Thursday, September 30, 2010

Affirmed! - September 30, 2010

Good Thursday morning! The more fall-ish weather is returning to the area this morning; 'bout time too! Great lesson last night in our Men's Bible study as we move into 2 Peter this year. What opportunities for Christian service await you this morning? What joy awaits us as the new day dawns? A couple of months ago I would have been out taking photos by this time; today, darkness... The season is a changin'!

Anyone who accepts his testimony can affirm that God is true. John 3:33

My Webster's says that to affirm is to say positively; declare firmly; assert to be true: opposed to deny. Aha, the opposite of what Peter will do three times there at the end of Jesus' earthly life. Once more we have another great verse in John 3. Accepting the testimony of Jesus, the one who came from Heaven and speaks of what he has seen and heard, allows us to affirm that God is true. To the people of Israel, God is true in that he has fulfilled his end of the covenant in Jesus Christ. To the Gentiles, God is true in that he has sent us a light in the darkness just as He promised through the prophet Isaiah. If nothing else, know that to affirm that God is true means that we do not and cannot deny the fact. But it is more than defining us by the opposite of what we are to do, we affirm that God is true with a joyful heart.

To affirm that God is true, we must first believe that there is a God; not all people do and we call them atheists. The Bible is the Word of God and says "I Am". We must believe that God is knowable or can be known; again, not all folks do and we call them agnostics. The Bible tells us that we can see the handiwork of God in the heavens and the earth. We must also believe in Jesus; not simply a statement that we believe that a man named Jesus lived about the time we changed dates from B.C. to A.D., but that we believe that Jesus is the Son of God and died to pay the price for our sins. We believe that Jesus rose again on the third day. Why? Because Jesus testified that this would happen back in chapter 2. We have only come a short way into the gospel of John, and already Jesus has given us enough testimony to believe in him! Now, John the Baptist is giving us a new mission, to affirm that God is true by accepting the testimony of Christ concerning both himself and God.

Last night, we saw an example of one man who affirmed that God is true. Peter named Jesus as both God and Savior. Thomas named Jesus as both Lord and God. Praise God for the privilege of affirming God and Jesus in our daily lives by what we say and do.

In Jesus' name!


Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Payment for my Unbelief - September 29, 2010

Good Wednesday morning! Whoops, emptied my coffee mug already. Guess I'll have to trudge out to the kitchen for a refill. Nice walk this morning, but I was overdressed. I just didn't believe Gordon on MyBridge when he said that temps in Sidney were about 20° higher than in the towns just north of us. I got a bit sweaty under my jacket as a payment for my unbelief. It makes me sad that so many will choose not to believe in Jesus, and will pay for their unbelief by getting way too hot for all eternity. John the Baptist has a similar thought in today's verse.

"He testifies about what he has seen and heard, but how few believe what he tells them!" John 3:32

John has already realized that few are coming to believe in Jesus. I don't think that much has changed in the two thousand years since that time. Many will listen to the testimony of Christ and about Christ, and yet many of those will choose not to believe. I heard some good advice last night on our witness. The minister told us to show love to our neighbors, but to leave the sermon out of it. Too often we feel the urge to tell someone how sinful he is as a way to start the good news of Christ. We could have someone burn the message: "Jesus loves you!" on a 2x4 and smack our neighbor upside the head with it, but that probably won't get them to believe. We would look more like some of those old time Crusaders trying to convert the Holy Lands with a literal sword (spears, axes, bows, et al.)

Jesus brought a testimony of love. God loves the world so much that he sent his only Son to save it. In our day, I have seen and heard this message on radio, television, web sites, in e-mails, by word of mouth, in churches both small and large, in books, audiotapes and CD's, in the newspapers, and you can read it in tweets, twingles, twerts, and twangs...or something like that. What this means is that the excuse about not hearing the Good News of Christ is fast becoming extinct. Almost everyone on the planet will soon have some way of hearing about Jesus, and God's word assures us that the gospel will be heard in all parts of the Earth before the end. That is great news!


Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Here on Earth - September 28, 2010

Good Tuesday morning! May the joy of the Lord shine in you today. Have you ever been put in your place? Probably happened a lot during your growing up years; this is where we came to equate being put in our place with a disparaging remark or a put down. John the Baptist is going to put his disciples and all of us in our place in today's verse, but this is not a put down. John simply tells the truth about where we are and how we think, and then relates that to Jesus and where he comes from.

"He (Jesus) has come from above and is greater than anyone else. We are of the earth, and we speak of earthly things, but he has come from heaven and is greater than anyone else." John 3:31

Recall that John's disciples had come to John with a complaint about how more people were going to Jesus to be baptized. With this, John reminds them of who they are and by reading this we are reminded of who we are. I cannot write of heavenly things other than what I can read in God's word. I have no experience of heaven, only some vague hints from the good times we have here on earth. John the Baptist couldn't speak of heaven, he hadn't been there either. Jesus on the other hand could speak from his experience in Heaven. John reminds us twice that Jesus is greater than anyone else. Interestingly, Jesus once said of John that he was greater than all who have ever lived.

This was not some return of a compliment. Jesus spoke only the truth, and John the Baptist spoke the truth about Jesus. Remember that the other part of what Jesus said went something like: The lowliest of Heaven's citizen's is greater than John. I'm not looking up the verse because I think we will come to it later in John's gospel. In any case, as John became less and less, Jesus did take center stage. Jesus, who John tells us comes from Heaven, is greater because of where he comes from. John is greater than all who have lived, but he still is not from Heaven. We are given a clear demarcation between those above and those of us down here on earth. However, we already know that believing in Jesus is the way to eternal life. As we read more in John's gospel, Jesus will fulfill the Law and become the Way for us to see the Kingdom of Heaven.

Have a wonderful day,


Monday, September 27, 2010

Stepping Back - September 27, 2010

Good Monday morning! Sorry about the wind, I was up early taking photos when it started so it must be my fault. I was also driving back into town when the Cabellian horde came up the hill so you can blame me for that too. As a matter of fact, just blame me for everything today... Do you suppose God ever gets a feeling like that? After all, people do seem to blame him for every smashed thumb, bad call, accidental bump, and all the more serious incidents in their lives. I hear God's name used to add an exclamation point to so many things that I find it hard to believe that He hasn't changed his name to avoid all that blame. Of course, if all of us together could affect God in any way, He wouldn't be God. We know that God is God, and as we believe in His Son, we also hate to hear the name of our Lord used so callously.

Today, John the Baptist describes sanctification for us... although he may not have realized that he was doing so.

"He must become greater and greater, and I must become less and less." John 3:30

When John refers to Jesus in this manner, we see it as a sign of John's humility, and it is! But he also describes what happens as the Holy Spirit works out our salvation and sanctifies us in this lifetime. As Jesus becomes greater and greater in our lives, our old self with the sin nature and selfishness becomes less and less.

Now think about John's disciples as they hear this. The disciples may still have some doubts that John isn't in fact the Messiah, but here goes the object of their devotion saying that he must become less and less. John the Baptist simply informs his disciples that the Messiah has arrived and the herald must fade into the background and exit stage left. The disciples might have wondered at this point why they were following John the Baptist. Exactly! John would have wanted everyone to follow Jesus as he became greater and greater. One day your calling or my calling may be finished and we may need the humility to step back and become less while another becomes greater. Let us remember John's example of grace and humility when this time comes. If no other time comes before, we know that one day Jesus will arrive in his glory, and then we will certainly step back while all of Creation marvels at the risen Son of God. Hallelujah for the day!


