God So Loved the World V

Lent 2011

imageFor God so loved the world… John 3:16

so adv 1. In the way or manner indicated. 2. to the extent or degree indicated or suggested. 3. very or extremely. 4. very greatly. 5. most certainly…

Immediately before speaking the familiar words of verse 16, Jesus had expressed the horror that salvation would entail, “Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.” Reading how God so loved the world takes an added dimension when it is placed in this context.

Go back to your Bible, and as you read, substitute the word “thus” or the phrase “in this way” for “so”. The depth of the love of God takes on a new weight when considered in this light. Rather than the abstract God so loved the world, we are confronted with Because God loved the world, the Son of Man must be sacrificed on their behalf. We’ll never read ‘so’ in the same way again.

Grace and peace to you.

image gritphilm

God So Loved the World IV

Lent 2011

imageFor God so loved the world…  John 3:16

so adv 1. In the way or manner indicated. 2. to the extent or degree indicated or suggested. 3. very or extremely. 4. very greatly. 5. most certainly…

The small word so carries a lot of weight in this passage as it modifies the verb loved. In Greek as in English, the word has a wide range of usage. Reading this verse in a wide range of translations finds the interpreters seeing it differently as well.

Today, we read the word in its emphatic sense. God so loved the world … God loved the world so much that he sacrifices the most precious thing, his Son, Himself, a member of the Holy Trinity. His loves translates to loss on His part but gain for the world He loves.

Jesus’ words “Go and do likewise”, though they appear once, lie at the heart of His entire ministry. As God loves sacrificially, so we are called to love sacrificially. Our love is to spread outward without concern for its return. As God gave all, so we are to love likewise.

Grace and peace to you.

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God So Loved the World III

Lent 2011

imageFor God so loved the world… John 3:16

The first thing that catches your attention in the verse is the expression of God’s love for the world. We hear or read the word love and it passes over our personal filters for interpretation. Whatever definition for the word dominates our thinking, proper or improper, is applied to the words of the Lord.

Take a moment to let the word tumble over in your mind. What is love to you? Mere infatuation in its immature form? Is there a physical aspect to love? Does the word conjure up negative feelings, borne from bad experiences in the past? All of these impressions color the way in which the word is heard in our hearts and minds, and it becomes our interpretation of God’s love.

Focus on that word alone today. Say it aloud, not to anyone in particular, and let it hang in the air. As it reverberates, let your heart work on it. What does love mean to you? Are there negative connotations that you need to release? God will replace your notions with His own if you will simply expose them. Does your interpretation need maturing? He will show you a deeper love than you can possibly imagine when you are ready.

Grace and peace to you.

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God So Loved the World II

Lent 2011

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16)

imageThough there is an almost universal familiarity with this verse amongst the Christian family, many forget the speaker and the context of His words. It becomes trite to many, an expression of immeasurable depth and meaning that is reduced to the shallows in which we wade.

Jesus refers to Himself in the verse, following his revelation in the preceding verses of the sacrifice yet to come. In verses 14 and 15, Jesus has informed Nicodemus that He is to be lifted up as the only source of eternal life.

Consider the first few words then, in this context. Rather than the common reflection on the word ‘so’ in its emphatic sense, we can read it directly translated from the Greek as ‘in this way’. Jesus informs Nicodemus, and centuries of readers to follow, that the sacrifice the father is making in seeing His Son lifted up is rooted in love for the fallen and corrupted world.

When we reflect on our personal sacrifice during this Lenten season, this idea informs it. Do we display our love for others in a sacrificial manner? Requited love is easy. Giving of self for the good of others when it is not recognized nor appreciated, not nearly so. Yet this is the disciple’s calling, to follow closely in the shadow of our Savior.

Grace and peace to you.

image fergal claddagh

God So Loved the World

Lent 2011 image

It is a fact of life that the most familiar things in our lives tend to fade to background, receiving little attention and often being taken for granted. We assume we will awaken tomorrow and that our significant others will continue to love us as they have. Our lives in Christ are not exempt from this trend; truths that we are most familiar with receive little meditation.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

Verse 3:16 in John’s gospel is recognized as the most familiar verse in the Bible. It was probably the first verse that you committed to memory, and since it pops up at ballgames each week, it is probably has reached the most people outside of the faith community. It is a simple, straight-forward truth, foundational to the Christian life.

When was the last time you spent an extended time of reflection in this verse?

I’m willing to bet that it has been some time, if ever. And yet, this truth lies at the heart of the Lenten season. God’s sacrificial love is evidenced in the Cross and the resurrection of the Savior. It is the promise from which we draw strength in the storm and pass on to our children. It is everything.

My Lenten reflections for this season are going to be rooted in this passage. The Spirit has brought this back to my attention for a reason and the approach to Easter is a perfect time to meditate on its many and varied messages. I hope you will join me.

image mandy jansen

Lent Spent with the Psalms Day Sixteen

image We conclude this week of Lent with with a question. Do we take the grace borne of the Cross for granted? To varying degrees, Christians have been guilty of this for centuries. A promise like that found in Psalm 30 can make us complacent,

When I felt secure, I said, “I will never be shaken.”

O Lord, when you favored me, you made my mountain stand firm; (vv 6-7a)

Easter becomes just a marker in the year pointing out that Spring is imminent. What if Spring didn’t arrive? Would we take notice or simply accept it, soon taking the new weather pattern for granted. Likewise, if God were to hide His face from us, would we soon accept that as the way things are?

… but when you hid your face, I was dismayed. (v 7b)

Don’t allow the soporific world around you to lull you into inattention. The Cross was an eternally history changing event on your behalf. Never allow that grace slip from view. Never take it for granted. The price was too high.

