Born Again….Wait What?

Preface:

I have been going back and forth on John 3:1-21 for a little over a week now and I think I finally understand why.  The problem I have with sharing from this particular section of John is it makes me emotional so sharing my gleanings from it keep coming from an emotional place.  So rather than fight that I am just going to go with it.

Jesus declares in verse 3 “no one can see the the kingdom of God unless they are born again.” But what does it mean to be born again?  This is the question Nicodemus asks Jesus and I think many of us have asked that same question.  I would imagine any non-Christians reading this or any other writings would ask the same question.  I mean after all it sounds very new agey and hokey pokey.  It sounds like something people say when they reach the end of their logic and cannot think of anything else to say “Well you just have to be born again.”  My question is what do we do with a statement like that?  Where do we go with something like that?  How do I put that into my daily life?

The simple and easy way to understand this is that God wants to be in a close and personal relationship with you.  He does not just want to be your Father He wants to be your Daddy.  That is mind blowing!  Maybe you read that last statement and went “OK and”…. But let me tell you why that is so powerful.  What Jesus is saying by be born again is God the all powerful, Creator, Maker of all, Master of the Universe wants to be your Dad.  He wants you to be His child.  This is so beyond amazing that I want to just stop typing because I cannot think of how to expound on that.

Jesus has changed the entire paradigm with the born again statement.  He has shifted everything.  So many of us have this idea about God that He does not care and has left us to our own devices.  But that is so beyond wrong that it make me almost cry.  God loves you, God the Father wants you to call Him Daddy.  He wants you to run to Him and let Him hold you.  He wants you to be with Him.  That is the Gospel message.  You want the Gospel here it is: God so loved the world that He gave His only Son to be the sacrifice so that you can believe in His name and be born again as a child of the Most High and call Him Daddy.

There it is.  It really is that simple.  What does it mean to be born again, how do I apply that to my life?  I understand that God wants me.  I understand that God chose me.  I did not chose Him, but He reached down when I could do nothing and chose to love me and give everything for me.

When I came to Christ I did not do it in a church building, or with someone standing there giving me a prayer to pray (I am not saying anything bad about any of that), or after or during some tragedy.  I accepted Him when I was doing the dishes.  It was not an emotional event.  It was not a pressured event. It was simple and to the point.  I had a million questions about God and I was told I have to have faith.  I had enough faith to believe that God was real.  That was it no more no less.  I told Jesus in a very plain and clear way that I had destroyed my life by 22, taken drugs, tried to kill myself, and hated everything about me and most people.  If He wanted me and could use my life He could have it.  That was it.  He said yes and now I am no longer my own.  I am a son of God.  I was born again.  How do I apply what Jesus says in John 3:1-21 to my life I remember that my Daddy loves me.  I remember I am His.  That no matter what comes it is well with my soul.

Oh to feel the love of God, to feel His presence.  I cannot express it but I so badly want everyone to know it.  You don’t need to understand it all, you don’t need to “feel” it.  You need to accept it.  That is the reason we are reading though John together.  I want you to take a chance and say “Jesus I give you a try.”  I want everyone believer and nonbeliever to try Jesus.  If you know Him give Him another area of your life, if you don’t know Him then tell Him you would like to.  I did not feel it when I gave Him my life, but I was willing to try Him.

Just a thought,

Mike

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St Patrick Day / 1 Cor 15

Last lines of the Lorica of Patrick (Lorica means body armor)

Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,
Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left
Christ where I lie, Christ where I sit, Christ where I arise
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of every man who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.
I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through belief in the Thrones,
Through confession of the Oneness
Towards the Creator.

Saint Patrick was a man who served the Irish people until the time of his death on March 17th 460 (or 492).  Now this message is not about Patrick, but I wanted to take this as an opportunity for me to learn a little of him and pass it along.  Patrick was a slave in Ireland from age 16 to 22.  At which point he escaped back to his home in Banna Venta Berniae.  A few years after returning home he had a vision.

