Monthly Archives: December 2021

Christmas Puzzle

Last night, I took my wife on a Christmas date to see “Christmas with the Chosen.” It was inspiring and wonderful, like Christmas is, especially for the chosen — those who have, or are given, eyes to see and ears to hear the story of the King. It’s in theaters nationwide for three more days if you want to enjoy it there and show your support for The Chosen. Soon it will be free on the web.

A quick sidebar is for those who haven’t heard. The Chosen is a wildly popular and highly acclaimed film series about the life of Jesus Christ. It’s crowd-funded and has produced two seasons of eight episodes each, with something like 318 million views as of today in every country of the world. It’s viewable free, thanks to supporters, on YouTube, FaceBook, and its own app. This film series is beautiful, fresh—inspired, and inspiring.

As a dark cloud seemingly descends on our country and world during these past two years, this film series is a good reminder that it was that way when the King came the first time, to humble parents and humble people, in a place we know as Bethlehem Judea, within tiny Israel. It’s encouraging to remember also something the Scriptures say, “But as people sinned more and more, God’s wonderful grace became more abundant. So just as sin ruled over all people and brought them to death, now God’s wonderful grace rules instead, giving us right standing with God and resulting in eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 5:20-21 NLT).

Recently in conversation, a quote about Christmas came up, “Christmas is not a time nor a season, but a state of mind. To cherish peace and goodwill, to be plenteous in mercy, is to have the real spirit of Christmas” (Calvin Coolidge). Indeed, everyone should cherish peace and goodwill. Certainly, everyone should be plenteous in mercy. And those things are rightly celebrated at Christmas. However, Christmas is a time and a season, and perhaps a state of mind, to focus on the king whose advent makes these things possible on a wide scale in a dark world at spiritual war. Christmas is about Christ more than about his rule and reign, his attributes, or even His kingdom. It’s about the gem of creation — God becomes a man. A Son of Man to tell us about God, His kingdom, His rule, His purpose, His Person, and then to send us His power in the form of His Spirit to live this life and make peace, goodwill, and mercy possible on the earth and in our realm of family and friends. And to dwell with us.

Some might ask, “Isn’t the point of Christmas love, peace, mercy, truth, good?” I’d say yes, of course, these are the things we celebrate which are made possible by the King and are descriptive of the King. But I would add that people think and act as if they can bring these qualities to bear on the earth on their own. History would demonstrate that we really can’t in any widespread or lasting degree. We need a righteous, kind, powerful king to affect what we celebrate at Christmas and desire year-round and lifelong.

Christmas is a time and a season to be still, to be quiet, and focus on this gift from above — a baby, a gift of power and love. A king is born — beautiful, personal, good, enabling. He is mighty to reign and enforces justice in the middle of His enemies all around. His rule ensures the wrong shall fail, the right prevail, with peace on earth and goodwill to men.

Worship and give thanks — honor and celebrate the King.


“Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen” (I Timothy 1:17 NASB).

“But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah,Too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel. His goings forth are from long ago, from the days of eternity. Therefore He will give them up until the time when she who is in labor has borne a child. Then the remainder of His brethren will return to the sons of Israel. And He will arise and shepherd His flock in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of the Lord His God. And they will remain, because at that time He will be great to the ends of the earth. This One will be our peace” (Micah 5:2-5a).

The Spirit Without Measure

…for He gives the Spirit without measure.” John 3:34b

Isn’t that an intriguing verse and thought? It’s a wonderful thought that Father God, gave to Jesus His Son, “the Spirit without measure” for His earthly sojourn. Then if you read John 3, the whole book of John, or really the whole New Testement, looking at what Jesus said about the Holy Spirit, you can’t help but see that Jesus sent to His disciples, His bride, those Who believe in Him, the same “Spirit without measure.” Incredulous, isn’t it?

I’m not sure we believe it? If we do, we don’t act like it!

