One day a Pharisee named Nicodemus came to talk to Jesus. Jesus told him that unless a person is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. This confused Nicodemus. How could he, as an adult, be “born” a second time?
Nicodemus didn’t realize that Jesus was speaking about a spiritual birth, rather than a second physical birth. Jesus clarified that — first you are born of water (a natural physical birth), then you are born of the spirit (a spiritual birth). He even restated this — your flesh is born of someone else’s flesh, and your spirit is born of the Holy Spirit.
By now Nicodemus was more confused than ever. Maybe you are too.
Born of the Spirit?
Jesus explained to Nicodemus about the Spirit. The Spirit is like the wind. You can’t see the wind blow, but you can feel it blow. You can also see the results of it blowing. So, the wind blows, and the tree branches move. Or the shingles fly off your house. Or garbage blows across your lawn. You can’t see the wind, or where the wind is coming from, but you can see what it is doing.
That is one way to know if you are born again. Is the Spirit doing things in your life? Things that you can’t tell where they are coming from? For instance, something might tell you to give a twenty-dollar bill to a homeless person. Or to pick up a hitch hiker and speak to him about Jesus. Or apologize to someone for something you said about them.
By default, we do bad things, ugly things, selfish things. But when we are born of the Spirit our default changes and we want to do good things.
A Child of the Light?
Jesus also talked to Nicodemus about the Light. A person who has not been born of the Spirit doesn’t like Light, because it exposes him. It shows clearly how selfish and evil he is. But when a person has been born of the Spirit, he embraces Light. The Light helps him to see. It leads him to do good, to be unselfish, to be unafraid of being seen.
If you are born again, other people will see it by the changes in your life. And you will see it because you are no longer afraid of the Light revealing you.
“Whoever believes in Jesus will not perish but have eternal life.”
My son-in-law’s dog likes to ride in the front seat of his truck and snooze. But when someone else is driving, he’s very alert and ready to jump in and help where needed. In this case, my daughter is driving, so he knows that he better not go to sleep.
Find a quiet, secluded place so you won’t be tempted to role-play before God. Just be there as simply and honestly as you can manage. The focus will shift from you to God, and you will begin to sense his grace. (Matthew 6:6, The Message)
Lord, I have shut the door, Speak now the word Which in the din and throng Could not be heard; Hushed now my inner heart, Whisper Thy will, While I have come apart, While all is still.
Lord, I have shut the door, Here do I bow; Speak, for my soul intent Turns to Thee now. Rebuke Thou what is vain, Counsel my soul, Thy holy will reveal, My will control.
In this blest quietness Clamorings cease; Here in Thy presence dwells Infinite peace; Yonder, the strife and cry, Yonder, the sin: Lord, I have shut the door, Thou art within!
Lord, I have shut the door, Strengthen my heart; Yonder awaits the task— I share a part. Only through grace bestowed May I be true; Here, while alone with Thee, My strength renew.
I’m testing a WordPress Plugin called MyBookProgress to see if I like it….
[mybookprogress book=”3″ showsubscribe=”true”]
This is the first in a series of four historical novels covering the period of time between AD 284 – 384. Depending on your viewpoint, this century was either the best thing that ever happened to the church, or the worst.
Over the past several decades, I have taught a number of writing classes. I thought you might like to meet some of my students. Some were outstanding because of their talents, but I remember most of them best for other reasons….
Student No. 1
I have experimented over the years with journal writing in various classes. Allan was in one of those. I wish you could have met Allan, since he was one of those people who were genuinely spontaneous and interesting. I always knew when Allan had arrived at school because he was always talking. But the unusual thing about Allan was that his conversation was always interesting. Not always worthwhile, mind you, but always interesting.
Allan always had a crowd around him, and he was a loquacious story teller. But when journal period rolled around, Allen met his Nemesis. His innate creativity floated out the window as soon as he looked at a sheet of paper He could not and would not write. His quota for 15 minutes was about two sentences.
I had some fairly good writers in the class, and often after we were finished writing, I asked various students to read their creations to us. Poor Allan. He hardly ever had anything much to contribute.
