Tag: Jesus

Sinking down for the last time

Oh boy! Kathe’s Kraptastic Art is Back!

STILL MUSING ON JOHN 3:3 – “YOU MUST BE BORN AGAIN.”

Sorry this is late. I’ve been on vacation, escaping the smoke to go someplace where there was slightly less smoke. When you can’t breathe, “slightly less smoke” is a gift straight from Heaven. We’ve had a lot of rain since I’ve been back, so everything is perfectly lovely and clear again. Thank You, Jesus! My lungs and I are extremely grateful.

On my September 6 blog I was reading through different Bible verses pertaining to original sin, going back to the Garden of Eden in Genesis chapter 3. If you’ve ever read the Bible straight through, you see how generally depraved people have been from the very beginning and will continue to be straight through to the bitter end. No character in scripture apart from Christ is flawless. The closest we see is Daniel; we aren’t told any of his character flaws but we do see him confessing his own sin in Daniel 9:4-6. I don’t have to search my own conscience very deeply to know that I am a sinner. How many times in my life have I lied, cheated, stolen, raged, slandered, gossiped, etc.? More than I could ever count. Every time I hear someone say something like, “I’m a good person! I don’t need any saving, thank you very much,” I want to laugh in their face. I know they’re lying, I know THEY know they’re lying, and I know that THEY know that I know that they’re lying, so why do they bother?

Because we don’t want to be accountable to anyone. Because we know in our heart of hearts that we don’t have an excuse. Every rotten thing we’ve ever done or said or even just thought is piling up on our souls like Jacob Marley’s chains.* And we don’t want to face it. Pretend God isn’t there and He’ll go away, right?

But the day of reckoning is coming. Each and every one of us will have to stand before the Lord God Almighty and give an account for our lives. Do any of us really think we have any merit at all? That it is one big cosmic scale and our so-called “good deeds” are going to outweigh our bad?

“But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” – Matthew 5:28. — Whoah! If even our own private, fleeting thoughts make us sinners, who then who of us could be saved? We’re screwed!

Before me every knee will bow; by me every tongue will swear. – Isaiah 45:23

As surely as I live, says the Lord, every knee will bow before me; every tongue will confess to God. So then, each of us will give an account of himself to God. – Romans 14:11-12

There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one. Their throats are open graves; their tongues practice deceit. The poison of vipers is on their lips. Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness. Their feet are swift to shed blood; ruin and misery mark their ways, and the way of peace they do not know. There is no fear of God before their eyes. – Romans 3:10-18 (quoting various OT passages).

The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. – Galatians 5:19-21.  OUCH! TOO CLOSE TO HOME!

Okay, I think now I understand what Jesus was getting at when he told Nicodemus that we must be born again. The first birth is the sinful nature we inherited from Adam. No matter how much we want to be good, or how hard we try, we keep falling flat on our faces. Like Sisyphus in the old Greek story, we are doomed to keep pushing a rock up a hill; a rock that always gets away from us and rolls away before we reach the top. No matter how hard we try, we can never get to the top.

In the story of the rich man and Lazarus, we are told that there is an eternal chasm fixed between heaven and hell, and no one can cross it. (Luke 16:26). We are trapped in our sinful nature and we cannot and will not ever get out of it by our own power. A man going down for the third time can’t save himself from drowning even if he is a good swimmer. A woman falling to her death from a cliff can’t save herself even if she is the best rock climber in the world. We cannot escape the sin nature we’ve had since the moment we were conceived. We are on a one-way trip to hell and eternal punishment AND, if we are honest with ourselves, we know we deserve it. We’re not the innocent victims of Adam’s original sin. We sin and we like it. It feels good to get our own back on someone we hate. It’s fun to have sex even if we’re not married. Who doesn’t secretly enjoy a good meltdown fit of rage? Who hasn’t said we deserve it, it should be ours, as we nick something that belongs to someone else?

