Category Archives: Religious Issues

The Commands of Christ (17): Lift Up Your Eyes

“Lift up your eyes.” What a compelling invitation! The disciples were worried about Jesus having something to eat and drink, but Jesus was much more concerned about the disciples (and, isn’t that us too?) looking away from themselves to view the world around them: “Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest.”       Personally, when I hear “Lift up your eyes,” I think first of verses like Psalm 121:1,“I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help.”“Unto thee lift I up mine eyes, O thou that dwellest in the heavens” (Psalm 123:1). I am prone to saying, “The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me” (Hebrews 13:6). I look up . . . and think about myself . . . and God: “Lift up your eyes on high, and behold who hath created these things, that bringeth out their host by number: he calleth them all by names by the greatness of his might, for that he is strong in power; not one faileth” (Isaiah 40:26). All these beautiful scriptures are true, but there is more to God’s story than just his greatness and the benefits I receive from being his child! “Lift up your eyes to the heavens, and look upon the earth beneath: for the heavens shall vanish away like smoke, and the earth shall wax old like a garment, and they that dwell therein shall die in like manner: but my salvation shall be for ever, and my righteousness shall not be abolished” (Isaiah 51:6). In the passage we’re studying, John 4, Jesus was compelling his disciples to stop thinking about their own needs for food and water and look around them at the needs of our vast world: Say not ye, There are yet four months, and then cometh harvest? behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest” (John 4:35). What Jesus was teaching his disciples still holds true for us today: The world is full of people who need spiritual food and water. Jesus wants us to stop being consumed by our own physical needs and start elevating our gaze so we can see the tremendous spiritual needs around us . . . millions of souls, like wheat fields waving in the breeze, in need of attention and care, ready for spiritual harvest. I’ll never forget standing atop Victoria Peak in Hong Kong one starlit night, gazing down on what seemed like an endless sea of precious humanity. I was overwhelmed by the thought that if I spent the rest of my life, I couldn’t share the good news of God’s saving grace through faith in Christ with each of them.  Do you, like me, struggle with feeling overwhelmed by the vastness of the task and our inability to meet the needs?  Jesus addressed that problem too:  We’re in this together! What each of us can do is miniscule, but that’s okay! We are workers together. All God asks of us is to be faithful to the field in front of us, if we’ll just lift up our eyes and look at it! Some scatter seed. Some water. Some pull weeds. Some fertilize. Some harvest. All who share the Gospel—repentance from our sins and faith in Christ’s atoning death—are working to build God’s kingdom—a beautiful spiritual kingdom of love and light where Jesus reigns and peace and goodness abound. The end will be eternal life and rejoicing together with all who’ve come into God’s kingdom. What more could we want? Are we looking up? Are we reaching out?John 4:31-39. “In the mean while his disciples prayed him, saying, Master, eat.32 But he said unto them, I have meat to eat that ye know not of.33 Therefore said the disciples one to another, Hath any man brought him ought to eat?34 Jesus saith unto them, My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work.35 Say not ye, There are yet four months, and then cometh harvest? behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest.36 And he that reapeth receiveth wages, and gathereth fruit unto life eternal: that both he that soweth and he that reapeth may rejoice together.37 And herein is that saying true, One soweth, and another reapeth.38 I sent you to reap that whereon ye bestowed no labour: other men laboured, and ye are entered into their labours.

We’ve a Story to Tell to the Nations
(—H. Ernest Nichol, 1896, Public Domain)

1. We’ve a story to tell to the nations,
that shall turn their hearts to the right,
a story of truth and mercy,
a story of peace and light,
a story of peace and light.

Refrain:
For the darkness shall turn to dawning,
and the dawning to noonday bright;
and Christ’s great kingdom shall come on earth,
the kingdom of love and light.

2. We’ve a song to be sung to the nations,
that shall lift their hearts to the Lord,
a song that shall conquer evil
and shatter the spear and sword,
and shatter the spear and sword.
(Refrain)

3. We’ve a message to give to the nations,
that the Lord who reigneth above
hath sent us his Son to save us,
and show us that God is love,
and show us that God is love.
(Refrain)

4. We’ve a Savior to show to the nations,
who the path of sorrow hath trod,
that all of the world’s great peoples
might come to the truth of God,
might come to the truth of God.
(Refrain)

 

The Commands of Christ (16): Believe Me

What do you think motivated Jesus while he was on earth? Who was he? Do you think he wanted to be popular and become a king, or do you think he had a different agenda? If so, what?! If he were a shyster, wouldn’t he just quit preaching instead of allowing the Jews to have him crucified? Or, do you think he was delusional? If so, how did he maintain such a quiet, unselfish demeanor?

