Life Verses – John 3:16

Searching His Word
 Seeking His Heart

We’re moving from Joshua to new territory. In the next few blogs, I plan to share what I call “life verses.” That is, verses that have played a  particular role in my life experiences.

I begin with John 3:16. Probably no other verse is more widely known than this one. We don’t even have to mention the first few words to recognize the verse. If you’ve been in church for any length of time, you likely know the verse strictly by its reference—John 3:16.

We’ve seen it on billboards, even across Tim Teebow’s forehead. It’s the gospel message all in one verse. It tells what God has done for us and what he expects of us.

For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him shall not perish but have everlasting life. John 3:16 KJV

At least, that’s how many of us learned it many years ago.

Do you know the circumstances of the context of this verse? Do you know that these are Jesus’ words? Do you know to whom he was talking when he said this? Do you know what the “for” is for at the beginning of the verse? Well, let’s break it down.

The setting is a nighttime discussion with the Pharisee, Nicodemus. (Warning! Sales pitch coming!) For more information on Nicodemus, order A Heart for Truth by Joyce Cordell. (smiley face)


At this point, Nicodemus is not a believer, but a seeker. Jesus teaches him about being born again, not physically, but spiritually, in the inner man.

Jesus mentions an Old Testament incident to Nicodemus where Moses had lifted up a rod with a snake carved on the end. The people were being bitten by snakes, but if they looked up at the rod they would be healed. Jesus went on to say,


“…so the Son of Man must be lifted up, [on the cross] that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life. [ThusFor 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 3:14-16 NIV

One of my pastors gave a meaningful, easy-to-remember  description of this verse. First, we see two things about God. God loved us, his creation, and God gave us his Son. Then, two things about ourselves. If we believe in that Son, we will have eternal life.

To put it simply—God loved, God gave. If we believe, we receive.

For my life application: I was eight years old when I believed  that Jesus died for me. It was an innocent, childlike faith, but sincere. I was not a bold-faced, long-time sinner, but I knew that I wanted to be guided by God. It was a beginning. As I have aged and experienced earthly life with him, it makes me look forward to forever life with him.

Do you have a story to go with John 3:16? 

~ Joyce ~

Honor in the Struggle

Searching His Word
 Seeking His Heart

Before Thanksgiving, we saw that David had cut off a piece of Saul’s robe when Saul came into the cave where David and his men were hiding. Saul had come to “relieve” himself. (See God’s Provisions for David)

David’s men are puzzled as to why David didn’t just kill Saul while he had the opportunity and more puzzled that his reason is because Saul is “the Lord’s anointed.”

David knows the sacredness of being anointed by the Lord. He remembers well when Samuel came to anoint him. Even though Saul is unfairly mistreating him, he still honors the position of the king.

David has an idea.

Saul is still within shouting distance, so David calls out to him and bows down. He says,

“My Lord the king! Why do you listen when men say, ‘David is bent on harming you’? This day you have seen with your own eyes how the Lord delivered you into my hands in the cave. Some urged me to kill you, but I spared you; I said, ‘I will not lift my hand against my master, because he is the Lord’s anointed.’ ” I Samuel 24:9-10

David displays the piece of Saul’s robe in the air so Saul can see how close he was to David and yet David did not kill him. David continues to plead his innocence.

“Now understand and recognize that I am not guilty of wrongdoing or rebellion. I have not wronged you, but you are hunting me down to take my life. May the Lord judge between you and me. And may the Lord avenge the wrongs you have done to me, but my hand will not touch you. I Samuel 24:11-12


Saul becomes milk toast. He realizes that David has proven to be the better man. While weeping, Saul declares,

“You are more righteous than I. You have treated me well, but I have treated you badly.” I Samuel 24:17

Saul goes so far as to admit—

“I know that you will surely be king and the kingdom of Israel will be established in your hands.”  I Samuel 24:20

Saul acknowledges David’s act of grace. That, my friends, is honor on David’s part. David was yet to become king, but he knew God’s hand in anointing him. He believed he must honor the position even though the king behaved badly.

A hard lesson for David and for us. I remember some of those days when mother’s dementia took hold and she angrily said hurtful things to me. Still, she was my mother and I knew I must honor her, so I continued to visit and talk to her, bring her interesting things to do, and encourage her. “Honor your father and mother.”

Toward the end, I was talking to her about different family members. She could not even call my name, but she touched my hand and said, “But this one is the special one.” Thank you, Lord for that precious tender moment.

Perhaps you have a trying relationship right now. You know that you need to honor that parent, that husband or wife, that child or friend in your life, but you’re so angry at them. Perhaps you need to try a different angle. Wave a cloth of truce. Find a way to honor “in spite of.” May the Lord bless your effort.

~ Joyce ~

Who Was Caught? -Part 4

Searching His Word
Seeking His Heart

Now we know that the unnamed woman this month, the woman caught in the act of adultery. I named her Aphiema (Ah-fee-mah) and gave a possible enhancement of the story. (See “Gone Astray – Part 1“, “A Trap envisioned – Part 2“, and “The Trap Is set – Part 3“.)

 Let’s look at the incident straight from the Scripture.

At dawn, he [Jesusappeared again in the Temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them. The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law, Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him.

But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “If any of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.

At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. John 8:2-9

One by one, the accusers drop their stones and finally Mark’s partners leave. Mark looks over at Apheima. Her hair is disheveled, a tear steaks down her cheek. For the first time, Mark is deeply aware of his own sin. It seems that both Aphiema and he have been caught.

It is just as the teacher said, I held lust in my heart and acted upon it. When she used me and I used her, I didn’t feel shame; I felt anger. My anger turned to hate, my hate to rage and revenge. Had Jesus said the word, I would have committed murder that day.