The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob doesn’t send people to hell on a whim based on his own capriciousness. We walk there all by ourselves. What God does is offer us a way OUT. A new nature, free from sin—no more pushing an endless rock up an endless hill. He offers us a restored relationship with Himself. That is what being born again means.  

The bad news and the good news: “Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.” – Hebrews 9:27-28

Next time: HOW DOES GOD SAVE US? WHY CAN’T HE JUST FORGIVE US AND BE DONE WITH IT?

If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.  …for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” – Romans 10:9-13

*Jacob Marley was the ghost of Ebenezer Scrooge’s business partner in A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens.

Nothing more important.

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No man can redeem the life of another
or give to God a ransom for him —The ransom for a life is costly,
No payment is ever enough—
that he should live on forever and not see decay.
– Psalm 49:7-9

But God will redeem my life from the grave;
He will surely take me to himself.
– Psalm 49:15

It’s been weeks now since I found myself stuck on John 3:3 where Jesus says, “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.” As I mentioned in an earlier post, I believe the reason I kept coming back to this verse is because being born again is the most important thing of all. For each and every one of us. There is not, there can never be, anything more important. Our lives on this earth will be over before we know it — it is our eternity that matters most. Where will we spend it? It is one of the three most important questions anyone can ask themselves: 1) How did I get here? 2) What is my purpose? and  3) What happens to me after I die?

So, painfully slowly, over the past few weeks I’ve tried to glean from Scripture the basic points of being born again:

  • What does it mean to be born again?
  • Why do I need to be “saved”? Saved from what?
  • I’m a moral person. Why can’t I just do good deeds and make things right with God?
  • Who is Jesus?
  • What is Jesus?
  • How can one man pay for the sin of everyone who ever lived?

And the truth is, I’m overwhelmed. After all, I’m just a secretary. I’m not a biblical scholar, I’m no one special, and certainly not someone others ever listen to about anything important. People far more educated than I am have devoted volumes on these topics; people who know the Bible backward and forward. I have to Google most verses that come to my mind because I can never remember what book or chapter they were in. 

But then I remember that this is not about me. I know in my heart of hearts that there is nothing more important than being saved. Than being washed clean by the blood of Jesus through his sacrifice on the cross. I know who and what I am without Christ, and I don’t like that person very much. I also know who and what I am IN Christ, and that nothing is better or more fulfilling and beautiful than belonging to Him. Governments come and go, fads come and go, but Jesus is forever. He said, ‘Before Abraham was, I AM!” (John 8:58)

I am also overwhelmed with how to write out these points, because the Bible is a bottomless well of information and it is all about Jesus. From Genesis 1:1 to Revelation 22:21, every verse in one way or another tells its portion of the greater story of Jesus, our Lord. 

God is our refuge and our strength,
an ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea;
though its waters roar and foam
and the mountains quake with their surging.

Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall;
He lifts his voice, the earth melts.
The LORD Almighty is with us;
The God of Jacob is our fortress.

– Psalm 46:1-7

Only God knows if anybody even reads this, but if you do my prayer is that you will be encouraged if you are a believer in Christ, and that you will come to know him and be made alive in him if you are not. There is nothing more important.

So from here on out, until I’m done with the nagging issues that John 3:3 put on my heart, I will basically just write out Bible verses that I found on the various topics. Please read them and ask God to show you if they are true. No matter what religion you are, or even if you are an atheist, if you ask the God who created the universe to guide you to truth, you WILL find what is true. For it is written:

“ASK and it will be given to you; SEEK and you will find; KNOCK and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives; he who seeks, finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.” (Matthew 7:7-8)

Jesus said those words. He also said,

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)

I waited patiently for the LORD;
He turned to me and heard my cry.
He lifted me out of the slimy pit,
Out of the mud and mire;
He set my feet on a rock
And gave me a firm place to stand.
He put a new song in my mouth,
A hymn of praise to our God.

Many will see and fear
And put their trust in the LORD.

