Two Are Better Than One

We are told that two are better than one. That “doing life together” is better than going through life alone. This is true in marriage but also true in friendship – deep, committed, lifetime friendships.

Two are better than one is a reference to the synergy that “together” creates. It applies to those who would assume that multiple relationships are not worth the effort we put into them; that having a spouse and /or a close friendship is all they can handle, and outside of that, it’s better to keep to themselves.

I know it’s easy to feel that way when you’ve had relationships that were complicated. I get that, because I’ve had, and still have, a few of those myself. I’ve come to realize that as much as possible I want to do life with uncomplicated people. People who believe the best. People who don’t read something into what you say, causing you to constantly watch how you say things and overly explain yourself. People who are stable and secure in themselves, open to conversation, not moody, not easily offended, not socially awkward. These uncomplicated people are not perfect, but once you’ve had complicated relationships, you have a great appreciation for the uncomplicated ones.

When like-minded, uncomplicated relationships come together, it’s far better than being alone. Especially, when there’s a common goal. There are three great reasons given in the verses below for why togetherness is better:

“Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. [Success] If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble. [Safety] Likewise, two people lying close together can keep each other warm. But how can one be warm alone? A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken. [Strength]     (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 NLT)

The writer is saying that in a healthy, life-giving relationship we help each other success, stay safe, and grow stronger. Who wouldn’t want that? See, God never intended us to do life alone. We’re all meant to do life with other people, specifically God’s people. We are formed for family.  We are created for friendship. We are created for community. The only way you can be all you are meant to be is to be connected, committed, and in community with others. When you’re in  healthy relationships, with like-minded people, you can’t help but get bigger and stronger on the inside.

That doesn’t mean that those people are perfect, nor does it mean their struggles are any less than yours. It also doesn’t mean that it’s easy or without challenges. But it does mean we should never buy into the idea that we are better off keeping our distance from people. To live life fully we need to continually work at staying connected to those who bring out the best in us. Connecting to those who are living life in Christian community. Connecting with those who want meaningful, in-depth, and long-term friendships. 

If you are trying to do life alone you are missing out on God’s best for you. You will miss out on God’s plan for your life. Don’t let other ideas, past experiences, or current fears hold you back. If you’ve withdrawn or been distant, closed in on yourself, just know that part of getting bigger on the inside means pushing past self-imposed limits to engage and be an active part of healthy relationships. 

Today would be a good day to begin that journey if you have not already started. And, if you already have connected with uncomplicated but sincere friends, let them know today how much you appreciate them. 

 

Sometimes You Have to Subtract to Add

In arithmetic, subtraction is the opposite of addition, but in relationships before the right people can be added, the wrong people have to be subtracted. The wrong people always hinder the right people from coming and staying in your life. This is true in both friendships and marriage.

Friendships: 

You might be at a place in your life where you could use some positive input and encouragement that the people around you can’t provide. In fact, if you look around at the people closest to you and all you see are people who talk about their problems or gossip about other people, you’re trapped in smallness with the wrong people. You’re surrounded by people who are going nowhere and complaining in the process. But that’s not what God wants for you. He wants you to rise up out of that. He wants you to be confident and know in your heart that there’s something better out there for you.

You can’t expect Positive Paul to come hang out with your friend Negative Ned. Oil and water don’t mix. But you can make a decision to not stay where you are surrounded by people who only pull you down or hold you back. People who drain emotional and mental energy from you and give little back in the relationship. People who take up your time and never personally change. People who use up the time you could be investing in changing and growing healthy relationships with others.

Don’t assume that God wants you to open your life to everyone. No, He wants you to:

        • Be cautious in friendship (see Proverbs 12:26)
        • Avoid being friends with fools (see Proverbs 13:20) and hot-tempered people (see Proverbs 22:24)
        • Do as much life as possible with people who sharpen and make you better and wiser (see Proverbs 27:17; 13;20)

The amazing thing is that when you relationally reposition yourself, free up the inner circle of your life, and start to be the person you long to be and God created you to be, the people you belong with will be drawn in to your life. They will come! Faith-filled people, encouraging people, people who live with hope and confidence will be added to your life.

Marriage: 

It’s pretty common for single people to say, “I’m looking for my other half.” Sometimes it’s just lighthearted semantics that express a desire to find the right person. Other times it’s a perception that a person has about themselves that they are never going to be happy unless someone makes them happy. They assume that their mood swings will be gone. Their fluctuating attitude will be stable. Their battle with low self-esteem will not be an issue when someone has fallen in love with them and is living life with them. But nothing could be further from the truth.

Yes, in arithmetic one half plus one half equals one whole. But in a relationship, one half plus one half equals two different one halves. If you’re not whole going into marriage (or a friendship), you won’t be whole because of your marriage (or friendship). If you don’t overcome bad moods when you’re single, marriage won’t remedy your moodiness. 

