Here we are – on the cusp of a new school year.
And whether you are going back to school, or you have a kid going back to school or not, there is something about September that signals something new.
A change. A return to routine, yes.
But new grades, new rhythms, new challenges and friends and weather and traffic.
In some ways it can be comforting… the returning-to-normal part.
But all the newness can also be unsettling.
And stressful. And scary.
Add to that the complexities of Covid and vaccines and variants and this September is already feeling like a lot.
It’s at times like this, times of transition and change and discord and upheaval, I feel like we need to be reminded of what is true and steadfast and trustworthy in our lives. So that we can stay true to who we’ve been called to be.
This week the scripture we’ll be focusing on is that reminder.
It reads almost like a pep-talk.
The apostle John reminding and encouraging and exhorting us to stay true to the one person who has always been true to us.
And while portions of these passages are going to be super familiar to you, my hope and my prayer is that you will accept these words as the life-giving reminder of the life Jesus has called you to in a fresh, powerful way.
Stay true, my friends. Even in September.
Day 1: Stay true to who you are
Read: 1 John 3:1-10
That boy was able to burst into the Oval office with confidence and assurance because he knew who he was. He was the son of the guy in charge. He had nothing to fear. And every reason to hope that his request would be heard and considered.
I’ve seen this video, heard this story so many times. Each time, it causes me to pause. And reminds me that I am the daughter of the guy in charge.
I am a child of God. And so I can approach Him with confidence and assurance. I can live in the light of this identity.
1. Do you feel lavished by the Father’s love? Or do you have a hard time sensing it at all? Why do you think that is?
2. Are there patterns of sin, ways of thinking/reacting/behaving, lack of relationship that is keeping you from living in your identity of God’s beloved child? Talk to God about that. Burst into His office and ask Him to help you stay true to who you are.
Day 2: Staying true in what you do
Read: 1 John 3:11-24
Verse 18 says:
“Dear children (remember…that’s you. That’s who you are!)
let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.”
So in a world full of words:
angry words, funny words, cutting words, divisive words.Words that often result in more division, more unease, more anxiety, instead of more peace, joy and love.
What we really need is action.
We need to bite our tongues and move our feet instead.
This verse actually goes on to say that
“This then, is how we know that we belong to the truth (how we remember who we are) and how we set our hearts at rest.
A heart at rest. Doesn’t that sound delicious?
A heart at rest comes from an active, authentic faith. Huh.
- How do you spend your time? If you look at your summer, or an average week, how much time do you spend putting love into action? Who/how did you serve, unpaid?
- Have you ever realized that there is a correlation between who/how you serve (love in action) and how secure you are in your identity as a child of God?
Talk to God about this. Confess anything that has come to mind – especially if you are prone to be more of a words kind-of-person (if so, join the club!). Ask Him to speak and tell you specific ways you can love with action and truth. Ask for a restful heart, secure in your identity as His child.
Day 3: Stay true to who you follow
Read: 1 John 4:1-6
Are you so tired of trying to figure out what in all the world is going on? Maybe that’s just me.
But this last year and a half has been a bombardment of conflicting reports and ideas and some would say fear mongering, others would say prudency.
And I’m tired from trying to make sense of it all.
Can I get an amen?
Sadly, this conundrum doesn’t disappear when the pandemic does. Because as a follower of Jesus, as a child of God, there is so much mystery.
Practically this means that learned, faithful Jesus-followers say and write and live things that other learned, faithful Jesus-followers disagree with.
And so it seems like staying true to Jesus is so difficult. How in all the world do we do it?
Did you know your job isn’t to make sense of the mystery? I mean, you definitely need to wrestle and contemplate and pray about any and all the things.
But not with the goal of being the owner and defender of truth. Because that is impossible on this side of heaven.
No, the real goal is to hear the voice of God.
To attune your ears and heart and mind so closely to His that you can discern, and love, and serve like Jesus.
We hear his voice through scripture. Through teaching. Through the voices of our brothers and sisters in the faith. And through the Spirit of God that lives in you.