– Psalm 40:1-3

All Scripture quotations are from the New International Version of the Bible.

Don’t get this whole “born again” business? (John 3:1-21)

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Nicodemus came to talk to Jesus at night.

FOR GOD SO LOVED THE WORLD THAT HE GAVE HIS ONE AND ONLY SON, THAT WHOEVER BELIEVES IN HIM SHALL NOT PERISH BUT HAVE ETERNAL LIFE. – John 3:16

I always wondered if Jesus was really tired that night and just wanted to be in bed, but then Nicodemus showed up and so instead he had to stay up half the night trying to pound some serious theology into N’s thick skull, and then say the most famous verse in the Bible while he was at it.

I am way behind in my Bible studies and prayer time and feeling it. Over tired, run down, depressed, overwhelmed by all that’s happening in the world as well as my own little corner of it. My ability to cope is directly correspondent to how closely I am walking with God. I am nothing without my prayer time (my alone time with God), and without studying His Word. So back to it! Anyway I’ve read quite a ways past this chapter but keep coming back and re-reading it. “YOU MUST BE BORN AGAIN.” Something is nagging at me. Something needs to be dragged out into the daylight and analyzed.

Nicodemus was a big shot. A Pharisee, and a member of the ruling council. He met with Jesus at nighttime. Why nighttime? Maybe just because the crowds would have gone home and he could have a peaceful chat. Maybe he was afraid of being seen by his peers. Maybe he was busy all day and the night was the only free time he had. We aren’t told, but I wonder.

It sounds like he’s just trying to lay the groundwork for the conversation he wants to have with Jesus when he says, “Rabbi, we know you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the miraculous signs you are doing if God were not with him.” (v. 2). I wonder what he’s tiptoeing around. Trying to get Jesus to confess whether or not he is the Messiah? Maybe. If Nicodemus had ever read the book of Daniel (chapter 9) and done the math, he would have known that it was just about the time that the Messiah was supposed to show up. 

There’s a lot of room for pure speculation here. Maybe Jesus didn’t look the way Nicodemus thought the Messiah ought to look. Maybe Jesus’ Galilean country accent and working-class family was off-putting to someone raised in elite society. Maybe Nicodemus expected a bold warrior like David. Maybe he thought when the Messiah came there would be no question who he was. And this modest man from Galilee, walking around like a beggar with his ragtag band of misfit disciples, didn’t fit that picture at all. But the Bible doesn’t give us Nicodemus’ inner thoughts so we can only guess. 

But then Jesus takes the conversation in a whole different direction. He starts talking about our need to be born again. This blindsides Nicodemus, who doesn’t have a clue what Jesus is talking about.

In reply Jesus declared, “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.” 

“How can a man be born when he is old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely he cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb to be born!” 

Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.” (v. 3-6)

There is a lot more in this passage that needs to be read, but for now I am thinking about what it means to be “born again.” As Christians we’ve heard it so many times we forget its powerful meaning. My NIV notes say that the Greek for that phrase can also mean “born from above.” There is so much in Jesus’ words and I can’t quite get my head around it. “You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the spirit.”

My little nephew, if he heard that, would cock his head to one side, curl his upper lip up just a bit and say “HUH?” I think most people in my own society would say that, and we are considered a “Christian” nation. For people in different cultures, especially those ones that actively discourage Christianity, it must be completely baffling. It is a topic of upmost importance and I don’t want to blow off the significance of this passage without digging more deeply into the whys and hows of being born again in Christ. My next few entries are going to do just that, starting at the beginning. 

…Apple, anyone?

STAY TUNED FOR THE NEXT EXCITING CHAPTER! or, HOW DID THIS PLANET GET INTO THE BIG STINKING MESS THAT IT’S IN?

If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved . . . For, everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.  – Romans 10:9-13

Jesus goes to a wedding!

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Old bridge on Clark Fork River, Montana

John 2: The Wedding at Cana

On the third day a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there, and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. When the wine was gone, Jesus’ mother said to him “They have no more wine.”