Based on how the two of you are coming together, these things are true:

      • Two immature people coming together doesn’t make for a mature relationship
      • Two insecure people coming together doesn’t make for a secure relationship
      • Two unhealthy people coming together doesn’t make for a healthy relationship

But the opposite is true as well:

      • Two mature people will have a mature relationship
      • Two secure people will have a secure relationship
      • Two healthy people will have a healthy relationship

Whatever you are before you are married (or enter into a friendship) is what you bring into the relationship. The best thing you can offer another person is a healthy you, a whole you. Being healthy, staying whole, being our best, taking care of ourselves physically, spiritually, and emotionally is the best gift we can give the people we are relating to. Because in any relationship (marriage, friendship, team members) two whole people equals one amazingly healthy relationship. 

A Stress-Free Life

When the topic of stress comes up, it is usually to remind us of how stress can be harmful to our health and overall well-being. You rarely, if ever, hear that stress is part of a meaningful life.

As a Christian leader I use to attend a number of leadership events every year. I would often hear warnings about stress and ways to avoid it. Sometimes it was even presented in ways that caused me to feel ashamed that I was working hard and putting in long hours in the trenches of “pastor-preneuring” the church I had just planted. I never remember anyone explaining that stress actually has an upside. Not all stress is bad stress, and to live with no stress is an unreasonable goal if you want to have a meaningful life. There’s no shame in stepping into stress. It doesn’t mean you are doing something wrong, and it doesn’t make you less spiritual.

Jesus had stress. In fact, Scripture says He sweated blood, which can happen when our body is reacting to extreme stress.

The disciples had stress. The mission they were on required them to embrace stress.

The heroes of the Bible had stress. The goal was not to have a stress-free life.

Marriage has stress. When two different people (often opposite in personality) decide to do life together, they are committing themselves to a journey that includes its share of stress.

Family has stress. Children are a blessing, but parenting is stress on steroids.

You and I are no different. We will have stress if we have a job, and stress if we don’t have a job. We’ll have stress if we have lots of money or don’t have any money. There’s no such thing as a stress-free life!

In the move The Lion King, Timon and Pumbaa (the meerkat and the warthog) try to convince Simba, a young lion cub, to go after the stress-free life. They called it hakuna matata, which translates from Swahili as “there are no troubles.” It sounded great to young Simba, but the problem was that in the pursuit of hakuna matata, he would miss out on his future. Simba’s father, Mufasa, was king of the Pride Lands, and Simba’s destiny was to take over as the king. In the end he made the choice to give up the pursuit of trouble-free life and embrace the problems and the stress that go along with a life of meaning and purpose.

What’s true in Simba’s story is true in our story. We have absolutely zero chance of living a stress-free life and a meaningful life at the same time. 

Jesus taught us that there’s no such thing as a hakuna matata life here on earth: “I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). Jesus is saying, “Trouble is unavoidable in the place that I have assigned to you. I’ve told you these things to give you peace in the trouble-filled, tension-filled places that I’ve assigned you to be.” He’s saying, “My peace, the peace that I can offer, is not limited to peaceful environments and peaceful circumstances. My eace goes with you unto places I’m sending you.” 

It always amazes me when I come across people who avoid pressure, because they want to be where God is, and they assume God’s not in the stress. They think God stays in the quiet, calm setting with serene surroundings. That’s like saying God keeps to the quite outdoors and spas. Don’t get me wrong; it’s a good idea to go somewhere quiet and peaceful to get recharged. At the same time, we have to get free of the idea that God is only in the quiet places. We need to start seeing Him in the noisy, loud, turbulent, pressure-filled places that He’s assigned us to. 

The good stuff happens in the place of pressure. Pressure is where giants like Goliath fall. Pressure is where battles are won. Pressure is where diamonds are formed and babies are born.

The pressure pf problems doesn’t mean the absence of God. While it’s true that sometimes God wants us to leave the tension and go to the peaceful place, He’s actually assigned us and called us to live in the wild. To stay in the streets. To have peace in the place of our assignments. God doesn’t wait for us to leave the pressure cooker and come to Him in the quiet place. God is in the chaotic and tension-filled places, too. He is in the stress, too!

Everything that’s worth something has a price. All progress has opposition and all advancement has adversity. When you find yourself in wild and crazy situations at school, at work, and in your family, you may feel tempted to withdraw or even to run the other way. But before you do, ask yourself, Is this where I’m meant to be? Is this what I’m here to do? Because the place you want to run from is often the place God has assigned you to. If He assigned you to that place, He is with you in that place. Start to see Him there.

God was in Babylon with Daniel and closed the mouths of the lions. God was in Macedonia with Paul and Silas and opened the doors of their jail cell. God puts us in places that are stressful to achieve the work He wants to do in that place. But He doesn’t just send us. He is there with us. God is in the stress. 

Forms of Fatherhood – Part Two

Some time back I was continuing an intense and in-depth conversation with a young father and husband who lives in another nation and not in Canada. He made a comment in his email about still struggling to relate to God as his Father. We had spoken about this in person a number of times over the last 6 or more years. His comment got me to thinking once again about God our heavenly Father and how our relationship with Him is helped or hindered by our relationship, healthy or unhealthy, with our earthly father. And, I remembered reading some information about fathers in a book I finished in early January. I will summarize my findings and thoughts…

We are living with a “fatherless generation.” I don’t just mean kids who are raised by single moms. Fatherlessness is more complicated than that.

