Encouragement From The Word

Are you ready?

The kids will be finished school today.

Maybe, you’ll be finished work today.

Christmas is coming.  Are you ready?

Well, I still have baking to do, and a turkey to buy, and presents to pick up for…

No, are you ready?

Despite what the culture teaches us, being ready for Christmas has less to do with making sure the tree is decorated and the table is set for dinner than with making sure your heart is prepared.  That’s what the season of Advent has been all about.

This coming week, we will celebrate the birth of the Son of God in a hewn-out cave behind a Bethlehem motel.  But it’s not just about an historical commemoration.

The nod to the newborn Jesus lying in a manger is vested with its deepest meaning when his birth in Bethlehem is replicated in our lives.  As we plead in one of the old Christmas carols:

          O holy Child of Bethlehem, descend to us, we pray;

          Cast out our sin and enter in; be born in us today.

When Jesus is born in us, that’s when his birth in Bethlehem’s stall becomes most meaningful, and when we are truly ready.

Let Christmas be significant for you this year.  You still have a few days to get ready!  Invite Jesus to be born in you.  It’ll be like being born again.

Wait a minute, I’ve heard that somewhere before…oh, right:

I tell you the truth, unless you are born again, you cannot see the Kingdom of God” (John 3.3, NLT).

Christmas has the most meaning when Jesus is alive in our hearts.

If you’re looking for a place to worship the newborn King this Christmas, I invite you to join me at St. Paul’s Church, Nobleton.  It would be awesome to see you.

Merry Christmas!

Christmas in Nobleton 2019

Biblical Messages

Come to the Light

Continuing on from last week’s message about Nicodemus and the need to be “born again” or “born from above”, we find Jesus responding to Nicodemus’ bewilderment in John 3.9-21.  We learn that we don’t lack knowledge; we lack inner spiritual transformation.  Listen to the message below, or watch the Facebook Live feed, to find out more.

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Biblical Messages

Born Again

The term “born again” has a lot of baggage attached to it, principally by those who deride the term, but also by those who think there’s more than one ‘class’ of Christian.  What does it really mean, and why should we not fear it?  Based on John 3.1-8, you can listen to or watch this message:

 

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Encouragement From The Word

Don’t be ashamed of the Name

This Sunday at St. Paul’s Church, Nobleton, I’m going to talk about a term that gets tossed around a lot – often with scorn attached – in the church and in the world.  It’s the term “born again”.

In the sense in which Christians use it, the term appears just in one place in the New Testament:  the story of Jesus’ encounter at night with Nicodemus in John 3.  Nicodemus confides that everybody who has been eyeing his ministry knows he has come from God.  Then Jesus tells him, “I tell you the truth, unless you are born again, you cannot see the Kingdom of God” (John 3.3, NLT).

Well, that kind of came out of left field, didn’t it, Jesus?  After receiving such a high compliment from such a high-ranking Jewish official, one would think he would demurely blush and say, “Aw, shucks” or something.  But not Jesus.  He jumps right into the challenge of the Kingdom:  to see it, you must be born again.

What did he mean by that?

As I noted, the term is fraught with baggage both inside and outside the church, and it’s often negative.  But the term that John uses for “again” in John 3.3 – anōthen – has a couple of similar meanings.  It can mean ‘again’, ‘from the very beginning’, or ‘for a long time’; or, as John tends to use it most, ‘from above’.  Some translations of the Bible have started using ‘from above’, because it is a correct translation, and perhaps also to try to steer away from the negative baggage that ‘again’ has caused over the year.

But they really all point to the same thing:  there must be some sort of new, supernatural birth that takes place in our lives before we can see the Kingdom of God.

Many well-meaning followers of Jesus have hammered away at this verse over the years as an antidote to the milquetoast teaching (or lack thereof) that suggests, “All you have to do is be good, and God will have you.”

I’m still not sure, after 30 years in this business, where people came up with that notion, but it sure wasn’t from the Bible, that’s for sure.

No, at some point in our lives – and it’s never too late! – each of us needs to come to terms with the reality that Jesus’ death and resurrection were not just historical events, but that they were accomplished for me.  For each of us.  And when God pours down his grace on us to enable us to make that confession of faith, something new happens inside us, and we experience new birth.  We are born from above.  We are born again.

It doesn’t have to have a dramatic testimony attached to it.  Instead of a Damascus Road experience, it can be an Emmaus Road experience.  Each must lead to the same conclusion, though:  at some point, we ceased living under our own strength and gave over the throne of our hearts to Jesus.  When you do, some people will label you as “one of those born again Christians.”  And when they do, you can give humble praise to the One who died and rose again for you, and who changes you within by the Holy Spirit.

It’s not about pride – far from it.  But you don’t need to be ashamed of the Name.

P.S.:  If you’re interested in integrating your faith and your work, consider coming to St. Paul’s Church, Nobleton for a simulcast retreat called “Work as Worship” on Friday, February 23 from 8:30 to 3:30.  Lunch is provided in the $25 registration cost.  Learn more by clicking here.

 

Biblical Messages

LOVE ONE ANOTHER: God’s Children

One of the things John strongly affirms in his first letter is that we are children of God if we do what the Lord commands and live in him by faith.  What does that mean?  What has to change in us in order for us to be children of God?  Based on 1 John 2.28-3.10, you can listen to this message to find out: