Dear Christian friends,

            Toya Graham is known more by a video of her rather than her name.   She was the mother who went into the boiling over streets of Baltimore and got her sixteen year old son away from the trouble he was participating in. My wife and I discussed her one night whether all was good about what she did or not. It ended in a split decision. 

            Have you read the comments of people about her? There are editorial boards of some publications who want to make her “Mother of the Year.”  Others think she should be thrown into jail for abuse. I am a firm believer in the Proverb that says if “you spare the rod you spoil the child.” A well-timed and well-placed pain-maker can serve real well on some.  You may never have to do it again.  Toya was hitting her sixteen year old upside the head. If you have to do that at age sixteen it is too late.  Hitting him upside the head is not in my opinion well-placed. People say that if you punish physically you are only begetting violent children.  That sixteen year old was already violent as he was flinging rocks at police. Toya needed to clean up her mouth from saying some of the things she said to her son.   

            There are a lot of things that could be discussed about this all, and yet I am glad Toya went to get her son and cared enough about him.  More parents should have done that. I am sure the 200 business owners who were put out of business by those thugs and gangs wished there had been more Toya Grahams around.

            Today is Mother’s Day.  What John writes in these eleven verses is not specifically written to mothers but to everyone – every child of God, mother, father and child in any Christian home. All of us would do well to listen and put those things into practice as John gives “Godly Instruction to Godly Families.”  1) Test the spirits; 2) Wrap yourself in love.   

            Years ago I was driving a tour bus in the Rocky Mountains of Montana. I picked up a tour at a hotel and it was foggy, cloudy and rainy.  When I got to the top of the mountain pass, the highest point in the road, what I saw was stunning.  It was like sitting in a theater and the curtain was raised.  The clouds simply disappeared.  The sun was shining as bright as could be. On the eastern side of the pass not a cloud in the sky.   

A pastor who prepares sermons every week and Bible classes from the Word gets to see the change that took place in the world when the holy couple met an evil angel in the garden beside a tree.  But it was in reverse.  It would have been like coming from the east and going west and the curtain was lowered.  Something God did NOT create suddenly entered the world and changed it never to be the same. The pure and perfect hearts of our first parents were no longer. As the prophet says, The heart (became) deceitful above all things and beyond cure.  Who can understand it?” That’s why we have  Baltimore, World War II, the Civil war, the arguments in the family and all else.  It all goes back to the garden.

While we are in the middle of it all and just as guilty, God got into the middle of it all too.  The Father sent his Son to this guilty and dying world.  We know the story.  The spiritual power that connects the world with Jesus is the Holy Spirit who works through Word and Sacrament.  Through the Word and sacrament God the Holy Spirit works changes. He turns cold and stony hearts that reject Jesus into hearts that he opens and fills with Jesus.

While we go from hell to heaven, that faith starts as a mustard seed.  That faith is like a baby that needs to mature.  In fact every begins as a spiritual baby The apostle Peter built on that analogy, Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation,now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.”  Notice how Peter says we need pure spiritual milk - not junk food, nothing artificial.  That’s all garbage and does damage instead of good. 

God raised a team to help each of us.  Many times the team is in the home.  It is found in the church.  There are preachers and teachers.  There are godly parents and godly peers to help us mature through Word and Sacrament.  

But there are others who are not there to help us on our spiritual journey or our spiritual growth.  The leader?  Satan himself and all those whom he recruits.  They change the message.  They say the Bible doesn’t really apply anymore.  Don’t take it seriously.”  Some direct us to other books.  Some say you can only save yourself.  That’s why John instructs, “Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.”

Test the spirits.  They are the teachers and teachings that are thrown our way.  Don’t consider them to be true just because they come from someone who has half the alphabet behind his or her name with degrees they have achieved. John gives us two points to use when we test teachers and their teachings. “This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world.”  What do they say about Jesus?  Do they teach that Jesus, God’s Son, came in the flesh?

We thankfully have three Creeds we use to confess our faith, the Apostles, the Nicene Creed and the Athanasian Creeds.  We take them for granted. The Apostles and Nicene are used throughout the church year are recited mindlessly like the Lord’s Prayer.   

