the dark side


The Light has come into the world. And the Light is the test by which men are guilty or not. People love darkness more than the Light because the things they do are sinful. [John 3:19 NLV]


The setting for the coming of the Messiah is one of great spiritual darkness.
Everyone is stumbling around in the dark - even the religious leaders struggle spiritually.
This passage reminds me of this verse from the prophet Isaiah:
The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light;
those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shined.
Jesus is that great light that has come into the world.
His light illuminated, and yet illuminates, the dark ways of humankind.
His life, teachings and ministry testify to the light of God.  

I find it interesting how, in the gospels, sinners repented and were made whole by this light.
Yet religious people ignored their witness preferring their darkness to Christ's light.
It is a troubling thought for those of us who have followed God for a long time.

It is troubling to know that Christ mostly confronted the darkness of religious people.
It concerns me and causes me to question the dark theologies that I once embraced.
And it reminds me how easy it is to be drawn to the dark side.

Lord, I need your light. Please shine and expose all of my dark ways.


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

the gift of immortality


As Moses lifted up the bronze snake on a pole in the desert, in the same way the Son of Man must be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life. For God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not die but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to be its judge, but to be its savior. Those who believe in the Son are not judged; but those who do not believe have already been judged, because they have not believed in God's only Son. [John 3:14-18 GNT]


The text of John 3:16 is the most famous verse in all of the bible.
But the verses surrounding it are not as well known.
In these verses we learn about the nature of mortal and immortal life.

To begin with, God sent his Son, the exact impression of the Father.
Jesus, the Son, was lifted up, elevated, in his day that people might believe in him.
The promise was that all who believed would live forever.

Those who reject God, like all of creation, cease to exist when they die.
All creation is born mortal and have nothing in them that survives death.
People who believe in Jesus receive the gift of immortality.

Such is the gospel of Christ and the new birth.
Those who refuse to believe are already judged and cease to exist when they die.
Folks who believe are transformed and receive eternal life.

I believe in you Jesus. Thank you for the gift of eternal life.


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

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.