And, what about his teachings? Do you believe his teaching that the greatest commandments concern love? Most people would agree that love is greater than faith and the cornerstone in each of our favorite relationships, but I think it’s also true that believing in someone—trusting their integrity and veracity—is the only sure foundation for a secure relationship. Billions of people, including Jews and Muslims as well as Christians, believe that Jesus was a prophet and a good man. Some would go so far as to say they admire him . . . a few might even say they love him, but  only those who truly believe what he teaches is true are willing to entrust their lives to him. Jesus was asking the woman at the well to believe him, and I think he’s asking us to believe him today. To say that Jesus is a “good” man without acknowledging him as truthful is an oxymoron. Here are few of the monumental claims he made about himself:

* “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6).

* “I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst” (John 6:35).

* “I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing” (John 15:5).

* “I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live:26 And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this?” (John 11:25-26) The question we all have to answer for ourselves is: Do we believe that Jesus was really telling the truth, or do we think he was a liar who deceived the people?As C.S. Lewis wrote in Mere Christianity: “I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”
On what basis was Jesus asking the Samaritan woman to believe him? Remember, this is the first and only time they’d ever met. She only had one bit of evidence to go on—his wisdom—but that was enough. He knew things about her  humanly impossible to know, and he understood spiritual truth: He spoke with authority about God the Father and how to worship Him.She was convinced, and when the disciples returned with food, she left her water pot and went into the city, urging the men to “Come, see a man, which told me all things that ever I did: is not this the Christ?” (John 4:29). Many of the men who went out to the well to talk with Jesus were convinced by his words and responded to the woman, “Now we believe, not because of thy saying: for we have heard him ourselves, and know that this is indeed the Christ, the Saviour of the world” (John 4:42). (Note: Jesus did not deny what the men said; He did claim to be the Savior of the world! And, of course, I believe He is!! 🙂 )

Have you asked Jesus to reveal himself to you? Are you willing to let him tell you what he sees in you? Are you willing to read what he taught in the Bible? Or, do you think he was a lunatic and an evil deceiver, out to trick people into believing lies?

John 18:23 “Jesus answered him, If I have spoken evil, bear witness of the evil: but if well, why smitest thou me?” Are you smiting Jesus?

Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God: and every one that loveth him that begat loveth him also that is begotten of him.By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments.For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous” (1 John 5:1-3).

Text for this study: John 4: 19-30; 39-42. “The woman saith unto him, Sir, I perceive that thou art a prophet.20 Our fathers worshipped in this mountain; and ye say, that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship.21 Jesus saith unto her, Woman, believe me, the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father.22 Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews.23 But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him.24 God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.25 The woman saith unto him, I know that Messias cometh, which is called Christ: when he is come, he will tell us all things.26 Jesus saith unto her, I that speak unto thee am he.27 And upon this came his disciples, and marvelled that he talked with the woman: yet no man said, What seekest thou? or, Why talkest thou with her?28 The woman then left her waterpot, and went her way into the city, and saith to the men,29 Come, see a man, which told me all things that ever I did: is not this the Christ?30 Then they went out of the city, and came unto him . . . 39And many of the Samaritans of that city believed on him for the saying of the woman, which testified, He told me all that ever I did.40 So when the Samaritans were come unto him, they besought him that he would tarry with them: and he abode there two days.41 And many more believed because of his own word;42 And said unto the woman, Now we believe, not because of thy saying: for we have heard him ourselves, and know that this is indeed the Christ, the Saviour of the world.”