Saturday, September 25, 2010

Second Banana - September 25, 2010

Good Saturday morning! And what a nice morning it is too! Only one small problem, I was nearly home from my walk before the sun came up. I suppose the sunrise photography is going to have to make an adjustment for the season. Perhaps it's the sunrise photographer who will need to make the adjustment...

Today, John the Baptist takes a humble position and explains his calling to us.

"It is the bridegroom who marries the bride, and the best man is simply glad to stand with him and hear his vows. Therefore, I am filled with joy at his success." John 3:29

John's calling was not to be Jesus, even though some people kept asking him if he was the Messiah. Jesus is and was the Messiah, and John the Baptist was overjoyed as Jesus began his ministry. You or I may be called to be second banana to someone who has fame, fortune, and a huge ministry. That does not mean that God values us less than another person. You have your calling, I have my calling, that famous minister has his calling, and the little girl who loves to act may become a famous movie actress one day - we each have our own path to walk with Jesus. Our calling may be in assisting another person to greatness. Our calling might also be to labor in relative obscurity for our entire life. How will our good works be judged? Not against that other person, but by how well we followed Christ as he led us along the path of our very own journey.

I like the message from Pastor Rogers today. Even though he passed on to Heaven a few years ago, the message is still vibrant today, perhaps especially in light of that Great Recession that is supposedly over. I am learning this very truth day by day as I move forward with Jesus and without a regular job. The future looks very exciting, but if I give in to the worry monster, I might just crawl back to my "Egypt" so to speak. Victory lies ahead with Jesus.

Have a great Saturday, and enjoy the unseasonably warm weather this coming week.


Friday, September 24, 2010

Blessed with a Little Uncertainty - September 24, 2010

Good Monday morning... ah man, I really did type that. The short nights of Wed and Thurs have begun for the year, which means that on Friday morning I wake up a little dopey. Some of you use coffee to fight the end of the week goofs, but my decaf just doesn't do the job. So, I'll just have to start over...

Good Friday mornign! Aaagh! This just isn't working out between my brain and my typing fingers this morning. We did have a good life group session last night. I will tell you that the third session of teaching a class does not make a person a seasoned pro; I still have much to learn about small group teaching. Last night we did work on a tough subject though: Stepping out in the direction of our calling. How does a person discover his or her calling? How do I know that I am going in the direction God would have me to go? Today, or rather late last night, I thought of Jonah.

Jonah received his calling from the Lord, and he knew without a doubt and with complete certainty his calling. We long for that certainty, but we don't look at Jonah as an example. The man with complete certainty in his calling... took off in the opposite direction of his calling on the first ship he could find. Jonah might have swapped a little uncertainty in his calling for the fear that sent him west and nearly sank the vessel he sailed on. We know from our Bible studies that God sent first an unusually tenacious storm, and then a big fish. Jonah may have taken off in the wrong direction, but God steered him back to the correct path. I also remember another verse or two on this uncertainty of ours: "Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths." Proverbs 3:5-6 NKJV The Lord will be our certainty in our calling. Trust in Him and take those steps.

Last night we also heard the example of John the Baptist. Today, we will hear that example one more time:

"You yourselves know how plainly I told you, 'I am not the Messiah.' I am only here to prepare the way for him." John 3:28

This is the first verse of the very example our video minister used last night. Now is the Holy Spirit still working in us or what? John the Baptist had certainty in his calling. He knew from the start of his life that he was not the Messiah, but that he would be the herald proclaiming the arrival of the Messiah. That is quite an honor. John the Baptist also lost his head for his calling. Our calling may not seem quite so illustrious as John's was, but we may also get to live a long life without such things as beheading and jail time. We don't know where our calling will take us in this life, but we do know where following Jesus will lead... to Heaven!

We may crave certainty in our calling, but God calls us to step out in faith. Thomas craved certainty of Jesus' resurrection. He received the certainty he sought, but Jesus told him that blessed are those who have not seen, and still believe. We have an opportunity to be blessed in our calling by not seeing with certainty, but believing with our whole heart in God. Trust in Him!


Thursday, September 23, 2010

Warned, yet Surprised - September 23, 2010

Good Thursday morning and welcome to the first day of Autumn! Our equinox does seem to occur on Saturday night, but someone chooses the day for the entire country and this is it. We had quite the little rainstorm yesterday afternoon; it brought back memories of our storms earlier in the year. Do we know when a storm is coming? Not everyone does. I have this thought that occurs to me at times where I theorize that all the rushing about we see today is a part of the realization deep within us that the tribulation time is at hand. However, yesterday I was reminded that even with that deep down knowledge of the tribulation, the storm will catch us by surprise. I watched yesterday as the builder who had worked outside in the weather all day long at my neighbor's house was caught completely by surprise and thoroughly drenched in the storm. He could see the clouds and feel the air, but did he take steps to protect himself and his tools? Not until the torrent came down. The world will be like that when the rapture and tribulation come.

How do we know that the return of Jesus is close? John the Baptist has an answer for that today.

John replied, "No one can receive anything unless God gives it from heaven." John 3:27

In the world, we often speak of how we have earned things. John seems to have a different opinion. In truth, we come to realize that our ability to work to earn a living is God-given. Our ability to eat to feed ourselves is God-given, and even our very life is God-given. Finally, we have read previously in this chapter that our eternal life is also God-given through the Son. Praise God the Father for all that we have been given! John is of course answering the question of his disciples from yesterday's verse as well. The disciples of Jesus were baptizing because they had been given that authority from heaven. Jesus came down from heaven; you could say that he was given to us from heaven. I'm not making that up! Look in Isaiah 9:6, "For a child is born to us, a son is given to us." In order for us to receive the Son as a price for our salvation, we must first be given the Son. Isaiah recorded the prophecy and Jesus fulfilled it and died for it. We have been given the greatest of gifts, but we must also accept this gift.

We received the first installment in about nine months of gifts last night as our men's Bible study opened for the new season. We will accept the gift of 2 Peter once again as we study it closely for some weeks. Even in our daily Bible reading we need to pause now and then to thank God for the gift of His Word. Thank you, Lord, for the gifts you have given us this day.


Wednesday, September 22, 2010

A Little Complaint - September 22, 2010

Good foggy Wednesday morning! I have noticed in my photographic journeys that weather makes the sky interesting. A blue sky is great for many things, but in a photo it's kind of, "so what?" On the other hand, our big sky holds a lot of weather, and that makes for interesting photography. The conditions I like to whine about, are often the best for learning my new trade. Don't worry about the clear days though, the light is good for travel and for taking photos of stuff on the ground. I hear work starting up already for someone 'oer yonder. The noise of a saw resounds across the morning quiet.

This morning, what was that debate about anyway? Ceremonial washing?

So John's disciples came to him and said, "Rabbi, the man you met on the other side of the Jordan River, the one you identified as the Messiah, is also baptizing people. And everybody is going to him instead of coming to us." John 3:26

See that! People in the Bible are allowed to whine too. Of course, you knew that already. David pours out his heart in the Psalms, Moses once complained to the Lord, "What am I to do with these people!", and even the disciples will ask, "Who then can be saved?" Complaining is a part of our fallen condition. God is more than capable of fielding our complaints and responding to them. Here we read how John the Baptist's disciples come running to him with a complaint. The important thing will be John's response, but we don't have that yet. How many times in your life have you been made to wait on the Lord's response? Quite often I imagine, the Lord often teaches us patience by having us wait for the answer. Many times the thing we are complaining about will work itself out in time. Even in our complaints though, we can give a message of hope.

