Wrestling with the Two Headed Monster of John 3.16


My name is Jeremy Shank.
I am pastor at Thornville UMC in the Foothills District.
I am currently blogging about and hoping to form ideas for a new book I’m working on.

“Inclusion/Exclusion – a look at how salvation works in the Bible” is the topic I am working with and I could use your thoughts on some things.  I was hoping you might weigh in on a couple of issues I am wrestling with right now. www.inclusionexclusion.wordpress.com

I am looking at John 3.16, probably the most well known verse concerning our salvation. I am weighing how much inclusion we see in this verse as well as the wording here that would suggest there is some exclusion to deal with, also. Some translations would put the entire conversation with Nicodemus as the words of Jesus (in red) all the way down to verse 21. (NKJV, CEB, NLT) Most notably, the NIV stops Jesus speaking (words in red) at verse 15. Which leaves the rest of the section looking like a re-capping of the conversation with Nicodemus by the author of the Gospel.

My wonderings….
1) a penny for your thoughts on John 3.16 and whether you feel more inclusive about the verse or exclusive as you read it.
2) does putting the actual words of John 3.16 into the hands of Jesus shape your feelings about how salvation works itself out in our lives.
3) any material you might suggest that I research that would help support your viewpoint and help me shape mine.

Blessings on your day

Thank you for your help

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Working through the second chapter of my new blog/book. Hope you might take a moment to read through it.


Grade school is maybe the single most frustrating time in a child’s life.

I know it was for me. It is a time period in one’s life when we want to be able to do all the things we see other kids doing. We want to able to share in all the same activities and play all the same games. By the time middle and high school have rolled around our wants and needs have diversified and we see options in front of us we did not have before. There might still be that desire to be able to do all the same things we see others doing, but by the time we have moved on into early adulthood we should find that we are alright with just being who we are. Grade school, however,….


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The Hope That Lies Within You

I want to challenge you to share.

I realize that opening the door to a subject matter like this can open a can of worms. It can also create quiet. Maybe no one will share at all. In this crazy internet world of blogging, debating, criticizing, and arguing, I cannot help but think that there is still hope to bring people to a common ground. A middle, if you will, between our opposing views. The middle ground, I believe, is found in Jesus Christ. We tend to argue and defend our views from behind theological viewpoints and denominational standards. I believe if we continue to do that we will find ourselves completely broken. We talk about “holy conversation”. Could there be anything more holy than to discuss what Jesus has done for you?

1 Peter 3:15       New International Version (NIV)

15 But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.

This year I celebrate 14 years of marriage to the mother of my children.

I remember clearly the night we first met. We had talked on the phone or internet for a week. I asked if she wanted to meet me. She said yes. I drove 2 1/2 hours to get there. (The journey is a story all for itself.) I showed up late. She graciously sat down for a sandwich with me on a park bench near her university’s pond. She was and her family were life long United Methodists. We made small talk as we began to size each other up. Then, out of nowhere, I simply popped the question. You know…I need to know.

“So, what do you think about Jesus?”

Mid bite into a turkey sandwich I had brought for her, she looked at me with those “Really?” eyes, swallowed and cleared her throat. I had caught her completely off guard “Well, that’s a pretty deep subject.” It is. I knew that it was. But, I really wanted to know. It was imperative to me. What I really sought to start was discussion. What too many of us want when we ask questions about God or Jesus is some definitive answer that we can hold up and say, “Here it is!” We might get to that, but only if we take the time to discuss first. We need to talk. We need to spend time with one another. In the case of my wife and I, as is the case with many a couple, opposites tend to attract. I’m one who jumps in neck deep. Whether it’s theological discussion or a evangelical trip, I’m there. She tends to be more reserved. She takes her time with things and thinks about for awhile. Drives me absolutely nuts. I feel like much of our diversity in the church happens along these same lines. The church is not made up of people who all think alike. All people do not learn the same. All people do not have the same experiences or life lessons to pull from. It is only when we take the time to tell our stories and talk about what Jesus has done for us that we begin to find our “middle ground”. Out here on the internet and in these blogs, we spend way too much time arguing about doctrine and grovelling about where orthodoxy begins. Orthodoxy begins with Jesus. What we understand about God begins with Jesus. I already realize that won’t clear much up for some. But, I am of firm belief that the person of Jesus Christ can help clear up our muddied waters. In our denomination. In our hearts. In our churches. We simply need to focus what we are doing upon him and not some outside cause. Whether that we are focused on some social cause or political. We human being tend to get our priorities out order. Here’s where we start getting it right. “Tell me the stories of Jesus”

