3Jesus answered him, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.” 4Nicodemus said to him, “How can anyone be born after having grown old? Can one enter a second time into the mother’s womb and be born?” 5Jesus answered, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. 6What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7Do not be astonished that I said to you, ‘You must be born from above.’”
Reflection: No one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.
This week we remember and honor those women who have given birth to us and have nurtured us in lovingkindness. We honor our biological mothers and those women who have been mother-like figures in our lives. It is all part of God’s good design of creation that not one person has just sprung up out of nothingness – we all find our origin in one another.
There is a spiritual birth that God provides for us that allows us to become a member of the family of God. In the same way as our natural birth, this reminds us that no one is on their own on the journey of faith. You cannot be a Christian apart from the nurturing presence of spiritual mothers, fathers, brothers, and sisters. Most importantly, we cannot be a child of God without being “born” from God – completely leaving the old life behind and emerging into a new life that is reflective of God’s purposes and designs.
When I was a child, my mom’s friends used to call me an “Annetta-looking thing.” Indeed, I did look a lot like my mother (whose name is Annetta, by the way!). When my oldest daughter, Claire, was born, she looked a whole lot like me (and, by extension, she looked a whole lot like my mom). As she grew into a toddler, we would joke that you could take a picture of me from the same age and put longer hair on my picture and it would be Claire. I even called Claire “CC” for “Carbon Copy.”
When we are born of God, we take on the “look” of God. We are called to be “God-looking things.” I think of this as claiming our spiritual genetics. After all, the word “Christian” means “little Christs.” If we resist the new birth, then we are essentially saying to God, “I want to hold on to my own image and not give myself fully to you.” But by accepting the new birth, we are saying to God, “I want to reflect you in the world; I will trust in your care and nurture.”
We can never thank enough both the women who literally gave birth to us and the women who have given birth to our character. We have received a priceless gift from them. However, living in a manner that would honor them and their own goodness is a start. In the same way, we can never thank God enough for the new birth of redemption, regeneration, and sanctification. Allowing God to shape us into reflections of the divine character is a great way to start. How might God give new birth to you this week?
Journaling Focus: Nicodemus said to him, “How can anyone be born after having grown old?”
In what ways have you been “reborn” in life? In reality, as we grow in Christ, we experience new little rebirths every day. It is the process of being born into holiness. Examine your life and the journey of your faith as you reflect in your journal this week. How far has God brought you and where is God still leading you? How does God continue to shape you into a new creation? Use some of that writing space to intentionally thank God for that process of holy transformation.
This practice allows you to listen to the Scripture for the week (sometimes in larger context) and to open yourself up to God’s voice in that Scripture.
- Click on the audio link above and listen to the Scripture. As you listen this first time, ask God to point out to you a word or phrase from the Scripture.
- Click on the audio link above again and listen to the Scripture a second time. As you listen this second time, ask God to reveal to you the holy intentions for this word or phrase that is being spoken into your life.
- Click on the audio link above again and listen to the Scripture a third time. As you listen this third time, ask God how you might respond to this word or phrase being spoken into your life today.
These questions are designed to help make sense of the message of Scripture. They are not designed to overwhelm, but to enlighten. Do not feel as if you need to answer all – or even most – of these questions every week. Perhaps pick one or two that will help you explore the Scripture and its message more deeply.
Reading Scripture to Know:
- What is happening/being said? (Observation)
- Why is this happening/being said? (Interpretation)
- What does the rest of Scripture say about it? (Evaluation)
- What does it mean? (Understanding)
- What does it mean for us? (Application)
Reading Scripture to Grow:
- What words or phrases stand out to you? Why?
- Where do you hear the voice of God in this Scripture?
- How do you see the character of God reflected in this Scripture?
- How does this Scripture reveal God?
- How does this Scripture expose humanity and its need for God?
- How does this Scripture speak to what is happening in your life?
- How does this Scripture speak to what is happening in our world?
- What might God want to communicate to you (us) this week through this Scripture?
Scripture Reads Me:
- This passage makes me feel…
- This passage makes me think about…
- This passage reminds me of…
- This passage teaches me that God is…
- This passage teaches me that I am…
- This passage challenges me to…
Listen to the song, All Creatures of Our God and King. Think of how God has created you, and all things, for the purpose of bringing praise to God. God is our good Creator and we are God’s children! What is God communicating to you through this song? What might you communicate to God through this song?
Prayer Focus: What is born of the Spirit is spirit.
This week, pray for strength of spirit. As Jesus reminded us when warning his disciples about temptation in the Garden of Gethsemane, “the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matthew 26:41). We want to follow the ways of God, but it is difficult. So, ask God for an outpouring of the Holy Spirit and trust God to be your strength in the face of temptation.
Meditation Focus: Can one enter a second time into the mother’s womb and be born?
NOTE: For the next ten weeks, as we explore the images of God, the meditation will be an audio meditation. There are four pictures that will appear with each meditation. These pictures are referenced in the audio meditation and are intended to help bring focus to the audio meditation.
Take some time to reflect upon your day or your week. Follow the process below and open yourself up to the presence and work of God in your life this week. Every week the structure is the same, but some specifics are changed to reflect the Scripture of the week.
- Find a place and posture that will prepare you for prayer.
- Begin by breathing in deeply through your nose and breathing deeply out of your mouth.
- Invite God to lead you through the previous day or week. For instance, if it is Tuesday night, reflect back on Tuesday morning, afternoon, and evening. If it is Saturday or Sunday, reflect back on Monday through Friday.
- Ask God to guide you through these questions:
- How are you living according to the Spirit?
- How are you still living according to the flesh?
- How has God nurtured you?
- How is God giving birth to new realities within you?
- Thank God for this journey of reflection on your day or week. Ask God to continue to reveal Godself to you tomorrow.
Take some time to give thanks for the women who have shaped your life – for your mother and those mothering figures from your life. Pray a prayer of thanksgiving to God for them. Then contact one or two women who have shaped your life and thank them. If your mother or mothering figure is no longer with you, take out some photos and remember her, reliving all of the love and memories you shared. And remember – you will be reunited in the presence of the Lord of Life!
Breath Prayer: LORD God, nurture us.