Types of “dad’s” today ( we looked at the first four lot time)…:

1> DEADBEAT DAD

2> DISTANT DAD

3> RELIGIOUS DAD

4>”IF ONLY” DAD

5> GOOD DAD

This dad may go to church every Sunday. He may have fun with his kids on the weekend, taking them to soccer games and the lake for fishing or whatever. But he is not the spiritual leader in his home. He is not a spiritual cultivator.

He provides for his kids, but he isn’t providing what they truly need: spiritual direction. For whatever reason, these men treat God like he’s in the mothering category. They often defer to Mom for spiritual things. 

The interesting thing about this guy is he can be found intimidating his daughter’s new date, but he can’t be found instigating his daughter’s new faith. He can play the macho part but not the part that requires spiritual vulnerability.

Now, don’t get me wrong. These men have fun. These men prioritize their family. These men make many memories and many moments that are to be applauded. They just haven’t prioritized the faith of their family as a personal responsibility. I think deep down you’d find that there’s a desire to be a spiritual leader, but maybe they missed it. Maybe they just don’t know what it looks like. But at the end of the day, they are active, good dads, but they are passive spiritual fathers.

6> FAITHFUL FATHER

I’ve found God to be unpredictable in his methods. He’s always on the move, always shaking things up in our lives. Sometimes it’s hard to know what exactly He’s up to. But one thing is for sure. God wants our hearts.

That’s what he is after. He searches our hearts. He guards our hearts. He even delights in us when our hearts are broken and honest before Him. He wants to transform every crevice and every corner of our hearts, and I think that’s at the core of what a faithful father does.

A faithful father is still dating his wife. He is still pursuing her heart. The same goes for the kids. So, the faithful father doesn’t just ask: “How was your day?” He wants to know: “How is your heart?” And this is true no matter what age the children might be. He is grounded in God’s Word. He asks for forgiveness often. And he strives to give more than leftover energy to both his wife and children.

He is patient and relentless, like our Father in heaven. He does not just focus on surface-level stuff. He is interested in his family’s inner lives. 

Since the main goal of life is to love God with all your heart, soul, and mind, this dad has made this the highest priority for the hearts, souls, and minds of his children. He wants them to have life, and life to the fullest. 

In the end, it all comes down to Jesus. I’m not saying faithful fathers are perfect. I’m saying that for a faithful father, Jesus doesn’t just describe him. Jesus defines him. So what if we looked to Jesus as our role model for manhood?

He was humble, He was strong, and He sacrificed everything. Jesus was marked by an unconventional, unconditional, unbelievable love this world had never seen before.

If we have a skewed image of what it means to be a man and a father, it affects everything: our family, our friends, our future, our legacy. A man’s ability to lead his family is completely dependent on his ability to follow Jesus. 

Forms Of Fatherhood – Part One

Some time back I was continuing an intense and in-depth conversation with a young father and husband who lives in another nation and not in Canada. He made a comment in his email about still struggling to relate to God as his Father. We had spoken about this in person a number of times over the last 6 or more years. His comment got me to thinking once again about God our heavenly Father and how our relationship with Him is helped or hindered by our relationship, healthy or unhealthy, with our earthly father. And, I remembered reading some information about fathers in a book I finished in early January. I will summarize my findings and thoughts…

We are living with a “fatherless generation.” I don’t just mean kids who are raised by single moms. Fatherlessness is more complicated than that.

Types of “dad’s” today:

1> DEADBEAT DAD

This is what our culture calls men who bail out of their responsibility to their family. If a man has become a father, he has a duty to then be a father. A deadbeat dad is a dad who refuses to be a father and is either totally absent from his child’s life or exists somewhere on the periphery.

In my ministry most of the young men I relate to, disciple, and mentor have this kind of “father” and thus are having a hard time relating to a loving, heavenly Father – the One revealed in Jesus and the pages of the New Testament.

2> DISTANT DAD

This is the dad who plagues the church. The dad who is there but not really there. This is the dad who shows up at the game but keeps his head buried in his phone the entire time. The dad who comes to church but only because his wife forces him to. This is the most common form of dad today in this generation. And, the one who has done the most damage in the church. 

He is physically present but emotionally and spiritually absent. Instead of being a transformational leader in the home, he is simply a transactional ATM for his family, necessary in times of need but absent for the rest of life.

Comparing the first two types of dads … Deadbeat dads see their kids as burdens as opposed to blessings, which is why they leave. A distant dad, however, doesn’t leave physically. Instead he sticks around but leaves spiritually and emotionally. He is with his child physically, but his mind is still back in the office. A deadbeat dad leaves one day. A distant dad leaves every day.

3> RELIGIOUS DAD

This dad wants his family in church, but he never communicated why it’s important. You might say he is religious but not spiritual. For this dad, being in church is more about doing the ‘right thing’ than about making sure his family cultivates a healthy relationships with the Lord. Because there is a lack of emotional connection, this dad can make God seem like a taskmaster. Even a killjoy. Rules without a relationship breeds rebellion. This form of parenting can make kids bitter towards God and especially toward the church.