I saw a man coming, as it were from Ireland. His name was Victoricus, and he carried many letters, and he gave me one of them. I read the heading: “The Voice of the Irish”. As I began the letter, I imagined in that moment that I heard the voice of those very people who were near the wood of Foclut, which is beside the western sea—and they cried out, as with one voice: “We appeal to you, holy servant boy, to come and walk among us.”

It was not long after this that he returns to Ireland.  In a very real way, he returned to Ireland a slave again.  Formerly a slave to his master who owned his body and now to One who owned his soul.  One may have paid a small price for his labour but the other paid an unimaginable price for his redemption.  I find it very odd that a holiday celebrated under the name of this great servant named Patrick is known outside of the country he loved with drinking and no self-control.

It is ironic to be sure.  Almost as ironic as the false teaching Paul must address in 1 Cor 15.  We are not going to cover the entire chapter but focus first on verses 12-19 and then 20-22. The issue before the Corinthians was a simple one of not taking a thought to its conclusion.  Paul is simply taking their thought to its conclusion here.  If the dead do not raise, then neither did Christ.  If you accept that Christ raised from the dead, then you must accept that there is a resurrection.  There are a few staples of Christianity that you must believe in order to be a Christian and I believe the Apostles Creed sums them up nicely.

Modern Language Version
I believe in God, the Father almighty,
creator of heaven and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried;
he descended to the dead.
On the third day he rose again;
he ascended into heaven,
he is seated at the right hand of the Father,
and he will come again to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting. AMEN.

You see the belief in the resurrection of Jesus vital, but why?  Why is this one point so important?  What possible value or meaning do we take away from it?  Paul tells us in verse 17-19 “And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins.  Then those who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost.  If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all the most to be pitied.”

If Christ did not raise you are still dead in your sins.  There is no hope, no future, no possible escape for the pain, suffering, and hurt that you have.  Without the resurrection of Jesus, we are hopeless, and what’s more pathetic.  For this means we understand the gravity of the situation (sin) and know we have no possible way of avoiding the great judgment we have coming against us.  The Muslim thinks he can do enough good to balance the scales in his favor, the Buddhist that he can try again, the Atheist that there is nothing anyway, and so on.  But as believers of the one true God ones that know we have sinned against Him and that His holiness requires perfection to stand before Him we understand that if Christ did not rise from the dead there is truly no hope for the Muslim, or the Buddhist, or the Atheist, or you, or me.  We understand the problem.

So much hinges on the fact that Christ rose from the dead.  It means you will be raised.  In a very real and tangible way if you have accepted Christ then you have received a resurrection.  Colossians 2:13 says You were dead because of your sins and because of your sinful nature was not yet cut away. Then God made you alive with Christ, for He forgave all our sins.” How can we not rejoice, how can we not say as Patrick said, “If I have any worth, it is to live my life for God so as to teach these peoples.”  The resurrection means God loves you.  It means He has a plan for you, it means He has a purpose for you.  Paul says in verse 14 that if Christ is not raised our preaching is useless, and so is your faith.  That means the resurrection of Jesus Christ does not mean something, it means everything.

We have now gone through the verses 12-19 and seen the importance of the resurrection of Jesus but now I think it only fitting to look at verses 20-22.  If we are going to take a thought to its conclusion as I mentioned earlier then we need to take this thought to its conclusion.  We have seen that if the dead are not raised then Christ has not been raised, and if Christ has not been raised then we are still in our sins and pitiful.  But we do not have to worry because we can have confidence that Jesus has been raised from the dead (through History and Scripture), and if we have accepted Him we are as Colossians 3:3 says dead (to sin) and hidden with Christ in God.  Why?  Because as verse 22 says just as all who are in Adam die, but and this is a beautiful thing in Christ all will be made alive.  To know that one day I will stand before my Lord and Father in Heaven leaves me in awe.  To know that I will see my Grandparents, the loved ones lost to death, to stand with Patrick as together we all worship the Lord forever makes me ask why?  Why would someone give me this gift I so greatly do not deserve?  Why would one come for someone as pitiful as me?  For the sake of love.  To redeem what is rightfully His.  I am so thankful there is a resurrection of the dead.  If not, then I would not stand before you today the changed man I am.  But thanks be to God that Christ was raised.

