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John 3:14-18, NIV
14 "Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, 15 that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.
16 "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. 17 God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only Son.
July 12, 1982
There's a lot of darkness in the world and in our lives through which the truth of this text must emerge before reaching the light. Lots of questions! We hardly know whether God exists, so how can we say God loves us? If God did love us in the person of Jesus, what has he done for us lately? And here's the ageless query--Why would an almighty supreme being allow evil, violence and abuse to abound and not stop the perpetrators dead in their tracks? That is one side of the coin.
But there is another side. In our daily lives we can also experience the many "fruits of the Spirit" which the apostle Paul identified: love, joy, peace, goodness, gentleness, patience, faithfulness, and self-control. Or maybe we are, in the words of Frank Laubach, in the process of suffering the birth pangs of love. Which side of the coin do I want to focus my mind on? The choice is mine.
There was a time when it was easy for me to believe that God loved everyone else; but I couldn't really get the feel for the statement--God loves me. For God so loved Kathleen that he gave his Son . . . ! That blew my mind. And it wasn't until one of my primary relationships went sour that I began to experience the truth that God did indeed love me.
For God so loved the world . . . , no one excluded! . . . that he gave his one and only Son. . . Why would God do such a crazy thing? The truth that God loves each of us is not only about receiving; responsibility is required.
Not only do I soak up love, I also turn it around and give it away to others. Jesus gave a new commandment-- love one another as I have loved you. Love, not only when love comes easy. Love, especially those who don't deserve your love.
Today's Good News is: "Blessed are those who love through the darkness, for they shall know the eternal life/light of heaven."
More journal entries
July 10, 1982John 3:16 is so familiar. I memorized it as a child. Now it's hard to let it speak to me fresh, as though I am hearing it for the first time. Life is what I want. How can this verse help me toward that end?
Love is not easy; neither is giving. We take God's love and gifts for granted because he has promised to be faithful no matter what. But then we lose him, neglect, ignore, and abuse him.
July 11, 1982Am I on the road to eternal life? To choose one road means to abandon all others. Joy and blessedness are not to be my lot this morning. Maybe they will creep in unawares during the day.
July 13, 1982For God so loved the world that he gave . . . of his own life and blood. These things can't be known or explained rationally. They don't make sense. They must first be experienced by the heart. Only those who love, can understand.Only those who love God can begin to understand his ways and trust him.
The call of Jesus is to come and die, and in the dying is the promise of life. Can I believe that promise? Must I die to myself in order to live for others?
If I don't look out for myself, will God look out for me? When Jesus spoke of life, was he talking about that which give us meaning and significance?
God, help me to do more than cope; help me to find life. I did find life while volunteering among the residents at Conestoga View today. I will press on, collecting more "bits and pieces." Maybe life is an accumulation of all the little gems picked up and treasured along the way.
I know life involves giving, because God did so much giving. My prayer is that that these words be written on my heart. I want to really know them, and have them become a part of my own gospel story.
July 14, 1982God gave his Son . . . Reminds me of the final plague in Egypt wherein the firstborn son in every family was taken. There's a huge difference between giving and being taken. God gave, initiated the action. The Egyptian families were acted upon. Jesus made it clear-- he gave his life, no one took it from him.
July 15, 1982God loved, and continues to love, the world. God gave his Son so that all who believe in him will have eternal life. These are some vital words in the Gospel message. If I could just take hold of them and make them a vital part of my story too. What faith it takes to believe something which can't be logically or rationally explained! It must be experienced in the heart.
Something within me responds to God, is drawn to him, wants to love him. What is that something? I'm restless and want to get dressed and go outside. But I also want to wait, for some answers to my questions or for better questions. There's so much I don't know compared to what I do know. Like Nicodemus, I would like it to be the other way around. Jesus, how can these things be? Why is everyone I meet in the Bible my soul brother or sister? Even you, Nicodemus.
Some runners claim they get a euphoric high from jogging after about 20 minutes. It never worked for me. I heard an author claim to get high on fasting. Fasting depresses me. Now in this text God promises me life if I believe in his grace. What is joy? What does it mean to get high? What is life, eternal life?
I am weak and prone to failures but God is strong, his loving kindness endures forever. I believe because of who he is; I make my choices based on God's character, not mine. I ask God to help me, because he is God and because I need it. God help us all--to believe, to choose, to do, to endure, and also to be blest with joy. Thank you. Amen.
July 19, 1982Everyone who believes in Him shall not perish (some versions say should not be lost), but have eternal life. Yesterday You were lost to me, but this verse is talking about me being lost to You.
I need to forget about arguing the Gospel and use my energy instead to live it!
July 20, 1982Judgment and condemnation. Christ's coming was not an act of judgment, but of redemption. Judgment is not future tense in this verse--we are already condemned if/when we don't believe. Those who believe are not judged-- what does Jesus mean by that? Is this word judgment different than the parable in Mathew's gospel where sheep and goats were separated according to what they had done?
