Finding Renewal in the Love of God
Introduction to the Study
As Scott Peck wrote in the first sentence of his best seller, The Road Less Traveled, “Life is difficult.” It just is. People are difficult; they just are. Church families are fraught with difficult situations that threaten our peace and our faith. People need renewal.
I was 31 when I understood there were tides of life, ebbs and flows and rhythms which can wash over you gently or crash in violently, depending on time of day or weather. I remember my age because it was the year my dad died, the year my best friend’s husband disappeared, the year my baby turned two, the year my eldest couldn’t get along with his teacher, and the year I prepared to teach my first complete series for women.
It was a busy, desperate, difficult year, and I recall that the introduction to my first lesson detailed major, traumatic events that had occurred every month from January through September (the month my dad died). It was the year I realized that I was exhausted and that all I wanted to do was hibernate, so I did all fall. I pulled out the books to prepare my lessons, I brought in the groceries, and I stayed home. I tended my children, I cooked and washed, I worshiped, and I rested with the Lord. After Christmas, our young family flew to Lake Tahoe where we skied down glittering white slopes that seemed to slide into that sapphire lake that spread like a jewel over the horizon. I was on the chair lift with my “middlest,” age 4, when he began singing “Unto Thee O Lord.” My heart soared as I joined his praise. I was renewed.
At some point that next year I read or heard or learned that life required Sabbath. Though it might not require a seventh-day Sabbath or a fall celebration of Yom Kippur (the Jewish holiday in which the faithful examine their lives over the past year, repent, seeking atonement and renewal), everyone needs regular times of renewal, time to retreat, refocus, and reenergize.
Blessedly, we serve the God of renewal. From the chaos that reigned over the waters before creation, our God conceived a world of diverse beauty (Genesis 1.1). He is the Father who clothed his disobedient children in Eden, the God who provided the lamb for Abraham’s offering of faith, thus saving Isaac. He is the faithful One of Israel, who walked beside his people for forty long years in the wilderness, the God who responds lovingly to whining complaints, who forgives disobedience, who hears our cries. He never abandons. His mercies are new every morning (Lamentations 3.23).
I make a job, we say, of “carrying renewal around the world.” Actually, though hundreds of women claim to have been renewed during one of our events, we can’t package our product. The Come before Winter business plan does not include a formula for renewal. It can’t. Creation, recreation, and renewal, these are the job of our God. We like to say that we facilitate renewal. We provide the time, the place, the assignment, the coaching and urging, and prayer. Renewal, if it comes, settles over us as we regain our focus on God and understand once again our privileged and blessed position as His child. All that is needed is a willingness to cry out, time to focus, ears to hear, and a heart that responds.
Format of the Study
Our goal will be to hear 1 John as it was initially intended to be heard. Reading one of these guides before you begin will help you understand the method of prayerful reading and reflection which is central to each week’s study.
This study is meant to provide an “assignment”—a focus for renewal, God himself. The first three units will direct you to contemplate different aspects or personalities of the Trinity—the Father, the Word, and the Spirit. The last three call you to respond to God in each of His capacities.
Lessons about God
Lessons responding to God
The study pulls from the epistle of 1 John—not so much a study of 1 John, as a study in and through the writing of the epistle. In this study, we will pull on the writing’s theology and its exhortations. We will immerse ourselves in its mysteries and attempt to unravel its seeming contradictions. We will breathe the air it breathes, and ponder the deep thoughts of God as we pray and wait for the miracle of a spiritual renewal.
In reality, I believe the choice of assignment is less important than the focus one applies to that study. A person receives renewal from focusing intently on the One who gives renewal. Any well studied biblical text could produce the same possibility. However, I studied 1 John in the year of my discovery, and one of the most beneficial aspects of my study was a better understanding of God Himself—of the interplay between each manifestation of His being and my relationship with each one.
For the sake of scheduling, we have designed these six units to cover 18 weeks—three weeks for each lesson. Each week the focus of the study will shift slightly.
- Week 1: Listening to the text through reading and meditation
- Week 2: Exploring the text through study and prayer
- Week 3: Experiencing and processing the text
The materials will include links to six different translations of the text, background information and thought for each lesson, study questions to explore the text (including my own responses to the questions), discussion questions for group study, an experiential exercise to help you further explore your relationship with God.