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Nicodemus

When Christ taught publicly and could be heard daily, there was no need to approach Him at night in private.  However, Nicodemus, a Pharisee member of the Sanhedrin, came to Jesus to examine Him “by night” without his peers knowing that he was making this contact.  Christ knew the heart of Nicodemus, and put the matter squarely to him:
 
“Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”  (John 3: 3.)
 
The assertion made here is: 
 
“Verily, verily”–meaning that Christ was capable of announcing truth.
 
“I say unto thee”–meaning that Christ was capable of making commandments, establishing conditions, announcing the requirements for salvation.  Indeed, Christ was putting Himself into the position of Moses, becoming a lawgiver.
 
“Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of heaven.” –meaning that if Nicodemus intended to see heaven, Christ was declaring the condition for entry.  Becoming a new creature was essential.  Without newness, new birth, a new approach to life, all things which Nicodemus followed would lead away from the kingdom of heaven.

Nicodemus responded: “How can a man be born again when he is old?  Can he enter the second time into the mother’s womb, and be born? ” (John 3: 4.)
 

This isn’t a rhetorical or meaningless question, nor does it announce ignorance.  Nicodemus is testing Christ.  If this is a new lawgiver, and possessed the capacity to announce conditions for entry into heaven, then He needs to explain His meaning.  This is a Pharisee Rabbi, asking a young, new Rabbi to set the matter plainly.

Christ responded: “Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.  That which is born of 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 cannot tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.”  (John 3: 5-8.)


Now it is put plainly:
 
Born as a new man, by water (baptism) and Spirit (receive Holy Ghost) is required to “enter into the kingdom of God.”  Without receiving these new ordinances from the new officiators (John the Baptist and Christ), the old ordinances will no longer be accepted.  This is a call to Nicodemus to receive the new prophets then preaching. Without accepting these new prophets, he could not enter into God’s kingdom.
 
Flesh is just flesh. What is required to be able to go where God is will require every person to receive a new Spirit, new life, and become connected with heaven.  
 
Heaven is unruly, unpredictable and blows without predictability.  The Spirit is unruly, requiring things which men do not anticipate.  It takes you places you have not been before.  You cannot just sit within the councils of the Sanhedrin and reason with men’s understanding.  You must become inspired by a higher source.  You must accept that new direction from above, or you will never enter into God’s kingdom.

Brilliant.  Christ taught the teacher.  Now the matter is put to him: Will he receive a new life, and leave the old one?  Will he become born again.

How hard it must have been for a man in Nicodemus’ position to approach Christ.  The fact he came at night testifies to the discomfort of his circumstances.  Yet Christ, in patience, told him how to receive eternal life.

What a revealing encounter.  We are the richer in our understanding for it having occurred.

Strangers and Angels

Here was my thought to the kids last night as they were getting ready to for bed:
 
“Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.”  (Heb. 13: 2.)
 
I believe that.  I think it happens more often than people generally believe or even think possible.

It is enough for one to seek him

The Gospel of Jesus Christ, in a fullness, with power to save and exalt, remains intact on the earth.  Whenever there are those who come to Him, He will quickly come to them.
 
Since salvation is always an individual event, the failure of others to search for and obtain the great blessings which He makes available to His followers is not and never has been predicated upon the success of a group.
 
It is enough for one to seek Him.  But when two or three are gathered in His name, He will not leave them comfortless, but will respect their faith, heed and diligence.
 
Lamenting about the decay all around you will not help you draw closer to Him.  If you detect that decay, then your eyes have been opened, and you should do something about it in your own life.  Condemning the failure of others has not advanced a single soul in history.  It is true enough that the Lord may require by the constraint of the Spirit that people be “reproved betimes with sharpness” but only “when moved upon by the Holy Ghost.”  (D&C 121: 43.)  But the Gospel of Jesus Christ consists in gathering light and truth, which is not accomplished by focusing upon the failings of others.  (D&C 93: 28.)

