28 February 2017

BSF 2016-2017: 1 John

In the Gospel of John, we’ve been studying Jesus’ final instructions to His disciples just before His crucifixion. Last week we saw that Jesus instructed His disciples to remain in Him. This week we studied the full book of 1 John. This letter, written by the same John who wrote the Gospel of John, tells us how to remain in Christ.

The book of 1 John uses the word “know” 40 times. John explains how people can know Jesus is God and how they can know they have eternal life. 1 John is called the Book of Certainties.

God is light (1 John 1:1-2:2). “Light” is used six times in this letter. God is light. His holiness penetrates the darkness of sin and evil. Light indicates life, glory, radiance, purity, holiness.

Chapter 1 includes three claims and three remedies. For the claim of habitual sin, the remedy is obedience. For the claim of sinlessness, the remedy is confession. For the claim of perfectionism, the remedy is the Advocate Jesus Christ who pleads our case.

Sin is any lack of conformity to the will of God. Sin is more than a behavior problem; it’s a character and judgment problem. Sin has eternal consequence. All of us are sinners. Sin affects all aspects of our lives because it causes us to fall short of God’s standard. Sin contaminates our attitudes, actions, and relationships.

God is love (1 John 2:3-4:21). “Love” is used 33 times in this letter.

God calls His followers to obedience. As we live in Christ, we will be obedient. Our lives need to match our words. Loving fellow believers is a true test of our genuine faith. Love of the world squeezes out love of God. God calls believers His children. He deeply loves us.

Next John explains how to identify and defeat false teachers. He presents three characteristics of false teachers: they are not in fellowship with other believers; they deny that Jesus Christ, who was fully God and fully man, died to pay the penalty for sin; and they try to deceive the faithful.

Loving God includes loving people. John presents three facts about God that lead us to love others as He has loved us:

  • What God is – God is love.
  • What God did – God sent His Son.
  • What God is doing – God abides in us.

God is life (1 John 5:1-21). “Life” is used 15 times in this letter.

God gives victory over the world. We cannot overcome the world by fighting it; we only need to believe that Jesus is the Son of God.

John ends his letter with a warning – keep yourself from idols. Anything that stands between a believer and Jesus is an idol. Reject what is false and embrace what is true.

Things to Think About
  • Regular confession of sin is necessary. How do you model confession of sin to those in your life?
  • In what ways are you seeking worldliness instead of God?
  • How can you use God’s Word to defeat Satan’s efforts to lead us to worldliness?
  • Either we have Christ by faith or we do not; there is no middle ground (1 John 5:12).

This Week’s Memory Verse
This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through Him. 1 John 4:9 NIV

23 February 2017

21 February 2017

BSF 2016-2017: John 15:1-16:4

At the end of chapter 14, Jesus instructed the disciples to leave with Him. His conversation and teachings with them continued, whether it was still in the Upper Room or on the road as they traveled to the Garden of Gethsemane. Jesus continued to comfort His disciples before His death.

Jesus called Himself the true vine. As the original vine, Israel was supposed to make God known to the world. Israel was God’s righteous representatives to the world. Now Jesus was the true vine; His mission was to make God known to the world.

Jesus called God the gardener. He cuts off every branch that doesn’t bear fruit, and He prunes every branch that does bear fruit to make it more fruitful. Judas (an unbeliever) was cut off; he lived and worked among the disciples but never placed his faith in Jesus. The other disciples (believers) were pruned; sin was removed from their lives so they could be more fruitful for God. To be pruned is to be cut back not to be cut off. Every Christian will be pruned.

Jesus commanded His followers to remain in Him. How? Through worship, studying His Word, meditating on His Word, prayer, and service. The Holy Spirit helps us accomplish all of this.

We cannot bear fruit unless we stay connected to Jesus, the vine. We cannot remain alive without the vine. Without Jesus, we cannot bear spiritual fruit. We can do nothing without Him.

All believers are called to bear the fruit of the Spirit – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. All believers are called to obey God’s commandments. All believers are called to display Christ-like characteristics. All believers are called to be united with each other.

Jesus began to warn His disciples about hatred and persecution from the world. He told them this so they wouldn’t fall away from Him and so they would have peace.

“The world” here is people who reject Jesus and His followers because they do not believe Him or the Father who sent Jesus. Jesus promised His disciples they would be hated and persecuted, but He encouraged them to remain in Him. Jesus promised to send the Holy Spirit to empower and remind His followers about Jesus’ teachings.

Things to Think About
  • God tenderly and purposefully prunes believers.
  • Every Christian will be pruned. Ask God what He wants to produce in you through this pruning.
  • God prunes us with grace and kindness. He doesn’t use a hatchet but carefully and kindly examines us and removes the bad from our lives.
  • Christians do not belong to the world. We belong to Jesus. Because we belong to Him, we will be rejected and hated by the world.
  • God empowers believers to persevere through hardships, hatred, and persecution.
  • Troubled times are coming, but cling to Jesus and remain in Him and His promises.

This Week’s Memory Verse
I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. John 15:5 NIV

Eight years

Oh my.

I remember Saturday, Feb. 21, 2009, like it was just yesterday. It was the day our family changed forever.

This beautiful baby girl was born, and my heart exploded with a love I never knew existed.

I can't believe that this precious baby now is 8 years old.

She is a loving, caring, smart, funny, talented young lady, and she continues to surprise us every day.

Avery, you are an amazing girl. Keep relying on God as you learn and grow. Without Him, you can do nothing. With Him, you will succeed beyond your wildest dreams!

The Lord your God is with you,
the Mighty Warrior who saves.
He will take great delight in you;
in his love he will no longer rebuke you,
but will rejoice over you with singing.
Zephaniah 3:17 NIV

20 February 2017

20 questions with Avery :: 8 years old

It’s time for another installment of Avery’s annual 20 questions! Check out her previous responses.