Just a thought,
Mike

*This message has been updated slightly from its original form.

Nothing, I gots nothin

This is draft number three for John 2.  I have so far written about the history of what happened using a most excellent Bill and Ted reference.  I have also written about how we need to go through our own lives and flip over tables.  The tables representing the sin and other things in our life that we allow in our lives.  But alas you will never read these because they have been deleted and I could not form a single cohesive thought out of them.

I really want to say something profound and deep, and I think that is the problem.  I want to be thoughtful but lately I cannot seem to put a thought together and I am not sure why.  So instead of trying to do anything I am going to just throw something out there.  It might be a mess and less than I want but it will be honest.

John 2 Summary:

We are going to do an overview of Chapter 2.  Why an overview?  Just because…..

The Wedding (verses 1-12).

So a couple of things here, first of course is the wedding.  The wedding was held on the third day.  This is interesting to take notice of because the third day (Tuesday) is the day of double blessing.  It is called this because during creation God says it is good twice on Tuesday.  This was the day he created land and seas which is called good, and then He created vegetation which He also called good.  This is the only day He calls good twice, so this is the day of double blessings and in ancient times (and to some extent still) Jewish people prefered to married on this day.  Just a little background for you there.

Next is the wine…..OK before my ultra conservative friends go absolutely nuts I am not telling people to start drinking, but I am going to let everyone in on a little secret.  When the Bible calls a drink wine it actually means wine like you think.  It’s not grape juice.  Show of hands who has heard of Thomas Bramwell Welch?  You are correct he is the Welch’s grape juice guy.  He became famous for pasteurizing grape juice so it did not ferment and become wine.  Grape juice was not invented until the 19th century.  Some reports mention a possibility of others doing this before Dr Welch but nothing out of the 19th century.  So lets do math…..Jesus somewhere about AD 30-50, grape juice somewhere about AD 1849-1869.  That gives us about 1819 years between Jesus turning water into wine and Welch making juice.  Sorry but it was wine.

Now do not think I am saying everyone should start drinking wine or other drink.  The Bible speaks on this topic many times and no one should be a drunkard.  Some are called to completely abstain and that is great my only point is let the Bible be.  Don’t start saying it says something it doesn’t say.  Jesus made wine and that’s OK He is God He is allowed to do that if He wants.

OK next on our trip we find ourselves traveling from Galilee to Capernaum (probably to stop at Peters house) to Jerusalem (does everyone still have their traveling buddy).  It is so exciting this time of year.  Everyone coming in for the required Passover festival.  Oh look pony rides….  OK lets focus we need to hurry or we will never pass our history test (see a Bill and Ted’s reference).

As we make our way to the temple we stop in the outer courtyard, and we have to stop because we are Gentiles (I assume we do not have any Messianic Jews in the group if we do you are free to wonder).  This is where verses 13 and on take place.  This one area.

Money Changers

The money changers were converting foreign money like the Roman Denarius to the proper currency for Temple Tax the Shekel.  This was a good thing because the Temple Tax had to be paid in Shekel or third or half at times.  The money changers were the equivalent of the teller at the bank changing currency from US Dollar to Canadian.  Only they were charging a fee and using dishonest scales.  That is always a bad idea. God HATES dishonest scales.  He never approves of that.

Animal Sales

Here is the deal with the selling of animals.  It was not so much like the outside of a Tractor Supply in the spring.  You had to have sacrifice and offering at the temple, and it could be BYOS but the priest had to approve of your offering.  Don’t get me wrong I very much approve of the practice that there be an approval process however like so many other things it became corrupt.  You could typically count on someone finding something wrong with your offering.  They would also point out that they had animals for sale, quality merchandise too.  For a small handling fee, convenience fee, fair market value charge, and so on you could purchase one of these fine animals.