Can the word love (maybe love and obey) be substituted for believe? Jesus must have meant the word believe or he would not have used it. Is it the same word as in verse 12.
God loves, we are to believe. At this point Jesus wasn't asking Nicodemus to love him, only to believe him.
Anyone who believes is not judged--that's a promise Jesus gave to Nicodemus. Does it mean--anyone who believes in me is not, or will not be, condemned by God? And that God accepts those who believe what I say? Do I believe what Jesus says, simply because he said it. Then scholarship comes into question--How do I know Jesus' words have been recorded and translated accurately?--that's a nasty question which generates heated/hateful debate.
I believe the words Jesus spoke to Peter post resurrection are asked of me and all who want to be disciples--Do you love me? Yes Lord, more sometimes than other times. Do you really love me? Yes. Then you are ready to feed my sheep. Help me to that end, Jesus my redeemer. Amen.
July 22, 1982Depression and loneliness seem to be related. And I think if you are my God, my constant companion and working partner, I should not be lonely nor depressed. I should not have days when I need to get away from everyone and scream and kick and pity myself. Days when I hate my existence, which is inconsistent with loving God.
The rhythms of life--no one can escape them. You don't save us from them. It seems You wait till we get through them to meet us on the other side and take up from there. Are there times in life when you do leave us alone?
Every time my faith is tested, I fail. Why should I ask God to forgive me for being human when he made me that way? You could have made me perfect if perfect is what you wanted. You could have made us puppets if you wanted to pull strings. But you made us human, imperfect, and free.
So when I make imperfect choices, why should I feel guilty? Sorry, yes, because I suffer from the choices I make.
You told Nicodemus that flesh gives birth to flesh, and spirit gives birth to spirit. Is it sin for spirit to behave like flesh, when spirit is born of God. I am not condemned to remain flesh; I am spirit with potential to grasp and hold some of the beautiful characteristics of my Maker. Forgive me, my Father, for not living as though I believe those words. My spirit belongs to you. More than flesh, I am born of God.
July 23, 1982We are condemned for not believing in the character of Jesus. The character of Jesus is all those beautiful qualities of God we see in the Gospel stories in which Jesus interacted with those he met, to each according to their needs.
I'm on the right end of the stick, the end with all the needs. God's character is such that he will come to me in my need and help me. Down is not out; down is where God meets me and therefore prelude to up.
Last evening I read a quote from Tolstoy: "When I believe in God I live; when I do not believe, I die." His depiction of his own cycles of discouragement and renewal was similar to my own experience this past year. Doubts have been times of despair. Believing in God has, for me, been life. Times of nearness satisfy the longings of my soul; periods of distancing are death.
To believe in God is to live. Knowing God is not done with me yet; "in the experience is truth revealed." I reason and question, and listen to other voices and lose the Lover of my soul; I believe and live.
Tolstoy said when he reasoned about the relationship of belief to life, light shone that has never again been put out. Oh that the light which shines on me would never be extinguished.
July 26, 1982Today I will decide to believe and live just as Jesus told Nicodemus. Seeking God and wanting to know and love God are not rational acts. These are an act of the will brought on by what? Emotions, feelings, intuition, experience? At certain times in their lives I believe all people are drawn toward God their Creator. When the timing is such and we follow our feelings toward/after God and nurture them, God leads us to an experience with himself. We act on faith, responding to him as he reveals himself to us. Reason can hinder all this by casting doubts on it all. Faith must overcome reason, is greater than reason. We must have faith to know God. I do not deny that intellect is important and contributes to the spiritual life. Reason can add to one's faith, but only after faith has brought one to an experience of God.
Nicodemus couldn't intellectually come to God. He needed to believe Jesus first, to trust, to have faith before he could know what Jesus was talking about. This is similar to other thoughts included elsewhere in my journal that understanding comes in the doing of his will. Schweitzer: Follow Jesus (enlist) and then you will come to know and understand (get your orders). We decide to trust God first, by faith; some would say blindly. And that requires following our feelings, emotions intuitions, rather than reason.
Kathleen, nurture your inclination to seek God. Don't be afraid. Don't feel you have to defend what you are doing or explain it rationally. Just learn to put the experience into words, and share it with others in faith.
December 8, 2010Like Jesus observed when he spoke with Nicodemus, it's so hard for people to believe unless we actually see it. Therefore God will show us just how much God loves us--enough to give his only beloved Son, high and lifted up so all could see.
Then Jesus goes on to tell us what we are looking at when we see him on the cross. We see a God who does not want to condemn, but to save.
July 27, 1982Father, what a job you have being Heavenly Father to all your earthly children, and trying to bring us all home! You never sleep or take a vacation. How could you, you're much too busy.
Grant me an increasing concern to see this world through God's eyes. The sin, tragedy and suffering going on each minute must be tremendous. Overwhelming. That's why you gave us just one small area to live in the world. One little place to call our own and be your child--to love, to relieve the suffering as best we can, to share the good news of Jesus. Father, your name is Faithful. Help me be faithful, too. Amen.