GUESS WHO’S COMING TO DINNER ??

Who’s the most memorable person you’ve ever shared a meal with?

For some of you reading this, your first memory will be of a larger gathering, perhaps a banquet of some sort; and you’re thinking about the guest of honor or the keynote speaker. Or you might be thinking of a smaller group of a couple of dozen or so , and there may be one or two key people who stand out in your memory. Of course, it could be a time when just a few close friends got together; and a special relationship came out of it that has been particularly valuable and precious. It might even be a one-on-one meal, where you and your memorable friend were the only ones at the table.

In each of those possible cases, the relationship with the person could be different.

As I was reflecting upon this thought, my mind went somewhere that you might find surprising. I’ve lost count of the countries I’ve visited. It’s not as many as some, of course; but it’s quite a few. Working with a diplomat provided quite a few memorable dinner companions; being a Bishop has done the same. I’ve been at dinners where the Prime Minister and I sat within arms reach of one another. I’ve dined with Patriarchs; and had a small, intimate luncheon with the Pope and a few Bishops. But none of those qualify as my most memorable meal.

I’ve dined at world-renowned restaurants in American cities and beside grass huts in Africa’s bush. It is not the location of the meal that drove my selection of “most memorable.”

Like many couples, my wife and I had next to nothing when we got married. I remember coming home from work one evening shortly after our wedding. My wife had covered a cardboard box with a beautiful table cloth we’d received as a gift, and had set the table for dinner. I can’t remember what we ate, but I’ll never forget sitting on the floor and looking across our cardboard-box-table at the woman who had decided to spend the rest of her life loving me. She is the most memorable person I’ve ever shared a meal with.

And that is my introduction to today’s verse:
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

In this devotional I don’t typically quote chapter and verse in what I write. But even before I do, many of you will know that today’s verse is taken from the Gospel of John. Our verse today is John 3:16. You’ve probably seen it before, quite likely several times. Or you may have seen someone holding a sign with the verse at a sporting event or on a busy street corner. My point is that, even if you don’t know many other bible verses, you probably know John 3:16.

You may have brushed past John 3:16 without considering it carefully. Even if you’ve been a follower of Christ for years, this verse has depths to fathom that are as yet unexplored. One of the characteristics of God’s living word is that it constantly speaks to us in new ways. The Holy Spirit is ever able to reveal new insights and applications. My few thoughts on this verse today will not be the last word on John 3:16, by any stretch of imagination; but I hope they will stir you to ponder some of its treasures.

GOD LOVED
Just those two words stop me in my tracks. When I consider that GOD –
— the one who conceived a universe larger than we have the ability to comprehend
— the one who then spoke that thought into existence
— the one who holds it all together by His power …
When I consider that HE IS THE ONE who chose to LOVE — my mind just STOPS.

GOD loved !!! Not some politician or worldly official. Not some wealthy entrepreneur. Not anyone who had anything to gain from any aspect of the relationship. But GOD !!!! God chose to love.

THE WORLD
And look at WHO HE chose to love!!!! He didn’t select the five “best” candidates for His affection. Nor did He select one special person in each decade, century or millennium. When God chose to love He didn’t select a specific race to the exclusion of all others. He’s even grafted everyone who chooses to accept His love into His chosen people – Israel.

He chose the most unlovable for His love. He chose the most unworthy for His grace. We who have rejected His offer time after time after time throughout all ages. WE are the one He chose to love. And He chooses to CONTINUE to love us in spite of our faithlessness.

HE GAVE
His love compelled Him to action. He reached out and initiated the relationship. Not some secret admirer who only loves from afar and sends cryptic messages, hoping the one admired figures it out on their own. No, God so loved us that He presents us with a gift. He gave …

HIS ONE AND ONLY SON
God gave Himself in a way that only He could. This devotional is not the place for a theological treatise on expressions of the Holy Trinity and considerations of the hypostatic union of Christ’s two natures. It is the place to simply state that Jesus Christ was God Himself, in the flesh of a man, come to restore the relationship that had been lost in Eden’s Garden. Jesus, as we recently recalled during our Christmas celebrations, is “EMMANUEL” – God with us. Jesus is God’s gift.

His ONE AND ONLY Son. The most precious gift He could possibly give. The one who created this universe could create a hundred more just for you, but they would not be as precious as His ONE AND ONLY Son.

WHOEVER BELIEVES
Whoever is an amazing word. It means that kings and presidents can believe; and so can beggars and invalids. Corporate executives, mail clerks, salespeople and delivery truck drivers. WHOEVER !!! No restrictions. If you can inhale after you exhale – YOU QUALIFY.

Whoever believes that God loved the world so much that He gave His one and only Son to open the way to eternal life — THOSE people will receive it.

WILL NOT PERISH
Physical death is inevitable for most of us. God has only found two people in all recorded history who were so dedicated to Him that He didn’t want them to experience physical death. Enoch and Elijah; so far that’s it! But this verse isn’t speaking about PHYSICAL death, it is speaking about PERISHING. That speaks to a death beyond the physical, just as “eternal life” speaks to life beyond this present physical realm.

ETERNAL LIFE
A forever together with God. The one who loved us — yes, US !! — so much that He chose to give us His Son has decided to give us forever to enjoy the relationship. What a gift!!!

You can’t replace it with anything that comes close.

He didn’t say that whoever believes would have RICHES — because riches don’t satisfy man’s deepest longing.
He didn’t say that whoever believes would have PERFECT HEALTH — because health won’t last beyond this life.
He didn’t say that whoever believes would have GLAMOR — because true beauty isn’t about how we look.

I’m so glad that He didn’t say “whoever believes gets a clean slate and TEN MORE CHANCES to live a sinless life.” That would probably only take me to Tuesday. Or, more likely, until noon today.

Eternal life !!! That is one amazing gift.

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

Remember my carboard-box dinner table, and the most memorable person I’ve ever shared a meal with?

It wasn’t the food that made it so. As I said, I can’t even remember what food was served. It certainly wasn’t opulent furnishings in palatial surroundings. We were sitting on the floor at a carboard box in a neighborhood controlled by drug gangs. Obviously it wasn’t our riches and wealth.

It was the precious gift of love being offered and celebrated across the table. The love of a woman who had decided to spend the rest of her life loving me more and more is what was precious.

The bible tells us of another dinner, and it is coming soon. It’s being given by the same God who has already demonstrated His love so fully. It’s a wedding feast for Christ. You and I – the ones who have chosen to believe – we are the Bride of Christ.

He wants to sit at His table, look across at you and tell you how much He’s looking forward to spending ETERNITY loving you. THAT, I promise you, will be your most memorable meal. HE will be the most memorable person you’ve ever shared a meal with.

Guess who’s coming to dinner ??? He hopes you are.

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

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