Dear children, don’t let anyone deceive you about this: When people do what is right, it shows that they are righteous, even as Christ is righteous. But when people keep on sinning, it shows that they belong to the devil, who has been sinning since the beginning. But the Son of God came to destroy the works of the devil. Those who have been born into God’s family do not make a practice of sinning, because God’s life is in them. So they can’t keep on sinning, because they are children of God. 10 So now we can tell who are children of God and who are children of the devil. Anyone who does not live righteously and does not love other believers does not belong to God. – 1 John 3:7-10


Notice that the lock is on the outside of this door. It seems that it is designed to keep people in! Photo taken in Kleb Woods, October 2016

I would so love to say that I have never been deceived. But I’m that guy: the one who gets hooked when the bait is thrown out for the gullible one to bite. Did you know that they’ve actually created a way to get to the center of the earth? OK, maybe I won’t fall for that one, but I seem to be an easy target for the practical joke, the fun-poking set-up, the let’s-see-just-how-far-we-can-take-this tricksters. More often than not it is harmless. I’m ready to run out and buy a last minute birthday cake for the staff because they convince me I forgot and it’s my month to provide the cake.

Sometimes, however, the deceit is more grave. This really isn’t a sin. You won’t surely die. Did God really say…? Jesus has strong words for those who lead others astray – especially little ones.

And [Jesus] said to his disciples, “Temptations to sin are sure to come, but woe to the one through whom they come! It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were cast into the sea than that he should cause one of these little ones to sin. Pay attention to yourselves! If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents,forgive him, and if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him.”

Interesting connection between forgiving your brother and deceiving people or causing people to fall into sin. The gravest deception of all is that there is no forgiveness possible. Perhaps the greatest show of love is to forgive someone who has sinned against us. This is our calling as children of God. To refuse to do so is sin of the worst kind.

Save us from such sin, gracious God!

See how very much our Father loves us, for he calls us his children, and that is what we are! But the people who belong to this world don’t recognize that we are God’s children because they don’t know him. Dear friends, we are already God’s children, but he has not yet shown us what we will be like when Christ appears. But we do know that we will be like him, for we will see him as he really is. And all who have this eager expectation will keep themselves pure, just as he is pure.

Everyone who sins is breaking God’s law, for all sin is contrary to the law of God. And you know that Jesus came to take away our sins, and there is no sin in him. Anyone who continues to live in him will not sin. But anyone who keeps on sinning does not know him or understand who he is. – 1 John 3:1-6


NWHPC entry in Assigned Category: Doors | October 2016 | Taken in Kleb Woods at the home of a pioneering family in Cypress, some of whose relatives are members of St. John where I serve.

A family in the church I was serving in Utah had invited the local Mormon missionaries to come visit them. When I learned that was the case, I asked if I could come by to hear them too. The conversation was going well: Polite. Respectful. Non-controversial. Then the wife offered to get us something to drink (no coffee mind you!). While she was away, I set a trap saying, “Sure is terrible about that little girl who was found murdered in the mountains outside of Salt Lake City.”

“Yes it is,” they replied.

“Did your President really say that the person who did this can never find forgiveness – either now or in eternity?” [the LDS president is considered to be “prophet, seer, and revelator.”]

“Yes,” came their reply.

I knew I had them: they don’t follow the same Jesus I follow. My Jesus (who is not the spirit brother of Satan) died for the sins of the whole world. Whoever believes in him will be saved. Only God can judge the heart of the repentant convict in regard to faith. But we would never say that there is a sin beyond God’s redemption (except to deny the Holy Spirit, which is tantamount to willful unbelief).

“See? See!? See what I mean?!?” I cried. “They don’t believe in grace. Some sins cannot be forgiven. Which sins can be, and how?”

