How Much are You Willing to Sacrifice for the Ones You Love?

God was Willing to Sacrifice His Only Son…That’s a Lot!

Most people are familiar with the Bible verse, John 3:16. It is the most popular verse out there. The reason for this is in its simplicity. This one verse summarizes the entire Gospel message in one simple statement.

This is the Gospel in a nutshell.  

  • Martin Luther called it “The Gospel in miniature”.
  • Biblical Commentator William Barclay wrote that it is “the very essence of the Gospel.
  • Comedian Jeff Foxworthy stated, “This is the promise that bears hope for the hopeless.
  • Gospel preacher, Robert Jackson, entitled it “The greatest sentence ever written.” 
  • Author Max Lucado described it as the “hope diamond of the Bible.”

John 3:16.

Jesus said to Nicodemus, the inquiring Rabbi, who came to Jesus by night:

For God

so loved the world

that He gave His only begotten Son,

that whoever believes in Him

should not perish

but have everlasting life.

John 3:16, “is a twenty-six word parade of hope: beginning with God, ending with Life, and urging us to do the same,” wrote Max Lucado. “Brief enough to write on a napkin or memorize in a moment, yet solid enough to weather two thousand years of storms and questions.

If you know nothing of the Bible, start here. If you know everything in the Bible, return here.

An unknown author penned this tribute to John 3:16

“God…………………………………………..….The greatest Lover

“so loved”………………………………………The greatest Degree

“the world”……………………………….….The greatest Company

“that He gave”………………………………………The greatest Act

“His only begotten Son”…………………………The greatest Gift

“that whosoever”………….………..……The greatest Invitation

“believeth”………….………………..…….The greatest Simplicity

“in Him”………………….…………………..…..The greatest Person

“should not perish”….……………….…….The greatest Promise

“but”………………………..………..………The greatest Difference

“have”….……………………………………..The greatest Certainty

“everlasting life”………………………..The greatest Possession

God’s willingness to give His Son to be killed on a cross by the very people that He came to save shows how much God loves us. This level of sacrifice is hard to emulate.

The Rev. George Bennard was “praying for a full understanding of the cross and its plan in Christianity.”, when he wrote the famous hymn, The Old Rugged Cross. He spent many hours in study, prayer and meditation, until he could say, “I saw the Christ of the cross as if I were seeing John 3:16 leave the printed page, take form and act out the meaning of redemption.

As humans we overcomplicate the simple. We think everything has to be difficult. We think the message in John 3:16 is too amazing to understand and too simple to accept. It’s not!

It’s everything we need to know and nothing we don’t.

God has done all of the hard work… we just need to believe, accept and share!

Moms Love Us a Lot, But God Loves Us More

True Happiness Comes from True Love and True Love Requires Sacrifice

A police chief was in the middle of a press conference when his mother called. He knew that she normally watched his press conferences, as any proud mother would. Knowing this he felt there must be an emergency, so he excused himself to take the call. When he answered, his mother asked, “Are you chewing gum?” After a short pause he responded, “Yes”. She came back in a sharp tone, “I taught you better than that. You know you shouldn’t chew gum when speaking in public.”

As funny as this example of a mother’s love is…

Mothers will go to great lengths for their children.

Love can go both ways. Here’s a true story of a son who put his life on the line to save his mother.


35-year-old Jermaine scaled a burning 19-story building in West Philadelphia to the 15th floor after receiving a call from his sister and finding out that his bed ridden mother’s building was on fire and she couldn’t get out.

Rushing to the scene, Jermaine said, he first tried to enter through the front door, but it was blocked by police.

“They said the elevators are not working,” he said. He told officers he could just take the stairs. “They were like, ‘we can’t let you in.’

“I took it upon myself because that’s my mother. There’s no limits. That’s my mother.” said Jermaine.

He’d hurt his hip earlier that day, “but adrenaline took over.” He started climbing the fenced-in balconies of the building.

“When I grabbed a gate, at the top of the gate, there was a ledge. Then I could step on top of the ledge and reach up to the other gate and keep climbing my way up,” Jermaine said.

He said he was worried about his mother’s safety, not his.

“She can’t get out of the bed or walk around, so if there’s a fire, she needs help out,” he said.

Once he made it to his mother, she told him that she was OK and that the fire was contained.

“She was more shocked,” he said. “She’s not surprised by the things that I do for her. She knows I’ll go over and beyond for her.”

He said that he thought he would be arrested as soon as he got down, but the Philadelphia Police Department said, “there was no crime committed.”

“The Police Chief actually did cut me a break,” Jermaine said. “He understood the circumstances. He knew – when your adrenaline is pumping and your mom is up there, you thinking she’s dying – you’d do anything you can.”

