Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘John 3:16’

Jo 23


I had finished my shopping and was heading towards the shortest checkout queue when I noticed a man doing the same thing.

‘Ladies before gentlemen!’ he said with a smile.

As I thanked him and forged ahead, I bumped my trolley against the counter.

‘Oops—looks like I need to see where I’m going!’ I laughed.

‘Oh,’ he replied, ‘I’ve been trying to work that out for the past seventy years!’

My mind whirred as I stacked my groceries on that counter, but before I could say anything, he spoke again.

‘Do you know where you’re going?’

For a few moments, that question seemed to hang in the air between us. It was as if time stood still—and almost as if God was smiling at me and saying, ‘Well, Jo—what are you going to say?’

So I said the first thing that came to mind.

‘Actually, I do know where I’m going!’

‘Oh, where’s that?’ he responded.

‘Well, I belong to God—I know Jesus and I believe I’m going to heaven!’

He looked slightly taken aback, but then launched into a little poem I recognised yet now sadly cannot remember. When he had finished, I decided that, if he could quote something to me, I could perhaps quote something back.

‘Oh, I love 1 John 3:1—How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! It’s amazing we can be children of God, don’t you think?’

At that point, it was as if he dredged up a Bible verse of his own from somewhere deep in the recesses of his brain—perhaps from childhood? I could not catch it all, but nodded and smiled.

‘What’s your name?’ he demanded then.

‘I’m Jo-Anne … what’s yours?’

‘I’m Tony,’ he told me, in his lovely European accent.

‘Good to chat, Tony!’I replied, suddenly realising the girl at the checkout was smiling at me—and that the shopper she had just served was looking at me somewhat strangely!

Later, I thought of all the things I could have said instead—but at least the man hadn’t seemed too put off. In fact, I wondered if something had stirred in him as we chatted—perhaps something God had spoken into his heart long ago? And maybe our conversation would cause him to reflect a little more on his own question. I hoped so anyway.

I wondered, however, if what I had said may have come across as just that little bit too presumptuous. Even as I said what I did, I remember thinking, ‘This could sound so proud and arrogant!’ But Jesus himself tells us:

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

And in 1 John 5:11-12, we read:

And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He who has the Son has life …

I wonder how you would have answered this man’s question. Perhaps your response would have been much wiser and more sensitive than mine. Whatever the case, I hope you do know where you’re going—because that’s the main thing, isn’t it?

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

IJo 23t was 1968 and I was in my busy, final year at university, but I decided I couldn’t miss out on the opportunity to be a counsellor at the upcoming Billy Graham Crusade. This involved several training sessions, then attending as many crusade meetings as we could at the Brisbane Showgrounds. I was new to it all—and in both the training and the actual meetings, I learnt some lessons I have never forgotten.

During our training, we were asked to memorise some key Bible verses in order to counsel someone better—Romans 3:23, Romans 6:23, John 3:16, John 1:12, Ephesians 2:8-9 and others. Those verses remain clear in my mind, fifty years on.

But one day during our training, I learnt another key lesson. Some, it seemed, were questioning others’ fitness as counsellors because they were not baptised or not taking communion in a certain way or not following some other church practice these critics regarded as essential. I remember the gracious way our trainer handled the matter, gently warning us all against being judgmental.

Later, he asked if any of us had been able to put into practice what we had learnt the previous week about sharing Christ with someone. There was silence—until a little, old Salvation Army lady stood and, with a beaming face, told us about how she had talked about Jesus with someone on the train that day. What a profound and salutary lesson! This lady represented a group of Christians who do not usually practise baptism or take communion—yet she was apparently the only one present who had shared Christ with someone that week. Hmm.

But I was to learn an even more profound lesson in not being judgmental one Sunday afternoon at the crusade itself. I had made my way to the old ‘Machinery Hill’ section of the grounds, proudly wearing my counsellor badge, and was waiting for the meeting to begin. Two men were sitting in front of me and one of them was smoking. I could tell he was nervous—he was fidgeting around and his friend was obviously trying to put him at ease. Then a man wearing an usher’s badge approached them, red in the face.

‘Excuse me!’ he said loudly to the man smoking. ‘Would you please put your cigarette out? This is a religious meeting!’

The man seemed stunned, then apologised and did as asked.

Right then, crusade or no crusade, I wanted to get up and punch that usher! I could not believe what I had witnessed—after all, it was an open air meeting and no one else seemed to mind that the man was smoking. At least he was there! I could feel the deep embarrassment of both men seated in front of me—I was sure neither would hear a thing Billy Graham said that day because of that officious usher. Surely he could have been more discerning and prayed quietly for the man instead?

Yes, one of those verses we learnt mentions grace—and that is what we all need, don’t you think? Tons and tons of it!

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works so that no one can boast. Ephesians 2:8-9

Read Full Post »

Jo 17I wonder if you have ever been in some busy place at 11.00am on 11th November when that moment came for a minute’s silence to commemorate the ending of World War One and remember all those who gave their lives in what was to be the war to end all wars. That happened to me in a busy shopping centre on one occasion—and I can still remember what a sombre, moving experience it was.

Recently, I discovered some Armistice Day activities are held on the weekend prior to 11th November. Last Sunday week, soon after arriving to speak at a nearby church, I was warned that a brass band involved in a commemorative event would march past outside during the service.

‘You might need to be quiet when that happens,’ one helpful lady told me, ‘because no one will hear you anyway!’

As the service proceeded, I forgot about her warning. But midway through my message, just as I was about to share a key illustration, I heard music in the distance. It soon became louder, so I decided to encourage everyone to sit quietly and remember those who lost their lives in war.