Take apart this complaint. John still had disciples following him, even after pointing out the Messiah. These disciples remember the one John pointed out as the Messiah, but apparently didn't believe in either Jesus or the words of the man they were following. The disciples complained that everybody was going to Jesus. I think we know what John's answer will be, but his disciples didn't want to believe in the Messiah it would seem. Even in their whining though, the message is still there: The Messiah is here and he is baptizing people! Praise God that even in complaining we might give someone a reason to hope.

When Jesus returns, I hope that everyone will stop reading anything that I write, listening to anything their ministers have to say, and turns their eyes from the evangelists on television to look at, listen to, and celebrate the risen Son of God. We also know that when Jesus returns, we won't have to wonder if it is really him or not. The disciples of John the Baptist did have some reason for doubt given their expectations of the Messiah, but we will have no reason to doubt at the second coming of Christ.

Have a wonderful Wednesday in Christ!


Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The Baggage Debate - September 21, 2010

Good Tuesday morning! Cooler today, but warmer tomorrow, then cooler again on Thursday, and then... The weather is unsettled these days, but then isn't it always? Some days we wake up and feel that somehow we are more persecuted in some way than some other person or location, but with food to eat, water to drink, and clothing to put on, are we so badly off today? Not at all. We have much more than that too, and much to be thankful for. In many times and nations there has been time for at least a few to debate issues that might seem to be minor to those of us who are far away in distance or time. Today we have one such debate in our verse.

A debate broke out between John's disciples and a certain Jew (or some Jews) over ceremonial cleansing. John 3:25

To us, this debate seems a much ado about nothing, but in the time of Jesus ceremonial cleansing was very important to those living under the Law of Moses. We read today about yet one more demand of the Law. We have run into this ceremonial cleansing before in our verses in John - the wedding at Cana in chapter 2. In that case, we read about the six large containers used for ceremonial washing. I wonder if those containers were still ceremonially 'clean' to the Jewish priests and teachers of the Law after Jesus changed the water into wine? To those who believe in Jesus that would have been a wonderful sign of God's favor, but to those stuck mired in the Law there may have been offense taken at such a thing. We don't know what happened after Jesus left the wedding. What we do know is our own tendency to bring baggage into a disagreement.

Last night, or more properly, this morning, I dreamed of a conversation in which some woman stated a figure and that "Bucky" had made some portion of this dollar figure. In my dream I reacted defensively, even though her statement was only a statement. I won't belabor you with the entire dream, but I thought this morning of how we bring our emotional, physical, or other baggage from the past into conversations and may cause an argument where none existed. As we read further into the debate over ceremonial washing, one set of baggage is sure to be drug into the room - that of the Law. Paul made an impassioned effort in Romans to remind us that we no longer live under the Law. Jews, Gentiles, and anyone else who lives can be free of the Law by believing in the grace of Christ Jesus. However, we often drag out that baggage of the Law and subject ourselves to it all over again.

The interesting thing is that we don't drag out all the parts of the Law that involve stoning or putting to death. It seems that we only want to be free of some of the Law. We cook on the Sabbath, we clean on the Sabbath, and we will go to the grocery store on the Sabbath as we need, no problems with freedom there, but when was the last time your town stoned an adulterer to death? Probably never. But if we are to be subject to the Law, we must be subject to all of it. How much better is it to be free of the burden of the Law and to live in Christ? For one thing, we don't have to stone anyone. With all the thoughts of lust in the world today there would be stones flying everywhere. Let's put aside the burden of the Law and live in Grace!

Have a wonderful day in the love of our great and awesome God!


Monday, September 20, 2010

Parenthetically Reading - September 20, 2010

Good Monday morning! 48° this morning, predicted high of 98° this afternoon... that's quite a swing in temperature for one day. I'm kinda hoping that the hot days of late summer, and it is very late summer, are over soon. I guess that I'll get my wish one way or another. If the hot days occur on the other side of this Thursday, I'll have to whine about the hot days of early autumn. Okay, so the world is once again not completely to my satisfaction, but it certainly could be worse. Today, we read a parenthetical verse, or one in parentheses.

(This was before John [the Baptist] was thrown into prison) John 3:24

Yesterday we read that John the Baptist was doing the thing for which he earned the nickname, the Baptist, at a place where there was plenty of water. Today, we learn something that John surely didn't like - he would be thrown into prison. Now at first read you might think this little addition might be unnecessary in the Bible, but as usual we would be wrong in that. John the disciple gives us a detail that might be important in later years. We will later learn that John the Baptist doesn't make it out of prison alive. The Roman jailers or the Jewish leaders did not allow John to baptize while he was in prison, another important detail. In Acts, we meet the Apostle Paul, who does get imprisoned more than once and is allowed to write his great letters while in prison. Details can be important. We also know from John the writer's perspective that this account is written after these events happened. Only in fiction writing can we set events in the future and write about them in the past tense. John was a witness to these things, this is not a prophecy for that Baptist fellow, another important detail. John is telling us, "I remember..."

I find it interesting that even though John the writer is thought to have possibly been one of John the Baptist's disciples, he doesn't go into a lot of personal detail about John the Baptist. John the writer might have been writing about a distant stranger whom he happened to meet in the wilderness. On the other hand, John writes extensively and quite personally about Jesus. Perhaps John the Baptist was so much into his mission that he didn't have any close associates. We don't know for sure, but I sure want to meet John the Baptist one day.

Have a wonderful new week!


Saturday, September 18, 2010

He's Back! - September 18, 2010

Good Saturday morning! Okay, many folks are out of town this morning, but we will soldier on with the devotional just the same. I woke up to clouds, cool temps, and a drizzle this morning. The airport thing I mentioned yesterday might be delayed a bit... too bad I got up early for it. Someone set up a tent full of little girls across the street. Oh, the screeching that went on last night. I think they were worn out and quiet by 2100 though, which is better for us older folks. Of course, most of the population is older than the little girls across the street. A sleep-over party in a tent outside usually loses its popularity with girls around the age of 13, or maybe it's just the parents who lose their taste for teenage outside adventures at about that age in their children.

Today: He's back! It's our old friend John the Baptist from back in the first chapter.

At this time John the Baptist was baptizing at Aenon, near Salim, because there was plenty of water there; and people kept coming to him for baptism. John 3:23

What is remarkable about this verse is that either the country was in the dry part of the year, or it was in another drought. Whatever the case, apparently John the Baptist had moved his ministry to find water. We don't know where these places are today, but the two places give us a historical reference to use. My Bible footnotes don't have anything on Aenon or Salim, and in a way I'm kind of glad as it's still dark out and I haven't yet learned to turn the lights on for my devotional. Give it month or so and I will have to use lights again to type in the morning.