But one day, Allan made a discovery. He discovered somehow that writing a story was simply talking on paper. He also discovered that he could get the same kind of attention for his written stories as he did for his verbal ones.
I have never ever seen such an enormous change in a student as I did in Allan. All of a sudden he looked forward to journal classes. And whenever it came time for Allan to read his journal to the class, everyone sat up and paid attention.
Again, what he wrote wasn’t always worthwhile, but mark it down, it was always interesting!
Student No. 2
Sue was different from Allan. Her talent for writing was well developed when I first met her. Her characters were so realistic that they practically came alive and walked around on her paper when she wrote about them. In fact I would say that Sue had tremendous potential as a writer.
But Sue had one problem. She had never learned to use her talent to the glory of God. She wrote because it was fun, and to impress her friends. She enjoyed the writing class—writing classes are always more interesting than doing actual writing.
I haven’t met Sue since that class. I don’t know where she went from there. But I have never seen her name on a story or book. I wonder if she is still just writing for the fun of it, or whether the fun got stale.
Student No. 3
As I recall him, Sam was a lot like Sue. He too had real potential. He was a thinker and could write penetrating essays that made issues come alive. He knew words, and just where to put them. I was quite impressed with his assignments.
But I had a rude awakening one day. I discovered that Sam would only write when it suited him, or when he felt like it. He too had never learned that God gave us our talents to use for His glory. I am still not sure whether Sam was just moody, or whether he was lazy. Perhaps he was both.
Student No. 4
Amy was more difficult to evaluate. She was a very serious minded girl. She was also very tender hearted, and had evidently been raised in a very sheltered environment. But she put her heart and soul into her writing, and because of this it was good.
She had talent too. But it takes more than talent to make a good writer. A good writer must be able to put his soul into his writing. When you read a book by a writer like this, you feel like you have made a close friend.
Amy was that kind of writer. She lacked only one thing—experience. This made her writing a bit naive. It was easy to forgive her for this, but I was troubled at what I knew Amy would face in life when it finally caught up with her. The time was coming that a world full of troubles was going to bombard her, and she was going to realize for the first time what life was all about. I hope the Lord is gentle with her.
I haven’t seen any writing by Amy either. But I think the Lord is educating her. When He has taught her some of the lessons about life she needs, I think she will remember her writing talents and start to put some of those lessons on paper. I will buy her books, because I know they will be good reading.
It is amazing how you can get to know someone in a writing class. Most of my students would have been a bit shocked to know how well I could read them. Each of the students I have highlighted here had potential as writers. Yet each had areas they needed to work on to become the kind of writer that the Lord could really use.
Perhaps you have seen yourself in one of these profiles. If so, allow the Lord to do His work in your heart and make of you the writer that He wants you to be. God will only do so much for you. He gives you the seed of a talent, but He expects you to invest the effort necessary to make it useful for him. It would be very sad indeed to get to the judgment only to have God tell us that we buried our talents in the sand.
Maybe you like the praise of others, and when you don’t get it, you give up. Maybe you are just out to have fun, and don’t feel like getting serious. Or perhaps you are too lazy or moody to put yourself into developing your talent. Take time to read Matthew 25:14-30 and take it too heart.
I want to give you one more example. I never had this brother for a student, but I want to tell you about him anyway. When I met John, I didn’t think of him as a potential writer. He was friendly and conscientious, but I never thought of him as a writer. However, he had a secret urge to write. If I recall correctly, he worked at writing for around ten years before anyone ever accepted an article or story from him. He had disappointment after disappointment but he persevered, and he finally accomplished his goal.
John had less talent than any of the students I mentioned above. But he has accomplished more with writing than all of these others put together.
All of the people I have told you about are about the same age. You will probably note, as I did, that the factor that makes a successful writer isn’t necessarily exceptional talent. It is perseverance and a dedication to bringing glory to God.
That is the most important lesson that any writer can learn.
I wrote a column entitled Literary Spectrum for a (now defunct) paper for youth called the Vineyard Laborer a number of years ago. I took this post from one of those issues.
