That's the Book: 1st John
My first car was a 1982 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme with a 350 engine. The car was brown with tan interior. The headliner had lost integrity so hung down until I get sick of it rubbing my head. I ripped it down. Then instead of a drooping headliner, I had orange foam above my head which periodically would rain down. The car also had a minor coolant issue so most of the time it smelled like maple syrup. This was a very fast, very brown and orange slightly smelly car. I was grateful my parents gave me a car to drive and so I didn’t complain. Much.
After a while the car developed an issue with headlights.There was some sort of short in the high beam / low beam controller. As a result the headlights would randomly blink off. If I held the control stick very steady the headlights would come back on. I always forgot to mention this problem to my parents. Likely because I was always just sliding into the house at curfew and the relief of making curfew would kick any thought of car maintenance out of my head. During the day I didn’t use the lights so I didn’t think about it. And of course I’m old enough I didn’t drive around with a cell phone.
The problem was getting worse. Instead of always staying on when I held the light now it would only mostly stay on. Mostly having headlights is not ideal. Especially in the dark country roads I traversed on my way home. Light is important. The
The book of 1 John is a letter to the early churches from the apostle John. The book has two main messages. God is light - so stay in it. Second - God is love - so love one another. Not complicated. But important.
This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you; God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out 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, purifiers us from all sin. If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful nd just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us. 1 John 1: 5-9
I finally had a night where I could NOT get the headlights in my car to stay on. Quite stupidly I inched home in the dark. The next morning I finally told my father. He’s an electrician. He knows all about lights. He immediately got the car into the shop and the lights fixed. The fact that my father was an electrician did not solve my light problem - because I didn't bother to stay in communication with him. The second I did so - the light problem was resolved.
Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates a brother or sister is still in the darkness. Anyone who loves their brother and sister lives in the light, and there is nothing in them to make them stumble. I John 2: 8-10
The wonderful thing about my parents is they were thrilled to fix my car. They wanted me to be safe driving. They didn't want me to crash in the dark. And here is one of my favorite verses about God the Father - He has great love - and He lavishes it on us.
See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. 1 John 3:1
I suppose the logical question is why does it matter that God loves me? What do I do with this information?
Think about my car again. If I had never gotten the headlights fixed and had continued to drive in the dark - death or paralyzing fear would be next. Once the car was fixed I could trust the headlights to do their job. So what I did next was drive. I moved forward. And that's what happens when we have the light and love of God. We move forward. Without fear. We can go into our future and love as we've been loved.
There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. We love because he first loved us. 1 John 4:18-19
Any kid who grew up in church in the USA during the 80s knows this song. The rest of you might as well join in. It's as good a summary of 1st John as any.
And this one. Straight from 1st John - and the 80s. Kids Praise Psalty style. We sang this all lined up in front of church. These words are written on my heart after hours of practicing this round. Fancy. Listen in - you'll feel like you are five again.
And if you still don't understand 1st John - here are the guys at the Bible Project with their walk through in Read Scripture. Check it out This video actually includes 1st, 2nd and 3rd John.
This September I'm working through Jon Acuff's SeptemberJanuary challenge. The idea is to use the momentum of back to school just like a New Year's resolution. I've got six (maybe seven or eight) speaking events between now and Christmas so I'm working on these speeches as my goal every day this month.
This story and application to life came to me this week while I was thinking about the idea of God as our father. Let me know what you think. Do you have other insights about Father God?
When I was about ten years old we went camping. Not fancy camping. Out in the boonies, no bathrooms or electricity camping. My dad would take us fishing weaving our way around high mountain streams. The trout we caught would shimmer in the sunshine. We’d cook the trout over the fire and finish the night with marshmallows.
One time my sister and a friend and I were out playing in the woods just to the side of our campsite. I’m not the most observant person so I didn’t see the large yellow jacket hive until I stepped right on top of it.
The yellow jackets were not impressed.
Imagine if you had your house crushed. You’d probably fight back. The bees certainly did.
I started to yell as the stinging spread. My friend grabbed my little sister and ran for cover. I started to try and head back to the campsite while flailing my arms about and yelling and screaming. As I crashed through the brush I had bees in my shirt, down my pants, stinging - stinging - stinting - crying.
And then my father showed up. He’d heard me screaming and came running. He grabbed me, picked me up and ran toward camp. He held his arms with me in them over the campfire. I was freaked out by the bees and now the fire but I trusted my dad.
Turns out my dad knew bees don’t like smoke and it worked like a charm.
Off the bees went and left me alone. My mom brought out the meat tenderizer and we made a paste for each of the stings. I was covered head to toe. My dad was stung as well. He didn't complain.
You see this is what a father does:
Hears his child’s cry.
Runs toward the pain even at risk of himself.
Knows sometimes being held over a fire is the way to the cure.
I see this same story played out in the Bible. Do you?
I love Jesus. I think my two daughters can change the world. I think you can too.
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