SO, my challenge to you is this…

Tell me what you believe about Jesus. I’m willing to bet that if this post was about some political issue or some social cause, there would be debate or arguing instantly. I’ve seen it happen. Maybe no one will respond at all here. Either because you don’t have a story to share or you’ve never taken the time to think out what you believe about Jesus. Talk to me about what Jesus has done in your life. Toss out your bullet list of theological points you hold dear or think the church should hold dear and just talk to me. Who is Jesus to you? I want to know. Give me an account of the hope that lies within you. Why do you believe in Jesus? Why is that so important to you? What has Jesus done for you? Tell me your story of Jesus and why that gives you hope.

“crickets chirping”

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I hope you might join me in a new blog venture that hopefully will wind up becoming my next book venture.


Our subject matter is one that is hard to navigate. Not because it is impossible, but that the two sides either seek to run each other over because the double yellow line seems to be missing -or- that there is a medium wall built so high by some that you couldn’t see the other side of the road if you wanted too. The fact remains that there are two sides of the road here. Two lines of thought that are pertinent and biblical. Inclusion. Exclusion. These two sides of the road help define what we understand about the subject of salvation. A salvation offered by a God who both loves us and commands us to follow if we are to achieve such a redemption. Salvation is God’s work. If we have our eyes open as we read the scriptures we cannot help but see that some requirements have been laid upon us as well in this holy process. God embraces. We come closer. Grace draws us. We respond in faith. “For by grace you have been saved, through faith” We are absolutely in need of understanding what our part is in this much beleaguered subject of salvation.

We live in a world where people want to be included. People want to be loved. We also live in a world where requirements and laws are an absolute if we are to maintain an orderly society. Practice and polity need each other. Otherwise, this need to be included runs amuck with the scent of anarchy as people do anything they want to feel loved. The other side of the coin is true also. Without love, the legality of life buries us under a weight of guilt and shame. There is inclusion and there is exclusion. There is a door open for all to enter. After we enter, we find out whether or not we want to stay in the room. Does this crowd promote the kind of atmosphere I can blend with or not? It is a question we need to ask. We need to read the Bible seriously and ask ourselves if this kind of religion is one we can go along with or, do we need to find something else to believe in? The Bible is full of requirements for the Christian to take seriously. We want to be loved and we also need to give & show love. Love is the truest two way street we can find.

In this world of multiple viewpoints, I think all we believe and want can be boiled down to two paths. We want the freedom to do whatever we want however we want to do it and we want to leave people out who don’t agree with us or see our point of view. Somehow, we think the first one is inclusive only to find out how divisive it winds up being and we can’t see how destructive the latter is as we excluded everyone and everything with which we disagree. Inclusion and exclusion are vital and important. It is human being who can’t figure out how to practice our religion properly in the dual field. We want to favor one and drop the other. It is imperative that we grasp how to see what God want to show us. God loves us. God includes us. And, there are moments when God, like a good parent, sends us to our room while “the adults talk”. Everything is not for our ears. We don’t need to know everything. One of my biggest peeves when I was a kid was when dad would tell us to go. For whatever the reason, we didn’t need to be in the room. I didn’t want to go. I didn’t want to be excluded. But, maybe it was for my own good. maybe dad needed to talk to mom (about me) and the words weren’t for my little ears. There are moments in life when exclusion is essential. What we need to be sensitive to is that when exclusion is over that we call the kids back in to the room and invite them to rejoin us again. To often, we would rather leave them in their rooms. Cut off from the family circle, surely we can enjoy some peace and quiet. However, their growth and nurture should be far more important.

Can we translate this in to terms we can understand in our life of faith? I think we successfully can. I hope you’ll join me as I seek to put us on the road to more fully understanding what God wants from us and for us. In the process, we should better understand who God is and why there is so much love for humankind. Lets journey together.

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Thoughts on the Orlando Tragedy

What happened in Orlando on Saturday evening is exactly that – a tragedy.

