For God So Loved the World…

That He Made a Promise to Us

Probably the most well known Bible verse ever is John 3:16 – “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish, but have eternal life.”

Eternal life sounds like a good deal, and all we have to do is believe.

Believing is a little more difficult than it appears at first. True believing requires action. It means you believe what Jesus said. This means believing what the Bible says and living your life accordingly.

It’s no good if you just say you believe.

God’s promise to us is a covenant. The word covenant is commonly used in legal, social (marriage), and religious conversations.

The term “covenant” is of Latin origin (con venire), meaning a coming together. It presupposes two or more parties who come together to make a contract, agreeing on promises, stipulations, privileges, and responsibilities. It is used in various in biblical contexts. In political situations, it can be translated treaty; in a social setting, it means a lifelong friendship agreement; or it can refer to a marriage.

A covenant is a binding promise of far-reaching importance in the relations between individuals, groups, and nations. It has social, legal, religious, and other aspects. 

God made a covenant with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, but Adam and Eve didn’t keep their part of the covenant.

God made a covenant with Noah, but the people didn’t keep it. God made a covenant with Abraham, and once again…the people didn’t hold up their end of the agreement.

As humans, we struggle to do our part in the covenants that we have made with God. That’s why He sent His Son.

As we come to the end of the Roots: Advent study we look at the last part of Jesus’ family story.

Jesus is the final covenant.

If we don’t follow through on this agreement, we will get no more second chances.

We are living in the “Already, but not yet”. This statement summarizes the past, present, and future of the Bible.

We live now in the light of what God did in the past through Christ, but also looking to the future when Christ will come again.

We live between the already—what Christ has done—looking forward to the not yet—what He is still to do.

Christ became incarnate, lived, and died, and rose again. He ascended, and is now reigning, still the same incarnate Savior. But He has not yet brought about the consummation that will occur when He returns in majesty and glory.

We need to learn from our past, look to the future, and live in the present.

This Christmas season remember how much God loves us and the price Christ paid for this final covenant. Don’t let that payment be wasted.

Why It’s Always Important to Have an Empty Chair Available

Because It’s a Good Way to Prevent Loneliness

It’s been said that the church is like a football huddle. Church likes to stay in the huddle, we like the safety, we like to look good in our uniforms, we don’t like to get dirty. Football is not the huddle though, if you never break the huddle, if you never run the plays, you can never win the game.

Too often as a church, what we bring to the world is judgement rather than service, love, and the message of Christ.

We get a good example of what the church is supposed to be like in Act 2:42-47. The apostles of Christ would meet regularly and share their gifts and talent with each other. They would fellowship together, invite others and grow.

According to the Surgeon General we are currently experiencing an epidemic of loneliness. Isn’t this an understatement?

This trend has been happening for a while and was amped up with the separation that many people experienced during COVID. In this morning’s Briefing, Dr. Albert Mohler shared the importance of community and how and why it’s deteriorating.

Dr. Mohler shares many of the factors that have led to this crisis of loneliness. Christians need to understand this is predictable. What we’re looking at here is something that the government can’t solve.

As Christians we should be heartbroken about this problem.

Loneliness tells us about the human cost of disconnectedness from other human beings.

We have been made to be a part of a community. As Christians, we should be committed to seek the welfare of other human beings. We should care about people. The Surgeon General’s report should have the nation saying, “Oh, that’s not a good thing, that there’s so much loneliness.”

Christians should look at this and recognize this is a matter of concern. We would understand that as God made us as relational creatures, we cannot be healthy without some level of sustainable relationships.

Scripture tells us that man was not meant to live alone.

We know that social media and the internet have only amped up this separation and loneliness. It’s much easier to be disrespectful and say hurtful things to people when you aren’t looking them in the face.

As the church we should be opening our doors and arms to those who are lonely.

God invites everyone to the party.

Daniel Gill, a teacher in Montclair, New Jersey, shared a story of the importance of inviting everyone to the party during a lesson for Martin Luther King Dr. Day.

At 9 years old, he and his friend Archie went to a birthday party. The mother of the birthday boy opened the door and said, “I could go in, but that Archie couldn’t because there were no more chairs.” Gill said, no problem, I’ll sit on the floor. And she said to me, no, I didn’t understand. There are no more chairs,”

It was the 1950’s, and Archie was black.

Stunned, they left the party.

That’s why in his classroom Gill always keeps an empty chair, as a reminder that anyone who comes to his class filled with anticipation and eager to learn is welcome and invited to the party.

We need community and connection and that’s why we should always have an empty chair in our churches, our businesses, our homes, and our lives.

Everyone should be invited to God’s party.

Love Is Not Something You Feel, But Something You Do

There’s No Hope for the World Without Love

What is love?

According to Merriam-Webster, love is a strong affection for another rising out of kinship or personal ties; attraction based on sexual desires; affection based on admiration, benevolence or common interests.

But there’s more to love than just this.

John Piper says, “Love in the Bible, as in our everyday usage, can be directed from person to person or from a person to things. But there is another aspect of interpersonal love that is very important in the Bible. There is the aspect of love for persons who are not attractive or virtuous or productive. In this case, love is not a delight in what a person is, but a deeply felt commitment to helping him be what he ought to be.

Ultimately, love requires action.

This action isn’t necessarily easy. Sometimes it’s downright hard.

In Luke 6:27-38 Jesus tells us to love our enemies and bless those who curse us. Living this out is not easy.