The other interesting thing John mentions about John the Baptist is that people kept coming to him. Why is this so remarkable? Jesus was there! Why would you go to the messenger when the King had arrived? We know from our verses thus far that belief in Jesus had not yet taken root in many hearts, but many would still go to John for a baptism it seems. I am reminded of a testimony we read last week. Getting baptized is fairly easy even for an unbeliever. We know that the ceremony is supposed to be a public declaration of salvation, but in many cases the baptism is simply performed without qualification. For an unbeliever a baptism may mean no more than a quick bath at an unusual location. John the Baptist should have been done baptizing by this time as people went instead to Jesus. I think this is what prompted John the disciple's comment here. A sort of wondering comment on why people would still be seeking out John the Baptist when the Son of God was among them, and as we read yesterday, performing baptisms as well.

Saturday is upon us; use the day for God's glory!


Friday, September 17, 2010

A Little Time in the Countryside - September 17, 2010

Good Friday morning! Another lesson taught last night, and another example of the Holy Spirit using me for God's glory. Tomorrow is some sort of airplane thing at our local aero-port. Apparently the pilots of airplanes fly-in to our airport and then everyone celebrates with breakfast. I'm not sure that I get the challenge. Wouldn't flying-in to something like a box canyon be more of a challenge and worthy of celebration? I mean, aren't you supposed to fly in and out of airports? It's Friday and I like to ask silly questions on Fridays! I think I'll go up there to take some of them photographical thingies. I can make my profession sound silly too!

Today, we have another in the great verses of John's gospel.

Then Jesus and his disciples left Jerusalem and went into the Judean countryside. Jesus spent some time with them there, baptizing people. John 3:22

Notice that nothing more is said of poor Nicodemus here. It's possible that Nico was left standing there stunned by what he had heard from Jesus. What I take from the ending of the conversation is that Nicodemus probably didn't decide to believe right away. Jesus gave the man a lot to think about, but he may not have forsaken his allegiance to the law at that time. We all want to earn our salvation and Jesus had just told Nicodemus the good news that we can't earn it. While Nicodemus pondered; Jesus and his disciples got underway and spent some time in the countryside. I spend a lot of time there these days, and that seems like a right good idea to me. Jesus didn't always seek out the crowds - of course, we know the crowds often found him anyway. Jerusalem was left to its own ways and devices for a while, and Jesus kept on working.

How much would some time with Jesus be worth to a small group of disciples today? We don't even have to have a large group; Jesus told us that where two or three are gathered in his name, he is there among them. We see a lot of charges for time. Lawyers, psychologists, consultants, and many others charge by the hour for their services. Many workers are paid by the hour by employers. So if we take the highest amount charged by the most highly paid, oh poo, take the hourly equivalent of one of those mega-millions athletic or CEO contracts and put that up against an hour of Jesus' time, what would the difference be? Right, Jesus never charged a dime! But the time the disciples spent with him was also beyond price.

The largest fee ever spent for lunch with Warren Buffett, the highest rate ever charged by a superstar lawyer to celebrity client, and the millions paid to a CEO to leave and do no work at all, could be added together and it wouldn't be enough to buy an hour of Jesus' time. His time wasn't for sale! I like the picture of Jesus and his disciples leaving the city for a quiet time out in the country. To me it's a shame that some of our cities are so large now that it takes a vacation for some folks just to leave the city. We need our quiet time and Jesus set the example for us. Even from his small group of disciples Jesus took time to be alone with God. With the needs of many so great in the city, Jesus also took time for the countryside.

Have a great day in Christ!


Thursday, September 16, 2010

The Right Stuff? - September 16, 2010

Good Thursday morning! A busy day ahead for me and loads of fun for all of us... well, maybe not loads of fun. We can try all the positive this or possibility that we want in our minds, but some days just have to be endured. I don't expect one of those days, but I cannot tell what may or may not happen in the next 12 hours or so. However, I do want my light to shine this morning and throughout the day. Why does that happen to us as Christians? Why don't we want to hide in the darkness? Let's look for the answer in today's verse.

"But those who do what is right come to the light so others can see that they are doing what God wants." John 3:21

Does it feel like you and I are doing what God wants all the time? Probably not, Jesus didn't say that only those who are perfect come into the light. Those who do what is right are those who believe in Jesus! Are we perfect then? Not in this earthly life we won't be; the sinful nature has not been put away from us yet. When Jesus sends the Holy Spirit into our lives, we want to do what is right and come where others like us are gathered. Not one of us is the ideal Christian that we are compared to and expected to be by the world. Of course, the world is in darkness and thus has no idea of what a Christian should be in any case. If you read God's Word with a cold intellectual eye, you will miss the Jesus whom those who believe have come to love.

What does God want us to do? We know that He wants us to obey His commands, but first all we have to do is backup a few verses to find the first thing God wants: He wants us to believe in Jesus, His one and only Son!

Have a wonderful Thursday!


Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Lovers of the Darkness - September 15, 2010

Good Wednesday morning! I see a weather forecast for Friday to Sunday that goes like this: Fri - high 90°; Sat - high 66°; Sun - high 87°. Is that messed up or just the approach of autumn around these parts? Actually, the forecast for four or five days out is not all that reliable. The weekend prediction may change later today. Still, to have three days like that at this time of the year doesn't surprise me much. I guess it's time to have breakfast and get going, the carpenters next door are already banging away on their project for my neighbor.

All who do evil hate the light and refuse to go near it for fear their sins will be exposed. John 3:20

Now there in a simple statement is the only hard part about getting saved. We must repent of our sins and approach the light. Pride tells us a lie: You are basically good and can save yourself. Jesus tells us through His Word, the Bible, that all have sinned and must be saved by Him alone. I won't tell anyone that having your sin exposed before Jesus is easy, but that is what happens when we approach our Lord and repent. Here is the funny thing - we fear that exposure, but God already knows all of our sins! Once you come to believe in Jesus, you realize this and wonder: "Why did I fear the light?" For those who have yet to repent though, that step into the light is one of the most difficult decisions in their lives. But like the riddle that seems so obvious when you are told the answer, we wonder at our past selves in the light of Christ. Be patient with those struggling to step into the light; we may have forgotten just how difficult it was to take that step.

When we think of sinful activities even the physical darkness of no sunlight is something we think about. Adultery takes place in the dark corner of the mind and then in the dark hotel room. The drunken revelry is called the nightlife. Striptease joints have darkened lighting and open at night. Nude scenes and pornography is filmed on closed sets. Political underhanded dealing is described as under the table or back room politics. And of course when any of these are published by the media it's called exposed. Sin hates exposure to the light of Jesus and the light of day. The shady deal doesn't scare the crooked politician, but exposure to the public does.

Even in our new life in Christ we fear the exposure of those deep, dark corners where sin lurks in our hearts and minds. Open your heart to the Holy Spirit and let the light of Jesus come into every corner of your life.


Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The Fall is Coming! - September 14, 2010

Good Tuesday morning! Hot afternoons, chilly mornings, yep, September is here. Football season is well underway and the Broncos have already lost their first game. Nebraska has been thumping non-football schools to get ready for the real games, but our local Sidney team has been treated like a non-football school by its opponents. Yes, it may not be official on the calendar, but autumn is here. All we lack is that first morning when many yards are covered in ice from the sprinklers freezing in the crisp autumn air.