 

4,000 Days

Last week I had lunch with a girlfriend who converted from Hinduism a few weeks ago. In the course of our conversation, I mentioned that if Alan were to die suddenly, it would take me a long time to recover.  She looked at me wide-eyed, and said,”You speak of death so calmly. Hindus are so afraid to die that they don’t even like to use the word. They avoid thinking about it so much that they often won’t even go to the doctor for a diagnosis or treatment if they think they might have a terminal illness like cancer.”   I was surprised! Somehow, I imagined it might be reassuring to think that after you die, you’ll be reincarnated into another being that will live again on this earth, but apparently that’s false, because no matter how hard you try, you don’t know if you’ll come back as a person of similar rank.  You might return instead as someone from a lower caste, or as an animal.  For those of  us who recognize our propensity for failure, the thought of unending cycles of life attempting to attain perfection sounds impossibly difficult, and after visiting the homeland of Hinduism,  I can only imagine the horror one might feel at the thought of becoming an untouchable or an animal in a difficult environment.  In contrast, I believe (as the Bible teaches) that God has given each of us a certain (undisclosed) number of days to live on earth, and then we will depart. For all whose spirits have been “born again” through faith in Christ, their spirits will never die: “Jesus said unto her [Martha], I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live:26 And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this?” (John 11:25-26). In contrast to Hindus, Christians believe that no matter how old or young we are when we die, our spirits will go immediately into the presence of God: “We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:8). This is the great hope of believers and takes away the terror of physical death!  Nevertheless, we all face the prospect of death, and even if we’re not afraid of dying, I’m sure none of us relish the prospect of the pain normally associated with the dying process. At least, I do not! Still, we have to face up to the hard realities of life, the hardest of which is probably that life on earth will end. In that vein, Alan recently remembered that years ago an actuary spun our numbers and came up with the statistically probability of Alan’s dying at age 79. The other day, “for fun,” Alan calculated how many days that would be from the date of his considerations, and it came out to about 4,015 days. That makes today approximately 4,000 days from his  . . . what shall I call it? Expiration date? Due date? Graduation Day!”  Ya, let’s think of it as a day to celebrate our passing from this life into the presence of Jesus! If you’re still quite young, you might not have any known statistical probability for how long you’ll live, but let’s say you’ll live to the same age as your oldest favorite relative. How many days do you have left? For me, that might give me 9,490± days. If you’re 20 today, you might have over 25,000 left! Regardless of how many days each of us actually has left (since I could easily die before Alan despite statistical probabilities), Alan and I have been intentionally trying to make every day very special, and it’s really made us more determined than ever to use each day wisely and well!

So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.” (Psalm 90:12)

(All photos taken on our Gate 1 Discovery Tour of “Incredible India and Nepal.”)

 