As the music eventually grew softer again, a gentle and reverent hush enveloped us all. One or two of the older folk surreptitiously wiped their eyes—and I too felt moved, as I remembered those in my father’s generation who had fought in World War Two. I felt reluctant to break the silence but knew I needed to continue our service.

‘We are so blessed to live in Australia—so very blessed,’ I found myself saying then, to my surprise. ‘We need to be so grateful to those who fought on our behalf, don’t you think?’

Many present nodded in agreement—especially those who had come to our shores as migrants, some fleeing from war in their own countries. It was a sober moment, as they too remembered those there who had given their lives while trying to protect them.

I finished my message and went onto lead the congregation in a time of communion. Then it dawned on me how well our shared experience had prepared us for this moment. Through that music the band played, we had been reminded to be thankful for those who had given their lives for their country. Now here we were invited to remember the ultimate sacrifice on our behalf—the sacrifice of the Son of God himself.

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 puts it even more simply in his first letter:

This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. 1 John 3:16a

For those of us who take part in communion on a regular basis, its impact may well be lessened, unless we take care to stop and appreciate what it truly represents. That Sunday, I know that band was God’s gift to me, almost forcing me to remember not only the price paid to ensure my safety and freedom in this life but the enormous price paid by God to offer us all eternal freedom.

May we all remember well—and be so thankful.

Read Full Post »

Jo 12Have you heard of of those loyalty card deals where, if you spend a certain amount for a certain period of time in a certain supermarket chain, you get even more to spend? A few weeks ago, my husband was offered one we felt we could not pass up. It involved receiving a hundred dollars off our grocery bill, if we spent that amount in-store first—as well as spending fifty dollars each week for four weeks in a row prior to this. I was sure I could find enough to buy, so we decided to take part.

What fun it was, buying a hundred dollars worth of goodies! I easily made it to that total—and beyond. In the process, I met some friends who were doing something similar. We congratulated one another—it was as if we were in a conspiracy to wring every last cent out of our windfall. After all, the supermarket chain had done well out of us over the years, so we were entitled to do this.

Later, I reflected further on this experience of getting something for nothing. At least, it wasn’t really for nothing. We still had to spend to get that bonus—we still had to stay loyal to that supermarket chain. Then I remembered how, after speaking somewhere, I have sometimes been given a monetary gift. After one particular women’s event, I received an amount far beyond what I felt I was worth. I was shocked—I actually wondered whether an extra ‘0’ had been added to the amount by mistake! Yes, I had spent hours preparing my input and had put my heart and soul into my message, but I had enjoyed doing it all. They did not need to give me so much—or anything, really. In fact, I felt quite ashamed they had been so generous on my behalf.

These two responses to receiving a gift could not be more different, could they? With the supermarket bonus, we had a sense of entitlement. After all, we had earned it by shopping at that particular store. But with the gift I received for speaking, I felt as if I didn’t deserve it at all. I wonder if these two responses give us a picture of how we can tend to treat the grace and forgiveness God offers us. I have known some people who feel entitled to ending up in heaven with God. After all, haven’t they been to church often enough or lived good lives and not hurt anyone too much? But I have met others too who have great difficulty believing God could love them enough to forgive them and offer them the free gift of eternal life. They don’t deserve it—they feel too unworthy and insignificant—and are unable to accept it.

Both responses are sad, don’t you think? One is full of entitlement, while the other is full of shame. Yes, God has given us something for nothing, something we didn’t deserve, something made possible only through Jesus’ death. We can’t earn this gift of grace. All we can do is come in humility and receive it, then live for God in return, with a heart filled with gratitude.

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

Read Full Post »

I love Easter. To me, it’s as if God is extra close all around. It’s as if Jesus is reaching down through the centuries since he hung on that cross, looking straight at me, willing me to see the love and forgiveness in his own soul as he looks deep into mine. And it’s also as if God is crying out to a world that is rushing on, heedless, ‘Listen—all of you! Remember what my Son did for you. And remember and celebrate that death could not hold him down. Remember the price that bought your freedom!

On Easter Sunday, I received an email from a friend who lives in a country where most of the population do not celebrate Easter. She shared with me how, when life is continuing as usual around her, it feels a little surreal to be celebrating events that others do not acknowledge. Yet, the true meaning of Easter is so much a part of her that she still goes ahead and celebrates it with great joy. Meanwhile, here in Australia, I was free to attend any number of church services, as well as see family members and delight in buying those Easter eggs for our grandchildren (with a few stray ones making their way into grown-up hands too!). But best of all for me are those moments of quiet reflection, alone in the presence of God.

This year, I decided to read the account of the crucifixion from John’s Gospel. I read how Judas betrayed his Lord in that olive grove, how Jesus was brought before Annas, how Peter denied him for the first time, how Jesus was bound and sent to appear before the high priest Caiaphas and how Peter then denied him twice more. I read with increasing horror how Pilate, despite believing Jesus to be innocent and wanting to set him free, had him flogged, then caved into pressure and handed him over to the people to be crucified. I read how Jesus was nailed to that cross, with a mocking sign above his head, and how he died—for you and me.

And on Good Friday night, as I went to bed, the result of all this struck me with almost overwhelming force and simplicity all over again. This means I’m saved—completely and forever! The realisation was so strong that I almost shouted the words out loud, until I realised my husband might not be impressed with this revelation as he lay there, trying to get to sleep! ‘I’m saved’ is such a hackneyed phrase—one that is even ridiculed at times. But this to me is the bottom line of our Easter celebrations—we are indeed saved from the consequences of our desire to go our own way by Jesus’ death on that cross. We have a whole new start in life and our relationship with God is restored. And one day, because Jesus conquered death and rose again, we too will rise and be with him in heaven forever.

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

Now that’s a bottom line I find absolutely mind-blowing and well worth celebrating—not only at Easter but all the time. How about you?

Read Full Post »