"And the judgment is based on this fact: God's light came into the world, but people loved the darkness more than the light, for their actions were evil." John 3:19

When Jesus told every man to count the cost of following him, do you suppose he was being just a bit sarcastic? Perhaps not, but we see this cost accounting all the time. We tell someone the Good News, but he or she does not want to give up going to this place or that gathering. An alcoholic says that she likes drinking and can quit anytime she wants to; a sexual addict will quit tomorrow, but he never does, and of course, the always sad and amusing, "I just want to be free to choose!" Those who love the darkness are not free, but in fact are enslaved to sin. We only know this from the fact that Jesus set us free by our repentance and the laying down of his life for us. Everything seems upside down: The darkness isn't a freedom to choose, but is slavery; the light is not an enslavement, but is the only way to be free of sin. Those living in darkness fear being shut up in a monastery or convent, but being shut in somewhere is the last thing Christ wants for us. Freedom to choose this or that sin is a lie, as each sin further binds the sinner to a world headed for destruction. True freedom is the ability to choose not to sin, and to give glory to God the Father. Anyone may choose not to sin to avoid punishment, but true freedom is in choosing not to sin because you are already forgiven and no longer want to sin.

If the laws and the punishments spelled out in those laws were suddenly suspended for a time, we would expect a deluge of crime reports in the news. Bank robberies, personal assaults, murders, and many other crimes would be committed by those only held back by the threat of punishment. Yet somehow we still hear the argument that people are basically good. People will only be good when a change is wrought on the inside of those supposedly good people and laws are no longer necessary. God calls this giving them a heart of flesh in one of the prophecies in the Bible. Until that time, we will see the actions that are evil continue to appear in news reports and in person wherever we may fare in our journey with Jesus. Isaiah told us: Those living in darkness have seen a great light. What he didn't know was how many would choose the light and how many would refuse it. We still have some light to shine before the end comes, perhaps many will yet choose the light and allow Jesus to throw off those chains of darkness!

Have a wonderful day in Christ!


Monday, September 13, 2010

No Judgment for 'dem Whosoevers! - September 13, 2010

Good Monday morning! It's once again Garfield's favorite day, Monday the 13th. If you have a problem with superstition, specifically the number 13, and you have a problem with your job or workplace, Monday the 13th is certainly a day to dread. However, we are not worried about those things here. Monday is a day of new opportunity and possibility. The mail comes again after a day off, businesses open up once more after the weekend, and the kids get to go back to school! Glad I don't have to do that last one there...

Today, more from that great 3rd chapter of John. This verse has that age old criticism on the Christian faith - it's too exclusive!

"There is no judgment against anyone who believes in [the Son]. But anyone who does not believe in him has already been judged for not believing in God's one and only Son." John 3:18

This verse is seen as not nice for those who do not believe in Jesus. However, this verse should be just as famous as what Jesus said in John 3:16! Not only do we have eternal life for believing in Jesus, but we also face no judgment! The other part of the verse is what bothers the unbelievers - if you don't believe then you are already condemned. Okay, let's make an analogy here. If a person has an incurable condition that has been known to be 100% fatal within the next few years, then that person is considered terminally ill. If that person decides not believe the doctors the condition has not changed, only the person's belief is affected. When the terminally ill person uh, forgive the pun, terminates, then we see that the person had already been judged, no matter what he decided to believe. Jesus came to earth and told us that the Law has already condemned us for being born of Adam's line. We can choose to believe his diagnosis and accept his cure - which is believing in Him - or we can choose to ignore the condition and die eternally.

Of course, there will be those who call that unfair. They think that we should be able to ignore the condition and still have eternal life in Heaven. Ain't gonna happen! We have the terminal illness, original sin, from Adam's rebellion against God. If God's standard is perfect, then none of Adam's children can be saved by keeping the Law for we are all born in violation of that law. This is not an exclusion, it's simply a fact that we have this terminal condition. What is the cure? Believe in Jesus. How unfair is that? Jesus paid the price for our sin, and all we have to do is believe that he paid our tab. We should have to climb 6 fourteen-ers (mountains taller than 14,000ft), tunnel under an ocean, do a tap dance in an active volcano, and get the secret of quiet contemplation from an old squid under the polar ice cap to be saved (How's that for exclusiveness!). Instead, we believe in Jesus, and no one is excluded from doing this, and we gain the grace that comes from Christ alone. Yup, sounds pretty unfair to me! I accept grace and I urge all those who still do not believe in Jesus to do the same. Repent of your sin, trust in Jesus to forgive you, and accept the grace that is available to all of us whosoevers. We know eternal life is available from John 3:16; now we know that the price has been paid from John 3:18, no judgment! Accept that grace today.


Saturday, September 11, 2010

No Judging! - September 11, 2010

Good Saturday morning! Take a moment this morning to remember 9/11 and feel free to fly your flag today. I just paused for a few minutes to put my flags out (and get another cup of coffee). I met a batch of 5 kittens last night at the farm. Man, are they ever some tempting little blobs of fur too! Two cats live here already, and some days that is one too many. I'll just have to be content with visitation rights. I think I got stiffed on one of my Claritan pills; the maddening urge to sneeze is back this morning. I hope that my allergies haven't made an adjustment to the new medication already.

God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him. John 3:17

Jesus didn't come to judge us! The Pharisees seemed to feel some kind of judgment from him during their little talks with Jesus. Have you ever felt that everything someone said was a critique of your performance? We call that the corporate world, but it happens in other parts of the planet too. However, the arrival of the Son in Bethlehem was not God's disapproval of the world. No doubt there were many acts of sin going on that God did disapprove of at that time, just as we can see all around us (and in us) right now. Jesus came as Savior, not as judge. We do know that one day he will judge, but that was not his mission that first time. The people needed a savior then, and we need that same Savior now.

If the Gospel of John ended right here, we would have the message we needed to hear. God loved the world, and he sent the Son to save it. However, John has so much more for us. Nicodemus has much to think about and Jesus has not completed his mission. If John had jumped straight to the trial of Jesus from here, we would have a powerful message to read. Even if John had quickly summarized the remainder of Jesus' earthly life, we would have much to think about. But John writes of much more including, more miracles of Jesus, more teaching, and more questions from the disciples. Do you mean the disciples didn't get saved from hearing these last few verses? Apparently not, as we will read in John. Jesus would repeat the same message in different words, tell the disciples plainly of his death on the cross, and finally die and rise again, before the message he brought would transform the disciples. In the times when you feel a little slow and stubborn in taking in the Word of God, remember what it took to change the lives of those who walked with Jesus for more than 3 years.

Have a respectful 9/11 in Christ!


Friday, September 10, 2010

This is It! - September 10, 2010

Good Friday morning! The big day has come and gone... and it wasn't so bad after all. That's good, 'cuz I get to do it again next week! I'm speaking of teaching our life group on Thursday evening. The last time I taught a church class was in the age of disco dancing, long hair, Star Wars, and Archie Bunker. That's a long time ago, except for the hair which has made a comeback in the schools around here. Today we have made it to John 3:16. There is probably no more well known verse in the Bible than this one even among those who do not believe in Christ. In this verse, Jesus spells out why he had to be lifted up on the cross, and once more what that price will provide to us, and even better, what we have to do to get it!

"For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life." John 3:16 NLT

We have been using the New Living Translation, but the New King James is closer to the one we remember from our youth.

"For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life."

The reason Jesus gave his life is the love of God for the world. God loved his creation so much that he was willing to pay the ultimate price. He came down from Heaven as we learned in verse 13; he would be lifted up on the cross in verse 14, and we must believe in verse 15. The part we play in gaining everlasting life is stated again in this verse to make sure we get it - whoever believes in him. As we like to say around the church, "I'm a whoever!" This verse speaks in the face of the claim that Christ is exclusive: Believe in Jesus and you have, not will have, but have eternal or everlasting life. Now since the Bible separates Sheol, what we call Hades or Hell, as the place of the dead, Jesus is not speaking of eternity in Hell when he speaks of everlasting life. So is that all? We simply believe in Jesus and we're in Heaven forever? Last night we had some trouble with "believe in". This I think comes from that changing, growing, messy language we grew up with called English.