Introducing Dr. Collins: Harmonizing Science and Faith

Recently, Alan and I had the great privilege of hearing Dr. Francis Collins, who was nominated to become the sixteenth director of the NIH (National Institutes of Health) during the tenure of Barak Obama in 2009 and was unanimously confirmed by the Senate . . . a post he continues to hold even today during Trump’s presidency (which says quite a bit about his character  🙂  ). Also, the fact that the NIH, with its $39 billion annual budget, is the world’s largest health research/applied science program, speaks highly of the trust placed in him! Dr. Collins is one of the world’s most renowned scientists and has received prestigious recognitions such as election to the Institute of Medicine and the National Academy of Sciences, being the recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the National Medal of Science, and being appointed to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences by Pope Benedict XVI. Dr. Collins came to Grand Rapids, not in his capacity as Director of the NIH, but to a private event hosted by the President’s Circle of Biologos, an organization he helped birth and guide, which is dedicated to the marriage of faith and science.   The International Headquarters of Biologos is here in Grand Rapids, and David and Carol Van Andel (whose parents founded the Van Andel Institute for biomedical research in Grand Rapids) are avid supporters and sponsors. Dr. Collins’s presentation was fascinating! He started out by sharing his personal career journey from a small farm in the Shanendoah Valley of Virginia (where he was home schooled by non-religious parents) to Yale University for a PhD in chemistry . . . to medical school for an MD degree . . . to research at the University of Michigan as  “The Gene Hunter,” and eventually to overseeing the Human Genome Sequencing Consortium, which was the group that successfully carried out the Human Genome Project (mapping human genes). Interwoven with his career progress was the account of his spiritual progress, from believing in nothing, to being challenged by an elderly patient (who seemed radiantly at peace about death), to grappling with the big question: “Can a scientist also believe in God?” After two years of research and wrestling,* Dr. Collins decided that the evidences pointing to the existence of a Creator God were more compelling than the arguments against. As a geneticist, who can miss the beyond brilliant design of DNA? And, what about the stunning improbability of life occurring spontaneously . . . something like 10 to the 500 billionth power?! Did you know there are some 86 billion neurons in the brain? It’s the most complex mechanism in the universe. How could that all happen by chance? And, what about the Big Bang? Doesn’t that argue eloquently for the veracity of the Genesis account—that in the beginning God spoke the universe into existence by the breath of his mouth? Talk about a BIG BANG!! In addition to sharing his professional and faith journeys, Dr. Collins gave some fascinating insights into the promises and problems of genetic engineering.  For example, through gene modification and therapies, they can now save the lives of infants who are born with Spinal Muscular Atrophy (a type of ALS that attacks and kills infants in the first months of life). Research is ongoing for a way to save people with Huntington’s Disease. There are genes that can act as “police” to track down and destroy certain types of cancer cells. Wouldn’t that be fantastic? The potential for health benefits is  incredible. One of the ways in which any of us could get involved is in participating in a study of genes through http://www.joinallofus.org. They are looking for a million people who are willing to have their genes mapped. As of now, they have 130,000 volunteers. Want to help? Of course, as with all advances, there are moral dilemmas. For instance, they can now develop a human heart in a pig embryo. This type of genetic modification produces a cross between a human and an animal, known as a chimeras. It could save a lot of human lives, but is it ethical? You can only imagine the implications, including the making of science fiction horror stories. Thankfully, Dr. Collins didn’t leave us on that discouraging note. Rather, he called on Christian thinkers, scientists and theologians, to come to the table and help discern the godly path through all the vast possibilities to produce the truest and best results for physical and spiritual health globally. And then, for his final note, he picked up his guitar, called Dr. Deborah Haarma (president of Biologos) to assist him at the piano, and led us all in worship, as we sang to our great God, “Great is Thy Faithfulness.” Truly, God is faithful, and He alone can lead us into the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake! Our call is simply to follow where he leads.By the way, Dr. Collins has also written a New York Times’ Best Seller on genetics called The Language of God. If you’re grappling with how to marry science and faith in your life, you might really profit from reading his book.

“The Spirit of God has made me, and the breath of the Almighty gives me life.” (Job 33:4)

*One of the books Dr. Collins read was Mere Christianity, by C.S. Lewis, which was also instrumental in my mother’s conversion. It’s an excellent book if you’re wrestling with the plausibility of God’s existence.

Twin Talk

In a mother’s womb were two babies. One asked the other: “Do you believe in life after delivery?”The other replied, “Why, of course. There has to be something after delivery. Maybe we are here to prepare ourselves for what we will be later.”

“Nonsense” said the first. “There is no life after delivery. What kind of life would that be?”

The second said, “I don’t know, but there will be more light than here. Maybe we will walk with our legs and eat from our mouths. Maybe we will have other senses that we can’t understand now.”

The first replied, “That is absurd. Walking is impossible. And eating with our mouths? Ridiculous! The umbilical cord supplies nutrition and everything we need. But the umbilical cord is so short. Life after delivery is to be logically excluded.”

The second insisted, “Well I think there is something and maybe it’s different than it is here. Maybe we won’t need this physical cord anymore.”

The first replied, “Nonsense. And moreover if there is life, then why has no one ever come back from there? Delivery is the end of life, and in the after-delivery there is nothing but darkness and silence and oblivion. It takes us nowhere.”

“Well, I don’t know,” said the second, “but certainly we will meet Mother and she will take care of us.”

The first replied “Mother? You actually believe in Mother? That’s laughable. If Mother exists then where is She now?”

The second said, “She is all around us. We are surrounded by her. We are of Her. It is in Her that we live. Without Her this world would not and could not exist.”

Said the first: “Well I don’t see Her, so it is only logical that She doesn’t exist.”

To which the second replied, “Sometimes, when you’re in silence and you focus and listen, you can perceive Her presence, and you can hear Her loving voice, calling down from above.”

