Tag Archives: John 3:16

Simply Believe

Read John 3:1-18

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“If any of you wants to be My follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow Me.” (Mark 8:34 NLT)

LOVEMany who have grown up in the church have had to learn Bible verses/passages in Sunday School, or VBS, or for confirmation, etc. Many grew up learning the 23rd Psalm, many grew up learning Isaiah 40:28-31, and many others. probably the most learned Bible verse ever, if I had place my bets on it is John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” Thank God for the poetic King James Version which only aids in the memorization process because it rings so clearly. With that said, it’s not always the most understandable translation, so I thank God for the more contemporary translations too.

John 3:16 has often been considered the verse of love, in a Gospel that has become known as the Gospel of love. We often hear that verse and are comforted by God’s graciousness in sending his Son to save us from our sins through Jesus’ death on the cross. We see this as God’s great love for all of humankind. The other thing that usually happens in the interpretation of this passage is that it becomes exclusive of anyone that doesn’t “believe” in Jesus, and with that the exclusion goes even deeper as there aren’t two groups of people on this planet that “believe in Jesus” the exact same way. So, this usually amounts to a “my group is saved because we believe, but yours shall perish because you don’t believe or because you believe falsely.”

What’s sad about this is that it takes what is a verse of hope, a verse of complete sacrificial love, and turns it into a verse of judgment and condemnation. Now, don’t get me wrong. I am NOT saying that anything goes and that Jesus’ death on the cross saves everyone unconditionally. Typically, when people try and have a discussion around salvation theology, accusations of “universalism” fly around like bullets out of a machine gun. I am not saying that anything goes because I believe that saying that cheapens what Jesus did for us; however, I am not so quick to turn this verse into a verse of judgement because I believe that ends up discounting and/or nullifying what Christ did for us, at least in the minds and hearts of those we affect.

Instead, I choose to let this verse speak for itself. Jesus Christ sacrificed his life, not just through his death but through his very life. In fact, John 3:16 mentions nothing about God sending Jesus to die…just that God sent God’s only begotten Son. Obviously, his death and resurrection play a vital part, but so did his life. Jesus sacrificed living a normal life, being a husband, being a father, and living out his days relatively peacefully in order to follow God and teach others how to do so as well. In his life, he showed us the truth and the life through his healings, his teachings and his example. Through his death, he showed us the way to the Kingdom of God. In his resurrection, Christ showed us that even death won’t conquer those who follow his way. Anyone who believes in Christ not only believes in his life and death and his resurrection, but also believes they are called to follow in his footsteps.

Jesus didn’t die because he was forced to, or because he HAD to, or even because God willed him to; rather, he died because humanity’s sinful nature rebuked and reviled him. He accepted that reality and took on death because he LOVES US THAT MUCH. He accepted death on a cross because to him, and to God, we MATTER THAT MUCH! Jesus saw in us the what we often fail to see in ourselves…the presence of the Living God. So, why take what is an ENORMOUSLY POSITIVE verse and turn it into something negative? I am not God, nor are you, nor is any other created being in God’s creation. Only God is God, and through Christ, God has showed us the way of love through self-sacrifice. We are to believe, but we are not to judge others who we THINK might not believe. Rather we are to SIMPLY BELIEVE to the point of being moved and transformed from who we are to who GOD is calling us to be. Those who do shall find everlasting peace and life.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me.” – Jesus Christ
PRAYER
Lord, help me to believe in you…to truly believe…and not to be in a place of judgment of others. Amen.

Don’t Feed the Trolls, Part Deux

Read John 1:1-5; 3:16-21

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

Jesus said to [Thomas], “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)

wbjyqd3k-1393300595Last week I wrote a devotion about trolls and trolling. If you recall, or perhaps you haven’t read that one yet (if not you should read it now), trolls are not just some fanciful creature found in fairy tales, but are human “creatures” we find lurking in the shadows of the Internet. They can usually be found on social media web sites such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and other such sites. They are found in the comment sections of blogs, news sites, and other places that are open to people’s comments and opinions.

These trolls are, by definition, people who “deliberately post provocative messages with the intention of causing maximum disruption and argument.” They are the kind of people who are just looking to get under someone else’s skin, putting out bait (such as a provocative message) for people to snap at. When someone does take the bait, they are in for a world of hurt. Trolls can be ruthless and when they get going, there is little one can do to stop them…short of leaving the conversation of course.

Of course, when you think about it, trolling isn’t just unique to the Internet. Trolls can be found throughout life in general. There are just some people out there who love to get an edge on someone else, who love to rile people up, to see people get flustered. There are also the trolls who aren’t purposefully trolling, but are just miserable people who are are angry at the world, who always have a negative spin on everything and are the types of people who tend to bring others down with them.