I was recently in a men’s Bible study and discipleship group for nine months, called “The Journey.” It was focused around a single verse, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5 NIV). Toward the end of our time together we looked afresh at what the Bible says about the Holy Spirit and His place in the Christian life.

The ten of us were from different denominational backgrounds, so this required us to look at the material anew, considering what we had been taught in our various backgrounds, but also what the Bible clearly says with a fresh look, discarding doctrinal baggage that might not be as accurate as we had been led to believe. No one seemed threatened by this, instead all seemed strangely encouraged and leaning forward into the new light being shed upon the Scriptures, and the possibility or reality of experiencing a different life with the Holy Spirit. Indeed we all had the feeling the class coming together was orchestrated by the Spirit and at His invitation as we met, and especially when our time together was finished. It didn’t feel like our group was in any way exclusive, but it was also felt we were there by invitation only.

That brings us back to John chapter 3. This must be the most important, insightful, and instructive teaching about the Holy Spirit in the Bible. Here you see Jesus, “a teacher sent from God”, meeting with Nicodemus, “the teacher of Israel,” sharing about God and spiritual truth. I think it’s safe to infer from Scripture that Nicodemus was humble, loved truth, feared the Lord, and had perhaps a better understanding of the Bible and its revelation of God than anyone else in his day.

This is a fascinating setup! The Spirit Who gave the Word meets the best disciple and teacher of the Word in his day. The result must surely give revelation and insight into God and the spiritual nature of life on earth — the reality of how things are and how they work. If you look at John 3 through this lens, you will see far into the vastness of God, and also His nearness and intimacy. There is nothing more intimate than a birth, and then caring for the life of a young child.

Nicodemus begins, “We know you are a teacher sent from God, because no one can do the miracles you do unless God is with him.”” (John 3:2 NCV). Almost as if to say, “I know why you’re here, and the answers you seek,” Jesus answers him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3 NASB). Then shortly thereafter Jesus adds to His first statement, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God” (John 3:5). In the same context and almost in the same breath, Jesus tells him in verse seven, “Don’t be amazed by this.” This spirit life is as different from the natural life as these many miracles you have called to mind. And the Spirit’s activity is as hard to grasp and understand as how the wind operates, yet it’s as easy to feel and hear as is the wind, once you’re born of the Spirit. Isn’t this the clear teaching of Jesus? Are you amazed at it’s simplicity and clarity? Is it what you’ve been taught?

Don’t feel too badly if you haven’t been taught, Nicodemus wasn’t aware either, nor had he been taught this truth obviously, until now. Then Jesus said something that on the surface seems a bit out of place, “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up; so that whoever believes will in Him have eternal life” (John 3:14-15). I’ve often pondered if that might have been one of Nicodemus’ favorite Bible stories, or a time in Israel’s history that he had been given some special revelation about? By Jesus bringing it up, did Nicoemus realize that Jesus was looking into his mind, personal history, and heart? Or was it that in the days ahead, Jesus’ crucifixion to be exact, Nicodemus would see what was happening, realize Jesus had predicted it, then connect the dots with the serpent being lifted up in the wilderness, and believe Jesus to be the Son of Man, just as He said? It could be either or both. We have evidence that Nicodemus gave up his position and career to become a follower of Jesus. He was with Joseph of Arimathia giving the body of Jesus a proper burial.

“A Teacher Sent From God”

Let’s go back to John 3 — the clearest, most succinct teaching on the Person and purpose of the Holy Spirit in the Bible, from “a Teacher sent from God” to “the teacher of Israel.” This is more than a convergence of the Word and the Spirit. It’s more like the Spirit Who gave the Word, giving more insight into the Word and its Spirit Guide Who was speaking through Jesus. The Holy Spirit was about to be sent to function more intimately in the affairs of God and man. I can’t think of anything more important to know and experience. The book of Acts and all of Scripture would lend validity to this fact.