This is love going above and beyond.

Jesus went above and beyond by giving His life on the cross for us sinners that don’t deserve it.

True love is willing to make sacrifices for others. True happiness comes from true love.

Be willing to make sacrifices for those you love and experience true happiness.

You Can Choose to Accept Love or Not

Just Know That Not Accepting, Makes It No Less Real

There are too many people out there who have not experienced real love. For whatever reason they find themselves in situations that may be called love but is not.

I’m fortunate to have been blessed with a loving biological as well as church family. God knows that I did nothing to deserve it. It’s part of a bigger plan that only He knows. My part in this is to share this love with others.

Love is the foundation for everything.

In Matthew 22:34-46 the religious leaders of the time had lost sight of that foundation. They had gotten caught up in the worldly perspective of the law. They overlooked the foundation the law was built on.

Not that the law isn’t important, because it is. It just isn’t the foundation. They were loving the law more than God. They were attempting to make God into their image of what they wanted Him to be. Be careful to not love the law more than God.

In Verses 37-40 Jesus says, “Love the Lord your God with all your soul, all your heart and all your mind. …Love your neighbor as yourself. All the law and writings of the prophets depend on these two commands.”

This sounds a lot like a foundation.

There was a young Christian man who wanted to share his faith with others. Not being super educated or sophisticated, he was surprised when he felt lead to share the message of Christ with a brilliant local attorney.

When he attempted to share his faith, the attorney laughed at him and had an argument for every point the young man made. The young man realized he was in over his head and felt ashamed for thinking he could do this. In his shame he gave up and as he left, he said,

“I just want you to know that I came here because I love you.”

Within a few hours of the young man going home and shutting himself in his room, the attorney showed up and knocked on the door. The young man’s wife tried to get the attorney to leave, but he was adamant about speaking with the young man.

When the young man came out to speak with the attorney he said, “I suppose you’ve thought of some more arguments to prove your point.” The attorney said, “No, I just want to know more about your faith.”

The young man said, “Every time I tried to tell you, you came up with an argument that I couldn’t answer.” The attorney replied, “Yes and you came up with an argument that I couldn’t answer.”

When you said that you loved me…I couldn’t argue with that.

God is love. He saved us out of His great love. You can accept or reject it, but it doesn’t change the truth of God’s love.

You can’t argue with God’s love!

Which will you choose? To accept it or not.

What is it Like to be Alive?

This is a Question as Old as Time

There is a lot of uncertainty in the world right now. Many people feel like what they’re going through really isn’t living. Life has always been full of difficulties. It’s up to us to decide if we’re going to live life or curl up in a corner.

A woman whose son was gone to war received a visit from the Army, informing her that her son had been killed by a land mine. She was uncontrollably distraught for days. On the third day she received a phone call…it was her son. HE WAS ALIVE! The earlier message was a mistake, the son she thought was dead was alive.

This is the Easter message…SURPRISE HE’S ALIVE!

When the women went to Jesus’ tomb they were filled with grief and sadness. They had watch Jesus die on the cross just a few days earlier. When they got there the tomb was empty and an angel told them that He was alive. They were very happy. The angel told them to go spread the word and they did. Matthew 28:1-10.

HALLELUJAH HE’S ALIVE!

We don’t understand the value of LIFE until we are sitting by a tomb. We don’t understand the value of LOVE until we have stared hatred in the face. We don’t understand the power of HOPE until we have experienced the darkest despair.

Easter is all about life. God’s grace is found in the empty tomb. It is the victory HOPE over despair, LOVE over hate and LIFE over death. For Christians, every day is Easter.

Jesus is King of kings and Lord of lords. Hallelujah, He shall rein for ever and ever.

Check out Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus here. World’s Largest Virtual Hallelujah Chorus

It Is the Bible in A Nutshell

John 3:16 is the Summation of the Whole Thing

John 3:16 may be the shortest Cliffs Notes ever. This verse is the whole Bible in one sentence. God loved us so much that he gave His Son to pay for our mistakes with his life. In return, our love for God is believing this to be true. Everything in the book points to this one thing and this one thing covers every other thing.

Real love is simple but hard.

Love is treating others the way God would treat them. We don’t do this very well. He’s had millions of reasons to condemn the world, but He hasn’t. The number of times we have given Him reasons to erase this whole thing and start over from scratch are too many to count.

“God is love. Those who live in love, live in God, and God lives in them.” 1 John 4:7-21 Love comes from God. We are given opportunities to exhibit this love, but it doesn’t work if we don’t “do” it. We must choose to be different, to do different.