It is a tragedy that people cannot get along and allow others to live the life they want to live the way they want to live it without causing them harm because of their own feelings about how they feel people should properly conduct themselves. It is a tragedy that people think it is OK to do whatever they want to do however they want to do it, but can’t give the same sentiment in return to other people they disagree with philosophically or theologically.

I will say here openly that I do not think that the homosexual lifestyle is compatible with Christian teaching. I would also add that I personally have been touched/groped/attacked, if you will, on two separate occasions by gay men in my life. Once was while I was a grocery bag boy at a local supermarket in my hometown. The man was older than me. He was a nephew to the owners of the store. He came up behind me and picked me up off the ground in a huge bear hug. Talk about uncomfortable! The other time was while I was a pastor at my very first church. I had a one to one meeting with a youth pastor in the next town. Upon arriving at his apartment I came to realize that the meeting was simply he and I. Within a matter of minutes he grabbed me and wrestled me to the ground. It was all meant to be playful but, nonetheless, uncomfortable. I would be lying if I said it did not warp my view of LGBTQ people. Both incidents were back in the 90’s. The after effects brought on what I describe as that “ultra-conservative” mindset where a person is scared of the wind blowing because, logic suggests, God’s judgment might be the thing that knocks down the tree.

I am happy to state that none of my experiences have ever led me to want to do something as violent as the man in Orlando did over the weekend. And, I doubt that the man involved with the shooting ever had anyone of the homosexual persuasion approach him or do anything to him. (Pure speculation) Even if he had, there is no warrant for such abusive behavior or retaliation. When we cry out about people judging one another, this event is Orlando is the ultimate example of judgment being passed. We do it with words. Instead of showing a person your viewpoint and letting it be, we push our limits by shoving our own personal feelings into the mix. Pointing out God’s view on the matter from the scriptures is one thing. To then inject our own personal feelings about what we think of people who do not follow those teachings usually takes the matter to far. We have to learn how to speak about a subject and then let it lie. Let God’s Spirit be the thing that speaks to a person’s heart. When people don’t accept our words, then incidents like the one in Orlando tend to happen. We make matters personal. As if whether or not a person follows our viewpoint on a subject or not affects our own well being and happiness. Nothing could be farther from the truth. It’s not about what we think of the other person. It’s about what God thinks of the other person. God loves everybody. He doesn’t approve of people’s behavior, but he still loves them. I have been in the shoes of those who would cast too much judgment and not enough love.

Do we truly understand what it means to love our neighbor as ourselves? Do we truly understand what it means to do unto others as we would have them do unto us? Do we understand how to give one another the freedom to do what they want to do the way they want to do it? How many of us would like the freedom to pursue whatever it is that makes us happy? (Isn’t that a principle our country is founded upon? The pursuit of happiness?) I want love for myself. If someone saw me doing something unholy and called me out on it, how would I respond? I think I would respond based upon how the matter was handled. We see people leaving the homosexual lifestyle everyday and we see people defiantly digging in their heels. I can’t help but wonder what kind of conversations they had leading up to those decisions. I also see people loosening their theological baggage and allowing people to be around them who may not necessarily live the way their own morals say is proper AND I see people tightening their belts in an effort to keep other people away who don’t live the way they think is holy. I also wonder what kinds of conversations they have had that have led to those responses.

Around 2000, I left a holiness denomination because I wanted to see more ecumenical life. The denomination I came from seemed too cemented in the idea that their own viewpoint was the only viewpoint and everyone else had it wrong. I couldn’t live that way anymore. That bottleneck approach to theological thought squelched any play on doing evangelism (in my mind). How are we supposed to reach people if we cut them off? How are we to reach people if we can’t preach to them? My feelings here go way beyond the LGBTQ persuasion. Drug users. Abortion. Divorcees. How are we to make disciples for Christ if we cut people off? It takes bravery to step out into a world where the viewpoint is not what you personally hold. It does require conversation. Maybe uncomfortable conversation. Endless conversation. It requires us to put down our weapons of war. It requires us to forget about what we personally want and focus on something greater than ourselves. It requires us to focus on the truth that this is not our home and to stop acting like we need to possess it and own and control it like it is ours to own.

Lord, in your mercy…

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A System of Intentions

Hey Folks. I’m Jeremy Shank and I’m working on a walk through the Book of Romans over in the “Shanktification” blog. Come on over at take a look.

