The Calling of Nicodemus: the Born Again Believer

 

Milestones are those moments forever ingrained in your heart — something like a “Kodak Moment” preserved in the memories of your mind. I have many such moments, one of which is when I was baptized.

As a child of 7 years old, I experienced the sensation of the mildly tepid water against my skin, the pleasant humidity in the air; the soft aqua blue of the baptistry gentle on the eyes and giving a certain tenor of calm to the soul. I remember the joy and confidence I felt as our pastor directed my feet to a concrete block set in place specifically for me as I was still too short to see over the edge of our baptismal pool, situated at the head of our church behind the screens that would come down later in the service with the words of our favorite hymns projected upon it. The pastor gave me a moment to affirm my faith in Christ publicly before being immersed in the water as a testimony to others that my old life was dead and I was buried with Christ and made alive in Him in the likeness of His death and resurrection. I recited John 3:16 by memory: “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” It was a special moment that I will forever cherish.

As I age and continue to be taught by the Lord, the context of this verse has become even more meaningful. The whole recounting of Nicodemus and Jesus resonates with me. Nicodemus was a man with questions. He was a spiritually educated man, a teacher of the law in fact, and a man with great enough regard for Jesus to seek Him out, recognizing that Jesus offered him something beyond his own mind’s limited understanding. Though he did not yet recognize Jesus as the Christ at the point of this conversation, he was still drawn to this teacher that he knew to be sent from God. Jesus quickly recognized Nicodemus’ desire — to see the Kingdom of God— and just as quickly pinpointed his need — to be born again into a new life given by the Holy Spirit. Jesus quickly identified that this man in front of Him needed to believe He was not merely a teacher sent by God, but the promised Messiah and Lamb of God who came to take away the sins of the world. I love the simplicity of Jesus’ words to Nicodemus:

As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up; so that whoever believes will in Him have eternal life. For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.  John 3:16-18

 As I read these words above spoken to Nicodemus, I hear Jesus saying to me, “I know you want what I have and to be a part of what I’m doing. You can’t join in unless you are a new person. You can’t be a new person unless the Holy Spirit makes you that person. The Holy Spirit will give you new life, but you must believe that I am the one who dies for your sins so you don’t have to die for your sins and stay dead in those sins. Accept that I love you and I am the One sent to save you. I am the One who died so that you can have eternal life — death and sin were no match for me. Come follow me.”

The next challenge that Jesus left with Nicodemus was this: “But he who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God.” (John 3:21).

Personally, I think Nicodemus accepted that challenge well. He spoke up for Jesus when Jesus was being falsely accused without a hearing (John 7:50-51) and he continued to follow Jesus and identify himself as one of Christ’s followers even in the death and burial of Christ.   (John 19:39-42)

As those who have also been born again by the Holy Spirit, we have been given the same challenge:  to associate ourselves with Christ.  Whether it be through believer’s baptism, siding with Christ in difficult conversations, or being the few that don’t give up when God’s plans don’t make sense to us. To follow Christ in the newness of life He gives means to no longer hide our faith under the cloak of darkness, but identifying ourselves with Him in all things big and small.

About the Writer:
Lyndsay has been many things in her past, but no career, experience, or calling define her more than the desire to follow after Christ in response to His gracious work in her life.  At present, she teaches movement classes and works as a wellness consultant in addition to loving her amazing husband and raising her daughter to know and love the Lord.

God’s Goody Goody

Margery Meanwell is thought to be the original (and fictitious) goody goody. According to the British Library, The History of Little Goody Two-Shoes is one of the most important children’s books of the 18th century. It tells the story of two orphans, Margery Meanwell and her brother Tommy, and their escape from poverty. Dressed in rags and having only one shoe, Margery is given two shoes by a charitable gentleman. Through hard work she becomes a schoolmistress before making a good impression on the local landowner and marrying him. She inherits his wealth when she is widowed and is granted a large dowry from her brother who has also acquired great wealth in his foreign pursuits. Margery’s wealth enables her to help the poor just as she herself had been helped. She remains adamant that money is to be used for the good of others less fortunate than oneself, not for personal benefit.

Unfortunately, as I know from personal playground experience, the expression goody two-shoes is not usually used as a compliment. The admirable pursuit of the good of another has come to mean something smug and self-righteous — more often than not, a way to heckle a playmate.