In twenty-one short verses the necessity and function of the Spirit is described to one who knew the Word well and had received much revelation about God. This was mixed in with a brief glimpse of Jesus sacrifice on the cross, and then a few verses about the grace or gift of eternal life — the redemption plan of God for the whole world, experienced by those who want eternal life and believe Jesus to be the Christ of God. Then, for Nicodemus’ questioning or for our understanding, Jesus ended the discussion with the psychology of belief and nonbelief, practicing evil or truth, and loving light rather than darkness. These issues revolve around free will and the motives of the heart. This has to be one of the most profound and enlightening conversations in the whole of Scripture. And it would all hinge on the Spirit, giving eyes to see, and giving a different type of birth and sebsequent life. Do you see that? Do you want that? Ask God in prayer to help you if you do. It’s His to proffer, and His to effect.

John’s Final Testimony About Jesus and the Spirit

In the final verses of John chapter 3 we see John the Baptist disciples asking him questions and making observations about Jesus. John the Baptist simply gives credence to the fact that Jesus came from above and everything he says is true with the proper perspective. It’s a miniature or reflection of Jesus conversation with Nicodemus, but this time with those who believe in part, and know in part — followers of the prophet. The conversations are not visibly connected by space and time, yet they seem connected with many similar elements, like the reflection of an image in a pool of water.

The last four things John says are particularly interesting and telling, as he mentions the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit in context with each other. He also speaks about “belief” and “eternal life,” just as Jesus did in the conversation with Nicodemus. Here are the four last words: (1) “He who has received His testimony has set his seal to this, that God is true” (John 3:33). (2) “For He whom God has sent speaks the words of God; for He gives the Spirit without measure” (John 3:34). (3) “The Father loves the Son and has given all things into His hand” (John 3:35). (4) “He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him” (John 3:36).

These are the last recorded words we have from the prophet John the Baptist, “a man sent from God” (John 1:6 NIV). He was “A voice of one calling: ‘In the wilderness prepare the way for the LORD; make straight in the desert a highway for our God'”(Isaiah 40:3). Jesus added to John’s credentials, “Truly I say to you, among those born of women there has not arisen one greater than John the Baptizer” (Matthew 11:11a). Jesus also says of John the Baptizer that “He himself is Elijah who is to come” (Matthew 11:14, Malachi 4:5-6). Do you think that the last recorded words of someone so spiritually sensitive and devoted to God might be true? Could they be some of the most distilled truth from someone who lived his life apart, who lived his life with God? Could they be important to you? Indeed they are foundation stones on which you can build your life and your afterlife. Ask God in prayer to help you see, to give you His Spirit without measure. Prepare yourself for grace, and a new way of life — in fact a new life.

Correct but not Politically Correct

In Jesus conversation with Nicodemus we see these words, “Are you the teacher of Israel and do not understand these things? Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know and testify of what we have seen, and you do not accept our testimony. If I told you earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things? No one has ascended into heaven, but He who descended from heaven: the Son of Man” (John 3:10-13).

The same thoughts are repeated at the end of John 3, “The one who comes from above is above all; the one who is from the earth belongs to the earth, and speaks as one from the earth. The one who comes from heaven is above all. He testifies to what he has seen and heard, but no one accepts his testimony” (John 3:31-32). It’s not clear to me if these are the words of John the Baptist, who has just been quoted by John the Apostle who wrote the Gospel, or the words of John the author, but it’s beautiful how this point of contention is clearly stated again, like reflections in a mirror of pool of water. It’s even more telling than beautiful.

What does it tell us? Without being born of the Spirit, we cannot see the things of God or know God Himself. If Nicodemus the Bible scholar and teacher of Israel couldn’t apprehend God with just his mind, why do we think we can? Or that it’s our job to make the issue more clear for others than Jesus made it, and left it. That is God’s job by His Holy Spirit. Thankfully to those who believe Jesus’ testimony, “He gives the Holy Spirit without measure.”


“I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly” (John 10:9-10).

“I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me. If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; from now on you know Him, and have seen Him” (John 14:6-7).

“But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you” (John 16:7).

“But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you. Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful” (John 14:26-27).