the inner wind of the heart

Do not marvel that I said to you, 'You must be born again.' The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit." Nicodemus said to him, "How can these things be?" Jesus answered him, "Are you the teacher of Israel and yet you do not understand these things? [John 3:7-8 ESV]

As this fascinating dialog persists Jesus continues to press Nicodemus about his beliefs.
He challenges the Pharisee's understanding of spiritual matters.
Jesus speaks of the born again experience as something that a Jew would already know about?

Is that a new thought for you? It once was for me.
I mean, isn't this born again stuff a Christian doctrine?
Listening to Jesus, one might argue that being born again was part of Jewish teaching.

So why was a Jewish teacher like Nicodemus not already acquainted with the doctrine?
Perhaps the answer might be connected to a focus on the Law and not the Spirit?
In reality, one need look no further than King David to see a born again Jew.

Jesus likens being born again to the wind blowing even though one cannot see it.
Thinking about that my mind considers the power that a tornado or hurricane releases.
Winds are invisible but can have such an impact on things visible when they blow.

In like manner, when we are spiritually born our heart becomes powerful like the wind.
Our invisible spirit can exert influence and power over things visible in our lives.
That influence and power is why we need to be born spiritually.

Thank you Lord for the gift of the Holy Spirit.

... this devotion is part of the Red Letters series. Click here to read more.

spirit gives birth to spirit

“And how can a man who’s getting old possibly be born?” replied Nicodemus. ... “I assure you,” said Jesus, “that unless a man is born from water and from spirit he cannot enter the kingdom of God. Flesh gives birth to flesh and spirit gives birth to spirit: you must not be surprised that I told you that all of you must be born again.“ [John 3:5-6 Phillips]

Before 1975 I had never heard the phrase "Born Again".
Like many, I was a fairly religious person even though I had stopped going to church
Yet I had never read the bible - not even one of the gospel accounts.

So my reaction to this 'born again' phrase was similar to Nicodemus in this passage.
My understanding of such matters was purely cerebral - I had no clue about spiritual things.
So I understand how the Pharisee felt when Jesus began speaking of being born again.

Being born from water and from spirit seems to delineate natural from spiritual birth.
Interesting when you consider Jesus' own birth as told by the gospel writers.
In a sense he was born of spirit before his mother gave natural birth to him.

Jesus is unique in that respect as his mother was flesh and his Father was Spirit.
So it is that when we are born again we become like Jesus - albeit not at natural birth.
When we are born from above we have both fleshly and spiritual parents.

Thank you for the new birth Lord. I am blessed to have a Father like you.

... this devotion is part of the Red Letters series. Click here to read more.

spiritual understanding

“What right have you to order them out?” the Jewish leaders demanded. “If you have this authority from God, show us a miracle to prove it.” “All right,” Jesus replied, “this is the miracle I will do for you: Destroy this sanctuary and in three days I will raise it up!” [John 2:18-19 TLB}

It makes sense that the Jews questioned Jesus' authority here.
After all, he had just cleared the temple court challenging the way that they made money.
They felt they had a right to see some authoritative sign.

Such is the reasoning of many religious people when confronted by a prophet.
Inwardly they knew that they were doing something wrong.
But their greed and mental rationalizations trumped their inner understandings.

Instead of trying to comprehend what Jesus was saying they jumped to a conclusion.
In doing so they missed the entire point of why he was upset about their motives.
Perhaps things would have been different if they would have questioned him further?

Maybe Jesus would have told them that the temple that would be raised was that of his body?

Sadly their reactions are often those of religious people when the conversation turns spiritual.
People are comfortable speaking of religious rites and practices but struggle with spiritual things.
They are centered on external things when they should be focused on things internal.

Lord, help me to see and understand life through inner eyes.

... this devotion is part of the Red Letters series. Click here to read more.

zealous for our hearts

The Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple he found those who were selling oxen and sheep and pigeons, and the money-changers sitting there. And making a whip of cords, he drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and oxen. And he poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables. And he told those who sold the pigeons, “Take these things away; do not make my Father's house a house of trade.” His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.” [John 2:13-17 ESV]

When considering the money-changers in the house of the Lord, I think that it is so tempting to speak of church foyers where money is changed as books, music and coffee are sold. It would be so easy to take pot shots at these things and miss the real issues of this passage.

