Friday, September 25, 2009

John 3:16

Pastor Tim Howard
September 25, 2009

If you have ever watched professional sports, especially football you have probably noticed from time to time the camera person focusing on someone who is holding up a sign that reads: John 3:16. For those familiar with the Bible it is recognized as a scripture from the New Testament but for those unfamiliar with scripture, it must be an enigma.

John 3:16 is one of the most widely quoted verses from the Bible and has been called the most famous Bible verse by some. It has also been called the "Gospel in a nutshell" because it is considered a summary of some of the most central doctrines of traditional Christianity. It’s a verse that ‘In-N-Out Burger’ chain prints it on the bottom rim of their paper cups and the clothing chain ‘Forever 21’ prints it on the bottom of their shopping bags.

This verse reveals five very important truths about God and is proof that the God of creation wants you and me to know him. John 3:16 says: “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.” NIV

The first truth revolves around love. “For God so loved…” Love is God’s motivation for doing what he does. Behind every act there is a motive and the motivating factor behind every act determines the results that will ensue. When you do things out of anger, bitterness, pressure, guilt or duty, you reap one kind of result and when you do things out of love, kindness, mercy, grace and compassion you produce a totally different effect. Motives are very important! If we give all our possessions to the poor and do many humanitarian acts but don’t have love, we don’t gain anything. That’s what Paul tells us in first Corinthians 13:3.

God’s love is focused primarily on the whole world and this is His mission. He is not a respecter of persons and does not show favoritism. He loves all mankind and has a desire to relate to each and every individual. This second truth is vital for us to understand, if we are to escape the Me, Myself and I, mentality.

“God so loved mankind that He gave”… Thirdly, giving gifts is God’s method for reaching you and me and is the prescribed way for us to help others. He didn’t give us a CD, DVD or send us an e-mail but came Himself. Jesus came as God’s greatest gift and message of love, hope and forgiveness, which is good news. Knowing that God himself came to us in Jesus Christ is not only the forth truth in this passage of scripture but reveals the identity of the true God in a world filled with many gods.

Last but not least, this Bible verse reveals God’s purpose for doing what he does. He wants us to live with him forever. All of us have been given a certain amount of days to live on this earth. We will all face death at some point. Then what? John 3:16 answers that question. Our future is yet to be written. We are today where our choices have brought us and will be tomorrow where our choices take us. True life awaits those who pick up on these five truths about God.

Love is God’s motive. The world is his mission. Giving is his method. Jesus is his message and Life is the miracle we get to experience when we put our trust, faith and confidence in Him. John 3:16 may be a short verse in the Bible but it packs a powerful punch to those who believe.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Games People Play

Pastor Tim Howard
September 19, 2009

Back in the day, we didn’t have Nintendo, Wii, PlayStation or Xbox 360 electronic games. Even if they had been available, most of us wouldn’t have been able to afford them. We had games like tag, king of the mountain, ring-around-the-rosy, jump rope, dodge ball, capture the flag, red-rover red-rover, hop-scotch and tic-tac-toe. For those who were older and didn’t want to participate, they could always watch the television game shows like Password, Let’s Make a Deal, Beat the Clock, The Price is Right, I’ve Got a Secret, To Tell the Truth, Wheel of Fortune, The Gong Show and Hollywood Squares. Games have always been a part of life since creation but some games can cause problems when played in the wrong arena.

When I play Hide and Seek with my grandson, a whole lot of joy and laughter fills our home but when Adam and Eve played the game of Hide and Seek with God, things began to breakdown. You may remember the historical record that is recorded in Genesis chapter 3. God had given this couple everything they could possibly need. They were in a beautiful garden with full access to everything except one tree. That seems more than fair but for some reason Adam followed Eve’s lead and went contrary to God’s advice. After deciding to set up self-rule and function with an independent spirit, they became aware of their failure, sin and self-centeredness. That was bad enough but they complicated things even further because they decided to play the game of hide and seek.

Before you criticize this biblical couple for their usurping of authority, disobedience and stupidity, check out 2 Peter 1:3! We are told that Jesus has given you and me everything we need for living a godly and fruitful life. Even though this is true, we also have decided to do our own thing and live independently of the living God. In other words: we have sinned just like Adam and Eve.

The Bible tells us that every man has sinned and gone astray. He likens us to sheep that are notorious for wandering after things, which aren’t beneficial. We shouldn’t ask who has sinned because we all stand guilty. The real question is: What do we do with our sin? I’m glad the Bible is not silent on this issue. In John 1: 9 we are told these words: “If we claim that we're free of sin, we're only fooling ourselves. A claim like that is errant nonsense. On the other hand, if we admit our sins—make a clean break from them—he won't let us down; he'll be true to himself. He'll forgive our sins and purge us of all wrongdoing.”

Then, the next time you make a decision that hurts or violates another person; the next time you find yourself doing things that aren’t proper or right; the next time you are awakened to the fact that you are in the wrong or have sinned, I encourage you to play a different game. Rather than playing Hide and Seek like Adam and Eve, try the game called Show and Tell.

When you TELL the truth, God will SHOW you his love and forgiveness. Show and Tell is more than a game, however; it is a biblical principle that works. When you build a family on honesty and a marriage on transparency, you’re building something that lasts. I’m going to be selective in the games I choose to play. Games that bring lots of joy, life, love and peace, those are games that people should play.