I am always delighted when I read a familiar section of scripture and find new insights. As I read through John 3:1-21, I was amazed at what I hadn’t seen before. I had never realized that Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus included the beloved and most memorize words in the Bible, John 3:16. I had also not recognized with what compassion Jesus spoke to Nicodemus.
Jesus explained to Nicodemus exactly why he was here on earth and what he was doing. The gospel was clearly laid out for him. Jesus gave more direct information to this Pharisee than he did to any others in his recorded confrontation with the Pharisees.
Jesus rebuked Nicodemus for not understanding him. I believe skepticism and ingrained presuppositions hindered Nicodemus from comprehending Jesus’ words. Jesus knew this, and he challenged him to clear his mind and see the truth in what he was telling him. He took time with Nicodemus. He apparently wanted him to grasp what God was doing. I’m sure Jesus knew that Nicodemus was to become one of his followers.
I read through John 3:1-21 a number of times in both the NIV and The Message. The more I read the more I was touched. I began to see love and beauty expressed in the words Jesus spoke. He spoke to Nicodemus from his heart. I believe he spoke with passion. I encourage you to read this passage, and let it minister to your heart this coming week.
What does the word surrender say to you? Give up? Turn over control? Quit? This is not a word we humans like very much especially the turn over control part. Quitter, coward, weakling these are a few of the words we used to label ones who surrender. When a criminal surrenders to the police it usually means going to jail. A defeated army that surrenders is at the mercy of the conquering army. History contains a number of examples of the results of surrendering. Unfortunately, humans’ surrendering to humans doesn’t always work out very well for the ones who surrender. Surrendering is at best a risky business when we talk of surrendering to each other. Surrendering to God is a different business.
God invites us to surrender, but he never demands it. He promises that if we do surrender to him he will improve our lives. In this case surrendering might not be so bad.
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)
I can personally attest that surrendering to Jesus is as he says. I was in the pit of despair some time ago feeling useless and lost. I finally sat down on a rock and said to God, “I can’t leave this rock without you.” I surrendered. From that moment my life changed. I am now useful, happy, and at peace in my soul. The longer I stay with him the more I realize these promises. And, he also has promised me eternal life. In my case surrendering has proven to be a good choice.
Meditate on the above scripture, and hear Jesus calling to you. Find new life in Jesus our savior.
This week I have been examining what it means to love one another. Jesus gave a new command to his disciples: “Love one another” (John 13:34). This is repeated in John 15:17, “This is my command: Love each other.” So I have always thought that this means be nice to each other, forgive each other, encourage one another. I have seldom explored the aspect of love that involves surrendering to one another.
In 1 Corinthians 9:19 Paul says, “Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible.” Paul is willing to surrender himself to others that they might find Jesus. This is love that puts aside self-concern for the sake of others.
The whole experience of life is how I exercise my free will. I have free will. This was given to all humans at the time of creation. I can please myself, or I can please others.
My closest relationship affords the opportunity to practice loving another. This can be demonstrated simply. When I find that Bonnie, my wife and ministry partner, is annoyed with some habit of mine, do I surrender my will to her or insist on my way? I love her by surrendering my right to continue the annoying habit.
Paul says in Philippians 2:3 “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.” Putting someone else first is contrary to my self-centered nature.
Jesus’ command to love one another proves to be quite a challenge, but it is essential for his disciples. In John 13:35 Jesus concludes, “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.
My wife, Bonnie, in sharing this scripture with me the other morning, explained that at the time of her surrender to the Lord she actually had come to hate her life. I realized that could also be said of me. I had come to the end of trying to make a life on my own terms. In my distress, I surrendered to the Lord. These moments of surrender happened for both of us in August of 1980. Jesus took over and renewed our lives.
Our two lives came together later that year, and we married five months later. But meeting someone and getting married was just part of the new life in Jesus. The life we hated was gone, and in its place Jesus built a life of purpose. I view of my former life as useless. I was just dissipating life. In this new life, Jesus has made both Bonnie and me useful, and we get to keep this new life for eternity.
If you’ve come to the place of hating your life, there’s a great remedy. Surrender your life to Jesus. He’ll give you a life of purpose that will be eternal.
Our Pastor has been speaking on the temptation of Jesus. The story of the temptation is found in Luke chapter 4 verses 1-13. There are so many wonderful lessons to be learned from these verses, but I have been intrigued by the way Jesus handled his ultimate power.
When I think of ultimate power, Superman, Mighty Mouse, and other imaginary super heroes come to mind. However there is really only one who has super powers and that is God himself.
In the story of the temptation, the devil tempted Jesus to use his power randomly for his self-gratification. Jesus refused. The only use of power that Jesus displayed on earth was for one purpose. That purpose was to lead mankind from the kingdom of darkness to God’s eternal kingdom. Jesus was the only human who could handle that kind of power without abusing it.
So I asked myself, what would I do with ultimate power? Horror was my first response. I’m glad this is not an option. From a history teacher’s perspective, I have studied what humans do with limited power, and none have exercised their power solely for the benefit of others. Most have used power to control and abuse others. No one other than Jesus can be trusted with ultimate power.
I find great joy when I think of the restraint Jesus showed as he walked the earth. Jesus as God has ultimate power. He used it for our good when he was here, and he is still using it for our good.
On a personal note, I know I can trust Jesus to use his power for my good.
When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him? You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor.
I love this passage of scripture. It speaks volumes to me. The vastness of the heavens directs my thinking to just how limitless is our God who created them. Who is mankind in the midst of the universe? Well, it turns out that we’re quite important to our creator. Mankind is the focus of creation to the point that he sent his only begotten Son to die for us. I pause to think about this, and I am overwhelmed by this thought.
The great creator -of all that we know- is loving, personal, and sacrificial in relationship with his created ones. I desire to take this into the depths of my soul. Sometimes, I ignore God and take for granted his presence in my life. These thoughts are important motivators to stir me from my complacent self- centeredness and remind me just who I am serving. He is the creator of the universe in whom we live and move and have our being (Acts 17:28).
Christmas time is over, and it’s time to face the new year. Emotions are stirred as we store the last of our Christmas decorations. We remember past Christmas celebrations; and amidst the activities of packing our decorations, we reflect on the true meaning of this annual celebration.
At our house, we have a large globe that contains a manger scene. It’s still on the coffee table because it has a music box that our three year old granddaughter loves to hear. Sunday morning, as I sat drinking my coffee and staring into the globe, I had this thought. If you were looking at this scene, and you didn’t know the story behind it, but someone told you that it was about God coming to earth, which of the persons in the scene would you think represented the presence of God come to earth?
In the scene are three kings, a father and mother, shepherds, and a baby. I list them in order of social significance, but as we know the last is the correct choice. The dependent new born baby is God come to earth. The most humble person in the scene is the one through whom all things were made (See John 1:1-14).
It struck me that in the manger God demonstrated for us true humility. He came in the most vulnerable way. A new born is helpless and dependent on others for everything. Jesus, God, the new born baby, is total dependent. Ultimately, the dependence is on God his Father.
In reality, we also are totally dependent on God our Father. Our lives would be so much more peaceful if we’d recognized this humble truth.