4> “IF ONLY” DAD

This dad puts in the hard work of emotionally investing in his children. This dad puts in the hard work of developing a spiritual relationship with his kids. This dad totally gets that he needs to be the spiritual leader of his home. The problem is that this dad also wants to be this for lots of other people, and he is not home enough to experience the benefits of his labour. He is a terrific role model for his kids, but he’s too often being this from too great a distance 

He’s just not home enough. It’s not that he’s out drinking with his buddies or playing golf. He is doing good things in he world, but that doesn’t change the fact that he’s gone. Gone is gone. 

His kids would say, “I love my dad. I wouldn’t be who I am today without him. But I wish he had been around more. If only he had been around more.”

The “if only” dad has the right intentions. He wants to do right by his family and the world. His problem is one of priority.

More next time … Part Two

Breeds Of Belief

There is a difference – a distinction – between believing in something and believing it

You can believe in airplanes – but be afraid to fly

You believe that airplanes are a good thing

But do not believe that thy will carry you safely to your destination

In the same way, there is a big difference between believing in God and believing God

James reflected this truth when he wrote:

“You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that – and shudder” (James 2:19)

Demons know God its real, but obviously, they don’t serve Him

For many people today they try hard to believe in God without fully believing God

There are at least three types of faith on the spectrum between “believing in” and “believing”

I think that I have experienced them all!

1> The first kind of faith is held by the person I would call a casual believer

Such a person believes in God but has not fully surrendered to Him

He may be a church attender

He could be a very moral person

He most likely is kind and generous

BUT, even though this person believes in God, he lives his life as if God doesn’t really exist – He would be a Christian atheist

These people – casual believers – appear to be Christians

They pray a polite prayer at Thanksgiving and Christmas family meals

They attend church on Christmas and Easter

They tell you they are “thinking about you” during difficult time

But these same people

Don’t let God affect their spending habits

Don’t take God into consideration regarding the movies they watch

He doesn’t keep them from swearing – using God’s name in vain

He not involved when they fudge on their expense reports

Gossiping, Stretching the truth, telling a white lie

They believe in God, but they still do whatever they want

2> The second kind of faith is that of the convenient believer

This is the person who waves the Christian flag whenever it involves a potential benefit.

This person is quick to talk God-talk if it might help seal a business deal or score a date

They will speak “Christianeze” if it helps them to get a promotion

This person uses God to leverage a situation for personal benefit

Their life is a mess as they do whatever they want to do whenever they want to do it; and when it reaches crisis mode they call the pastor

3> The third type of faith belongs to the committed believer 

This is the kind of faith Jesus calls us towards

The road to committed faith is paved with personal abandonment and self-denial

Life ceases to be about is – and it begins to be all about God

The committed believer doesn’t waver because of the crowd and what others might be doing

He isn’t moved by other people’s opinions

He is a Christ follower all the time – complete obedience and faithfulness are his goals

A 99 percent commitment to Christ is not enough

So, what kind of faith is yours?

Casual belief – you are a good person who believes in God, but doesn’t let your faith dominate your life?

Convenient belief – living right when someone’s watching, or when it might benefit you, but doing your own thing when you want?

Committed belief – wholly devoted to the One who’s wholly devoted to you

Theodicy

You may be familiar with the cliche “Life is hard; God is good.” Maybe you’ve even said it to help get you through difficult times. If so, you’re going to appreciate knowing that it is more than a cliche. It’s a strong and solid theological truth. If you’re like me you are going to be encouraged by the fact that some really smart people who were here before us have wrestled with questions such as, If God is good, then why if this happening? Why is injustice allowed, and why does life have to be so hard? Why are children starving the death in Africa?

Philosophers and theologians refer to their conclusions on this topic with the complicated-sounding word theodicy (pronounced: thee od-euhsee), which is the name given to the study of how God’s goodness exists alongside the pain, suffering, injustice, and inequality of life.

Our problem is that we tend to assume that if life is hard, then God must not be good. But it’s not an either/or scenario — it’s both.

Life is hard; God is good.

Here are five statements that pretty much summarize the deeper reasoning behind Life is hard; God is good:

      • Although evil is an undeniable part of the world, the existence of evil cannot and never will cancel out the existence of good
      • Human beings don’t have to offer explanations for why evil is allowed to exist, only that it does. And by the same rules of reason, good exists as well
      • In the same way that Adam through disobedience opened the door of undeserved hardship for all of us, Jesus through obedience opened the door of undeserved favour for all of us
      • The fact that we experience undeserved consequences for someone else’s sin is now trumped by the fact that we experience undeserved favour for someone else’s righteousness
      • God’s undeserved goodness is not just equal to the undeserved hardship. It is surpassing in greatness

The evidence of these two realities is front and center in our lives every day. But what’s most important is which reality we choose to live our life from.

People who live from the “life is hard” reality see everything from that perspective. Sometimes when people are living from the “life is hard” reality they don’t even want to hear the good news. They have already decided that good news is not their reality. If you’re talking about something positive or something good, they usually wait for a chance to quickly turn the conversation back to the “life is hard” reality. It has become such a way of life for them that they don’t usually realize what they are doing.

The contrast between the two perspectives is so stark that it makes it difficult for people who choose to live in one or the other reality to get along. It’s like oil and water —the two don’t mix. You see things differently. You talk about things differently. You approach problems differently.