To many, good is grey — an ever-shifting concept fluctuating between black and white, depending on the circumstances. For a time I pursued the path of the “healing arts” and spiritualism. During that season of my life, I saw much as grey, but more than that, I saw black as white and white as black. However, there really is no “good” definition for goodness beyond being synonymous with the nature of Christ. Test your definition of goodness against God’s Word. If it’s NOT what God calls good, it will probably be more like what the spirit of the anti-Christ calls good and therefore:

  • it cannot be measured by how closely it resembles the person and actions of Christ
  • it is often in opposition to God’s blueprint for His children or His standard of righteousness
  • it sounds very appealing, because it “feels” good
  • it involves more conclusions that are “right in my own eyes,” rather than “right in God’s eyes”
  • it is based on the argument that an individual is innately “good” rather than innately “sinful”
  • it breeds rebellion against God rather than submission to Him
  • as right as it looks, it eventually leads to destruction

For those of us who search for remnants of Eden and God’s good creation here on earth, it’s easy to want to downplay the negative effects that sin has on each one of us and on the earth itself; however, let it be known: God alone is good (Mark 10:18).

Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not be partakers with them; for you were formerly darkness, but now you are Light in the Lord; walk as children of Light (for the fruit of the Light consists in all goodness and righteousness and truth), trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord. Do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them. Ephesians 5:6-11

About the Writer:
Lyndsay has been many things in her past, but no career, experience, or calling define her more than the desire to follow after Christ in response to His gracious work in her life. At present, she teaches movement classes and works as a wellness consultant in addition to loving her amazing husband and raising her daughter to know and love the Lord.

Light for your Present Circumstances

What I realize in looking back on my spiritual growth is that, while we can often name a time, date, and place when we placed our trust in the Lord, what really makes our testimony unique is what we choose to do with that decision every day by continually growing in our faith to experience the fullness of Christ.

During Jesus’ ministry on earth, multitudes would gather to Him in search of greater understanding. But in the days leading up to his death, after listening to Him teach the parables and perform signs, the crowd became anxious in wanting to know more. They were trying to make sense of the miracles and His teachings, creating an internal aching for clarity with their limited competence.

I know that I can definitely relate to wanting the full picture of God’s plan resulting in a questioning of His ways. “Why?” “When?” “How?” I ask Him repeatedly. And on the day Jesus began to foretell his death, the crowd also began to question His explanation of what was to come. They had heard that the Christ would remain forever, so what did he mean when he said the Son of Man would be lifted up? As Jesus often did, he answered the crowd with an indirect but profound response.

lightdark

So Jesus said to them, “For a little while longer the Light is among you. Walk while you have the Light, so that darkness will not overtake you; he who walks in the darkness does not know where he goes. 36 While you have the Light, believe in the Light, so that you may become sons of Light.”  These things Jesus spoke, and He went away and hid Himself from them. John 12:35-36

In just a few words, he removed the focus from what was to come, and directed them instead to look urgently at the present. What the crowd didn’t realize is that without  faith in the unseen, they would gain no further understanding of His words. Many times in Jesus’s teachings and His miracles, Jesus pointed to faith as the foundation for relationship with Him.

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. Hebrews 11:1

By striving so earnestly to understand before we can move forward, we will repeatedly find ourselves face down in the darkness.

In Jesus’ message that day, He was intentional in saying “for a little while longer… walk while you have the light.” With these words, he created a sense of urgency that remains true for us still today.

Daily we are faced with opportunities to embrace the light that is shining peace and clarity into our lives. If we choose to ignore the wisdom and light that we receive from His Word, the darkness that lies nearby will be ready to overtake us.  In Psalm 119:130 we are told, “The unfolding of Your words gives Light; It gives understanding to the simple.” Daily, hourly, and moment by moment, we must be ready to find the light in our present circumstances.

About the Writer:
Audra has a passion for encouraging women in their roles at home in both marriage and motherhood. She enjoys sharing her journey of refinement and learning through these important transitions on her blog called The Homegrown Project. She also continues her love of textiles and sewing through a collection of children’s accessories called Twigs and Co.

