Saturday, June 24, 2006

John 3:16

We've been studying John 3:16 over the past few weeks in our Sunday School class. (I know I've already posted on this subject, but I just felt compelled to re-vist the topic one last time.) Probably one of the most well known verses in Scripture is also probably one the most misunderstood. A few things we learned:

  • It's important to remember the context-- Jesus is talking to Nicodemus, a Pharisee, who has come to him at night.
  • The initial question, although not stated explicitly, is-- "how does one enter the Kingdom of Heaven?"
  • Jesus tells Nicodemus that his works based religion will not save him. He must look to the "Son of Man that would be lifted up", pointing him to the cross and its saving work.
  • John 3:16 is the reason why Jesus came to be crucified:
    • "For God so loved..." God's love motivated Him to provide salvation.
    • "God SO loved." His love is beyond measure.
    • "The world." Not just the Jews. Salvation is for all. The world encompasses Jews and Gentiles from every tribe and every nation. God's saving love is specific to those He has chosen for salvation.
    • "He gave His only begotten Son." God gave His best. Salvation is a gift, throught His unique, of a kind, only begotten Son. Jesus is the ONLY savior.
    • "That whoever believes." Salvation is not by works, but by faith, by believing, putting our faith in the justifying work of the cross. Belief is more than assenting to some facts about Jesus-- it is complete surrender and obedience.
    • "Shall not perish." We will not / CAN NOT be seperated from God. (Romans 8:38-39)
    • "But have everlasting life." Life = Gr. zoe. This is the abundant life that God gives. It is a life worth living. It is not only future-- it is here and now!
Salvation is only in Jesus Christ. God gives salvation through Christ because He loves. In the end, Nicodemus understood. He got it. (John 19:39)

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Chicken with My Head Cut Off

Since returning from the Buffalo River, I've been running around like a chicken with my head cut off. My 30-year HS class reunion was last weekend and being on the planning committee, meant I was quite busy. Everything kinda got put on hold while I answered emails and maintained the database, and coordinated with other committee members. It was a great reunion though. We had around 65 people (40+ classmates and spouses/dates) for a cookout on Saturday afternoon, then a catered dinner on Saturday night. I took a LONG nap on Father's Day. I've still got to update the class website with pictures from the event. We've (the planning committee) also got some final bookkeeping to take care of. After that, we get to rest for about four years...then we start planning again. 2011 is just around the corner!

The next couple of weeks are looking just as busy. I'm starting a new traing program tomorrow for work that will last several weeks (possibly month or two); I also need to do some updating on our church's website. Next weekend, myself and some of the men from church are going to Tulakogee to help with some work that needs to be done there. Then it's Fourth of July weekend with the family and a church-wide fellowship. In the middle of everything, I'll be working on Sunday School lessons. It just keeps going, and going, and going, and...

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Trip to Buffalo River

With Ryon and Alex both at Church Camp this week, Dana and I took the opportunity to have some time away. Tuesday morning, we drove to Ponca, Arkansas (approximately three hours from home) to the Buffalo Outdoor Center, where we stayed in their Mountain Sunrise cabin. From the front porch, we had a beautiful view of the valley below. We arrived at our cabin around 2:00 in the afternoon, so with plenty of daylight, we decided to do some hiking. We drove to an area about 4 miles from Ponca and hiked 1 1/2 miles to probably one of Arkansas' most famous, and most photographed areas, Whitaker Point. The afternoon was mostly overcast which made the temperature just right. Standing on the edge of the "crag" at Whitaker Point, you look out over the Upper Buffalo River Valley and the Whitaker Creek hollow. It is beautiful! While we were there, we heard what sounded like a very large tree fall--which proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that, yes, it does make a noise. (You know, that age old question: "If a tree falls in the woods...?") The only bad part of the hike was that-- 1 1/2 miles out means 1 1/2 miles back--on terrain that is not flat! If was fun, though. By the time we came off the trail, it was nearly 6:00 PM, so we headed to Compton, AR, home of the Compton 1-Stop Grocery, Gas Station and Diner and the locally famous "Shirley Burger" (Shirley is the owner). We opted for the bacon cheeseburger--more heart, clogging, fatty meat

Wednesday began with a beautiful sunrise. The clear blue sky allowed the sunlight to stream across the valley, highlighting the fog that had settled there overnight. Absolutely gorgeous! I woke up around 6:30 AM, made some coffee and headed out to the porch to enjoy the view...Dana slept in. I listened to breeze blowing through the trees and marveled out how "quiet" and peaceful it was without all the city noise that I have grown accustomed to. After Dana got up, we headed off to do some "sight-seeing" around Jasper, AR.