The presence of problems doesn’t mean the absence of God. In the natural realm we know that the presence of clouds doesn’t mean the absence of the sun. The clouds may temporarily block it, but the sun is still there. Even when you can’t see the sun directly, you can see it’s light as evidence that it’s there.

It is the same way with God’s goodness and favour. There are times we may not be able to see those attributes, but that doesn’t mean they’re not there.

When we don’t get the job we wanted or the person we were dating breaks up with us, we’re often quick to assume God’s favour and goodness is far away from us. But in time we come to realize that God was actually doing us a favour. He was saving us from hardship and struggle we would have had if we stayed in that relationship or got that job we thought we wanted.

So there you have it – Theodicy.

Now you know.

New Every Morning

The manna God provided for Israel in the wilderness was a huge demonstration of God love, His provision, and His care for His people as they moved through the wilderness going from Egypt to the Promised Land. 

It started like this: The Israelites were running short of food, only to wake up one morning and see the ground covered with manna. Chaos broke out as everyone scrambled to pick up all they could gather in their pockets, baskets, and other containers. Their thinking was, We better get all we can while we can. In their minds, that kind of heavenly provision would be short lived, so they decided to ration the gathered supply and make it last as long as possible.

What seemed like a reasonable plan was spoiled, however, when that night while they were sleeping, maggots infested their stored manna. God sent them a message that said, Yesterday’s provision is not today’s provision. He clearly did not want them to eat today’s leftovers tomorrow. Rather than trying to preserve today’s provision, He wanted them to engage every day with a fresh, new expectation and anticipation of what God would do new, new every morning.

God wanted them to believe that there’s always more where that came from – more blessing, more provision, more healing, more power, more of God’s favour (see Exodus 16).

Another thing that happened was that after the Israelites ate the manna, they complained that it was not “the same” as the corn and melons they had enjoyed while in Egypt. The form of God’s favour and provision had changed, and they were sentimentally attached to the old form of God’s favour and provision, which hindered them from fully appreciating and receiving the new season they were now in (see Numbers 11).

Here’s the takeaway: As good as yesterday may have been in your life, God doesn’t want you living there. He has new experiences, new discoveries, and new opportunities for you in the current season of your life.

I am thinking this through because recently I was thinking that maybe I should retire. That it is just too much to continue travelling to nations to share God’s Word. I am getting old, feeling old, and thinking that maybe I am done. Nd God spoke to me in a number if ways to let me know that it is not over – and that it is new every morning. 

I learned a few other truths during this season of wrestling with my feelings and thoughts… 

The best way to honour the past is to not get stuck in it! Stay creative and confident in today’s fresh supply of favour and provision. One of the biggest mistakes we can make is to get sentimentally attached to a past season of God’s favour and means of provision versus moving forward to experience a new season and experience His provision and favour in new ways.

 

God’s favour was on yesterday, yesterday — it’s not on yesterday, today!

The Psalmist said, “This is the day the LORD has made; we will rejoice and be glad in it” (Psalm 118:24 NKJV). He didn’t say he will rejoice in yesterday; he said he will rejoice in today!

God’s favour and provision is new every morning!

Live in today!

Expect great things today!

Draw on God’s favour and provision today!

So, as I said, in my life recently I hit the “I’m tired” button because I was depleted – emotionally and mentally. I began to think I should tap out because I am getting too old for all of this; too old to make a significant difference.

Here is what I discovered once again: When you feel weary it may mean it’s time for some course correction or new habits. It might be time, as I discovered, to get some outside voices speaking wisdom and clarity into your foggy set of circumstances. But the main thing I learned (again) and that I want to impress on you is that God’s plan for your life is not over and we must continue to expect and anticipate that things will become new every morning until the morning you see Him face-to-face in Heaven. New hope. New perspective. New direction. New insights. New wisdom. New provision. New direction. New challenge. New every morning. 

God’s favour and provision – and His call on your life – isn’t finished when you feel tired or weary. God has fresh favour and provision for you just on the other side of this season you are currently in. You are about to start a new chapter of your life. God will refresh you, renew your strength, and make you strong all the days of your life!

You may still be young, but you’re not too young to start thinking about staying strong, and finishing strong!

I love the words of Caleb who, when he was 85 years-old, said, “I’m still as strong today as I was in my youth … Now give me this mountain” (Joshua 14:11-12)

When Abraham was 99 years old, God appeared to him and said, “I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing” (Genesis 12:2).

Cam Townsend, founder of Wycliffe Bible Translators, flew to Moscow and began learning Russian to assist in Bible translation work in the Caucasus. The nation was still under the iron grip of communism, and he was 72 years young.

Colonel Harland Sanders was 65 years old when he started actively franchising his chicken receipt. His face later became the second most recognized in America.

John Wesley preached over 40,000 sermons and travelled 225,000 miles and foot and horseback. But get this: these figures belong only to the latter part of his life, from age 35 to 88.