Apheima is aware that only one accuser is left. She glances up to meet Mark’s glazed eyes. He turns his head, drops his stone and walks away. As he leaves, he hears Jesus say,

“Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” “No one,” she said. Then neither do I accuse you. Go and leave your life of sin.” John 8:10-11

Note that while Jesus did not condemn her, neither did he condone her act of sin. He urged her to leave that life.

Oh, what lessons we learn from this scene. We’ll look at some of those lessons next week. My hope is that she confessed her sin and ended up becoming a follower of Jesus. If so, she would live up to the Greek word I named her. Apheima means “forgiven.”

~ Joyce ~ 

Peter – Mercy

 Searching His Word

Seeking His Heart

As morning breaks, we find Peter still weeping in anguish over failing his master. Not only does he deny that he even knows Jesus, but he does it three times!

And on the third time, as Jesus is led through the courtyard, Jesus looks over at Peter. Then the cock crows.

Peter flees, weeping bitterly.

Have you ever blurted out words that you wish you could pull back in? You realize that once those words are out there, there is no retrieving them. You stew on how to fix it. You wonder how to make amends, how to calm troubled waters, waters that you have stirred up with careless or hurtful words.

No doubt, Peter cries out for mercy and forgiveness.

We find snippets of encouragement in three of the Gospels that lets us know that Peter has not been “written off.” In Mark, the women are at the tomb with their spices when the angel tells them that Jesus is not there but has risen! Then the angel tells them,

“But go, tell the disciples and Peter…” Mark 16:7

Luke tells about Jesus’ appearance to the two on the way to Emmaus and how “their hearts burned within them.” When they go back to Jerusalem to share this news with the disciples, they say,

“It is true! The Lord is risen and has appeared to Simon.” Luke 24:34 

They go on to tell their story. This little phrase, “has appeared to Simon” can be found no other place. My Bible notes say nothing about this verse. My big, thick commentary, which typically covers every verse, skips right over this one. But there it is, specifically mentioning Simon Peter. 

In John, we have the narrative of Mary Magdalene’s first visit to the tomb. She runs to Peter and John to tell them that it is empty and she doesn’t know where they have taken him.

Peter’s old zest returns, and he and John go running to the tomb. John, the younger one, arrives first and peers in.  Peter catches up and, in typical Peter-style, steps right into the tomb. 

He saw the strips of linen lying there, as well as the burial cloth that had been around Jesus’ head. The cloth was folded up by itself, separate from the linen. John 20:6-7

The cloths were too neatly left for this to have been a grave robbery. John says, “He saw and believed.” Jesus’ appearance in the upper room that Sunday night seals the deal. Interestingly enough, we hear no words from Peter during the resurrection appearance. I imagine he is glad simply to be included.

Mercy. God’s mercy allows for forgiveness and restitution. He provided it for Peter in these subtle ways and he offers it to us as well.

The next time your tongue starts to throw unwise, hurtful words out of your mouth, rein them in! But know that He offers mercy and grace.

~ Joyce ~   




Searching His Word   Seeking His Heart

Searching His Word
Seeking His Heart

We’ve had an ongoing story the last two weeks. (See “One Unknown” and “Setting Up Traps”)

Apheimi is deep in sin and has devised a scheme to satisfy his revenge. He manages to get word to Marnah, his previous lover, that a passionate young man will be waiting to see her for the evening at a certain house. The house just happens to be conveniently positioned not far from where Jesus has been teaching.

At dawn, the people have already begun to gather once again to listen to Jesus. He sits down to teach them. Meanwhile, Apheimi and two Pharisees break into the designated house and grab Marnah. (After all, three witnesses are even better than the needed two witnesses.) They drag her out the door, down the street, and shove her in front of Jesus.

“Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the law, Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say? John 8:4-5

Marnah stands there shivering in the morning dew with only a sheet wrapped around  her. She stares at the ground, ashamed to look at anyone for she feels the daggers of their stares. Several Pharisees gather around with stones in hand. Jesus slowly walks over to them and  looks each one of the accusers in the eye. Slowly, he bends down and writes on the ground with his finger.

Apheimi stretches his head around the group to see what’s happening.

“What’s he doing?” he whispers to his partner in crime. “

“I don’t know.”

Finally, one toward the front asks again, “What do you say? Stone her or let her go?”

Jesus straightened up and said to them, “If any of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground. John 8:7-8

It takes a moment for the words to sink in, but one by one, three of the older Pharisees in the front of the group drop their stones and walk away. Then another and another. Finally, Apheimi’s partner drops his stone.

Apheimi looks over at Marnah. Her hair is all disheveled; a tear streaks down her cheek. For the first time, Apheimi is deeply aware of his own sin.

It is just as the teacher said. I held lust in my heart and acted upon it. When she used me, I didn’t feel shame; I felt anger. My anger turned to hate, my hate to rage and revenge. Had Jesus said the word, I would have committed murder.

Marnah is aware that only one is left. She glances up to meet Apheimi’s glazed eyes. He turns his head, drops his stone, and walks away. As he leaves, he hears Jesus say,

“Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” No one,” she said. “Then neither do I condemn you. Go and leave your life of sin.” John 8:10-11


When we read this episode in the Gospel of John, we usually focus on Jesus and the woman caught in adultery. The accusers are there, but it is like they are a unit, not individual men, each with his own story.

Apheimi is a name I made up, but remember, someone had to arrange this confrontation. Had that arranger been one the woman’s victims? We don’t know. Did even one of them come away from this experience with a changed heart? We don’t know that either, but it is possible that just as the woman found forgiveness, maybe, just maybe one of the accusers eventually found forgiveness as well. I purposely chose the name Apheimi. It is a Greek word for forgiven.

~ Joyce ~