Adam and Eve

Adam and Eve could not have children while they were in the Garden of Eden.  They lacked the capacity to bear children in the innocent state in which they then existed.  See 2 Ne. 2: 23
 
They had been given the gift of childbearing as an endowment from God.  The endowment of the capacity did not mean they had the means or understanding at the time to act upon it.  Without the fall, they would not have been able to act on the endowment.  They were like little children who are born male and female with the capacity to one day become parents, but who are immature and innocent, and therefore unable to bear children.
 
The great offense was in Satan’s control of the timing.  Had they remained in the Garden throughout the Sabbath day of rest then they would have received the commandment to partake of the fruit in the Lord’s timing. At this point they would have moved from their innocent state into a condition not unlike the Millennial day.  The “fall” would have transitioned to a Terrestrial state, rather than a Telestial state. 

Faith, belief, knowledge

The psalmist’s words, “by the word of thy lips I have kept me from the paths of the destroyer[.]” (Psalms 17: 4) refers to all the words of God.  Not just those in scripture alone, but also those that came from “thy lips” O Lord.  The Lord visited with the psalmist as he recorded: “thou hast visited me in the night.” (Psalms 17: 3.)
 
This idea of God’s visitation with those who follow Him is as ancient as creation itself.  Belief was always intended to grow into faith.  Faith was always intended to grow into knowledge.

Ask, seek and knock

James promised the Lord would answer those who lack knowledge and ask with a sincere heart (James 1: 5-6). The Prophet Jeremiah made a similar promise.  In Jeremiah’s promise the words are a quote from the Lord.  He said: “And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart.”  (Jer. 29: 13.)
He is approachable.  He wants us to approach Him.

Valiant

Those who receive a Terrestrial estate include “they who are not valiant in the testimony of Jesus; wherefore, they obtain not the crown over the kingdom of our God.”  D&C 76: 79.  This means that they actually did have a testimony of Jesus, were on the right path, received the Gospel and accepted it, but failed to be “valiant” in their testimony.
I do not believe this means rigid, dogmatic, insistent or bellicose.  In fact, the religious people having these qualities have historically been the greatest persecutors of the few, humble followers of Christ in all generations.  
I believe this means they were willing to suffer much for the Lord.  To follow Him in meekness, gentleness, kindness, persuasion, and love unfeigned.  To bear the crosses of this world, and to return good for evil.  Valiance is measured by the patience you show to your fellowman when they say all manner of evil against you falsely, for His sake.  It is measured by the things you suffer willingly and without complaint.
 
It is not to get a reward in this life. Nor is it to be given acclaim, recognition, applause or chief seats.
 
It is to minister to others, rather than to be ministered unto.
 
When I think of the greatest examples of such conduct as would be truly described as “valiant,” I think of mothers and what they have done and do to bring, bear, love and raise children in this world.  Creation itself is renewed every time a new, innocent life is brought into this world. 

Why a teleprompter?

My wife and I were watching a KBYU broadcast of a speaker using a teleprompter to deliver a talk to students there.  What a remarkable difference there is between an extemporaneous talk, given from the heart, and someone reading a teleprompter. 
 
I think it is high tribute to President Obama that his use of a teleprompter is so casual and conversational that you cannot detect he is reading the comments.  He actually seems to be speaking spontaneously when he uses one.  That is a great gift, unfortunately not shared by many other public speakers. 
 
When a talk is read off a teleprompter and sounds like reading, the speaker sounds insincere, even robotic.  I wonder why we see them used so often anymore, even at BYU Education Week, among small audiences.  When you rob a speaker of spontaneity, you deprive the audience of a connection which might have been made.
 
I can’t read a talk.  I can try, but I always drift off into a conversation and leave the script behind.

Common consent

My car insisted it was 5:36 this morning as I drove my daughter to Seminary.  The Honda was not yet in on the collective conspiracy to sustain the loss of an hour by our common consent.  

My daughter got out the owner’s manual while we were driving and helped me convince the car to sustain the new hour.  Now the Honda is also in on the conspiracy by common consent to change our bearings in the universe.

It still gets light and dark as before, but we call it something different.  Happily, the Honda does not contradict that illusion anymore. 

We cannot control the reality in which we live, but we can use our collective agreements to pretend it is otherwise.  Now we awake and arise at a different time, but call it an hour later.  Common consent is a powerful thing.  It can be used to change how we look at time itself.