1. What is your favorite color? Neon pink

2. What is your favorite toy? Barbies

3. What is your favorite fruit? Raspberries

4. What is your favorite TV show? Henry Danger

5. What is your favorite thing to eat for lunch? Cold pizza, if we have any

6. What is your favorite outfit? My Supergirl shirt and leggings

7. What is your favorite game? Operation

8. What is your favorite snack? Candy and sour bubble gum

9. What is your favorite animal? Cat

10. What is your favorite song? Uptown Funk

11. What is your favorite book? Captain Underpants books

12. Who is your best friend? Savannah (at school)

13. What is your favorite cereal? Lucky Charms

14. What is your favorite thing to do outside? Ride my bike, with no training wheels

15. What is your favorite drink? Sprite

16. What is your favorite holiday? Christmas

17. What do you like to take to bed with you at night? My Pillow Pet

18. What is your favorite thing to eat for breakfast? Pop-Tarts

19. What do you want for dinner on your birthday? Texas Roadhouse

20. What do you want to be when you grow up? A teacher

16 February 2017

15 February 2017

The Japan Clarks' visit in pictures

We just finished up a wonderful visit with Casey and his family! It was 10 days full of family, fun, and food!

I'm always amazed at how quickly the kids adjust to being together. And this time Damon was no different. He made two new friends in his cousins Shin-ya and Caden.

Here are plenty of snapshots from the week's activities.

Since Shin-ya's birthday is coming up in a few weeks and we've never gotten to celebrate with him, we had a little surprise party for him, complete with a basketball-themed birthday cake. He really was surprised!

While we were all together, we took some semi-professional group pictures. I'll post those separately later!

14 February 2017

BSF 2016-2017: John 14:15-31

Jesus continued to instruct His disciples on the night before He was crucified. He commanded them to keep His commandments. Then He promised to send the Holy Spirit to empower us and help us keep His commandments. The Holy Spirit would be another helper just like Jesus.

The Holy Spirit reminds us of Jesus’ teachings, helps us understand them, enables us to obey them, and helps us teach others to obey the teachings.

Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit will remain with His believers forever. Unbelievers do not see or know the Holy Spirit. But God’s children do know the Holy Spirit because He lives in them.

Jesus went on to say that obedience is the evidence of our love for Him. Unbelievers don’t love or obey Jesus. If you love Jesus, you will follow His commands.

He reveals Himself to those who obey His teaching not to those who refuse to believe in Him.

Jesus told the disciples that He was leaving them His peace. He instructed them not to let their hearts be troubled and not to be afraid.

The Holy Spirit brings this peace to all believers. This peace is wholeness, completeness, security. Jesus’ peace is not the world’s peace.

The world says peace comes from things. Jesus says peace comes from a relationship with Him. The world says we must work for peace. Jesus says His peace is a gift. The world says peace is the absence of trouble. Jesus says we can have peace in the midst of trouble. The world says peace lasts for a moment. Jesus says His peace lasts for a lifetime. The world says peace depends on the externals. Jesus says peace depends on the eternals.

Jesus reminded the disciples that He is in control of all that is about to happen. He told them that Satan, the prince of this world, has no power over Him.

Things to Think About
  • Other names for the Holy Spirit – Advocate, Comforter, Counselor, Helper, Spirit of Truth.
  • God Himself lives in every believer. We are temples where God resides.
  • We are not redeemed by our efforts, but our efforts reveal that we have been transformed from self-centeredness to God-centeredness.
  • Where are you looking for peace? Jesus tells us to find peace in Him.

This Week’s Memory Verse
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. John 14:27 NIV

09 February 2017

07 February 2017

BSF 2016-2017: John 13:31-14:14

This week, we see Jesus trying to comfort His disciples about His upcoming death and departure from this world.

Jesus told the disciples that since Judas the betrayer had left the Upper Room, now things were in motion for Him to be glorified. He will be glorified by obeying God’s will to die on the cross. Jesus also told the disciples that He would be leaving them soon. He gave them a new commandment. He commanded them to love others in the same way He loved them. How did Jesus love them? He loved them humbly and sacrificially.

Peter asked Jesus where He was going. Jesus told Him that they could not follow Him now but later. Peter promised to lay down his life for Jesus. Then Jesus prophesied that Peter will disown Jesus three times before sunrise the next morning.

The disciples are thinking geographically; they think Jesus is going to another city without them. But Jesus was telling them that He was going to heaven to be with His Father.

Jesus told His disciples not to let their hearts be troubled. He promised to go prepare a place for them in heaven, and then He promised to return to take them to heaven.

Thomas said they don’t know the way to the place where Jesus was going. Jesus said He is the way, the truth, and the life. Jesus is the only way, the only truth, the only life. He is the only way to be reconciled to the Father, the only truth that reveals God, the only life to give us eternal life.

Philip asked Jesus to show them the Father so they could believe. Jesus reminded them that the Father was in Him and He was in the Father. He urged them to believe His words and His works. They testify that He is fully God.

Jesus explained that believers can participate in God’s work. Believers now do greater works – greater in scope and quantity – than Jesus.

Then Jesus told the disciples (and us!) to pray in His name, according to God’s will.

Things to Think About
  • Jesus said others will know we are His disciples when they see how we love others. Are you known by your love? Do you love the way Jesus loves?
  • Life is tough, but Jesus is tougher.
  • Jesus’ second coming will be visible, physical, personal, and triumphant.
  • Jesus calmed His disciples’ troubled hearts by promising them an eternal home with the Father. What is troubling your heart? Trust it to Christ.

This Week’s Memory Verse
I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. John 14:6 NIV

02 February 2017