See? God has shown his love for us! We are children of God. We all sin; we cannot keep ourselves from it. Verse 6 is one of the verses the earned this letter of John’s the term antilegomena: one of the books of the New Testament that did not receive 100% agreement that it belonged in the canon in the earliest days of the Christian Church. In the context of the remainder of scripture we understand this to be a statement about willful, unrepentant, sin – not sins of weakness, or sins from which we repent – as gross and ugly as they may be.

That is, perhaps, helpful. But it is clear and comforting that we are children of God because of his love for us, and not because of our lack of sin. We who have be brought to faith in Jesus Christ will seek to honor him in all we do. And when we fail, we confess our sins, receive his forgiveness, and thank God that we are his beloved children. Our obedience to God grows out of our identity as God’s children. Our failures to do so gives witness to our continuing need for God’s redemptive love, and his goodness to us claiming us as his children.

See how much he loves us?!? Yes indeed. Thanks be to God!

I am writing these things to warn you about those who want to lead you astray. 27 But you have received the Holy Spirit, and he lives within you, so you don’t need anyone to teach you what is true. For the Spirit teaches you everything you need to know, and what he teaches is true—it is not a lie. So just as he has taught you, remain in fellowship with Christ.

28 And now, dear children, remain in fellowship with Christ so that when he returns, you will be full of courage and not shrink back from him in shame.

29 Since we know that Christ is righteous, we also know that all who do what is right are God’s children. – 1 John 2:26-29


“Sew Blue” photo taken at the homestead at Kleb Woods in Cypress, Texas. Entered at NWHPC “Open” (unassigned) competition on October 18, 2016.

“Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” So says Jesus. “Follow me and we’ll have the best fun you’ve ever had.” One of those invitations is welcome and appealing. The other not an easy sale. Jesus’ invitation includes a reality check: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.” The world’s invitation offers cheap thrills, easy ways, no pain, no cost. No problem; just fun, ease and happiness.

“There is a way that seems right to man, but the end thereof is the way of death.” (Proverbs 16:25) There are those who really do want to lead us astray. There are those who wish to see the ruin of others – either because misery loves company. There are still others who wish to see our ruin – just because they have evil motives, and ill will toward others.

God’s people will seek to honor God, help their neighbor, and not lead others into temptation. We know the way we should go, and what is good and right. We remain in fellowship with Christ because we have been called by him, gifted with the Holy Spirit and recognize the lies of the evil one for what they are.

We remain in fellowship with Christ and when he returns we will greet him with joyful confidence. He has not pulled a fast one one us. He has not lied to us. He has told us the truth and the Spirit has confirmed that to be so in our hearts. Our Savior will not lead us astray. He leads us to life and eternal joy.

Dear children, the last hour is here. You have heard that the Antichrist is coming, and already many such antichrists have appeared. From this we know that the last hour has come. 19 These people left our churches, but they never really belonged with us; otherwise they would have stayed with us. When they left, it proved that they did not belong with us.

20 But you are not like that, for the Holy One has given you his Spirit, and all of you know the truth. 21 So I am writing to you not because you don’t know the truth but because you know the difference between truth and lies. 22 And who is a liar? Anyone who says that Jesus is not the Christ. Anyone who denies the Father and the Son is an antichrist. 23 Anyone who denies the Son doesn’t have the Father, either. But anyone who acknowledges the Son has the Father also. – 1 John 2:18-23 [NLT]


I’m guessing that someone put this bottle on the steps that remained after the house to which they led was swept away by flooding in Louisiana. I’m not sure why, however, anyone would place it there.

Sometimes a self-consumed concern about our faith leads us to self-doubt and despair. Is our faith strong enough? Do we believe rightly? Are we really saved? One approach to such doubts is simply to dismiss them: they’re silly and non-consequential. This may appear to be a wise and mature approach. After all, doubts about God, his word, or truth are groundless. But these issues are not inconsequential. If you do not have it right about who God is and what he has said and done, and what he has promised or threatened to do, you could be in danger of facing grave ramifications to say the least.