We headed north on Hwy 43 for a leisurely drive. Our first stop was at Pruitt landing on the Buffalo River, just above Jasper. There was a church youth group just getting ready to float the river. We then made our way to Jasper and stopped to do a little "sight-seeing/shopping." We spent some time in "Emma's Museum of Junk" looking at the antiques and listening to Emma rant about President Bush and his immigration policies. About six miles down the highway, we stopped at The Cliff House Inn for lunch. The restaurant sits at the edge of what is known as the "Arkansas Grand Canyon." It was grand, it didn't look like the canyons I've seen, but the food and the view were good. We headed back up the highway to Bob's AG Grocery and picked a few groceries for later on, then drove over to Steele Creek on the Buffalo River for a little hiking and wading in the river. We decided we'd had enough driving for the day and headed back to the cabin where I took a nap in the porch swing while Dana read a book. She took a short nap, too.

We fixed charcoaled pork chops for dinner, then afterwards, we hiked a short distance from our cabin to an open meadow that sat on the edge of a bluff. As we approached the meadow, we saw three white-tail deer grazing near the meadow's edge. They didn't see us at first, but then we did something that caught their attention. We all stood motionless and watched each other for maybe five minutes, then the closest deer to us "snorted" at us and ran into the trees. The other two where further away; they watched us and continued to graze as they made their way to the edge of the trees, then casually disappeared into the woods. We made our way back to the cabin and washed the dishes. Since there was no garbage disposal in the cabin, I threw the "scraps" out into the brush in front of our cabin. About half an hour later, Dana and I were sitting on the front porch when we heard something coming through the woods. We watched as a SKUNK come out less than 10 feet from us and headed right for the "leftovers." In case you're interested, skunks love mushroom rice and cucumbers. We went into the cabin--no need to bother a skunk while he's eating. Right before going to bed, we stepped back out on the porch and to look at the moon and stars. They don't look nearly as bright at home. Out here, there are no street lights, just the "lights in the expanse of the sky" (Genesis 1:14).

Thursday saw another gorgeous sunrise. I sat on the porch with my coffee and my laptop. I watched a couple of woodpeckers go at a tree limb (how do they not get a headache from all that pounding?), and watched the squirrels run up and down the trees. We headed home around 9:00 AM, driving north to Harrison, AR- about 25 miles from Ponca. We drove through Harrison, didn't see anything that we really wanted to stop and see, so we just continued on Hwy 412 West. At Siloam Springs, we took a short detour and drove around John Brown University. Ryon (our recent high school graduate) keeps telling us that he's going there after getting his Associates Degree from Tulsa Community College.

All in all, it was a great two days in the Ozarks. Mike Mills and his crew at Buffalo Outdoor Center have done a great job in creating a place to get away and just enjoy life at a pace that is best described as "low gear."

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

He Gave

Verse of the Day
For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life. (John 3:16 - NASB)

Probably one of the most familiar verses of Scripture is John 3:16. Even non-Christians, people that don't attend Church, etc., know there is something special about this verse. Rollen Stewart, aka "The Rainbow Man" was known for showing up at everything from sporting events to Charles and Diana's wedding wearing a rainbow colored wig and carrying a sign that simply read: "John 3:16"

We're studying the Gospel of John in our Sunday School class and the past couple of weeks we've been focused on this passage. Two words really speak to me: "He gave." "He" is God--the Creator of the Universe, the Everlasting Father, Almighty God, God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, Jehovah, the One True God. He loves ME and from the foundation of the world, He determined to save me. He loved me, He loves me, and He keeps me. His love is personal, so much so that I am called His child (1 John 3:1). One of my favorite verses is Isaiah 40:11 :

He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young. (NIV)

"He" holds me close to His heart, and because he does, He "gave." Salvation is a gift-- I didn't do anything to earn it. does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy. (Romans 9:16 - NASB). God gave his Son to be "God with us"; but he also gave His Son to be the sacrifice for our sins. Jesus came to suffer, to die and to bear the wrath of God for MY sin--and because Jesus did that, God "imputes" or credits to my life, the righteous life of Jesus Christ. I am justified ("just as if I had never sinned")

He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. (2 Corinthians 5:21 - NASB)

He gave...He gave His best, His Only Begotten Son. Amazing love!

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Tattoos, Babies, Your Church Sucks

Here's a few things that have caught my attention lately.

Christian Tattoos
My brother calls himself a Christian because he walked an aisle when he was young, signed the card, was baptized and the minister declared him "saved." He also has a tattoo of Jesus on the cross covering a large portion of his chest. I think he believes it (the tattoo) makes a statement or something about his faith. Sadly,he is an alcoholic and a bad father and husband, which speaks a whole lot louder than the tattoo.