Rene Denfeld experienced a difficult childhood. She lived on the streets to stay clear of her registered sex offender stepfather and the long line of pedophiles that came in and out of her life. She grew to become a Chief Investigator for the public defender’s office, an author and an adoptive parent of three children from foster care.

She wrote about her kids in a New York Times essay “Four Castaway’s Make a Family”. “I had come to believe that the most important therapy is permanence. Children can sense when they are in a temporary home. All my children grew rapidly once settled, going from below the fifth percentile in height and weight to close to average. More important, they grew emotionally.”

“It is love that feeds the soul, allows us all to flourish.”

Love is serving. God loved us first and His never ends. We have been given talents and abilities that are specific to us. If we love God and love others, we’ll use them to make other’s lives better. In 1 Corinthians 13 it says that if we use these “without love, we are nothing”.

Our human nature is to be selfish. Loving others is about placing their needs above our wants.

John R. Fox sacrificed his life in World War II when he called for an artillery strike on the very position where he and his men were located. Fox was behind enemy lines and was surrounded by German soldiers. When he called for a strike right where he was, the soldier who got the message knew it. Fox was informed and he said, “Fire it.” After some further questions by the artillery operator Fox confirmed his coordinates and stated, “There’s more of them than there is of us.” His actions led to a halt in the German offensive.

The instructions given to us in John 3:16 are simple. We’ve heard this scripture used so much, we often take it for granted and don’t give it the significance it’s due. Most of the time we try to make things more complicated than they need to be.

Don’t over complicate this simple thing.

God loves you; I love you; go out and share that love.

Life Is Better in A Loving Church

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s Like Being Wrapped in A Warm Blanket on A Cold Night

There are way too many people stumbling around out in the darkness in need of a warm blanket. Those of us who have found our blanket need to be sharing blankets with others.

 

This past Sunday our Pastor’s message consisted of members of the congregation sharing what our church (Tisdale UMC) meant to them. This was a combination of long-term and recent members and some who weren’t.

 

Just like everyone of us is different and unique, so were their stories. Even with all the differences each one expressed common feelings of the warmth of the church. (Just like a warm blanket on a cold night.) It didn’t matter what their situation was, they felt wrapped up in warmth.

 

Having grown up in this church I assumed this was how all churches were. As I got older, I had a recurring conversation with people who had moved away and struggled to find a church that had this same warmth. This doesn’t mean that every person is looking for this warmth, but once they’ve experienced it, they want it.

 

This warm feeling is bigger than the people, bigger than the church, it’s God’s loving arms.

 

 

Too many people are cold and don’t even know it. If you find someone that’s cold give them a warm blanket of love and invite them in out of the cold.

There Are Two Ways to Look at Things

 

 

 

 

 

I Choose to Believe in Miracles

 

 

“There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.” Albert Einstein


We have become spoiled and forget to be grateful for the miracles that surround us every day. We can be grateful or not, this is a choice. Being grateful requires an intentional decision.


Gratitude is how we show love. Being grateful and acting upon that gratefulness can be as simple as a spoken thank you or as big as how we live our lives every day.


Gratitude is a perspective. It’s how we see things. We can see only the negative or we can see the positive. It sounds cliché but it’s real and it makes a difference on how you treat life and how life treats you.


Gratitude is a choice. We can choose to be grateful or not but being grateful is a much better way to approach life. We have been given so much. Shouldn’t we be thankful for all that we have?


A young man was driven to college in an old car by his dad. Several of the students saw the car and began to tease the young man. The young man looked at them and said, “That old car is the reason I’m Here”. He went on to explain that his father decided to save money for his college education rather than spending it on a new car.


This son was grateful for his father’s love and the choice he made. This changed his perspective. If this son could be grateful for what his father did for him, shouldn’t we be exponentially more grateful to our Heavenly Father for all the miracles He’s given us.

 

How Should I Love My Neighbor?

 

 

 

By Remembering They Are as Important as You Are

 

 

We’ve all been told to ‘love my neighbor as much as I love myself’. This sounds simple enough in theory. The problem comes when attempting to put it into action.


What does it mean to “love my neighbor”?


In Luke 16:19-31, Jesus talks about the “Rich Man and Lazarus”. In this story the Rich Man dies and goes to Hell and Lazarus dies and goes to Heaven. There’s no indication in the story that the Rich Man was mean to Lazarus. It appears that he was just oblivious, unaware and uncaring.


The Rich Man doesn’t appear to have been a bad man…so why did he end up in Hell?


Loving your neighbor begins with loving God. Loving your neighbor as much as yourself is found in Matthew 22:36-40. In this Scripture, before Jesus says anything about your neighbor He says to, “Love God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind. This is the first and most important command.” After that He says to, “Love your neighbor as yourself.”