Pick It Up and Read It

I recently read that the God of the Bible – also known as Yahweh, the Creator of the World, and The Holy Trinity –  is a very “talkative” God. This is the One who first spoke “Then God said, ‘Let there be  Light; and there was light.” (Genesis 1:3) Try to imagine it. Listen to the words echo through the vastness of space – the richest, more resonant baritone-bass ever.  Like wondrous, rumbling thunder! (Job 37) So powerful and majestic, His voice breaks cedars, shakes the wilderness, strips the forests bare, and makes the deer to calve! (Psalm 29)

No wonder the children of Israel were shaking in their sandals when they arrived at the foot of a smoking, quaking, thundering Mt. Sinai! Terrified, they begged Moses, “. . . . Speak to us yourself and we will listen; but let not God speak to us, or we will die.” (Exodus 20:19)

Other times God spoke in “. . .a sound of a gentle blowing”. (1 Kings 19:12b)   Loud or soft, He communicated His words of love through certain people, “He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets. . . .” . (Hebrews 1:1a)Bible on bench

Then God sent His Son to more vividly communicate His message of love and redemption.  John 1 calls Jesus the actual Word of God, the Word that became Flesh, and the One who explained God. Of himself, Jesus said, “. . . The words that I say to you I do not speak on My own initiative, but the Father abiding in Me does His works.” (John 14:10b)

Today people can read (or listen to) the written Word of God in hundreds of languages. Through websites such as www.Biblegateway.com and www.Biblehub.com and apps such as YouVersion, people can read the Bible at no cost, plus gain understanding through the free Bible commentaries, maps, and other Bible study helps.

“Although it is a collection of 66 books, written by 40 or more different men over a period of 2,000 years, it is clearly one Book, with perfect unity and consistency throughout… The one consistent theme of the Bible… is God’s great work in the creation and redemption of all things, through His only Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.” http://www.christiananswers.net/q-eden/edn-t003.html

The Word of God is alive and active and able to penetrate into the deepest parts of your soul. (Hebrews 4:12) There are millions of stories about lives that have been rescued, redeemed, and restored through the reading of God’s Word. One young man, Augustine, bereft in the misery he had made of his life, was sitting in his garden weeping. He overheard a child at play in a nearby yard, “Take it up and read. Take it up and read.” Taking it as a message from God, he picked up a Bible and read the first verse he saw.   Immediately he knew,  that God was speaking directly to him. His thrilling story is one click away –  http://www.ccel.org/ccel/augustine/confess.ix.xii.html

God’s Word is “. . . a light to my path.” (Psalm 119:105b). Just pick it up and read it.

About the Writer:
Ruthe Turner serves as the Director of Truett Memorial Library at First Baptist Dallas, where you can find much more information pertaining to the Love of God, as well as stories behind the songs we sing in church. Please visit us, or see our website at http://www.firstdallas.org/library.

 

 

God’s Protection

It took me 3 years to fall for a boy.

It took him 20 seconds to break my heart.

It took my heart 5 seconds to throw up all kinds of walls that ran very deep to “protect” my heart from that pain again.

It took 3 years for me understand true protection from the Lord.

And it took the Lord moments to tear down my walls and replace them with his protection.

Where I went wrong during the above-mentioned years, was trying to protect myself. You see, I am not the girl who thinks she needs protection. However, I am the girl who hates bugs, would prefer not be in scary situations, and will scream if you scream.

So maybe I do need protection.

The truth is bugs, scary situations, and screams I can watch out for. Don’t go outside, avoid haunted houses, and be on guard for people who like to scream in your ear. That seems simple enough, but protection on God’s level is a hiding place, a safe haven, and a guard.

The Lord is my hiding place, you will protect me from trouble. Psalm 32:7

He keeps the needy safe and will protect us forever from the wicked. Psalm 12:7

He guards the course of the just and protects the way of his faithful ones. Proverbs 2:8

What God taught me in those three years was that I didn’t need to protect myself. I did not need to build up walls that kept people out. I did not need to define protection as a negative. I needed to let God define protection for me. I needed to see that God’s protection is more than someone standing in front of me while I coward behind them. And even more important, God’s protection is more than a knight in shining armor riding in to save the day at the very last second.  protection image

God’s protection is a refuge, a fighter for me, a guard from those who are evil. God’s protection is the light that reveals our path, is the safety we need to follow the calling He has placed in our lives, God’s protection is the hiding place we need to run to when our hearts get broken.

God’s protection is not a negative or a sign a weakness, but rather provides the strength we need to accomplish all God has set out for us. God’s protection is a constant in our lives. When I realized that God was the one fighting for me and that all I was doing was pushing people away, I suddenly realized that I had it wrong. When true understanding came, a perspective shift took place and true protection was easy to receive.

About the Writer:
Liz, just a girl who spends her days in seminary classes, spends her afternoons interning with First Baptist Dallas Women’s, spends her evenings with her friends laughing and challenging the definition of community to be something much deeper. If you need her you can probably find her watching Dancing with the Stars while on Pinterest, challenging the worldly norm of a 28 year old.