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.

image joodmc

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