A better approach to such doubts is to ground them where they belong. Is my faith strong enough? Not the right question. Rather we should ask, “Is my Savior is strong enough to save me?” Am I really saved? No need to doubt that if you simply rely on God’s word and promise: “Whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (Romans 10:16) Do I believe rightly? Now there’s an important question to which John supplies the answer: Whoever believes in Jesus Christ has it right.

There are those who would discredit God, deny Jesus, and reject the work of the Holy Spirit. There are those who point toward the decline of the church in America as evidence of an antiquated belief system. There are those who say that Jesus was just a good guy, or an interesting religious figure of his day, but nothing more. There are those who say there is no God. These are the antichrists whose intent is evil and destructive. They come to steal, kill, and destroy. But Jesus has come to give life in abundance. Those who trust in him will be saved.

Doubts are best faced, acknowledged, grounded in the clear Word of God, and dismissed with the power of the Holy Spirit. But doubts do not disprove faith; they may even help us focus on what is true and clear: Jesus is the Messiah, the Christ, the Anointed One, the Savior in whom we trust. Through faith in him we are saved.

Do not love this world nor the things it offers you, for when you love the world, you do not have the love of the Father in you. 16 For the world offers only a craving for physical pleasure, a craving for everything we see, and pride in our achievements and possessions. These are not from the Father, but are from this world. 17 And this world is fading away, along with everything that people crave. But anyone who does what pleases God will live forever. – 1 John 2:15-17


An image from my 2016 Portfolio “Unsung Heroes: A Visual Parable” These images remind us that just as many things are working behind the scenes, and without our notice, so God is holding all things together through the word of his power. We often take his presence and protection for granted.

In the movie, Martin Luther: Heretic (A BBC film from 1987), Luther is depicted teaching his students about God’s grace. There is nothing we do to earn it, or deserve it, but God simply and fully forgives us for Jesus’ sake. The students struggle with this idea, and one asks, “You mean I can do whatever I please? I can sin all I want…” Luther answers, “Yes. And what pleases you? So what do you do? Drink yourself senseless? Make faces at the Duke? Spend the rest of the week in a whorehouse?” (You can watch the scene here – as well as the rest of the movie.)

The question remains, however: what pleases God? How do I please him. The answer lies in faith: believing in God; believing that he is good; believing that he is true to his word; believing that although we do not deserve to receive his blessings he grants them to us for the sake of Jesus. When we believe in God and acknowledge his faithfulness, righteousness, love and mercy, we please God. It’s that simple. It’s not just what we do, but how we view God, how we acknowledge who he is and all that he has done for us in Jesus that pleases him.

The world can never offer true eternal goodness, grace and blessing. Its gifts are fleeting and never truly satisfy. But the favor God offers is pure, holy, true, and deeply and eternally satisfying for all who believe in him.

Dear friends, I am not writing a new commandment for you; rather it is an old one you have had from the very beginning. This old commandment—to love one another—is the same message you heard before. Yet it is also new. Jesus lived the truth of this commandment, and you also are living it. For the darkness is disappearing, and the true light is already shining.

If anyone claims, “I am living in the light,” but hates a fellow believer,[a] that person is still living in darkness. 10 Anyone who loves a fellow believer[b] is living in the light and does not cause others to stumble. 11 But anyone who hates a fellow believer is still living and walking in darkness. Such a person does not know the way to go, having been blinded by the darkness.

12 I am writing to you who are God’s children
    because your sins have been forgiven through Jesus.[c]
13 I am writing to you who are mature in the faith[d]
    because you know Christ, who existed from the beginning.
I am writing to you who are young in the faith
    because you have won your battle with the evil one.
14 I have written to you who are God’s children
    because you know the Father.
I have written to you who are mature in the faith
    because you know Christ, who existed from the beginning.
I have written to you who are young in the faith
    because you are strong.
God’s word lives in your hearts,
    and you have won your battle with the evil one. – 1 John 2:7-14


A very old and abandoned bridge in the country outside of Baton Rouge, LA.