I don't have any tattoos and don't intend to, but it appears that there are a lot of Christians that have them. They have their own association. There are several websites that advocate tattooing for Christians. This guy has an entire page devoted to defending "Christian tattoos." His defense is mostly "we're no longer under the law" and tattooing was "a normal aspect of society." He even has a section on how your tattoo can be an evangelism tool. Another guy that defends "Christian tattoos" states on his website: "If you want to be a good person with tattoos, God will still love you." I'm not sure where he's going with that. One of the last comments on his site is even more puzzling: "PS: I am not a Christian..." So why is he defending CHRISTIAN tatoos?

Here's a fella (picture) that has a pretty interesting tattoo(s) depicts the empty tomb, a cross made of spikes, a white dove (reference to the Holy Spirit I would assume), a cup/chalice, bread, the ten commandments, and a snake. The "entire Bible" on his back!

I was reading the paper today and I noticed that, in the birth announcements:

  1. There were 42 babies born in area hospitals yesterday.
  2. Thirteen (13) of the babies were born to parents who did not share the same last name. (approx 30%)
  3. Six (6) of the babies listed only one parent (the mother). (14%)
I have an opinion as to what these "statistics might mean. You draw your own conclusions...if you want.

Your Church Sucks
Slice of Laodicea posted the following re: a church's latest radio commercial.

Calvary Fellowship is a small church plant that's looking to grow. One of the ways they've sought this growth is a radio commercial on a local (secular) Rock Music station. The commercial starts off with one guy asking another if he's going to church. The other guy responds with "I'm not going to church because church sucks". The first guy replies with "well here's a church that doesn't suck". The commercial, which has the kind of music in the background that's right at home on this radio station, ends with a voice saying "This isn't your Grandmother's church". There's a link on this page to listen to the commercial. The church's website also has sermon titles on it like "Everybody Must Get Stoned", and as if to verify that all of these types of churches are enamored with each other's "innovative" sermons, they also have the Wonderbread sermon as well.
Ingrid Schlueter, who writes the blog, commented: "Yes, Jesus ate with sinners, but I have to ask - how far did he go in conforming to their worldly ways in order to seem relevant to them?" One blogger was quite upset by Schlueter's comments. I think Schlueter is dead on.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Daniel's Prayer

Verse of the Day
So I gave my attention to the Lord God to seek Him by prayer and supplications, with fasting, sackcloth, and ashes. (Daniel 9:3 -NASB)

I hate to admit it, but I'm sort of a "geek." I'm a computer progammer; I play with spreadsheets and databases all day; and I carry a handheld PC (Dell Axim). Oh yeah, I also carry a backpack everywhere with my laptop. Yeah, I'm a geek. Anybody know where I can find a stylish pocket protector?

Anyway, the other day I was cleaning up some files on my Axim and I came across the following notes I had taken during the Oklahoma Baptist Convention last year. One of the keynote speakers was John MacArthur, who spoke on Daniel's prayer in Daniel 9. As I read back through my notes, I was reminded, and rebuked, about my own prayer life. I don't pray enough.

"Then I, Daniel, was exhausted and sick for I gave my attention to the Lord God to seek Him by prayer and supplications, with fasting, sackcloth, and ashes." (Daniel 8:27a; 9:3 - NASB)

Prayer is about lining up with God's purposes.

True Prayer is Generated by the Word
a. Daniel read about God's purposes in the book of Jeremiah (Dan 9:2)
b. Prayer life grows out of time in the Word.

True Prayer is Loyal to God's Will
a. Lines up with what God has declared.
b. Samuel prayed for the people after they asked for a king. (1 Sam 12:20-23)

True Prayer is Fervent
a. "...with fasting, sackcloth and ashes (Dan 9:3)
b. Concerned; intense. Examples: Job shaved his head; Christ sweat blood.
c. Biblical fasting is always connected to prayer.

True Prayer is grounded in Humility
a. Daniel acknowledged his own sin as well as the sin of Israel.

True Prayer is Identified with God's People
a. Note all the pronouns "us," "we," "our."
b. Daniel saw himself as part of the problem; he was just as guilty.
c. Specifically identified the sins. The Israelites had been held captive for 70 years and still had not acknowledged their sin.

True Prayer is Dependent on God's Character
a. "my God...the great and awesome God who keeps his convenant and lovingkindness..." (Dan 9:4)

True Prayer is for "God's Sake"
a. It honors His name (Dan 9:15; 19)
b. Concern for the church, the glory of Christ, the name of God.

One of the things I've been trying to do is pray through our Sunday School class membership each week. I keep a card with the names of each member on my desk at work. Every time I look at it, I'm reminded to pray for each class member..."for the sake of His name."