President Roland Reagan was 76 years old when he pointed to the Berlin Wall and said those famous words that ushered in a new era: “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”

No better what your age or circumstances, your past supply and provision is not your last supply! There is no end to the favour and provision of God. It has no quota and no limits. The Lord’s eyes are on you for your entire lifetime! Not a day goes by that He is not watching over you: “The LORD will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore (Psalm 121:8).

He has fresh, new ways to provide for you and bless others through you in every chapter of your life, and every day that you live. 

Nick at Night – Part Four

Let’s finish looking the civil conversation between Jesus and Nicodemus. 

We started with seeing that “What the World Needs Now Is Love” …

Then we had a look at the fact that in His conversation with Nicodemus Jesus:

Went straight to the point speaking the truth in love

And that the Spirit of God is always moving and we partner with Him in the work of winning the lost

And a third element – third element in this civil conversation between the Lord and Nicodemus – Patience … Even When They Don’t Understand

As I attempt to put myself non Nicodemus’s sandals after this fascinating conversation with the Saviour of the world, here is what I imagine Nicodemus saying or thinking:

“Jesus, everything that You’re saying has completely turned my thought process upside down. Everything I have ever been taught since I was a child is that the law is what saves! You come along with these miracles and signs that force me to listen to You. You  tell me I have to be born again of the Spirit. And that the Son of Man must be lifted up (crucified and glorified).”

I imagine him continuing, “Jesus, I’m an educated man, but I need you to simplify this for me. I’m very interested – but I don’t understand. I know the Scriptures front to back. I know what the rabbis have taught for thousands of years, but … I have no idea what You are saying.”

Then, in perhaps the greatest verse in John’s entire gospel, Jesus really did simplify it all for Nicodemus when He declared: “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).

People can keep all the laws, but the law can’t save. They can be leaders among leaders, but fame and recognition can’t save. They can be wealthy, but material possessions cannot save. Only knowing the Son of God – Jesus – can save a person.

Christ went to the cross and died for the sins of the world. All who believe in Him will not perish (go to Hell) but have everlasting life (know God personally and the, when they die, go to Heaven)! As Jesus spoke amicably with Nicodemus, we can show others through patient civil conversations that it was all part of God’s plan.

God’s story.

God’s love.

God’s Spirit.

God’s calling.

God’s Son.

God’s salvation.

Any time you see people getting saved, lives being changed, miracles and signs, and people moving from darkness to light – it’s all God. Anything good you see is because God is at work around the world to redeem mankind before Jesus returns. Unbelievers may not understand this, but we can help them. Today, you can initiate civil conversations about matters of faith with someone you meet. 

