pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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Seek

Reading: John 3: 1-17

Verse 3: “No one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again”.

In our passage today Nicodemus is a seeker. He feels the pull of Jesus Christ on his heart. He senses that following this rabbi will change his life. And like most seekers, there is a thing or two that inhibits his seeking. The fact that Nicodemus comes at night indicates a struggle many have: he does not want to give up his position or status in life. Nicodemus occupies a place in Jewish society that affords the utmost respect. He has power and influence. To choose to follow Jesus would certainly cost him all of this. Today the idea of dying to self and asking Jesus to be Lord of our life calls us to make the same decisions.

Nicodemus wants to understand Jesus. He wants to know more, to go deeper. He has seen and/or heard enough to draw him in. He is curious. Nicodemus is able to go directly to the source. But even that is confusing for him. This can inhibit continued pursuit. Effort is required to persevere. Today many people turn to the Bible for understanding. The living word functions much like Jesus did. As one reads more and more the passages come to life and gain deeper meaning. A different story can shed light on another difficult passage, building on one’s understanding.

The longer into the night that Nicodemus and Jesus talked, the better Nicodemus’ understanding will become. The same is true for seekers who spend time reading and studying the Bible. The same is true for those a little further along on their journey. The more we read and study, the better we understand the story and message of the Bible. Like Nicodemus, may we invest in our relationship with Jesus. He will lead and guide us as we seek him and continue to mature in our faith. Thanks be to God.

Prayer: Lord God, draw me in more and more each day. Help me to dive down deep, growing closer to you day by day. Amen.


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That Whoever Believes…

Reading: John 3: 1-17

Verse 16: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son, that whoever believes in him will not perish but have eternal life”.

Nicodemus is a man steeped in religious knowledge. His head is full of a lot of information. He lives mostly in the world of his head, but something is tugging at his heart. That is why he has come to see Jesus. His mind cannot identify the feeling he has but it cannot deny it either. We all have been where Nicodemus is. We want to try and think our way through it, but we cannot. We must experience it by allowing ourselves to feel it. Too often our reaction is to resist or deny or avoid. To go where the Spirit is leading is unknown, out of control, scary – so we do not allow ourselves to go there.

In today’s passage Jesus drives the conversation with Nicodemus. The Pharisee struggles with the idea of being born of the Spirit. Yes, the Old Testament speaks of a prophet who was guided by or even carried by the Spirit. But to be born again? To be born of the Spirit? Being made new and becoming part of God’s family sounds so familiar to our ears. But consider Nicodemus’ context for a moment. He was a part of Judaism since birth. There was no need for rebirth – you were born into the Jewish faith. No outreach or evangelism branch exists in the temple. The circle was closed. Converting to Judaism is a much more modern phenomena. In Nicodemus’ day one was either born a Jew or one was a Gentile. To be born again, into the family of God, just would not fit their context.

So Jesus shifts gears. He sees this is too big a step for Nicodemus to take at once. So he plants a seed. In verse fourteen Jesus connects what Moses offered in the desert to what he will offer from the cross. Nicodemus does not get it yet. But he will one day. In the desert Moses offered relief from the consequences of their sin. Look up at the snake and be saved from this sin. Jesus tells Nicodemus that he will also be lifted up, not just to atone for one sin but for all sins. He tells him that all who look in faith to Jesus can have eternal life. Jesus sums up his mission in verses sixteen and seventeen. Out of love Jesus came to save us from sin and death. All who believe in him as Lord and Savior will receive the gift of eternal life. Jesus shares that he did not come to condemn the world but to save it. Through Christ, God offers love and mercy, grace and forgiveness, and the promise of eternal life in his presence. This is offered to one and all. Jesus came to save the whole world. In parting he asked all disciples to join him in this task. May we do so each and every day.

Prayer: Loving God, as I enter the day, may I be light and love in the places I dwell. May I be the light that shines the focus on your Son, my Savior, Jesus Christ. To you be the glory! Amen.


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A Day to Wait

Reading: John 19: 38-42

Verse 40: “Taking Jesus’ body, the two of them wrapped it, with the spices, in strips of linen”.

When Jesus breathes His last breath, three hours of darkness descends upon the land. After the three hours of darkness passed, Joseph of Arimathea asks Pilate for Jesus’ body. Nicodemus comes to help, bringing with him myrrh and aloes for the body. “Taking Jesus’ body, the two of them wrapped it, with the spices, in strips of linen”. These two men, leaders in the Jewish religion, then place the body in a nearby tomb – one we believe Joseph bought for himself. From the other three gospels, we know that some of the women who followed Jesus were also there. Mary and Mary Magdalene are named in two of the gospels.

None of Jesus’ disciples are there. They are fearful of being associated with Jesus. They are afraid of what the Jewish leaders might do to them. Joseph and Nicodemus are likely both members of the ruling council. They do not seem too concerned about being associated with Jesus. The events that have unfolded the past two days must have brought them to the point of believing in Jesus. They most certainly did not know what was going to happen Sunday morning. Joseph and Nicodemus were simply showing love to Jesus by caring for His body.

Then Saturday happens. It was the Sabbath – the day to worship God and to rest. For all who had followed Jesus and who had professed faith in Him as Lord and Savior, Saturday was a “now what?” kind of day. I doubt that they praised God much that day. I doubt they did much except pray and think about what had just happened in light of the three years they had just spent with Jesus. It must have been so hard to reconcile these two. For all of Jesus’ followers, this day must have been awful. It was a day full of why?, what if?, how? type of questions.