In many languages, the word for believing in Jesus is quite different from the one for believing there was a Jesus, or believing there is a God. What we mean by believing in Jesus, as John 3:16 speaks, is the trusting in Jesus to save us through our faith in him. Some use "believe in Jesus" at times to describe the knowledge the demons have of God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ. We know from the Bible that Lucifer and his angels rebelled against God at some point, we can't put a date on it, and have become Satan and the demons who follow him. This group is in complete opposition to God. We know for example that the Serpent in the Garden of Eden was Satan, so the rebellion happened before human history began or at least near the start. It is possible that the love God had for his new creation, Adam, was what caused the rebellion to be acted out, the final straw if you will, but that is beyond my knowledge. We do know from the Bible that the sin of pride was the actual reason for the rebellion in Heaven. The demons and the devil know whom they rebelled against and who they remain in opposition to; there are no atheists among the demons.

Which is kind of odd when you think about how many people decide to believe there is no God at all! Perhaps my sense of humor is what is odd, but I kind of think that it's funny that all the demons know there is a God and Heaven, but people use their God-given privilege of choice to choose not to believe at all. This is not a refusal to believe in Jesus and be saved, but a choice to ignore the knowledge of God that is in all hearts. Did you hear the latest thing from Stephen Hawking? "God is not required to create the universe..." is his latest statement. What is required? Apparently matter and gravity. Of course, we might ask who created matter and gravity, but if you don't want to believe in Jesus, you can always choose to ignore him and what he created with God. So, from the super-intelligent to the downright stupid, anyone can choose to believe there is a God, or choose to believe there is no God. But according to our verse for today, if you don't want to perish, you must believe in the only begotten Son of God. Many people think that is the exclusive part of Christianity, if you don't believe you are condemned to Hell. Jesus will explain that to Nicodemus in later verses. For now, we need to remember that it is not an exclusion, it is a choice. We would think someone off his rocker if he said, "I want all the benefits of being a BigMegaCorp employee, but I'll never choose to work for them!" Does that make BigMegaCorp exclusive and judgmental? We wouldn't think so, but for some reason people want to think of Christ as that way.

When we believe in Jesus, it isn't the knowledge of who The Son of God is or where he came from that saves us for eternity, but that we decide to believe in the sacrifice of Jesus and his resurrection. So does anyone who believes in Jesus have eternal life? Yes, but the better word is just what we read this morning, everyone who believes in Jesus in saved. If we go all the way back to the King James version of the Bible, we get my favorite of the group descriptions, "whosoever believeth in Him..." I am most definitely a whosoever. For those who do not yet believe in Christ, we may want to make sure we separate the "believe there is" from the "believe in" in our witness.

I am sooo late today, but this verse is one of the most important in the whole Bible. And don't 'cha just love this one?


Thursday, September 09, 2010

Lifted up on a Pole - September 9, 2010

Good Thursday morning! I could use a bit more walking today, but the overcast skies cancelled the photography and the threat of rain left me worried about my house and its open windows. The wind is already blowing too, not sure if it will ever stop after the past few days.

Verse 15 goes with verse 14, so I'll repeat yesterday's verse. "And as Moses lifted up the bronze snake on a pole in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in him will have eternal life." John 3:15

"So that everyone who believes in him will have eternal life." That sounds a lot like the next verse, which we will get to tomorrow, with its promise of eternal life. Believing in Jesus to gain eternal life sounds just too easy, but this verse reminds us that a price is to be paid. We don't have Nicodemus' knowledge of the current times in Judea. The times included the occupation of the land by the Romans, rebellions both small and large, and the many crucifixions carried out by the Roman authorities. When Jesus told of being lifted up, that may have triggered an immediate recognition in those listening of a crucifixion. "Lifted up on a pole" might have been in the vernacular of the day, just as we have sayings about lethal injection or death in the electric chair. Jesus has already revealed to Nicodemus and his disciples that the Son of Man will pay the price so that anyone who believes will have eternal life.

Jesus tells us in verses 14 and 15 what must occur for us to have eternal life. The question that may have occurred to Nicodemus was: Why? Or he may have been stuck on wondering how one man dying on a cross would help anyone achieve eternal life. The old system, the Law, involved numerous sacrifices and a rigid code of "Thou shalt not's", plus the festival observances and ceremonies. Jesus told them that the Son of Man would die on a cross and everyone who believes gets eternal life. It's no wonder that Nicodemus took some time to digest this change. The world has trouble accepting the new covenant even to this day. We want to earn our salvation. Jesus says in these verses that He is the price of salvation. Tomorrow, we'll read why Jesus is paying that price.

Have another Thursday in Christ, and spread the good news!


Wednesday, September 08, 2010

That Dratted Snake! - September 8, 2010

Good Wednesday morning! Hmm, about 30° warmer this morning; will it be autumn or summer today? Technically it's still summer, but the weather seems unable to make up its mind right now. The wind has been a bit too much lately, but whine, moan, complain... cry, snivel, sob, that's me and my weather. We just don't see eye to eye on the way days should be most of the time! The world and Jesus didn't see eye to eye on many things. The problems started back quite a few years as today Jesus references an event from Jewish history.

"And as Moses lifted up the bronze snake on a pole in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up..." John 3:14

The event Jesus is speaking of occurred in Numbers 21. The Israelites had just completed a victory over the Canaanites, but had to go around the land of Edom; a lengthy journey in the wilderness. God still provided them with manna to eat, a far better sustenance than they would have been able to find in the Sinai wasteland. However, we know from our Old Testament reading that the Israelites liked to complain, and about more than just the weather.

But the people grew impatient with the long journey, and they began to speak against God and Moses. "Why have you brought us out of Egypt to die here in the wilderness?" they complained. "There is nothing to eat here and nothing to drink. And we hate this horrible manna!" Numbers 21:4b-5

Wow, by all accounts manna was both very nutritious and tasty, yet they complained in a land where the chances of finding food were pretty slim. Then we read how they complained of having nothing to eat and hating what God had sent for them to eat! The story continues that God was a bit angry over this; after all what cook wants to hear nothing but complaining over the meal he or she has prepared? God sent poisonous snakes to punish the complainers and many of them died. The remaining people admitted their sin and repented of it, asking Moses to pray for the removal of the snakes. Moses did, and was instructed to make a replica and hoist it on a pole. The people had to simply look at the snake and they would live. Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man...

At the moment, with just this verse, we don't know that Jesus will die on that pole. Nicodemus would have known the whole story of the bronze snake. Would Jesus be lifted up and the people saved simply by looking at him? Think of the parallels in the stories: The people were envenomed, bitten by the serpents in Moses' time. The people were bitten by the Serpent in Eden, and carried the venom of sin within them. By looking at the bronze snake on a pole, the people would have their physical lives spared. Nicodemus might have leaped to the conclusion that Jesus would be lifted up as king soon and the nation of Israel would be saved. Forget for a moment what you know of the verses following this one, those Nicodemus has not yet heard spoken. His heart and the hearts of the disciples listening there might have jumped with the news that Jesus would soon be lifted up. The King is here; Israel is saved!