Jesus was not happy to say the least.  He got table flippin mad.  He let them have it, flipping tables, running animals out of the courts, and whippin folks.  He never lost His cool though.  He was angry but always in control (read verse 16 and take notice to what he did).  We can learn from Him here to be angry at things that deserve anger do not become rageful.  I get this one to a point because false teaching really makes me mad.  I hate it and a fire starts to burn in me that causes me to spend a lot a time in prayer to react Christ like.

Moving on now to 18-21.  Jesus upset a lot of people and they demanded a sign.  He tells them to destroy this Temple and He will raise it up in three days.  He was referring to His death and resurrection but they did not get it.  Before you get all “well that just shows how blind they were, and I tell you what” you wouldn’t have gotten it either.  You and I have already read the end of the book and probably watched the movie.  There are so many times when Jesus is telling us something and woosh we miss it until later (verse 22).

Lastly verses 22-25.  Mostly all I want to point out here is verse 24.  Jesus did not commit himself to them because He knew all men.  This idea comes up a few times in John (at least once more) so be looking out for it.  Remember Jesus knows you and what you desire/want.

So my friends we just blew through John chapter 2.  Next week I am leading chapel at the prison so we will be out of John for a week and either be in 1 Cor 15 or Rom 8.  Please do me a favor and throw out a prayer for me as I have no idea which or what to speak on.  Also be excellent to each other.

Just a thought,
Mike

Confession

I want to take a quick break from our reading through John to make a confession. 

I am reading through Cast of Characters by Max Lucado.  It is a good book and I recommend it if you are looking for something that you can pick up and put down.  There are 20 something chapters but each one is on a different individual from the Bible.

Anyway, the last chapter I read was Job and to be honest I was not expecting what I read.  I have read the book of Job and have often skipped over most of the dialog.  I won’t lie to you, I find the dialog so difficult to read that I know I am missing most if what is being said.  Usually what I do is read the first few chapters and the last few.  I think one time I read the whole thing but I do not remember when. 

I am going to just quote what I read.
“For six chapters Job gives his opinions on God,  This time the chapters headings read “and Job continued,” “and Job continued,” “and Job continued.”  He defines God, explains God, and reviews God.  One gets the impression that Job knows more about God than God does…… God answers and He floods the sky with quieres, and Job cannot help but get the point: Only God defines God….”

God asks Job questions about how the stars were hung, where the Earths cornerstone is, how wide it is.  All these questions were designed to get Job to understand he does not know as much as he thinks.

What am I confessing you might be asking by now?  Do I feel I try to defend God, try to explain the unexplainable…. Well the simple answer is NO, that is not at all what I am confessing but now I know how you really feel.  Goodness you think you know someone….

No, what I realized is I am worried about the future.  I thought what I was doing was planning and trying to figure out how to pay off debt so my family can go into Missions or Bible College and to an extent that is what I was doing but to a much larger extent what I was doing was fretting and worrying about how to do it.  I have been trying to come up with the way to make my dreams come to pass but in all reality I cannot make it happen.  I cannot come up with ways or convince God to do something my way.  He is God and He has His plans.

Two things, first from John chapter 2 (looks like I am sharing from John). 

His mother said to the servants, “Whatever He says to you, do it.”
John 2:5

Simply put if God’s plans and my dreams are one in the same He will tell me what to do.  I may not see how it will make the end goal come to pass but He will give me direction.  All I have to do is what I know He is telling me to do at this moment.  That is where faith comes in.  When you do not know what the step after this one is you have to have faith that the God who does know will tell you.

Second is from the book of Jeremiah.

Call to Me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know
Jeremiah 33:3

Understand you and I have ideas all of the time.  We may not share them with others but we have ideas of how something should or could be done, but our ideas are pretty lame compared to God’s ideas.  His plans are so much bigger and better that it makes us look well human.  If we call out to God and just ask, don’t tell, or deal, or plead, or beg, or whine (God does not like whining), the He will tell us things we do not know.  Shouldn’t I believe that can also be about how to, or when to, or what to?

SO my confession is that I am worried and letting it get in the way of doing, and honestly sometimes I am a whiner. 

On a side note I want to thank someone named Michelle who wrote about Matthew chapter 6 that seemed to plant that seed in my head.

Just a thought,
Mike