The Wind Blows Where It Wishes

John 3:1-8 – Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. 2 This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.” 3 Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” 4 Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” 5 Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ 8 The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

2014-01-31 - The Wind Blows Where It Wishes (IMG_8140)The wind-blown waters of Upper Two Medicine LakeGlacier National Park, Montana.

We cannot see the wind, but we can certainly see and feel its effects; and, when you are hiking in the mountains the wind can get rather chilly, even on a warm summer day.  On the particular August day that this photo was taken the temperatures were probably near 80 degrees Fahrenheit, but by the time we got to Upper Two Medicine Lake the wind coming down off the mountains was cold enough to warrant putting on a jacket.  Never underestimate the weather in the mountains.  Always be prepared and carry extra layers of clothing, even if it is warm when you are starting out on your hike.

Today’s passage from John’s gospel recounts a late night discussion between Jesus and Nicodemus, one of the Pharisees.  Although Nicodemus seems to acknowledge Jesus’ authority, at least as “a teacher come from God,” he clearly does not understand, or does not want to understand, what Jesus is telling him when he says, “unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

The term “born again” is not just some catchy phrase used by Christians; it is a real transformation that takes place in the hearts and minds of those who come to know and accept Christ as their Lord and Savior.  The term “born again” is often the subject of much debate, but there is another term also used to describe this transformation, that term is “regeneration,” found in Titus 3:4-7,

4 But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, 5 he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, 6 whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.

Christ’s words in John 3:5 and Paul’s words in Titus 3:5 definitely appear to be describing the same process, “born of water and the Spirit,” and “by washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit.”  In both passages it is clear that this process is not of the individual believer’s own doing, it is only by the action of the Holy Spirit that this transformation takes place.

How exactly this regeneration, or rebirth, happens is a mystery, and Christ basically tells us just that when he says, “The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”  We know that we cannot see the wind, but we certainly can see and feel its effects, so it is for those who have come to know and accept Christ as their Lord and Savior.

Read more about my “God is Revealed…“ category of posts

© Todd D. Nystrom and Todd the Hiker, 2014.

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The Sky Above Proclaims His Handiwork

Psalm 19:1-6 – The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. 2 Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge. 3 There is no speech, nor are there words, whose voice is not heard. 4 Their voice goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world. In them he has set a tent for the sun, 5 which comes out like a bridegroom leaving his chamber, and, like a strong man, runs its course with joy. 6 Its rising is from the end of the heavens, and its circuit to the end of them, and there is nothing hidden from its heat.

2014-01-12 - The Sky Above Proclaims His Handiwork (IMG_7179)The setting sun over the shores of Lake Erie proclaims God’s handiwork. Presque Isle State Park, Erie, Pennsylvania.

Psalm 19 is one of those great passages of the Bible that stirs me deeply every time I read it.  From the smallest grain of sand on a beach to the most distant star in the heavens God created it all.  Through the beauty and power of his amazing creation he makes himself known throughout the earth.  The magnificence of his world should leave no doubt in our minds that there is something greater than us, someone greater than us, our God and our Creator.

I weep for those who do not understand the glory of God, for those who actually believe this is all just random chance acting over time.  If this is true, if we all are here just because of some great cosmic roll of the dice, then there is no real purpose or greater meaning to life than the here and now.  If this is true, then how we live our lives makes no difference at all.  If this is true, then there is no reason for us to value the lives of those around us, or really to care at all.  After all, it is just survival of the fittest, right?

The Bible presents us with a much different view of human life, Genesis 1:27 tells us that, “God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.”  We are all image bearers of God, and because of this every human life is of value.  Psalm 139:13 reads, “For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.”  God knew us before we were born; in fact he created us, and because of this every human life is of value, yes, even those not yet born.

Not only does God’s creation proclaim his glory, “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork” (Psalm 19:1).  We too, in our deepest being, know him and proclaim his glory, “I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well” (Psalm 139:14).  And yet, we live in a fallen world, a world that rejects God and the truth of his word written in the Bible.  In order to find our way back to him, in order to know his glory, we have but one path, and that is Christ, our Lord, “Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).

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© Todd D. Nystrom and Todd the Hiker, 2014.

Come, Follow Me

Mark 10:17-27 – And as he was setting out on his journey, a man ran up and knelt before him and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 18 And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. 19 You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.'” 20 And he said to him, “Teacher, all these I have kept from my youth.” 21 And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” 22 Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. 23 And Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How difficult it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” 24 And the disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said to them again, “Children, how difficult it is to enter the kingdom of God! 25 It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” 26 And they were exceedingly astonished, and said to him, “Then who can be saved?” 27 Jesus looked at them and said, “With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God.”

2014-01-11 -  Come, Follow Me (IMG_9388)Trail junction near the Bear Lake trailhead.  Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado.

“Money is the root of all evil.”  Have you ever heard someone say this?  Many Bible verses are misused or misinterpreted.  And, while I have no real data to support this, I suspect that the first sentence of 1 Timothy 6:10, which actually reads, “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils,” is one of the most frequently misquoted verses.  The oft intended message of those misquoting this verse is that money and the rich are inherently bad.

Today’s passage from Mark’s Gospel is another that is taken out of context and used to condemn the wealthy.  When Jesus says, “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God,” the inclination for many is to again conclude that money and the rich are inherently bad.

I think the key to understanding what Jesus says here is to look closely at the man’s question:  “What must I do to inherit eternal life?”  The emphasis of the man’s question is on what he, himself, must do.  So, Jesus tells him that he must perfectly obey the commandments, sell everything he owns, give it to the poor, and follow him.  After all, God does demand perfection.  The difficulty for the rich man entering heaven, though, lies not in his money or possessions, but rather in the fact that he trusts his own abilities and wealth to accomplish something that only Christ can do.

It is certainly fair that we as Christians should challenge each other to be accountable for where we invest our time, talent, and treasures, because being a follower of Christ does demand a change in the way we live our lives.  But we really need to ask ourselves, what path to salvation are we following?  Do we trust in ourselves, our own abilities, and our possessions?  Or, do we trust in the infinite and eternal God of the universe?  Do we trust in the God who “so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16)?  Because, you see, “With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God.”

Read more about my “God is Revealed…“ category of posts

© Todd D. Nystrom and Todd the Hiker, 2014.

Glory to God in the Highest!

Christmas Day

Luke 2:6-20 – And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. 7 And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn. 8 And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. 10 And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, 14 “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” 15 When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. 17 And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. 18 And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. 20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.

2013-12-25 - Glory to God in the Highest! (IMG_6434)Nativity scene at the “Fantasy in Lights” Christmas display.  Callaway Gardens, Pine Mountain, Georgia.

May the peace of Christ, our Lord and Savior, be with you today and always.

Merry Christmas!
Todd the Hiker

Read more about my “God is Revealed…“ category of posts

© Todd D. Nystrom and Todd the Hiker, 2013.