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.



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.”


I like to read in Ecclesiastes.  Perhaps it’s because this book seems to entreat the reality of daily life, or maybe it’s just my melancholy personality.  I recently read this passage in chapter 12 verses 3-7 from The Message:

In old age your body no longer serves you well.  Muscles slacken, grip weakens, joints stiffen.  The shades are pulled down on the world.  You can’t come and go at will.  Things grind to a halt.  The hum of the household fades away.  You are wakened now by bird-song.  Hikes to the mountains are a thing of the past.  Even a stroll down the road has its terrors.  Your hair turns apple-blossom white, adorning a fragile and impotent matchstick body.  Yes, you’re well on your way to eternal rest, while your friends make plans for your funeral.  Life, lovely while it lasts, is soon over.  Life as we know it, precious and beautiful, ends.  The body is put back in the same ground it came from.  The spirit returns to God, who first breathed it.

I’d love to sit beside you as you read this, see your expressions, and hear your thoughts.  But, since we are not together, I’ll share some of my thoughts.  By all means, freely share your thoughts through the comments place below.

At first, I thought that this passage describes what is common to all of us who make it to old age.  There is a certain comradery in the shared experience.  Then I found almost sweetness to this delineation of the signs of old age.  The pressures and tensions of youth are gone.  I realize that my world will become smaller, as the concerns of the world at large become beyond me.

Rest will not be an option.  Pushing through won’t be possible.  Maybe in this limited state, I’ll simply sit back and appreciate God’s creation and visit with him undistracted by the urgent.

My conclusion is that old age is a part of life. To embrace it is wisdom.  There is no need to fight against the inevitable.  I like to think of old age as part of the transition into eternal life.  The pain and discomforts of my body are temporary.  I want to enjoy what I can of this life while I still have breath and be content that the future is beyond my greatest expectations.


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).


“I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity.”  Jonah 4:2

This is what Jonah said when The Ninevites repented, and God decided to withhold bringing destruction on them.  Jonah knew God’s character.  I never quite caught that before.  I’ve always focused on the fact that Jonah was mad about God not destroying them.  He knew what God would do, and he wanted no part in saving the hated Ninevites.  I believe Jonah provides us with a clear distinction between the heart of God and the heart of man.

I hear people ask how can a loving God let this or that happen?  Yet, Jonah wanted his loving God to bring disaster.  These are obvious contrasting perspectives on God.  Both fail to understand the heart of God. Peter tells us, “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness.  He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9)  God loves us all.  Judgement will come, but he gives us time because he loves us.

God is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity.  This is the heart of God; not the heart of man.  Man in his heart wants revenge.  God’s heart wants us to receive the salvation he provided through his son.  In my quest to understand God, understanding his heart brings completion.  Knowing his heart is knowing him.  Now I just have to become like him.

Father, help me to lay down my heart and take up your heart.  Build in me, O Lord, a heart of forgiveness that desires redemption not revenge. Amen!


This is a repost from October of 2015.  I hope you enjoy it.


“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.


We all have troubles that come our way; they are a part of life in this fallen world.  I tend to draw into myself when troubles arise.  I focus on solving the problem; I worry over the problem, and I lose sleep thinking about the problem.  If the problem is long term, I eventually fall into despair. Then I enter into that dark cavern of self-pity.  Once again, I have succumbed to the trap of inward focus.

You’d think I’d know better, but alas I find myself caught again.  In this state, I don’t pray for others, I’m not very kind, and I don’t have time for others. Inward focus makes me useless to those I love and not very pleasant to be around.  When I finally come to the end of myself, I cry out to the Lord, “Save me!”

The lord, in his patient and kind way, reminds me that I need to trust my troubles to him.  He redirects my focus to the needs of others, and I begin to look outward.  To my amazement, life becomes brighter, and my troubles become less important.  By putting my troubles in the hands of the only one who can do anything about them, the burden is lifted.  I can actually become a nice guy.

Will I fall into this trap again?  I hope not.  The “pit of despair” is not a nice place.

Psalm 42:5

Why are you down cast O my soul?  Why so disturbed within me?  Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.


I found out that Praising God is the first step out of the trap.