We know that wasn't Jesus' mission at this time. Try as we might to forget it, the message of John 15-17 tells of a far greater mission. The gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John all tell of how Jesus was not lifted up as an earthly king to conquer earthly armies, but was lifted up on the cross to die for our sins. However, the stories do bear further similarities. Moses eventually had to break the bronze snake because the Israelites started worshipping the dratted snake replica! In the same way, many still worship things like the Shroud of Turin, the Holy Grail, and the so-called Spear of Destiny. There is a tendency in our sin nature to look for a physical object as a talisman, something of magical power that heals or strengthens us in battle. We know better through the Holy Spirit, but that tendency is still there within us. God broke Jesus on the cross to pay for the wrongs we have all done and the sin that we are born with. Moses took out his anger on the bronze snake; God took out his anger on Jesus. Unlike the dratted bronze snake, Jesus rose again both whole and glorified. What did his death and resurrection accomplish? The next three verses will tell us in wonderful and immortal words!

As is often the case with the statements of Jesus: this one is a prophecy, a warning against idolatry, and a historical reference, all in one little verse. As it ends in a comma, the statement has even more for us in the next verse. Stay tuned, it just gets better!

Have a great Wednesday!

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Going and Returning - September 7, 2010

Good Tuesday morning! Back to school for the kids and back to work for most of us. We go to work and return; or we go to the grocery store and return; but we leave with the assumption that we will return to our houses at some point. What if you had the option of going to Heaven and returning? I don't think we would be able to return once we arrived at the pearly gates, and if someone made us go back it would be not quite the worst news we could get, but it certainly wouldn't be great. Today, the Bible verse tells us that going to Heaven and returning is not an option for any of us, and then it says a little more too.

"No one has ever gone to Heaven and returned. But the Son of Man has come down from Heaven." John 3:13

Jesus tells us that even among the great names of the past, Isaiah, Ezekiel, Elijah, and Moses, none of them have gone to Heaven and returned. However, we did have a visitor who came down from Heaven once. Jesus often referred to himself as the Son of Man. We have here a visitor from another place that isn't of this universe! All that looking at the skies and searching the stars and many have missed the extra-terrestrial visitor. Of course, few even then believed that; today doubt is rampant in the world. Many of us don't believe that any other peoples exist in the heavens, much less Heaven. What do we have to do to believe the Jesus came down from Heaven? Choose to believe in Him!

Once we choose to believe in Jesus, then statements such as, "The Son of Man has come down from Heaven." don't surprise us and in fact seem perfectly suited to our Lord. This verse is another of those that are filled with wonder and the glory of God, but we read through it because of the verses following. Think about it for a bit, the Son of Man has come down from Heaven. Why would anyone do that for us? Why would anyone do that at all? There must be something worth the price of coming down from Heaven, and there must be some great purpose for Jesus to do so. It's coming! Verses 14, 15, 16, and 17 will arrive this week. The Good News of Jesus Christ!

Have a great week, and sorry that the holiday weekend is over.


Monday, September 06, 2010

Start With the Earthly Things - September 6, 2010

Good Labor Day morning! The wind has come up and the next cold front is on the way. I'm not sure what my sprinklers are watering this morning, but I am sure the driveway will not grow with a little watering. Hopefully some of the neighbor's sprinklers will pay back some of the water I've given away this morning. I guess I was just following Jesus' commandment to love my neighbor before I even got up this morning. I wonder if today's Bible verse has anything for us on loving our neighbors?

"But if you don't believe me when I tell you about earthly things, how can you possibly believe if I tell you about heavenly things?" John 2:12

Jesus gives Nicodemus a question to consider. We have the same question to consider in our own lives. How will we believe what Jesus says about Heaven, if we don't already believe in what He has said about earthly things? I also take from this verse that the birth by the Spirit takes place here on Earth. Do we believe in what Jesus is saying?

On my computer screen, in another browser window, a spokesperson is selling something in an ad. Her whole face and body, with perfect tan and studio makeup, is saying, "Believe me! Believe me!" Jesus didn't come in the guise of an attractive model selling something that is hard to believe. Jesus came as a humble man of no special physical attractiveness. Yet his words are life. We find it easy to believe too many advertisements with their attractive models and pitches, but how are we doing at believing everything Jesus said?

From today's verse, I also see that we must obey what Jesus said about our earthly life before his statements about Heaven will start to mean something to me. I need to love my neighbor. I need to love God with all of my heart, soul, mind, and strength. I need to give to the poor, to pay my taxes, and several other earthly things in order to receive into my heart what Jesus has taught me about Heaven. I will need some help with this; praise God for His Holy Spirit! We all need to learn the earthly things Jesus told us about so that we can have the heavenly things in our heart.

Have a great Labor Day in Christ!


Saturday, September 04, 2010

The Testimony of the Witness - September 4, 2010

Good Saturday morning! Yeehaw, still in the 40's this morning; autumn is coming in at last. Of course, this only means that we will need our heaters in the morning and a/c in the afternoon. Got some great photos last night...which reminds me, where is my camera? Still out in the kitchen. I remembered the coffee, but forgot the important thing... or is that the less important thing. Coffee is so much better on a cool morning than a warm, humid morning. Praise God for the wonderful taste of coffee. It's hard to believe that I couldn't stand the stuff once upon a time. You won't believe this, but I just fetched another coffee and forgot you-know-what. Must be the cat's fault; surely I'm not coming of Plugger age just yet. Back in a sec, I really must upload the photos before the card is full.

John 3:11 "I assure you, we tell you what we know and have seen, and yet you won't believe our testimony."

Whoa, Jesus changes persons here! I have often wondered why my Bible study notes ignore this point. It seems very significant to me. For one thing, we know that Jesus never stuttered or misspoke. We don't even read an 'um' in his speech. I watched an interview with Mark Harmon yesterday and without pre-written lines, the great actor's speech is as 'um' ridden as the any of us. Jesus didn't have this problem, and I don't believe it is due to the writers editing his words. Just as Jesus never apologized, he also never misspoke. So why the change from "I assure you..." to "we tell you"? This must be significant. A book my mother gave me last weekend has an interesting statement about this section of Scripture.

He [Jesus] speaks with divine authority of the miracle of regeneration as well as of the inner mysteries of the Triune God. (Kretzmann, Paul, E. (1921) Popular commentary of the Bible Vol 1. Concordia:St Louis.)

I do like those old books! Jesus gives Nicodemus his own assurance as the Son of Man, and then testifies from the authority of the Triune God. With the use of "we" Jesus brings God the Father and the Holy Spirit as witnesses to his words. Unfortunately for Nicodemus, Jesus also gives his assurance that he won't be believed at this time. We take from this that Nicodemus listened to the Word, but did not receive it from this first interview with Jesus. While we take a moment to reflect on how sad that is, we can turn that to a moment of joy because Christ sent his word to the Gentiles as a result of this unbelief among his own people. We will also read about Nicodemus again around the time of Jesus' crucifixion, so don't give up on Nicodemus just yet.

Jesus brought the witness of the Trinity, and we praise God for his words of life for us. The witness is giving his testimony, next week we will read some of his wonderful words!

Have a great Labor Day weekend!