Jesus was not purely speaking to the legalities of this practice of selling sacrificial sheep, oxen and pigeons but to the heart of it. Man had made something profitable out of something that was meant to be prophetic. Man had taken something sacred and made it something crass.

When I think about things that are sacred I remember this question that the Apostle Paul asks:
"Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you?"
Christians are indwelt by the very Spirit of God. Our bodies house new hearts that have been fashioned for the sacred. When I think about my heart I remember that, like that ancient Jewish temple, Jesus is zealous for it - he will drive out things that hinder me from entering that holy place of prayer.

Lord, help me to remember that my new heart is prophetic and made for prayer.

... this devotion is part of the Red Letters series. Click here to read more.

manifestations of glory

On the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus also was invited to the wedding with his disciples. When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.” His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”

Now there were six stone water jars there for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. And he said to them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the feast.” So they took it. When the master of the feast tasted the water now become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the master of the feast called the bridegroom and said to him, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and when people have drunk freely, then the poor wine. But you have kept the good wine until now.” This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him. [John 2:1-11 ESV]

It is apparent that Mary had seen her son perform some amazing things before this day.
I wonder if she had seen him heal someone in the quiet of their home?
I wonder if miracles were commonplace in their family?

The interaction between Jesus and his mother is so interesting.
I can almost sense a bit of annoyance in his response to her.
In that response we sense that the Lord is preparing to take his ministry public.

I wonder what was going through the servants' minds when Mary spoke to them?
And when do you think they saw the water turn to wine?
Can you imagine the awe they felt in that moment?

Interesting how John reports that Jesus "manifested his glory".
Perhaps that is a definition of a miracle?
Perhaps all miracles are simply manifestations of the glory of God?

I wonder if such miracles are what John referred to when he said "we have seen his glory".
I imagine that they never got used to such glorious things.
Walking with Jesus had to be like nothing anyone could ever imagine.

Like Moses we all say “Please show me your glory.”

... this devotion is part of the Red Letters series. Click here to read more.

the word became flesh

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. [John 1:1-4,14 NLT]

There is a divine mystery that has surrounded humanity since the very first Christmas.
Doubtful that anyone in that stable really understood the significance of what had just happened.
The event is both normal and supernatural. It is somewhat beyond our understanding.

Who could have grasped that God Almighty was taking on human flesh?
Who could have understood that this was not an earthly king come to sit on an earthly throne?
Who looking at this helpless babe could have ever imagined that he was their savior?

Yet John says here that he was one of the ones who saw the glory.
He knew the Messiah and he embraced the nature of his divine mission.
As John writes you get the impression that he was realizing that he had walked with God.

John witnessed the miracles, remembered the teachings and agonized over the cross.
And he saw the resurrected Messiah - the living Word of God.
These verses bind together the miracles of Christmas and Easter.

Open our eyes Lord that we might see the glory of the one and only Son who is full of grace and truth.

... this devotion is part of the Red Letters series. Click here to read more.

the friendship gospel

Philip found Nathanael and said to him, "We have found him of whom Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph." Nathanael said to him, "Can anything good come out of Nazareth?" Philip said to him, "Come and see." Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said of him, "Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!" Nathanael said to him, "How do you know me?" Jesus answered him, "Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you." Nathanael answered him, "Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!" Jesus answered him, "Because I said to you, 'I saw you under the fig tree,' do you believe? You will see greater things than these." [John 1:45-49 ESV]

As I read this passage I am caught up in the excitement of the experience.
Jesus is a virtual unknown and people are bringing their friends to meet him.
And when these men meet him for the first time they are challenged.

These did not think that the Messiah would appear first to them.
Philip was probably invited by hometown friends.
He is so excited he invites another friend to meet Jesus.

Excitement is in the air.
The Christ has come to earth and is befriending ordinary people.
No one expected him to come in this way.

This is the gospel story.
Friends bringing their friends to Jesus.
I am so thankful that in my life friends brought me to Him.

Yet this is merely the first step.
Once Nathanael is in Christ's presence everything changes as the Lord speaks to him.
It amazes me how Nathanael's attitude changes after Jesus speaks prophetically to him.

Yet it does not really amaze me.
I can relate to having my heart laid open that first time I prayed.
Like him, meeting Jesus changed my life and brought greater things into my life.

Thank you Lord for bringing challenge and change into my life.

... this devotion is part of the Red Letters series. Click here to read more.