Saturday, October 31, 2015

God's Extravagance, Our Riches Part 2

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 (emphasis mine)

26 words: such a simple but rich truth! 

Last week, in Part 1 we looked at God's extravagance described in the first few words of this verse. 

Extravagant love: He loved us before were were even born.

Extravagant gift: Even before creation, He determined to give His only Son, Jesus, to save all of us.

Whoever: He loved and He gave to everyone who has lived or ever will live.

He loved beyond what we can imagine.

He gave His precious Son, a gift beyond compare.

The truths in this verse revolve around one word: Whoever.

God loved and gave to whoever - everyone - but His extravagant grace promised in the last part of this verse isn't available to everyone but only to whoever believes. Believes, that's the key word. 

Believepisteúō to place faith in, to firmly trust. 

We use the word believe so casually. Most of the time we refer to head knowledge, maybe even experiential knowledge. I know 2+2=4. I know a rock will fall if I drop it, not float, and it will hurt if it hits my toe. I've experienced it. I know about roller coasters: I know what they look like and the sound they make. I know they're safe because I understand the physics. Do I believe they're safe? No, and I won't get on one!

The same is true in our relationship with Jesus. We can know about Him: He is God's Son, He died for forgiveness of our sins, He rose from the dead. That's head knowledge. But if we don't have faith in Him and trust Him, we don't believe in Him. pisteúō is so much more. It's head, heart, and soul belief. 

I became a Christian one evening after listening to Billy Graham on TV. As I laid in bed, I realized how sinful I was and I turned to God. Now, I didn't know much about Jesus at that point. I knew He was God's Son, He died on the cross to forgive my sins, and He rose to life. But I believed in what I knew and I placed my trust totally in Him.   

For a long time, I wondered if my simple belief was pisteúō. But the profound words of John 3:16 erased my fear. I knew God loved me. I knew He gave Jesus for my forgiveness. I accepted His love and His gift. I believed, head, heart, and soul.  

Whoever believes, head, heart, and soul, receives the riches of eternal life. 

Extravagant grace is available to whoever believes in Him:
  • Believers do not perish 
  • Believers have eternal life 

Perish: apόllumi to utterly destroy, to perish eternally. apόllumi doesn't refer to a physical death; we all experience that. It's an eternal death. 

I admit there have been a few times when I felt like I'd been utterly destroyed. Life turned upside down and everything fell apart. Yet this verse promises we will not be destroyed - in eternity. 

I used to walk after work with a friend of mine. She was an atheist, as was her family. When her father died, she was distraught. She would look at me and say, "He's gone. Just gone. It's like he stepped into a black hole of nothingness."

How could I comfort her? Should I tell her that she could have eternal life if she believed in the death and resurrection of God's Son, Jesus? Wouldn't that be the same as saying her father faced eternal death? That seemed cruel because her grief was still so raw. Perhaps I took the easy way out - I just listened. But I continued to pray for her, for the right time to speak to her, and the right words to say. 

As I listened to her desperation, never have I rejoiced more in the security of my eternal life than I did at that moment.

Extravagant Grace:  Believers shall not perish!

Life Eternal - zṓē aiōnios entrance into life, entrance into God's kingdom

There are two facets of this phrase: We enter into life now and we enter into God's Kingdom for eternity. Even though the time we spend on earth is minuscule compared to eternity, it's hard to keep that in perspective. We can find some comfort in the fact that God's gift is not just for eternity, it is for now, too. 

God's Kingdom. What do you think of when you hear those words? Beauty, joy,'s hard to describe. Most days, I take my dog, Ruby, for a walk in the park. It's a beautiful place: the path winds between big trees, green grassy areas, and wildflowers. The beauty calms me and brings a song to my heart. I marvel in God's creation and it's hard not to praise Him.

Beauty, joy, praise; sound familiar? God places eternity in our hearts when we believe in Him.

When we believe, we receive eternal life immediately, not at some unknown time in the future.  

Jesus rose from the dead. That's one of the fundamental beliefs of our faith that gives us assurance that we will rise from the dead as well (1 Corinthians 6:14). When we die physically, we don't pass into a black hole. We don't endure eternal separation from God. Instead, we step into His Kingdom to praise and to serve Him forever.

Extravagant Grace: We will live with Him forever!

John 3:16 is one of the most powerful verses in the Bible. It overflows with the extravagant love and the grace we receive when we believe in Him. 

It is Extravagant Truth!

Jaci's song says it beautifully!

Friday, October 23, 2015

God's Extravagance: Our Riches Part 1

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

John 3:16. Second to Psalm 23, this might be the most well-known scripture. We even see it held up on signs at sporting events. 

No single passage in all of Scripture reveals God's extravagant love and endless grace as do these 26 words. The gospel in one verse: God's work for us and the riches we receive when we accept His gift. 

I struggled with this scripture all last week. No matter what I did, it became a short book rather than a blog. Then I realized I was trying to cram all of the majesty of this verse into one post and it just wouldn't fit. So this is part one: God's extravagance.

As I studied it, I realized that this verse revolves around one word: whoever

God's extravagance ends and our riches begin with this one word: whoever

  • God so loved
  • God gave
  • Whoever 

God so loved: hoùtō agapàō To such a degree, to such a great extent, God chose to love. 

God's love is so extreme that it's beyond our grasp. Look at the verb tense: God loved. Before He created the world, He loved. Before you or I were born, He loved. His love was present before there was a whoever.