We’re all familiar with the abundance of internet scams out there. But I had no idea it is as bad as it is. In 2020 Americans lost 4.2 billion dollars…that’s BILLION with a B!

We’ve all received emails or social media messages where someone is in line to get an inheritance or court settlement, but first they need to pay some small fees up front. If we will help them pay these fees, they will split the large sum of money with us.

This was the case for Ben in Utah. He got just such a message from a man named Joel in Liberia and recognized it as a scam.


“He decided to play along just for fun. Ben has his own YouTube channel, and he thought it would be a good idea to record his interactions with Joel so he could teach his viewers how to spot Internet scams.

This is where the story gets good. Ben decided to turn the scam around. He claimed that he ran a photography business and would pay Joel to take some photos of African sunsets. To his surprise, Joel came through with some pretty decent photos. So, Ben did a very strange thing: he bought Joel Willie, the scammer from Liberia, a new camera. He sent him the camera and asked for more photos. And the pictures Joel sent were definitely better quality this time around. Joel also sent an enthusiastic message saying that he was committing himself to their new photography partnership.

Now Ben had a situation on his hands. He had told Joel he would pay him for good photos. And Joel trusted him. So, if Ben didn’t come through, he would be guilty of running a scam himself. What should he do? Ben decided to print Joel’s photos in a small booklet and advertise it for sale on his YouTube channel. He titled the booklet after a phrase Joel used in his emails: By D Grace of God. He only charged $8 per booklet. Within a short time, he had sold $1,000 worth of booklets.

And this is where the story gets even better. Ben sent all the money to Joel on one condition: that he donate half of it to a local Liberian charity. Joel gladly did exactly that.

And this is the best part of the story. In 2018, Ben traveled to Liberia to meet his new business partner, Joel. The two men took more photos and published a second book detailing the strange and wonderful story of their business partnership. Their two books have raised $90,000. Some of the money has gone to Joel for all his hard work. But the rest has gone to do good works in Liberia. It has been used to buy food for the hungry, to purchase Christmas care packages for children, and to save a local school.

Isn’t that a great ending or maybe we can think of it as a beginning? It’s a story with a happy ending for Ben, Joel, and all the people whose lives have been impacted by the charitable giving from their photo booklets. So, I think the title of their first book is so appropriate By D Grace of God, (link to book) this story didn’t have to turn out this way. It became a story of generosity, hope and new beginnings, by D Grace of God.”


We need more love and openness to generosity. It’s not easy, but no one ever said it was. This has never more needed than now. We are living in a world of division. This is what Satan wants. Hate divides…generosity unites.

Love is the engine that runs generosity, but love requires us starting that engine and pressing the accelerator!

What is True Love and What Does it Look Like?

Life is Full of Difficulties, But Love Makes It Easier to Get Through Them

We all experience difficulties in life. Some are more severe than others. Sometimes these situations can suck us down into depression and we just want to hide under the covers and stay there.

This is how Naomi felt after their family moved because where they lived was experiencing a famine. Then after moving, her husband died. Her sons both married and then a few years later they died. This was a lot to handle.

Then Naomi heard that the famine was over. She still had family there…so she decided to move back. Her daughters-in-law decided to go with her. Naomi told them they would be better off staying there with their families. Ruth, one of the daughters-in-law was having none of it. She loved Naomi and was going with her.

Ruth told Naomi, “Wherever you go, I will go. Wherever you sleep, I will sleep. Your people will be my people. Your God will be my God. Where you die, I will die, and that is where I will be buried.” Ruth 1:1-18

Life is full of difficult decisions, but they are much easier when we have the support from people we love and that love us.

This is what true love looks like.

Too often, we associate love with romance and forget how much more it is. It is so much more than the romantic love. There are four types of love

  • AffectionAffection covers an array of loves. The care of mother to baby is a picture of affection. It relies on the expected and the familiar. “Affection almost slinks or seeps through our lives. It lives with humble, un-dress, private things; soft slippers, old clothes, old jokes, the thump of a sleepy dog’s tail on the kitchen floor, the sound of a sewing-machine…”
  • FriendshipFriendship is the love dismissed. “To the Ancients, Friendship seemed the happiest and most fully human of all loves, the crown of life and the school of virtue. The modern world, in comparison, ignores it.”  Friendships have begun faith movements, developed entire areas of thought, and contributed to many projects from art to business.
  • RomanticDifferent than friendship, lovers, “are always talking to one another about their love” and “are normally face to face, absorbed in each other.” There’s a reason Scripture teaches this bond of man and woman, from Genesis onward, is the picture of God’s love for the world, Christ for his bride, the church. When we discover afresh that romance is more deeply set than the drivel served up by our culture, then we will more rightly hold our spouse in the model of unconditional love.
  • CharityThis is our chief aim, the unconditional love of the Father given to us through his Son. Affection, friendship and romantic love are each the training ground for charity to grow. We are made to love and we are in want of it. If we play it safe, we are not living out the Gospel, but burying the coin in the safe ground, as the parable says. We are taught in the Scripture to love those who are broken, not for some vague humanitarian effort, but to make disciples of all nations, “baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19-20).

Jesus is love. He is what true love looks like.

After Naomi and Ruth got home, Ruth married Boaz, they had a son named Obed, who was the father of Jesse and Jesse was the father of David. This is the family of Jesus. The love that Naomi and Ruth shared changed their lives and the world’s.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. (1 Corinthians 13:4-7)

We come from a long line of Love. Go and share that love with everyone you can.

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.