It is a hard day for us to sit in the moment, knowing that tomorrow is coming. We know the end of the story. Yet today can be a day of questions and reflection for us too. But our questions are of a difference type. How has Jesus changed my life? Why did Jesus pick me as a follower? What if I lived out my resurrection faith more fully? May your Holy Saturday be blessed as you reflect on Jesus this day.

Prayer: Lord, may I be present to you today. May I find you in the moment, in-between the cross and the empty tomb. May I come to know you better today. Amen.


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Holy Spirit, Lead Me

Reading: John 3: 1-15

Verse Five: “Jesus answered, ‘I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of the water and the Spirit'”.

Nicodemus comes to Jesus at night. Coming to see Jesus is a dangerous move that involves risk for Nicodemus. The Pharisees are the religious leaders and often do not see eye to eye with Jesus. In John 2, Jesus has just cleared the temple, telling the leaders that they have made it into “a market”. Yet Nicodemus comes to Jesus. He has seen Jesus’ works, the miracles, and knows He is from God. Jesus gives Nicodemus an answer even though he does not ask a question. Jesus says, “Jesus answered, ‘I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born again'”.

Nicodemus is, of course, confused. You and I would be too. He has come to Jesus with some purpose – surely with some questions or a need. This may have eventually led back around to the topic Jesus brings up, but certainly not this directly. Jesus cuts to it straight away and begins to share about what is ultimately important: eternal life. But for now, Nicodemus is earthly and practical. It also demonstrates how far apart in the conversation these two are. Jesus goes on to explain, saying more fully, “born of the water and the Spirit”. Jesus then gives an analogy of how the wind blows “wherever it pleases”. He concludes with, “So it is with everyone born of the Spirit”.

Nicodemus does not really understand this either. He comes from a place of religion where it is all about following the Law. Being faithful for him is accomplished by following the rules. They are clear and defined. This idea of being born of the Spirit and being led here and there, almost at random, is a foreign concept to Nicodemus. To consider it and to begin to live it out would have been a scary thought for Nicodemus. It is for us.

To sincerely pray, “God use me today…” is placing our faith and trust fully in God. To be open to and to be willing to be led by the Holy Spirit wherever it may lead takes surrender of self. This is what it means to be “born again” – it requires that we are willing to die to self and to be made into a new self that lives by faith, loving God and neighbor more than self.

Lord God, use me today. Use me for thy purposes and for your work in this world. Holy Spirit, lead and guide me today. Amen.


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Bold as Nicodemus

Reading: John 19: 38-42

Jesus has died and His body hung on the cross.  The other two who had been crucified with Jesus have also died.  The excitement of the crucifixions is over so the jeering crowds, the curious onlookers, and the followers who loved Jesus have all drifted away.  The three bodies hang on the crosses.  It is a desolate image.  It is a hard reality to envision this image.  It seems a time without hope.

It is at this point that Nicodemus steps once again into the story.  He goes to Pilate and asks for Jesus’ body.  This seems an odd choice for a Pharisee and a member of the ruling council.  But it is evidence of Nicodemus’ growing faith and belief in Jesus.  We recall first meeting Nicodemus in John 3 when he went under cover of night to talk with Jesus.  Here he hears the message that he must be born again.  A few chapters later Nicodemus utters a brief and almost half-hearted defense of Jesus as the chief priests and Pharisees debate what to do with this Jesus.  Perhaps Nicodemus was one of those cheering on the parade route a few days earlier and then was among the crowd a few days later that shouted, “Crucify Him”! Through all of this we see Nicodemus’ faith growing, his love deepening, to the point he is willing to go to Pilate to ask for Jesus’ body.

But perhaps Nicodemus’ story is not so unfamiliar to us.  We can all think back to the first times we really wondered who this Jesus was.  Was He more than the Bible stories?  Could I really have a personal relationship with Jesus?  So we began to question and to seek answers.  As we learned more and came to love Him more, we too came to a point of timidly defending Jesus and our faith in Him.  It may have seemed unimportant at the time, but upon reflection we are it as another turning point on our journey of faith.  And then we get to the point in our faith where we find Nicodemus at in today’s story: willing to stand and be counted as a disciple of Jesus Christ.  This day may we be as bold as Nicodemus, declaring our faith in Jesus Christ to any and all.


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Understand God?

Nicodemus is drawn to Jesus.  He comes in the dark of night though because, although he is drawn, he still has a lot to keep in mind.   He is a Pharisee, a Jewish religious leader, and his group often clashes with Jesus.  And yet he comes – because Jesus has answers.

Isn’t that why we usually come to Jesus too?  To seek answers, to understand life, to  get guidance or comfort or peace?  Our prayers are often not questions, but sometimes we really do question, it is just below the surface.  We pray for strength or resolution in a certain situation.  But just below the surface we are questioning why God would allow us to even be in the situation.

Nicodemus comes, of course, because he wants answers.  He is willing to risk a little to get an answer or two from Jesus.  But Jesus’ answers do not make sense to Nicodemus.  Be born again?  That makes as much sense as dying twice!  Jesus tries to explain what being born of the Spirit means, but that does not fit in with Nicodemus’ thinking either.  Then and there he cannot assimilate this information.  Nicodemus goes away confused, with a lot to ponder, and without any answers he understands yet.  But he will.

Can you relate to Nicodemus?  Have you ever had a prayer ‘answered’ in a way you do not understand?  Ever feel like you did not get an answer at all?  Like Nicodemus, at times we too struggle to understand God and His ways.  He is a big and complex God.  It is okay we do not fully know everything.  Even though we do not fully know God, we do know some things.  He loves us more than we can ever imagine and He wants the very best for us.  Hold onto these truths of God.  Keep on seeking and praying.

Scripture reference: John 3: 1-15