“Dear woman, why do you involve me?” Jesus replied. “My time has not yet come.”

His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”

Nearby stood six stone water jars, the kind used by the Jews for ceremonial washing, each holding from 20 to 30 gallons.

Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water”; so they filled them to the brim.

Then he told them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet.”

They did so, and the master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine. He did not realize where it had come from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew. Then he called the bridegroom aside and said, “Everyone brings out the choice wine first and the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now.”

This, the first of his miraculous signs, Jesus performed at Cana in Galilee. He thus revealed his glory, and his disciples put their faith in him.

John 2:1-11 (New International Version)

The King James Version of 2:4 reads: Jesus saith unto her, Woman, what have I to do with thee? Mine hour is not yet come.  I think that’s kind of funny. If I ever dared call my mom “Woman,” she probably would have made me sorry I was ever born!

I like this passage because I like the little moment we get with Jesus and his family and friends. Just people, enjoying a happy occasion. Eating and drinking and singing and dancing and having fun. 

It raises a lot of questions, though. A few of mine are: Is it significant that Jesus’ first miracle was turning water into wine? If so, what are the implications? Is it significant that they point out specifically that his first miracle happened at Cana, in Galilee? Cana would have been a very tiny village, and Galilee was considered the sticks to most Israelites at that time, kind of like how someone from Mississippi might be considered a country bumpkin by someone from Manhattan today. I do know that humility marked Jesus’ time on earth. Humbly born, humble parents, humble job before his ministry. A country boy with a country accent. In most of the movies about Jesus he speaks with a marked British accent, or at least some theatrical mid-Atlantic hybrid. But it just wasn’t the case. Also, there must be some meaning behind the decision of the Lord of the Universe to perform his first miracle (as an incarnate man) at the wedding of some nameless people in a tiny town hardly anyone had ever heard of. And that the miracle was something that kept the party going — nothing healed, except maybe the reputation of the party host who hadn’t ordered enough wine.

There’s bound to be deeper meaning than this. I haven’t yet heard any good teachings on John. But they say Scripture illuminates Scripture, so I’m sure when I’m studying something again down the road that I’ll have an “Aha!” moment and then I’ll understand this passage on a deeper level. That’s one of the the great things about God and his word. You can get it on so many levels, and every time you study it you learn something new.

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One thing I have heard a lot of teaching about is the first-century Galilean wedding ceremony and how it foreshadows the Rapture of the church. I’ve heard it taught by several teachers I respect, like Don Stewart from www.educatingourworld.com. But I never hear them say HOW they know what weddings were like back then. I want to know what their sources are. But the bare-bones basics are this, if you haven’t heard it before:

A young couple enter into a marriage contract. It’s their engagement, but legally binding. Then the bride goes home to her parents, and the groom goes back to his father’s house. There he builds an addition onto his father’s house, a place where the young couple will live. It can take up to a year or so to get all the preparations ready. Meanwhile the bride is getting her trousseau and everything taken care of so she will be ready when her groom comes for her. When the addition to the house is done, then the father tells his son it is time to go get his bride. So the trumpet sounds and the groom marches to the bride’s house to snatch her away to her new home. It usually happens in the middle of the night, catching everyone by surprise but hopefully not unprepared. Then they ride off and the wedding festivities begin.

It’s a beautiful picture, and I hope and pray it’s true. This bride is ready. Maranatha! Come, Lord Jesus.

By the way, if you are interested in some good Christian resources, I do recommend you check out Don Stewart’s ministry at http://www.educatingourworld.com. He has a number of books, ALL of which you can download for free! No strings attached. He deals with last days (eschatology), other Bible teaching, and Christian living.

Also, he is involved with an online television ministry called His Channel. They teach on different Christian topics, as well as contemporary news and issues, and some documentaries. You can view all that at https://hischannel.com.

If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved . . . For, everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.  – Romans 10:9-13