Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Love One Another

1 John 4 is a chapter primarily on the subject of love - God's love for us, and our consequent love for one another. John begins in verse 7 by exhorting his readers to "love one another... for whoever loves has been born of God and knows God." He then explains why we ought to love one another.
In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.(1 John 4:9-12)
I was curious what he meant by the phrase, "No one has ever seen God," in verse 11, and I found my answer in verse 20.
If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. (1 John 4:20)
As with so many other powerful truths in Scripture, God's love is often under-appreciated. We acknowledge that He loves us, but our tendency is to take that love for granted and then turn around and fail to love those around us. If we cannot demonstrate love to our brother, who we can actually see, then how can we claim to love God, who we cannot see?!

Remember, Christ didn't die for "loveable" sinners. We were wretched and hateful in the eyes of God - entirely unloveable - and yet, He still sent His son in the ultimate demonstration of love, to die in our place and bear the burden of His just wrath. We who are in Christ have no excuse to withhold love and forgiveness from others, be it our neighbor, fellow churchgoer, employer, client, sibling, or parent.
Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. (1 John 4:11)

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

These are a Few of My Favorite...iPhone Apps

Since getting an iPhone 3Gs a few months ago, I've been introduced to the wild and wonderful world of mobile apps. Here are a few of my favorites (most of these are free).

(I wanted to lay these out in a table so that I could easily explain what I like about them, but alas', Blogger is in the stone age when it comes to customizing the code of your blog posts. Click on them to find out more.)

Lessons on Animosity and Responsibility from 1 John 3

This morning I was reading the first few chapters of 1 John and found a few points in chapter 3 particularly striking, especially as we consider the work of Christ on the cross this week.

The world is often very puzzled - sometimes angered - by the behavior and lifestyle of Christians. The first verse of 1 John 3 explains why:
The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. (vs 1b)
Just as the Jews did not know Christ (in the sense that they did not acknowledge Him as the Son of God), and put him to death, so we should expect to receive the same kind of animosity from the unbelieving world.
Do not be surprised, brothers, that the world hates you. (1 John 3:13)
We are reminded, however, that those called to be children of God must act like it. Indeed, this is the mark of true belief, that we seek to follow in the footsteps of Christ and discontinue our habitual sinning, and love our brother.
No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God's seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God. By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother. (1 John 3:9-10)
This, then, is our responsibility, to believe in Christ, love and lay down our lives for one another, and keep God's commandments.
By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. (1 John 3:16)
And this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us. Whoever keeps his commandments abides in God, and God in him. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit whom he has given us. (1 John 3:23-24)

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Cultural Holiness

Lately I've been reading The Pursuit of Holiness by Jerry Bridges, and one of his comments in chapter 2 really struck me.
Many Christians have what we might call a "cultural holiness." They adapt to the character and behavior pattern of Christians around them.
Isn't that true? Aren't we all tempted to look no farther than our immediate acquaintances to determine what is "acceptable" and even "holy?" After all, we don't want to appear self-righteous.

God said, "be holy, for I am holy." (Lev. 11:44) He didn't command us to "be holy as your brother is holy," but defines true holiness as conformity to His character, and His alone. Note the word conformity, not just acknowledgement. Bridges goes on to say:
But God demands more than that we acknowledge His holiness. He says to us, "Be holy, because I am holy." God rightfully demands perfect holiness in all of His moral creatures. It cannot be otherwise.
The truth is, we can never live up to that standard. It is only by the grace and mercy of God, through the sacrifice of Christ, that we can be cleansed of our guilt and made holy in His sight.

But that outpouring of grace may, ironically, tempt us to "continue is sin that grace may abound." (Rom. 6:1) Let us resist that temptation, echoing the words of Paul in verse 2, "By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?"

We must evaluate ourselves in light of who God is, realizing what He has done on our behalf, and seek to align ourselves with His perfect standard, not the standard of our Christian culture.
Strive...for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. (Heb. 12:14)

I Survived Dog Mountain!

Ok, I'm being a bit sarcastic. It wasn't really that hard, but this hike certainly had it's challenges.

Dog Mountain is in the Columbia Gorge just east of Stevenson, WA, and stands at 2,800'. Since the trailhead is essentially at river-level (c. 60') we had to climb the majority of that elevation in just under 3 miles. That's pretty steep!

Josiah showed up at our place the Saturday before last around 11:00am, but due to some unexpected challenges (i.e. cat in the attic) we didn't hit the road until close to 12:30. Then we had our fair share of missed exits and wrong turns...but finally we reached the trailhead.

March weather in the Columbia Gorge can be a bit foreboding and it appeared that we were in for a pretty wet hike. Thankfully all of us had some form of rain gear to keep us dry. I was test-driving my new Asolo hiking boots too (Gore-tex lined - bring on the rain!), and had a nice pair of lightweight Columbia rain pants. My rain coat was a bit sketchy since I had never given it a run for its money, but it was better than nothing.

We took the [steeper] northern route and I tracked our progress using iMapMyHike on my iPhone. Having the GPS running really did a number on my phone's battery (which is I why I've since bought one of these), but I got the whole route mapped and was able to track elevation, pace, etc.

Despite the initial prospects of rain, we hardly encountered any during the hike. There was a considerable amount of fog drifting through the Gorge, obscuring visibility but making for some really spectacular photo ops. When we reached the summit we discovered that it was capped in about 8-10" of snow. Josiah and I had taken our coats off in preference for t-shirts during the climb, but soon found that the heat from our exertion evaporated very fast. Some folks at the top asked us "why are you just wearing t-shirts?" We soon began wondering that ourselves.

One thing's for sure. The higher we climbed, the funnier everything became. This video should illustrate my point...

Take a look at some photos from the hike (mostly the ascent) below. You can view the whole album here. This was a great hike!

Stitched Panorama

The view of the Columbia Gorge from near the summit of Dog Mountain.