A System of Intentions

I have been walking through the Book of Acts on Sunday mornings. Eventually, we will wrap up Acts and make that natural progression into the book of Romans. Since I am making my way back into the blog again I figured why…


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Fried Chicken and Burritos – a place for comfort food

No, it’s not a cookbook.

Hi there U.C. community.
I’m Jeremy Shank from over at the “Shanktification” blog.
Joel added me a while back here as a contributor. I don’t say much. I leave the indepth stuff to the mind of Joel. I do want to take a moment to ask you all to check out my book. My previous blog was the title of my book. “Fried Chicken and Burritos – a place for comfort food” was an idea I had as I entered my current appointment as pastor. I am in my fourth year here in Thornville, OH. When I got here I felt I needed a new delivery from the pulpit. At my last church it seemed I had grown into the harbinger of death. I had a prophet of doom type outlook that I had grown weary of and needed to find a new attitude as I approached my new appointment. Bringing a message of comfort instead of constant doom was the avenue I went down. I try to bring comfort. Even in the hard passages. Jesus said, “Come unto me all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” The thing is he also said things like “Deny yourself, pick up your cross, and follow me.” That doesn’t sound very comforting. How do we correlate the words of Jesus across those lines? Take a chance and give my book a read.
You can find it on Amazon. $7 for a paperback. $5 for a Kindle copy.
Please give some feedback and leave a review after you read.
I hope you fin the comfort you’re looking for.



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Orthodoxy for those living with doctrines

Nazarene-logoI’d like to continue my line of thought from my previous post while swinging to the other “extreme”.

After having grown up in a Disciples church and not having any creeds or doctrines in front of me to guide me or direct me, I reflected upon my Disciples upbringing and could not help but notice that nobody actually took the time to explain to me that I needed Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. I cannot remember anyone showing me that I needed to ask for forgiveness for my sins. The Disciples church i grew up in spent so much time wandering around through people’s opinions on things that orthodoxy was never an issue. And, that’s the issue….

After high school, I pulled myself out of church for about 3 years. I felt church was a waste of time and I also felt I hadn’t learned anything. I wanted to do my own thing for a while and I did. I slept in. I stayed up late. I stayed up all night, many times. I did what I wanted to do.

But, anybody who knows what this life following the Lord is like knows that God does not leave you alone. My best friend from high school had found Jesus while trying out for the Marines. He didn’t make it, but he did find Jesus. He came home determined that all of us in the beer drinking circle of friends was going to find Jesus. I was the only one who responded. Maybe the Lord brought him home just for me. Maybe that’s a bit narcissistic.

My best friend had grown up in the Church of the Nazarene out on the south edge of town. I knew nothing about them. My Disciples upbringing had left me sheltered. I had no understanding of other churches or belief systems or doctrines. After asking Jesus to come into my life in June of ’92, I followed my friend out to the COTN. Since I had no formal teaching in doctrine, I ate up everything they put in front of me.

In Feb ’93 I began school at Mt Vernon Nazarene working towards ordination. For the first 4 or 5 years I just nodded my head in approval to everything they put on the table. It was quite a change going from a church where nothing was ever mentioned int he way of doctrine to a group that put everything on the table. The Wesleyan-Armenian viewpoint agreed with me. It made sense. After having accepted Christ, inviting him into my heart, responding to the knock at the door of my heart, the teaching about grace and faith working together made sense to me. God draws us in by his grace, but we need to respond in order to enter this life and actually be a part of it. The Calvinist viewpoint did not agree with my taste buds. If God simply picks and chooses who gets to go to heaven and hell, our existence seems pointless here.

During my junior & senior years of high school I worked at an IGA grocery store in my hometown of Shelby, OH. I missed alot of church on Sundays because you got paid time and a half to work that day. We also got an hour break for lunch. For the longest time I would frequent the deli and grab 4 of these subs made of bologna, salami and some swiss cheese on a sesame bun, with a 20 oz Mt Dew. Every Sunday that I worked this would be my lunch time break food. Plowing through 4 of these small subs and downing that Mt Dew. Ah, nothing finer. Then came the day when I sat down and began to partake. Part way through the first sub it just hit me. These little subs were disgusting. Maybe it was because I had been eating them so often that I simply was getting tired of them. It was my steady diet, especially on Sundays. I put that sub down and threw the 3 1/2 left into the trash can. Several months later I remember trying it again, as if, taking that time off had corrected my taste buds. It did not. I threw them away and I never went back to them. There were other foods to try. These little lunch meat subs were not going to do the trick anymore.