God chose to love us. When we didn't love Him or follow Him, He loved us. Do you get how amazing that is? How would our lives be different if we walked in that truth: God loved us before...anything. Before we screwed up so terribly, before we stumbled on the same sin over and over. 

What confidence that should bring us. Yes, I can serve Him! I might not get it right but He loves me - before, during, and after. Yes, I can talk about Him to others. My words might falter but He loves me. 

What power can fill our hearts and minds. His love is undefeatable, unconquerable, unstoppable. He has always loved us and He will always love us. 

Rest in His unimaginable, extravagant love.

God gave: dídōmi Freely, willingly, with great love, God gave.

Not only did God love before before anything existed, His love was so great that He gave a precious gift. He gave His Son before creation, before there was a whoever

How can that be? A gift given before there was anyone to receive it? 

God's extreme love is balanced by His justice. There is a penalty for sin that must be paid, but His heart broke to think of His beloved children paying the price. He gave His perfect, sinless Son Jesus to pay the penalty, in our place. Before creation, He knew His precious children would stumble; He knew the price would come due. And He paid it!

We can walk in the security of His gift. When we fall, we have no need to fear God. The gift has been given, the price has been paid. Too often, I live in fear of myself. I focus on my weaknesses rather than God's strengths. The gift was given to me. I joyfully accepted it. God will never come to reclaim it. I - we - walk in the grace of His sacrificial gift.

Walk the grace of His extravagant gift.

God's work is done. He loved beyond what we can imagine. He offered His most precious Son, a gift beyond compare. 

Now comes the big question: Who has He loved? To whom has He given the gift of His Son? 

Remember the word? 

whoever: pás  Everyone, all of us. His extravagance wasn't offered to a chosen few. 

We see the word everyone and perhaps we think it doesn't include us. Maybe there's something in our past, maybe it's our lifestyles now - for some reason, we think we can't be part of whoever. Guess again, God's extravagance is offered to everyone!  

Really? There has to be a catch. Nope. Look at the verse again. It doesn't say, "whoever earns it, " or "whoever straightens up." It's whoever, plain and simple. His love has no conditions and His gift has no price tag. 

You and I are whoever

Friday, October 9, 2015

A Wacky, Warped Parable

I came across this and just couldn't resist.
* Caveat: I'm not responsible for the grammar or the extensive use of "and."

I stress this: This is NOT a real parable. It is NOT in Scripture anywhere. I hope it doesn't offend anyone.

It was written at least 50 years ago but the author is unknown. He/she had quite a sense of humor!

I hope it makes you smile.

The Parable of the Good Samaritan

Well it was like this:

Once upon a time a man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves. And the thorns grew up and choked that man down.

And then he went on and he didn't have any money so the Queen of Sheba gave that man a thousand talents of gold and a hundred changes of raiment.

And he got in the chariot and drove furiously and when he was driving along under a big tree, his hair caught in a big limb and left him hanging there.
And he was there many days and many nights. And he ravens brought him food and water to drink.

While he was hanging there asleep, his wife Delilah came along and cut off his hair and he dropped and fell on stony ground. It began to rain and it rained forty days and forty nights and he hid himself in a cave.

He went on and met a man who said, "Come in and have supper with me," but he said, "No, I won't because I have married a wife and I can't come." The man went out into the highways and byways and compelled others to come to supper.

He went on to Jerusalem and when he got there he saw Queen Jezebel sitting up high in the window. And when she laughed at him, he said, "Throw her down from there!" And they did throw her down. And he said, "Throw her down some more! " And they threw her down some more. They threw her down seventy times seven. And the fragments they picked up was twelve baskets full.

And the man asked, "Whose wife is she going to be in the day of Judgment?"

 I recognize a few of these stories:

  • Queen of Sheba - 1 Kings 10:1-13
  • Man invited him supper - Matthew 22:2-9
  • Marriage in heaven - Matthew 22:23-33

What about you? Do you see some other stories woven in this wacky parable?

On a serious note, how many Christians might hear this and think it's just fine? How many would recognize that this is a wacky, warped story?

Friday, October 2, 2015

What's Your Favorite Lullaby?

He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing. Zephaniah 3:17

Remember what you used to do when a baby wouldn't sleep?

  Soothe the cutie who screamed in the nursery.

  Quiet your precious little angel who howled half the night.

  Reassure the toddler who cried because there was a monster in  the closet.

Remember rocking chairs and lullabies?

But no one’s there to rock us or sing to us when we’re all grown up.

We lie there, eyes wide open.

  • Worried about something we did or experienced that day.
  • Anxious about what might happen tomorrow.
  • Afraid because we can’t see any way out of the pit we’re in.
  • Excited about something fantastic that’s happening or will happen.

I've tried closing my eyes and doing some calm-me-down routine.

I've quoted verses in my mind.

I've counted my husband’s snores.

Nothing worked – until I found Zephaniah 3:17

Now, I close my eyes and imagine my Father delighting in my day, bathing me in His love, and singing to me.

What does He sing? I can’t understand the words but I relax as I envision the tenderness on His face.

Before I know it, I’m asleep!

The worries, anxiety, fear, and even the jazzed-up feelings fade away.

And I sleep.

Do you lie awake?

Find quiet in His love and peace in His singing.

When you can’t go to sleep, how do you quiet your mind?

Peaceful sunset
Frightened child  corepics via
Frustrated woman ruigsantoo  via