Nick At Night

We are called to share Jesus and the Gospel of the Kingdom with others at all times. Actions and words. Oftentimes the best way to open the door for sharing Jesus with someone is to begin a civil conversation. This means we maintain a sincere, kind, and respectful tone as we dialogue. It also means praying for the Holy Spirit’s guidance about what to say, including when and how to say it.
As Christians, many of us tend to fall into two different extremes. There are some who don’t engage with non-believers at all about spiritual matters because they feel afraid, intimidated, or ill-equipped. There are others who do, but it can be in a manner that is obnoxious or argumentative. Let’s look at 1 Peter 3:15 as the remedy to both extremes. It says:
“But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.”
Our effectiveness for the Gospel begins with a reverence for Christ as Lord in our hearts. We are called to always be ready to give an answer to those who ask us the reason why we have hope. We are to do this with gentleness and respect.
What the world needs now, more than ever before, is for believers to be open, engaging, and available to civil conversations in a culture where people are becoming more and more hostile to Christianity – and to each other. Just look at any comments section of a social media post or news article. It can be the simplest topic to the most controversial. Doesn’t matter. In just about every instance you will have people who disagree with one another and begin labeling and attacking with no filter. Civil discourse seems to have left the building. And we Christians are just as guilty of this as nonbelievers.
The truth is, we are not going to win anyone or convince anyone of anything with our harsh and obnoxious Facebook posts over petty differences. We are not going to argue anyone into God’s Kingdom. Instead, let’s begin in civil dialogue.
Throughout Scripture, almost every conversion story began with some type of civil conversation. In Acts 8, Philip had a conversation with an Ethiopian who ended up getting saved and baptized. In Acts 10, Peter and a man named Cornelius had a conversation and the next thing you know, Cornelius and his family surrender their lives to Jesus Christ. It was in Acts 16:13-14 during a conversation with Paul and his companions, that a woman named Lydia opened her heart to receive Christ as Lord.
Jesus preached and taught people, but in His one-on-one conversations we see that He would often take on a different approach by conversing and asking questions. One of the best examples of this is recorded in the 3rd chapter of John. A man named Nicodemus had an encounter with Jesus – and his life changed forever. And, in John, chapter four, Jesus engages in a conversation with a woman at the well and that one conversations leads to a whole village hearing the Gospel of the Kingdom.
What the world needs now is for Christians to engage with the non-believers in their neighbourhood and, treating them with dignity and respect, watch for the opportunity to share the love of Jesus. Because what the world needs now is love.
So, let’s look at the conversation between Jesus and Nicodemus…
Nicodemus was someone you might meet for the first time and think, He’ll never become a Christian. The guy had political influence and clout. He represented the status quo. He was wealthy. A guardian of the rules. A keeper of the laws.
Were you raised in (or have you ever been to) a legalistic church? The kind of church that emphasized “keeping the rules” – lots and lots of rules! Sadly, sometimes even “unwritten” rules are considered biblical.
Nicodemus most likely subscribed to all kinds of unwritten laws as a teacher to Israel. He represents the people who believe that by keeping all the rules they are somehow saved or made righteous. And yet Nicodemus came to Jesus at night because he was probable very intrigued by Him. He wanted to learn more about Him and the things He had been teaching. So Nicodemus said, “Rabbi,” which means “teacher,” and the conversation began.
“Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the signs you are doing if God were not with him (John 3:2).
There are a few things I want to highlight within Jesus and Nicodemus’s exchange and conversation that will be immediately helpful to you as your share your faith.
1> Straight to the point
Jesus was willing to have a civil conversation with Nicodemus, but He also got straight to the point, as we see in the third verse of John 3. It could have been because it was late at night and Jesus was too tired for small talk. But it probably had more to do with Jesus’s desire to see Nicodemus saved. He pulled no punches. He did not shy away from this opportunity to converse with one of Israel’s most important political and religious leaders.
He said to Nicodemus, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the Kingdom of God unless they are born again.”
That’s pretty direct. Nicodemus heard this phrase born again and he couldn’t figure it out; he didn’t understand it. So he asked the question heard around the the evangelical world: “How can someone be born when they are old? Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!” (John 3:4)
Jesus answered, and once again, He did not mince words: “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the Kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit” (John 3:5-6).
And what He meant by that was that Nicodemus had already been born physically; he needed to be born spiritually. Nick at night still didn’t get it, but to be fair, consider where we are in history: Jesus hadn’t died on the cross yet, the day of Pentecost was still three years away, and the church hadn’t started yet. There were no baptisteries, no communion trays, and no crosses on church buildings. Jesus was speaking somewhat prophetically when He pointed out the truth about being born of water and the Spirit.
No wonder Nicodemus didn’t understand. I’m not sure he was suppose to understand. Even mature Christians today have difficulty understanding this text! But Jesus laid everything out directly anyway.
Sometimes when believers are talking with someone who doesn’t know Christ, we beat around the bush. We use too many words. We preface or sugarcoat or water down the message. Jesus’s civil conversation with Nicodemus teaches us that sometimes we need to get straight to the point. This doesn’t mean you should be frantic, rude, or abrupt. Jesus was gentle and at ease as He shared the truth. He is the way, the truth and the life, after all, so it was probably completely natural to Him!
It may not be as natural to us, but you and I can learn to hone our message. As we practice sharing our testimony and the Gospel message, we will learn to cut out all the hemming and hawing and get down to what’s most important: the simple story of Christ’s transforming love.
We saw that Jesus lovingly shares with Nicodemus his need to be born again. And that Jesus went ‘straight to the point’.
The second thing we notice in the conversation between Jesus and Nicodemus is that “The Spirit Is Always Moving.”
Jesus says to Nicodemus, “The winds blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit” (John 3:8).
Nicodemus asked, “How can this be?” (verse 9) The reason he asked this question is because he was convinced that the law was what saved a person.
But since the law cannot save, there was a restlessness in Nicodemus’s soul. Despite the fact that he was a “law man” – and had money, fame, power, position, and religion – he was empty inside. He was searching. He didn’t know why he was searching. He didn’t know why he was feeling what he was feeling.
I imagine Jesus was trying to quiet the noice in Nicodemus’s mind and heart by saying, “Shh! Listen to the sound of the wind. The Holy Spirit of God is drawing you toward something that can save.”
And here’s the best part: even though Nicodemus came searching for Jesus that night, it was actually Jesus via the Holy Spirit who was searching for Nicodemus.
