would be limiting myself from using anything made with steel, metal, plastic, computer chips, or anything transported by truck or by air. (Certainly this would have huge implications on my chosen career!)
This led me to the realization that for decades, I have looked at the Scriptures as a guide, not as a rulebook: that in NT times, the Scriptures are a tool to introduce me to a living relationship with a living God who has come to earth as man, that my relationship is with Him, not with His book.
I also realized that the Book has a series of prohibited activities and a number of things that it encourages or commands us (depending on where it’s found in the Book) us to do. I could limit myself to doing only those things that it commanded me to do (such as only celebrating holidays that it talks about), or I could limit myself to avoiding only those things (in deed, in attitude, and in principle) that Scripture instructs me to avoid (which would allow me innumerable celebrations of Him). The difference was huge, and the repercussions of that decision would completely affect my life.
It took me quite a while to come to the conclusion that the way I relate to my heavenly Father is far more about “Yes” than about “No”, and therefore, I should probably assume “Yes” unless He said “no” (in one way or another). I’ve chosen – quite consciously – to say “no” to the things the Scriptures say no to, and to say “yes” to most everything else, with Paul’s limitations in mind (“Not everything is profitable,” and “Don’t make others stumble if you can help it.”).
So I celebrate any chance I get. I was worshipping last night with a gathering of saints, quite contrary to the model in the Scriptures (we used an iPod and a stereo for our worship band). I celebrate Christmas, not as a fertility rite, but as a celebration of my Savior who was God born as man, even though His birth had nothing to do with trees or colored lights or reindeer or fat men in red suits or even (most likely) with winter. I’ll take any reason I can to celebrate Him, and if I can use it as an excuse to draw my unbelieving neighbors into that celebration, that’s even better. (They certainly don’t know how to worship Him “in Spirit and in truth.” Yet.)
But you know what: that’s my belief, my way of relating to a God that is so big that there is no conceivable way I could understand all of Him. I know believers who celebrate mass and go to confession, and believers who change water into wine by prayer for communion every week, believers who choose a lifestyle similar to Bible times, believers who attend a drive-in church outside a crystal cathedral, and believers whose primary fellowship is via the internet. Those are all different than my beliefs, or at least my practices, but they’re still my brothers and sisters. I’ve got a real big family, and even if some of us are kind of quirky, they’re my family and I love ‘em.