This latter type of troll is more of an accidental troll. Most people don’t start off life looking to be miserable or down all the time. Most people WANT to be happy and to make others happy. Call me an optimist, though if I am I find myself to be a rather realistic optimist, but I believe that the majority of people are good people. Yet, good and “perfect” are not the same thing. Good people can fall into the trap of seeing life through dark and dreary lenses, especially if they have been hurt or burned one too many times.

What’s more, anyone of us can become this kind of troll. If I am to be completely honest, I have been this kind of troll before. Perhaps you have too. Perhaps, in honesty, you can admit that you have been an accidental troll and have allowed anger, bitterness, negativity, sadness, and other things to bring yourself and others down. If this is the case, I am not writing this to shame you or to make you feel guilty, but I do believe it is important for us to recognize those tendencies and to address them before they completely take us over.

We don’t have to be trolls, we don’t have to be constantly down about everything, we don’t have to bring others down with us. There is a way out of the negativity; there is a light shining in the darkness for all to see. Christ is that light and Christ points us away from feeding the inner troll. Jesus said to Thomas, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to God but through me.”

Christ is calling us to stop focusing on ourselves. Christ is calling us to stop feeding our inner trolls. If we focus on Christ and on living as he did, then we will find that Christ’s WAY leads to the truth that life is full of HOPE and can be beautiful for everyone if we only work toward that. If we seek Christ’s way we will discover the truth that GOD is planning HOPE, HEALING and WHOLENESS for the entire world. And if join God in that quest, we will certainly experience what it means to truly live.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

“Quit thinking that you must halt before the barrier of inner negativity. You need not. You can crash through… whatever we see a negative state, that is where we can destroy it.” – Vernon Howard

PRAYER

Lord, shine your light in me so that I may see who I am and whose I am. Call me to your purpose and keep me from feeding into negativity. Amen.

A Phantom Lesson

Read 1 Corinthians 13

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.” (John 3:16)

'phantom-of-the-opera'-at-25-offers-a-special-showThe chamber is dark, hollow, desolate. All that can be heard are the echoes ringing through the darkened chasm and corridors like sounds of moaning bellowing through an old, dank mausoleum.  The song of two lovebirds pierce the ears of the silhouette of the man left behind in the chamber; their words of loving devotion will haunt him for the rest of his days.  Yet, he knows that what he did was right. He knows that he could not hold on to her any longer. He knows that he shouldn’t have held on to her at all. After all he loves her, and it was his love for her, for his precious angel of music, that brought him to the realization that she was never his to begin with.

This is how Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Phantom of the Opera ends. It is my favorite Broadway musical and it tells the tale of a deformed man who masks his deformity and masquerades around the Paris Opera House, extorting money from the Opera House owners.  He also is teaching a young woman, by the name of Christine Daae, whom he loves.  He pretends to be her father’s ghost or, rather, her father’s angel of music.  You see, Christine’s father died while she was a child and, before he died, he promised to send his angel to her. It was kind of her father’s way of assuring his child that he’d always be with her.

But the Phantom took the words of her father and used them in a way that manipulated Christine. He desired her and wanted her to not only be the most renowned and beloved Soprano in all of France, but he also wanted her to be his bride.  Needless to say, that plan fell through and the Phantom ends up kidnapping her after he realizes that she’s fallen in love with another man.  That man pursues them in order to save Christine, but he get caught by the Phantom and Christine is given the ultimate choice: either she marries the Phantom or her lover dies.

What kind of love does that? Where does love go so wrong that someone would force you into making such a choice? How can the Phantom claim to love Christine and put her into such a horrifying situation?  Somewhere in the midst of rage, those questions must have penetrated the Phantom’s heart.  Christine chooses to marry the Phantom in order to save her lover and the Phantom realizes that, even if she does marry him, she will never love him. So, he lets both her and her lover go. He does not harm either of them; rather, he lets them go and sinks back into the shadows of his lair…never to be heard of again.

Why did the Phantom not carry on with his vengeful plot? Why didn’t he kill Christine’s lover and force her to marry him? Why did he let them go? Because he loved her and true love does not force its way. Paul describes true love in 1 Corinthians 13, except that this love goes beyond eros (the kind of love that the Phantom, Christine and her lover were all feeling). The love that Paul writes of is perfect love…the love of God.

The key to this kind of love is that, contrary to conventional wisdom, it lets go.  I have often heard people say that you have to hold on to what you love; however, true love lets go.  God would love for us to send the love back; however, God lets us go so that we may be free to love whoever and whatever we want.  If we were forced to love God, it would not be love.  This Lent, take a page from God and learn to let go in the areas you find yourself struggling to hold on.  In doing so, you will find that LOVE is truly guiding you!

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

Letting go does not mean giving up; rather, it is giving in to the understanding that LOVE will find its way.

PRAYER

Lord, guide me to surrender all of the things I hold on to. Teach me to let them go. Amen.