If you see the extortion of the poor, or the perversion of justice and fairness in the government, do not be astonished by the matter. For the high official is watched by a higher official, and there are higher ones over them! The produce of the land is seized by all of them, even the king is served by the fields. (Ecc 5:8-9, NET)
Solomon looked at this subject from a philosophical perspective, not a human rights perspective. The poor were oppressed by those who were stronger than they were or who had more authority. Those people in turn were oppressed by those above them. The chain of oppression reached all the way to the top and may have even included the king.
The perversion of justice is common. In some countries of the world, a person is better off to accept oppression than to report it or to try to get justice. Solomon wasn’t commenting on the right or wrong of this (it is obviously wrong). Instead, he was describing a basic reality of life along with giving a little lesson on economics.
Solomon used a field as a simple example of economic supply and demand. Many people needed to live from the economic product of the field. The people who planted the field, watered it, and harvested it were the most obvious economic beneficiaries. In Bible times these people didn’t own the field or finance the crop, they were just laborers who were paid for their work. So they needed to get enough of the field’s economic product to live on, probably in the form of wages. The man who owned the field financed the crop and paid the laborers. He too needed to receive a benefit because he also had to eat and probably had a family to support. He may have sold the crop to a miller, who produced flour from it. That man also needed to make some income from the field’s product to feed his family. So he sold the flour to a baker, who baked bread and sold it to a local store. The local store finally sold it to the person who ate it. So the laborers, the farmer, the miller, the baker, and the store all needed to have a share of the economic product of the field to live.
But the process goes beyond that. Some of these people might have borrowed money to finance their operations, so the economic product of the field also paid the interest on their loans. And finally, the government collected taxes from these people. So even the government lived from the field’s economic product.
Now none of this is wrong. But it does give a lot of opportunity for doing wrong. At any link of this economic chain, someone could oppress the person who depended on him for his income. The most obvious point was at the bottom of the ladder. If the farmer was greedy and many people were looking for work in the fields, he could make extra money by paying unfair wages. The laborers had little recourse because they had less money and less authority and fewer powerful friends than the farmer did.
Some people try to take advantage of others by bribing them. Some threaten them by using their authority. And on and on it goes. The king (i.e., the government) was at the top of the ladder and had the most power and authority of all. It is very easy for government to use this power to take advantage of the population.
The process of corruption is prompted by greed, of course. But it is also prompted by the fact that the economic resources of the field are limited. Finally, you can only stretch a natural resource so far. The people in the line for getting a piece of the pie are afraid that the economic profit won’t reach around, and so they fight over it. In cases like this it isn’t the early bird that gets the worm. Rather, the biggest bird gets it, even though he may the last one to reach the table.
People living in democratic countries like to think that these things only happen in third world countries or countries run by dictators or crooked governments. But anyone studying the effects of capitalism, lobbying, and big money in our time will soon realize that these things happen to us as well.
Corruption is one of the realities caused by the love of money. If we depend on money for happiness or meaning in life, we will be disappointed—which, I believe, was Solomon’s point in these verses.
Watch for more excerpts from this book in future blogs...
The hardest questions in life cannot be answered by science or philosophy. To discover what makes life worth living, we need to go to the Bible. To discover where we come from, and why, we need to go to the Bible. To discover who God is, what heaven is, what good is, or what evil is, we need to go to the Bible.
Do you wonder, like Job did, why life isn’t fair? And why good people need to suffer? The Bible has the answers. You may read CS Lewis’s book, The Problem of Pain, and it will help you because—and only because—it takes you to God and to the Bible for answers.
Don’t look to the theologians and the philosophers. They are helpful only as they take you to God and His Word. Human reason, philosophy, and logic don’t have answers, only questions. If you want to study apologetics, focus on the ones that show that the Bible’s message is authentic, genuine, and inspired. Once you have established that, you can go to the Bible for the other answers.
The big question you need to settle first is God. Once you experience God, you have a foundation that you can trust. Once you realize that God is real and that the Bible is the expression of God’s Truth, then you have an invincible fortress to protect you from sin and Satan and Agnosticism.
“I am the way, the truth, and the life.” (Jesus Christ)
This book includes a short summary and introduction of every book in the Bible. It also gives a brief introduction to Bible study methods. If you want to know more about the Bible this might be the book for you.