I was recently thinking about how easy it is to become self-absorbed. This is especially true as we get older. We become more impatient. We become less tolerant. I think it has to do with getting tired of going the extra mile, being patient with others, and having a built-in resentment toward others who don’t quite get it as clearly and fully as we do (OK, as clearly as I do!). It’s time for things to go my way. It’s time that people start being patient with me!

Warning: Grumpy old man in the house!

Then there are those impatient young men who want their slice of the pie now. Today is almost too late for them. They get a new car because they want one, and yet they don’t have the money, so they borrow the money to get the car. Now. Pay for it later.

Then there are those  women who are mature in the faith, who seem to have a nearly inexhaustible amount of patience and grace toward others…until they don’t. Then the get frustrated, and too often bitter, and too easily provoked.

Sigh: Seems we’ve all got our challenges.

John writes to us all: Old, young, men, women, new to the faith, mature believers. He has a word for each of us, and that word is love. It’s either a reminder of God’s love for us – inexhaustible, unmerited, unconditional, sacrificial, or our calling to love one another – with the same attitude, fueled by God’s love for us.

We must do this. We must love one another. We cannot say we love God and despise our neighbor. We cannot say we follow Jesus and turn our back on even the most vile sinner. We cannot pretend that we don’t know Jesus’ commandment to love one another. For the very nature of God’s love requires that we not horde it to ourselves.

These are good words. Words of grace and truth. For you and for me. They are words for all kinds of people in all kinds of seasons of life.

My dear children, I am writing this to you so that you will not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate who pleads our case before the Father. He is Jesus Christ, the one who is truly righteous. He himself is the sacrifice that atones for our sins—and not only our sins but the sins of all the world.

And we can be sure that we know him if we obey his commandments. If someone claims, “I know God,” but doesn’t obey God’s commandments, that person is a liar and is not living in the truth. But those who obey God’s word truly show how completely they love him. That is how we know we are living in him. Those who say they live in God should live their lives as Jesus did. – 1 John 2:1-6


This photo was taken near Baton Rouge, LA following the flooding there.

Some people have a very cozy relationship with God. It’s called easy-believism, cheap grace, or cozy faith. Dietrich Bonhoeffer railed against it in his seminal work, The Cost of Discipleship. He was particularly distressed that so many people who professed Christ involved themselves in the Nazi movement in Germany, following Hitler rather than Christ. Wikipedia summarizes Bonhoeffer’s thoughts this way:

Cheap grace, Bonhoeffer says, is to hear the gospel preached as follows: “Of course you have sinned, but now everything is forgiven, so you can stay as you are and enjoy the consolations of forgiveness.” … In contrast to cheap grace,

“costly grace confronts us as a gracious call to follow Jesus, it comes as a word of forgiveness to the broken spirit and the contrite heart. It is costly because it compels a man to submit to the yoke of Christ and follow him; it is grace because Jesus says: ‘My yoke is easy and my burden is light.'”

I would offer a slightly nuanced expression of the last part of the equation, more explicitly along the lines of John’s thoughts here. Hearts that are broken and contrite over sin will also desire to follow Jesus. He is our righteousness, the champion of our faith, the fulfillment of all that God has designed us to be. Jesus calls sinners to follow him. He forgives us, looks past our sins, and sets us on a higher path.

Most Christians I know have a desire to follow Jesus. They do not wish to sin. They believe it is wrong to follow the ways of the world, and want to follow Jesus. But those same folks, along with me, fail. We sin. We turn aside from the path of true life. Thank God we have an advocate who pleads our cause before the Father. Jesus’ plea is simple: “I died for them,” Jesus says, “have mercy!”

When we receive Jesus’ call to follow him, we are moving toward the heavenly Father. We are embracing his grace. We are forgiven. That is an every-day calling, a way of life, and moves us from a cozy faith to a vibrant and living way of life.