This has to be done in the right order. God first…everything else after.


So, why did Lazarus make it to Heaven and the Rich Man ended up in Hell? It’s pretty simple really. The Rich Man didn’t believe. You can’t earn your way into Heaven by doing good, Ephesians 2:4-10. You can’t buy your way into Heaven with money, Acts 8:18-21. This doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with having money or doing good.


You don’t have to be a believer to treat others well, but you do have to be a believer to get to Heaven. If you are a believer, you will treat others well. If you have your priorities in the right order, “Love God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.” Then “Loving your neighbor as yourself” will come naturally. Every one of us is as important to God as the next.

 


There’s only one way to get to Heaven. You must believe that Jesus is God come to earth, that God raised Jesus from the dead and tell this to others.


If the Rich Man had believed, he would have loved Lazarus and treated him differently. Love God. Love your neighbor. Love yourself. Believe before it’s too late.


Death is the ultimate equalizer.

 

It’s Not Easy to Be A Hall of Fame Dad

 

But Nobody Said It Was Going to Be

 

There’s a Hall of Fame for almost everything, that’s not to say that is an easy place to be inducted into. It does speak to the fact that we like being recognized for what we’re good at. What do you want to be good at?


With this past Sunday being Father’s Day, Pastor Lee spoke about the Dad’s Hall of Fame. Every Dad should want to be there, but not all will make it. Being a “Hall of Fame Dad” doesn’t require a biological connection, it just requires connection. This can be; step, adopted, grand, brother, uncle, church, etc.


Here are three things that should be done well, to be inducted into the “Dad Hall of Fame”:


Make time – Time is the hardest thing to give. There never seems to be enough. There are so many things…really good and important things…we neglect to set aside time for our children. When we get someone’s undivided attention, we feel validated and worthy. This is the one thing that all kids crave. If you want to get inducted into the hall of fame, spend time with your kids.

 

 

Teach the difference of right and wrong – There are too many kids growing up without father figures in their lives. Most single parent homes have a mother who is working to keep food on the table and a roof overhead. This leaves too many young people learning right and wrong from other young people. Growing up without a father is a problem that goes beyond just humans.


Teaching right and wrong is part of the natural order of things as shown in the Absence of Fathers: A Story of Elephants and Men 


Years ago, in the Kruger National Park and game reserve in South Africa, the elephant population had outgrown what the park could sustain. A plan was devised to relocate some of the elephants. This was done with a harness and a helicopter. Due to the size of the large bulls, the females and young males were the ones moved to another game reserve.

 


What happened later in the second game reserve was strange. Rangers began to find dead bodies of the endangered white rhinos. At first poachers were suspected, but the rhinos had not been shot or poached. It was discovered that they were being killed by a marauding band of aggressive juvenile male elephants…the ones relocated from Kruger. Something had gone terribly wrong.


What had been missing was a large dominant bull to provide a role model and keep the younger bulls in line. The rangers then moved some of the older bulls to the new location and within weeks the bizarre violent behavior of the juvenile elephants had stopped. The younger elephants just needed an older male to teach them the difference of right and wrong.


Show love – Love can be shown in many ways; the most important thing is that it’s shown. This means more than just saying it. Love is about putting other’s needs ahead of your own. The Bible is full of examples of our Heavenly Father’s love for us.

 

 


If we do these three things constantly and to the best of our ability our chances of being inducted into the “Dads Hall of Fame” improve greatly. It’s never too late to start, so get started!

 

 

The Velveteen Rabbit Teaches Us About Love

“The Velveteen Rabbit” was the basis of the message this week. It is a story about a stuffed rabbit’s desire to become real and the love that ultimately accomplishes this.

There is a lot of real life comparisons in this story about a stuffed rabbit. Some of the toys are mean and uncaring, some are supporting and caring. There are examples of the power of love and the healing miracle it provides. 1 John 4:7-12; 19-21 tells us what love is and how to use it. It tells us that God first loved us and that He commands us to love our brothers and sisters.

God loved us so much that He became human to show us how to love. It can be hard for us to show that level of love to those who don’t understand it. We need to share with others in a way they can understand.

There is a the story of the man who didn’t believe that Jesus was God in human form. He decided to not go with his family to a Christmas Eve service, but rather to stay home. Shortly after his family left in began to snow. He then heard some birds flying into the window of the house. They were looking for looking for a way out of the storm. He tried to help them but they were scared and didn’t understand what he was doing. He thought, if only I was a bird I could tell them and show them. It was then that he realized this is what God did for us when Jesus became a man.

My favorite version of the story, done by Paul Harvey.

As we go through this new year let us honor the sacrifice of God by loving those around us.