Friday, September 03, 2010

Rediscovered Treasure - September 3, 2010

Good Friday morning! Look at that! It's already 0809, and I'm only just beginning this! The temp is up to 47° though; what a cool morning we had today. That sunrise keeps getting later; soon I'll have to change from writing after I get back to writing the devotional before I leave for my morning walk. Come to think of it that evening sun thing keeps getting earlier too. It got dark on me last night as I was driving home from the countryside.

Jesus replied, "You are a respected Jewish teacher, and yet you don't understand these things?" John 3:10

The first part of Jesus' response sounds a lot like what Nicodemus started the conversation with. Jesus pointed out that Nicodemus didn't understand the Messiah even with all of his Old Testament knowledge. My Bible study notes tell us that knowledge is not salvation. We have heard this before as a warning against intellectual agreement with Jesus without believing in Him. Many find the Bible to be full of wisdom and spiritual insight, and it is, but they fail to believe in Jesus. Belief is more than simply agreeing that there was a man named Jesus who did a few miracles and taught radical ideas. Belief is when you know in your heart that Jesus dying on the cross paid the price for our sin and that his rising again allows us to have eternal life. Belief makes possible our acceptance of the verses that follow this one. Without belief, the great wisdom passed on to us by Jesus in John 11-21 might pass right on by our so very intellectual minds. Nicodemus is not the only person to come to Jesus full of scriptural knowledge and yet short on understanding. I have been in the same place, and I am sure that some of you could say the same. Jesus asked him, "...and yet you don't understand these things?"

Guilty! Many of us have been there. Someone asked us if we believed in Jesus, and we answered something like, "Yes, Jesus lived in the 1st Century and started the Christian religion." At that same time, if someone had asked us if good people would go to heaven, we would have agreed with that and perhaps even told of a few of our own good works that would gain us "positive credit" or some such thing in heaven. For all our knowledge, we were in that state of ignorance where we ignored such honest verses as, "For all have sinned and fallen short of God's glorious standard." (Romans), and "The heart is desperately wicked..." (Jeremiah), and others that point out that no one can save themselves with good works and that all of those good works are like filthy rags. Jesus might reply to one of us now, "You were raised in the church and went to Sunday School, Catechism, etc., and yet you don't understand these things?" Exactly! So many of our friends and neighbors are even as we were, lots of knowledge ABOUT Jesus, but no understanding OF Him. This is not easy to explain. Of course, we learned a couple of days ago that we can't explain the rebirth of the Spirit!

The good news about knowing the Bible intellectually from youth is that when a person comes to believe, reading the Bible again is like discovering a whole chest of buried treasure in a place you had already dug a hole and found a few coins.

Have a treasure-filled weekend in Christ and enjoy the Labor Day weekend!


Thursday, September 02, 2010

Ready to Ask - September 2, 2010

Christ is alive! Good morning to you on this fine, breezy Thursday morning! Some folks will be making the trek to Grand Island for the concert at the Nebraska state fair. Hope they have a great time enjoying the wonderful music of Casting Crowns! Does it feel cooler than it is this morning or what? I think the days of my morning walk in shirt sleeves will soon be gone for the year. After all those hot days this summer, I think I can live with that. So how is our friend Nicodemus doing today with those stunning statements of Jesus?

"How are these things possible?" Nicodemus asked. John 3:9

Nicodemus has gone from telling Jesus who he is in verse 2, to telling Jesus what he knows in verse 4, to humbly seeking in today's verse. Nicodemus is not trying to call into question any of Jesus' statements as he did with "how can an old man go back into the womb?" He is now at the point of "I don't know". I think that the more learned you are in the human knowledge and wisdom of this world, the harder it is to reach the point where you can admit that you don't know and Jesus can then begin to teach you. No more trying to tell Jesus that he is this or that, no longer questioning in a "I already know this..." sort of way, Nicodemus is baffled by what Jesus has said and is ready to learn. We have either reached that point and started to learn, or we still need to admit to Jesus that we don't know everything, and certainly not how to save ourselves. Who does know the answer to eternal life?

Nicodemus knows who holds the answers he seeks, but will he believe Jesus when he gives the answers? At the very least, we can read today that Nicodemus is ready to ask. How is it possible that God created the heavens and the earth from nothing? I don't know, but God is God and I have faith in Him. How is it possible for a baby to grow, be born, and come to the point where he or she will realize that being reborn is the only way to see the Kingdom of God? I don't know, but I do know that it happens, and it happens a lot. In Revelation, John sees a multitude that no one can number who have all been reborn in Christ. Jesus must have one fine explanation coming up in the next few verses for so many to believe in Him. I look forward to the verses we will read in the next few days!

Have a wonderful day in Christ!


Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Can't Explain the Fuzzy Blurry Things - September 1, 2010

Great Wednesday morning to you! September has arrived and the angle of the sunshine in my office shows it. I spent most of my walk this morning in the state of photography known as, "too dark". The heavy clouds to the east made the sunrise light up the town a bit late this morning. Yes, there are ways to compensate for the darkness, but a flash kind of destroys the mood of the early morning (and my night vision), and long shutter speeds without a tripod result in a picture full of fuzzy blurry things. The remainder of the day is still before me; I have much to do and wonderful work to accomplish.

Nicodemus is probably hoping that Jesus is going to give him that one explanation that will make being born again clear and accomplish-able. But what does Jesus say in today's verse?

"The wind blows wherever it wants. Just as you can hear the wind but can't tell where it comes from or where it is going, so you can't explain how people are born of the Spirit." John 3:8

Some of us might claim that we can answer that question today. Of course, by 'we' the claim includes scientists with all manner of fancy measuring devices and computer models. Don't get caught up in the technical issues, Jesus could have easily asked the question about something that no one living today would have any way of knowing right now. At issue is not Nicodemus' technical or scientific knowledge, but his lack of understanding of the Good News Jesus has brought to the world. We are of course no better off than Nicodemus. I can't write up a devotional that explains how being born of the Spirit works. Like you, I must accept on faith that Jesus has done what he said he would do when I gave my life to him. A person in the world who does not yet believe might even ask one of us that question one day.

"So, how does this being reborn in the Spirit work? Does it hurt? Will I feel anything?" are some questions that even Nicodemus might have been thinking at that moment. At one time, I waited for that big feeling that I had heard would happen at salvation. I had come to expect that salvation would feel like the Holy Spirit had flipped some big toggle switch inside of me that was connected to all my emotions, flipping them from mostly negative to all positive in one mighty flip of the switch. Didn't happen. Some people do feel a great sense of love or relief at salvation; I don't dispute that and praise God for it. Jesus didn't promise that any feelings would or would not accompany that moment when we surrender to him. What he did promise was that the Holy Spirit would come into our hearts at that time. We are to have faith that Jesus has done what he promised. Whether the Holy Spirit is going to give any one person a 'hello, I'm here' feeling at that moment, I would say that is entirely up to the Spirit.

Nicodemus probably noticed something else about Jesus' statement; not only can we not accomplish our own rebirth in the Spirit, we can't even explain it. I wonder if ol' Nico felt kind of stupid and lost at that moment? Look at it this way: If you wanted to change out the heart of a sheep while keeping the wool and body just as it is in its current lost condition, you would know that the sheep would have no knowledge of how and no method at hand for doing that to itself. From God's point of view, to save all of us lost little humans, he must provide the way. Now I'm starting to jump ahead here. Time to hold off; that Good News verse is not too many days away now!

Have a great and beautiful Wednesday in Christ Jesus!