(—This has been shared and re-shared on Face Book, but I can’t track it down to the original author. If you know who the author is, would you please let me know so I can ask their permission and give proper credit? I think it’s brilliant!  🙂  )

For thou hast possessed my reins: thou hast covered me in my mother’s womb.14 I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well.15 My substance was not hid from thee, when I was made in secret, and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth.16 Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect; and in thy book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them.17 How precious also are thy thoughts unto me, O God! how great is the sum of them!” (Psalm 139:13-17)

Meditating on the Commands of Christ (13): Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again.

Although they say that seeing is believing, believing isn’t always based on seeing, particularly when we’re wrestling with mysterious things like love and wind. There are both visible and invisible realities, and to fully grasp life, we have to explore the abstract and intangible as well as the physically accessible . . . the black holes in the universe—and in our hearts.

Nicodemus was a religious leader among the Jews who was trying to understand the mind and mission of the masterful new teacher in town. Nicodemus had heard about Jesus and recognized that there was more to him than met his eyes. Who was he really? What were his political intentions? Jesus healed people of physical and spiritual ailments, but unlike modern healers, who could only cure some people, Jesus healed everyone, even those who had been blind and lame from birth. No one before (or since) had been able to heal every single person who came to him for help. Jesus was unique throughout time and history.  But, Jesus was complicated, and many of area rabbis felt wary of him. Nicodemus wasn’t really on a midnight mission to understand healing. (Even though he needed spiritual healing, Nicodemus was blind to his need.) Instead, his mission was to understand what the kingdom of God was all about, and if Jesus was planning to usher it in. Jesus knew this, so rather than wasting time discussing his credentials as a healer, Jesus answered the unspoken question in Nicodemus’s heart: How do I become a part of the kingdom of God?

As a scholar, Nicodemus doubtless knew the prophecy from Daniel 2:44, “And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever.” Nicodemus may have heard Jesus’ proclamation at the beginning of his public ministry: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel” (Mark 1:15). Perhaps Nicodemus was even present when the curious crowd heard Jesus’ famous sermon on the Mount of Olives: “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matthew 6:33).

What was this kingdom of God? Do you know? If you could be a part of God’s kingdom, would you want to be? I think Nicodemus wanted to be, although probably he was expecting a literal, physical kingdom that would replace the oppressive rule of Rome, because he didn’t understand what Jesus said. As in so many conversations recorded, Jesus was answering questions before Nicodemus could ask them—proving over and over (as He does for us at times) that He sees into that abstract, intangible, black hole in our hearts. Before Nicodemus had a chance to ask, Jesus answered: “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3).

Okay, so where do I go with that? I have no clue what this teacher is talking about! I’m way too old to be born into this world as a baby again . . . so is it too late for me?

I’m talking about spiritual rebirth, not physical. This isn’t something you can see. Spiritual rebirth is like the wind: You can see the results of it, but you can’t see it. Like the wind fluttering in the breeze, so we can understand that the Spirit of God is moving by the way it makes our hearts flutter. God’s heavenly Spirit enlivens our spirits from a sleepless death, so we wake up to the fact that we have been denying His existence and have lived our lives without His love and care! We are overwhelmed by His glory and goodness, and it causes us to grieve over all the years we’ve wasted and the great loss of living without His amazing embrace! We cry out to Him to forgive us for being so blind and dumb. We’re struck blind by His radiant glory and fall at his feet, begging for mercy and healing so that we can see again. He heals us, and we can see again, but it’s with new eyes. A new heart that beats with a pacemaker implanted by God’s own Spirit. New lungs that breathe heavenly air. New lips that only want to sing his praises. New life that feels so much passion for our ineffable God that we want to shout to the world that He is the divine healer who alone is worthy of all honor, and glory, and praise, and worship. We are born again into the kingdom of God. We have become His child. He is our Father. We have a new family with numberless brothers and sisters from ages past to the present and into the future! It’s all too wonderful to explain . . . but we cry out like a baby bursting from the womb!    Okay, so I kind of understand . . . a little. Take it back. I still don’t get it. I like what I hear, but just how can this happen?

And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me. Well, do you remember what happened in the wilderness when Moses was leading the people? They were all grumbling and complaining against God, so God sent  swarms of poisonous snakes that started biting and killing everybody. The people had no cure for their loved ones who were bitten, and in terror for their own lives as well, some of them ran to Moses, begging for help. Moses prayed to God, and God told Moses to make a brass serpent and put it up high in the air on a pole. All the people had to do was look up at the snake on the pole, and if they believed enough to be willing to look, they would live! That doesn’t make sense, but it worked. Remember? You’re not going to completely understand this until after I am lifted up on a cross and die, but this is all you have to do to be born again: Repent of your sins and believe. I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish, so look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth! Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again. As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. Believeth thou this?