Do you remember the story in the Bible about a man named Zacchaeus who was small in stature? He climbed up a tree to look for Jesus, who was passing through the town of Jericho. Jesus looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today” (Luke 19:5).
Let me ask you a question: Was Zacchaeus searching for Jesus, or was Jesus searching for Zacchaeus? Even though Zacchaeus was a wealthy tax collector, a “sinner” by everyone else’s account, he was valuable to the Lord. Jesus was looking for him and wanted to be a guest in his home. After encountering the Lord, Zacchaeus repented of his sins, vowing to give half of what he owned to the poor and pay restitution to anyone he had cheated in the past.
If there was any doubt that Jesus was in fact looking for Zacchaeus, what the Lord declared next should clear things up: “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and save the lost” (Luke 19:9-10).
The Spirit of God moved in the heart of a wealthy tax collector to climb that tree in Jericho in order to catch a glimpse of Jesus Christ, the Saviour of the world., As we have already discovered, God’s Spirit also moved in the heart of Nicodemus to seek out Jesus for the answers to his questions.
Behind the scenes, this very moment, the Spirit of God is moving! He blows wherever He wants to. As you approach casual conversations with others, I hope you will take comfort in the fact that God’s Spirit is always moving and wooing – even in folks you think would never be saved.
Author Russell Moore penned this powerful statement:
“The next Billy Graham might be passed out drunk in a fraternity house right now. The next Charles Spurgeon might be making posters for a Gay Pride March right now. The next Mother Teresa might be managing an abortion clinic right now.. But the Spirit of God can turn all that around. And seems to delight to do so.”
Don’t ever doubt whom God can reach or whom God can save!
Right now there are people in your life – and perhaps even folks not yet met – who are restless just like Nicodemus. They are wondering what it means to be born again. There is an emptiness in their hearts that the law, or self-righteousness, or money, or power, or fame, or relationships, or drugs, or alcohol cannot fill. The Spirit of God could be reaching out to them through you. Let this amazing truth be your confidence as you initiate civil conversations with them about matters of faith.
Review:
We are looking at the civil conversation between Jesus and Nicodemus. This is the first of three recorded connections that this religious leader and teacher had with Jesus.
We started with seeing that “What the World Needs Now Is Love” …
Then we had a look at the fact that in His conversation with Nicodemus Jesus:
Went straight to the point speaking the truth in love
And that the Spirit of God is always moving and we partner with Him in the work of winning the lost
Let’s look at a third element in this civil conversation between the Lord and Nicodemus.
Patience – Even When They Don’t Understand
After Nicodemus asked, “How can this be?” Jesus continued to talk with him and explained Himself in quite some detail, Even though Nicodemus was a teacher of the law and should have been able to grasp these concepts. Even though, by all appearances, his conversion was nowhere in sight.
And what we learn from Christ’s approach and demeanour is that be must be patient with others, even when they don’t understand.
Jesus patiently took Nicodemus back to a familiar story in the Old Testament – Numbers 21 – to explain salvation. The people of God were complaining when they should have been rejoicing because God had delivered them from captivity in Egypt and was leading them to the promised land.
They questioned Moses’s leadership abilities.
They didn’t like the monotonous and dry food.
They began to second-guess leaving a life of slavery in Egypt.
And they began to infect the camp with poisonous words
So the Lord sent real, live snakes into their midst, to do literally the very thing the people were guilty of doing figuratively: poisoning. Many of the Israelites died. Those who were left realized their sin and went to Moses to repent. They knew they were doomed and beyond hope.
In recounting this story, Jesus reminded Nicodemus how Moses lifted up a bronze snake on a pole and whoever looked upon that snake would live. Just as He did with His “born again” statement earlier, Jesus was juxtaposing the physical with the spiritual. In fact, He told Nicodemus that He was speaking about heavenly things: “Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him” (John 3:14-15).
Jesus was patient with Nicodemus as He led him to the truth of the Gospel. We are called to do the same in our civil conversations with others. It may look like they don’t understand. It may look like they are never going to receive it. But God has called us to lift up Jesus so that He can draw all people to Him (John 12:32). That is our only job. That is all we have to worry about.
More and more every day, our world is becoming so divided and confused. Like the Israelites who had snakes in the midst of the camp, it may seem as though we are all doomed.
Our only hope is Jesus Christ.
In everything we do, in every conversation we have, we believers must be loving, patient, truthful, and above all, lift Jesus so that the entire would will believe.
Let’s finish looking the civil conversation between Jesus and Nicodemus.
We started with seeing that “What the World Needs Now Is Love” …
Then we had a look at the fact that in His conversation with Nicodemus Jesus:
Went straight to the point speaking the truth in love
And that the Spirit of God is always moving and we partner with Him in the work of winning the lost
And a third element – third element in this civil conversation between the Lord and Nicodemus – Patience … Even When They Don’t Understand
As I attempt to put myself non Nicodemus’s sandals after this fascinating conversation with the Saviour of the world, here is what I imagine Nicodemus saying or thinking:
“Jesus, everything that You’re saying has completely turned my thought process upside down. Everything I have ever been taught since I was a child is that the law is what saves! You come along with these miracles and signs that force me to listen to You. You  tell me I have to be born again of the Spirit. And that the Son of Man must be lifted up (crucified and glorified).”
I imagine him continuing, “Jesus, I’m an educated man, but I need you to simplify this for me. I’m very interested – but I don’t understand. I know the Scriptures front to back. I know what the rabbis have taught for thousands of years, but … I have no idea what You are saying.”
Then, in perhaps the greatest verse in John’s entire gospel, Jesus really did simplify it all for Nicodemus when He declared: “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).
People can keep all the laws, but the law can’t save. They can be leaders among leaders, but fame and recognition can’t save. They can be wealthy, but material possessions cannot save. Only knowing the Son of God – Jesus – can save a person.
Christ went to the cross and died for the sins of the world. All who believe in Him will not perish (go to Hell) but have everlasting life (know God personally and the, when they die, go to Heaven)! As Jesus spoke amicably with Nicodemus, we can show others through patient civil conversations that it was all part of God’s plan.
God’s story.
God’s love.
God’s Spirit.
God’s calling.
God’s Son.
God’s salvation.
Any time you see people getting saved, lives being changed, miracles and signs, and people moving from darkness to light – it’s all God. Anything good you see is because God is at work around the world to redeem mankind before Jesus returns. Unbelievers may not understand this, but we can help them. Today, you can initiate civil conversations about matters of faith with someone you meet.