A secret meeting. A frustrating conversation. A life-changing mystery
WHATS IN THIS BLOG:
• In a secretive night meeting, a spiritual leader talked about being born again. But the listener didn’t get it. So the leader compared it to the wind, which didn’t seem to help the listener’s understanding.
• 2,000 years later, a young engineer named Joshua talks about how the wind of the Spirit blew dramatically into the lives of his family.
But first, MY DAD USED TO TALK ABOUT BEING BORN AGAIN. As a young man who had a nervous breakdown, and four young kids, he needed help. He got it from Billy Graham who preached about it over the radio. Billy Graham got it from Jesus. So what did Jesus have to say about it? Not much. And it came about under cover of darkness, so it was rather secretive business.
A leader of the church, called Nicodemus, came to Jesus at night to ask him about spiritual things. What drew him perhaps was that he had recognized the authority behind Jesus’ words when he spoke to the crowds. When a president speaks, we recognize the authority of his position. When Ronald Reagan said “Mr Gorbachev, tear down this wall.” Everyone knew it was about the Berlin wall, and everyone knew what was at stake.
However when Jesus announced, “Unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Nicodemus didn’t get it. “How can a man be born when he is old?”
Jesus may have reflected a moment before answering. “The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but can’t tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit.”
This non-answer likely confused Nicodemus even further. “How can these things be?” Inside, Nicodemus was probably thinking, “Does he mean that being born again is as unpredictable as the wind?”
TO ILLUSTRATE THE WIND OF THE SPIRIT, I’d like to zoom ahead about 2000 years, and introduce Joshua. I met Joshua after I gave a talk on Fracking at UNM (University of New Mexico) in Albuquerque just a month ago. A clean-cut courteous young man, we chatted awhile before agreeing to have lunch at the Frontier Restaurant. Here is what he shared…….
• Joshua was raised by parents who only occasionally went to church. But his grandmother went regularly, and took him often. He always noticed the love for God his grandmother had.
• At twelve years old Joshua’s mother had an affair, and ended the marriage by leaving the next day. Joshua sided with his father who had been torn apart by this abrupt end. For many years this wound would ache in Joshua’s heart. His father gave in to drugs and alcohol. No matter how ugly it became, Joshua respected, loved, and stayed loyal to his father. The relation with his mother was broken and Joshua remained bitter towards her.
• Years later Joshua’s father surrendered to the Lord and left the dark life he had been living. It was almost unbelievable for Joshua to see his father transform like this. He saw his father reading the bible, and hosting bible studies that Joshua attended sometimes.
• Shortly after high school Joshua and girlfriend Alyssa had a son (Isaiah). This halted Joshua’s plan to complete college and he took a job as a plumbing assistant, then worked as a plumber for 6 years. During this time Joshua and Alyssa got married and had a daughter (Jayda).
• Eventually Joshua grew restless, and applied for university, where to his surprise he was accepted by the engineering department. He went on to complete his bachelors in engineering while Alyssa worked as a dental assistant.
• Just after graduating Joshua and his father had a big argument, separated, and didn’t speak a word to one another for over a year. The relationship he cherished seemed forever shattered.
• NOT QUITE ONE YEAR AGO, JOSHUA AND ALYSSA ENCOUNTERED TROUBLE IN THEIR MARRIAGE, AND WERE DESPERATE. They visited Calvary, and Pastor Skip asked if anyone wanted to receive Christ, and be saved. Joshua was drawn to respond but didn’t have the courage to go forward. As the pastor persisted Joshua felt a tugging on his heart that he had never felt before. At this very moment, he felt a tap on his shoulder — Alyssa was telling him, “I’m going up.” Joshua knew this was his moment as well and he responded, “I’m going up too.” They both gave their lives to God.
• They both received a new life…..the born-again experience. Their marriage was restored and became stronger than ever. A couple weeks later Joshua decided to get baptized in the church. He invited his father whom he still was not speaking to, and was relieved by his father’s prompt acceptance to the invitation. Joshua now attends his father’s weekly bible study.
• Joshua soon acknowledged the imperfections that all people have, and how continually we fall short. He was able to forgive his mother, and felt again the love for her he had while growing up.
• Joshua looks at me over his green chile cheeseburger, and the light shines from his eyes. He tells me that he is on the right path now. The desire for bars and drinking excesses has evaporated. He asks daily for God’s direction.
• Joshua is now completing his master’s degree and applying to engineering positions in Albuquerque. Alyssa has started on her degree in elementary education. They find their two kids Isaiah (10 years old) and Jayda (6 years old) pursuing God, praying on their own, witnessing to friends at school, and singing about how awesome their God is.
WHO COULD HAVE PREDICTED ALL THIS? Joshua’s father comes to God out of a life of drugs and alcohol. Joshua and Alyssa come to God at the same time, and their marriage is restored. Joshua forgives his mother after many years of bitterness and alienation, and their relationship is restored.
“The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but can’t tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit.”
William James, in his book The Varieties of Religious Experience (1902), describes the born-again experience as an eight-sided block of polished onyx stone, made in Mexico, which suddenly flips from one face to another. It’s a spiritual awakening. It’s a psychological change, involving life’s purpose and possibilities. And it’s personal…..you feel like you have met God, and that he loves you like a good father.
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Thank you Joshua and Alyssa for sharing this remarkable story. If any of you readers know of a potential engineering job, Joshua would be grateful to know about it. Please contact me via the Comment box below.
The Gray Nomad
Probing the practice of Christian believers……
Now there was a Pharisee, a man named Nicodemus who was a member of the Jewish ruling council. He came to Jesus at night and said, “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.”
Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.”
“How can someone be born when they are old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!”
Jesus answered, “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. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind 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.”
“How can this be?” Nicodemus asked.
[Gospel of John, chapter 3].