Ye Must Be Born Again
(—William T. Sleeper, 1881, Public Domain)

A ruler once came to Jesus by night
To ask Him the way of salvation and light;
The Master made answer in words true and plain,
“Ye must be born again.

Ye must be born again,
Ye must be born again;
I verily, verily say unto thee,
Ye must be born again.”

2. Ye children of men, attend to the word
So solemnly uttered by Jesus the Lord;
And let not this message to you be in vain,
“Ye must be born again.

3. O ye who would enter that glorious rest,
And sing with the ransomed the song of the blest,
The life everlasting if ye would obtain,
“Ye must be born again.

4. A dear one in heaven thy heart yearns to see,
At the beautiful gate may be watching for thee,
Then list to the note of this solemn refrain,
“Ye must be born again.

Ye must be born again,
Ye must be born again;
I verily, verily say unto thee,
Ye must be born again.”

                      Text for Today’s Meditation: John 3:1-22
 “There was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews:The same came to Jesus by night, and said unto him, Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him.Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born?Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again.The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.Nicodemus answered and said unto him, How can these things be?10 Jesus answered and said unto him, Art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these things?11 Verily, verily, I say unto thee, We speak that we do know, and testify that we have seen; and ye receive not our witness.12 If I have told you earthly things, and ye believe not, how shall ye believe, if I tell you of heavenly things?13 And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven.14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up:15 That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.17 For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.18 He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.19 And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.20 For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved.21 But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God.

“He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him” (John 3:36).

Where Does God Live, and How Can I Get There?

Do you know where God lives? Although the vast majority of people all around the world believe in God (when defined as some higher spiritual power), most people have only the vaguest conception of where God might live.  Heaven? Nirvana? I think deep within most of us is the longing for a blissful eternal life with God after we die, although it may seem unattainable, or at least nothing we can be sure about. While studying the topic of “where God dwells,” I found a treasury of verses from the Bible that explain where He dwells, with whom He dwells, and how we can attain eternal life. So . . . if you’re interested in knowing where God lives, what it’s like, and how to get there, please feast your heart on this verses:“Unto thee lift I up mine eyes, O thou that dwellest in the heavens” (Psalm 123:1).

“The Lord is high above all nations, and his glory above the heavens.Who is like unto the Lord our God, who dwelleth on high,Who humbleth himself to behold the things that are in heaven, and in the earth!” (Psalm 113:4-6).

O send out thy light and thy truth: let them lead me; let them bring me unto thy holy hill, and to thy tabernacles” (Psalm 43:3; in the Bible, God’s “tabernacle,” his “temple,” his “courts,” and his “house” all refer to where He resides; these names are used literally and metaphorically).

“Surely the righteous shall give thanks unto thy name: the upright shall dwell in thy presence” (Psalm 140:13).

Blessed is the man whom thou choosest, and causest to approach unto thee, that he may dwell in thy courts: we shall be satisfied with the goodness of thy house, even of thy holy temple” (Psalm 65:4).

I give thee charge in the sight of God, who quickeneth all things, and before Christ Jesus, who before Pontius Pilate witnessed a good confession;14 That thou keep this commandment without spot, unrebukable, until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ:15 Which in his times he shall shew, who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings, and Lord of lords;16 Who only hath immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto; whom no man hath seen, nor can see: to whom be honour and power everlasting. Amen” (1 Timothy 6:13-16).

 Where is the way where light dwelleth? and as for darkness, where is the place thereof . . .?” (Job 38:19).  If iniquity be in thine hand, put it far away, and let not wickedness dwell in thy tabernacles” (Job 11:14).

He that worketh deceit shall not dwell within my house: he that telleth lies shall not tarry in my sight” (Psalm 101:7).

For thou art not a God that hath pleasure in wickedness: neither shall evil dwell with thee” (Psalm 5:4).