“the one who is in you is greater than those who are in the world.”
- Sit quietly for 5 minutes. Concentrate on your breathing. As you inhale say/whisper “Jesus”. As you exhale say/whisper “speak to me”.
- Is there something that is bothering you? A question that you can’t answer? A decision you can’t make? A worry that keeps nagging you? A conflict you can’t resolve?
You’ve asked Jesus to speak, so now let’s bring this issue/problem/difficulty to him. Tell him your thoughts and ask for His wisdom, to speak into the situation.
And then listen. Just sit, and listen. If your mind wanders, that’s ok. Just concentrate on your breathing again for a few minutes. And then ask Jesus to speak to you.
Don’t question what He says, trust that the Holy Spirit lives in you. If you hear something, thank Him. If you don’t, that’s ok. This can be hard – especially with all the noise all around us. Ask God to help you be attentive to His presence throughout the rest of your day. Maybe you’ll hear Him later…
Day 4: You are loved
Read: 1 John 4:7-21
By this point in our reading this week you’ve done some heavy lifting. Owning your identity, assessing how you live authentically loving, discerning God’s voice…phew. That’s a lot.
So I wanted to remind you and encourage you that you can do all these things because you are so deeply, so truly loved.
Listen. Sing along if you like. And revel in the Father’s love for you today.
Day 5: So live like it!
Read: 1 John 5
So I’m deathly afraid of heights. I always have been, but the older I get the worse it seems to be. Where I once was able to talk myself out of being afraid on roller coasters I now scream a ridiculous stream of semi-conscious rhetoric as I hurtle towards the earth to appease my children and give them fodder for their taunts.
A few years ago we went Treetop Trekking – and I knew I was going to hate it. I knew I would be terrified so I decided I would just be a spotter.
But when one of my kids was too terrified to even give it a try, I gave them the pep-talk of my life. I didn’t want them to miss out!
And as I was making a case for the safety of the harness, and the reliability of the structures,
I realized the only way I would win this debate is if I climbed and trekked as well.
So I did. I got on the ridiculous-looking harness and helmet and up I went and the day was awesome and my kid overcame a fear and loved it. I still hate heights. Hate them. But having confidence in the safety equipment and protocols made me able to take the risk.
It’s a risk to follow Jesus. It’s a challenge to stay true in a world that is always changing the rules.
But “this is the confidence we have in approaching God…”
God, our Father. Who gave us a true and lasting identity as His child.
Our Dad who graciously outlined how we are to live by sending our older brother, Jesus, to follow.
Our Father who lavishes us with His love, whether we deserve it or not.
This is why we can live with integrity and confidence – …”that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us – whatever we ask – we know that we have what we asked of him.”
So even if the thing we ask or fear or want doesn’t result in exactly what we thought, we have confidence that it’s all His will. So then it’s all good.
We don’t need to fear. We don’t need to worry. We don’t need to continue in our old ways.
We can live and move and walk and talk in the freedom and confidence that comes with being a child of God.
Even in September.
- What things make it hard for you to remember you have nothing to fear? Are there certain shows, or books, or people who stoke fear instead of confidence in you?
- Is there anyone in your life that stokes faith in you? Do you have a someone you can call to discuss, or ask them to pray for you? Notice how the scripture we read today always uses the word “we”. Not “I”. You are not an island…you need other people to walk with you in your faith journey.
- How connected are you to a faith community? Do you serve anyone outside of your household? Do you attend and contribute to a home group? Do you regularly attend a weekly worship service? Do you read your Bible? These practices are not burdens – and I am not heaping condemnation on you. But these habits and disciplines equip you to live in the truth and confidence of your identity as a child of God. So be real…how do you remind yourself of that?
Talk to God about any of these reflection questions that stung a little. Ask God what to do with what He has shown you this week, and thank Him for the reminder. Ask Him what your next steps are…and if you want to chat, reach out to any of our staff here at the Well. We’d love to talk to you about it!