Grace and peace to you.


image Himalayan Trails

Lent Spent with the Psalms Day Fifteen

imageI remember the days of long ago; I meditate on all your works and consider what your hands have done.

I spread out my hands to you; my soul thirsts for you like a parched land. (Psalm 143:5-6)

It’s easy to become complacent in facing Easter. We look down the corridor of time back toward the Resurrection and want to know the power of seeing Jesus risen from the tomb. As the stores fill with Peeps and colored grasses for the baskets, we find it easy to satisfy our souls with trinkets and temporary fulfillments. Our often parched and dry souls are smothered by the cultural messages that bombard us with offers to fill us up with this or that. We drink the soda only to find ourselves thirsty again and hour later.

Many in the Church view Lent as ‘that time when we give stuff up’ at best and at worst, with a suspicious eye on the implied ascetic aesthetic. Sacrifice in emulation of our Saviors sacrifice is neither. Our purpose in observing the season of Lent is to put off the things that are controlling our souls and burying the dry, cracked surface of our hearts. Only when we reveal that surface can the grace penetrate deep within us.

Grace and peace to you.


image whiteoakart

Fourth Sunday in Advent ~ Change Comes

image First he said, “Sacrifices and offerings, burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not desire, nor were you pleased with them” (although the law required them to be made). Then he said, “Here I am, I have come to do your will.” He sets aside the first to establish the second. And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. (Hebrews 10:5-10)

The end of Advent brings the beginning of everything else…everything changes because of the single moment in history when Jesus sets aside his crown and comes to walk among us. A single moment…a holy birth…a changed world. God set aside the futility of the old sacrificial system, a set of laws that man could not satisfy in his own power and provided the perfect lamb.

One single moment changed everything…God elected to place the perfect lamb in our midst…He elected to become the perfect sacrifice for those who would believe and obey…the single Christmas moment changes everything.

Has it changed you?

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The Multi-Faceted View of Atonement

We have looked at three of the major views that Christians have adopted to understand atonement, Christus Victor, Healing, and Penal Substitution. At one time or another during the history of the Church, each of these theories has held the majority position among theologians. The Penal Substitution view is the dominant view now, among the American churches at least.image It’s important to recognize the historical shifts in acceptance of the various theories and to question why one would lose favor to another in the minds of Christian thinkers and teachers. Does the Bible change over time? Has the Holy Ghost made contradictory revelations at different moments in time that initiated the shift? What about all of the other atonement views that are subsumed within the larger categories?

Is it possible that the atonement brought about by the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ is much too expansive to be understood under the banner of a single, narrow category?

Atonement is Too Large for a Single Theory

Theologians who stand apart from the dominant views of atonement will answer this question by saying yes, there is no model or metaphor that is sufficient to explain the significance of of His sacrifice. The crucifixion and its result are tightly woven into God’s eternal purpose and as spirit-opened eyes continue to pore over the scriptures in the hours remaining until the end of this time, we may never run out of the countless ways of understanding its meaning for our salvation. It should not be alarming to find a number of images that lend themselves to understanding this momentous act. As centuries of eyes search out the truths of God’s word, each with a slightly different perspective on the greatest human need, it is inevitable that a number of categories would arise.

Single Views and the Bible

The New Testament authors generated a number of images in the Gospels and Epistles in order to help readers comprehend the monumental shift in God-Human relationship brought about by crucifixion of Jesus. If the primary rule of hermeneutics is applied—context,context, context—the modern reader places the writing in first century and recognizes the societal influences that are inherent in the texts. Five areas of public life dominate: the court of law (justification), the world of commerce (redemption), personal relationships (reconciliation), worship (sacrifice), and the battleground (triumph over evil).

This plethora of imagery could be differentiated by the loci of the individual authors, their use of language and metaphor and missiological interest. A more effective tool for seeing the wide span of atonement images is to survey the corpus of a single author to see if there is variety or consistency. With his dominant contributions, Paul and his works provides such a platform. The Apostle employs two main themes in discussing the significance of the atonement, the ‘giving up’ of Jesus for human salvation (cf. Rom 8:32, Gal 1:4) and ‘Christ died for our sins’ (cf. 1 Cor 15:3, 1 Thes 5:10). These themes emphasize the saving nature of Jesus’ death but they do so without linking it explicitly to a single methodological theory. With this point established, Paul then utilizes a variety of imagery applicable to particular concerns of his epistle audiences. Reading Paul exposes us to language about substitution, representation, sacrifice, justification, forgiveness, reconciliation, victory over the powers, and redemption.


Rather than being confined within a single theory, the atonement is better viewed as encompassing the fullness of God’s design for the world. The image which finds favor with a theologian will more often than not be a product of his definition of the greatest human need. If people are seen as in bondage to sin, they need liberation. If humanity is spiritually blind, the desperate need is for illumination. If lost, they need to be found. Taking a kaleidoscopic view of atonement provides the freedom necessary to locate all of these needs within a view of the crucifixion.

Lent 2009 – 25 Steps to the Cross

PeterSteps “Indeed, all the prophets from Samuel on, as many as have spoken, have foretold these days. And you are heirs of the prophets and of the covenant God made with your fathers. He said to Abraham, ‘Through your offspring all peoples on earth will be blessed.’ When God raised up his servant, he sent him first to you to bless you by turning each of you from your wicked ways.” (Acts 3:24 – 26)

Ultimately in this chapter, Peter distills the essence of the ministry that the Church down to a single statement, through you ‘all the peoples on earth will be blessed. As we get closer and closer to the cross and the celebration of the risen Christ we can simplify our reflection to the blessing that comes from Christ. We are saved by our faith in Him, not solely for ourselves but in order to bless the rest of the world. With each step this Lenten season, we can further distance ourselves from our salvation in personal terms only and closer to our call to be the same blessing to others.

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