The Nicene Creed and Athanasian Creed which we use once a year on Trinity Sunday (May 30 and 31st this year) came to us because people didn’t have the Triune God and the person and work of Jesus right just like John says.  Three false teachers and teachings were plaguing the church in the first four centuries of the church – 1) Cerinthus and people known as Gnostics did not believe in the incarnation or Jesus becoming flesh; the heavenly Christ and the earthly Jesus were two separate ideas. 2)  Sabellius taught that there were not three persons of the Trinity but different faces of God like I am a pastor, husband and father while being Larry.  3) Arius taught that Jesus was created by the Father so he could not and was not God as the Father is God. Remember that Jesus had to die to pay sin’s penalty; He had to be God so he could offer a price great enough to forgive the world, something no mere man could do.  Teaching anything less than that is antichristian.

The second test to find false teachers is summarized in the following.  “You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. They are from the world and therefore speak from the viewpoint of the world, and the world listens to them. We are from God, and whoever knows God listens to us; but whoever is not from God does not listen to us. This is how we recognize the Spirit of truth and the spirit of falsehood.”  John makes it clear.  “Whoever knows God listens to us.”  Who is he referring to when he says “us?” He is referring to himself as an apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ and the others who had that title too.  They were the eyewitnesses of the ministry of Jesus Christ.  They heard him preach and teach; they saw the miracles that he did; they saw he rose from the dead and forty days later ascend into heaven.  They were the ones to whom Jesus said,  “But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.” 

The Holy Spirit would fill them and remind them of all that Jesus taught.  They taught the Word of God and wrote it down.  They were used to write the Bible. While the Holy Spirit filled Moses and the prophets in the Old Testament, the Holy Spirit was promised to fill the apostles in the New Testament.  Together we know it as the Bible.  How do you test the spirits? Compare what they say to what the Bible says and add to that what do they teach who Jesus is?  Core questions for all who claim to be Christian.

Let me apply that to what I hear a lot.  Some people who advocate gay marriage say that Jesus never forbade it in the Bible.  I assume what they mean is that you can look through the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, where the life of Jesus is recorded, you won’t find him ever addressing the subject directly.  Yet I don’t agree with that fully.  In Matthew 19 Jesus addresses a question about marriage.  He quotes directly from Genesis chapter two. Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’?So they are no longer two, but one flesh.”  A man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife.  He doesn’t leave parents for options to mix and match. Even if people want to limit what Jesus said to the four Gospels their point doesn’t work. 

But the sin of homosexuality is pointed out and forbidden elsewhere too.  Jesus promised those writers the Holy Spirit too.  Every other book is just as much the Word of God as Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.  On the basis of all the books test the spirits.  That is part of God instruction for a godly family.    

Wrap your life in love – the love that comes from God and the love we have for God. Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. 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. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.”  A Bible commentator said something about these verses that make a lot of sense.  These verses are like proverbs, one liners, with the overall theme of love.    

There seems to be three thoughts.  1) All love has its origin from the heart of our God.   This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.”  Love is sacrificial and unconditional.  Jesus once said, “Greater love has no man than this: that he lay down his life for another.” He came to save a world that did not accept him.  Yet he was not deterred.  We remember Christmas when God became a baby. We remember Good Friday when he became that sacrificial lamb.  All for us!  All because he loved!    

2) God’s love is motivation for us to love.  It is automatic. The water of the Dead Sea is completely unfit to drink and use for irrigation.  Why? Because it is full of salt and other minerals!  They collect there.  It collects there because the Dead Sea has no outlet.  God’s mercy needs to keep moving too or it will stagnate.  We receive, but we also need outlets.  It shows when we give it back to God by loving others.  God’s love doesn’t stop with us. 

3) Love is able to be shown because God’s Spirit empowers us.  Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God.”  The Bible says that we become children of God when we have been born again of the Holy Spirit.  The Spirit resides in us.  We are temples of the Holy Spirit. Act of love are proof that the Spirit of God lives in us.  While we cannot see God with the eyes, we can see God in others and other see God in us by the works done by us.  That is important for us to see and for others to see.  Don’t hinder that from happening.   

This is good stuff that John talks about to day.  It is good instruction for every home 1) Be ready to test whatever comes into you life;  2) Put into practice his love and let others see God’s love in you.





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