All these years later, after I had accepted Christ, after i was 5 years or so into my schooling for the ministry, I remember getting this similar feeling in my gut over the doctrine that was being plugged into my heart and soul. While I did not agree with that viewpoint in much of what Calvinism promoted I could see some truth in it and related to it through the immaturity I saw in my own walk at that point in my journey. I was seeking and pursuing more and wanted to walk with Christ. That seemed to be the major push in Wesleyanism. To seek to be like Christ. I did not see that same emphasis in much of Calvinism. However, the idea of being ecumenical with others in the Christian faith – Baptist, CMA, Church of God (Cleveland, TN or Anderson, IN), and anyone else who showed up at McDonald’s on a Wednesday night after church – I felt the need to find a common ground we could converse and discuss on.

What I saw being promoted in my Nazarene ranks was a superiority to others outside of our faith group. I heard it on Wednesday night during bible study. In the early 90’s we studied the book The Upward Call. Written by four prominent Nazarene leaders, I can actually recall the point being brought forth in the course of the book and our study that the only place we could find truth and true support and fellowship was through our own ranks and with people of our own Nazarene group. I can recall the Wednesday night when that came out of the mouth of the pastor’s wife who was leading our study. That was not how I flt in my heart and spoke up and let it out. “I get a lot of fellowship with all the church people who show up at McDonald’s on Wednesday night!” That viewpoint, of course, was not received with a chorus of cheers.

At college, in my course of study classes for ordination, I felt and heard more of an emphasis about how we as Nazarenes had everything right and other had it wrong. Any one here who has spent some time with the Nazarenes might have experienced something similar. I heard lots about the “three C’s” and heard them labelled as such. The Calvinists. The Charismatics. And, the Catholics. They had it all wrong. We had it right. We had the right doctrines and the right emphasis. Those outside of our faith group had it wrong. The Calvinist didn’t have the right viewpoint on salvation. The Charismatics misused the gifts, especially tongues. The Catholics had a bad example of church government and spirituality. There was something about all of this that just wasn’t settling right in my gut. I recall driving home one night from Mt Vernon in deep thought about how all of our viewpoints could work together. Everybody had their place and each part could fit in next to one another if we would take the time to listen to where we were coming from. I was having a harder and harder time dealing with the separatist mindset of staying away from other churches and faiths.

What is it about seeking orthodoxy that makes us rear the ugly head of superiority over others with a different viewpoint? Some of us have recently seen the insults of Martin Luther who wrote extensively in support of the Protestant faith we promote. Yet, he was not afraid to say exactly what he thought of those who did not share the same explanation for what he, himself, believed. Do we have any of that spirit of superiority within our ranks at the UMC? Oh, my…did I just open a can or worms? I do that occasionally. In my six years of Course of Study work at MTSO I can say I’ve heard a hint of just that. We might tend to tone it down a bit, but I have noted where there has been a sense of our right vs. their wrong. The current tussle within orthodoxy vs progressive views is a prime place to seek out such unneeded attitudes.

Sometimes I appreciate my Disciples of Christ upbringing. We were told creeds and doctrines were divisive and man-made. All we needed was the bible. Yet, I was and still am, in many instances, a person who needed a bit of guidance and help in what we need to believe. Just reading the bible wasn’t enough. We need some help to understand what is there. In seeking out that understanding, we run the risk of finding explanations and doctrines that don’t mean a hill of beans to our faith. Things we will pick up and inherently dig in only to, at some point, take it away from our mouths and go, “What the…”  It’s all part of the process.

I’ve been seeking out orthodoxy for some time now. Many times I feel as if I still don’t have a grip on the right things to believe. My desire is not to be arrogant about what I only think I understand. My desire it be transparent and open about what I need to research and contemplate. I might find a lunch meat sandwich I’ll regret later. I might find something really really good. And, I might actually learn something from just reading the bible.

If this makes any sense to you, help me…join me…follow me.

I’m seeking out orthodoxy. Maybe we’ll find it together.

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