Depart from evil, and do good; and dwell for evermore” (Psalm 37:27).Lord, who shall abide in thy tabernacle? who shall dwell in thy holy hill?He that walketh uprightly, and worketh righteousness, and speaketh the truth in his heart.He that backbiteth not with his tongue, nor doeth evil to his neighbour, nor taketh up a reproach against his neighbour.In whose eyes a vile person is contemned; but he honoureth them that fear the Lord. He that sweareth to his own hurt, and changeth not.He that putteth not out his money to usury, nor taketh reward against the innocent. He that doeth these things shall never be moved” (Psalm 15)

One thing have I desired of the Lord, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to enquire in his temple” (Psalm 27:4).

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever” (Psalm 23:6).

Blessed are they that dwell in thy house: they will be still praising thee. Selah” (Psalm 84:4).

For a day in thy courts is better than a thousand. I had rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God, than to dwell in the tents of wickedness” (Psalm 84:10).“He that walketh righteously, and speaketh uprightly; he that despiseth the gain of oppressions, that shaketh his hands from holding of bribes, that stoppeth his ears from hearing of blood, and shutteth his eyes from seeing evil;16 He shall dwell on high: his place of defence shall be the munitions of rocks: bread shall be given him; his waters shall be sure.17 Thine eyes shall see the king in his beauty: they shall behold the land that is very far off” (Isaiah 33:15-17).Jesus said:He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him” (John 6:56).

And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent” (John 17:3).

And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand” (John 10:28).

“But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.10 And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. 11 But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you” (Romans 8:9-11). “That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man;17 That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love,18 May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height;19 And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God” (Ephesians 3:16-19).

And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him” (1 John 4:16).

“And he that keepeth his commandments dwelleth in him, and he in him. And hereby we know that he abideth in us, by the Spirit which he hath given us” (1 John 3:24).

My tabernacle also shall be with them: yea, I will be their God, and they shall be my people” (Ezekiel 37:27).Jesus taught: “Do not let your heart be troubled (afraid, cowardly). Believe [confidently] in God and trust in Him, [have faith, hold on to it, rely on it, keep going and] believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many dwelling places. If it were not so, I would have told you, because I am going there to prepare a place for you.And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back again and I will take you to Myself, so that where I am you may be also.And [to the place] where I am going, you know the way.” Thomas said to Him, “Lord, we do not know where You are going; so how can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, [a]I am the [only] Way [to God] and the [real] Truth and the [real] Life; no one comes to the Father but through Me” (John 14:1-6, Amplified Bible, AMP)

“And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful.And he said unto me, It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely.He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son” (Revelation 21:3-7).  But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death” (Revelation 21:8).

And my people shall dwell in a peaceable habitation, and in sure dwellings, and in quiet resting places” (Isaiah 32:18) God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands;25 Neither is worshipped with men’s hands, as though he needed any thing, seeing he giveth to all life, and breath, and all things;26 And hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation;27 That they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us:28 For in him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said, For we are also his offspring (Acts 17:24-28).

Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?” (1 Corinthians 3:16).

Sing praises to the Lord, which dwelleth in Zion: declare among the people his doings” (Psalm 9:11).

He Lives

I serve a risen Savior, He’s in the world today;
I know that He is living whatever men may say;
I see His hand of mercy, I hear His voice of cheer,
And just the time I need Him, He’s always near.

He lives, He lives, Christ Jesus lives today!
He walks with me and talks with me along life’s narrow way.
He lives, He lives, Salvation to impart!
You ask me how I know He lives? He lives within my heart.

In all the world around me I see His loving care,
And tho’ my heart grows weary I never will despair;
I know that He is leading thro’ all the stormy blast,
The day of His appearing will come at last.

Rejoice, rejoice, O Christian, lift up your voice and sing
Eternal hallelujahs to Jesus Christ the King!
The hope of all who seek Him, the help of all who find,
None other is so loving, so good and kind.
(—Author: A.H. Ackley, 1933)

PS—So many things about God do seem mysterious. If you’ve read all the verses about where God dwells and still don’t have a clear idea of how to get there, Jesus explained it in John 3, which I’ll be writing about this coming Sunday. In a nutshell, we can only get to heaven through repenting of our sins and believing in Jesus as our only hope and Savior: [Jesus said] “I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish” (Luke 13:3). “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved” (Acts 16:31).