John 3:1-21

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.

Jesus offers:

“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.


John 12:25

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.


Psalm 8:3-5

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).


“Be merciful to those who doubt; save others by snatching them from the fire; to others show mercy, mixed with fear – hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh.”

 Jude 22-23


The Church, the Body of Christ, has throughout the ages frequently missed the basic tenet of being merciful.    On the other hand the Church has been an instrument of mercy in society since its beginning.  It’s been a mixed bag.  In Luke 6:35-36 Jesus says,

“But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back.  Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.  Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.”

God has shown us mercy, and he desires us to be merciful.  I believe our ability to be merciful depends on our ability to receive mercy.  Humility is the key.


To receive mercy, I must first recognize my need for mercy.  When I know that I have sinned against God, there is then the recognition of the debt I owe to God.  Secondly, I need to humble myself and become aware that there is nothing I can do to repay this debt.  God is willing and has made the way to grant me mercy by forgiving my debt.  I don’t have to work for it.  It’s free.  That is hard for me because in my pride I want to do something to earn forgiveness.  However, by holding on to this idea of earning forgiveness, I will never even understand mercy.


Now you can see why it’s a mixed bag for the Church.  Our pride often gets in the way.  In Matthew 9:13 Jesus says to the Pharisees, “But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’”  And again in 12:7, “If you had known what these words mean, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the innocent.”  The Pharisees were caught up in a ritual of sacrifice that fed their pride allowing them to condemn others rather than show them mercy.  They were trying to pay their debt to God on their own merit.  They were blinded by pride and did not understand mercy.   Therefore, they could not extend mercy.


Mercy proceeds from a humble, forgiving heart.  This is God’s nature and his heart toward us.  By surrendering my will to God and allowing myself to be forgiven, I take the first step in understanding mercy.  I feel the burden of gilt lifted and the exhilaration of being free.  But, I must remember that I’m free and not fall prey to the lie that I must do something for this freedom.  That lie feeds my pride.  I must remain humble. Then in humble gratitude, I live under God’s mercy.  A life that is continually bathed in mercy emanates mercy.


Here is part 2 of the story I started last week.


What the rebel leader failed to realize is that because the son never joined his rebellion he was innocent.  The rebel leader could kill his subjects, but he could not kill one who was not his subject.  If he did he would forfeit his right to rule.  When he was able to have the Son killed his victory dance was immediately cut short.  Imagine the moment that he realized by having the Son killed he lost his authority over the new kingdom.

Since the son was innocent he could cleanse the people of the New Kingdom by taking their evil burden upon himself.  He took on himself the curse of death and allowed his innocent blood to be shed as a cleansing for the people. Once cleansed the people could now enter the Great Ruler’s kingdom.  As a sign to all, the Great Ruler raised his Son from the dead in victory. 

Thus began the Great Ruler’s restoration of his rule in the new kingdom.  Many of the inhabitants chose to enter his kingdom right away.  In his kingdom were eternal life and love and goodness.  The rebel leader prowled around trying to stop the growth of the Great Ruler’s kingdom, but he could not.

The son returned to his place in his Father’s realm with the promise to return and completely end the rule of the evil rebel leader.  Until then the people could enjoy the cleansing sacrifice he gave to them. Even though they still lived with evil all around them, the joy of their new life sustained them.


In John 16:33 (The Message) Jesus said to his Disciples, “I’ve told you all this so that trusting me, you will be unshakeable and assured, deeply at peace.  In this godless world you will continue to experience difficulties.  But take heart!  I’ve conquered the world.”

So, Take heart! He has won the victory for us.  We have eternal life and the blessing of living in God’s Kingdom.  Our whole future is bright for we will live in a kingdom of love forever under the rule of a gracious and loving king. 

I’d like to leave you with this thought.  It is not about the place in which you live, but under whose rule you live.  Two choices exist.  You can live under the authority of the defeated ruler of this world whose job is to steal, kill and destroy, or under the rule of the God of the universe who has these two guiding rules, Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, and soul, and love your neighbor as yourself.  I think the choice is that simple.


To conclude what I‘ve been writing about the Kingdom of God I’ve written a short story.  Here is the first part.


In the beginning, the Great Ruler established a new kingdom within his realm.  He loved this new kingdom and enjoyed visiting with his new subjects.  He saw to it that they had everything needed for a blissful life.  However, one of his other subjects rebelled against his rule and decided to take over this new kingdom.

Through deception and lies, he convinced the inhabitants of the new kingdom to join his rebellion.  The new kingdom then came under a curse of death and destruction.  It became a dark place full of evil.  The rebel leader delighted in this for he himself was evil.

His rule over the new kingdom went on for many years.  Finally, the Great Ruler had enough.  From the very beginning, he had a plan to regain his new kingdom.  It was now time to implement his plan.  His plan was kept secret, and he caught the rebel leader by surprise.

The great Ruler sent his Son to the new kingdom, but he came not as a ruler but in the likeness of the humble people.  Later, the son began to announce that the Great Ruler’s kingdom had come.  This disturbed the rebel leader, so he began to figure out how to stop this challenge to his rule.

The Son showed the power of the Great Ruler’s kingdom with many signs and wonders.  The people began to follow the Son because they were intrigued by his teaching and the miracles he did for them.  They were also drawn to him because he had power over the rebel leader’s soldiers. 

Many of the people desired to enter the Great Ruler’s kingdom, but there was a problem.  All of them had indulged in the evil of the rebel leader.  They could not enter the Great Ruler’s kingdom without first being cleansed.  The rebel leader knew this so he was confident that he would keep his subjects.  He thought, “I’ll get my subjects to kill the Son then I’ll for sure have the victory.”